STEEL MAGNOLIAS BLOOM AT ACTS THEATRE

SHORT TAKE:

Lovely production of Steel Magnolias running at ACTS Theatre in Lake Charles, LA from August 2, 2019 through August 11, 2019.

WHO SHOULD GO:

With parental discernment – probably mid-teens and up. A slight bit of language and serious topics, but mostly because the nature of the format – six ladies talking in a single stationary set – while engrossing to the more mature audience members  would bore the little ones.

LONG TAKE:

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing the dress rehearsal of Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias at ACTS Theatre. This comedy-drama is set in a 1980’s Louisiana beauty parlor and performed with great affection for the Southern women about whom this play revolves. The six ladies in the cast nailed it. Their timing, their energy, and their easy camaraderie the night before opening felt as though they already had several weeks of performances under their belts and were only tweaking for the weekend run.

The blocking was artfully choreographed, allowing easy access to all the characters, always a concern with an ensemble cast.

The stage for Truvy’s Beauty Parlor was terrific in all its brightly lit, lightly cluttered and detailed natural realism. For anyone who has ever spent time in a beauty parlor, you could almost smell the familiar hair care products and feel the warm breath of the hair dryers ubiquitous to ladies’ salons.

The director of this all female cast, Zach Hammons, is male. He, with his terrific back stage crew,  did a tremendous job with the style and technique of an experienced director. Veteran of the stage as an actor for many years and winner of performing awards, he is fairly new to the role of director.

I found his masculine behind-the-scenes influence a great advantage to this show, helping subtly inform the extensive, but never seen, male supporting players, whose actions are talked about, affect and are occasionally heard by the females on stage: Shelby’s Dad and M’Lynn’s husband, Drum, Tommy and Jonathan, Shelby’s brothers, Truvy’s husband, Spud, Ouiser’s boyfriend, Owen, and Annelle’s husband, Sammy. These men are all actively present in their women’s lives but are never present on stage. Zac confided to me that where most plays have two months to prepare, because of the exigencies of scheduling, they only had one month, but you would never know it to see the show. It’s tight and well timed, brisk in tempo, maintaining its intensity in both comedic and tragic moments from opening line to closing curtain call.

Ashley Dickerson plays Shelby, the optimist who does not let anything get her down and is the center of the play. Ms. Dickerson has performed both at ACTS and Lake Charles Little Theatre on many occasions.

Kathy Heath plays Shelby’s mom in a very challenging role of varied, and occasionally intense, often subtly repressed, emotional turmoil. Ms. Heath has lent her experience to both ACTS and McNeese Theatre, the latter from which she graduated with both a BA in theatre as well as a BS in Mass Com.

Joy Pace literally bursts onto the stage as Ouiser, the curmudgeonly neighbor to M’Lynn’s family. Fiercely loyal and sometimes merely fierce, her bark is always worse than her bite as she frequently steals scenes while providing comic relief. Ms. Pace has extensive experience as director for ACTS, and Artistic and Executive Director for the Itinerant Theatre, with a BA in Speech, and an MFA in directing, but this is her performing debut with ACTS Theatre.

Veronica Williams is Truvy, the energetic Eveready Bunny and the owner of the  shop in which all the action takes place. This is only Ms. Williams’ second stage outing, her first as Rosie in Mama Mia! garnering her an ACTA for Best Supporting Actress.

Taylor Novak-Tyler is Clairee, the sweet and lovable widowed dowager who provides advice and acts as a mediator and peacemaker to the sometimes tense female interactions. Ms. Novak-Tyler is another generous contributor to the stages both at ACTS and Lake Charles Little Theatre.

Shelby Castile plays Annelle who starts as the gentle and shyly fragile newbie to town who has the greatest character arc in the show. No newbie to ACTS Theatre though, she has been on stage here many times before.

So head on out to ACTS Theatre to see this terrific rendition of these very familiar women who are, indeed, Steel Magnolias – but, similar to the juxtaposition of opposites in the very title of the play – be prepared to both laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh.

EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL – LIMITED SHOWING AT CENTER STAGE – ADULT ONLY VERY BLACK HORROR PARODY BY LAKE CHARLES’ NEW AND BRAVE BLACK MARKET THEATRE GROUP

 

SHORT TAKE:

Adult VERY black humor musical based on the cult horror classic Evil Dead trilogy.

