2017 Reviews

Monday, March 27, 2017


Review: Hilarious parody of Broadway’s great musicals at Women’s Theater Company

musical cast
The Women’s Theater Company is currently presenting Musical of Musicals (The Musical), written by Joanne Bogart (lyrics) and Eric Rockwell (music), The production is billed as “a hilarious satire of musical theatre.” Guess what? It is…hilarious, it is…a satire, it is…a parody of the classics of musical theatre. If these composers and their shows mean nothing to you----Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Jerry Herman, then you may fail to appreciate the clever, funny parody presented in The Musical of Musicals (The Musicals)
One of our best area directors (and choreographers) Lauren Moran Mills has produced a truly superior production of The Musical of Musicals (The Musicals)…truly the equal to the best of “Off-Broadway.” Where has this musical gem been hiding? (more later). The creators (and original NY cast members), Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell, tell the story of the young ingénue who is constantly repeating to her villainous, lecher of a landlord (aren’t they all?) the classic line of a struggling actress (aren’t they all) ‘I can’t pay the rent!’ The sad tale, always with a happy ending, is told five times via an oh so clever parody of the five composers.
In each, 15 to 20 minute, segment we have four characters, the aforementioned ingénue and landlord, plus the young leading man and the older woman. The cast is wonderful; the young actress is nicely played by the fine voiced, attractive newcomer Jenna Rose (Ravenda); the young man Billy, the hero of the piece, is another newcomer, Zachary Mazouat. He is perfect in this role of the imperfect, slightly bumbly, suitor who charms his way to victory (translation: He gets the girl).
Now we come to the two professionals in the cast: the landlord, played with considerable gusto, by another area favorite, Scott McGowan. Scott nails the dastardly villain in his own parody of the baddie from the melodrama The Damsel in Distress. Billed as the Matron, or older woman, is the exceptionally talented, Patricia Durante. Barbara Krajkowski, a certified NJ theater treasure, Artistic Director of the WTC, first introduced us to Patricia several seasons ago in Enchanted April. Since then she has earned ‘standing ovations’ on stages throughout the NY, NJ and PA region. We bestowed a New Jersey Footlights ‘Best Actress’ award for her Always, Patsy (Patsy Cline), also, produced by Barbara and the WTC. Her broad impersonations of Marlene Dietrich and Gloria Swanson are comedy gems.Both Scott and Patricia display great ability to perform with tongues firmly planted in their cheeks. Their obvious pleasure in these roles contributes immensely to the fun.
Now, what is a musical without music? The musical director and lone musician is Deborah Martin. Her piano performance deserves its own round of applause.
The unique fun, for many, in this play is the recognition of the shows and tunes that are being parodied. Thus, we will avoid the temptation to burden you with too much, pleasure robbing, detail. This is a wonderful way to spend two hours. Cast and crew have much to be proud of. Maybe, the best thing I can say to entice you to share in the enjoyment at the little theater in Parsippany, is to reveal that my wife has been on Facebook and the phone sharing her pleasure. Oh yes, you will love the bonus finale.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio Sunday March 26, 2017

musicalCredits: Cast: Patricia Durante, Scott McGowan, Jenna Rose, Zach Mazouat. Crew:  Producing Artistic Director Barbara Krajkowski, Director/Choreographer Lauren Moran Mills, Musical Director Deborah Martin, Stage Manager Regina Novicky Costumes Frances Harrison, and Props Erica Stepper.


Production history
The musical premiered off-Broadway on December 16, 2003 at the York Theatre at St. Mark's and ran through October 2, 2004, for a total of 194 performances and 14 previews. (It closed on January 25, 2004 and re-opened on May 24, 2004.) The production was directed and choreographed by Pamela Hunt and featured Joanne Bogart, Craig Fols, Lovette George, and Eric Rockwell. The production was nominated for the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (George), Outstanding Director of a Musical (Hunt), and Outstanding Lyrics (Bogart) and Outstanding Music (Rockwell).
The musical re-opened off-Broadway on February 10, 2005 at the New World Stages V (Dodger Stages) and ran through November 13, 2005. The same director and cast were in the production.
The musical has been performed in regional theater in the United States, in Canberra (Australia - 2009 and Feb 2010), in Canada, and on London's West End. The London production ran from March 31, 2006 through April 22, 2006 at the Sound Theatre.
The Musical of Musicals (The Musical) runs until April 2- Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors. To purchase tickets online please visit www.womenstheater.org or call 973 335 3038.
The Women’s Theater Company is located at the Parsippany Playhouse at 1130 Knoll Road, Lake Hiawatha, NJ. For GPS driving directions, please enter the town of Boonton, 07005.

