Despite opening on Broadway more than 50 years ago, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, currently running at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, is hilariously entertaining. The timeless plot is based on comedies penned by the Roman playwright Plautus 2,000 years ago, which proves that dynamics among young lovers, old fools, egotistical leaders and cunning underlings never really change.
Forum won six Tony Awards and is considered one of the most successful musical comedies of all time. With book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, the show is one of the few for which Stephen Sondheim wrote both music and lyrics. His rousing opener “Comedy Tonight” sets up the premise of the play, and it’s the tune audiences leave humming.
New Orleans' own Bianca del Rio — longtime entertainer and winner of RuPaul's Drag Race Season 6 — will bring her "Not Today, Satan" tour to the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts Nov. 4.
Del Rio (the creation of comic/costumer Roy Haylock) last appeared in New Orleans at House of Blues in a sold-out show in November 2014 (read Gambit's cover interview here). Her current tour began in Australia this month. An American leg starts in September and wraps with the New Orleans appearance in November.
The bright-eyed and eager J. Pierrepont Finch accepts an entry-level job in the mailroom of World Wide Wicket Company. He doesn’t plan to stay in the position long though, because he has a how-to book that promises to help him climb the corporate ladder in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, currently running at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts,
Finch (Bobby Kelly) acts coy around the office watercooler, but he’s a schemer. He’s also fortunate to constantly find himself in the right place at the right time, and sometimes he sets up coworkers to be fired. Kelly is a talented singer and injects Finch with warmth to make him likable and enough sleaze to make him dangerous. Finding that balance is no small feat as Finch pursues unethical plans and is dismissive of his office admirer, Rosemary Pilkington (Abby Botnick). Botnick also has one of the cast’s stronger voices, and she is funny as a woman pursuing a man more interested in his career ambitions.
Don Quixote mounts his horse to face his nemesis Friston. The two have a deal: If Quixote wins, Friston stops terrorizing him. If Quixote loses, he abandons his quest for adventures and knighthood. But Quixote isn’t a real knight, and the battle leads to a harsh realization in The NOLA Project’s adaptation of Don Quixote at the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden.
Alonso Quixano is a dreamer. He wants more in his old age than just long naps and slow days. To combat his unrest, the avid reader has invented his bandit-fighting alter-ego Don Quixote (Ian Hoch). The story is introduced by Quixote’s trusted squire Sancho Panza (Mike Spara), who tells the audience about Quixote’s adventures. This frame works well as the likeable Spara plays to the crowd and his excellent comedic timing helps the narrative make smooth transitions. Hoch delivers a dazzling, wide-eyed performance, giving Quixote endearing sincerity without making him seem crazy even as he fights a windmill he believes to be a giant.
Jake Bullock has lived through the Civil War, survived the stock market crash of 1929 and observed the birth of the Internet. Born in 1796, his life spans centuries, but he stopped physically aging in his thirties. He doesn’t know how it happened, but it’s allowed him to witness most of our nation’s history. He recounts his story in Choosing A Hat Productions’ Ancient Jake, currently at The Fortress of Lushington in Faubourg Marigny.
James Patrick is an engaging and likable actor, and as Jake, he sits in an armchair and talks directly to the audience in an easy manner. Jake has lived a nomadic lifestyle, finding work in big Northern cities and small Southern towns. He meanders through nearly two centuries of occupations including bus driver, bartender and stints in the military as well as time in prison for accidentally urinating on the president of Princeton University.
A company member plays a song in a Bread and Puppet production.
Joseph Therrien, a touring company member with Bread and Puppet Theater, knows how to start a revolution. To win hearts and minds, skip the canvassing and start making puppets.
“People — their inhibitions, their ideological beliefs — kind of soften when they see a puppet,” he says. “Especially with [Bread and Puppet], because we use a lot of humor and music, as opposed to someone who’s on the street, ranting on a soapbox, or someone trying to get signatures for a petition. As important as those things are … [puppets] really unlock something in people and make them more receptive.”
In Tennessee Williams: Weird Tales, a young boy spends a stormy night reading three of the playwright’s one-act plays. Love, loss and pathos intertwine in a fantastical production presented by The Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans at Metropolitan Community Church.
In the first play, Steps Must Be Gentle, poet Hart Crane (David Williams) lies in a bathtub at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Fifteen years earlier, Crane committed suicide by jumping off a boat, and now his mother Grace (Maggie Eldred) has contacted him via telephone to address their unresolved issues. Crane, born in 1899, had taken male lovers and his mother disapproved. Steps is an intense exploration of sexual repression and familial bonds. Williams gives the poet heartbreaking emotion in Tennessee Williams’ account of Crane as a man who wanted to please his mother but never could. Eldred is outstanding as the simultaneously supportive and undercutting matriarch. Williams and Eldred are dynamic together, and Steps is the most fully realized and moving portion of Weird Tales.
Tom Wingfield is a restless dreamer stuck in a warehouse job. He wants action and adventure but instead lives with his painfully shy sister and overbearing mother in The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams’ classic drama, currently at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre.
Tom (Curtis Billings) often escapes his family, telling them he’s “going to the movies.” His sister Laura (Lucy Faust) retreats inward and has become so reclusive that she’s lied to their mother Amanda (Annalee Jefferies) about dropping out of school because of anxiety and embarrassment.
Two theater festivals are scheduled in mid-April. The New Orleans Infringe Fest features nearly 30 shows, including dramas, burlesque, themed karaoke events, sketch comedy, puppetry and more. Its format is similar to the former New Orleans Fringe Festival, in which many shows filled a nightly schedule of three of four times slots at a cluster of neighboring venues, so eager attendees could binge on offerings. Infringe programming includes off-the-wall and risque productions.
Shows include Vinsantos' drag show Harlequeen Nights, Sheena: An American Tragedy, a rock opera about a serial killer, Insomnia Cafe, a new work by the creator of Terminator: The Musical, and more.
CNN's Anderson Cooper strides purposefully down the Canal Street neutral ground in this 2007 photograph.
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and Bravo personality Andy Cohen are bringing something called "Deep Talk and Shallow Tales" to the Saenger Theater June 24. Press materials describe it as a "live, interactive look behind the scenes of pop culture and world events."