‘Mama’s Party’ cabaret at Tucker’s Blues

Get your cabaret fix to start off the week

Even if it is the beginning of the work week or the new year, Monday nights are a Dallas must thanks to Amy Stevenson who hosts Mama’s Party. Every Monday, local musicians and actors come together for a night of song and for a mere pittance. Where else could you get an array of major stage talents performing an ample night of music for cheap? Oh, oh, we know the answer!

DEETS: Tucker’s Blues, 2617 Commerce St. 7 p.m. $5. MamasParty.com or look them up on Facebook.

—  Rich Lopez

STAGE BRIEFS

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The Night of the Iguana. As if we need further evidence that Rene Moreno is Dallas’ best director, we have this remarkable production as Exhibit A, pictured right. Tennessee Williams’ last great play is set in tropical Acapulco, so most productions emphasize its steam sexuality. But Moreno — at least in Act 1 — discovers Williams’ biting humor, staging the action with the pacing of a farce. He saves the sultry stuff for Act 2, allowing the melodrama to sneak up on it.

Set at a run-down motel in the off-season, it features a hurricane, a failed clergyman (Ashley Wood, appropriately manic) tied to a hammock, a slutty proprietress (Cindee Mayfield, who could unleash a whole new career as a bad girl) and an underaged nymphomaniac. Hey, it is Williams.

It clicks along so spritely, with the cast (including Elizabeth Van Winkle, and Terry Vandivort delivering his best performance in years) capturing the exaggerated Southern melody or Tennessee’s over-wrought dialogue, you get easily lost. Imbuing a classic with fresh energy is one fine feat.
Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. Through Mar. 4.

Pluck the Day. It’s been almost 10 years since Second Thought Theatre produced Pluck the Day, a comedy about quirky Texans set entirely on a ramshackled porch littered with beer cans and forgotten dreams. The original was a longish two-acter about lost 20somethings.

The revisions by STT’s co-artistic director, Steven Walters, of his rambling play tighten a lot of the action, but the major accomplishment is one that the calendar gets the most credit for: The maturing of the characters. Now they are in their 30s, when the malaise of realizing your best years were more than a decade back really sets in.

The men at the center are an unusual trio, despite their similar upbringings. Duck (Clay Yokum) is a dumb, married redneck and proud of it; Fred (Mike Shrader) is his bachelor counterpart, about to pop the question; and Bill (Chris LaBove) the smart gay one who has hung around this one-stoplight town for far too long. But just how gay is Bill?

The plot revolved around a did-they-or-didn’t-they plot you might have caught on Three’s Company, but there’s a sweetness to it all and a full share of laughs, especially when Duck — who wouldn’t know a metrosexual if he gay-bashed him — wonders why Bill isn’t attracted to him. Been there.
Second Thought Theatre. Through Feb. 26.

stage-2-2Bring It On: The Musical. Talk about the power of the pyramid: Cheerleading onstage kicks ass. Oh, say what you will about it being a cheesy faux-sport practiced by mean girls (there’s a lot of that here, no question) — when you see a man in a tank-top and shorts do a running back-flip across the stage, it’s hard not to fall in love.

Or at least in serious, serious like, which is the reaction you’ll have to Bring It On, pictured left. While based on the teen rom-com, the touring production now at Fair Park creates its own story about Campbell (Taylor Louderman), a flighty senior cheer goddess and team captain gerrymandered into an inner city school district. In predictable fashion, she rallies the hip-hop girls (including one sassy black trans, given an overdose of spunk by Gregory Haney) into turning their dance crew into a cheer squad.

Like Legally Blonde, or even Hairspray, it’s a sunny, silly story about the redemption of a teen queen through the power of (fill in the blank: Law, cheerleading, dancing). But like Wicked, it’s also underhandedly smart, with a catchy, contemporary score and clever lyrics.