ABOUT WOMEN’S THEATER COMPANY:
The Women’s Theater Company’s mission is to provide a fertile environment for the advancement of professional women theater artists and to provide quality theater for the community at large.  Through their main stage, educational outreach, and new works development programs, the Women’s Theater Company supports the development of new women artists, promotes new works in the American theater, and provides entertaining and enriching productions for growing audiences.  Women’s Theater Company is located at The Parsippany Playhouse, 1130 Knoll Road, Parsippany, NJ.  For more information contact 973 335 3038, or email info@womenstheater.org.
The Women’s Theater Company is proud to be a member of the New Jersey Theater Alliance. Funding for the Women’s Theater Company has been made possible in part by funds for the Morris Arts through the New Jersey State Council on the Art/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Women’s Theater is proud to be a member of the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce.
photo l-R: Patricia Durante* Zach Mazouat, Jenna Rose (Ravenda), and Scott McGowan* photo by Lauren Moran Mills
* Equity Member

Monday, February 27, 2017


Review:Ken Ludwig’s ‘Moon Over Buffalo’

CHATHAM PLAYERS’ PRODUCTION OF KEN LUDWIG’S FRENETIC FARCE BLOWS DOORS OFF LITTLE PLAYHOUSE SET
By Ruth Ross
moonoverbuffalo - logo - web
As a dramatic genre, farce is a delicate thing. Oh, it is loud, with lots of slamming doors and over-the-top characters and performances, but if the actors don’t hit their marks with precision or the comedic timing is a nanosecond off, the entire enterprise can collapse in a confusing—and decidedly unfunny—heap.
Luckily for us, director Tom Frascatore and the talented folks at the Chatham Community Players nail the genre in their recent production of Moon Over Buffalo by none other than the farce-meister par excellence, Ken Ludwig. Adding to our delight is that this is a play about the theater—one that reveals the back-biting pettiness and feet of clay exhibited some of the people we revere the most: celebrities!
Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, child, baby and indoorIn the summer of 1953, former Broadway stars George and Charlotte Hay have taken their run-down touring company on the road to Buffalo, New York, where they intend to produce Cyrano de Bergerac and Private Lives in repertory, all the while grumbling about missed Hollywood opportunities. With the news that noted Hollywood director Frank Capra is coming to hire the couple for his swashbuckling Scarlet Pimpernel epic, their fortunes seem to be looking up, but their marital and professional relationships are endangered by the news of George’s infidelity Image may contain: 2 people, people standingwith the company’s ingénue. The entire Hay family—including scornful mother-in-law Ethel, determinedly practical daughter Rosalind and Rosalind’s ex-boyfriend/actor/company manager Paul (right, Tess Ammerman and Thom Boyer)—work overtime to get sloppy drunk George into his Cyrano hat and nose…or is it his Elyot Chase smoking jacket? Mistaken identities, foiled plot lines, pratfalls, slamming doors aplenty and backstage shenanigans ensue in this screwball comic farce and love letter to the theater and the larger-than-life personalities who inhabit the world of the theater. (Above: Stacey Petricha and David Romankow)
Tom Frascatore’s frenetic, frantic direction manages to corral and control the mayhem occurring onstage, without dampening the merriment. On Roy Pancirov and Bob Lukasik’s terrific set, decorated by artist Andrea Sickler and featuring five doors just waiting to be slammed, an octet of very talented actors perform in one the best of Chatham Player productions I’ve seen in years.
Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, table and indoorAs the Hayses, David Romankow and Stacey Petricha really shine, from their very first appearance dueling across and around the stage to their final embrace. Romankow is perfect as the conceited has-been George, content to act even regionally, in love with his wife but not above basking in the adoration (and sexual attentions) of the blonde, buxom ingénue Eileen (played with appropriate blowsiness by a pouty Julie Anne Nolan). He portrays perhaps the best drunk (right) I’ve ever encountered, stumbling around the stage, broadly emoting while recalling lines by Shakespeare and falling over unconscious. He’s well matched by Petricha as Charlotte; ambitious, jealous, vindictive to the core, she more than he yearns for a film career. Her anxiety at watching it slip away is palpable and sympathetic. Frantically, she attempts to sober George up so he can go onstage, efforts that are Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, shoes and indoorundermined by a serious (and hilarious) mistake made by her deaf mother Ethel, played with a combination of delicious cluelessness and curmudgeonly irritation by Meryl Nadell (left, with Brendan Scullin as Howard).
Taking charge of the chaos is the couple’s practical daughter Rosalind, who has sought a career outside the theater and who has returned to introduce her television weatherman fiancé Howard to her parents. Tess Ammerman is all business and level-headedness as Roz, dragged back into a world she’s rejected and doing yeoman’s job to keep her parents from veering off the rails. Brendan Scullin is side-splitting as Howard, a literal bundle of nerves who can’t even speak his own name without stuttering, clearly a fish out of water in this world. His attempts to impress George go resoundingly and hysterically awry. Rounding out the stellar cast are Thom Boyer as Rosalind’s former beau Paul, now tasked with managing this repertory company and called into action to sub for an actor who has quit, and Lewis Decker, who provides a modicum of reason as the couple’s lawyer Richard, come to “rescue” Charlotte from this crazy life. (Below L-R: Petricha, Romankow, Decker, Scullin and Nolan)
Image may contain: 4 people, people standing
Costumes by Christina Kirk and hair and makeup by Nicole Ribeiro aptly convey both the historical period and accoutrements of a stage production. Set decoration and props by Tish Lum add to the effect, as do Joe DeVico’s sound design and lighting by John Latona and James Peterson. Steve Ruskin is to be commended on his fight choreography, which encompasses much more than just the skillful duel that introduces the principals.
Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, shoes and indoorFor many theatergoers, farce is an acquired taste. But I love it, so I approached the Chatham Playhouse this past stormy Saturday night with great anticipation. I am glad to say that my expectations were rewarded—in spades! So if you need a respite from contentious news, get on over to the Chatham Playhouse for a good laugh. It’s the perfect antidote to controversy and debate. (Right: David Romankow attempts to strangle Thom Boyer)
Moon Over Buffalo will be performed at the Chatham Playhouse, 23 N. Passaic Ave., Chatham, through March 11. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. For information and tickets, call the box office at 973.635.7363 or visit www.chathamplayers.org online.
Reviewed by Ruth Ross (njartsmaven,com)

