Tag Archives: Triad Stage

A Review: “My Fair Lady” at Triad Stage: It’s Loverly

Run, don’t walk, to see “My Fair Lady” at Triad Stage, our local Regional Theatre and Equity company,  here in Greensboro, North Carolina.  It’s truly loverly….

I’ve seldom left Triad Stage in a better mood.  This is a beautiful production.

I must admit, I went tonight with a sense of trepidation.  I wasn’t sure they could pull off a show this big and well known-especially one so closely associated with actors like Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn. But they did it!

The cast was uniformly excellent.  Michael McKenzie was wonderful stepping into Rex Harrison’s iconic shoes.  He made Henry Higgins his own.  Julia Osborne’s Eliza was enchanting and not just beautifully sung, but beautifully acted.  Nick Cartell really delivered “On the Street Where You Live”.  Bill Raulerson was great as Pickering as was Joseph Gordon Weiss as both Alfred Doolittle and Mrs. Higgins.  Yes, Mrs Higgins.  Rosie McGuire showed real presence as Mrs Pearce and in other small roles.

These folks, and the rest of the cast, well-deserved the standing ovation they received tonight for making a show this big work with only 10 actors who played multiple parts.  And it all worked because of Bryan Congers beautiful direction of a big show in a small space.  He made me realize it really wasn’t a show about spectacle and a big cast, but about characters, as is all great theatre.  This show really works well in the space at Triad Stage, mainly because of his direction.  It could not have been easy to do….

This is such a well written show with so many beautiful songs.  And the songs worked great with just two pianos.  I didn’t miss the big orchestrations.

This production made me rethink and appreciate this show in a new way.  It really works in this small, intimate space and on the three quarter round stage.  The set, as always, was impressive and perfect.  I thank all the folks involved for  an evening of great theatre.

I’ll say it again, if you can find a way to see this show- and still get a ticket- you won’t have a better night at the theatre any time soon.

In closing, I must say, I haven’t always left Triad Stage happily lately.  There have been some major misfires in recent seasons-especially this season.  More and more often, I’ve left unhappy and actually angry at how they misused their talent and resources.  Tonight was not one of those nights…

In fact, tonight was a little bittersweet.  We’ve decided, after 12 years as Season Ticket holders at Triad Stage, not to renew our season tickets.  We have seen every single show they have ever produced on the main stage.  This show almost- almost- makes me regret that choice not to come back again for the full season next year.

If next season were anywhere close to as inspiring as this show, we would be renewing.  But, alas, next season is not enticing and there have been too many misses lately.  I really wish they had a better season coming up to build on the momentum they will get out of this great production.  “Pump Boys and Dinettes” is not a good choice as a follow-up show to “My Fair Lady” for the musical slot on the season next year and I don’t want to see “Wait Until Dark” yet again.  “The Mountaintop” got dreadful reviews, for the play itself, in New York.  There were so many better options for their next season.  And I’m tired to death of all the Appalachian stuff.  Enough is enough.  I refuse to sit through any more of it….

We’ll pick and choose what we see at Triad Stage next year.  And hopefully future seasons will entice us back as Season Ticket holders, just not next year….

Still, tonight was just loverly….

Don’t miss this production….

It’s almost restored my faith in Triad Stage.

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“Steel Magnolias” at Triad Stage

I just came in from seeing “Steel Magnolias” at Triad Stage here in Greensboro.  And it was good.

I know Triad Stage and other Regional Theatres need to do crowd pleasers like “Steel Magnolias”.  They bring in a large audience, that will hopefully come back again for other shows and help to build an audience for live theatre.  Shows like this also bring in a lot of cash.  But they also create an interesting experience for Season Ticket holders, like me, who would not have gone to see “Steel Magnolias”  if it were not part of the Season.  It gives us the chance revisit plays from our pasts. And sometimes these new visits surprise us.

As usual, at Triad Stage, the production values were wonderful and the acting was excellent- all that we expect from Triad Stage.

The problem, for me,  was the play.

I’ve probably seen “Steel Magnolias” too many times, both on stage and film, but it has been several years since I’ve seen it.  I’ve probably also heard the lines too many times, but in this production, there did seem to be some laugh lines that were missed.

