REVIEW: Jacksonville University College of Fine Arts Delights Audiences with “Into the Woods”

REVIEW: Jacksonville University College of Fine Arts Delights Audiences with “Into the Woods”

Jacksonville University College of Fine Arts, Into the Woods

Jacksonville University presented four performances of James Lapine’s award winning musical “Into The Woods” from November 1 to 4 at Swisher Theatre.

This musical won three Tony Awards on Broadway in 1987. It was made into a movie in 2014 with Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp and grossed over 200 million dollars at the box office.

This is one of the most unique musicals in that the script combines several fairy tales into one story with the paths of familiar characters crossing and changing their lives. The cast is large and it takes a skilled Director Kimberly Beasley to keep all those hoops in the air without losing sight of the lives of the characters.

Jacksonville University College of Fine Arts Delights Audiences with “Into the Woods”

JU musicals are known for having wonderful voices in their musicals and there was a stage full of excellent well trained actors and singers. In addition to singing the cast engaged in witty word play and well-executed physical comedy.

The first act concerns a baker (Axel Berry) and his wife (Isabella Martinez) who have no children due to a curse placed on them by The Witch (Emily Pate) that requires them to obtain four items to lift the spell. They must find a white cow, the red cap of Red Riding Hood (Kelly Wolfe), hair the color of corn from Rapunzel (Jackie Glassman) and a slipper pure as gold.

Jacksonville University College of Fine Arts Delights Audiences with “Into the Woods”

Many characters are encountered as the action progresses including Cinderella (Shauna Clark), her mother (Candace Dickens), her step mother (Sarah Stepp), Florinda (Melissa Allen), Lucinda (Andrea Vilarino), Jack of bean stalk fame (Joshua Andrew), Jack’s Mother (Alexandra Gravine), Rapunzel (Jackie Glassman), Rapunzel’s Prince (Nic Gonzales), Granny (Cailyn Cook), Steward (Abrien Nelson) ,Snow White(Kalei Dela Cruz) and Sleeping Beauty (Rachel Sandowski). Christopher Mandel plays Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf. Joseph Mahoney is the Narrator and Mysterious Man. The voices of Nati Gonzales as the Giant, and Cinderella’s father (Ben Beck), are heard over the sound system.

All come to realize that their hopes and dreams have not been fulfilled; the lesson learned is that actions have consequences and we must go “into the woods: and confront them.

This musical is the very first performed with computer generated music rather than a live JU orchestra. Under expertise of Music Director Benjamin Beck it sounded excellent. This was also training for those cast members who are planning to go into professional theatre upon graduation since many theatre to control cost use similar systems now.

The only glitch technically was when a microphone of the Narrator went dead in Act I and it was difficult to hear him above the music. He came back with a new mike in Act II and that was appreciated by audience applause.

Jacksonville University College of Fine Arts Delights Audiences with “Into the Woods”

Scenic Designer, Brandon Lettow,  filled the stage with hugh tree trunks to create an interesting forest. Lighting Designer Austin Kelm further presented a foreboding forest.

Costume Designer Curtis Williams created the authentic fanciful and colorful costumes.

The cast, besides having such talent voices that handled Stephen Sondheim’s amazingly complex lyrics and music, presented enjoyable witty word play and well-executed physical comedy and thus a musical that was uproariously entertaining.

Coming up in the spring, JU will present another well known musical “Legally Blonde”. Plan to see that one for sure. JU and Swisher always take a commendable and flexible approach to theater prices that everyone can afford.

http://eujacksonville.com/2018/11/07/jacksonville-university-college-of-fine-arts-into-the-woods/


JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH ABET THEATRE REVIEW

A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

We attended the festive debut of the brand new home of the All Beaches Experimental Theatre at 544 Atlantic Boulevard in Neptune Beach, Florida on Friday, September 22, 2018. The theatre was founded by Carson Merry Baillie a number of years ago and named the Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre; their new name reflects their more expansive audience. Their new home is located in the Neptune Beach Plaza; excellent parking and pre-show dining opportunities are within walking distance. We were greeted with smiles by ABET’s Managing Artistic Director Ceila Frank and ABET board members.

fri21sep(sep 21)8:00 pmsun30(sep 30)4:00 pmFeaturedJAMES & THE GIANT PEACHNew ABET Location 8:00 pm – 4:00 pm (30) ALL BEACHES EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE

The opening show for the venue and the new season is “James and the Giant Peach”, a musical adaptation of a children’s book by Roald Dahl. He has written a number of children’s books; “Matilda” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” were also adapted for the stage. The choice was excellent as it is a show appeals to both children and adults.

The show’s director is Lee Hamby, who is well known in this area as a director, designer, and actor. He is very much in demand for his talents and was the perfect choice for launching this endeavor. Lee is the managing director and founder of downtown Jacksonville’s highly successful 5 & Dime Theatre Company,

This delightful version of Dahl’s work was staged using a large screen on the back wall with projected images to provide the multiple settings, and recorded music. Amy Hancock’s colorful innovative costumes reflected a time and place filled with fantastic happenings. The large cast moved on and off stage with perfect timing.

