Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review: Airline Highway

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 3:34 PM


WWOZ 90.7 FM blares in the background and clothes are hung over the railing to dry at a pink motel on Airline Highway. Francis (Thomas Francis Murphy), an unshaven and disheveled man wearing a Defend New Orleans T-shirt and feathered crash helmet, bicycles onstage, carrying a basket full of Mardi Gras beads. Hummingbird Motel residents sit on plastic chairs in the parking lot where they are planning a “living funeral” for Miss Ruby (Janet Shea), a beloved neighbor who owned a strip club in her younger days. In other cities, these goings-on might seem exotic, but in New Orleans, it’s just another day.

Airline Highway, written by Lisa D’Amour and directed by Southern Rep’s Aimee Hayes, could be described by the cliche, “truth is stranger than fiction.” First produced at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago and also on Broadway last year, Airline Highway is populated with colorful New Orleans types, living on the edge and in the moment, who form a supportive community at a seedy motel. The show is full of humor, which is well delivered, but its originality is undercut by the fact we can see similar scenes every day.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Southern Rep enters two-year residency at Loyola University

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 4:12 PM


Southern Rep opens its production of Lisa D'Amour's Airline Highway at the University of New Orleans' Robert E. Nims Theatre Wednesday. But the theater company has already moved into its temporary home at Loyola University. Through the end of summer 2018, Southern Rep will present shows at Loyola's Lower Depths Theatre and Marquette Theatre.

The inaugural production at Loyola will be Grounded, a play about an Air Force pilot whose career is ended by an unplanned pregnancy, which runs Nov. 2-20 at the Lower Depths Theatre. Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth will be staged at the Marquette Theatre May 31-June 18, 2017.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Review: West Side Story

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 2:54 PM


Some consider 1957’s West Side Story the best musical of all time, and a defining work of the brilliant composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. In his score, Bernstein interspersed “cool” 1950s jazz with classical, popular and Latin music, while drawing inspiration from opera to complement a modern version of Shakespeare’s tragic love story Romeo and Juliet.

Beginning with a solitary whistle echoing against New York City’s concrete walls and a bongo beat, the show’s tumultuous, symphonic score alternates between complex, discordant jazz and stirring love ballads.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review: Pippin

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 11:44 AM


Pippin, the Tony Award-winning musical, written by Roger O. Hirson with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, dazzled Broadway audiences in the ’70s and a talented cast is delighting audiences with a season opening production at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre. Schwartz’s timeless and captivating score provides ample opportunities for stellar vocals and jazzy, Bob Fosse-style dance moves, giving the show magical flair.

Originally conceived as a student musical, Pippin essentially is a coming-of-age story. Bored with formal education and the royal court, Charlemagne’s first-born son yearns for an “extraordinary” life, seeking excitement and, above all, meaning. It is a classic tale of a young man traveling the world only to find true happiness back home.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Review: Alleged Lesbian Activities

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 9:52 AM

Alleged Lesbian Activities revisits New Orleans' lesbian bar scene. - MELISA CARDONA
  • Alleged Lesbian Activities revisits New Orleans' lesbian bar scene.

The title Alleged Lesbian Activities might suggest a flamboyant show, but that is only partly right. Based on oral histories about coming out in the 1960s and 1970s, its tone is bittersweet. The nostalgic play, focusing on a New Orleans “dyke” bar, reminisces about a pivotal time in New Orleans’ gay history.

With standout performances by the cabaret’s master of ceremonies (Hannah Pepper-Cunningham) and Franki’s bar owner (indee mitchell) to ’70s hits that beckon the audience to join in and dance, Alleged Lesbian Activities is a loving portrayal of an almost forgotten lesbian experience.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Esperanza Spalding opens Faux/Real festival Nov. 3

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 1:53 PM

Esperanza Spalding performs in New Orleans Nov. 3. - JOHANN SAUTY
  • Esperanza Spalding performs in New Orleans Nov. 3.

Esperanza Spalding
will perform at the Orpheum Theater Nov. 3 to open the Faux/Real Festival of Arts. Spalding is touring following the March release of Emily's D+Evolution, and in the show, the jazz bassist roves through musical genres and adds theatricality. 

Faux/Real director Ben Mintz notes that the festival is evolving. It's still focused on elements of theater and performance art, and Spalding's piece is more than a concert, he notes. The festival is condensing its schedule from three weeks to 10 days (Nov. 3-13), and there will be 30 events, including theater, magic and culinary events. The full schedule will be released this week, Mintz says.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Review: Flood City

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 1:59 PM


Flood City is not about Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, but there are so many similarities between the devastating flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889 and the flooding of New Orleans in 2005, it is difficult not to draw comparisons.

Written by NOLA Project member Gabrielle Reisman and directed by fellow member Mark Routhier, Flood City focuses on the collapse of the South Fork Dam, which released 20 million tons of water into the Appalachian steel town and killed more than 2,000 people.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Review: Waterworld: The Aqua-Play

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2016 at 1:51 PM


While flooding and signs of global warming abound, it could be the appropriate time for levity. In an unusual reversal, Danielle Small, founder of Microwave Babies theater company, adapted a $235 million dystopian epic, Waterworld, into a low-budget musical, staging it in the cozy courtyard of Maison de Macarty Bed and Breakfast in Bywater. The absurd premise of the original film is elevated to outrageous in Waterworld: The Aqua-Play.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Culture Collision is Wednesday

Posted By on Mon, Aug 29, 2016 at 6:05 PM

Culture Collision is at the National World War II Museum's U.S. Freedom Pavilion
  • Culture Collision is at the National World War II Museum's U.S. Freedom Pavilion

Culture Collision, a happy hour hosted by local arts and cultural organizations to share info about their programs and upcoming seasons, is 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31 at the National World War II Museum's U.S. Freedom Pavilion. There are more than 50 arts organizations, short performances by some participating groups, a cash bar, raffles and more.

Participating groups range from museums and theater companies to film groups and festivals. They include Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Shotgun Cinema, The NOLA Project, New Orleans Ballet Association, Marigny Opera House, OperaCreole, Ashe Cultural Arts Center, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans Film Society, French Quarter Festivals, WWNO 89.9 and others. There's an updated list here.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Review: Lizzie

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 2:18 PM

Idella Johnson and Leslie Claverie star in Lizzie. - GARY MICHAEL SMITH
  • Idella Johnson and Leslie Claverie star in Lizzie.
For those who revel in the sheer outrageousness of rock music, Lizzie, may be fulfilling fare, but if seeking well developed characters enacting a thrilling and horrifying story, the See ’Em On Stage production of the murderous musical falls dramatically short.

However well-intentioned, the creative choice of venue — the cavernous New Orleans Art Center — makes it almost impossible to follow the narrative. While lyrics are incidental to many rock songs, they are critical in a musical, and here the audience must strain to understand exactly what is happening. Despite the performers’ hand-held and headset microphones, the band positioned onstage is too dominant and distracts from the action. Musicians performing on the same plane as the actors is a good example of an interesting idea that undermines the purpose of the show.

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