And you know what?  It just wasn’t as good a play as I remembered from seeing it  years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of heart in this show, some memorable characters and some funny lines.  You can’t help but be drawn into the lives of and care about these upper middle class Louisiana women.  But don’t look too closely at the play itself.  The first scene, in particular, goes on way too long…

I was also surprised at how rooted “Steel Magnolias” was in the 1980’s and how dated it seemed now.  Times have changed so much more than I realized since the times in which this play was set.   I’m not sure the cultural references make sense to anyone under 40, but then that’s not “Steel Magnolias” audience.

And it was almost a full house on Easter Sunday.

If you love “Steel Magnolias”, go see this production.  Especially if you’ve never seen it on stage and only know it from the movie.  You won’t see a better production with so many fine actresses around here any time soon.  It’s definitely a pleasant evening in the theatre and it received a standing ovation at the end of tonight’s show.

Just don’t be too surprised, either,  if the magic just isn’t there.  It’s not that they don’t try and succeed, on so many levels, at Triad Stage.  It’s just that the play itself isn’t as good as I remembered it being all those years ago…

And that might be the adjustment that I’m struggling with…

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Triad Stage: My Thoughts on “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You” and “The Actor’s Nightmare”

I have some good news and some bad news.   Good News:  I had a great time at Triad Stage’s UpStage Cabaret last night seeing these two shows.  Bad News:  I saw the last performance so it’s too late for you to go…

These shows are part of the repertory summer season that Triad Stage does with UNC-G.  I don’t know the details around this, but the Actors appear in the main stage show and after hours in these two shows as well as in another production.  I have attended these late night shows in the past and also had a great time.  I recommend you keep an eye out for these opportunities to see these late evening shows in the Upstage Cabaret.  They are a great addition to the main season at Triad Stage.

I also love the space where these shows are held.  I wish Triad Stage would use it more.  It would be a great place for small concerts, Cabaret acts as well as theatre.  And you can drink during the show…

The plays themselves are two short plays by Christopher Durang.  I always enjoy his work when it is done well-as it was last night.

“The Actor’s Nightmare” is very short and very funny.  Anthony Scarsella did a great job as the lead with able support from the rest of the cast.

The longer play, “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You”, is totally dependent on the actress playing Sister Mary for the play to work.  Leah Turley was delightful.  Although she is too young for the part, as written, she made it work beautifully.  I would love to see her do this again in about 20 years.  She was also a stand out in the main stage show at Triad Stage.  I hope we get to see more of  her here in the Triad.

The entire cast of “Sister Mary” was excellent. Outstanding work by the entire cast including Catherine Delaney, Matthew Delaney, Izzy Goff, Dylan Weikel-Feekes and Nick Albrecht.  Especially, Dylan Wiekel-Feekes.   As the perfect Catholic schoolboy, he almost stole the show.

Both plays were also extremely well directed  by Kate Muchmore, for “Actor’s Nightmare” and by Bryan Conger for “Sister Mary”.

We are lucky to have several good College theatre programs here in the Triad.  I applaud Triad Stage for their support and partnership of these groups.

Congratulations to UNC-Gs’ Theatre program for such fine work during this Summer Rep series.  Many thanks to Triad Stage for providing such fine facilities and support to these young artists.

I can’t wait until next year!

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Triad Stage, “Providence Gap” and Some Thoughts On Blogging

It has been a very interesting week for me.

My review and thoughts on “Providence Gap” created quite a lot of discussion, both here, on FaceBook and in conversations I’ve had around town.  That post received the most “hits” of any blog post I have posted.

I thank all of you who read it, whether you agree with me or not.  So far, almost everyone I’ve talked to has agreed with me.  But I’m sure almost everyone tells the folks at Triad Stage they loved “Providence Gap”.  People don’t like to be impolite.  Neither do I.

I will start by saying I have re-read my blog post several times and I stand by my comments completely.

With one exception:  I think I was unintentionally a little too harsh on Preston Lane.  While I stand by my comments on “Providence Gap”, the Appalachian series and “Julie’s Dance”, as I reviewed his credits last night, I realized how much I had enjoyed some of Mr. Lane’s other adaptations.

Like most consumers, theatrical or otherwise, the bad usually stands out at the expense of the good in our memories as time passes.

I want to give praise, where it is due, just as I will give criticism where I think it is due.

