Victor/Victoria: A Girl Playing a Guy Playing a Girl, but Where's the Show?

Categories: Stage

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Photo by Bruce Bennett
At least Joey Sorge as King Marchan looks invested, while Angel Reda makes the most of a dumb blond role

The set-up:
The French have a word for it - lousy.

When the best part of a Broadway musical is the proscenium curtain - a stunning piece of faux French art deco with golden geometric fountains by way of master theater designer Robin Wagner - you know there's trouble on the Great White Way. What happens after this handsome curtain rises at Victor/Victoria is entirely faux.

The execution:

Perhaps the most dispiriting musical in memory, Blake Edwards' own adaptation of his 1982 hit movie comedy that had a backstage score by Henry Mancini and starred his wife, the glorious Julie Andrews, Victor/Victoria (1995) seems to have been made by people who've never seen a musical.

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The Man Behind the Voice: This American Life's Ira Glass on Dance, Taylor Swift and Pro Wrestling

Categories: Pop Culture, Stage

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Photo by David Bazenmore
"We know it's a weird premise," says Ira Glass, the radio host of the very literally titled Three Acts, Two Dancers, and One Radio Host, hitting the stage at the Wortham Theater Center on Saturday night. Best known for his day job as the host of the Peabody Award winning radio program This American Life, Glass is aware that mixing the very visual medium of dance and the very un-visual medium of radio is a strange one.

It's even weirder for Glass, who before this production had no relationship with dance.

"Occasionally I would go to a dance show because I would think, 'I should try dance, maybe,'" says Glass. "But I knew nothing about it, knew nothing about the history of it."

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Reefer Madness, The Musical Sings Its Way Through the Myths of the Evil Wacky Tobacky

Categories: Stage

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Are you ready to be educated?

In the 1930s a church group decided to put together a film, using unknown actors, that would lay out in chilling fashion the horrible way that marijuana could destroy lives.

Clearly some folks knew gold when they saw it as many years later it was made into a musical comedy. And now that extra effort is coming to Houston in Reefer Madness, the Musical as TUTS Underground opens its second season at the Hobby Center in Zilkha Hall.

"It's based on the '30s propaganda film. The one that said marijuana will make you sell your babies," says Dylan Godwin whose character is the master of ceremonies with strains of Joseph McCarthy and Cotton Mather running through him.

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In Our Undies Celebrating the '80s Music Scene at The Music Box Theatre

Categories: Stage

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Photo courtesy of Archaic Media
Vavra Holland, Cole Ryden, Christina Stroup and Tyce Green in In Our Undies
The setup:

Four talented performers now rehearsing for Reefer Madness at TUTS Underground found time as well to prepare a tribute to '80s music, under the title In Our Undies. Despite the name, and some performers getting down to their skivvies, the evening was about as sensual as a church social. This seems appropriate as, after all, weren't the '80s when we took a break, and rested up from the tumultuous '70s?

The execution:

There is a four-piece band onstage, and four microphones downstage, and that is
it, but the enthusiasm of the performers and band and, yes, the audience as well, created a warm and welcoming ambience.

The performers are Tyce Green, who was brilliant in Spring Awakening and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Holland Vavra, who has led countless musicals to success at Stages Rep, Christina Stroup, recently a powerhouse standout as the Witch in Into the Woods, and Cole Ryden, a relative newcomer, but the best dancer of the group, loose as a goose, with his own low-key charm.

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Romping Through (and over) Hitchcock with A.D. Players and The 39 Steps

Categories: Stage

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Photo courtesy of A.D. Players
The comedy/thriller reimagined as pure farce
The set-up:
A.D. Players produces one of its freshest, funniest productions in memory with Patrick Barlow's adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps. This 2008 Tony-winner and Drama Desk award recipient for "unique theatrical experience" is just plain goofy - and that goofiness is its utter, unique charm.

The execution:
One of Hitchcock's best comedy/thrillers and his first truly international hit, the 1935 movie, loosely adapted by screenwriter Charles Bennett from the 1915 John Buchan novel, starred English matinee idol Robert Donat and radiantly blond Madeleine Carroll as dueling, unwitting partners in crime. Handcuffed together, the pair scramble over the Scottish moors looking for the criminal mastermind, eluding police, and dodging suspicious highlanders. Patrick Barlow reimagines the comedy/thriller as pure farce. A cast of four plays all the parts. Hitchcock's movie is there in plot, scenes, verbatim dialogue, but Barlow has added a great dollop of English panto and a generous seltzer spritz of Monty Python.


