Jewish Community Center Reviews Archive

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Broken Glass

Directed by David Garrett

August 20-30, 2009 Theatre LJCC at the LJCC

Reviewed May 29 by Lee J. Green*

Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass, which premiered in Birmingham at the LJCC this past Thursday, certainly is sharp and edgy (one would expect that out of glass that’s broken). What is a surprise, though, is how effectively the actors breathe life and inject such modern pertinence into a show that takes place in 1938 New York City.

Broken Glass tells the story of Sylvia and Phillip Gellburg, who after years of marriage come to realize they hardly know each other at all.

Phillip, the only Jew working at a very traditional Wall Street bank, is obsessed with work and his own desire to assimilate. He has little time for his wife until she suddenly falls prey to a mysterious paralysis after seeing the events of Kristallnacht in the newspaper.

The title of the play is synonymous with the broken glass of Jewish-owned storefronts in Germany during Kristallnacht, which represent the first overt terrorist act of the Nazi forces.

But this show is so much more than a play about events leading up to the Holocaust tragedy and how Jews migrating to the US during that time faced prejudice as well as difficulties with assimilation.

One of the reasons the play feels like it could have been about today is that Miller wrote it in 1993 (at 78-years-old, it was the last play he wrote).

But the main reason is that the talented cast of six convey their characters and emotions so well that we are drawn to their story – which is really more about relationships, careers and communication breakdowns as well as how we all can be emotionally as well as physically effected/connected by the tragedies we hear/read about in the media (even if we aren’t personally affected and the tragedies are many miles away).

Annalisa Crews plays Sylvia Gellburg and effectively conveys the character’s real as well as emotional pains. Even when she is not speaking, you can see it in her eyes and her movements – Crews’ Sylvia remains distant, worn as well as without the hope and power to change her condition.

Russell Jones plays her husband, Phillip, who regrets not being a better, more understanding and more communicative partner. Jones plays the character with appropriate strength, but not too much to where he doesn’t come across as sincere or believable when he breaks down (as he comes to realize that he may lose his wife and perhaps he is the cause of her paralysis as much as Kristallnacht is).

The only person Sylvia can talk to, and can be helped by, is Dr. Harry Hyman, brilliantly played by Bates Redwine. This is Redwine’s first show in 20 years, but he seems incredibly comfortable on stage.

His Dr. Hymen adds depth unexpected of the role. Redwine is at times clinical and at times emotionally, but always delivers that of being caring as well as always in control of his own emotions. He makes the doctor the play’s most intriguing character and the cohesiveness that is needed.

Gabrielle Metz does a very fine job as Dr. Hymen’s wife Margaret. She comes across as very caring and passionate (sometimes where appropriate even infusing come levity), but also seamlessly transitions into believably combative when confronted with her assertion that her husband’s doctor-patient relationship with Sylvia may have overstepped some bounds.

Yes, Broken Glass is full of pleasant surprises and more layers than most would think. Three shows remain this Thursday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at the LJCC (879-0411 and, so drink it in.


*Marketing Director, Levite Jewish Community Center

Lots of Life

May 22-June 1 at the Levite Jewish Community Center

Reviewed May 24, 2008 by Cliff Keen

     “Lots of Life”, the title of the new original musical comedy written by David R. Garrett and Don Everett Garrett, with musical arrangements by Ron Dometrovich gives you just that, lots of life, laughs, music, and fun.

The show deals with five women who invite us into their lives through songs about divorce, life in the trailer park, and every other stereotype that goes along with “white trash” living. The theme of the show relates around these subjects and for the most part is very effective. I found several of the songs to be very well written and funny. It would have been nice to have the song titles listed in the program so audience members could remember them.

I found that with viewing this production that at first I couldn’t help but laughing at the obviously stereotypical costuming of women living in a trailer park. The costuming was done well for the production as it definitely made you aware of what these women were going to be like. Great job to Kim Dometrovich on that! The set design and set itself were wonderful. It actually was very realistic even down to the wonderful sign that lights up behind the trailer park. Great job to Shawn Reese! The women continue throughout the show singing about their lives, their jobs, their daddies, their husbands and ex-husbands, their drinking problems, and well you get the picture. I did find some of the songs to sound repetitious and I would have preferred a little more dialogue between the women as opposed to the many songs that were there. Some of the humor verged on crude, but we are dealing with “trailer trash” so I guess that was the effect the playwrights were going for.