The tour hasn’t made it to Broadway; it probably doesn’t need to go there. New York audiences probably imagine themselves too sophisticated to appreciate a musical about cheering; here in the hinterlands, we’re not ashamed to stand up and rah-rah at impressive displays of athleticism that come with singing as well. Go, team!
Dallas Summer Musicals. Through Feb. 26.

The Secret Life of Girls. Thank God I don’t have kids — and am not one anymore. Dallas Children’s Theater tackles teen bullying in its studio production, but not in a way you might expect. There are no hate crimes here, nor even an obvious hero or villain, just continually readjusting cliques among teen girls. It’s the darker side of Bring It On, where sniping doesn’t warrant a “snap!” but leads to cutting and bulimia. Though gay issues are not directly addressed, it’s an instructive and shockingly timely show (followed by a therapist-led talk-back) that all families can walk away from with new insights into how hard it can be to grow up.
Dallas Children’s Theater. Through Feb. 26. Suitable for teens and adults.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

ACTOR OF THE YEAR

N2Narnold1Stage, it is said, is an actor’s medium, and that is true with the local theater community, who did excellent work last year. Pam Daugherty and Jerry Crow breathed comfortable authenticity in Theatre 3’s contribution to the Foote Festival, The Roads to Home; seven months later on the same stage, Sally Soldo and Sonny Franks transformed the domestic musical A Catered Affair into a kitchen-sink master class in acting for the musical genre.

Larry Randolph, in the nearly-one-man show The Madness of Lady Bright, was a dazzling tragic tour-de-force of a drag queen in winter, nearly matched by Barry Nash’s entirely-one-man show Bob Birdnow’s Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of the Self, both running at the Festival of Independent Theatres — Bright from 1:30 Productions, Birdnow from Second Thought Theater. Second Thought was also represented by the threesome of Drew Wall, Natalie Young and Alex Organ, in the most compelling drama of the first half of 2011, Red Light Winter; Organ scored again (at comedy) in WaterTower Theatre’s Little Shop of Horrors, stealing the show in several roles.

The men offered the “wow” factor to DTC’s The Wiz, with Scarecrow James Tyrone Lane, Lion David Ryan Smith and Tin Man Sydney James Harcourt buoying that production. Oozing charisma, Wade McCollum’s sinewy, villainous M.C. in Cabaret turned a part often played for androgyny into a testosterone-laden sex show. Max Swarner oozed something different — goofy likeability — in ICT’s How to Succeed.

Comic women shone at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, with Emily Scott Banks and Catherine Wall standouts in Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, while Shannon J. McGrann plucked her way through Bad Dates. The entire cast of In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play at Kitchen Dog Theater “got” the humor in a sickly perverse comedy. Angel Velasco’s brain-dead beachcomber was a comic hoot in Level Ground Arts’ camptacular musical Xanadu.

But a trio of actors at Uptown Players made 2011 special. First Patty Breckenridge and Gary Floyd, pictured, turned the quasi-opera Next to Normal into Uptown’s best production to date, exploring music, family life and mental illness with tenderness and strength.

If I had to pick one performance I can’t shake all these months later, it would be Lulu Ward in, of all things, the Paul Rudnick comedy The New Century. Over a 25-minute monologue as the craft-happy mother of a son with HIV, she delved into the quirky charms of a kitschy Southerner to the depths of pain a mother feels watching her child die. Between fits of uncontrollable laughter was a cascade of tears from the audience as she choked back hers. You couldn’t walk away from what seemed like a frivolous comedy without feeling transformed by Ward’s performance. That’s what made her the actor of the year.

— A.W.J.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Best bets • 10.21.11

Friday 10.21]

Who hasn’t had one?
The trials of dating can be rather daunting, but shoe fetishist and single mother Haley finds that her horrible taste in men isn’t paying off in the one-woman show Bad Dates, starrting Shannon J. McGrann. Haley suffers through mobsters, a teenage daughter and, well, some bad dates. But thankfully, she’s got her fabulous shoes to make her feel better.

DEETS: Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 5601 Sears St. 8 p.m. Through Nov. 13. $27–$32.
ContemporaryTheatreOfDallas.com.