The story is about James, an orphaned boy, performed wonderfully by Shauna Clark, who previously appeared in a number of productions at Jacksonville University. James is forced to live with two repulsive (but terribly funny) sisters Auntie Sponge (Leanne Gullo) and Auntie Spiker (Erin Barnes) who clearly have no maternal instincts whatever and make his life wretched by treating him as an unpaid menial laborer.

Life improves after he accepts a magic potion offered to him by Ladahlord (Brian Niece, who also acts as the play’s narrator). After James sprays an old fruit tree with the potion, the tree responds by growing a giant peach, and the aunts become very excited about the commercial possibilities of this wonder. However, when James tells him he made the peach grow, they don’t believe him and send him outside to sleep as a punishment for lying.

To escape the cold, James makes his way inside the peach and finds it inhabited by human-sized insects who become his friends. The colorfully garbed creatures include Jacob Pickering (Grasshopper), Christine Phillips (Ladybug), Gary Baker (Earthworm), Michael Yarick (Centipede), and Sade Crosby (Spider), and they all also want to escape from the aunts.        

Centipede detaches the peach from the tree, and it rolls into the ocean. The group travels inside across the ocean evading sharks and other hazards, finally arriving in New York City with the help of friendly seagulls. They have survived many dangers, but learned teamwork, became the best of friends, and created a happy ending.

Cast members in the large ensemble appear in a number of smaller roles and are constantly on and off stage with props and costumes, which include those of the sharks and seagulls, as well as assorted crowd members. The ensemble included Kimberly Cooper York, Jack Niemczyk, Karen Couglin, Rhodie Jackson, Kenggy Bravo, Amanda Jackson and Bryan Martins.

Director Hamby has a noteworthy support team with Benjamin Beck (Music Director); Niki Stokes (Choreography); Amy Hancock (Costume Design); Jennifer O’Brien (Assistant Director/Stage Manager); Katie Cress (Light/Sound Operator); Bryan Frank (Light/Sound Design); and Jenn Peek and Frak Sanabria (Scenic Artists).

To close the evening ABET held a reception featuring delicious food and beverages, a tradition maintained for many years.

Many thanks go to the sponsors of this production: John and Beverly Johnson and The Tom Nehl Fund of the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida.

ABET is known for intimate theatre, and we can continue to expect many interesting productions in the future. “James” will remain on stage through September 30, followed by “Wait Until Dark” (October 26 —November 11). Call 249-7177 or visit abettheatre.com for tickets and additional information.

http://eujacksonville.com/2018/09/24/james-and-the-giant-peach-abet-theatre-review/


‘James and the Giant Peach’ at ABET

The newly rebranded All Beaches Experimental Theatre launches its 27th season tomorrow at its new Neptune Beach home with the musical “James and the Giant Peach.” The show runs through Sept 30 (www.abettheatre.com).

fri21sep(sep 21)8:00 pmsun30(sep 30)4:00 pmFeaturedJAMES & THE GIANT PEACHNew ABET Location 8:00 pm – 4:00 pm (30) ALL BEACHES EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE

Director Lee Hamby says the family-friendly musical based on the beloved children’s book by Roald Dahl was the perfect choice to christen ABET’s new stage. “I think the story really resonates because it talks about finding your family and finding your home,” he says. “And that’s really what ABET is doing right now. It’s finding its place and finding its home, so I think this story works well right now. It was happenstance, for sure.”

“James & the Giant Peach” is a lively and heartfelt adventure about a small boy on a journey of epic proportions. The composers behind “Dear Evan Hansen” and “The Greatest Showman” scored the oversized, fantastical, magical family musical. The cast includes Brian Neice, Shauna Clark, Erin Barnes, Leanne Gullo, Sade Crosby, Jacob Pickering, Christine Phillips, Gary Baker, Michael Yarick, Kenggy Bravo, Karen Coughlin, Amanda Jackson, Rhodie Jackson, Brian Martins, Jack Niemczyk and Kimberly Cooper York.



Artistic Director Celia Frank says the board chose to stage a family-friendly production as the first show in the new building to welcome audiences of all ages. The new season also includes the musical “The Robber Bridegroom,” a mystery for the Halloween season in “Wait Until Dark,” the Southern Christmas comedy “Dashing Through the Snow” and the thought-provoking drama “Eleemosynary.” The classic “Alice in Wonderland” closes out the season.

“We will still present the varied season of productions that we are known for,” says Frank. “Since we will finally have our own space, we will be able to add many diverse programming options, as well as classes and anything else we can imagine. Our opportunities are endless, and we are extremely excited.”