Review: ‘BAD JEWS’ A Delectable Dish At GEORGE STREET PLAYHOUSE





By Guest Reviewer Ruth Ross (NJARTSMAVEN.COM)

The death of a beloved relative and the distribution of his or her possessions can wreak havoc on familial relationships, causing ruptures that often fester for decades. The havoc is exacerbated when the possessions include historical artifacts, especially those related to the Holocaust.

If the thought of such squabbling makes you uncomfortable, brace yourself for the antics onstage in George Street Playhouse’s current offering, Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon. Originally produced at the Roundabout Theatre in New York, the play’s title has a double meaning. On one hand, the characters rate their “Jewishness” relative to their investment in and familiarity with the culture and religion; on the other hand, over the course of 90 minutes, we get to witness some very bad behavior in all its awful glory.

The source of contention among the three Haber-Feygenbaum cousins, brothers Liam and Jonah and cousin Daphna, is the gold chai (the Hebrew letters for “life”) necklace worn by “Poppy,” their very recently deceased grandfather for much of his long life. Daphna believes she should get it because she, after all, she the “best” Jew of the three, changing her name from Diana to the Hebrew Daphna, spending time in Israel with plans to wed a man she met there, and able to read and recite the Hebrew prayers. She’s adamant and girded for war. Her nemesis Liam (Hebrew name Shlomo, which he doesn’t care to divulge) is the oldest of the three; he wants the chai to use it to propose to his girlfriend, just as Poppy used it to propose to their grandmother. He’s arrogant, sure that he deserves the necklace—in short, a worthy opponent for Daphna. As for Jonah, he doesn’t want to be involved. He doesn’t claim any rights to the chai and would rather remove himself from the ensuing battle. Watching all this unfold is the blonde shiksa Melody, who is as uncomfortable as we are and a bit bewildered at the verbal assault taking place. 

Under the taut direction of Jessica Stone (in her debut at GSP), the quartet of very talented young actors moves the action steadily, inexorably to a surprising denouement. Laura Lapidus (Daphna) and Alec Silberblatt (Liam) literally own the stage; their huge personas spill over into the playhouse auditorium, and their quivering outrage makes the rafters shake. They are worthy opponents: Lapidus, perfect as the loud, judgmental, opinionated, motor-mouth, “poorer” middle cousin; Silberblatt as the entitled, narcissistic, equally obnoxious scion of the extended family, who steamrolls the others, especially his younger brother. He is a bundle of nerves from the moment he enters the swanky Upper West Side studio apartment (designed by Charlie Corcoran) that serves as the battlefield. Albeit filled with two air mattresses and a pull-out sofa, it is precisely the type of pad purchased by millionaire parents for their offspring (It’s down the hass from the Habers). 

But don’t sell the two quieter characters short. Amos VanderPoel (right, with Silberblatt) portrays Jonah as a schlub of the first order, his mumbling discomfort palpable as he tries to avoid being drawn into the whirlwind around him. Physically, he looks as though he’d rather be anywhere else but here, often shrinking into a corner or lurking near the door to the hallway as though he’d like to escape. As Melody, collateral damage in this brawl, Maddie Jo Landers’ cluelessness is rather endearing. Wide-eyed, spilling personal details (unwittingly giving Daphna ammo to use against Liam), naive, her character is clearly out of her element; her exchange with Daphna over her ethnic origins is a tour de force of naiveté vs. wily snarkiness. And when called upon to sing something “operatic to” calm Daphna, her failure may be epic (think Florence Foster Jenkins), but our sympathy for her increases with each note!

Lest you think Bad Jews is one long, relentless rant, there are some funny and tender moments when the cousins reveal their love for each other and their family. They know so well the story of the chai’s survival through Poppy’s internment in Auschwitz that they can finish each others’ sentences. And recalling a disastrous family dinner at Mt. Fuji Restaurant sends the three into uncontrollable gales of laughter accompanied by lots of rolling on the floor in glee, as Melody looks on, mystified (above).

