Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snake Oil: Get Motivated is a good, old-fashioned Medicine show.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Leigh Ann Touhy on the big screen
  • Leigh Ann Touhy on the big screen
“We’re about to drop 20,000 beach balls,” said the young white rapper, a Beastie Boy clone whose name I failed to catch. The lunch break had ended and the second half of the Get Motivated business seminar launched with a dance party and a big giveaway. Whoever danced the best, both freestyle and in accordance with specific moves shouted out over the mic, would soon be taking an all expenses paid trip to Disney World in sunny Orlando, Florida. It didn’t take long for the near-capacity crowd at the FedEx Forum to get wild and loose, pushing up the ceiling, slapping the crap out of their invisible ponies and shouting, “whoo, whoo,” in all the right places. The DJ had the arena throbbing with muscled up covers of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll,” and Van Halen’s “Jump” while tri-colored beach balls descended from the heavens and the rapper chanted, “Stuck in the ‘80’s, stuck in the 80’s, stuck in the 80’s.” Some things defy satire. The Get Motivated business seminar, with its many loving references to the super-awesome Reagan era, is one of them.

I’m sure some of you are now wondering, “What gives? Why are you writing about a Get Motivated business seminar on your performing arts blog?” Well, why wouldn’t I write about a good old fashioned Medicine show where songs are sung, lectures on the moral life delivered, freaks paraded before your very eyes, and miracles performed on the quarter-hour? Only instead of promising cures for baldness or a lack of male vigor at Get Motivated the crowd was encouraged to liberate itself from financial advisers and invest independently. Perhaps with the aid of an inexpensive real estate course or a $39-a-month-website subscription. Celebrity speakers, dwarfed by the vastness of the arena, power-walked onto a wrestling ring-sized stage as music blared, streamers flew, and pyro erupted. Their perfect Pepsodent smiles were blown up larger than life on the jumbotron. 20,000 beach balls fell from the sky. The stories were all about overcoming terminal illness, family tragedy, tragic family, terrorism and mean reporters who make fun of your husband the President because he can’t pronounce the word nuclear. The people on stage at Get Motivated had seen it all. And they were winning.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tennessee Centennial: Tennessee Williams would have turned 100-years-old today

Posted By on Sat, Mar 26, 2011 at 6:23 PM

Blow out your candles, Laura...

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lanford Wilson Dies

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 4:38 PM

A standing O for one of the 20th Century's greatest playwrights.

Grey Gardens: Compare & Contrast

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 12:18 PM

The Masyles Brothers' documentary:

The musical at Playhouse on the Square:

Playback Memphis Hosts a Fundraiser

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 10:10 AM

Playback Memphis is hosting a fundraiser performance celebrating and benefiting the company's work with non-profit partners like Victims to Victory, Junior League of Memphis, St Jude, Catholic Charities, Creative Aging, and Leadership Academy. There will be wine, sweets, treats, and plenty of spontaneously created art inspired by audience suggestions. It's never easy to describe what Playback does so here's a video clip from a past performance.

Saturday, April 2, 7:30pm at TheatreSouth (1000 South Cooper at Walker) Seating is limited and reservations are encouraged.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Looking at Theatre Memphis's 2011-12 Season

Posted By on Wed, Mar 16, 2011 at 3:57 PM

2011-12 is shaping up to be a reasonably exciting theatre season.

Bye Bye Birdie (Lohrey Stage)
August 19 — September 11, 2011
Hard to believe but Theatre Memphis has never done this musical inspired by the mania surrounding Sun recording artists like Elvis Presley and Conway Twitty. Tunes like "One Last Kiss," authentically capture the spirit of early rock-and-roll.

Glengarry Glen Ross (Next Stage)
September 16 — October 2, 2011

David Mamet turns the lives of real estate salesmen into something positively Shakespearean. Great play. Great movie. Savage to the point of being satirical.

Jane Austen’s
EMMA (Lohrey Stage)
October 7 -23, 2011
Hey, Pride & Prejudice was a big hit, why not?

Sondheim Concert (Next Stage)
November 4 — 20, 2011
Music by the master.

