Jewish Community Center Reviews Archive
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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
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 www.bhamjcc.org), 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
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
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
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
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
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
Eclectic, fitting, and highly entertaining. Check it out.
Nunsense by Theatre LJCC
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
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 (
Cabaret at Theatre LJCC
Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome...
Steele Magnolias at The Levite Jewish Community Center
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.
Bye Bye Birdie at the Levite Jewish Community Center
In his introductory comments
Lend Me A Tenor at the Levite Jewish Community Center
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
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