Susan K Asher, Atlanta PR and Art Reviews
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The Song Project: Rapp, Bronston and Burroughs

2016 December 5


Jazz trio The Song Project (not to be confused with John Zorn’s The Song Project) recently was at the Velvet Note in Alpharetta playing music from the band’s latest CD “Cinema Paradiso,” as well as original tunes and their arrangements of compositions by Horace Silver, Monk, Bird, Prez, Dizzy and Charlie Hayden.

Mark Rapp, who has a master’s degree in jazz and studied with Ellis Marsalis, played trumpet and flugelhorn, and brought some non-traditional sounds to the music. He used a sound pedal that made some tunes swirl and echo like waves of wind and blew through a square-like pipe resembling a flat cowbell that he called a didgeridoo, which sometimes sounded like throat singing or a rumbling ocean. One tune swerved into a rock-and-roll stroll with Chris Burroughs on drums and Derek Lee Bronston playing something that reminded me of Hendrix.  TSP has played at Carnegie Hall, the Blue Note and the Fillmore Jazz Festival.

Listen to their music here: http://www.thesongproject.net/.

Matisyahu in Atlanta, Jan. 7-8

2016 November 15
by Susan Asher


On Jan. 7 & 8, at 8 p.m., MJCCA Arts + Culture presents “An Acoustic Evening with Matisyahu.” Matisyahu, the Grammy-nominated rapper with the top hits “One Day” and “King Without a Crown,” returns to Atlanta with a blended genre of music incorporating reggae, beat-boxing, alternative rock and inspirational messages.  The Jan. 7 concert will be held at the Morris & Rae Frank Theatre at the MJCCA (5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody). The Jan. 8 concert will be held at City Winery in Ponce City Market (650 North Avenue, Atlanta).

About Matishayu:
When Matisyahu first started touring to packed clubs more than eleven years ago, it was prior to the release of Live at Stubbs, the now Gold record, and prior to that record’s single “King without a Crown” reaching  No. 1 on the alternative rock radio charts.  His performances were a raw expression of his spirituality at that time.

Now, years later, fans who have seen Matisyahu before are saying that they have never seen him like this. What makes this music so engaging and unmatched, is that Matisyahu; a vocalist with no other instrument at his disposal, is an integral creative part in the improvisation. During the most recent Fall 2015 tour, video and audio posts of Matisyahu music inspired a steady stream of comments and inquiries asking, “What album is this song on?” But, it’s not on any album. Matisyahu’s songs are of that moment and that moment only. And these moments have the ability to connect the many different kinds of Matisyahu fans.

Matisyahu spoke about his transformation. “The last decade of my life has been immersed in my spirituality, and I really took that as far as I could take it. I’ve started to find other things resonating…”

Matisyahu Ticket Prices / Contact Info:

MJCCA Concert, 1/7/17:                    MJCCA Member: $45 – $100; Community: $65 – $100

City Winery Concert, 1/8/17:              MJCCA Member: $45 – $100; Community: $50 – $100

Special VIP Pricing:                            $100 (includes premium seating, post-show meet & greet, photo/autograph)

Purchase Tickets:                               678.812.4002, or visit www.atlantajcc.org/boxoffice.

Shep Gordon at the MJCCA Book Festival Saturday

2016 November 11
by Susan Asher


An agent to Shep Gordon, an agent to some of the biggest names in entertainment, will be speaking to Kenny Leon, Broadway director and founder and artistic director of True Colors Theatre Company

In the course of his legendary career as a manager, agent, and producer, Shep Gordon has worked with, Alice Cooper, Bette Davis, Raquel Welch, Groucho Marx, Blondie, Jimi Hendrix, Sylvester Stallone, Salvador Dali, Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass. He is also credited with inventing the “celebrity chef,” and has worked with NoBU, Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Roger Vergé, and many others, including his holiness the Dalai Lama.

In his memoir, “They Call Me Supermensch,” Gordon recalls his life from his humble beginnings as a “shy, no self-esteem, Jewish nebbisher kid with no ambition” in Oceanside, Long Island, to his unexpected rise as one of the most influential and respected personalities in show business, revered for his kindness, charisma—and fondness for a good time.

