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Johnny Mercer Tribute
The Rialto Friday, Feb. 7

2020 January 31
by Susan Asher

Joe Gransden, Grammy-nominated vocalist Tierney Sutton, and the Georgia State Jazz Band will perform the hits and new arrangements of unpublished works by Johnny Mercer. Songs by the singer, composer, and lyricist have won numerous awards and have been recorded by Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and REM.

Between 1939 and 1972, Mercer walked away with four Oscar awards–having been nominated 19 times–and two Grammy awards. His most popular songs include “Jeepers Creepers,” “Old Black Magic,” “Tangerine,” “Goody, Goody,” “Blues in the Night,” and “Moon River.”

Marco Maritz, a master’s degree-seeking student in the Georgia State University Jazz Studies program, created new arrangements for unpublished songs hailing from undated draft lyrics and musical notation on scraps of notepaper. GSU houses and manages the Johnny Mercer Collection, which includes Mercer’s personal papers documenting his life and career.

Leading the band will be trumpeter and vocalist Joe Gransden who has played as a sideman with the big bands of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. As well as performing regularly around Atlanta with his own big band, Gransden performs in jazz clubs in New York and around the world.

The band’s singer, nine-time Grammy-nominee Tierney Sutton, has received nominations for Best Jazz Vocal Album for every project she has released for the last decade. She has headlined at the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. She can be heard on film and television soundtracks, including the Academy Award-nominated film “The Cooler,” and on television commercials (BMW, Green Giant, Yoplait Yogurt, Coke).

Tickets for the Johnny Mercer Tribute start at $20 and are available at the Rialto Center’s box office, by phone (404) 413-9849, or at events.rialtocenter.gsu.edu. The Rialto offers a 50% discount to senior citizens and $5 tickets for GSU students.

‘Fun Home’ at Actor’s Express

2020 January 20
by Susan Asher


The Tony Award-winning musical “Fun Home” at Actors Express is not to be missed. The cast, script and music are all terrific, and this show is for people of all ages.

Based on her memoir, the play tells the story of Alison Bechdel’s family life in Pennsylvania where her father restores old homes, teaches high school English and operates a funeral home right out of the family house where he embalms dead bodies.

Alison is shown at three different periods in her life: in elementary school (Eden Mew), in college (Marcia Cunning) where she discovers she and her father, Bruce (Jeff McKerley), are both gay, and as an adult cartoon artist (Rhyn McLemore Saver) who creates comic strips based on her life growing up.

While everything must look picture-perfect for Bruce, including the family home he has restored, young Alison’s attire and drawings, and the bodies he embalms, behind the scenes he leads a double life. Eventually, this becomes his downfall.

But all is not serious as this is a musical, and there are fun numbers reminiscent of ‘60s and ‘70s family pop bands like The Jackson 5, The Cowsills, and The Partridge Family. There are also some heartfelt songs, especially, “Ring of Keys,” which young Alison belts out when for the first time she sees a woman who is dressed like a man, the way she would like to dress.

The story, singing and acting are top-notch, and Jeff McKerley is utterly outstanding. You may have missed “Fun Home” on Broadway, but if you see it at Actor’s Express, you won’t miss Broadway.

Based on the novel by Alison Bechdel, music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, directed by Freddie Ashley, “Fun Home” runs through February 16 at Actor’s Express.

Cast:

Michelle Pokopac . . . . . . . . . . . . . Joan
Vinny Montague . . . . . . . . . . . . . John
Natasha Drena . . . . . . . . . . . . . Helen
Juan Carlos Unzueta . . . . . . . . Roy/Mark/Pete/Bobby Jeremy
Alex Newberg . . . . . . . . . . . . . Christian

‘Night Must Fall” at Georgia Ensemble Theatre

2019 October 27
by Susan Asher

What a terrific cast Georgia Ensemble Theatre has in “Night Must Fall.”

It’s 1935 and elderly, querulous Mrs. Bramson’s sits in her wheelchair at home among her servants, including her niece, Olivia.

Her maid, Dora, reveals she’s become pregnant by a bellhop at a local fancy hotel, Dan, and Bramson demands to meet him and that the two marry.

When he arrives, while Dora is out of the room, Dan flirts with Olivia, says he was a former male nurse and charms Bramson into hiring him.

The radio broadcasts news tells of a local woman who was murdered. An investigator shows up, and Dan appears to be a suspect.

The play was first performed in 1935, and in 1937, was adapted to a film starring Rosalind Russell.

I’m a sucker for movies and music from the 1930s and ’40s, but only if their well done. This is, and I highly recommend it.