WHO SHOULD GO:

Adults ONLY with a taste for macabre comedy and who wish to encourage the efforts of our newest theatre group, Black Market Theatre, to put on more nouveau plays that Lake Charles might not otherwise get an opportunity to see.

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LONG TAKE:

I have seen the social commentary that was Night of the Living Dead, the parody of zombie movies Shaun of the Dead, the apocalyptic World War Z and the over-the-top comedy Zombieland.

Now as my eighth grade social studies teacher used to say: "You can bury me face down because now seen everything!" Evil Dead the Musical is based upon the parody zombie horror flick of the same name that became a cult classic in the 80s starring the otherwise pretty much unknown Bruce Campbell.

Evil Dead the Musical plays through Halloween at our own Center Stage here in Lake Charles, at 3426 Ryan next to the Mellow Mushroom, and is being put on by some very familiar faces out of the McNeese University Theatre Department. Buy your tickets HERE.

Three husband/wife teams contribute to the mayhem which put this show on. Jessa and William Lormand direct and Jessa plays Cheryl, sister of the intrepid hero, Ash. William doubles in the band which plays live music along with Bryce Louviere and Daniel Fontenot.

 Ash is Timothy Smith and his bride Sarah is Linda, appropriately, Ash's love interest. Lara and Luke Connally, who have appeared in numerous productions around town, including Kiss me Kate and The Secret Garden, play, respectively, Annie, daughter of the ill-fated scientist and Jake, the ill-fated hillybilly neighbor who foolishly guides them to the cursed cabin. Tyler Brumback and Amy Phillips, who have portrayed love interests on stage before, most notably in The Secret Gardenplay Scott and Shelly, the bawdy weekend roommates. Ed and the voice of the possessed moose head (you've got to see it to know what I'm talking about) is Joey Boyette, another veteran of local theater. KBYS' own radio personality Curry Burton is the Voice of Knowby. And Nikki Guillory plays a deadite.

The premise is that 5 college students, with far too much time on their hands, set out for a weekend of debauchery at an abandoned cabin in the woods.

Things turn REALLY ugly when it turns out the cabin belongs to a scientist who unwisely set loose demons with an ancient book of the dead. Beset by demons and attacked by trees in need of an exorcism, one by one each of our intrepid heroes are dispatched and zombiefied, (from the movie) until only Ash is left standing with a sword in one hand and a chainsaw for his other hand.

If it sounds gruesome…it is. But it is all done very lightly. Evil Dead the Musical is to zombie horror stories what Bullshot Crummond was to the detective genre, a vehicle to poke fun at every trope ever written.

Everything is as far over the top as possible, from the gore to the raunchy jokes to the gratuitous profanity. Even one of the songs has a title and chorus which prominently features the "f" word.

All is performed by our locally grown thespians with all the ridiculous enthusiasm and robust absurd abandon you might expect from a group of very talented actors given leave to ham it up in a zombie vaudeville.

This is a very adult show. The venue itself requires identification to prove that you are 18 or older just to get in, as liquor is served on the premises. Although nothing explicit is seen, there are a lot of sexual gestures and references as well as a lot of blasphemous profanity. Those extremes are deliberately gratuitous as part of the parodic elements of the comedy.

The show is not for everyone, but if you could enjoy a combination of Rocky Horror Picture Show with Shaun of the Dead, while keeping the other above cautions in mind, then head out for our local production of the hit play Evil Dead the Musical. Having a chance to see these very nice, seemingly normal people portray these extremely bizarre parts is reason enough to go support the efforts of this troupe. Black Market Theatre has obviously put in an enormous amount of effort to bring this play to Lake Charles. And if we want to see more off-beat and unusual productions come to Lake Charles then, if you are of the right temperament and age group, you should go support the Black Market Theatre's foray.

A final warning, this is a public venue that allows smoking and when I got home I had to wash every stitch I had on, from my sweater to my pony-tail holder. So be advised, if you have any respiratory problems, this could be a serious health issue for you.