Ticket holders are invited to screen the documentary, “Supermensch,” free of charge before the Shep Gordon program. Film begins at 6:30 p.m. and the talk begins at 8 p.m. in the Morris & Rae Frank Theatre. Film Screening Only: $5. Tickets and info on other authors can be found at Book Festival of the MJCCA.

 

Kenny Loggins Kicks off 25th Annual Book Festival at MJCCA, Sat. Nov. 5

2016 November 4
by Susan Asher


Kenny Loggins will play some of his classic hits and discuss his four-decade-long career as one of America’s most iconic rock stars, and his latest project – a bestselling children’s book based on his hit song, “Footloose.”

Loggins, who has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide and won two Grammy Awards, co-wrote the book The Unimaginable Life: Lessons Learned on the Path of Love. His songs have been hits over the last four decades, including “This Is It,” “I’m Alright,” “Footloose,” and “Danger Zone.” He was one-half of the duo Loggins and Messina (with Jim Messina) in the 1970s, and the pair had numerous singles on the Billboard Hot 100 charts with songs like “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and “Thinking of You.”

In addition to his string of successful recordings, Kenny became the first major rock star to dedicate himself to recording music for children and families. His album Return to Pooh Corner remains the best-selling children’s album of the last 20 years.

Mara Davis will host the conversation with Loggins Saturday, Nov. 5 at 8:15 p.m. at the MJCCA in Dunwoody. The book festival at the Marcus Jewish Community Center runs through Nov. 20.

‘Cabaret’ at the Fox Theatre

2016 November 3


This Roundabout Theatre Company production is not your grandmother’s “Cabaret” or even your mother’s. The script and songs have slightly changed from the original production I saw back in the late 1960s and from the 1972 movie starring Liza Minnelli. I’m open to things new if they send me, but not much of this show sent me or my companion.

The show opens in 1929 at the Kit Kat Klub in Berlin with seedy dancers and a gay emcee dressed in provocative campy clothing. No fancy tux like the emcee (Joel Gray) wore in the movie, but I’m totally up for this risque style. It’s fresh, but this emcee (Randy Harrison) talks at the audience rather than to it, and sometimes he’s not even audible. (He improved in the second act.) The feature Kit Kat Klub singer and dancer, Sally Bowles (played by Liza Minelli in the movie version and played by Alison Ewing on opening night) was weak. I wanted to care about Sally and to root for her, but as they say in “A Chorus Line,” “but I felt nothing.” According to the playbill, Sally is normally played by Andrea Goss, which could change the feel of the show. However, this weak characterization of Sally could be a director’s choice, in which case, things might not improve no matter who plays Sally. What should have been the highlight of the show was the title track, which traditionally Sally spews forth from her heart, determined to pick up the pieces of her life and move ahead, was wimpy. “And I felt nothing.”

Sally’s love interest, Cliff (Benjamin Eakeley), also left me without any feeling for him. My companion and I both agreed the best cast member who made us feel the most was the owner of the boarding house Fräulein Schneider (Mary Gordon Murray). Although the actors didn’t wow me, the choreography did.

The most electric moment in the show – and this was electrifying and horrifying – was the final moment before the show ended. It was brilliant and heart-wrenching. I only wish more in this production had touched me so much.

Book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, directed by BT McNicholl, originally directed by Sam Mendes, “Cabaret” runs through Nov. 6 at the Fox Theatre .

Six-Week Contemporary Dance and Physical Theatre Festival Featuring Israeli and Local Artists Oct. 5-Nov. 19

2016 October 16
by Susan Asher

CORE, the award-winning contemporary

dance organization based in Decatur, Ga. and Houston, Texas, is collaborating with 7

Stages Theatre, Emory University Dance Program/Candler Concert Series, Rialto

Center for the Arts at Georgia State University and Kennesaw State University to

present EXPOSED, a six-week festival of richly-layered, boundary-blurring contemporary

dance and physical theatre from Israel. Performances featuring Israeli and local artists,

workshops and classes will be offered throughout metro Atlanta from October through

mid-November. A complete schedule can be found at www.exposedfestivalatl.com.