Production values are, once again, top notch. Sarah Laux has appropriately dressed the actors as typical twenty-somethings; J. Jared Janas’ wig and hair design strikes the right note between the two women. Christopher J. Bailey’s lighting conveys the passage of time, and Drew Levy’s use of music fittingly takes us from Hassidic nigun at the beginning to a more contemporary Israeli song at the end. Gerardo Rodriguez is to be commended on his fight direction; the physical altercation in the penultimate scene looks real—and vicious.

Good Jew? Super Jew? Uber Jew or Bad Jew—which cousin fills the bill? To be sure, there’s a plethora of bad behavior in Bad Jews, but notice, the title is plural, so the verdict is not clear-cut. Just trying to figure out who’s who will make your head spin, but the ending (no spoiler) will hit you in the gut and leave you thinking (and talking) as you leave the theater. With their interplay of comedy and tragedy, family interactions offer fresh meat for playwrights looking to entertain us—even as they provoke us to think. Joshua Harmon and the folks at George Street Playhouse have cooked up a splendid dish in Bad Jews. Now, come; eat a little. You won’t go away hungry.

Bad Jews will be performed at the George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, through April 9. For information and tickets, call the box office at 732.246.7717 or visit www.GSPonline.com


Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Review: MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING by James Hindman at NJ Rep

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MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING by James Hindman
Reviewed by Michael T. Mooney
at the New Jersey Repertory Company
on Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 8pm
“When the lights go up on MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING, James Hindman's new play at New Jersey Rep, the audience is plunged full-swing into party mode. Don't let the “Little Mermaid” party favors fool you. The eight-year old celebrant has long toddled off(stage) to bed leaving the grown-ups to enjoy each other's company – along with a liberal supply of adult beverages. It's all great fun – until someone's gaze strays in the wrong direction and what was once festive turns fierce - and fast. From then on, we're witness to a four person game of truth or dare, where truth seems in short supply.
bbThe audience fights the urge to reach for their car keys due to director Alan Souza's brilliant cast; an attractive, witty, foursome of thirty-somethings. Even on opening night this tight ensemble was firing on all cylinders. Dustin Charles (James) and Maria Couch (Kelly) are the married MFD's landlords and Jared Michael Delaney (Stuart) and Dana Brooke (Tia) are their engaged besties and possible tenants. Charles and Couch do a terrific job of embodying a settled couple with a hint of discontent beneath the surface. Delaney and Brooke have genuine chemistry, the sort that impulsively puts physical attraction ahead of common sense. Brooke has the play's toughest agenda: balancing her character's tipsy party girl presence while sensitively alluding to (and avoiding) her troubled past. Fascinatingly, Brooke makes it all work.
MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING really covers no new ground in the age-old mating game, but Hindman and Souza do it in a consistently engaging way. Let's face it, if people were honest with each other from the start, there'd be no play, so we need to explore the highways and by-ways of cat-and-mouse deception in a way that sheds some light on human nature. Hindman does so in a direct, realistic way that also proves thought-provoking.
In his narrative of twisted home truths, the playwright has incorporated a subplot about gentrification; how troubled neighborhoods are reborn to profit the rich and drive out the poor. Like the persistent pet smell from the apartment upstairs or the closeted gay neighbor next door, it is a minor distraction in the 90-minute character study's narrative flow.
As a teen, I wore out my cast album of the Broadway musical ON THE 20thCENTURY. One song lyric goes “All those windows! All those people! All those lives!” For some inexplicable reason I initially heard the word “lies” instead of “lives.” Long after I learned that my ears had deceived me, I still had trouble accepting the true lyric. That pretty much sums up a visit to this MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING: windows – people - lies. And once you hear a lie, it's often difficult to trust the truth.
Reviewed by Michael T. Mooney
MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING continues through April 9 at New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey. For tickets and further information about their upcoming Spring classes at their new West Side Arts Center call732-229-3166 or visit www.njrep.org
Photo: Maria Couch and Dustin Charles
Photo credit: SuzAnne Barabas


