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3/3/2023        Atlanta Lyric Theatre Closes Its Doors

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After 42 years of bringing the best of musical theatre to the Atlanta Metro Area, Atlanta Lyric Theatre has dropped its final curtain.  Cancellations stemming from the pandemic, postponed performances due to Positive COVID screenings, a dwindling audience base -- all contributed to the “death by a thousand cuts” that often spell doom for a professional theatre company.

 

To quote the Lyric’s Press Release:

Like many similar organizations, the Lyric has experienced a significant drop in overall attendance in the wake of the pandemic.  We have tried to respond to this challenge over the course of the last several months, and we greatly appreciate your patience and support as we cancelled shows and reworked the season.  Despite our best efforts, we have arrived at the point where we must face facts: our financial resources are not sufficient to finish the current season, or embark on the next, which would have been our 43rd.  Consequently, the Board has voted to dissolve the organization.

 

Atlanta Lyric has provided me with hundreds of hours of quality entertainment.  More to the point, it has given me productions that forced me to re-examine my low expectations of not-my-favorite musicals, given me new appreciation for many MANY old favorites, and introduced me to so many new shows that have become new favorites.  If there have been a few “misses” over the years, for the most part it has been the result of librettos with issues, technical aspects that didn’t meet my expectations, or even some conceptual issues that struck me crosswise.  It has NEVER been the result of less than excellent performances, less than professional musicality, less than fully compelling productions.

 

As a tribute, I have combed though 40 of my archived columns praising Atlanta Lyric productions to offer the following sample of the company’s output post 2010.   (These are presented in Chronological order, of course.)

 

 

 

 

8/7/2010            HAIRSPRAY                       YOU CAN”T STOP TO BREATHE

 
I suppose, you CAN stop the beat, since Atlanta Lyric Theatre’s production of “Hairspray” has danced its last step and stiffened its last beehive.  Which is a shame, because I found this show to be an energetic and skillful romp, perhaps even more enjoyable than the touring production that flitted through the Cobb Energy Center last year.

 

This production is blessed with a dance-floor full of talent. 

 

If you remember being the “out of the mainstream” misfit of your high school, If you had fantasies of winning a mate far “out of your league,” if you had daydreams of “sticking it to” the power-breakers unfairly keeping you down, or, if you just like to revel in and move to the music of 1962, this is a perfect show for you.

 

Sure, this particular mounting has closed, but this is such popular, fun-filled piece, that I daresay, there’ll be another before too long.  You really CAN’T stop this particular beat!

 

 

 

 

9/23/2010          THE MUSIC MAN                                  RETURN TO RIVER CITY

 
For the second time in less than two months, I ventured forth to the Iowa-stubborn town of River City and the adventures of one Greg … um ... Harold Hill, con man extraordinaire and music man wannabe.  As before, the trip was a pleasant wallow in Americana, a well-designed and (for the most part) well-performed window into the Heartland of the dawning twentieth century. 

 

Here we have a fine cast in fine voice with fine characterizations finely staged and finely music-directed.  We have an excellent set design that created many many locations with a minimum of scene-change fuss.  We have beautifully rendered period costumes that evoke the period.  We have the stick-in-the-memory Meredith Willson score that even now marches joyfully through my head.  We have some marvelous choreography by the insanely talented Ricardo Aponte (“Shipoopi” being the expected standout).  We have plenty to enjoy, and last night’s audience had a heckuva good time.

 

 

 

 

12/18/2010        42ND STREET               TAPPING ALL THE RIGHT NOTES
 
Every now and then, a production comes along that overturns all expectations.  Case in point is “42nd Street,” a show I’d always been not-so-dazzled by.  The fact is, the only production I’d seen before was a tired touring company squeezed in at the end of a run of other back-stage musicals (including “Dreamgirls” and “Tap Dance Kid”).  To say that I was a bit tired of the genre would be an understatement.

Imagine my surprise when Atlanta Lyric’s high-energy production kicked that tired memory right out of my head and replaced it with this show that clicks (I should say “taps”) on every level.

No one will convince me that “42nd Street” breaks new ground or should be in the pantheon of “Great Musicals.”  Its plotline has been overdone by too many lesser shows between its origin as a movie and its transition to the stage.  But, when delivered with the force of a perfectly directed (by Brandt Blocker), perfectly designed, perfectly choreographed, and perfectly performed production such as this, it’s a potent reminder of where musicals came from and why they still appeal, of why they can still surprise, and, at times, overwhelm.