The Israeli artists scheduled to participate include:

 Niv Sheinfeld & Oren Laor Dance Projects

 Yossi Berg & Oded Graf Dance Theatre

 Anat Grigorio Dance Projects

 Hillel Kogan

 Ofir Nahari

 Ella Ben-Aharon

 Ido Tadmor

 Vertigo Dance Company

‘Girls Life’ at Pinch ‘N Ouch Theatre

2016 September 25

Billed as “a comedy” by writer and director Grant McGowen, “Girls Life” brings few laughs. However, there’s hope as the cast and director of the show that I saw changes on Oct. 13, so things could improve.

The premise of the play appears to be that grown women act like college coeds. The play opens with three women –aged approximately 31 years old– smoking pot and getting drunk in an apartment that is shared by two of the women–Catey (Jordan Demers) and Janie (Christie Vozniak). The three talk about getting shit-faced and getting laid. Scene. Janie is in a man’s bedroom, demanding he have sex with her, but he won’t do it. She goes in a rage, yelling and screaming at him to f* her now. What we see is a lot of “acting,” a lot of “ouch” screaming, but there’s no “pinch” behind it all. Turns out this manic Janie is an obstetrician, living with another woman in a sparsely furnished apartment, getting wasted, cavorting with a 20-something busboy/waiter, Alex (Pedro Ferreira) and then going to work to deliver babies. So she’s an obstetrician making a six-figure salary living with a scattered-brain woman who is not quite sure which gender she prefers, in what appears to be a tiny tenement. Not only is that hard to buy, we learn there is more history to Janie’s relationship with this man, and based on that history, it’s surprising that she would even be with him. Maybe a college “girl” would, but a 31-year-old doctor? It’s far from plausible.

Catey, who has a boyfriend, is seeing a woman on the side, Liza (Alexa Staudt). Supposedly these two are passionate about each other, but their kissing didn’t seem the least bit passionate.

The best scene is the one in the above video, between Diana (Jackie Costello) and Jack (Omer Mughal), two people really relating to one another. It’s simple, without manufactured drama, but there’s plenty of drama there in those moments, and the dialog feels real. These two characters are believable, and the best acting of the show happens between them.

After Oct. 8, “Girls Life” will run with a new cast up until Oct. 23 under the direction of Michelle Pokopac at Pinch N’ Ouch.

The cast for Oct. 13-23: Rylee Bunton, Brian Ashton Smith, Candace Kitchens, Alex Frazier, Mala Bhattacharya, Alyx Libby. Direction will be by Michelle Pokopac.

‘The Threepenny Opera’ at 7 Stages

2016 September 18
by Susan Asher
cast names

Stephanie Lloyd, Aaron Strand, Jessica de Maria

A hot, sexy, creative  rendition of “The Threepanny Opera” is playing at 7 Stages. Gangster Macheath is two-timing his wives, Polly(Stephanie Lloyd) and Lucy (Jessica De Maria) and cheating on them both. Polly’s parents, Mr. JJ Peachum (Kevin Stillwell) and Mrs. Peachum (Don Finney) who for a cut of their wages train beggars to beg, attempts to have Macheath arrested. A look at gangsters, whores and beggars in England in the early 1900s. Great music (including the classic song “Mack the Knife”), with wonderful singing by Lloyd and De Maria and acting by Kevin Stillwell and Lloyd.

Written by Bertolt Brecht, music by Kurt Weill, directed by Michael Haverty and Bryan Mercer, “The Threepenny Opera” runs through Sept. 25 at 7 Stages.

Cast: Aaron Strand, Adam Lowe, Dorothy V. Bell-Polk, Nicolette Emanuelle, Jed Drummond, Tad Cameron, Meg Harkins, Shannon Murphy, Evan Hynes, Claire Christie.