A Christmas Carol (Lohrey Stage)
December 2 — 23, 2011
Directed by Jason Spitzer
Barry Fuller as Scrooge

The Importance of Being Earnest (Lohrey Stage)
January 27— February 12, 2012
You know, I should complain about this. Wilde wrote other plays and this gets done over and over again. But it never gets old. Still, is it too much to ask for at least one Salome every 20 years or so?

Circle Mirror Transformation (Next Stage)
February 17 — March 4, 2012

A cleverly imagined dramedy set in a creative drama class. "Be a tree!"

Chicago (Lohrey Stage)
March 9 — April 1, 2012

From Curtains to Cabaret Theatre Memphis can't seem to get enough Kander & Ebb. Ripped from sensational headlines of the 1920's Chicago is a grand vaudeville about crime and corruption and one of the Great White Way's most successful musicals.

Hedda Gabler
April 6 — 22, 2012
A poem by Henry Gibson. I mean, the PLAY by Henrik Ibsen.

Noises Off (Lohrey Stage)
April 27 — May 13, 2012
Michael Frayn's backstage farce still knocks 'em dead in the aisles. I've seen it enough, but nobody asked.

No, No, Nanette (Lohrey Stage)
June 8 — July 1, 2012

A nifty relic from the 1920's. "Tea for Two," anybody?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Woof: Bow Wow Club opening at the Firehouse Little Theatre

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2011 at 3:36 PM

Cast of the Bow Wow Club
  • Cast of the "Bow Wow Club"

I don't know much about Levy Lee Simon's Bow Wow Club but here's the description...

Five teenage friends reunite after 20 years to reconnect emotionally and through discovery, revelation and realities, they are forced to choose between their stunning and fundamental differences or the undeniable power of their lifelong bond. Lee Simon's riveting tale of what happened to The Bow Wow Club once they left the security of the streets, as insecure a place as one could imagine. It shows their hopes, their dreams, their disappointments, their successes and the surprising changes that took place in their lives as they found acceptance and compromise in the modern world to be as big an adversary as any rival gang they had faced in their prime. Set at a Fourth of July reunion amidst the barbecue and sweet potato pie, their wives and lovers, they discover how they have drifted away from each other and yet how they are responsible for each other.

The show opens at the Firehouse Little Theatre on March 18. Age Restricted
Ticket Prices are $10 general admission; $7 members

C for Cabaret

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2011 at 3:04 PM

I was disappointed in Theatre Memphis's Cabaret. It wasn't bad but, Christopher McCollum's great deconstructed swastika of a set notwithstanding, it's just pretty average and way too family-friendly for its own good. I didn't shoot any video but I do have this audio sample from the top of the show.

The full review's in this week's Flyer, which hits the streets tomorrow.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Will Call: Tips and tidbits for the theatrically inclined

Posted By on Fri, Mar 11, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Jonathan Christian (center) as the Emcee  is sandwiched by “Two Ladies”, Rebecca Brown (top) and Maia Hankin (bottom), in Cabaret at Theatre Memphis, March 11 ”“ April 3, 2011.
  • Jonathan Christian (center) as the Emcee is sandwiched by “Two Ladies”, Rebecca Brown (top) and Maia Hankin (bottom), in Cabaret at Theatre Memphis, March 11 ”“ April 3, 2011.

Holy moly what a week. August: Osage County opens tonight at Playhouse on the Square with a cast of local all-stars, Cabaret opens at Theatre Memphis under the direction of Mitzi Hamilton, with Jonathan Christian at the Emcee. Last night (Thursday) Voices of the South opened Jerre Dye's award winning play Cicada at TheatreWorks where it played to packed houses in 2009. Blithe Spirit opens at Playhouse 51 in Millington— a theater I don't write nearly enough about. Also Young Frankenstein—not nearly as bad as the New York reviews might lead you to believe— finishes its run at the Orpheum, and the Dixie Swim Club—a script I actively detest but which audiences seem to love— ends it's run at Germantown Community Theatre. Whew.

Quick impressions:
I haven't read the last third of August: Osage County. I don't want to. I want to see it happen in front of me and I expect to be surprised even though I mostly know what happens. This dysfunctional family drama in the spirit of Sam Shepard, Arthur Miller, and Edward Albee has been universally acclaimed. The black comedy about Oklahoma's Weston family coping with the death of its patriarch touches on everything from infidelity to incest. It's also hilarious and, for what its worth, the most critically acclaimed drama of the past couple of decades. That's right, decades. I honestly can't remember this kind of excitement surrounding the local premiere of a non-musical and playhouse has assembled a powerhouse cast: Irene Crist, Ann Marie Hall, Kim Justis EIkner, Dave Landis, Michael Detroit, Jim Palmer, Ed Porter... etc. In the director's chair: Rob Saterlee, formerly of Chicago's Steppenwolf, and the man responsible for staging last season's fantastic Frost Nixon.