“42nd Street” has closed and is now confined to the lullaby of memory, but it is a memory I will treasure. 

 


 

 

4/17/2011          THE MIKADO                HERE’S A HOW-DE-DO!


I freely confess to being a major Gilbert and Sullivan Geek.  I love the pattery word-burgers, the rapturous melodies, the silly plots with their choruses of twits and buffoons, the oh-so-British satire and the oh-so-British exaggeration.  To date I’ve been part of (the tech part of) productions of “Pirates of Penzance,” “HMS Pinafore,” “Mikado,” Patience,” and “Ruddygore” (a less-known “early version” of the more oft-performed “Ruddigore”), and keep a pint-full of Gilbert lyrics to use as tongue-twisting vocal warm-ups.

 

So, it was with a feeling of utmost rapture that I approached this production of “The Mikado.”

 

True to expectations, this production is a G&S geek’s almost-dream.  This is a “Mikado” beautifully sung, elegantly designed, briskly directed, and over-the-top silly, just as it should be.  Any plot summary would sound just plain dumb, so let’s avoid that altogether – suffice it to say, it involves “gentlemen from Japan,” a “train of little ladies,” an errant Prince, a soft-hearted executioner, a “Pooh Bah,” and a legally pathological aversion to flirting

 

I’ve always been told that Gilbert and Sullivan is an acquired taste, that people either love the shows or despise them.  Truth be told, I simply cannot understand the joyless lives of those in the latter category, as I am firmly in the former.

 

Another production of “The Mikado?”  Unmodified Rapture!

 

 

 

2/17/2012          AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’                                         A PHAT WALLOW          

 

This is, by far, the best production I’ve seen by Atlanta Lyric, and, by even farther, the best ensemble I’ve seen in any musical for quite some time.  D. Woods, Eric Moore, Kenya Hamilton, Jevares C. Myrick, and Kayce Grogan-Wallace all have their moments in the spotlight, but they’re never as good as when they’re on stage together, in various pairings or group numbers.  Their voices blend beautifully, and, combined, they are the singular definition of “greater than the sum of its parts” casting.

 

Add to the mix a marvelous orchestra led by conductor Brandt Blocker and on-stage pianist Andrew Fazackerly, all of whom deserve their share of the inevitable accolades in store.  Mr. Fazackerly not only plays the piano like a master (or a lover), he adds his own moments of wit and character to this theatrical “waller” in jazz and ragtime and stride.  Ricardo Aponte has done a marvelous job of staging and choreographing the ensemble, and all the creative elements click like a roomful of snapping fingers.

 

 

 

6/17/2012          GYPSY                         INGRID’S TURN

Atlanta Lyric Theatre has opened (and sadly closed far too soon) a delightfully old-fashioned production.  It was Ingrid Cole’s turn to knock off our collective socks with a larger-than-life belt voice, a layered and complex characterization and a way of shouting out “Sing Out, Louise” in a manner guaranteed to shake the knees of the most steely-nerved watcher.  That she is matched by one of the most wonderful Louise/Gypsy’s I’ve seen (Jill Ginsberg), is supported by an ensemble of actor/singers that would be the envy of any production company and is allowed to play on a nicely retro (and expensive-looking) set is just icing on the cake that is this show.

 

This was a truly wonderful show, and I loved every minute of it.  It was a reminder of how musicals have evolved over the past decades by going “old school” and showing us the real pleasures that have been lost as shows have become more modern, more electronic, more razzle-dazzle, and less heartfelt.

 

And, as Ingrid Cole vividly reminds us, a musical’s gotta have heart!

 

 

 

10/4/2012   ANYTHING GOES                                 PORT(ER) OF CALL

For the second time in a few short months, I got to wallow in an evening filled with the music of Cole Porter.  That it was accompanied by a truly silly, sublimely old-fashioned show done to the hilt by the talented designers and performers of Atlanta Lyric Theatre was only icing on the cake.  I loved this show, and, if audience reaction is anything to go by, I wasn't alone.

 

 

 

4/27/2013      RAGTIME                                  WHY MUST THE SHOW GO ON?