‘The Prom’ at the Alliance Theatre

2016 September 15
by Susan Asher


When you leave a show still clapping in the aisles after the actors have left the stage, something must be great. And the new musical “The Prom” at the Alliance Theatre certainly is. Whether or not you’re asked to “The Prom,” this Broadway-bound performance is one you need to get to. Reminiscent of Jerry Herman, “Mame,” Judy and Mickey, “Evita,” and even Mel Brooks with a mixture of contemporary controversy over LBGT rights, the show rocks with modern music and old-style show tunes.

The premise runs on a failing Broadway show whose cast hears about a small town Indiana high school prom that is being canceled due to Emma (Caitlin Kinnunen) who intends to bring another girl as her date. The Broadway show’s diva, Dee Dee Allen (Beth Leavel), and a few other cast members decide to become involved in Emma’s cause and travel to the school to stir publicity in hopes of luring people back to their show.

The entire cast is outstanding. Level is a true Broadway star who received a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her starring role of Beatrice Stockwell in The Drowsy ChaperoneAt least one other performer if not more have been nominated for Tony Awards.

If talent, a great script and great music is all it takes to get to Broadway, this show has it.

Book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin,”The Prom” runs through Sept. 25 at the Alliance Theatre.

Cast:

Mary Antonini, Brooks Ashmanskas, Anna Grace Barlow, Courtenay Collins, Collins Conley, DeMarius R. Copes, Kevin Csolak, Shelby Finnie, Josh Franklin, Damon J. Gillespie, Sheldon Henry, Josh Lamon, Becca Lee, Kate Marilley, Isabelle McCalla, Chris Medlin, Martin Moran, Becca Petersen, Angie Schworer, Christopher Sieber, Brendon Stimson, Teddy Toye, Alena Watters, Michelle West.

‘If/Then’ at the Fox Theatre

2016 August 10


The musical “If/Then” takes a look at what life might have looked like had Elizabeth (Jackie Burns) chosen one boyfriend over the other. If she had gone with one, then this would have happened. If she had chosen the other, then this would have happened.

Recently divorced and in her late twenties, Elizabeth has moved from Arkansas to Manhattan where she meets in the park her new girlfriend, Kate (Tamyra Gray), and old college sweetheart, Lucas (Anthony Rapp). Kate tries to fix Elizabeth up with the guy nearby playing guitar, but Lucas beckons his old love interest to leave with him. She ponders her choices. Just after she chooses Lucas, Josh (Matthew Hydzik), a handsome man dressed in  military fatigues, says he just got back from deployment, feels like he knows her and asks for her phone number.

We then see Elizabeth’s life unfold in two ways: one, had she chosen Lucas and two, had she chosen Josh. Her romantic partners step in and out of scenes so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with the story. When she’s with Josh, she’s called Liz. With Lucas, she’s called Beth. One moment she’s Lucas’s girlfriend; the next moment she’s Josh’s. In the first act, the scenes with Elizabeth and Josh  have passion and excitement, but most of the scenes with other characters leave much to be desired. Lucas forms a romance with David (Marc DeLacruz) and Kate hooks up with Anne (Janine DiVita), but I have no feeling for any of them. No excitement. No dislike. I sit in my seat waiting for something to happen. I wait. I wait some more.

Hydzik and Burns pick me up with their beautiful voices. She is a booming powerhouse, and he melted my heart on more than one song.

In the second act, the intensity and excitement between Josh and Liz fades. In each scene there is something new that happens, but almost none of it makes me sit forward in my chair. I want to care about the play’s characters, especially when they’re in danger, but I don’t. The script falls flat. As someone else so aptly put it, the stakes aren’t high enough. In most scenes it appears that if this happens, then so what.

Book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, music by Tom Kitt, directed by Michael Greif, “If/Then” runs through Aug. 14 at the Fox Theatre.

Cast:

Jacques C. Smith, English Bernhardt, Charissa Bertels, Xavier Cano,  Kyra Faith, Corey Greenhan, Cliffton Hall, Alicia Taylor Tomasko, Tyler McGee, DeeDee Magno Hall