The Critics Have Spoken: Midtown Productions ‘It’s Only a Play’ is a Monster Hit

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By Mark A. Leon

‘It’s Only a Play’ presented by Midtown Productions delivers an insanely comedic and poignant powerhouse punch.

Setting:? It is opening night on Broadway for Peter Austin’s ‘Golden Egg’ and friends, family and the theater community have gathered at producer Julia Budder’s Manhattan townhouse anxiously awaiting the critics reviews.? As players from the big screen, small screen and theater community emerge, the symbiotic lunacy of compliments, mockery, underhanded stabs and intellectual snobbishness creates a seamless blend of intellectual and physical comedy that the local Charleston theater has not seen for some time.

Fresh out of the cornfields of Wisconsin (okay, Madison), Michael Okas plays the bright-eyed Gus P. Head, an aspiring actor, singer and performer who has just gotten his first gig in New York taking coats for the likes of Lady Gaga, Liza Minelli and the cast of Hamilton.? His boyish charm and innocence in a circle of gluttony, greed and narcissism brings a unique perspective that brings sweetness to the endless bottle of bourbon that is the acting community.

In act two, Gus breaks the tension of bad reviews and life evaluations with an inspired adaptation of ‘Defying Gravity’ that launched the audience into a standing ovation.

Jon Ballard provided a dominant performance as James Wicker, aka Wacker, the leading actor who turned down the lead role in ‘Golden Egg’, written by his best friend Peter to continue his long-standing role on an ABC sitcom.? His intellectual prowess and witty charm make him a prominent figure throughout the production.? As the evening progresses, his own vulnerabilities about selling out of live theater for the small screen begin to unravel until his finds a rekindling with his first true love, the theater.

Lynda Harvey-Carter takes on the role of Virginia Noyes, the Diva with absolute perfection.? If I sought out an actress just slightly past her prime, but not yet accepting the realization, that is constantly drunk and strung up on cocaine and prescription pills, there is no better actor in the theater community.? Her performance as the once decorated Oscar quality big screen actress being flushed out of her Hollywood life and looking for a rebirth on Broadway was close to flawless.

What critic hasn’t aspired to be a playwright or a screenwriter?? He hides behind his critical assessments holding onto that childhood dream of seeing your words produced into a reality.? Enter Ira Drew, played by Terry Davey.? Terry is verbally tortured, ridiculed, punched and defiled with food, yet he still stands behind his profession and continues to pursue his dream of being the creator of theater magic.? Terry, as Ira, performs his role with great timing, well situated dialogue and a certain off scene magic that still has him playing a critical role in scenes where he does not even have lines.? Through subtle behavior and mannerisms, his flamboyant nature continues to bring importance to the stage even has his observes from the corner of stage right.

A great ensemble comedy would not be complete without the neurotic British director, who suffers for his success.? Sir Frank Finger, played with beautiful precision by Xan Rogers is played so well that you won’t even know whether he is truly British or American.? He is a visionary genius and a kleptomaniac.? Bravo.

The producer, whom without her most generous disposable income, Broadway would be dead is played by Andrea K. McGinn in the role of Julia Budder.? Julia, who has more money than a king and as much knowledge of theater as a five-year-old, is bubbly, flamboyant, warm and driven.? As the supportive financial foundation of the “Golden Egg” she relies on the collective embodiment of her crew to ride the wave to success, or failure.? Her playful nature and normalcy compliments that actors by neutralizing the mad cap whirlwind of emotions.

Finally, our playwright, Peter Austin whose oration, passion for the core integrity of live theater and unquestionable respect for the history of Broadway is played with vulnerability and poise by Andy Livengood.? For those in the storytelling and improvisation community of Charleston, Andy is a figurehead of leadership and support for comedy and expressive performance art.? His training and experience in sketch comedy and improvisation make him a tour de force in this production.? From his prayer to the theater to his clever visualization of a new and revolutionary play to his outfit fit for the likes of Liberace, Peter delivers a performance to be remembered.

This two hour production will leave you in stitches, keeping you on your toes and truly understanding the unique life of a performer.? It is often said that there is a fine line between creativity and insanity.? In this case, the two lines clash in an off the wall comedic explosion.

We must commend Ryan C. Ahlert and Andre Hinds who co-directed this look inside the wild world of live theater.? At the end of the day, when we truly put our lives in perspective and look at how we react to the little nuances, we just need to remember, ‘It’s Only a Play’.

Live theater has been given to us as a gift to invoke conversation and debate, celebrate creativity and reward us with an escape.? ‘It’s Only a Play’ is a true celebration of the art of live theater and all the players that bring concept to reality.

Come out and celebrate.

Ticket Information – ‘It’s Only a Play (Midtown Productions) – October 13 – 29, 2017

‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ at Midtown Productions May Be One of the Best Times You Have in Charleston Theatre This Season

By Mark A. Leon

Midtown Production’s musical revue ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’, directed by local theatre visionary Sheri Grace Wenger is a step back in time to the days of Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller when music was king and Harlem was its castle.? It was the period of the 1920’s through the 40’s when the United States went from the Roaring 20’s to the Great Depression to recovery.? Still, the late-night hours of musical mayhem in upper Manhattan could be heard from blocks away.

With a powerful use of vocals and dance moves, the cast of Tierney Breedlove, Immanuel Houston, Jairus McClanahan, Megan Pue and Monique Waters have brought the composition and lyrics of Fats Waller to life.

Set in the Cotton Club where patrons dress in pin stripe suits and glamorous dresses, the band including Howard Nathan Brown Sr on piano, Brandon Brooks on drums and Arnold Gottlieb on bass play to the wee hours of the morning.