Mr. Lane did a great job in his adaptations of “Ghosts”, “Hedda Gabler” and “Dracula”.  I thank him for those works and those enjoyable evenings at Triad Stage.  He has also shown great talent as a director.  However, when you are the Artistic Director of a professional theatre company, you have to be ready to accept good feedback as well as bad.

That brings me to some thoughts on blogging…

I read blogs for a long time before I started one.  I’ve only been blogging since December and I’m constantly amazed that more and more people are reading this blog.  I decided to throw my thoughts out into cyberspace as an outlet and for fun.  I never really thought whether someone else, outside a few friends, might want to read them.  They do.  I’m surprised when I run into people around town and mention my name, for some reason, and they say:  “Are you the blogger?”  It’s been an adjustment to think of myself that way.  But yes, I am a blogger.  I’m proud to say so.

I think bloggers are essential to communication today.  With most of the traditional media outlets owned my big corporations and news mixed up with entertainment, I’ve long depended on political blogs for my news and information.  With the local traditional media being swallowed up by corporations and conglomerates, you don’t see as much local news coverage as you once did.

And you see almost no Arts coverage.  No one in the local media reviews local Theatre or other Performing Arts anymore.  That’s why blogging is essential.  We have to create our own information sharing process.  That’s why I intend to continue to provide my thoughts on the local Arts scene when I attend performances.  I hope you will, too.

I’ll also say that what few traditional critics still remain don’t carry the weight they once did.  Shows can survive horrible reviews in the New York Times and still run.  Example:  “The Adams Family.”  Shows can also get great reviews and be derivative, boring and deeply flawed.  Ex:  “The Shining City” and “Pillowman”.

Word of mouth is much more important now than it used to be.  But it doesn’t always get to the producers.  That’s why we need blogs in the Triad.  I’m really not sure the folks at Triad Stage were hearing what I and others were saying about “Providence Gap” until I posted on my blog.  And quite a lot of people were saying it.

Now if you Google Triad Stage and “Providence Gap” you not only get the Triad Stage press releases, you get our blog posts.  This is an important change due to the internet age.  We can all comment and express our opinions.  And others can read them.   Then they can make up their own minds.  It’s really free speech at it’s most basic level.  No one controls the dialogue.

It’s too easy for us to be caught up in our own bubbles, silo’s or echo chambers today.  With Triad Stage and other organizations, I worry that so many people want something from them- parts in plays, jobs, productions- that it is getting harder for them and other Arts organizations to get real feedback from their audiences.  Standing ovations mean nothing in the theatre now.  Audiences think they are expected.  Hell, in New York, they even applaud the scenery changes.

I don’t want anything but good theatre that expands the heart and mind.

So I’m going to continue to blog.  I hope you will continue to read it.  I also hope you will continue to give me your comments and your feedback.  I no longer do this just for my amusement.  I’m finding a sense of community and a dialogue that I am enjoying immensely.

We live in an increasingly polarized and isolated society and blogs can help us rebuild our fractured communities.  They allow we busy people to communicate at our own time and speed.  They let us share ideas, thoughts and opinions in ways that daily interaction in a Politically Correct world often prohibits.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me and I welcome comments, both good and bad, on this blog.  As long as they are civil.  This is an open forum and I plan to keep it that way.

I also encourage others to start their own blogs.  I’ve enjoyed many other great blogs here in Greensboro, the Triad and the state of North Carolina as much as I enjoy some of the national blogs I read daily.  It’s really easy to start a blog.  I recommend WordPress.com.  You can start your basic blog for free and be up and running in a matter of minutes.

So again, my thanks to all of you who bother to read this blog and apologies to Preston Lane for overlooking the good works he does due to the impact of one really bad night in the theatre.

Let’s keep the dialogue going…

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“Providence Gap” at Triad Stage: My Thoughts and Review

I just got home from the longest night I have ever spent in a theatre.  I hate to be negative, but friends don’t let friends see bad theatre.  I have seen hundreds of shows in my life and nothing prepared me for the mess that is “Providence Gap”at Triad Stage here in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Let me start by saying I love Triad Stage.  We have been season ticket holders since they first opened.  We have seen every production they have ever mounted.  I donate money to them.  Often, they do wonderful work.  But when they miss, they miss big.  “Providence Gap” is a huge miss.