So KUDOS! to the Black Market Theatre Group (connect with them by clicking their name) for daring to put on such a boldly different production and thanks to Center Stage for being good sports and agreeing to host this venture. I look forward to future adventurous collaborations at this newest addition to Lake Charles' theatre venues put on by this newest Lake Charles theatre company.

JUST SO'S YOU KNOW:

As a point of interest, Evil Dead hit the cult circuit in the 80s as a breakout movie for Bruce Campbell. Anyone interested in this genre might find a similarly avant-garde film starring the same Bruce Campbell which both parodies the mummy movie concept and does legitimate respectful homage to, of all people, Elvis Presley. The movie is Bubba Ho-Tep and is of the same rough cloth somewhat bawdy and gory comedy. However, it is set in a nursing home, and respects the limitations of its indigenous characters. Bubba Ho-Tep might be described as the mild flavor version to the Evil Dead "slap your mama"-style spicy horror movie. Bubba Ho-Tep actually even has a certain gentle charm and intelligent theme to it about growing old without growing insignificant; and God finding a purpose for you even when you no longer believe you have one yourself. Heady stuff for the same guy whose iconic earlier character features a chainsaw replacement for a hand.

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE – A DELIGHTFUL COMEDY OF TERRORS AT OUR OWN LAKE CHARLES, LA ACTS THEATRE

AND IF YOU LIKE THESE REVIEWS PLEASE SUBSCRIBE! THEN YOU'LL GET     EVERY NEW REVIEW SENT STRAIGHT TO YOUR E-MAIL!!

GO TO THE BOTTOM OF THE LEFT HAND SIDE AND TYPE YOUR E-MAIL IN – IT (SHOULD BE) THAT EASY. ANY PROBLEMS PLEASE SEND ME A COMMENT AND I'LL DO MY BEST TO RESOLVE YOUR ISSUE.

 

 

 

The Addams Family was an endearing bunch of creepy oddballs. Appearing like zombies, witches and vampires they were actually a loving Mom, Dad, kids and extended family of rich and philanthropic homeschoolers.

The family of Queen Eleanor and King Henry II, in the classic Lion in Winter were not so companionable, and battled continuously with each other throughout the play. Different members bond with, then betray, each other, jockeying for power, land, revenge, attention, or love. At the end of a particularly vicious argument with her husband, Eleanor, left sitting on the floor in the doorway, gathers herself together and to self-console muses: "Well, what family doesn’t have its ups and downs?"

The Guardians of the Galaxy is a band of violent and ethically questionable outlaws and vigilantes who come together as a family unit in part to (re)raise Groot, who is a sentient tree. (See my review on that one here .)

NONE of them have anything on the Brewsters.

The premise of Arsenic and Old Lace is that Mortimer, a once cynical-of-romance theater critic, now totally smitten and freshly engaged to Elaine, the girl next door, goes to his sweet, loving, maiden aunts’ home for a visit and to break the good news.

In residence is his adorable Uncle Teddy, who thinks he is President Theodore Roosevelt, periodically charging up the stairs he knows as San Juan Hill and digging grave sized locks in the basement, which he thinks is the Panama Canal. Hovering in the background is the ominous, but so far absent, other brother, Jonathan. And so the stage is literally set for this very black and very funny slapstick comedy about a family which would put the Guardians on alert, make the Addams Family startle, and have both Henry and Eleanor running for cover. Bodies pile up and are switched like the plates of tuna in Noises Off or the suitcases from What’s Up Doc, identities are hidden and a good time is ultimately had by all…except for the corpses…in Arsenic and Old Lace.

I hesitate to say more for the benefit of those readers who have not seen either the play or the brilliant 1944 movie directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant. If you don’t know the story it is just too delightful to spoil. If you do know some of the details then it will be like going back for seconds of your favorite ice cream.

Clay Hebert, the director and Officer Klein, is a familiar and welcome face from every stage Lake Charles offers. He has a resume which spans from McNeese's Theater to ACTS, and from Lake Charles Little Theatre to the Bayou Players and independent film productions all over Lake Charles. Clay artfully guides this fairly large cast through the quick draw and fast paced humor of Arsenic, which is to comedy what very dark and deliciously bitter semi-sweet morsels are to chocolate chip cookies, skillfully leading his troupe over that tightrope between horror and humor.

