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PLAYING AROUND

An audience arriving for opening night of "Flashdance —The Musical" is bound to expect amazing moves.

Jacksonville native Ryan Carlson, playing a break dancer, and the rest of the cast exceeded all those expectations as the eight-show run kicked off Tuesday night. The Douglas Anderson graduate, possibly energized by his hometown crowd, showed some smooth steps and an aerial move that appeared to unwind in slow motion.

The dancing delivered, but the surprise that got the Moran Theater rocking was that star Jillian Mueller had a show-stopping voice to match her grace.

Mueller's Alex Owens and Corey Mach's Nick Hurley sparred well in a story as old as time, if time began in the '80s. The plot of rich guy woos tough girl probably extends even earlier, but this is the 30th anniversary tour of "Flashdance" — the movie. Fans might feel nostalgic for Jennifer Beals in the 1983 film, but they're unlikely to forget Mueller.

Alex welds by day, flash dances by night and dreams of making it into Pittsburgh's top dance academy. Nick — Alex's boss at the steel mill — chases Alex while also trying to fend off his family's attempts to lay off workers.

The main shortcomings of "Flashdance" are in the story. Supporting characters are given time on stage, but they deserve more plot with which to work. They have the talent but only some of the tools.

Alex's friend Gloria (Ginna Claire Mason) imagines herself as a dancer on MTV, then decides to join a strip club. Her boyfriend Jimmy (David R. Gordon) leaves for New York, chasing his own dream of standup comedy, then comes home before anyone can miss him.

While trying to offer comic relief, his "timing" is on, but his writers have offered him hits as well as misses.

Those writers fare better in scenes involving seasoned dancers Kiki (DeQuina Moore) and Tess (Alison Ewing). Moore nearly steals the show with her vigorous voice and intense acting.

Though not perfect, "Flashdance The …   More

PLAYING AROUND

You might have seen her guest star in big name shows like "Desperate Housewives," "Homeland," "Matlock" or "The Office.' Of course, that doesn’t include her extensive career in theater productions including "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," "The Baby Dance" and "Getting and Spending." She has also released several albums of jazz music.

Is there anything Linda Purl can’t do?

Her most recent endeavor involves performing in a one-woman play, "The Year of Magical Thinking," directed by Jenny Sullivan. The show is staged for three performances, 8 p.m. Jan. 17 and 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 18, at Theater Jacksonville in San Marco. The production is part of Theatre Jacksonville's Guerilla Show Series.

The play is about one woman’s emotional journey after unexpectedly losing her husband and their only daughter. Purl describes her character as “brutally honest, a formidable talent and intellect, and very exacting of herself in her writing.”

Purl faced a common fear when preparing for the play. “This play is so brilliantly written, it is such a truthful piece that my primary fear of doing a one-woman play is that it would be crushingly boring to watch one woman talk on an empty stage. I happily discovered this was unfounded.”

While there is quite a bit of grief and mourning in this play, Purl believes that it’s much deeper than that. “There’s a good deal of humor and I can tell you, from having done the play and spoken to a number of audience members after the show, that for many, the play has deep tides of healing in it.”

Purl’s preparation for this play did not solely entail memorization and acting lessons. It was an emotional journey that took a lot of strength. It’s a story that happened behind-the-scenes. And it is one of the reasons that Purl’s character, Joan Didion, really comes to life.

“The journey to the play was life meeting art. My friend and wonderful actress Bonnie Franklin was slated to do the role. However, she …   More

Playing Around

Hailing from Troy, Mich., We Came As Romans features an interplay of clean singing and brutal screaming vocals over punchy guitar riffs, tight drumming and electronic sections. Vocalists Dave Stephens and Kyle Pavone and guitarist Joshua Moore spoke with Folio Weekly before their set on the opening day of Welcome to Rockville.

F.W.: Your latest album, “Tracing Back Roots,” came out in July 2013, what do you think is different about this album, in relation to “To Plant a Seed” or “Dreams EP”?

D.S.: It’s definitely more melodic. We went with a different producer this time. On our last two records, we used Joey Sturgis. This time around we went with John Feldman. Feldman is so focused on melodies and stuff like that, so it really shines through.

F.W.: Are you currently writing?

D.S.: We’re brainstorming some ideas, but nothing too crazy right now. We’re still on the album cycle for “Tracing Back Roots," so we’re still focused on touring.

F.W.: When you do write, do you usually set aside some time to write or do you work on ideas on the road?

J.M.: It’s kind of both. Usually we’re on the road, and we’re kind of crunched, you know? But we’ll start pulling out ideas and stuff like that. Then we’ll take those ideas and work on them in rehearsal. Hopefully, on the next record we’ll be able to sit down and work things out together, like we did on the last one.