As for the women in the show, they were phenomenal!  There is no other word. Julia Hixson as “Lanetta”, the “drunk one” was absolutely wonderful! Her comedic timing and singing stole every scene she was in. Her command of the stage is unmatched. Lisa Garrett as “Bebe”, the scorned one, was wonderfully cast and adds a nice calming factor to the stage. She has wonderful moments with “Lanetta” that will leave you in stitches. Holly Dikeman as “Doreen” is funny and tragic. As the “pregnant one” she is hoot and had one the best lines in the show for me when she replies back to “Donelle” in the second act, but I will save that for when you see the show. “Donelle” is played by Kim Dometrovich, the “stripper”, to trashy perfection. Her song that introduces her is wonderfully funny and crude. She brings a great energy to the stage. Rounding out the cast is Kim Hutchens as “Sylvia”, the other women. What a voice! Her duet with Lisa Garrett in the second act is one of the highlights of the show! She is not on stage a whole lot but when she is she adds beautifully to the wonderful cast of women.

There were some technical issues with the sound in the opening of the show and sometimes we were laughing some much we missed the lines on stage. But, overall the show was enjoyable and will be a nice treat for anyone wanting to go out on the town and have a good laugh. I commend Don and David Garrett for their story and their production. I think with some fine tuning they have another hit show on their hands.

Lots of Life

May 22-June 1 at the Levite Jewish Community Center

Reviewed May 22, 2008 by Leonard J. Jowers

     Oh my goodness, where do I begin. Lest I bore you, let me say that unless you are an elitist you should see this show. Now hear why.

Our Brothers Garrett have put together an excellent country musical. They may find improvements but this play is good enough for off-Broadway. It has good music (arrangements by Ron Dometrovich); it has a good plot; and although it is stereotypically a comedy, it has good social messages. However, it is adult humor so leave the kids at home. If you ever enjoyed The Devil’s Dream, you will like this near opera (over 15 songs!).

The five stage performers  (Lisa Garrett, Julia Hixon, Holly Dikeman, Kim Dometrovich, and Kim Hitchens) have wonderful voices and delivered the play well. If you know any of these actresses, you must come support them. Individually they were great and their harmonies were delightful. Lisa Garrett, as Bebe, recently  lost her husband to her best friend and next-trailer neighbor Sylvia (played by Kim Hutchens). Her friends Lanetta (alcoholic do-gooder played by Julia Hixson), Donelle (lap dancer played by Kim Dometrovich), and Doreen (nearly-always-pregnant newlywed played by Holly Dikeman) come to suspect that Bebe had done something wrong. Each tells her own story in song. Every single song was good. Each performer in her own way was superb. Kim Dometrovich was hot.

Here are names I gave to some of the numbers: (unfortunately the program did not list the scenes or numbers):  the title song  “Lots of Life”; Doreen’s “Poor White Trash”, “Another Bill to Pay”, “I Don’t Want to Cry Today”; Lanetta’s “When There’s Beer in the Frig”, “Butt Out Before I Put my Butt Out”, “A Perfect Crime Ain’t Perfect”;  Donelle’s “A Girl’s Gotta Do What I Girl’s Gotta Do”; and Bebe’s “There’s Lots of Things I Done”. Additionally there were great duets and group numbers. Recently I attended a Texas opry; every one of these numbers would have been a hit there.

Go see it. Technically it was on point. The set was appropriate. It’s guaranteed to make you tap your foot; you will leave saying, “That was a great show.” It is worth a longer run, and deserves bigger crowds.

My Favorite Year at Theatre LJCC

Reviewed on May 24th, 2006 by Ryan Story

I recently saw LJCC’s production of My Favorite Year.  I went into the show not knowing anything about it and came away still not understanding if there really was a plot.  I do not guess that really matters, though.  I mean what’s the plot of Grease?  Everyone still loves that show regardless of its lack for a good book writer.

