Review: ‘The Light in the Piazza’ at Freefall so good you should see it twice

matthewJune 22nd, 2016UncategorizedNo Comments

ST. PETERSBURG — Even in an age when some say the theater is dying, musicals march on. They are the Clydesdales of Broadway, putting a large majority of customers in the seats.

But even the most successful musicals can fall short. They cater to brief attention spans and sacrifice depth and originality for gimmicks and star power. While theaters are right to wrestle with such difficult choices, it is also true that shows often err on the side of breezy and predictable.

Freefall Theatre’s The Light in the Piazza is a shining example of another kind. From start to finish and on every level, this show flows in ways that just aren’t seen very often, and the result is thrilling.

Based on a book by Craig Lucas, with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, the story centers on a mother and daughter vacationing in Florence in the early 1950s. It is based on a novella by Elizabeth Spencer. A 1962 movie starred Yvette Mimieux as Clara, the daughter, and Olivia de Havilland. It’s a romance that also raises arresting questions about culture and family, and how personality and values can shape and cement love, or undermine it. It’s lean and concise, bolstered by an unusual operatic score that does honor to the complexities contained in the characters.

The trip abroad puts both mother and daughter in the crosshairs of change. Margaret, the mother, played brilliantly by Melissa Minyard, is the reluctant change agent. The wealthy Southern wife of a cigarette executive, she is torn between an urge to control and an instinct that tells her to let go of control. At stake is Clara, a role inhabited fully and with childlike innocence by Kelly Pekar. That innocence comes by way of a brutal injury sustained as a child, one not visible to the eye.

Plans go awry with the chance meeting of a charming stranger. I think I’ll leave the plot description off there.

Nick Lerew plays Fabrizio, who is drawn to Clara. Lerew and Pekar are nearing the end of a season as artistic associates at Freefall. Both will return to New York after Freefall’s season closes. This production showcases the young actors at their best. The score brings out promising dimensions in Lerew’s singing. Pekar nails all of the emotional gymnastics required of Clara, and sticks the landing.

As for the rest of the cast and production — where to start? Director Eric Davis, who is also the artistic director at Freefall, has again left his indelible touch on the design, the look that surrounds the scenes. That ambiance somehow weaves together Italian marble, a suggestion of stone columns and movable set pieces into an art museum, a men’s clothing store, a brief sightseeing excursion to Rome and a hotel room. A cast of nine handles the roles of Fabrizio’s family (including some jaw-dropping vocals by Jennifer Byrne as Franca Naccarelli, Fabrizio’s sister), and, in one especially arresting scene, as strangers on the street who frighten Clara.

The performer who most deserves a beer after the show might not drink it, since he watches his calories. Joshua Romero, a fine dancer, plays a statue. A series of statues, actually. And he changes most of the sets himself. Romero’s work makes for one more capstone on a memorable musical.

Speaking of music, Michael Raabe’s five-piece orchestra ushers in the difficult and counterintuitive harmonies that constitute the bone marrow of this show.

I have seen dozens of well produced plays and musicals and operas since I started as the Times’ performing arts critic. During that time, I have never been tempted to see a show twice.

I have already ordered my tickets to another performance of The Light in the Piazza.

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THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA opens to SOLD OUT houses this weekend!

matthewJune 17th, 2016UncategorizedNo Comments

We are completely SOLD OUT for this weekend’s performances of THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA!

freeFall’s upcoming production of THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA opens June 18 and runs through July 17. This lush, deeply romantic musical follows Margaret and her daughter Clara on their visit to Florence in the summer of 1953. When Clara falls in love with a young Italian man, Margaret is forced to not only consider Clara’s future, but her own deep-seated hopes and regrets as well. As Margaret attempts to shield her daughter from the outside world we become aware that all is not as it seems, and we are left to ponder the nature of love, desire, regret, and ultimately the beauty of life.

THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and received 6 including Best Original Score, Best Orchestration and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. The score is by Adam Guettel with a book by Craig Lucas (PRELUDE TO A KISS, LONGTIME COMPANION). The musical is based on Elizabeth Spencer’s novella of the same name.