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Friday 10.21

She will cut you
The Dallas Opera opens its season with Lucia di Lammermoor, about Lucia, who isn’t too fond of her future husband. So much so, she takes matters into her own hands. For opera newbies, TDO offers a free public simulcast of the opening night in Sammons Park. One way or another, you’ll see how Lucia copes with a deceitful brother and the man he tricks her into marrying.

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 7:30 p.m. Through Nov. 6. $25–$275. ATTPAC.org.

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Saturday 10.22

Pleasure and pain
Fetish adult film star Tony Buff comes to Dallas for the weekend. He make a special appearance at The Tin Room Friday and Saturday and if you don’t like it, well, he’s might have to teach you a lesson. Like you’d mind.

DEETS: Tin Room, 2514 Hudnall St. 10 p.m. No cover. TinRoom.net

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Cheaters’ plays tonight at CTD

Always getting caught

The Contemporary Theatre of Dallas presents Cheaters written by Michael Jacobs and directed by Michael Serrecchia. No, this isn’t a stage version of that horrible reality show putting cheating boyfriends and girflriends on the spot. The couples here intertwine dangerously before a young couple’s wedding. It’s both funny and oh-so wrong. Did he really sleep with her?

The cast includes Sue Loncar, Ted Wold, Jim Johnson, Marcia Carroll, Danielle Pickard & Andrews Cope.

DEETS: CTD, 5601 Sears St. 8 p.m. $22–$32. ContemporaryTheatreOfDallas.com

Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000149 EndHTML:0000000416 StartFragment:0000000199 EndFragment:0000000382 StartSelection:0000000199 EndSelection:0000000382 Sue Loncar, Ted Wold, Jim Johnson, Marcia Carroll, Danielle Pickard & Andrews Cope

—  Rich Lopez

Sitcomy and shrill, ‘Cheaters’ revives the ’80s with failed farce

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As someone over 40 myself, my suspicions are raised when a 22-year-old writes a play that purports to parse the mindsets and pecadilloes of middle-aged couples. But Michael Jacobs — who has since created such execrable sitcom dreck as My Two Dads and Charles in Charge — couldn’t even rent a car when his play Cheaters had a justifiably brief run on Broadway in 1978. It’s about two sets of bickering, faithless 50-somethings and a young couple (Danielle Pickard and Andrews Cope, above) who are trying to decide whether to marry. The plot probably says more about Jacobs’ issues with commitment than it does the titular marrieds.

For its current production, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas has updated the timeline to the mid-’80s — the height of miserable sitcomania and intrusive laugh-tracks —as if to justify how shrill and unpleasant all the characters are: It’s the Reagan Era, after all, you can’t expect people to behave civilly. Aside from that, all this change means is that we have to endure stylized scene changes where chambermaids re-set the hotel room while listening to Love Connection and The Facts of Life drone on the TV. It was impossible to stomach that detritus on its first run; who wants to endure it as a captive?

There are more coincidences — and non-coincidences — than even the most forgiving of audiences will likely accede to willingly. Each cheating pair is the parent to one of the young lovers; even though they have lived together for two years, none of their folks have ever met before the awkward family dinner where all secret infidelities are revealed. It’s meant to be a French farce, though it replaces nuance and wordplay with mugging and shouting: Call it La Cage aux Fail.

It might be tolerable if anyone onstage were remotely likable; alas, the women are all shrill, the men controlling and angry. And they are all clad in ugly costumes, the worst of which is Marcia Carroll saddled with wearing a flight suit that makes her look like something that would get you booted off Project Runway. Ted Wold at least has his signature snarky attitude, which allows him to spit out the contrived dialogue with an inherent sense of humor, though that’s just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Greenville Center for the Arts,
5601 Sears St. Through Sept. 24.
ContemporaryTheatreofDallas .com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Serrecchia receives award for dance excellence

Michael Serrecchia, center, with Gary Floyd and Patty Breckenridge.