In any event, I was not overly impressed with what I saw at LJCC.  This is the production company that has brought us Cabaret and Victor/Victoria, shows were above and beyond what one expects from community theatre.  My Favorite Year is exactly what I would expect from any garden variety community theatre or high school. 

The show revolves around Benjy Stone (Shawn Reese playing a character that sounds like the most southern person ever born and raised in Brooklyn).  Benjy works for a variety TV show in 1954 hosted by King Kaiser (Tracey Nicolson pulling off a well developed character part).  Alan Swann (Howard Green) is a well known movie star guest starring on Kaiser’s show one week and Benjy is sent to look after him.  This is where I get a little confused on the play’s title.  It really should have been called My Favorite Week since that is the time frame covered.  I guess that really doesn’t have the same ring to it, though.  Still, nothing much else happens in the show other then some child Alan fathered showing up and him making amends.  Along the way Benjy woos K.C. Downing (Kimberly Piazza) and we are introduced to his mother (Regina Harbour) and stepfather (Chuck Evens chewing scenery and making us laugh).

Overall I was disappointed with this production.  The directors’s direction was predictable and boring.  The characters would often line up downstage to talk or sing to the audience.  I could tell the more experienced actors were trying to make up motivation to be doing this poor directing choice.  Reese as Benjy had no chemistry or charisma to pull off this role.  Sure he sounds nice singing, but that alone isn’t going to make one an interesting actor onstage.  I never felt he breathed any life into this character. 

The show had a live 3 piece orchestra that constantly overpowered the actors despite the mics.

I was very disappointed with the set pieces as well.  A single flat was often used to represent a room change.  The curtains were drawn in to mask everything else.  I never understood why the curtain wasn’t just closed and the action taking place in front of it.  The audience could have understood where the action was taking place by the furniture.  The way it was presented it really read that the company only used what they had on hand instead of creatively using the space they were provided. 

However, all of this is not to say I had a completely bad experience.  I just expected more from LJCC.  I did really enjoy Regina Harbour as Benjy’s mom.  I felt Harbour ran circles around most of the cast.  I also thought Kimberly Piazza stole the show every time she sang.  I was told later this actress is only 14.  She certainly has a lot of stage presence for someone so young.  Kim Dometrovich and Jerry Handley also were bright spots in supporting roles. 

My Favorite Year was an adequate production for community theatre.  In future shows I will just remember not to hold LJCC to the high standards they set for themselves in the past.

My Favorite Year at Theatre LJCC

Reviewed on May 15th, 2006 by Frank Thompson

The small but energetic audience that came out for Sunday's performance of the musical My Favorite Year at Theatre LJCC enjoyed a well-performed, upbeat show. The leading roles were appropriately cast, and the ensemble provided a strong back-up for the principal performers. Director Hal MacIntosh has put together a very respectable production, enhanced by Barry Austin's lively choreography and Musical Director Cynthia Burke's tight and well-tuned orchestra/combo.

     The show is carried by the two leading men, Benjy Stone (Shawn Reese) and Alan Swann (Howard Green.) As a young up-and-comer in the early days of television, Benjy is assigned caretaker duties for the boozy, out-of-control womanizing former film star, Swann. Watching Benjy attempt to keep Swann away from booze and women before his appearance on "The King Kaiser Comedy Hour" provides much of the first act's plot. As Benjy, Reese brings a boyish charm to the role without ever resorting to being too "cutesy." While endearing, his Benjy is also clearly a capable, likeable young man. Reese's solo numbers are particularly outstanding, and his strong singing voice is well-suited to the role. In the role of Alan Swann, Howard Green once again proves himself to be one of Birmingham's premier actors. Every hiccup, stagger, and stumble evokes either laughter or sympathy, depending on the situation, and his ballad "If The World Were Like The Movies" brings a genuine tear to the eye.