Melissa Minyard (Broadway’s LES MISERABLES, Carbonell Award Winner) stars as Margaret. FreeFall resident company members Nick Lerew and Kelly Pekar, as Fabrizio and Clara, will join Minyard. The cast also features Jennifer Byrne (EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL), Stephan James Jones, Robert Teasdale, Elizabeth Sackett, Joshua Romero and Rand Smith.

The production team includes Michael Raabe (Musical Director) and LeAnn Alduenda (Choreographer). Charles Murdock Lucas designs the sets (freeFall’s PETER AND THE STARCATCHER), Costumes will be designed by David Covach (TTB Award winner for Best Costume Design for freeFall’s MAME) and lighting will be designed by Ryan Finzelber.

Tickets can be obtained by contacting the freeFall box office. There are discounts for seniors, teachers, students and members of the military. Rush tickets available for students and members of Actor’s Equity Association (id required). Group rates and information can be obtained by contacting Matthew at 727-498-5205 X 7.

For more information and tickets visit www.freefalltheatre.com or call (727) 498-5205

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Traveling with Nick Lerew: An actor’s look at THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA

matthewJune 2nd, 2016UncategorizedNo Comments
“The Light in the Piazza” is a story of love and travel. A mother/daughter pair of North Carolinians, full of wanderlust, cross an ocean in search of Italian romance and excitement. They pack up their Baedeker travel guides and their hope of discovering the beauty and history of Italy, leaving behind their American lifestyle and culture. That same desire for a transformative European adventure found me departing from my hometown airport of Raleigh-Durham International, the summer after my college graduation, bound for Paris’ Charles De Gaulle. Like the women of “Piazza,” I too was craving the liberating and terrifying feeling of lifting off in one country, and landing in a place I’d never been before. And much like the ingenue of our story, Clara, I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into when the wheels lifted off of the tarmac.

What I did get myself into was a week of incredible sightseeing, more baguettes than any one human should eat, and very little speaking. One terrible broken French conversation at a café shattered my confidence in my bi-lingual aspirations. I experienced the crushing loneliness of traveling on my own and the exhilaration of being free to roam the city however I wished. When we are confronted with such a strange combination of comfort and discomfort we are forced to adapt, and through this adaptation we make decisions about who we are and who we want to be during our travels. When traveling we not only get to pack the necessary items we need to survive the journey, but also which parts of our identity we wish to bring along. I decided to leave the most fearful parts of my personality at home and explored Paris with a sense of wonder that I didn’t even know I was capable of.

I fell in love during my time in Paris. Not with a beautiful Parisian women or even the city of light itself. I fell in love with traveling. I entered what I intend to be a life-long relationship with the profound, perspective-bestowing experience that is travel. In his book titled “The Art of Travel” philosopher Alain de Botton says, “Journeys are the midwives of thought. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is before our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, and new thoughts, new places.” Through travel we are exposed to places and ways of living both unlike and like our own, and in doing so, we more deeply understand what it is to be human, and what it is to be a part of something far larger than ourselves.

When traveling you always have the opportunity to fall in love. In Firenze, Clara finds love for a young Florentine named Fabrizio, and in Paris I found love for travel and the inspiration that exploring our world provides. Whether or not we discover something on a journey abroad depends entirely on our willingness to open our hearts to the new environment and the people who live there. “The Light in the Piazza” is a story that invites us to explore the beautiful world around us and the beautiful world within us. It is much less important where we travel to, than the frame of mind in which we travel. If you pack your bags full of wonder and a desire to see the beauty in everything, your journey to Italy in “The Light in the Piazza” will surely invite you to fall in love.

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CASTING ANNOUNCED for freeFall’s THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA!

matthewMay 18th, 2016UncategorizedNo Comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, FL. (May 18, 2016) – – freeFall’s upcoming production of THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA opens June 18 and runs through July 17. This lush, deeply romantic contemporary musical follows Margaret and her daughter Clara on their visit to Florence in the summer of 1953. A chance meeting between Clara and a handsome young Florentine sets both of their hearts ablaze. As Margaret attempts to shield their daughter from the outside world we become aware that all is not as it seems, and we are left to ponder the nature of love, desire, regret, and ultimately the beauty of life. Artistic Director Eric Davis brings this beautiful and touching story to the freeFall stage.