Every year, the Dance Council of North Texas presents awards to local luminaries in dance, education and choreography, and this year’s recipient of the Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence goes to Michael Serrecchia.

Serrecchia,whose career on Broadway included being a member of the original cast of A Chorus Line and a national tour with Chita Rivera, has made Dallas his home for several decades, during which he has remained a sought-after choreographer and performer in shows like Urinetown and A Class Act. But he has also made quite a name as a stage director, recently helming memorable productions like Uptown Players’ Next to Normal (pictured center with stars Gary Floyd and Patty Breckenridge) and ICT’s How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying — doing the choreography for both as well. His most recent show is Cheaters at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas.

“Several of Michael’s productions were prestigious regional premieres,” the Council noted in its citation. “Michael incorporates a strong point of view and style … How fortunate for North Texas that Michael settled here.”

Serrecchia’s longtime partner is costume designer Michael Robinson.

The ceremony honoring Serrecchia and others takes place Oct. 2 at the Dallas Black Dance Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at TheDanceCouncil.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best Bets • 09.02.11

Friday 09.02

Always getting caught
The Contemporary Theatre of Dallas presents Cheaters written by Michael Jacobs and directed by Michael Serrecchia. No, this isn’t a stage version of that horrible reality show putting cheating boyfriends and girflriends on the spot. The couples here intertwine dangerously before a young couple’s wedding. It’s both funny and oh-so wrong. Did he really sleep with her?

DEETS: CTD, 5601 Sears St. 8 p.m. $22–$32.
ContemporaryTheatreOfDallas.com

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Sunday 09.04

The way he is
We are starting to think that conductor Marvin Hamlisch has a thing for Dallas. Or at least he’s making it a habit. He was here almost exactly a year ago to the day. We don’t mind it at all if he’s going to keep playing his music from A Chorus Line, The Way We Were and so much more. After all, he’s helming the DSO pops as its principal conductor. Who wouldn’t get excited?

DEETS: Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St.
2:30 p.m. $22–125.
DallasSymphony.org.

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Thursday 09.08

Not your usual night at the mall
Neiman Marcus hosts this year’s Fashion’s Night Out, a swanky event with both men’s and women’s collections, light nibblies and a DJ. The night benefits Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS.

DEETS: The Shops at Willow Bend, 2201 Dallas Parkway, Plano. 6 p.m.
$50–$100.
AltURL.com/zyiwa.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Five Women’ today at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas

No catfights over these outfits

Being a bridesmaid is a thankless job, as the ladies know in Five Women Wearing the Same Dress. The Alan Ball (American Beauty, True Blood) play shows irreverence toward the custom as the ladies hide away from their duties and begin to bond over their experience in lamé.

DEETS: Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 5601 Sears St. 2 p.m. Through July 17. $27–$32. ContemporaryTheatreOfDallas.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Best bets • 06.17.11

Friday 06.17

No catfights over these outfits
Being a bridesmaid is a thankless job, as the ladies know in Five Women Wearing the Same Dress. The Alan Ball (American Beauty, True Blood) play shows irreverence toward the custom as the ladies hide away from their duties and begin to bond over their experience in lamé.

DEETS: Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 5601 Sears St. 8 p.m. Through July 10. $27–$32. ContemporaryTheatreOfDallas.com.

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Friday 06.17

Pop in to the pop-up for DIFFA
Designer Showhouse Sale literally pops up a store in the Design District for high-end bargains for the home. But Friday, a portion of the sales will benefit DIFFA Dallas. Now that’s a good deal.

DEETS: Design District, 1525 Dragon St. Through June 30. 9 a.m. DesignerShowhouseSale.com.

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Saturday 06.18

Handler? We hardly know her
Seems like it was just yesterday Chelsea Handler graced these parts back in April 2010. This time, she’s touting her new book, Lies Chelsea Handler Told Me, with a tour by the same name. But really, who can get enough of the lady?

DEETS: Verizon Theater, 1001 Performance Place, Grand Prairie. 8 p.m. $59–$69.
Ticketmaster.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens