Monday, January 30, 2012

The Scottsboro Boys

Scottsboro boys on boxcar in Alabama
The Philadelphia Theatre Company is presenting the Tony Award nominated musical The Scottsboro Boys through February 19 in its Suzanne Roberts Theatre, located at Broad and Lombard Streets, Philadelphia, Pa. In an exceptional and thought provoking   interview, composer John Kander, writer David Thompson and director/choreographer Susan Stroman  gave insight into the birth of The Scottsboro Boys. An idea germinated to write a musical about a true story and the idea of using the case of the Scottsboro Boys who were in the national spotlight in the ‘30s took hold. They wanted to make the point that the boys were individuals who mattered. Every time the case was mentioned in the papers or in a trial, the 9 boys aged 13-19 were referred to as The Scottsboro Boys. No one ever recognized them as individuals.….Eugene Williams is portrayed by the extremely talented 11 year old tap dancer, Nile Bullock; Charlie Weems is portrayed by the adaptable  Andrew Arrington; Ozie Powell is portrayed by the flexible Gilbert L. Bailey; Olen Montgomery is portrayed by David Bazemore;  The Wright brothers, Andy and Roy are portrayed by Derrick Cobey and Clinton Roane respectively; Clarence Norris is portrayed by Eric Jackson;  Willie Robeson is portrayed by Kendrick Jones; and Haywood Patterson, the boy who learned to read and write while in prison and wrote down the boys’ story is portrayed by Rodney Hicks. When a local sheriff gets on a train outside of Scottsboro,Alabama and is about to arrest two prostitutes; the prostitutes concoct a story about rape in order to avoid arrest and point to the 9 “negroes” that were pulled off the box cars. Thus the saga of the Scottsboro Boys begins. Several trials are held as verdicts are overturned and people rally to their support. Rosa Parks met her husband at one such rally.  She is a silent watcher during much of the show, keeping a figurative eye on the boys.  The  telling is done as part of a minstrel show but the whole concept of the minstrel show is flipped upside down with black actors playing white roles. The characters have to announce that they are white to avoid any misunderstanding. Kander and Ebb are the successful musical team who has given us, Cabaret, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman among others. This score is destined to be another smash hit. The lyrics are poignant and beautifully executed. Some of the more jarring lyrics come directly from trial transcripts, adding to the authenticity of the tale. The dance numbers showcase the talent of this ensemble cast. Whether doing a tap or an acrobatic routine, every character executes a stellar performance. Not only are many of the cast members from the Broadway production, including several of the boys and Forrest McClendon as Mr. Tambo and JC Montgomery as Mr. Bones, but the original creative team of set desiger Beowulf Boritt, lighting designer Ken Billington, costume designer Toni-Leslie James and sound designer Peter Hylenski are reunited in Philadelphia to work on this production. Now that’s a formula for success! Tickets are bound to sell out quickly. To purchase tickets or to get more information call 215-985-0420 or visit online at

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Acquah (Frank X) and Lydia (Hannah Gold)

MICROCRISIS, written by Mike Lew and directed by Seth Rozin, will be performed at InterAct Theatre, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, Pa through February 12.  Witnessing Lew's global economy collapse is almost like watching Humpty Dumpty fall… you don’t want to laugh but you can’t help yourself. Four members of the 6 member cast play multiple roles and each character pushes past his comfort zone to suspend belief by fanning the flames of this delicious facetious farce. Kevin Bergen portrays Bennet, the impresario who invents microcredit and is responsible for the ultimate financial ruin of nearly everyone. This grandiose magnate sweeps along idealistic Lydia, portrayed by Hannah Gold and Randy, a Harvard grad computer geek portrayed by Dave Johnson on an unbridled romp through the high life in Monaco. Lew’s acerbic wit is satire at its finest. Maia Desanti portrays M. Chavez, a school teacher who succumbs to promises of riches.  We are treated to Frank X’s versatility as he not only portrays a very small businessman in Ghana who is in search of a loan but also the chairman of the Fed who plays racquetball on a court built underneath the Federal Reserve. He opens and closes the show as the character in Ghana. In both situations he frequently announces  he is making a joke. The real question appears to be…who is the joke on? To find out and have fun in the discovery, call 215-568-8079 or visit online at

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Mousetrap

Who done it?
The Walnut Street Theatre, located at 825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa. is one of 60 theaters world-wide to be producing Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap in honor of its 60th year in production. This show premiered in London’s West end in 1952 and has been playing continuously ever since, making it the longest continuously running play in history. It can be seen on the Walnut Street Theatre's  main stage through March 4th. Agatha Christie was a mystery writer par excellence. Each member of WST ensemble cast uniquely brings to life the disparate characters that not only are thrust together in a freak snow storm but also ultimately became suspects in a murder.  Thanks to the excellent work of Scenic Designer Glen Sears, it is not always easy to keep track of the whereabouts of all the characters.  The saga is set in a manor house in London. The room is exquisite in its coziness with numerous doors and archways for the players to enter and exit the stage. The fireplace in one corner of the room exudes warmth that the characters rarely show to each other. Who knows if the characters’ behaviors are the result of fear or guilt? It is the audience’s task to scrutinize each character’s actions and alibis to determine the identity of the killer. This enigmatic tale is not a routine, serious account. Although lives may be at stake, humor abounds throughout. You must listen closely to catch the laugh lines as fellow members of the audience may drown them out with their enthusiasm. You’ll want to be sure to catch this show and be part of its 60 year history.  For tickets or further information, call 215-574-3550 or visit online at

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Body Awareness

final family portrait

The Wilma Theater, located at 265 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pa., is producing the Off-Broadway comedy Body Awareness through February 5, 2012.  It is a multi- layered comedy that has you laughing from the onset but grabs hold of your intellect and takes it along for a breathless ride. Dustin Ingram gives an extraordinary performance as a young man who is suspected of having Asperger’s syndrome. His initial outbursts are chilling. As Body Awareness Week in Shirley Sate College progresses, he slowly develops a tenuous willingness to accept himself with potentially disastrous results. Grace Gonglewski portrays Phyllis, a professor of psychology at Shirley State College. She sets up many of the laugh lines but her character is a study in contradiction. Those willing to look beyond the laughter, will be intrigued to discover the prestigious psychologist brimming with insecurities. Mary Martello has always been a consummate actor of many faces and it is fascinating to observe her begin her week  with zest only to end it with angst. Solely Christopher Coucill, portraying Frank Bonitatibus the guest photographer, undergoes no changes during Body Awareness Week. He is, however, the catalyst for several.  Set designer Mimi Lien beautifully accomplished the difficult task of fashioning three different locations on the stage which are used simultaneously.  With the help of outstanding lighting designer Thom Weaver, characters can freely move from a classroom, to a kitchen or a bedroom sight unseen. Falling snow on the skylight and outside the windows reminds all that the setting is winter in Vermont and adds a rough touch to a show that already packs quite a punch. For tickets or further information call 215-893-9456 or visit online at