Melissa Minyard (Broadway’s LES MISERABLES, Carbonell Award Winner) stars as Margaret. FreeFall resident company members Nick Lerew and Kelly Pekar, as Fabrizio and Clara, will join Minyard. The cast also features Jennifer Byrne (EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL), Stephan James Jones, Robert Teasdale, Elizabeth Sackett and Joshua Romero.

The production team includes Michael Raabe (Musical Director) and LeAnn Alduenda (Choreographer). Charles Murdock Lucas designs the sets (freeFall’s PETER AND THE STARCATCHER), Costumes will be designed by David Covach (TTB Award winner for Best Costume Design for freeFall’s MAME) and lighting will be designed by Ryan Finzelber.

Tickets can be obtained by contacting the freeFall box office.  There are discounts for seniors, teachers, students and members of the military. Rush tickets available for students and members of Actor’s Equity Association (id required). Group rates and information can be obtained by contacting Matthew at 727-498-5205 X 7.

For more information and tickets visit www.freefalltheatre.com or call (727) 498-5205.

 

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Leib loved it! 4 stars for Mr. Burns from Creative Loafing!!

matthewMay 11th, 2016UncategorizedNo Comments

The most disturbing drama I’ve seen in years — no, one of the most disturbing dramas I’ve ever seen — is Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, currently showing in a thrillingly first-rate production at freeFall Theatre. This shocker with music (by Michael Friedman) dares to suggest that, after an apocalypse, all that Americans will have to fall back upon for intellectual, spiritual and moral guidance are half-remembered, grotesquely exaggerated episodes of TV’s The Simpsons.

If this sounds wonderfully funny, think again: In Washburn’s vision, surviving humans start innocently enough remembering favorite lines of Simpsons dialogue, but finish decades later by turning the animated series into a violent religious rite suffused with brutality and ugliness unsoftened by anything vaguely redolent of love or compassion. Forget The Bible, Shakespeare, Beethoven’s “Ninth”: Washburn’s Yanks have spent so much time in front of the television, no hopeful icon or anthem has ever touched them. What has reached them — what binds them together — is the saga of Homer and Marge, Bart and Lisa, along with some mindless commercials and a few Top 40 songs. And with no well of goodness from which to draw sustenance, these personages turn Matt Groening’s comic characters into dreadful figures in a savage, gruesome melodrama, with tenderness and kindness as scarce as working light bulbs.

The play starts with a group of survivors from some terrible cataclysm reminding each other of favorite Simpsons moments as they keep a lookout for vandals. The entire American electrical grid has collapsed, leading to a series of disasters at nuclear plants around the country. Doing their best to maintain peace and solidarity, Matt (Nick Lerew), Maria (Kelly Pekar), Jenny (Susan Haldeman), Sam (Christopher Rutherford) and Colleen (Hannah Benitez) keep guns at the ready even as they entertain each other with memories from The Simpsons. When a stranger (T. Robert Pigott) appears, they search him for weapons before accepting him into the group, reeling off lists of loved ones they hope he’s encountered. The somber atmosphere  has a humanity easily recognized.

In Act Two, this humanity is under siege. Now the aforementioned characters, joined by Quincy (Kaylin Seckel), are part of a traveling theater troupe ­— with no electricity, live theater’s the only game in town — directed by Colleen (Hannah Benitez) and specializing in Simpsons episodes and favorite commercials. There’s something manic about these performances, something unhealthy and shrill, but at least the troupe has a way of surviving. After another 75 years pass, what started as entertainment has become ritual, vicious, gruesome and nihilistic. I can’t emphasize enough the horror of Act Three’s ceremonies, based on the Simpsons episode “Cape Feare” (itself based on two movies by similar names) but looking more like a nightmare dominated by a depraved Mr. Burns. All reminders of the faces behind the masks have disappeared; theater has become reality and everything smells of death. Is Washburn giving us her vision of the bitter truth behind the American façade?

“Think of Homer and Bart as imagined by H. P. Lovecraft.”

