Tag Archives: stephen sondheim

Mad Cow announces Sondheim opener for new theater

'A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,' by Georges Seurat

Mad Cow Theatre is just hinting at what will make up its 15th season, which will start out in the two current theater spaces on Magnolia Avenue and move, in January 2012, to 54 W. Church St.

But they’ve opened up about one thing, and it’s a biggie: The musical opening the new theater spaces, from Jan. 27 to Feb. 19, 2012, is Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Sunday in the Park With George.

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Theater review: ‘A Funny Thing Happened …’ at Mad Cow

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Rick Stanley as Pseudolus in Mad Cow Theatre's 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.' (Photo by Tom Hurst/Mad Cow Theatre.)

Watching the big cast of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum fit itself onto the decidedly small stage at Mad Cow Theatre is like watching a couple of dozen clowns pour out of an old VW Beetle. You know it can be done, but you’re damned if you can figure out how.

And there’s another similarity: You know this kind of comedy is old hat, but you’re cackling at it all the while.

Forum may be pushing its 50th birthday, and it may turn up on college and community-theater stages often enough to keep composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim in legal pads and pencils. But thanks to director Katrina Ploof and an ace trio of veteran comic actors, this frothy musical comedy comes pretty close to looking like a classic.

The production marks the return to Mad Cow’s stage of actor Rick Stanley, who was everywhere in the theater’s early days but more recently has taken his talents elsewhere. Stanley’s world-weary Pseudolus has seen it all, and his exasperated take on Forum’s Rome and its dimwitted citizens gives the show its comic thrust.

Rick Stanley as Pseudolus, Thomas Ouellette as Hysterium and Stephan Jones as Miles Gloriosus. (Photo by Tom Hurst/Mad Cow Theatre.)

But this particular Pseudolus has artful assistance — from Thomas Ouellette (better known as a director at Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Mad Cow and Rollins College’s Annie Russell Theatre), whose nimble-witted Hysterium is beside himself simply because he has seen so terribly much go wrong; and from Stephan Jones, who channels the smoldering bits of his El Gallo and the scary bits of his Sweeney Todd to make a Miles Gloriosus whose might is only exceeded by his vanity.

Forum, of course, is an early 1960s musical-comedy take on burlesque, with comely young women, leering older men and a battle-axe trying and failing to keep everyone else in line. (One of many tips of the hat to burlesque: Pseudolus says he has more bad news to deliver, and Hysterium replies, “I hope it’s good.”)

Thanks to Alan S. Reynolds’ ingenious scenic design, this production suggests a cross-breeding with a later-’60s artifact, Laugh-In: In addition to the three doors in the set that stand for the houses of Erronius, Lycus and Senex, there are hidden windows all over the place, and all manner of unlikely objects show up through those chinks.

And, in a nod to the musical end of musical comedy, choreographer Kevin Davis and his two fellow Proteans (Lori Engler and Patch Panzella) tap-dance niftily through many of their scenes.

Melissa Davis as Philia. (Photo by Tom Hurst/Mad Cow Theatre.)

The cast is filled ably with other comic talents, especially Melissa Davis as the deliciously vacuous maiden Philia to Michael Mucciolo’s sweet-faced Hero; Danny Villnow’s dogged Erronius; and Sara Catherine Barnes’ priceless Gymnasia, a dominatrix with her tongue firmly in her cheek.

Rod Cathey is a suitably brow-beaten Senex; Gail Bartell, her eyes rimmed in black, makes an amusingly scary Domina; and most of the rest of the cast do fine in smaller roles. One favorite moment: When Cathey, Stanley, Ouellette and Tony Dietterick (as Lycus) sing “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid,” the four of them are so cute and silly that they banish any sexist smirk from the stage.

The production’s final melee may seem a little drawn out, but Ploof and musical director Robin Jensen keep things moving nicely most of the time, and their actors leave nothing to chance. You may want to take in Forum just to see Jones use the reflection on his sword to zhuzh his hair, or to hear Ouellette moan like a mule in pain, or to listen to Stanley make his quavering, portentous call to Thespis, the inventor of acting. Whatever reason you have, be assured: Thespis has answered the call.

‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’
What: Mad Cow Theatre production of Stephen Sondheim-Larry Gelbart-Burt Shevelove musical.
Where: Mad Cow Theatre, 105 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through July 10 (also, 7:30 p.m. June 13 and July 4).
Running time: Two hours 20 minutes, with one intermission.
Cost: $29 general, $27 seniors and students, $15 Mondays.
Call: 407-297-8788 Ext. 1.
Online: madcowtheatre.com.