Saturday, March 4, 2017


Review: ‘Trip to Bountiful’ heartwarming journey at Chester Theatre Group

safe_imageBarbara Haag Michael Harvey and Terri H Sturtevant in The Trip To Bountiful at CTG (1)
The Chester Theatre Group is presenting The Trip to Bountiful this weekend through Sunday, March 12th. Do you need a reason to go….two words (ok, one name) Terri Sturtevant. How good is she? Terri has already won three Perry Awards! Her sensitive performance as Carrie Watts, the old lady who wants to flee her drab life in Houston and see her childhood home one last time, is an absolute marvel. Talk about a master class in acting. 
Teri-0895Supporting Terri is another truly outstanding lady of our theater community….Barbara Haag (left top photo). We last saw (and heard) her in the Light Opera of New Jersey’s fine production of A Little Night Music. Barbara stopped the show with Send in the Clowns. CTG regulars will remember her superb performance in Grey Gardens. In The Trip to Bountiful, she plays the daughter-in-law from hell, Jessie Mae. The ladies share a modest two room flat in 1940’s Houston, Texas. Refereeing their tense relationship is Carrie’s seriously hen-pecked son Ludie, nicely played by Michael Harvey (top photo).
Director Kevern Cameron has provided us with a first-rate production, the equal of many Obie contenders across the Hudson.
Matt-0833Rounding out the fine, spot-on cast is Jacki Jacobi as Thelma, Carrie’s kind fellow bus passenger (photo below- seated right); Matt Cotton as Roy the sympathetic Harrison bus station attendant (photo left); Christopher C. Gibbs as the Sheriff with a heart (photo right); Stephen Catron is the Houston Ticket Seller… who can’t cash a check; The lead extras are Amie Quivey, Nancy Culton and Bob Sackstein.
Performances are Friday and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets are $20.00 with a discounted price of $18.00 for seniors over 65 and students under 18. Tickets may be purchased online at www.chestertheatregroup.org.
Teri Jackie Train Station-0968
The playwright Horton Foote has had over fifty of his plays produced, and is perhaps best known for his screenplays for the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird and the 1983 film Tender Mercies. He received two Academy Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1995 for his play The Young Man From AtlantaThe Trip to Bountiful started out as television play with Lillian Gish, has been produced on Broadway twice, and was made into a movie with Geraldine Page. In the most recent Broadway production, Cicely Tyson received the Tony Award for her role a Carrie.
Two more words: GO SEE
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio March 3, 2017
Production credits include: Roxanna Wagner producer; Diane Butler stage manager; Jeff Knapp sound design; Ellen Fraker-Glasscock lighting design; Kevern Cameron & Stephen Catron set design; Cathy Braithwaite props; Martha Riley assistant stage manager; Fran Harrison costumes; Bob Longstreet light & sound operation;
CTG_buildingThe Chester Theatre Group performs in The Black River Playhouse, an intimate, 100-seat theater in the heart of Chester Borough’s historic district. The venue’s in-the-round format ensures that every seat offers an engaging, memorable experience for each audience member.
The theater is located on the corner of Grove Street and Maple Avenue. For more information, visit the CTG website at http://www.chestertheatregroup.org.
Top Photo: Barbara Haag, Michael Harvey and Terri Sturtevant (photo by Steve Catron)
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY7NBt0XtbI&sns=em


Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Review: Fine and Funny ‘The Surrogate’ at Centenary Stage Company
surrogate2

The Centenary Stage Company is presenting the world premiere of a fascinating, touching, and often funny, look at modern family life in The Surrogate by Patricia Cotter. The play was a finalist in the prestigious 2016 O’Neil National Playwrights Conference and won the 2016 Susan Glaspell Award (CSC’s Women Playwrights series).

Ms. Cotter, who has an extensive resume in comedy from performing to writing, captures beautifully the challenge a multi-generational family face in the complex world of modern motherhood.

In this case, a young California couple, Sara (Diana Cherkas) and Billy (Clark Scott Carmichael) have the perfect baby, Tallulah (never seen, only heard via a baby monitor). Per the baby’s doctor, she is in the ninety-eighth percentile (ok, near perfect). We find the couple in the opening scene “entertaining” two female friends: Margaret (Katrina Ferguson) and Jen (Susan Barrett), with a computer slide show of Tallulah’s “greatest and brightest” moments. The two guests are enduring this “entertainment” with considerate words such as wonderful, extraordinary, remarkable at that age, even a few lesser appreciated comments, such as nice and good. Margaret is a writer with severe writer’s block and Jen is a divorced mother of young adults who live together. When they question the need for Tallulah’s perfection, Sara concedes that she just wants her children “to be happy.” The older, wiser Jen has possibly the best line of the play, at least for the 45 plus group. She replies “I don’t care about happy anymore. I just want my kids to have jobs.”

Sara and Billy have two very special announcements for Margaret and Jen….in the event of Sara and Billy’s unlikely demise--they are bestowing the great honor of allowing them to be the guardians of their precious Tallulah and any future addition. Margaret has a great one word response to the honor ”Wow.” Jen is equally fast to reply “Yeah. Wow.” Clearly, the two lovers have no plans or desires to share their lives with children, anyone’s children regardless the level of perfection. But, how can they say no?

The second announcement also has a very large “wow” factor…Sara and Billy are expecting a baby boy next month…next month? next month! Sara shows no sign of impending motherhood? Now the big reveal of the play’s title…Sara and Billy are paying thousands for a young lady in San Diego, Crystal (Caitlin Duffy), to carry the baby…a surrogate. The plot thickens as Sara’s mother (Catherine Rust) skypes from her home in New Zealand that she is coming to visit, first to be there for the birth of her grandchild, second, for ankle replacement surgery. Naturally, she is unaware that they are using a surrogate, and naturally she will not be pleased with the arrangement, an understatement?

The way Patricia Cotter works out the complex plot is a delight that you will find both touching, warm and amusing. Don’t be misled, this a fine play, maybe a bit short in the laugh department, but good thought provoking theatre. We give the play four out of five stars.