 

One of my favorite songs in the Noel Coward canon is a little ditty called "Why Must the Show Go On?", a send-up of all the stiff-upper-lip shenanigans theatre folk do to spare their audiences a dark night.  I couldn't help be reminded of this when it was announced at "Ragtime's" Saturday matinee that "Mother" would not be able to perform due to a medical emergency.  Rather than cancel the show (no understudies seem to have been  hired for this production), Stage Manager Liz Campbell bravely donned a white turn-of-the-century(ish) dress and walked through the production, script in hand. 

When a production is (otherwise) this well conceived and executed, when the other performances are this good, and when it is in the service of a show that contains probably the most rapturously beautiful score of the past twenty years (did I mention Ms. Campbell handled the music beautifully?).

And that, Mr. Coward, is the answer to your question -- even when a member of the cast is suffering "personal grief and private woe," it doesn't matter because the audience is there for a show, and, by golly, it's our (that's an editorial "our") job to give them one, come, medical emergency or mumbled lines!

 

The show has closed, rolling out its time like a scroll on a player piano.  But it proved, if nothing else, that the beauty of the piece can thrive without "breaking the bank," that a weak spot in a principal role will not be fatal, and that, music and story will always have their own special power.

 

All I can say is, thank you for "letting the show go on."

 


 

11/3/2013      GUYS AND DOLLS                      I GOT THE SHOW RIGHT HERE!


Every now and then, a show done to death by regional and community theatres needs an energetic and creative production to remind us why it is a classic, and why it is so popular.  Such a production is Atlanta Lyric Theatre's current mounting of "Guys and Dolls," the 1950 slice-of-Damon-Runyon with music by Frank Loesser and book and lyrics by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.

 

When all the cards are on the table, all the dice have been rolled, and the horse race is over, this is a definitely a show for the winners circle.  It is a production that makes me appreciate the virtues of another oft-produced "war horse" show.  

 

It's a show that "Can Do!"

 

 

 

1/3/2014      SOPHISTICATED LADIES                          TAKE THE TAP TRAIN

 

For its initial 2014 extravaganza, Atlanta Lyric Theatre is delving into the Duke Ellington Song-and-Dance book with "Sophisticated Ladies," a storyless, characterless revue that wants nothing more than to wallow in the big band sounds of Ellington while a cast of young talent dances their hearts out.  That it succeeds so well is a tribute to its dynamite cast, its outstanding orchestra, Brandt Blocker's music and stage direction, and Karen Hebert's energetic choreography.

 

Don your most elegant dress or your spiffiest tuxedo, pretend your car is New York's subway, and "Take the 'A' Train" to Marietta for a sophisticated evening of music and style.   As you begin to see the light, you'll love it, Love It Madly!

 

 

 

8/23/2014      CATS                                   "CATS" IS NOT A DOG
 

Atlanta Lyric Theatre, director Ricardo Aponte, and choreographer Jennifer Smiles can take pride in creating a totally unique "Cat-like" entertainment, a thrilling amalgam of dance, music, acrobatics and spectacle that dazzles without losing the eccentricity of the character roles.  There is very little synchronized dancing (Good!) and a litterbox full of character distinction within the chorus (Better!). 
 

As expected for Atlanta Lyric Theatre, this cast was a combination of familiar talent talented newcomers. There was, to put it mildly, not a weak link in the cast, and, it was an ensemble that worked so well together you almost forgot they were supposed to be cats -- you know, creatures who prefer their own solitude and rarely work and play well with others.

 

 

 

2/28/2015        CATCH ME IF YOU CAN                         THE RULES OF THE GAME

 

Atlanta Lyric Theatre has just closed a lively and energetic production, centered by a breakout performance by Chase Peacock with outstanding support by the usual Atlanta Lyric repertory suspects.  It's designed (and structured) as a sixties variety show, with a white bandstand (and occasional intervening painted-drop) taking us from New York to Atlanta to Miami and points beyond.  Like Frank Abagnale's career, it is flashy and bold and has little trouble convincing our imaginations to believe everything it says and does.

 

Director Brandt Blocker, Music Director B.J. Brown, and Choreographer Cindy Reiser deserve a lot of credit for amplifying the razzle-dazzle. 

 

 

 

4/12/2015        DAMN YANKEES                                 IT'S ALL ABOUT THE GAME

 

Welcome to "Damn Yankees," where it's still 1955 -- the Senators are in Washington, middle-aged wives are "old girls," we all like Ike, and no one knows that Adler and Ross's second musical will be their last.