Let me also say Preston Lane, who I do not know personally, can be a wonderful director.  “Picnic”, an old warhorse of a play that I was dreading, turned out to be a magical evening in the theatre– largely due to his direction.  He has created magic many times in the past at Triad Stage.  Just not when he is writing/adapting and directing at the same time.  Starting with “Julie’s Dance”, most adaptations or new works I recall that he has both written and directed have been, at best,  tedious.  I couldn’t even look him in the eye as we left tonight I was so embarrassed for him.

Let me also say that Laurelynn Dossett wrote and performed some beautiful music.  However, it was lost in this mess of a show.  In every collaboration she does at Triad Stage, her music is always the high point.  The book of the show is always the low point.  And usually the Direction.

For the record, I also simply hated their previous collaboration “Beautiful Star”.  I know it sold well for Triad Stage, but it was still, at best, mediocre.  It seemed to me to be more appropriate for the Barn Dinner Theatre than a professional company like Triad Stage.  “Bloody Blackbeard” had great music and a wonderful set, but seemed like a rough draft of a show.  “Providence Gap” has beautiful music, but seems like, at best,  a very rough first draft of a show.  Laurelynn’s music is usually the only saving grace of these collaborations, but even she couldn’t save this mess.  I would have bought the CD, but I didn’t want to risk mental flashbacks to the show.

I felt sorry for the very talented actors.  Most of them are from UNCG-G’s Theatre program.  They were all extremely talented and did the best that could be done with what they had to work with in “Providence Gap.”  The best thing I can say to them is to be grateful that they learned early in their careers what it’s like to be part of a really bad professional show.

There were about 4 or 5 plays in “Providence Gap.”  It could have been a fascinating story about how “hillbillies” came down from the mountains to work in the cotton mills.  It could have been a fascinating story about mountain people.   But, Mr Lane was overly ambitious.  We did not need a 2 and a half hour allegory.  It did not work.  We did not need to hear it as representing the 20th Century changes in lifestyle for mountain people.  If I had heard the phrase “Twentieth Century” from the narrator/ MC one more time, I think I would have climbed over the seats and beaten him with my program.  The woman character “representing” the 20th Century was confusing, annoying and should have been cut.  The Radio Show format simply did not work.

The characters were poorly developed and, as the man behind me said, “turn on a dime”.  These were sketches, not characters.  They were not “real” people.  And, while I know what he was trying to do,  the character names seemed  more appropriate to a Jackie Collins novel than mountain people in the early 20th Century.  The plot was both obvious and contrived.  It was totally predictable and the prediction was not good.

As I said, I felt sorry for the actors and appreciate their fine work in making these characters as honest as they could.  They did not have a lot to work with in the script.  I hate to say it, but there really was not a book here.  At least not a coherent one.  Especially not one worthy of Laurelynn Dossett’s music.  I hope she steps away from this type of collaboration before her reputation is tarnished by association.  She deserves better than this…She and her fine musicians were misused on stage in this show.  They were neither fully integrated into the show nor appropriately featured to “comment” on the action.  This was part of the weakness in both the book and the direction.

Usually, one can at least love the set in a Triad Stage production.  Even that did not work tonight.  It was boring and depressing with no focal points.

I really hate to be so harsh in this review, but I look at it as “tough love”.  Triad Stage needs to stop this foolishness before they hurt their reputation even further. I did not hear one positive word from anyone in the audience tonight.  I’m sure there were some people who liked it, but I didn’t hear it.  All I heard walking back to the car were comments similar to mine.

I must say, it is admirable that they are trying to feature North Carolina History and music but, frankly, this is not working.  I can’t be an enabler.

I beg Triad Stage to end the Appalachian saga while they are behind, but before they further damage their reputation.  This was, frankly, abysmal.  They don’t need this kind of word of mouth when they are trying to build and retain an audience during tough economic times.  They are too important to us in the Community for me not to call them out on this–even if no one there reads it.

But then, who am I to judge?  I’m just a guy who sees a lot of theatre, in a lot of places, who won’t be seeing anything else in this genre at Triad Stage.  You couldn’t pay me enough.  I can’t even think of anyone to whom I would do the disservice to give them our season tickets for something like this show.  I was embarrassed for them that they put this on their stage.

As a supporter of Triad Stage, I’ve had my say….I just hope we can move on to bigger and better things next season.  I wish Laurelynn Dossett and all the talented actors all the best.  Triad Stage and Preston Lane can and should do better…

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