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Theater Notes: Three plays in one weekend

March 1, 2017
By Sidney B. Simon , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Lucky me, I saw three plays this President's Day weekend. Sadly, No.1 will be gone by the time this gets into print. And it was one of my favorites. I'll put it at the end of the review so you can fully regret it if you didn't get to see "LOUIS AND ELLA."

Now, No. 2 is absolutely a must see in my book. It is live theater at it's very best. And it raises that wonderful question: was it better as a movie or a play? I'm talking about the totally superb production of "To Kill A Mockingbird" at The Florida Repertory Theater, and it runs until March 8.

Most of you have seen the movie. If you loved it, you will be doubly thrilled to see what Robert Cacioppo, the director, has built with his magnificent cast to make it my favorite play of the entire season so far.

The relevance of the play to our lives in 2017 is not just coincidence. Racism and the legacy we leave to our children are truly among ideas contemporary theater must deal with. This play does that with the gripping integrity and impact that live theater was made to do.

The three kids who admirably play Scout, (Liza Jane Longenhagen,) Jem, (Harvey E. Evans) and Dill (William Garrabbrant). Destiny will show what the lessons and meaning of this play did to shape them in the years to come. Craig Heidenreich with his extraordinary Atticus Finch could make Gregory Peck envious. Every cast member rose to the same caliber and earned my total respect. The roaring standing ovation audience agreed.

It matched for me the impact of another Florida Rep triumph, last year's "Twelve Angry Men." That was another example of the increased power to involve, include and capture an audience deeper than the movie version, even with the memory of the power that pretty good movie did to enthrall its viewers.

I urge you get your tickets as fast as possible. I predict it will play to sold out houses right up to March 8. For tickets, go to floridarep.org or call (239)332-4488

Now to the third play. It was the hardest for me to review. It is on stage at one of my favorite theaters in all of Southwest Florida, The Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples. Kristen Coury is the artistic director and she has given us a string of some of the most cutting edge plays that have dazzled sophisticated audiences in our region.

I wished I had really liked her current offering, "The Hound of the Baskervilles." Because so many others in the audience did like it. I tried, but it just didn't do it for me.

It is a spoof. A glorious, creative and energy enlivened wild, rumpus of a spoof.

It has three, very, very competent equity actors, Jeffrey Binder, who played Henry Higgins in the glorious production of "My Fair Lady" here at Gulfshore Theater early this season, James David Larson, who was in the New York City revival of "Into the Woods," and Phillip Taratula who recently understudied Christopher Fitzgerald in "Die Fledermaus" at the Metropolitan Opera.

The three of them now in this Sherlock Holmes juggernaut play every role, and several dogs. They do it with a gorgeous set, one that has enough doors every farce demands, and costumes, marvelous in their masterful variety. The changes the actors made from role to role and back, had me worn out by the intermission.

Act II opened with a delightful surprise that was a kick, and I'm glad I stayed. Yet I still didn't get into it. Part of me grew sad that these marvelous actors had to do this nonsense 7 performances a week. Again, just because it wasn't my cup of tea, it could readily be yours. Just write me off as someone who doesn't know how to laugh at spoofs and farces. I still support live theater, and urge you to do the same. Go online to get tickets, before it closes on March 12 at gulfshoreplayhouse.org or call the box office (866) 811-411 Incidentally their next production, one that I can almost guarantee will be a winner, will be "The Merchant of Venice", March 25 through April 15. Mark your calendars.

Finally, here's No. 3:

A new jazz club opened on the island and it is right smack in the center of the stage BIG ARTS' Strauss Theater. The band is hot and the head liners are Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. That makes for a wonderful night on the town, right here, without the traffic of going off Island.

It was sold out for opening night and also the night I was lucky enough to get a seat. After seeing it, I know why. "LOUIS AND ELLA" is just the ticket to make your feet start tapping and your spirit keep rising. It is a testimony to the joy of live theater.

Those of you who have been around long enough to have seen Louie and Ella alive, will be dazzled by the two stars who brought them back and shining to The Strauss. Trent Armand Kendall plays Louie. He carries that horn and his handkerchief, but, I close my eyes and hear a voice that is Louie's. He and co-star, the gifted Broadway star, Natasha Yvette Williams, as Ella Fitzgerald, belt out 25 songs with their dazzling talents, and tell back-stories to many of them, making it a heart warming journey down memory lane.

The sad story is that it will be a show you might have missed. It closes on Feb. 28, and this review won't appear in print until March 1. I just hope you heard the rave reviews from other newspapers, and certainly from any friends who had been lucky enough to get a ticket. For me, it will be among my top 10 hits of this season. What a wonderful world they both gave to all of us. I'm so grateful to BIG ARTS' Strauss Theater for bringing this magical tour to the island's theater lovers. I urge the powers that be to consider bringing it back next year for all the people who may have missed it, and others who saw it, like me, would love to see it again.

The last word: What was on your list for entertainment and enrichment this weekend past?

 
 

 

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