Atlanta Lyric Theatre's production is a good, old-fashioned wallow in fifties nostalgia, a bright and lively show that reminds us that three hours is NEVER too long for a musical, and a joyful ode to true love and fixing-your-bad-choices redemption.  Director Heidi Cline McKerley and Choreographer Jennifer Smiles have put together a song-and-dance festival that put a smile on my face and a high-kick in my gait.

 

 

 

6/13/2015        BARNUM                THE COLORS OF OUR LIVES

 

Phineas Talor ("P.T.")  Barnum (1810 - 1891) was an author, publisher, businessman, philanthropist, and politician.  But, first and foremost, he was a showman, a purveyor of side-show attractions and oddities, and, ultimately, a partner in bringing to America "The Greatest Show on Earth."

 

In 1980, a lively and rousing musical hit Broadway based on his life.  Told using the tropes of the circus and sideshow, it made stars of Jim Dale and Glenn Close, and ran for over two years, spawning a national tour, a London production (with a pre-Phantom Michael Crawford) and a BBC Special (which still rests on my video shelf).  To say I've long been a fan would be a serious understatement.

 

Notoriously difficult to produce, Atlanta Lyric Theatre has risen to the challenge, and given us a "Barnum" that sparkles, dances, swings, parades, and flies off the stage.  This is the most fun you're likely to have at a musical this year!

 

For a show about showmanship and humbugs, it doesn't matter that the period detail is fuzzy, that the "facts" about Barnum's life may be as phony as his mermaid, that the colors of our own lives may be closer to Charity's calm than to Barnum's bold.  What matters is that this production is a loud and wonderful parade that appeals to the sucker in all of us.  And believe you me, there was one born the minute I was born.

 

 

 

8/14/2015          PETER PAN                                          HIGH FLYING, ADORED

 

(Maybe) a bit too soon after NBC's ill-received broadcast of "Peter Pan Live," Atlanta Lyric Theatre has staged a marvelously extravagant version, that is filled with stunning acrobatics, off-the-charts talent, and enough energy to please the kid in most of us.

 

On the other hand, all that skill and preparation and expense were in the service of a show, which, at heart, is a sleazy story about an ageless (that is really really old) guy with mother issues kidnapping some kids and taking them to a place where a bewigged creep can terrorize them.  Yes, imagination can be a wonderful thing.  But do you really want to see what is in the imaginations of kidnappers and lunatics and politicians?   I think not!

 

At least now, it's clear that Peter is the ONLY one who doesn't want to grow up -- after all, we first meet the Darling children playing grown-up and ALL the Lost Boys are very willing to go home to a new Mother and Father.  And, for making me like a show I don't really like, all I can say is -- why do you gotta do that, A.L.T.?  (This wasn't the first time....)

 

 

 

2/28/2016       THE FULL MONTY                                          CHEEKY FUN
 

Way back in 2014, I designed lights for a MAT Fundraiser production of "The Full Monty," The David Yazbeck, Terrence McNally musical of six bare-butt guys and a room full of friends. lovers, and enemies.  Now. Atlanta Lyric Theatre has mounted a big(ish)-budget, fully professional version, and I was happy to see that familiarity did NOT breed a ho-hum, been-there seen-that reaction.  The show sparkled and glowed, and, a few quibbles aside, was a total joy.

 

 

 

6/25/2016        WEST SIDE STORY                               ANCIENT ENMITY


There is absolutely no reason "West Side Story" should "age" well.  Its portrayal of New York Street Gangs "rumbling" with fisticuffs and switchblades looks just plain silly in our post "AK-47's for Everyone" ethos, with daily headlines of drive-by shootings and daily tweet-reminders of the astronomical urban body counts.  It's 50's-friendly condescension towards women would make any contemporary audience cringe.  Its portrayal of poverty-stricken youth "dressing to the nines" for a "dance at the gym" is simply ludicrous.

 

And yet, after watching Atlanta Lyric Theatre's breathtakingly glorious production, and, the next day, rewatching the soaring 1961 movie version, I can only conclude that SOMETHING about this show still resonates, and, sad to say, will continue to resonate for far into the foreseeable future.

"West Side Story" is a classic American Musical for good reason.  It is an old story told with a fresh eye, a "perfect" musical in that there is not a note or a word "out of place,*" and a compelling experience in which the final effect overwhelms the disconnects time has inflicted upon it.  I look forward to every production of it, and Atlanta Lyric Theatre's was one of the best.