Written by Emlyn Williams, directed by Shannon Eubanks, “Night Must Fall” plays at Georgia Ensemble Theatre through November 10.

Cast: Susan Shaloub Larkin, Christina Leidel, Eliana Marianes, Doyle Reynolds, Joanna Danie, Rebecca Botter, Joe Sykes, and Jonathan Horne.

A Page from the Book Festival of the MJCCA

2019 September 18
by Susan Asher
From 2016 Miami Book Fair

Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry and New York Times bestselling author Adam Mansbach, authors of “A Field Guide to the Jewish People,” will be speaking and signing books at The Book Festival of the MJCCA Thursday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

The New York Times called Barry the funniest man in America. He has written many New York Times bestselling humor books, including “Live Right, Best. State. Ever,” and “Find Happiness (Although Beer Is Much Faster).” Barry wrote a nationally syndicated humor column for the Miami Herald from 1983 to 2005. He has also written numerous humor books and comic novels.

Adam Mansbach is a novelist, screenwriter, cultural critic and humorist. He is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Go the F*** to Sleep, which has been translated into forty languages, named Time Magazine’s 2011 “Thing of the Year,” and sold over two million copies worldwide. 

The event will be held Thursday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the MJCCA (Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta – 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody). Click here for tickets: $18-$35 and more information.

‘Our Town’ at Theatrical Outfit

2019 September 9
by Susan Asher

I don’t care if you’ve seen the classical Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Our Town” ten times or never, but if you want to see a great theatrical production, go see it at Theatrical Outfit.

The acting is so good, and Emily (Maggie Birgel) could not have made anyone feel so much or put so many viewers to tears.

Life in Grover’s Corners back in the early 1900s doesn’t appear to be much different from life in the mid 1900s. Neighbors knew one another, the milkman came regularly and people fell in love with the girl or boy next door.

In the three-act play, the stage manager sets the scene and provides the history of the small town of Grover’s Corner. It’s slow moving, but stay with it because the pace picks up in Acts 2 and 3.

Whether you’ve wondered about the meaning of life or never questioned it, you’ll discover it at “Our Town.” Written by Thornton Wilder, David Hyatt Crowe, “Our Town” runs in repertory with “The Laramie Project” through Sept. 29.

‘Five Guys Named Moe’ Features Music of Louis Jordan

2019 May 29
by Susan Asher
Above video is from the Tony Awards

The tunes of R&B pioneer Louis Jordan, whose slant on jazz paved the way for rock and roll in the ’50s, drive this musical tribute. Nomax is broke, his girl is gone, and he’s listening to the radio in the wee hours of the morning. Five guys – Big Moe, Four-Eyed Moe, Eat Moe, No Moe, and Little Moe – materialize and encourage Nomax to shake off the blues and live life to the fullest. Chart-topping tunes like “Is You Is, or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” “Let the Good Times Roll,” and “Knock Me a Kiss” put Nomax, and us, onto the road toward bliss.

Directed and choreographed by Thomas W. Jones II, with musical direction by S. Renee Clark, “Five Guys Named Moe” runs May 29 – June 30 at Theatrical Outfit.

CAST
Lawrence Flowers – Little Moe
Brandin Jay – Eat Moe
Sterling McClary* – Nomax
Omar Madden – Four-Eyed Moe
Eric Moore* – Big Moe
Eugene H. Russell IV – No Moe

‘Ride the Cyclone’ a Must See at the Alliance Theatre

2019 May 22
by Susan Asher

“Ride the Cyclone,” now in its final week at the Alliance Theatre, is one heck of a ride and a must-see musical. This carnival is not for the kiddies, but it will make your heart sing and laugh.

In the vein of a modern, risqué “Spoon River Anthology,” you’ll meet a deceased cast of characters who died riding the cyclone. Just one of them will be able to return to life.

The arcade fortune-teller machine, which appears to be from the early 1900s, holds a male potentate, The Amazing Karnak (Karl Hamilton) who tells the story of the Canadian high school chamber choir who died riding the cyclone. He gives the deceased characters a chance to come back to life by telling a story of their lives.

Ricky (Scott Redmond), who can only walk on crutches becomes a star-like rapper, garbed in purple and reminiscent of Prince. Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg (Tiffany Tatreau), the smartest girl in the class, exclaims her virtues above the others. Her best friend, Constance (Lillian Castillo), tells of her sexual escapades just before stepping onto the cyclone. The most memorable character, Noel (Kholby Wardell), the homosexual who dances like a Bob Fosse cabaret star and sings of his dream of being, “That F*cked Up Girl.”

