If you missed On the Eve, the thrilling new rock musical by Dallas' own Michael Federico (book) and Seth and Shawn Magill of the band Home by Hovercraft (music), during its sold-out run at the Magnolia Lounge last fall, you'll get your chance to see it on a bigger stage during Theatre Three's 2013-'14 season. Theatre Three founder Jac Alder made the announcement yesterday.
Originally produced by Spacegrove Productions in association with Nouveau 47 Theatre, the show will again be designed and directed by Theatre Three artistic associate Jeffrey Schmidt (one of Dallas Observer's latest class of Masterminds).
Critics and audiences went nuts for the On the Eve, a lively fantasy incorporating space travel, the first hot air balloon, Marie Antoinette and some gorgeous Irish step dancers. Seth Magill played the leading role of the time-hopping astronaut in the original production. No casting announcements have been made for the revival, but let's hope they get most of the original ensemble back for this second, longer run. They included Gregory Lush, Martha Harms, Maryam Baig, Brian Witkowicz, Tara Magill and Jenny Ledel.
Theatre Nouveau 47 company member (bottom row) Michael Federico, Shawn Magill, Clay Wheeler and (top) Tom Parr IV, Matthew Tomlanovich and Jim Kuenzer
Second Thought Theatre artistic directors Kelsey Head and Steven Walters took their sweet time picking shows for the 2013 season at Bryant Hall. But maybe it was worth the wait. This small theater, along with Theatre Nouveau 47 and Fort Worth's Trinity Shakespeare Festival, made season lineup announcements nearly simultaneously today. Some good, edgy, bloody, funny, nutty stuff coming up.
For its ninth season, Second Thought will present a Texas premiere, two dark comedies and a one-woman show. The choices "offer North Texas audiences four plays that will make them laugh, encourage conversation and provide unique perspectives," says Head in the media release.
Left: Brian Gonzales on stage. Right: Cedric Neal as Sportin Life.
It was a good weekend on Broadway for the Booker T. High School Class of '92. Actors Brian J. Gonzales and Cedric Neal, who graduated the same year from Dallas' performing arts magnet school, both stepped into leading roles in big New York shows on a moment's notice.
Gonzales, understudy for Tony winner James Corden in the hit comedy One Man, Two Guvnors, did the show at Sunday's matinee after the actor fell ill. (Corden, a workhorse performer, hadn't missed any other performances.) Neal, understudy for Tony-nominated David Alan Grier in The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, performed the role of "Sportin' Life" Friday and Saturday nights while Grier was off.
Leave it to director René Moreno (profiled in this week's "People" issue) to find a way to make Coriolanus hot. For Shakespeare Dallas' first production of this rarely done bit of Bard, Moreno cast the easy-on-the-eyes (and ears) actor Alex Organ in the title role. He plays Shakespeare's lonely warrior, a career soldier who loves fighting for the rights of the Romans but can't stand the people themselves.
It's a monster role to perform, loaded with long, difficult speeches, interrupted only by other characters, mostly Roman Tribunes, delivering more long speeches about all the battlefield conquests Caius Martius Coriolanus has led. The bigwigs want him to be elected consul, but Coriolanus refuses to campaign. He even hates the smell of the citizenry's sweat, yelling "Hang 'em!" when they come too near.
Dallas writer Vicki Cheatwood's new play Ruth is a modern retelling of the Ruth and Naomi story from the Old Testament. What Cheatwood went through personally while writing it, however, sounds more like the Book of Job.
Debuting Friday, May 25, at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary as the centerpiece of Kitchen Dog Theater's 2012 New Works Festival, Ruth is the story of two women, one Latino and one Anglo, their friendship and how they deal with the ghosts that haunt their lives. When she started the play a few years ago after revisiting the Book of Ruth in a Bible study group, Cheatwood didn't know how close to home her scenario would eventually hit.
This past winter, as she was finishing the final rewrites of the script, her husband of 19 years, Mark Daves, was battling throat cancer. Unable to speak in his final weeks, he took to writing messages on his wife's iPad. One of his last was "work on Ruth." (Daves died March 22 at the age of 48.)
Casting news for local plays isn't usually headline-worthy. Unless, that is, the artistic director from one major theater is cast as an actor in a much-anticipated production at another major theater. That's the inside-baseball scoop about WaterTower Theatre honcho Terry Martin showing up as the lead in Dallas Theater Center's upcoming Next Fall, which opens April 13 at Kalita Humphreys Theater.
Martin will co-star with DTC company member Steven Walters (who's also the playwright and founding member of Second Thought Theatre, currently running his play Pluck the Day). It will be Martin's official DTC debut, though he's participated in some readings of plays there over the past few years. He hasn't been onstage as an actor since playing the Stage Manager in Our Town, which he directed at WaterTower in 2010.
"I auditioned," says Martin about how he got the role in Next Fall. The Tony-nominated play by Geoffrey Nauffts tells the story of Adam, an older agnostic gay man (to be played by Martin) who falls in love with Luke, a young devout Christian (Walters). When the younger man is injured in an accident, Adam must battle Luke's Bible-thumping parents, who don't approve of the men's relationship and want to deny Adam access to the hospital room.