 

 

 

2/26/2017        MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET                      WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN'

 

On December 4, 1956, apparently by chance, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis showed up at the Sun Records Recording studio in Memphis TN.  What followed was an impromptu jam session, four pop artists at various points in their careers, having fun with music and with each other.  The whole thing was taped and released decades later.

 

The 2010 musical, "Million Dollar Quartet," uses that session to create what is essentially a "Juke Box Musical" of the hits of these four icons.  The show is essentially a concert, with a narration by Sun Records founder Sam Phillips recounting the events of the day.

 

Thankfully, the show makes no attempt at being an "accurate" recreation of the event -- the session consisted more of country and gospel hits than the driving Rock 'n' Roll on display here.  I say "thankfully" because the resulting "concert" is 90 minutes of toe-tapping familiar hits performed by a quartet of actor-musicians that (should) have audiences dancing in the aisles.  It is a joyful trip into the past, with a boatload of curtain-call encores that blew the roof off the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre

 

 

 

11/5/2017        THE WORLD GOES 'ROUND                           ALL THAT KANDER AND EBB

 

John Kander and Fred Ebb are the musical geniuses behind such hits as Chicago, Cabaret, and Kiss of the Spider Woman.  From 1965 until 2015, they (apparently)  worked together so well (and so far ahead) that Fred Ebb's death in 2004 did not stop later Broadway openings like Curtains (2006), The Scottsboro Boys (2010), and The Visit (2015).

 

!n 1991, a revue of their work opened, called And the World Goes Round, including a few favorites from their biggest hits, but even more of their lesser-known songs from some of their lesser-known works.  It was a hit, and soon became a favorite of revival houses and regional theatres.

 

And it has become the latest near-perfect production from Marietta's Atlanta Lyric Theatre, just closing after a near sell-out three-week run.

 

 

 

2/25/2018        DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS                          FELONIOUS CHARM
 

Excessive Charm should be a Felony.  And, in Atlanta Lyric Theatre's recently ended run of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, there was enough felony flowing from the stage to keep the Paris Police busy for months.

 

Based on a sweet 1988 movie (featuring Michael Caine and Steve Martin), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a caper story, a tale of con artistry on the French Riviera, a portrait of a wager as to who can best swindle an innocent American tourist.  Lawrence and his French friend Andre have made a fortune, convincing rich (and lonely) women to "support" a mythical counter-revolution in an entirely fictional country.  Into their world comes Freddy, a crass American grifter happier with penny-ante quick scams.  Taking an instant dislike to each other, they briefly work together to rid Lawrence of a "mark" who gets a little too close, then make a wager, the stakes of which are the entire Riviera "territory." 

 

This was a production that fired on all cylinders, bringing together a perfect storm of script and song, sound and light, set and costume, performance and direction.  It is a glittering jewel box of a caper plot that left an apparently permanent smile on my face.

 

 

 

6/24/2018        TARZAN                                                   FABULOUSLY FORMULAIC

 

Y'know, it would be so easy to sit here, Monday-morning quarterbacking, casting aspersions on Tarzan as a Disney movie, and as a stage adaptation.  The script hits EVERY Bullet Point in the "Disney Formula" --  Orphan Hero (Check), Plucky Heroine (Check), Doddering Parent (Check), Narcissistic Villain (Check), Comic Sidekick (Check), Grit and Virtue saving the day (Check).  Add the "Disney Musicals" list and you get Theatrical Spectacle (Check), Earworm-Worthy Score (Check), and (my least favorite) "Filler" songs added to "Fill Out" the script to full-length Broadway Musical proportions (Sigh - Check).

 

I'm almost ashamed to admit it, I was completely dazzled by Atlanta Lyric Theatre's just-closed production of Tarzan.  The score was better than I remembered from the 1999 movie (one of the few Disney "neo-classics" that did not make it into my "permanent collection").  The performances were, as expected for A.L.T., over-the-top perfection. And the physical design and execution was breathtakingly vivid and entrancingly beautiful.

 

Sometimes a formulaic story simply works, not because it surprises us, but because our enjoyment at seeing all the bullet points satisfied surprises us.  Familiarity does not always breed contempt.