Cabaret is a well known commodity so it's probably not necessary to revisit the plot or themes of Kander & Ebb's musical adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin, a snapshot of the decadent Berlin nightlife during the rise of Nazism in Germany. I'll only say that the show reunites a few of the key creative forces that made last season's La Cage aux Folles something extra special.

Voices of the South is blossoming like a magnolia. Here's a video review of the company's earlier production of Cicada. Word on the street is this version's even better this time around.

Young Frankenstein: Give this show a break people! No it's not a great musical although the music is sometimes great. This is Mel Brooks in the raw with all of his love of burlesque and Borscht-Belt corn on display. No longer is Brook's story a parody of Universal horror classics instead it's a vehicle for gags. Unsurprisingly "Putting on the Ritz"— the original film's nod to Vaudeville—is also the musical's strongest number, and it's good enough to overshadow other shortcomings. Also spectacular: Preston Truman Boyd's clowning as the monster. AAAARRRRGH!

I've got to get this out on the front end: I am not the target demo for the Dixie Swim Club. And trust me, this show was written with a target demo in mind. (I'm looking at you Red Hat Society). DSC is a formulaic, overly-sentimental, tear-jerking, feel-good, sisters-doing-it-for-themselves dramedy about five

Dixie Swim Club
  • Dixie Swim Club
members of a championship swim team who take a vacation together every year for 50-years. The humor is one-liner based and there are nearly as many old gags here as there are in Young Frankenstein. A sample: I never knew the meaning of happiness until I was married and by then it was too late." On a less snarky note the show is full of nuanced, unforced performances that kept me engaged even when the material made me seasick. The packed house roared with laughter and gave the show a thundering ovation that the actors probably deserved in spite of everything else.

Set for August: Osage County
  • Set for August: Osage County

I'm dropping in on Cabaret tonight, August: Osage County Saturday and (if the creeks don't rise) Cicada on Sunday. Maybe I'll see you at Intermission.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Orpheum announces a new season with help from the stars of "Memphis"

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2011 at 10:33 AM

Here are highlights from Memphis against a backdrop of Memphis.

And here's what audiences can look forward to seeing at the Orpheum next season...

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Swimming to Germantown: "Dixie Swim Club" opening rescheduled at GCT

Posted By on Tue, Mar 1, 2011 at 3:12 PM

Dixie Swim Club
  • Dixie Swim Club

Germantown Community Theatre's production of THE DIXIE SWIM CLUB was postponed last week in order to begin necessary repairs on the converted one-room schoolhouse. The opening has been rescheduled for Thursday, March 3, at 7:30 pm.
Ticket patrons with reservations for the original opening weekend will be contacted to reschedule their ticket reservations within the amended run. Please contact the Germantown Community Theatre Box Office at 901.937.3023 for updates.

Theatre Memphis wins national awards

Posted By on Tue, Mar 1, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Bennett Wood in A Delicate Balance
  • Bennett Wood in "A Delicate Balance"
Here's the scoop:

Theatre Memphis has been recognized for its outstanding service to community theatre by the American Association of Community Theatres (AACT). The Twink Lynch Award specifically goes to the AACT member that has succesfully completed major steps in new directions, expanded services to their community and has moved to the next level of organizational development. The award is presented annually and this year the ceremonies will be held in Rochester, New York, in conjunction with the national AACT festival competition, June 20 - 25.

A second national award from AACT this year will be given to Bennett Wood, long time volunteer at Theatre Memphis. He has been selected to receive the Robert E. Gard Superior Volunteer Award at the same convention in Rochester. This award is presented to individuals above the age of 65 who have faithfully served community theatre on a non-paid basis for over 25 years. Cited for his service of over 55 years to Theatre Memphis, Wood has acted, directed, served on the board of the directors, the play selection committee, marketing committee and various other committees in that tenure.

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