Louis Barrilleaux, another talented veteran of ACTS, LCLT and McNeese for over 20 years, is Mortimer, the eye around which this storm circulates.

Kelly Rowland and Sarah Broussard, respectively as Martha and Abbey Brewster, age themselves convincingly 50 years to play Mortimer’s adorably naive and unassuming aunts whose home is the site for some rather….unexpected events. Both ladies have degrees in performance, Kelly in music and Sarah in theater, with a wide and diverse range of acting credits.

Rebecca Harris, an actress with an impressive resume, is Mortimer’s confused but stalwart fiancee.

Aaron Webster, a self-described reluctant actor, is eminently creepy as Jonathan, the ne'er-do-well prodigal brother.

Brahnsen Lopez, another stage veteran, plays Jonathan’s would-be repentant colleague, Dr. Einstein (not Albert).

Matt Dye, local radio personality and frequently cast in small but scene stealing roles, does it again as Teddy.

Mark Hebert, Dusty Duffy, Dylan Conley and Kathy Heath round out the cast with memorable supporting characters.

 

The set is terrific, creating the authentically homey, gentle parlor of two elderly aunts, making the sinister events all the funnier for the contrast, complete with two sets of stairs and a landing up and through which Teddy has the freedom to charge with abandon, a window seat which can house…various and sundry… and French doors through which the characters are free to pop in and out.

I was privileged to interview Diki Jines, master electrician on the set and will have his interview clips up shortly below, talking about the set, its design and a little background.

Timing and blocking are very key, especially in this comedy of terrors and Clay has the tempo and coordinated actions and responses wound like a Swiss Cuckoo clockwork.

It’s a joy to watch a stage full of such talented veterans work smoothly together, and the fact most are old friends and/or fellow thespians, who have trod the boards often together, helps catalyze the chemistry that makes this play full of intimately connected characters work. These performers know each others’ rhythms and make the most of their considerable pool of experience to bring us a delightful evening of fun and fright, chills and chuckles, comedy and carnage, shocks and snickers, jocularity and jump scares.

So go warm up — or chill out — in anticipation of Halloween at ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. But be sure to BYOW. (Bring your own wine.)

BUY TICKETS HERE, OR CALL (337) 433-2287

LISTEN TO THE REVIEWS OF COLOSSAL AND STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI WITH THE GUYS FROM KBYS.FM (88.3) LAKE CHARLES’ BEST SPORTS SHOW

On Mcneese's KBYS.FM Lake Charles' Best Sports Show every Sunday morning from 9-11 AM the guys are gracious enough to take my call within the first hour to talk movies and theater. December 17, 2017 Matt, Corey, Casey and I talked about Colossal and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. THE REVIEWS ON THIS EXCERPT START AT TIME 14:00

 

Audio Recording of movie reviews from the December 17, 2017

SWEENEY TODD – AT CENTRAL SCHOOL OCTOBER 26-29 – A PERFECT MOOD SETTER FOR HALLOWEEN – BUT FOR ADULTS ONLY

I was very excited to attend the rehearsal of KC Productions’ newest theater piece – Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. The director Keith Chamberlain graciously allowed me to watch as our talented local cast strove to bring this very challenging musical to life.

For those of you not familiar with this very dark comedic play, Sweeney Todd is based on a series of anonymously written penny dreadfuls called The String of Pearls, which were later combined into a melodrama by Christopher Bond then turned into a musical by Stephen "Into the Woods" Sondheim. The shocking tale is of a man whose life is destroyed by the corrupt politicians in his town who send him unjustly to a penal colony in Australia in order that they might pursue his very beautiful wife. Todd returns 15 years later and seeks a unique brand of particularly gruesome revenge with the help of a slightly batty baker. Together they descend fully into the madness that wrath and vengeance will bring.

The original production starred Angela Lansbury who had to be persuaded to accept the role by Sondheim himself. Ms. Lansbury’s 1979 manifestation of Mrs. Lovett’s singing style in the manner of a dotty music hall performer established Lovett’s personality for everyone who has come after her. Len Cariou was hand picked by Sondheim as Sweeney Todd.