Construction delays pushed the opening back two weeks from its original Sept. 7 date, forcing cast and crew to navigate rehearsals around the unfinished stage. The new 2,500-square-foot location features an indoor lobby instead of a front porch with three restrooms, a dressing room and shop area backstage. The stage is a more conventional design, with the audience seated on six risers instead of wrapped around the side.

“Logistics was always a thing,” says Hamby. “We had to reconfigure some things. But it’s been lovely. Everybody has been really great.”

Frank says the board made the decision that last season would be its final one in the Adele Grage Center where it served the community for 25 years. “It had become apparent that the Atlantic Beach City Council wanted to turn the space into more of a multi-purpose facility rather than a theatre,” she says. “Scheduling and other issues had become insurmountable, and we knew it was time to move.”

Hamby, who directed several productions at the former ABET location, says operating within a shared space created a series of challenges. “We haven’t had the privilege of being in there the way that everyone following us will be. But just having the capability of coming and going as we wish is huge. At the old ABET space, you had to get permission, you had to be on the calendar. If you were scheduled to rehearse at 7, you couldn’t get there any earlier than 7,” he says.

“This is a huge difference. There’s nothing like having a place for your stuff. The little stuff is what makes you realize how wonderful it is to have your own space like a filing cabinet or a place for your tools rather than having to schlep everything around. It becomes a whole different experience.”

The move and build-out totaled twice the anticipated costs. An online fundraiser is underway with a goal of $80,000 to help offset some of the construction costs and replenish the coffers. ABET Through the Years: A Fundraiser Cabaret was held in July and offered a look back at many of the musical productions staged through the years.

While directing the first production on the new stage had its share of obstacles, Hamby is grateful for the privilege and hopeful audiences will embrace the new chapter in ABET history.

“It’s one of my favorite places to direct because you have to be so creative and I love that,” he says. “It’s like being put in a box in a way and finding a creative way to make that space come to life. We’ve christened it for sure and I have been so lucky to experience this. It’s been a challenge to do a good job and show people what really can happen in this space.”

 

http://eujacksonville.com/2018/09/20/james-and-the-giant-peach-at-abet/


Upcoming Events

  1. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Comedian Gerry Dee World Comedy Tour in Naples, Florida

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  3. Ocala Balloon Glow

    November 23 @ 5:00 pm - November 25 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0
  4. 9th Annual Shopapalooza Festival, Part 2

    November 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
  5. Lake Helen Christmas Parade & Santa’s Village

    November 24 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm UTC+0
  6. Christmas in the Country – Lights Display, Hay Ride & Festival

    November 24 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0
  7. Soul Beach: The Outdoor R&b / Jazz Concert & Comedy Show on the Water

    November 24 @ 7:30 pm - November 25 @ 1:00 am UTC+0
  8. 15th Annual X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half-Marathon & 5K

    November 25 @ 7:30 am - 2:30 pm UTC+0
  9. FREE TICKETS! Tampa Improv 11/27 Stand Up Comedy Show

    November 27 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
  10. FL Orchestra Happy Hour Concert – Nov 28

    November 28 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0

Upcoming Events

  1. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Comedian Gerry Dee World Comedy Tour in Naples, Florida

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  3. Ocala Balloon Glow

    November 23 @ 5:00 pm - November 25 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0
  4. 9th Annual Shopapalooza Festival, Part 2

    November 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
  5. Lake Helen Christmas Parade & Santa’s Village

    November 24 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm UTC+0
  6. Christmas in the Country – Lights Display, Hay Ride & Festival

    November 24 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0
  7. Soul Beach: The Outdoor R&b / Jazz Concert & Comedy Show on the Water

    November 24 @ 7:30 pm - November 25 @ 1:00 am UTC+0
  8. 15th Annual X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half-Marathon & 5K

    November 25 @ 7:30 am - 2:30 pm UTC+0
  9. FREE TICKETS! Tampa Improv 11/27 Stand Up Comedy Show

    November 27 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
  10. FL Orchestra Happy Hour Concert – Nov 28

    November 28 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0

Join our Fun Network

  1. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Comedian Gerry Dee World Comedy Tour in Naples, Florida

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  3. Ocala Balloon Glow

    November 23 @ 5:00 pm - November 25 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0
  4. 9th Annual Shopapalooza Festival, Part 2

    November 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
  5. Lake Helen Christmas Parade & Santa’s Village

    November 24 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm UTC+0
  6. Christmas in the Country – Lights Display, Hay Ride & Festival

    November 24 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0
  7. Soul Beach: The Outdoor R&b / Jazz Concert & Comedy Show on the Water

    November 24 @ 7:30 pm - November 25 @ 1:00 am UTC+0
  8. 15th Annual X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half-Marathon & 5K

    November 25 @ 7:30 am - 2:30 pm UTC+0
  9. FREE TICKETS! Tampa Improv 11/27 Stand Up Comedy Show

    November 27 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
  10. FL Orchestra Happy Hour Concert – Nov 28

    November 28 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0