F.W. When touring, do you prefer to play big festival shows like Welcome to Rockville, or do you prefer the smaller, more intimate club shows?

K.P.: Both have their ups and downs. We like the smaller shows, because we get to see our fans close up. But we also like the bigger shows at the same time, because we like seeing all the energy, and it pulls in new fans too.

F.W.: Do you notice any difference between the shows you play here and your international tours?

D.S.: They like to circle pit a lot in Europe. They’ll circle pit to anything. It could …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The Gateway Shopping Plaza, once a popular shopping hub on the Northside, is now a drab town center where the main attraction is Publix. But something inside the Gateway Mall is attracting an audience of its own.

Through the vision of founder Darryl Reuben Hall, Stage Aurora Theatrical Company has been bringing productions to the stage since 2001 and showcasing arts on the Northside.

Stage Aurora continues to make an impact in the community through its Black Arts Festival, now in its seventh year. The festival gives participants an opportunity to show their talents in a variety of art forms. This year’s festival features an Oceanus Tae Kwan Do exhibition in which students will display the teachings of Master Joseph E. Morgan, and a production of the Tony award-wining musical The Wiz featuring 100 Youth Voices. According to Anntoinette Jones, who works for Stage Aurora, the actors (who are mostly students between the ages of 6 and 18) have been working on the production for about two and a half months. She also says that the students won’t be the only ones who will be given the chance to display their talents. Kids of all ages are welcomed to show off their artistic ability to the Stage Aurora audience at the 2014 Youth Talent Explosion.

Though Stage Aurora offers local actors a chance to express themselves on stage, they have also hosted nationally recognized performers at past Black Arts Festivals. Jones says T'Keyah Crystal Keymah (from That’s So Raven), Tony Award winner Melba Moore and Ella Joyce (in a performance of A Rose Among Thorns) were three highlights from past festivals.

The Black Arts Festival spans the July 18-20 weekend, beginning with the Oceanus Tae Kwon Do exhibit on Friday and ending with the 2014 Youth Talent Explosion on Sunday. Performances of The Wiz are Friday and Saturday.   More

Playing Around

Among his CEO duties helming self-started Grand Hustle Records, rubbing elbows with the likes of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in Hollywood films, and serving two stints in county clinks, it’s undeniably impressive that Atlanta-based rapper T.I. (pictured) has found time to write and release eight studio albums, nearly all to chart-topping reception. The three-time Grammy-winning rubberband man brings his brand of hip-hop street cred to Jacksonville’s Aqua Nightclub. Say what you will about one-dimensional songwriting, objectification of women and migraine-inducing grammar – this man knows how to top charts and fill clubs.

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PLAYING AROUND

Despite the threat of thunderstorms, country fans showed up ready to rock at the Country Rocks the Beach concert June 22. The show featured Craig Morgan and special guests Dustin Lynch and The Lacs.

The gates at Ybor Alvarez Outdoor Sports Complex opened at 3 p.m. and several opening bands played as fans poured in.

The Lacs, a band from Georgia that has gained recent notoriety in 2011, played some of their hits including their first single, “Kickin’ Up Mud.” They played their set all while sipping on beer and taking swigs from a Jagermeister bottle.

Soon after, Dustin Lynch took the stage, performing all his well-known singles including “She Cranks My Tractor.” The single, which debuted in the Top 50 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs list, pumped up the crowd, especially the girls as he swayed his hips in his tight black jeans.

After these two outstanding opening acts, the crowd was ready for Craig Morgan to come on. As soon as the sound of the tractor played over the loud speakers, Morgan appeared and began singing his single, “International Harvester.” The song from his 2006 album, "Little Bit of Life," is one of Morgan’s most popular hits.

Morgan continue the party by performing some of his other well-known songs like “Redneck Yacht Club” and “That’s What I Love About Sunday.” Both of these songs are from his album, "My Kind of Livin,’ " which was released in 2005.

He played all seven of his top-10 hits, including his single “Almost Home” from his 2002 album, "I Love It." Not only did it top the country music charts, this song earned him a Songwriter’s Achievement Award from the Nashville Songwriter’s Association International and also Song of the Year at the Broadcast Music, Inc.

Morgan sang his most popular songs, but he also let the crowd be part of his history by performing a new song never before played in public. …   More

PLAYING AROUND

Singer-songwriter Cat Power will perform Nov. 8 at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall.

Cat Power, the stage name for Chan Marshall, canceled several North American concert dates — including her scheduled performance June 16 at the Florida Theatre.