     The women in My Favorite Year are also drawn from our city's best. Kimberly Piazza makes a gem of a role out of cynical-but-lovable K.C. Dowling, the object of Benjy's affections. Given Piazza's vocal talents, it would have been nice to have heard more singing from her, but she certainly shines in her two duet numbers. Also outstanding is Kim Dometrovich as Alice Miller, the "hard-bitten office dame" who provides many of the sarcastic one-liners. While playing a role that she is presumably too young and attractive for, Dometrovich still makes Alice believable. Matching her wisecrack for wisecrack is Tracey Nicholson as King Kaiser, who comes across as a hilarious mixture of Jimmy Durante and Jackie Gleason. Nicholson's performance will leave you in stitches.

     In the smaller roles, there are many jewels, including Regina Harbour as Benjy's hilariously overbearing mother, Chuck Evans as boxer-turned-chef "Rookie" Carroca (who also happens to be Benjy's stepfather) and Molly Saunders as a rather important young woman in Swann's life … and the list goes on...Hal MacIntosh does hysterical double-duty in a pair of supporting roles, Lisa Garrett is delightful as the wedding dress-obsessed Aunt Sadie, Lee Green is great fun as a disgruntled writer, and Jerry Handley brings a befuddled charm to producer Leo Silver.

     As for the technical side of the show, well, that's a little less-than-perfect. The set is minimal, but effective. The sound quality at the LJCC is quite honestly, awful. Microphones seemed to have a life of their own, the small orchestra frequently overpowered the singers, and the echo-chamber quality of the auditorium only made the sound problems worse. However, these drawbacks did not ruin the experience, and I would recommend My Favorite Year as a fun, upbeat show, well worth the price of admission.

The Shape of Things at The LJCC Theatre

Reviewed on July 29th, 2005 by Billy Ray Brewton

     Took a trip out to the LJCC this evening to see a wonderful little show entitled The Shape of Things, directed By Jeffrey Marrs.  I first saw this production a little over a year ago in Chattanooga, TN, and was not impressed with the piece at all -- it seemed like Neil LaBute's female version of The Company of Men and nothing more -- it lacked very little originality.

     However, the LJCC did quite an excellent job with the show, and really added some originality to the production that I had not seen before.

     R. Daniel Walker was quite good as Adam, and showed significant range having to change from such an introspective loner to a good-looking everyman.  Daniel Tracy and Charlotte Deason were highly entertaining and effective as the best friend and the best friend's fiancé, especially Tracy, even though his laugh became a little annoying at times.  The highlight of the show, however, was Amanda Maddox as Evelyn, the real star of the piece -- I cannot go much deeper than that or I will spoil the play for you.  Let's just say that she was the epitome of a LaBute antagonist -- strong, intelligent, and confident, with some serious emotional issues.  The set design was accurate, the direction was paced well-enough for most, and the final two scenes were just as they needed to be.  The only complaint I had was that during some of the scenes, you could hear the backstage crew shuffling around, trying to get things together for the next scene.  All in all, this was one of the better dramas I have seen in the Birmingham area in a while.  A very nice production.  All of you should head out to the LJCC and check it out.  At the very least, you will enjoy the post-scene soundtrack, which ranged from The Cure to Rufus Wainwright to Prince.

Eclectic, fitting, and highly entertaining.  Check it out.

Nunsense by Theatre LJCC
at the Levite Jewish Community Center
Reviewed November 9, 2003 by Grey Tilden

One of the greatest joys in theater is to watch a truly talented cast come together as a cohesive unit and present a play with such energy and enthusiasm that the audience can't help being swept away. Director David R. Garrett of Theatre LJCC's Nunsense has put together an outstanding cast to accomplish just that. The five women of Nunsense are terrific actors, great singers, and lively dancers that pump up some catchy, sometimes very difficult, musical numbers, and get the audience tapping its feet and laughing all the way through. Much like any good stand-up comedy show, Nunsense effectively convinces us from the outset that we are going to laugh hard, and the cast just lets the show move from one wild scene to the next as the audience progressively fulfills its own expectations