While others have tried to say Sweeney Todd is an allegory for the limited historic scope of the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the average man, Sondheim himself disagrees and makes the case for a more timeless interpretation: "Sweeney Todd is a man bent on personal revenge, the way we all are in one way or another, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the time he lived in, as far as I'm concerned.”

My own personal view is that Sweeney Todd is intended to be a demonstration of the Confucian aphorism: "If you go to seek vengeance, you should dig two graves."

While NOT for kids, it is a complex classic replete with music very difficult to play or sing. Dissonant, syncopated, halting in melody, woven with multiple counterpoint parts, yet the musicians and singers turn the harshly written lyrics and tunes into catchy mesmerizing songs which capture the essence of the dark torment into which Todd has sunk, including, my favorite, a clever but chilling song called "A Little Priest".

Sweeney Todd is being staged at Central School, the historic building naturally accentuating the old world atmosphere.

So go see Sweeney Todd October 26 – 29 as the perfect lead up to Halloween. But whatever you do – don’t plan on a shave there and ………. don’t eat the meat pies.

Lara Connolly – Mrs. Lovett

Michael Davis – Sweeney Todd

Curry Burton – Judge Turpin

Ashley Traughber – Joanna

Tyler Brumback – Anthony

Evan Seago – Tobias

Kelly Rowland – beggar woman

Travis Stegall – Beadle

Jeff Johns Pirelli

Caleb Olbrych – Jonas Fog

Haley Cooley – young Lucy

Ensemble: Sarah Broussard, Ryan Byrne, Heather Champagne, Dylan Conley, Kathleen Evans, Steven Fox, Bob Goodson, Joel Jacob, Amy Phillips, Tim Smith, Stacey Solak, Ella Theriot, Gabriel Townsley, Jamie Young

Director – Keith Chamberlain

Piano – Andrew Steiner

 

YOUR LAST CHANCE TO SEE WORKS AT THE 2017 LAKE CHARLES FILM & MUSIC FESTIVAL IS OCTOBER 8 FROM 11 AM – 5 PM.

Paris has Cannes. Park City, Utah has Robert Redford’s Sundance. New York City has Tribeca.  Christians have the Worldwide. Canada has the Toronto International. And my home town has  the Lake Charles Film & Music Festival. Now in its sixth year it attracts films and film makers from around the country. Shorts, documentaries and feature films abound, along with a yearly celebrity. Celebrities in the past have included Burton “Blazing Saddles” Gilliam and William “The Greatest American Hero” Katt.

2017-fest-main-poster-final-version_origThis year the festival is honored to host Kathy Coleman who played Holly in the 1970’s hit cult classic TV show Land of the Lost.

20171007_144606_HDRGenerous with her time and extremely approachable Ms. Coleman graciously agreed to allow  me to ask her a few questions concerning her experiences at the film festival, what she thought of Lake Charles, 51rk2FlkidL__AC_US218_her exciting new autobiography which is available on Amazon.com and her busy appearances schedule.

Watch the interview videos with the affable Ms. Coleman and head out to The Brimstone Museum in Sulphur for the last day of the festival – Sunday October 8, 2017 – where you can see dozens of creative independent film entries and hob nob with some of our most talented film makers.

I’ve always maintained that Lake Charles is a hidden treasure of talent – from theater to symphony, ballet companies to magicians. The Lake Charles Film and Music Fesitval proves we showcase film talent too.

The offerings are varied and there is something for every taste – from campy horror to film noir, from comedy short about a man in a gorilla suit to documentary about the blues scene on Long Island. If you can’t find something that appeals to you then you’re just not trying.

Go and support your own hometown film festival – or if you’re within driving distance come and check out film experiences that are just a little bit different – and ensure that there will be many more film festivals like this one in years to come.

CHECK OUT: www.lakecharlesfilmfestival.com or just drop by the Brimstone Museum at 900 S Huntington St, Sulphur, LA any time from 11 am – 5 pm Sunday October 8th.

ALSO plan to submit a creative entry of your own next year and have people coming from all over to see YOU!!!!

Kathy Coleman – where are you going next?

What is Chiller?

What’s next for Kathy Coleman?

Why did you write your book?

Where can we get an autographed copy of your book?

Where can we get a copy of your book?