At the time of the cancelation, Cat Power's management indicated she needed the extra time to prepare for her European Tour.

Tickets for the standing-room-only concert 8 p.m. Nov. 8 go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 12. General admission tickets are $30 in advance.

Cat Power's 2012 album "Sun" was her first in six years with original material. She wrote, performed, recorded and produced the album herself.    More

PLAYING AROUND

Witty banter and solid — though unspectacular — performances helped capture the audience in “Butterflies are Free," playing through Feb. 16 at the Limelight Theatre in St. Augustine.

Written by Leonard Gershe in 1969, the play centers around a young blind man, Don, who moves out of his overbearing mother’s house and tries to make it on his own in the big city. After a month, he meets the girl next door — a zany, outgoing and ditzy divorcee named Jill. An inevitable and rather predictable romantic fling ensues.

Constant puns on blindness keep the play from becoming too emotional or boring. The loudest laugh came when Jill was explaining how she became a hippie to rebel against her mother. Then, her mother loved the idea and followed in her footsteps. That’s when Jill “joined the young Republicans for Ronald Reagan.”

The set was that of a humble apartment complete with a make-shift dining room table, constructed from a bathtub and wood plank. A guitar, a box of cornflakes and a bunk bed were the defining features of the set. Audience members remarked that the set was too simple and “didn’t have the '60s feel.”

The performances by the four actors captured the audience’s attention, but the lead actor’s unconvincing portrayal of blindness came off more zombie-like and took away from his overall performance.

After starting a bit slow, the action picked up in the second act. The humor sprinkled throughout the play are not as memorable as the lasting impact and sympathy the audience gets from Don’s character. “Don’t leave me because I’m blind, but don’t stay because I’m blind,” he says to Jill in the midst of an argument.

This performance is capable of holding your attention, touching your heart, and producing a few laughs.

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Playing Around

Fourteen-year-old Tori Jackson, who will be a high school freshman later this year, heard the Girls Rock Jacksonville message loud and clear.

“The moment I felt empowered was when one of the counselors told me, ‘This is your place.’ She said that we do not have to be nervous at camp, we can express ourselves, and girls rock!”

Girls Rock Jacksonville has been providing a safe space for girls to boost their confidence, express their musical creativity and rock their way through those awkward teenage years since 2012.

The camp — founded by Ace Canessa, Sarah Humphreys and local musician Summer Wood — offers girls the chance to learn to play an instrument, write their own lyrics and create a band to perform in a camp showcase. Two years later, the camp continues to grow and help give a voice to groups of girls every summer.

Aside from teaching girls how to play instruments, the goal of Girls Rock Jacksonville is to equip girls with self-confidence.

Though the camp’s name implies that rock is the main genre, Jackson says that’s not exactly the case. “Our genre was kind of all over the place. We had some rapping in our song, we had some indie rock sort of things and we also had some riot girl moments,” she laughs.

Sisters Yani and Lulu Ritchie also recall their camp experience fondly. Lulu, the drummer for Moonlit Shadows, remembers how easy it was to make friends and connect with her bandmates. She said, “during our practice band time we would just chill and then after 45 minutes we would actually talk about the songs and get to know each other more.” Yani of Yani and the Rosettes learned to play bass at the camp. Though she says she’d never really worked in groups before, she was able to improve her teamwork skills.

Canessa is looking to expand the Girls Rock Jacksonville camp into an after-school program. “In the past we’ve had a pilot once-a-month mentorship program,” she says. “But it never really quite got off …   More

Playing Around

The Dave Matthews Band is playing the arena tonight, and the show’s been sold out for months (approximately 17.3 seconds after tickets went on sale, by our calculations). So either you’re going (we’re judging you), you wish you were going (judging), or you think there might be a better way to part with your hard-earned cash (we can be friends).

Looking for something else to do? Here are some non-DMB happenings around Northeast Florida tonight that are worth your while:

1. See Jenny Lewis at the Florida Theatre. She’s about the same age as the main dude from DMB, except cuter, and incredibly talented. And she’ll probably play some Rilo Kiley songs. (Ray LaMontagne plays, too.)

2. Check out the amateur comedy hour at the Comedy Zone in Mandarin. Watch other people purposely embarrass themselves, then feel better about yourself.

3. Karaoke at Club TSI: Keep the whiskey coming, head on stage and purposely butcher a DMB song. (It won’t be hard.)

4. Trivia Night at the Garage: Drink about five different IPAs and demonstrate how much smarter you are than everyone else.

5. Go to the Jax Jazz Collective CD Release concert and party at Underbelly: Jacksonville has a great jazz scene, but we don’t pay enough attention to it. Fix that.   More

 
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