It's the physical aspects of the production that impress the most. Daniel Patillo has designed a set that smoothly segues from one part of the jungle to another, from one time of day to another.  Essentially based on a finely-detailed flat backdrop painting, the combination of painted detail of light (and actual light from designer Mary Parker) make the painting look positively three-dimensional, make the SAME painting appear as several locations.  Color and intensity convincingly change time of day. The whole stage looks as verdant and fertile as a primeval jungle-scape and provide an impressive "playground" for Tarzan and his family.

 

So, the show is gone, the sets have been packed, and the loincloths are at the dry cleaners.  Still and all, any show that was this enjoyable deserves a modicum of praise, even if a week late and few paragraphs short.

 

 

 

2/23/2019        THE WEDDING SINGER                               ROBBIE'S GIRL

 

Let's start out with a bias disclaimer:  I hated the 1980's. I spent most of it on the graveyard shift, music and theatre generally sucked (IMHO), I was living a dull thirty-something bachelor life (constant theatre commitments and friends notwithstanding) , and, to make matters worse, Reagan was president. So, I have zero sense of nostalgia for the decade, and any musical that wallows in it will have a steep hill to climb for me.
 

All this being said, I've enjoyed prior productions of The Wedding Singer, and, based on the cast of this one, I was looking forward to it.  Sure enough, the performances were, as a whole, exciting and energetic, the staging lively, the Tech sufficiently razzle-dazzle and I had a good time.  .

 

One thang to like -- even love --  about the show is the high-wattage choreography (by Ricardo Aponpte). He made the large group numbers amusing without being silly and energetic without being tiring. The show opened with a bang ("It's Your Wedding Day"), and the large cast of dancing singers made it all look easy. As to whether or not the style evokes the '80's themselves, well, since I more-or-less slept through the decade, I have no way of judging.

I found the show a lark and a joy to watch. The songs are pleasant and bouncy and even (at times) memorable, and, a good time will be had by all!

Even if, like me, you absolutely hated the 1980's.

 

 

 

6/23/2019          OLIVER!                                   REVIEWING THE SITUATION

 

As to the qualities of this particular production itself, it really doesn’t matter, given that the final performance is of the past, the performers and creative team have presumably moved on to a subsequent endeavor, and all is dark and still and hushed within the theatre itself.

 

All I will say is that I have rarely seen so many talented actor-singer-dancers of a very much less-than “certain” age on one stage at one time, that the adults in their company were of equal status and talent, that the design and construction of the world that only existed in the minds of Mr. Dickens and his many readers and acolytes was impressively rendered and expressively convincing, and that at least this particular viewer found himself weak with joy and insensate with admiration for everyone involved, the names of whom can be found if my readers are curious, but whose names and histories I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no consequence to the reader, in this stage of society’s ineluctable plunge into the future.

 

 

 

8/23/2019        WAR PAINT                                   SKIN DEEP

 

Full Confession:  I was totally prepared to thoroughly dislike this show.  I found the few songs from it that crossed my path singularly dull and unengaging.  I have a profound dislike of make-up on women, and a story about a feud between make-up entrepreneurs struck me as about as exciting as watching mascara melt in the sun.

 

And, indeed, the opening number (“Best Face Forward”) celebrates the skin-deep mindset of enhancing beauty to “keep your husband” or “attract a spouse.”

 

But something strange happened.  Even before that opening number ended, I found myself totally engaged in the story, respectful of the score’s ability to evoke those years between the ‘30’s and the ‘60’s, and completely gob-smacked by the dialogue, the script, and, especially by the performances in the two leading roles.  In a nutshell (and to my surprise), I completely loved War Paint.

 

I have to ask, is there any theatrical pleasure more satisfying than the surprising downfall of low exceptions?  Judging from War Paint, I’d say it’s at least one of the “Top Three!”  I still hate make-up (especially bright red lipstick – it makes me shudder), and I probably will never want to listen to any of these songs out of context, though it’s definitely on my list of shows to enjoy “in their splendid totality.”  To be sure, there is nothing like a strong script about strong women with strong voices to grab at me, and there is nothing like a strong story to engage me, even if it’s about a subject for which I have less than a passing interest.

 

Call it the Surprising Depth of the Skin-Deep Subject Matter!

 

 

 

2/21/2020      CAMELOT                                 THE ONCE AND FUTURE LERNER AND LOEWE

 

Atlanta Lyric Theatre has mounted a spirited and moving production that pushes all the expected pleasure-buttons, giving us the grandeur and lyrical splendor that highlights all versions of this oft-told tale.