During that time, cocktails are sipped, glances from across the room are shared, and the aura of romance and lust is as thick as butter.? This is the place where jazz remind us of the glamourous life.

The patrons sit around tables with checkered table tops, lit candles in the center and indulging in wine and beer.

Midtown exquisitely creates a live theatre experience which include 31 musical numbers during this two-hour spectacle.? From get out of your chair fun loving numbers of “Jitterbug Waltz” and “Fat and Greasy” to the soothing love soaked “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling” and “Two Sleepy People”, the full spectrum of emotion is shared from stage to audience.

During the performance, the exchanges of intimacy show a fine line between love and sin; lust and intimacy.? Yet, when they danced, the place was rockin’.? From tap to flips, the dance numbers were filled with pure unadulterated energy.

“Ain’t Misbehavin” may be one of the most fun experiences you will have in Charleston area theatre this season.? Whether you bring someone you love or your parents, you are sure to have a remarkable time.? Musical theatre is alive and well and Midtown Productions has brought a winner.

There are still four more performances during this run (March 2 – 5).? You can purchase tickets at Click Here for Ticket Information

 

 

 

Midtown Productions Presents a Hilarious Musical Revue about Love..

Media Release:

Midtown Productions presents:? “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!”

 

Midtown Productions continues its run of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” after a fantastic opening weekend with standing ovations and great reviews! ?
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‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’ is a delightfully madcap take on the crazy little thing we call LOVE…” ?– Lowcountry Today
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The cast plays extremely well off each other… amazing job! …Ryan… Phenomenal”… Haydn… simply Captivating… Leah… Delightful…?
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… a non-stop, raucous, adrenaline ride!
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Director Manny Houston says “this show hilariously reveals the difficulties and joys of connecting with another person at every stage of life… Four actors take on over 40 roles in a collection of vignettes and songs scaling the dizzying spectrum of male/female relationships!
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The show plays each Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm through February?27th,? with a Sunday Matinee at 3pm on February 21st. (Hurry, last Sunday was sold out!) ?
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Duvall Catering will provide charcuterie plates, desserts and specialty drinks plus beer, wine and soft drinks at all performances for an additional cost.
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Performances will be at the beautiful new Midtown Cabaret Theatre, located inside the new DUVALL CENTER at 2816 Azalea Drive in North Charleston. It’s easy to find:? From I-26, Exit 216-B onto Cosgrove, then a quick right onto Azalea Drive.? DUVALL is 1/3 mile down on the left, past the Lowcountry Food Bank.? Lots of FREE PARKING on the premises!
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Click to reserve tickets or email Sheri Grace Wenger atsherigrace@yahoo.com. ?
Box office phone:? 843-557-1163.
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See you at the theatre!

“Collected Stories” at Midtown Theatre, a Must See For All

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By Minta Pavliscsak.

Midtown Productions, owner and operator of Midtown Theatre located at 2816 Azalea Drive, North Charleston has started 2016 off strong with a captivating show that will make you laugh, reminisce, and ultimately contemplate those all too important “life decisions” you made back in your college years.

“Collected Stories”, produced by Sheri Grace Wenger is winding down it’s production at Midtown Theatre.?Written by Donald Margulies, “Collected Stories” first premiered at South Coast Repertory in California on April, 1996 and had a two month run on Broadway in 2010. It follows the dynamic relationship between a celebrated writer and her graduate student protégé over the course of six years in the 1990’s.

Angst, intimidation, pride, doubt and an insatiable need to be accepted are only a few of the emotions that leap off the stage from the only two stars sharing in the spotlight. The performance takes place in the Greenwich Village apartment of Ruth Steiner, a straightforward professor and mentor, played by two time winner of the Charleston’s “Best Actress” Samille Basler. Opposite her is exceedingly bubbly Lisa Morrison, played by Charleston newcomer Sarah Glendening. Seemingly incompatible at first, Ruth and Lisa develop a bond that far exceeds that of your typical professor/student rapport.

The pair develops an intimate mother daughter tie fueled by penetrating moments where life and school lessons are shared in a tapestry of complex exchanges. We watch them go from lightheartedly sharing afternoon tea to having a falling out over the thing that brought them together in the first place which establishes the main conflict of the play. The emotional separation begins to build momentum subtly around the same time that Lisa’s writing career flourishes.CS.Lisa@window1

The author scripts out a poignant moment in the play when Lisa gets her first review and she is overwhelmed with feelings of uncertainly and depression.? This mental tug of war between success and seeking refuge in a mentor is one so many in the academic circles must face.? Ruth, being true to her unapologetic ways, tells Lisa “There’s nothing worse than getting what you wanted.”

Set Designer Ryan Ahelert did an exceptional job with “Collected Stories”. We were easily transported back to the 1990’s in part to his careful attention to detail. We spend the entire play sharing in Ruth’s living room space. It’s comfortable here with her bookshelf filled with books of influence and interest, coat rack that has one too many coats hanging on it, and a messy desk piled up with folders and mail. Ruth and Lisa’s movements flowed seamlessly around the stage and nothing seemed to distract the audience from them.

Midtown Theatre is structured to offer an open cabaret style format.? Along with engaging theatrical performances, the theater offers wine, charcuterie and dessert plates. ?Midtown Productions has been happily calling this place home for just over a year now, and they are excited for what their future here holds.

There are only three more opportunities to catch Samille Basler and Sarah Glendening in their starring roles as Ruth Steiner and Lisa Morrison this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You can purchase tickets here for the three remaining 8:00 shows. Make sure to keep Midtown Productions on your watch list. They have some great shows coming up for the rest of this season including an upcoming performance of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” beginning February 11.

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Photos courtesy of Nancy Santos.