Comedy is more difficult to perform than drama. It's an old adage that actors pay lip service to until they find out just how true it is. Nunsense would flop if there was not a commitment not only from the cast, but from the entire production staff to help the audience suspend its disbelief and put itself at Mount Saint Helen's School in Hoboken, New Jersey.You buy your tickets from one of the convent sisters, and even the cast bios include information about the characters first. Brothers Michael and Maury from a nearby monastery along with Sister Mary "Amazing" Grace on bass guitar provide musical accompaniment, while the funny lighting foibles can be attributed to Sister Mary Myopia in the tech booth. Audience participation is a key part of the show (I walked away with a souvenir from the show for answering a question correctly about the history of the convent). Beyond providing an opportunity for some delightful improvised humor, these moments serve a larger purpose of further drawing us away from the idea of being at Birmingham's LJCC, and bringing us into Mt. Saint Helen’s school auditorium. This element is absolutely essential because it is the belief that the comedy being delivered is coming from nuns that takes the audience's response from a chuckle to outright laughter.

The deadpan humor of Sister Mary Regina (Kristin Staskowski) and Sister Mary Hubert (Julia Hixson), who are trying to stay composed under desperate circumstances, plays wonderfully against Sister Robert Anne (Tam DeBolt), Sister Amnesia (Kim Hutchens), and Sister Leo (Valerie Lemmons), who have more or less given in to the mass hysteria surrounding them. The action is constant and unrelenting. Even the one serious song, "Growing up Catholic", sung beautifully by Sister Robert Anne, is just a set-up for "We've got to Clean out the Freezer," which provided one of the many moments where I was shaking my head saying to myself, "they didn't just say that," while clutching onto my seat to make sure I wouldn't fall off because I was laughing so hard. The sketches in between songs like the spoof on a cooking show and the sisters' "Home movie," provide plenty of hilarious moments. The music, which required some vocal acrobatics along with some physically demanding choreography, was superbly delivered by a cast which understood the value of producing spirited sound and action while remaining in character. The resumes of these ladies read like the Who's Who of Birmingham theater, and with good reason. They aren't just there to show off their vocal and acting range, but they play nuns who are trying to show off theirs-- And that makes all the difference.

Cabaret at Theatre LJCC
Reviewed March 10, 2003 by Frank Thompson

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome...
     So sings the lascivious Master of Ceremonies at Berlin's Kit Kat Klub, the site of much of the action in Cabaret. The audience will, indeed, feel welcomed into the LJCC auditorium, which offers both traditional and table seating for this atmospheric visit to pre-WWII Germany. Director David R. Garrett has assembled a talented group of performers in a setting that is both simple and effective. Cabaret shows the gradual descent of Berlin's party-going society into the horrors of the Third Reich. In the center of everything is Sally Bowles, a pixieish nightclub chanteuse who starts an offbeat love affair with an American writer, Cliff Bradshaw. Their contemporaries include Nazi sympathizer,Ernst Ludwig, who starts the show by enlisting Cliff as an unwitting accomplice in his smuggling operations. 
     In a cast of very talented performers, Dwayne Johnson stands out as Ernst. Johnson made the interesting (and most effective) choice of creating an Ernst that was not only conniving, but most charming and likeable. This made his end-of-the-first-act apearance in a swastika armband even more effective. It also helped to convey the true horror of Naziism; that the followers of Hitler were often otherwise "nice" people, who were sucked in to the Nazi propaganda machine. A monstrous, goose-stepping Nazi would have been easily dismissed, while Johnson's nice-guy Ernst proved far more sinister and unsettling. 
     In a similar vein, Julia Hixon scored comparable goosebumps from the audience as Fraulein Schneider, a German widower who must choose betwen safety and her Jewish suitor, Herr Schultz (very well played by Tom Geislinger.) As the Reich comes to power, Schnieder sings the plaintive "What Would You Do?" as yet another illustration of the Nazi victim: one who follows through fear and a will to survive. 
     This is not to say, however, that Cabaret is without light-hearted scenes. Such numbers as "Two Ladies" and "Money" (both staged as numbers in the Kit Kat Klub) break the drama with lively (and naughty) song-and-dance. As the Emcee, Chuck Duck leers and hisses delightfully at the audience, both within and without the club. Duck's lithe physique and almost acrobatic dance numbers take Barry Austin's wonderful choreography to a new level. And what to say of the romantic leads...? As Cliff, Lonnie Parsons delivers a powerful and appropriately grounded performance as the sole "voice of reason" within the growing insanity. Well-known to Birmingham theatre-goers, Parsons is blessed with a magnificent voice, which he puts to good use in his songs, particularly the love ballad "Don't Go." Lani Meek matches him well as Sally Bowles, proving herself capable as a triple-threat singer, dancer, actress. Their scenes together are great fun to watch. 
     Now comes the part in my review where I usually list the drawbacks...but I really can't come up with any. Okay, a couple of lighting cues were messed up and one of the sailors dropped his what? Cabaret is a tight, well-rehearsed, sophisticated musical. If you can only see one show this weekend, this should be it! 3.5 stars!