 

Camelot is one of those rare musicals that actually characterize an era;  it premiered as the Kennedy years were starting, and, due to JFK’s fondness for the score, defined his white house.  Of course the irony is that Kennedy‘s Camelot was cut short far too soon, just as the legendary Camelot was.  But the IDEA of Camelot apparently cannot be stilled, no matter how often the darker aspects of humanity would wish it so.  A.L.T’s production is a magical, musical, and memorable examination of the allure of idealism as well as the cost of friendship and love and honor.  It remains one of my all-time favorites,

 

 

 

4/17/2022        THE WIZARD OF OZ                              NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE

 

So, despite my (apparently many) carps and gripes and nits (oh my), this is a crowd-pleaser of a show, driven primarily by the cast.  As said above, this is still The Wizard of Oz.  Yes, Wicked (and Gregory Maguire’s subsequent Oz books) have forever changed our perception of Baum’s world, and it’s impossible to even watch the movie without all those post-Elphaba filters on.  But to me this is still a magic-filled adventure for kids of all ages.  It still drives home the idea that all of us yearn for something just out of reach, yearn for that home we have to eventually leave (no matter how little it has to offer), yearn for that security that family and friends never fail to provide.

 

And watching this story in any form, in any version, evokes those childhood memories of sitting around the black-and-white TV set with a bowl of popcorn, some siblings (who never seemed to shut up) and Mom and Dad anchoring us all to the wonderful world that maturity and responsibility have left back on the other side of the rainbow.

 

This production may have occasionally strayed from the yellow brick road, but it always found its way back, and took me most of the way to Oz.

 

 

 

6/18/2022        MATILDA: THE MUSICAL                           REVOLTING GROWN-UPS

 

Matilda: The Musical has proven to be very popular, especially with families and repeat viewers and has enjoyed several national tours and local theatre productions.  Although this was my first experience with it, I have read the book and the 1996 movie was (and remains) a favorite of my daughter, so I was not exactly a newcomer to the story.   That being said, The Lyric’s production deserves to be a sell-out, as this cast and creative crew have pulled out the stops, and revoting grown-ups aside, have filled their stage with memorable characters and a climax that redeems (in my ears) the score and sends us out of the theatre NOT wanting to crush the spirit of the next child we meet.

 

 

 

2/25/2023        NEXT TO NORMAL           REVISITING THE PRICE OF LOVE

 

Last July, I positively drooled over the Jennie T. Anderson Concert production of Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt’s Pulitzer-Prize winning musical, Next to Normal, calling it “nothing short of brilliant.”  To tide us over until their new season starts, Atlanta Lyric Theatre has chosen to restage it for a two-week run, keeping (most of) the cast intact and tweaking the staging not at all (that I could see).  The restaging confirms, if nothing else, the strength of this show and this production.   It is heartbreakingly on-target with its depiction of the stress mental illness puts on family, and it showcases an ensemble of actor/singers and a support orchestra of musicians who make the material soar.  Let me tweak my July 2022 review a bit, but my reaction is almost exactly the same.

 

Next to Normal is a show that shows us the true price of love – to experience love is to experience grief and anger and frustration and patience and the whole d^&n array of obsessions that define us as human.  I can’t ask for any more from a show, and I have seen too few that deliver at the level of this production.

 

Day after the day, Next to Normal will linger in my memory.


 

 

And so, sadly, it’s time for a fond farewell to Atlanta Lyric Theatre.  I will close with a paragraph from my Dickens-pastiche I uased to review 2019’s Oliver:

 

To end with another possibly familiar homage, within the confines of a dark Marietta Theatre there stands, in this writer’s own mind, a marble tablet, which bears as yet one phrase – “Atlanta Lyric Theatre” – There is no set remaining, no brilliantly conceived colorful lights elbowing aside the gloom, no pulsating music echoing, and it may be that another name may never be placed above it.  But, if the spirits of productions past ever come to earth to visit spots hallowed by the love of the art – that love that lingers beyond the final curtain – of spaces that once teemed with talent and joy, I believe the shade of this “A.L.T.” will forever cast its memory and its spell.  I believe it none the less because a theatre is a church, and excellence is strong and unerring and echoes through the ages.

    --  Brad Rudy  (BKRudy@aol.com    #AtlantaLyricTheatrel)

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