A few good men were involved in the invention of television. That's the subject of the play The Farnsworth Invention, written by Oscar and Emmy winner Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, The Social Network, Moneyball) and opening tonight at 7:30 p.m. in previews at Theatre Three, where it will run through March 17.
The play focuses on the two men who battled to control the development of TV. Idaho farm boy Philo T. Farnsworth, played at T3 by actor Alex Organ, was a teenage genius when he put together the first components of a machine that could transmit live images electronically. His invention then was poached, or adapted (if you're more generous) by RCA president and NBC founder David Sarnoff, played by Jakie Cabe. The men fought over rights and patents for more than a decade. One had wealth and power; the other had the idea. Guess which one died drunk and broke?
More about the play and the Dallas actor playing the underdog after the jump.
Five years ago, actress Diana Sheehan had what she describes as "the most euphoric day of my life." Both of her young children were in school all day at last and, for the first time in years, Sheehan found she was free to do whatever she wanted.
"I danced for joy," she says of that day. "It was this incredible re-awakening. Everything, all my senses, came alive. I started writing down songs. Before you know it, I had 25 songs written down. I divided them into two parts. The first group is all songs about waking up again. The next part is about how these songs work together, all about longing and hope."
The result of this blast of creative energy became Midway, a solo 90-minute cabaret show Sheehan will perform for local audiences for the first time at this year's Out of the Loop Fringe Festival at Addison's WaterTower Theatre. (Dallas Observer is a sponsor of the 10-day celebration of theater, music and dance.)
There are many things amiss in the musical Giant, the Dallas Theater Center/Public Theater co-production playing a couple more weekends at the Wyly Theatre. But let's just look at the top dozen.
1. These Yankees make rotten Texans. The whole cast of Giant was imported from New York Cit-ay. Their fake Texas accents screw up vowels and consonants. Real Texans hit their Rs hard, for instance; we don't elide over them or sound like a breathy Georgia peach. The main accent needed for Giant is the one from Southwest Texas. To hear differences in regional Texas accents, listen to Robert Duvall in Lonesome Dove and Robert Duvall in The Apostle and Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies. Ditto Tommy Lee Jones when he plays Texans. It's a big state with lots of ways of drawling diphthongs. Nobody in Giant talks right.
2. Edna Ferber, who wrote the epic 1952 novel Giant, captured the flat but witty way real Texans turn a phrase. The book is full of spicy dialogue among rich ranchers and their bored-to-distraction wives who complain about having to take their "little ol' bitty plane" on a shopping trip to Neiman's or "not having enough clothes to dust a fiddle." The musical's book, adapted by Sybille Pearson, reflects almost none of Ferber's funny snatches of conversation. It also misses the novel's portrayal of how new oil money corrupted families who once lived off the land, one of the major themes of the book.
By Karen Almond
3. Giant, the book and the 1956 movie, tell parallel stories of the Benedict family, owners of a 2.5 million-acre cattle ranch in Southwest Texas, and the gradual rise in status of their Mexican-American workers. When Bick Benedict brings his Virginia-born wife Leslie home from their honeymoon, her first venture away from the main house is into the squalid shack of one of Bick's chief vaqueros (Mexican cowboys). (The scene is in the musical, but it's unclear where Leslie is or who the Mexican lady with the baby is.) Leslie vows to Bick, to his great displeasure, to improve living conditions for the workers. By the end of the book, she's done that, and Bick and Leslie's son, Jordy, has married the daughter of one of the workers, showing an uneasy but inevitable change in Texas culture. In the musical, the only time a vaquero character is allowed a solo, he's dead before his song is over. The plot about Jordy's wife is altered, too, without the emphasis on racial discrimination.
4. Sybille Pearson's adaptation of Giant for the stage omits many of the novel's best scenes -- like Jett Rink showing up at Reata covered in oil from his gusher coming in, which was also a key moment, played beautifully by James Dean, in the film. And Pearson adds weird stuff, turning a grizzled old bachelor-cowboy character, Uncle Bawley, into a man who sings a long ballad about dreaming of being a concert pianist and traveling to Paris to have drinks with Claude Debussy. I combed the book for any reference to Uncle Bawley's love of music or his desire to fraternize with French composers. Didn't find it. Pearson also gives a second-tier female character breast cancer, another plot point the novel didn't have and the musical doesn't need.
Creating the wide open spaces and big skies of West Texas for a huge piece of musical theater has presented an interesting set of problems for designer Allen Moyer. Now finishing up the final details on the scenery for Dallas Theater Center's production of the musical version of Edna Ferber's novel Giant, opening January 18 in previews, Moyer, who designed Broadway's Tony-winning Grey Gardens, gave us a preview of how the show will look.
Expect lots of use of forced perspective, ways of fooling the eye into thinking things are larger than they are. Like, small corrugated cardboard shacks placed upstage to look like they're way off in the distance. A huge water tower downstage for some scenes, replaced with a smaller replica upstage in others.
Giant is an enormous production, with a budget over $1 million, an ensemble of 23 Equity actors cast out of New York and an orchestra playing in full view of the audience on a trestle over the stage. There's so much heavy scenery to shift around at the Wyly Theatre during the two-act show, stagehands work every minute of intermission to get things ready for the second act. (Giant will run just under three hours.)
More pictures of Giant in progress and a chat with Mr. Moyer after the jump.