Steele Magnolias at The Levite Jewish Community Center
Reviewed May 20, 2001 by Beeklie

       Steel Magnolias is a heart wrenching American Favorite that was popularized by film many years ago. Written by Robert Harling, Steel Magnolias is a brief glimpse of the life cycle.  Starting with the coming of age and entering into birth; the story line grasp the viewers emotions as life takes its course on a young lady whose body is not as strong as her will to live.  The story moves me to tears every time I am exposed to it.  This production of the play, however, has many kinks to work through despite the efforts of the actresses.  The cast of the LJCC production is good but something is lacking.  I must say that if you did not like the film you will not enjoy this rendition of it either.
      Most of the play takes place in a beauty parlor filled with six gossiping women.  Their conversations lead the audience to the understanding of the strong bond between these woman due to the small town they live in.  Truvy, the owner of the beauty parlor, is played by Laura Stansell Whitney.  Whitney plays Truvy as a hard working business woman with a heart of gold.  Her major purpose is to make the other lady's feel good about themselves even in the hardest of times.
      The star of the show, young Shelby, is played by Libby Prendergast.  Her strength through out the performance is ever apparent.  Her quips of dialog between her and her mother may take the women of the audience back in time.  She realistically presents her character to be genuine yet not a push over.  Her mother, M'Lynn, is not one to take no for an answer to quickly either.  They are so identical that their arguing often ends in understanding or acceptance.  Lydia Patrick is the mother of Shelby in this play.  Lydia pulls the tears out of your eyes in the final act as she tries to make some sense out of the tragedy she has begotten.
      Annelle is a comic relief and a piece of mind character in the production.  She drifts in and out of prayer throughout the performance causing the other women to roll their eyes and talk behind her back.  In the end Annelle gives M'Lynn and the audience a way to see the good side of the hurtful situation. Clairee is another one of the barbershop crew that loves Shelby.  She is also a very prestigious member of the community.  Pam Cooper acts the perfect match for this description.  Her walk and talk fit the high class image Harling strove to create through her character.
      My favorite part to the whole play is the character of Ouiser.  Suellen Wilkens becomes Ouiser for this production.  She stomps, she spits, and she yells.  She is the most straight forward character in the play.  Wilkens makes Ouiser not only feared by the timid Annelle but loved at the same time.  Ouiser's part in this play is virtuous.
      Though the play is funny it also packs a bunch of tears at the end.  This is a play about southern women and southern living so it may not be for everyone.  Breaks in line delivery make the viewer aware of her place in the audience.  It is hard to become a piece of the play.  Often line delivery is given at a stand still where a little movement across the stage would add some momentum.  I was moved at the end of the show but I feel this is not the best play running in the Birmingham area at this time.  The best attribute of this production is its cast and popular script.  I hope that the actresses are able to pull some forces together to make this weekends performances more successful.


