On Stage

The Rich History of the Ritz

Jay Mafela Located in LaVilla, the Ritz Theatre and Museum is not only a gorgeous venue for concerts and theatrical productions but also serves as a tribute to the lives and contributions of local African-Americans. The Ritz stands on the same spot as the movie theater of the same name built in 1929. At the time, LaVilla was considered by many to be the “Harlem of the South,” attracting performers including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and a young Ray Charles. The original building was eventually torn down with the new Ritz opening in 1999. Today, it …

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Waitress serves delicious dish at the Times Union

The only thing half-baked about WAITRESS is that it was only in Jacksonville one night!  Based on the movie written by Adrienne Shelly, the stage book was written by Jessie Nelson and features original music and lyrics by Grammy Award winner Sara Bareilles.  The whole mixture is to a delicious treat. The cast opens with, “What’s Inside,” a number to truly open a show.  Everything — lead performers, strong ensemble, sets, choreography, and practical effects — was heartwarming and hilarious.  The audience was applauding loudly after every song and laughing so loudly the cast had to pause numerous times.  Thank goodness I was …

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The Wright Touch 

I overruled several amazing writers to be the one to interview comedian Steven Wright, ahead of his April 30 performance at the Florida Theater. I wanted to see if the Steven Wright who entertained me for decades was the same guy who would be on the other side of the phone.  I wondered if his delivery would be different or if I would be caught off guard by his cerebral takes in life?  The interview ended up being everything I wanted it to be and more. From the start, the interview just about went off the rails when I mentioned …

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Regally ANASTASIA at the Times Union

Anastasia is based on the long-held myth that Grand Duchess Anastasia and her younger brother, Tsarevich Alexei, escaped the family’s assassination in 1918.  In the mass grave that held the parents, only three of the four sisters were found.  Spoilers!  The fourth sister and Alexei were found in 2007, ten years after the animated movie release.  Although the mystic Rasputin (in the movie, but not the play) makes for a great bad guy, he was actually assassinated two years before the Romanovs.  Last, but not least, the Dowager Empress never lived in Paris.  She traveled to England to live with …

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Words and Dishes fly in August: Osage County

The Limelight Theatre in St. Augustine has staged Tracy Letts’ dark comedy (a Pulitzer and Tony-winner), a portrait of Americana that captures the quarrelsome Weston clan who have gathered to pay their last respects to one of their own—and disrespects to each other.  According to Mr. Letts, it is based on family history.  His grandfather committed suicide when Letts was 10 years old. August: Osage County begins with a scene that almost seems out of context with the rest of the show:  Alcoholic patriarch Beverly (Rich Nowell) quotes T.S. Eliot in the opening segment ae he is hiring a caretaker, …

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CATS Frolic at the Times Union

Cats coming together for a Jellicle Ball to sing, dance and wonder who will be the one chosen to ascend to the Heaviside layer. CATS first opened in London, with Broadway following a year later.  Awards for both productions followed, and they even vied for the Best Musical Theater Album Grammy.  The show is one of the most internationally produced of all time and has been considered the gateway to the modern blockbuster musical and musicals becoming a global commodity. The show is comprised of songs that derived mostly from TS Eliot’s 1939 poetry book, originally written for his godchildren, …

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November Entertainment Go-To Guide 2021

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Classic Beauty

Bursting with fantasy in glittering gowns, Jacksonville’s burlesque scene has made its post-pandemic comeback, leaving a trail of dropped jaws and feather boas. Sunny Parker went between the dressing room and the DJ booth as the crowd started trickling up to the second floor. A classic beauty in a satin robe with rhinestones peeking out from her chest, she was to host the launch of Shim Sham Burlesque, a new bimonthly cabaret show at the beaches. At 10 p.m. Parker cleared the center of the room. Ever so sexy and cool, she welcomed an eager audience and listed out the …

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