Newest ‘Company’ revival to turn up in movie theaters

There’s been a spate of theatrical productions showing up on movie screens lately, but most of them have not made their way to Central Florida. (The hit Broadway revival of The Importance of Being Earnest, starring Brian Bedford, is playing in only one movie theater in the entire state of Florida — in Vero Beach. Not so convenient.)

But the recent New York Philharmonic concert version of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Company will make it to one  Central Florida screen — in Orlando — at 7:30 p.m. June 15. That’s at the Premiere Cinema 14 at Fashion Square Mall.

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Theater auditions: Male voices for Sondheim revue

Here’s an audition notice from Jackie Bell for a show at Breakthrough:

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Broadway theater coming to a movie screen near you — if you’re lucky

Broadway productions of Memphis, last year’s Tony-winner for best musical, and the critically acclaimed revival of The Importance of Being Earnest are headed for movie screens across the country this spring.

Also coming: The recent New York Philharmonic concert version of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, which starred Patti LuPone and a host of TV stars, including Neil Patrick Harris (as Bobby) and Stephen Colbert.

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Theater auditions: Sondheim revue at Breakthrough

Here’s an audition notice from Breakthrough Theatre:

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Theater Auditions: ‘Forum’ at Mad Cow

Here’s an audition notice for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, to be directed by Katrina Ploof at Mad Cow Theatre:

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Theater review: ‘West Side Story’ at Bob Carr

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Too much feeling.

They seethe with it, the teenage boys of West Side Story – with anger, with frustration, with pain. And their girls throb with it too, a feeling that burns inside them and threatens to enkindle their entire city in a mammoth explosion of flame.

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Sondheim talks (and talks, and talks …)

Stephen Sondheim, now 80 and in a ruminative mood, is pushing a new book called Finishing the Hat, in which he writes about his lyrics, and others’.

Yesterday he spoke with Terry Gross on NPR‘s Fresh Air about the book. You can read about the interview here and listen here.

Theater review: Mad Cow’s ‘Company’

Some people call Company cold.

Some people look at the far-from-perfect marriages in Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s groundbreaking 1970 musical and see a sour, shriveled-up view of the world.

Those people should take a look at director Frank McClain’s staging of the show at Mad Cow Theatre – as warm, emotional and generous a Company as I’ve seen.

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Local theaters branch out? Well, not so much.

Every year American Theatre magazine publishes a list of the 10 most widely produced shows of the coming season — and most years that list is a look at what’s new and interesting and not so well-known. Granted, a small-cast Pulitzer-winner from a season or so before is likely to get a lot of productions across the country. But, besides A Christmas Carol and the plays of Shakespeare, you’re sure to see a lot of titles on that list that are just trying out their wings.

Not so much in Central Florida, where I just took a semi-systematic look at what’s scheduled for the 2010-2011 season and found a whole lot of same old, same old. The most popular playwright among the 60-plus theaters across Central Florida this season? Neil Simon, who’s now 83 years old and who hasn’t turned out a really good play (forgive me, but it’s true) in nearly 20 years.

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Eatonville’s Norm Lewis to be featured on Sondheim recording

Norm Lewis, who grew up in Eatonville and graduated from Edgewater High School, will be among those on the Broadway cast recording of Sondheim on Sondheim, which will be recorded this weekend and released in August.

Along with Lewis, the cast features Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams and Tom Wopat, plus Leslie Kritzer, Euan Morton, Erin Mackey and Matthew Scott. Among the songs is Lewis’s rendition of the Sondheim classic “Being Alive.”

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Postcard from Broadway: ‘A Little Night Music’

Star vehicles can be a mixed bag on Broadway: It’s thrilling to see the people many of us dream about, but it can be disappointing too. There’s a little of both sides in the newest revival of A Little Night Music, which stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and the 84-year-old Angela Lansbury in the musical that is probably Stephen Sondheim’s most sumptuous work.

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Postcard from Broadway: ‘Sondheim on Sondheim’

During the spring that Stephen Sondheim turned 80, I guess it’s logical that Broadway should be honoring him once again. New York Magazine famously asked, “Is Sondheim God?” The self-deprecating, quirky, occasionally transcendent answer to the question, the new revue Sondheim on Sondheim, shows that the answer is no – but he’ll do in a pinch.

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Theater to be named for Sondheim

It’s about time that Stephen Sondheim got a Broadway theater named for him. Sondheim turned 80 this week, and today the New York Times reported that Henry Miller’s Theatre, which is part of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s stable of stages, will be renamed the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. Here’s the story.