The director of The Surrogate is Shelley Delaney, Head of Performance at Ohio University who received her acting degree at Rutgers. She has assembled a wonderful, first class cast of professional actors.

Playing Billy is the excellent and versatile Clark Scott Carmichael. Clark’s television credits include two Emmy winners, House of Cards and The Boardwalk Empire. He just demonstrated his versatility this month with back-to-back productions here in North Jersey. One week ago, he concluded a run at the Bickford in Ravenscroft a murder mystery set in an English manor house. He was the only man in a cast of seven (Read our review). Coincidently, that is exactly his situation in The Surrogate.

Playing Billy’s wife is Diana Cherkas. Diana is a fine actress who first impressed us in a solo performance several seasons ago in the CSC’s haunting, tale of a ‘working girl’ who is fated to meet Jack the Ripper-- The Unfortunates.

Jen is played nicely by Susan Barrett (Prisoner of Third Avenue at CSC). She easily moves from brash to sensitive and vulnerable as the story progresses.

The CSC’s Program Director, Catherine Rust, is spot-on as Sara’s mother Rita. She makes all the right turns (what? See the play).

The youngest member of the cast, no not Tallulah, is Caitlin Duffy as the surrogate Crystal. She perfectly carries off the look and movements of a soon to deliver young woman.

Then there is Katrina Ferguson, an actress worthy of any stage, she has fun in an unusual role for her…situation comedy, or more correctly, comedy-drama.

Deserving of a large shout out is Tom Golebiewski and crew for the impressive revolving set (manually turned!). Add to the list: Danielle Constance as the stage manager; Marianne Murray assistant director; Ed Matthews lighting; John Salutz sound design; Asleigh Poteat costume design; Tonianne Difilippo scenic artist; and Jeff Chase technical director.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio Sunday February 19, 2017

The Surrogate will play through March 5 at the Lackland Performing Arts Center (LPAC).


The Surrogate performances are Thursdays, February 23 and March 2 at 7:30pm; Fridays, February 24 and March 3 at 8pm; Saturdays, February 25 and March 4 at 8pm; Sundays, February 26 and March 5 at 2pm and Wednesdays, February 22 and March 1 at 2pm. Buffet Matinees will be available during the run of this production, on Wednesdays (Feb 22 and Mar. 1) for groups of 25 or more. All performances are located in the Sitnik Theater of the Lackland Center.

Tickets for The Surrogate range from $17.50 to $27.50 with discounts for students and children under 12. Buffet Matinees are $42.50/person and advance reservations are required. A special Centenary alumni discount of $10.00 off adult ticket price is available for Friday evening performances. Thursdays are “Family Night” at CSC , with a special “rush” ticket price of buy one/get one free on the regular $25 ticket, when tickets are purchased in person at the CSC box office, as early as, two hours prior to performance time.

For more information or to purchase tickets visit centenarystageco.org or call the CSC box office at (908) 979 – 0900. The box office is open Monday through Friday from 1 – 5pm and 2 hours prior to every performance. The CSC box office is located in the Lackland Center; 715 Grand Ave. Hackettstown, NJ. Centenary Stage Company can also be found on social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



1 – (Left to Right) Susan Barrett, Caitlin Duffy, Katrina Ferguson, Top: Diana Cherkas, Clark Carmichael (photo credit: Robert Eberle)

2 – (Left to Right) Katrina Ferguson, Diana Cherkas, Susan Barrett (photo credit: Robert Eberle)

3. – (Left to Right) Diana Cherkas, Caitlin Duffy, Susan Barrett, Clark Carmichael (photo credit: Robert Eberle)
4. – (Left to Right) Diana Cherkas, Catherine Rust (photo credit: Robert Eberle)

Review: Ken Ludwig's hilarious Comedy of Tenors is a winner at the Paper Mill Playhouse

Photo by Jerry Dalia; from left to right: John Treacy Egan, Judy Blazer, Donna English, Jill Paice, Ryan Silverman, Michael Kostroff and David Josefsberg







"Zany" may be the best word to describe the hilarious Ken Ludwig Comedy of Tenors that has opened at the Paper Mill Playhouse. This wild sequel to Ludwig's Tony-winning Lend Me A Tenor must have been inspired by the Three Tenors (José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti) historic World Cup concert. In this version, we have the Cleveland Opera presenting their own three tenors concert with all the comic action of the Marx Brothers...multiple doors opening and closing, various stages of dress and undress, and general chaos.

To the fans of the Paper Mill's 2013 production of 
Lend Me A Tenor, the very great news is that not only are Tito, wife Maria, young Max and Cleveland Mayor Saunders (now Tito's manager) back....they are the same actors. In fact, director, Don Stephenson is also repeating. Broadway stars and Paper Mill Playhouse favorites returning are: Judith Blazer (Maria), John Treacy Egan (Tito), Donna English (Diana), Nancy Johnston (Julia), David Josefsberg (Max), Michael Kostroff (Saunders), and Jill Paice (Maggie). New is ​Ryan Silverman as the young tenor Carlo Nucci, Tito's fast rising rival.

First-The Plot: The producers describe the plot of this sequel as follows: "One hotel suite, four tenors, two wives, three girlfriends, and a soccer stadium filled with screaming fans. What could possibly go wrong? It's 1930s Paris and the stage is set for the concert of the century — as long as producer Henry Saunders can keep the amorous Italian superstar and his hot-blooded wife from causing runaway chaos. An uproarious ride, full of mistaken identities, bedroom hi jinks, and madcap delight." This is spot-on, no reinterpretation is needed. 



Photo by Jerry Dalia; l to r: John Treacy Egan, Michael Kostroff and David Josefsberg
The play is set entirely in a spacious Paris hotel suite overlooking the concert venue, a soccer stadium (okfootball). Center stage is Michael Kostroff as Saunders, the former Cleveland Mayor, now Tito's manager. He is on the phone with Max, one of the three tenors, and his son-in-law. His first words: " Max! What the hell are you doing?! Get up here!. . . I don't care if you're rehearsing, I need some help. The concert starts in three hours and Tito isn't here yet." With that the wild, very funny roller coaster ride begins.

What happens when Tito finally arrives with his spitfire wife Maria? Why does Tito decide to refuse to perform? Who is the imposter? Who falls from the balcony? Why does Tito declare he wants a divorce? (Maria replies "That is two of us who want a divorce...I, too, want one!").Who is romancing his daughter? All this and more if you journey to the Paper Mill Playhouse. If there is too little humor currently in your world, Comedy of Tenors is the perfect vehicle to refill your tank. - All this plus a rousing rendition of the Drinking Song from La Traviata. 

Beside the daffy plot are the wonderful performances of the cast of seven. In particular; John Treacy Egan nails Tito, nicely unmasking Tito's bluster to reveal his vocal and marital insecurities; Judith Blazer IS Maria. Tiny compared to the other cast members, she more than holds her own, Clearly an audience favorite. Plus, blessed by Ludwig with some of the funniest lines; Michael Kostroff as Saunders perfectly carries off the difficult task of demonstrating almost constant hysteria. Also, adding greatly to the fun are; Donna English, Nancy Johnson, Jill Paice, David Josefsberg and Ryan Silverman.

Remember the line "A good time was had by all?" Well that is what this production of Ken Ludwig's Comedy of Tenors provides. This is a TEN on my Laugh Meter. Enjoy!

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio   February 5, 2017

​The creative team includes: set design by Michael Schweikardt, costume design by Mariah Hale, lighting design by Stephen Terry, sound design by Randy Hansen, music direction by Alexander Kariotis, and hair and wig design by Paul Huntley.

Performances are running through Sunday, February 26. at Paper Mill Playhouse (22 Brookside Drive) in Millburn, NJ. For ticket availability click here.



Review: Mystery fans run to the Bickford for fun thriller 'Ravenscroft'




Attention lovers of Agatha Christie mysteries: The Bickford theater in Morristown is presenting a fascinating thriller, with large doses of humor, "Ravenscroft," starting this weekend and continuing until February 12. This is the best 'who-dun-it' we've seen in several seasons. This fun puzzle is written by Don Nigro and features his complex Inspector John Ruffing, played to perfection by Clark Carmichael. You may have seen Clark in the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's Coriolanus, on Broadway in Jumpers, or on tv in hit series House of Cards and Boardwalk Empire. Inspector Ruffing is called to a remote English country manor house to investigate the death of the young handyman, Patrick. His body has been discovered at the foot of the main staircase. A horrible, unfortunate accident or murder?

What starts as a simple case grows into a complex puzzle. In the house are; the recently widowed Mrs. Ravenscroft (Molly Garner), her husband also died by falling down the staircase!; her somewhat ditsy daughter, Gillian (Erin Farrah); Gillian's Viennese governness, Marcy Kleiner (Katrina Klein); Mrs.French (Gloria Lamoureux) the cook; and the maid Dolly (Jessica Sroczynski). 

Early in the tale, one of the women-with a strong motive, confesses that she pushed the man down the stairs...accidentally. When the masterful inspector rejects her version and starts to charge her with murder... everything starts to unravel as all the women become murder suspects.

After interrogating the women, it is obvious to Ruffing... that truth is apparently absent from this remote country house. Are they all lying? Why? Well let's not go any further into the highly involved plot. Suffice it to say, this is first rate entertainment that more than nicely justifies an evening away from the tv set. Translation: You will not be disappointed. This is a treat worth savoring.

The cast is truly perfect; Molly Garner is outstanding as Mrs Ravenscroft. She IS the lady of the house, beautiful, seductive, with a commanding stage presence; Katrina Klein is properly mysterious. She is particularly marvelous in her interrogation by (and of) the Inspector. One of our local favorites is award winning Gloria Lamoureux. Gloria plays the dotty Mrs. French in fine style. She excels at British roles. Her solo performance as Shirley Valentine at Chester's Black River Playhouse earned her nightly standing ovations and a Perry 'Best Actress' award; Erin Farrah, a sophomore at Drew, nails the part of the flaky daughter, known to see ghosts (or are they); Also, at Drew is Jessica Sroczynski as the maid Dolly. She has her big plot-turning moment late in the second act. Both ladies should make the drama department at Drew quite proud. 


Deserving of his own ovation is the director, Eric Hafen (the artistic director for the Bickford). His creative team includes: Jim Bazewicz scenic designer (very clever set); Roman Klima lighting designer; Kaitlyn Frega costume designer (perfect period outfits, particularly Mrs. Ravenscroft's); Andrew Elliot sound designer; Danielle Pietrowski prop designer; Daniel LaPenta production stage manager; Michal Kortsarts and Annie Belkin assistant stage managers; and Lewis Perlmutter technical director. 

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio   Jan. 26, 2017


Tickets for Ravenscroft are $45 for the General Public; $40 for Seniors; $38 for Museum Members; and $20 for Students (18 & under or with valid college ID). Group rates are available.

Tickets may be purchased online at morrismuseum.org, by phone at (973) 971-3706, or in person at the Bickford Theatre Box Office. The Morris Museum’s Bickford Theatre is located at 6 Normandy Heights Road in Morristown, NJ, and offers free parking and full accessibility. Box office hours for phone sales are Monday through Friday, 10 am to 5 pm. Walk-up hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 am to 5 pm.

Performances

Thursday, January 26 and February 2, 7:30 pm; February 9, 2 pm (audio described performance)
Friday, January 27, February 3 & 10, 8 pm
Saturday, January 28, February 4 & 11, 8 pm
Sunday, January 29, February 5 & 12, 2 pm



Top photo: Katrina Klein, Jessica Sroczynski, Gloria Lamoureux, Clark Carmichael, Erin Farrah, on the floor Molly Garner (Bickford-Morris Museuem photo)

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017



Review: THE JAG... a satisfying theatrical joy ride at NJ Rep

 Estelle Bajou and Dan Grimaldi





THE JAG by Gino Dilorio
Reviewed by Michael T. Mooney at
New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch NJ,
Friday, January 13, 2017 at 8 pm


Let's start by addressing the elephant in the room. In this case, the elephant is a car and the room is the 18' x 25' stage of NJ Rep. Yes, readers, the current world premier now playing on the tiny Long Branch stage features an actual 1967 Jaguar automobile. It's a tribute to the Rep's typically excellent production values that this remarkable feat was possible. It's also a tribute to Gino Dilorio's typically high caliber writing that the the car doesn't upstage the play itself. Having a real car on stage may be a first for the the Rep, but it has been done before. Alan Ayckbourn's Just Between Ourselves (1976) also had a garaged automobile as the center of its narrative and in Richard Dresser's Rounding Third (2002) a passenger van served as refuge for two middle-aged little league coaches, just to name two.

If you're thinking that the much-coveted car is more dramatic symbol than status symbol, you'd be correct. In this case, the Jag represents those bucket list projects that keep many of us going. The play is set in a suburban garage where Leo (nicknamed Chick) and his son Donald (dubbed Bone), work to restore the car with local jobber Carla. Irascible Chick has lost his sight from macular degeneration and must rely upon Bone and Carla to help him finish the project he started with his now-deceased favorite son, David. Bone is eager to finally sell the car to pay off some serious gambling debts. 



As you might guess, the fuel this JAG runs on is a tankful of high test friction between Chick and Bone. Although some might say that the car is the play's fourth character, it is actually dead David who's presence looms large in the garage, completing the mechanics quartet. If this were a farce, it might facetiously be titled “My Brother the Car,” but it's not that sort of play. That's not to say it isn't funny, (Chick: “I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings.”) but THE JAG is more a well-written character study with revealing spurts of wry humor than an out-and-out comedy.

Driving THE JAG (forgive the pun) is veteran director Brendan Burke, who has assembled a fine cast. As Chick, Dan Grimaldi is convincingly blind as well as convincingly gruff. Christopher Daftsios' Bone offers a nice mix of quiet sensitivity and masculine (Italian-American) pride. 


But it is Estelle Bajou as Carla who is the play's most enigmatic and delightful creation. Carla is an eccentric out lesbian with a sweetly quirky personality. She hates cars, but has a passionate personal devotion for Jaguars. This is the kind of character that might derail the entire play if not properly cast. Thankfully, Bajou is absolutely perfect. She may even be a bit too perfect for the current JAG. Although Grimaldi and Daftsios' father / son conflict is truthfully portrayed, it also rings a tad familiar. 

The dynamic created between Carla and Chick, however, becomes increasingly fascinating and truly unique. The brief stage time they share makes us long for a second act that further develops this odd couple. If Dilorio expands THE JAG beyond its 90-minute running time, let's hope this pair are in the front seat. As it is, THE JAG is still a satisfying theatrical joy ride.

Reviewed by Michael T. Mooney

THE JAG, a world premiere by Gino Dilorio, is onstage through February 12th at the New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey. For tickets and further information visit www.njrep.org or call 732.229.3166

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