Bye Bye Birdie at the Levite Jewish Community Center
Reviewed August 10, 2000 by Jamie Brooks-Hamilton

     In his introductory comments director Frank Thompson refers to Bye Bye Birdie as “mind candy”.  He notes that we are often inundated by art bent on delivering deep messages.  He states that he wants us to have a good time and a few smiles.  Certainly this is a noble and worthy aspiration. 
     LJCC’s production of this musical has a lot of goodhearted fun in it.  Every major role is played by performers with great voices and stage presence.  The dancing and choreography are superb. The orchestra is excellent but muddled by a less than adequate sound system.  The stage direction is well thought out and executed.
     Frank Thompson does some spectacular singing in the role of Albert Peterson.  Excellent vocal performances were also given by Lauren Kraselsky as Kim MacAfee and W. Scott Stewart  as Mr. MacAfee.
     The Steeldog dancers show exceptional talent and grace in their various showings throughout the show.  Younger dancers were very enjoyable and it will be a treat to watch them continue develop their skills in shows in the coming years.
     The only problem I really had with the production at all was the selection of the play.  The script is so under developed that it makes acting impossible.  Characters lack any depth or believable motivation.  What we are left with are the predictable hysterics and postured mannerisms that are standard fare for this genre of musical. 
     The talents of the cast would have better served with a musical variety revue minus the veiled attempt by the script to link songs together in a sensible amalgam.  What was needed here was some drama and intrigue to draw the audience in.  I have seen most of the actors present in other productions around town and am well aware of what great things they can offer given the opportunity. Unfortunately this play does not offer them that opportunity.
     Overall the play is a success.  I enjoyed the enthusiastic display of genuine talent, and yes,  I smiled several times.  It was a lighthearted good time and the audience had fun.  I believe, however, that an even more enjoyable time might have been had if the cast and audience been engaged by a more challenging vehicle. 

Birmingham News, August 12, 2000 by Pam Morse.


Lend Me A Tenor at the Levite Jewish Community Center
Reviewed Opening Night, May 4, 2000 by Paula R. Jowers

     "Benvenuto a Cleveland." The Cleveland Grand Opera Company is showcasing a world-famous tenor for a sold-out one-night performance of Otello at their 1934 gala season opener.  However, when the world famous tenor, Tito Merelli (Frank Thompson), aka El Stupendo, finally sweeps in too late to rehearse with the company, the mishaps begin. Because the "beautiful to look at" heroine, Maggie Saunders (Valerie Whitfield), is caught in Tito's closet, Tito's jealous and feisty wife, Maria (Susan Hayes), leaves him.  He is accidentally given a double dose of tranquilizers which mix with the booze he's consumed and he passes out ... so cold they believe him dead!  The opera company's mild-mannered factotum and Maggie's beau, Max (Jonathan Goldstein), is persuaded to stand-in for him. The fraud is driven by the stressed-out concert promoter, Henry Saunders (Tom Hall),  in his attempt to save his own butt from the concert goers.  The fun begins when our celebrity tenor wakes up and there are two  Otello's running around! Add to this, the sexy soprano Diana (Kim Zuccala) and her willingness to stop at nothing (yes nothing) to make "friends with" Tito; the meddling Chairman of the Opera Guild, Julia Leverett (Judith Randolph); and the ostensibly gay bellhop, Frank (Leonard Jowers), and his willingness to stop at nothing to "make friends" with Tito.  Oh yes, Maggie wants to have a fling with Tito too! This door slamming, mistaken-identity farce will leave you laughing. The timing is excellent. The ramifications of all involved, result in one of the funniest comedies.  It's a little naughty, but all in fun. It is a show that is not to be missed.  You'll want to meet the cast after the show; its a Theatre LJCC tradition that the actors in costume (by Judy Holland) come out to mingle with the audience after performances. The lighting and sound (by David Jones) was appropriate and uneventful.  Tickets are reasonable ($12), and the show is worth the money. Worth the price of admission by itself is the finale, in which the cast re-enacts the entire play, without dialogue, in 85 seconds. Director Brent Jones should be proud, Grade: A.

  Birmingham Weekly, May 11-18, 2000 by Martha Haarbauer.

Birmingham News, May 12, 2000 by Pam Morse.


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