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Hits and Misses in These Variations on Shakespeare's Othello and Desdemona

Categories: Stage

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Photo courtesy of Trebuchet Players
Several twists on Shakespeare including some he would have liked
The set-up:
The glories of Shakespeare run so deep that endless variations can be played on his themes and characters. Trebuchet Players, one of Houston's youngest theater companies, present two one-acts that spin his great tragedy Othello. Waiting for Othello is a gleeful drunk, stumbling about like a sloshed frat boy; Desdemona, A Play about a Handkerchief, a serious feminist deconstruction, uses better quality alcohol.

The execution:
Commissioned for Trebuchet from local playwright Bryan Maynard, Waiting flits all over, a Monty Python-esque skit in need of more substance. MORE? Huzzah!! Embedded inside Maynard's play is a drinking game. Every time a character says "Moor" or synonym "more," the audience raises a beer toast. The "mores" come fast and furious, and the gradual ensuing buzz lightens the play. However, even the wonders of St. Arnold Brewing Company can only do so much.


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Breaking News: Two Alarm Fire Breaks Out at the Alley Theatre

Categories: Stage

Update 12:21 p.m: A two-alarm fire broke out The Alley Theatre around 11:15 this morning. It appears to have been caused by construction workers doing welding work in the Hubbard Theater near the roof of the building.

No one was hurt in the fire. The Alley is undergoing renovations and its productions are ongoing at the University of Houston. It will not reopen until Fall of 2015.

Alley Managing Director Dean Gladden said, "We're in demolition right now. The whole interior has been stripped down so there was not a lot in the theater to catch fire."

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Peace in Our Time Explores What a German-Occupied Great Britain Would Have Been Like

Categories: Stage

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Photo by RicOrnelProductions.com
L-R: George Bourne (Joe Kirkendall), Nora Shattock (Celeste Roberts), and Chorley Bannister (Joel Sandel) star in Peace in Our Time
In a departure from history and from his usual brittle and sophisticated comedies, playwright Noel Coward wrote a story in which the Battle of Britain was lost to Germany which has taken over England.

Little produced - it has a large cast and while it has humorous elements it is a serious work - Peace in Our Time is something the Main Street Theater had wanted to do for a while, according to Main Street's artistic director Rebecca Greene Udden, who will also direct.

University of Houston was looking for more outlets for its theater students since a lot of its main stage time is being taken up by the Alley Theatre during the latter's renovations, she said, and this play calling for 30 or more parts (winnowed to 24 in this production) seemed like a good fit.

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Doubt, a Parable Asks Who's the Monster?

Categories: Stage

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Photo by Scott McWhirter
Lisa Schofield, Bob Maddox as Father Flynn and Cassandra Austen as Sister James - "A meeting to discuss the Christmas pageant...or is it?"
The set-up:
Did he or didn't he? That is the question that propels John Patrick Shanley's multiple award-winning play Doubt, A Parable (Pulitzer, Tony, Drama Desk). Did Father Flynn, beloved parish priest and basketball coach at St. Nicholas Church and School, molest troubled student Donald? Did he get him drunk on altar wine in the rectory? Has he done this before? Exacting, conservative school principal Sister Aloysius certainly thinks so, and she will have none of it.

In this heated production at Theatre Southwest, we never find out what really happened in the rectory, because certainty and circumstance collide and swirl and then go their separate mysterious ways in Shanley's provocative drama, confounding audiences as it always has.

The execution:
Is Sister Aloysius (Lisa Schofield) a heartless, cold-as-ice throwback to the Middle Ages, stomping with iron boots over creativity and caring, or is she the one true protector of her students, ripping out abuse in her school the only way she can, with innuendo, cunning, and stern eye. In the church hierarchy, she has little power in the "he said, she said" game. The male higher-ups protect their own. If she reported what she thinks she knows to Father Benedict, he wouldn't believe her. She must go a different route.


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Musical Victor/Victoria Brings Its Gender-Bending Story and Great Music to Houston

Categories: Stage

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Photo courtesy of TUTS
Tony Sheldon
A survival plan born of mutual desperation is at the heart of the gender-bending musical Victor/Victoria now on its way to the Hobby Center in Theatre Under the Stars' 2014-15 season opener.

Tony-nominee Tony Sheldon (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) is here to play Toddy, the flamboyant manager who hatches the scheme that launches the career of a young singer.

"My character Toddy is a middle-aged gay man living in Paris in the '30s. He's broke, he's just lost his job and he comes across Victoria Grant who's an unemployed English soprano who's been stranded in Paris and she's broke and has nowhere to live and so the two of them are desperate. Toddy's the one who conjures the plan of disguising her as a man and passing her off as Europe's greatest female impersonator. Toddy comes up with the idea of perpetrating this hoax and making them both rich."

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