It’s the final week of the show and one not to be missed. Fantastic acting by Castillo, Tatreau and Wardell.  Book, music and lyrics by Jacob Richamond and Brooke Maxwell, directed by Leora Morris, “Ride the Cyclone” runs through May 26 at the Alliance Theatre.

If you’re ready to ride the cyclone at a carnival, Get ready for the ride of your life. At this carnival, “Ride the Cyclone” is no kiddie ride.

In the vein of a modern, risqué musical “Spoon River Anthology,” you’ll meet a deceased cast of characters who died riding the cyclone, but just one of them will be able to return to life.

The man in the arcade fortune teller machine, appearing to be from the early 1900s, acting as the potentate, forewarns the cast of characters that they are going to die as will he soon thereafter. But each character has the chance to tell a story of their lives, the way it was or should have been.

There’s the cripple, Ricky (Scott Redmond) who becomes a star-like rapper, bringing Prince back to life; the smartest girl in the class, Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg (Tiffany Tatreau) who thinks only of herself and has a voice of gold, and the most memorable character, Noel (Kholby Wardell), who dances like a Bob Fosse cabaret star and dreams of being “that f*d-up girl.” The singing and performances are great. My guest and I both loved this show.

It’s the final week of the show and one not to be missed.  Book, musc and lyrics by Jacob Richamond and Brooke Maxwell, directed by Leora Morris, “Ride the Cyclone” runs through May 26 at the Alliance Theatre.

‘Native Gardens’ at Aurora Theatre Through June 2

2019 May 19
by Susan Asher
This is not the Aurora Theatre production but it is here to give you a taste of the play.

A neighborly friendship soon turns into a spat when Pablo and Tania Del Valle discover their property line extends beyond their fence into Virginia and Frank Butley’s yard, in the middle of his prized garden. The Del Valles are a professional young couple who have moved into a fixer-upper and need the fence moved to have enough space hold a party for Pablo’s law firm in their yard.

The semi-retired Butleys lean on the conservative side of life, politics and gardening, while the Del Valles are more liberal and prefer their native plants to Frank’s flowers. There are smart references to liberals and conservatives, yet playwright Karen Zacarias seems to, ahem, play both sides of the fence, so you never feel like she is biased one way.

“Native Gardens” is smart and funny. The cast consists of Carolyn Cook, Bart Hansard, Cristian Gonzales and Fedra Ramirez-Olivares. The show runs just under two hours with no intermission through June 2 at Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville.

‘Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical’ at Cobb Energy Center May 15

2019 April 6
by Susan Asher

Based on the French novel, “Les Liasions Dangereuses,” and the classic cult film starring Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillipe and Sarah Michelle Geller, “Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical” pulls you into the manipulative world of Manhattan’s most dangerous liaisons: Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Merteuil. Seduced by revenge and fueled by passion, the two diabolically charming step-siblings place a bet on whether or not Sebastian can deflower their incoming headmaster’s daughter, Annette Hargrove. As the two set out to destroy the innocent girl—and anyone who gets in their way—they find themselves entangled in a web of secrets, temptation, and the cruelest game of all: love.


Featuring hits by artists like Boyz II Men, Christina Aguilera, REM, *NSYNC, and, Britney Spears, Broadway World compares it to “a ’90s hit parade.”

“FUNNY and NOSTALGIA-FUELED. In this CRUEL INTENTIONS, high school schemers sing the BEST OF THE ’90S… the CHOICE LINES and the INSPIRED SOUNDTRACK HITS are all there in this enjoyable show!”
– The New York Times


For tickets to “Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical” Wednesday, May 15, visit the Cobb Energy Center.

‘Ever After’ at the Alliance Theatre

2019 February 7
by Susan Asher

“Ever After” is the second musical version of the Cinderella story the Alliance Theatre has produced in the last two years, and it’s as charming as the first, “Cinderella and Fella.” While it may be another timeless musical story– boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl — it’s sweet, entertaining and worth seeing.

Adapted from the movie of the same name starring Drew Barrymore as the Cinderella character, Danielle de Barbarac, “Ever After” is set in France during the Renaissance. For political reasons, the king and queen have promised their son, Prince Henry, to wed the princess of Spain. However, the prince wants to wed someone he loves, so his parents relent and give him a week to find someone.

Having lost her father, and years earlier her mother, Danielle lives as a servant to her stepmother and two step-sisters.  Danielle borrows a fancy dress and headdress from an artist to go to the palace to pay a debt for a friend where she unexpectantly meets the prince. Hiding her true identity and pretending to be of the noble court, she quickly scurries away before her secret is discovered.

Tunes feature nice harmonic melodies and Russian influences. The performers and singers are fit for a king, and so is this show. 

“Ever After” runs through Feb. 17 at the Alliance Theatre.