Washburn leaves us to decipher her intentions, and that’s one more courageous move out of a hundred that makes this intrepid play work. Eric Davis manages the realism of Act One as capably as he gives us the extremes of Acts Two and Three. Michael Raabe’s musical direction is superb, as are Ryan Finzelber’s lighting (bravely muted throughout Act One) and Erica Goldman’s props. Steven K. Mitchell designed the set, including the weird houseboat in Act Three, and director Davis also created the clothes, both for TV characters and civilians. I’m haunted by the masks worn in Act Three: think of Homer and Bart as imagined by H. P. Lovecraft. If this is how Washburn sees America, I have to wonder at what meds still allow her to write.

 

This play affected me more than most others. I left the theater disoriented and worried: for me, for Washburn, for this country. It’s not often that a drama leaves me so moved. Consider that a recommendation.

 

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MR. BURNS Preview! Walt Belcher for Tampa Tribune

matthewApril 28th, 2016UncategorizedNo Comments

An episode of “The Simpsons” achieves mythical status and eventually becomes high art in a musical comedy opening Saturday at the freeFall theatre in St. Petersburg.

“Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” by Anne Washburn, raises questions about what elements of our culture might survive in a future world where civilization and technology have crumbled.

The play’s title refers to a familiar “Simpsons” character, Mr. Burns, the aged, miserly owner of a nuclear power plant (ironic in a future without power). At the outset of the play, a handful of survivors of an apocalyptic event struggle to cope without electricity and a structured society. They gather around a campfire and find common ground in trying to recall a specific episode of the longest-running TV comedy in the history of television.

The episode that has stuck in their minds is “Cape Feare,” from season five of “The Simpsons.”

In this animated farce, Bart Simpson is stalked by the recurring character Sideshow Bob, who has been released from Springfield State Prison and wants revenge for Bart’s testimony that put him in prison. The episode parodies “Cape Fear,” a 1991 Martin Scorsese thriller with Robert DeNiro and Nick Nolte that was a remake of a 1962 thriller starring Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck that, in turn, was based on a John D. MacDonald novel, “The Executioners.”

And, as with every “Simpsons” episode, this one has dozens of pop culture references, from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore” and “The Mikado” to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”

Just as the original inspiration, “Cape Fear,” had morphed from a thriller to a satire, the apocalyptic version continues to morph. “This play is about storytelling and what happens when people have to come up with ways to entertain themselves,” says actor Susan Haldeman, who along with T. Robert Pigott headlines a cast featuring Nick Lerew, Kelly Pekar, Christopher Rutherford, Hannah Benitez and Kaylin Seckel.

Haldeman, who plays survivor Jenny (and Marge Simpson), says “The Simpsons” story evolves much the way our fairy tales and legends have evolved. “By the second act, these people have formed a traveling theater troupe to tell this story, and they are even making their own live commercials,” she says. There’s also a medley of pop songs based on the group’s selective memory.

Act three jumps 75 years into the future. By this time, the reimagined “Cape Feare” has become an iconic inspirational story. It is presented as an opera performed by masked characters, like the ancient Greek chorus, singing rhymed couplets that end in a glimpse of heaven.

Haldeman, an actor with 20 years of stage experience, also serves as company manager at freeFall. She says it is not necessary to have seen the “Cape Feare” episode of “The Simpsons” but it makes the play more fun if you have. Episodes of “The Simpsons” are available to stream online.

This freeFall production is directed by freeFall’s artistic director, Eric Davis, with musical direction by Michael Raabe and set designs by Steven K. Mitchell . “This is one play that you should go see anywhere you can because you will never see two versions that are alike,” Haldeman says. “There is so much room for interpretation.”

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freeFall’s Susan Haldeman talks MR. BURNS at freeFall!!

matthewApril 19th, 2016UncategorizedNo Comments

I first encountered Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, by Anne Washburn, because I had been asked to audition for it at another theatre.  After my first reading, I immediately picked it back up and started over from the beginning.  Then, after my second reading, I was immediately compelled to look up The Simpsons episode that is referenced in the show again and again.  I found that I could not stop thinking about the play weeks, even months, after reading it.  Having worked as a theatre professional in playhouses across the country, I knew there was one theatre and one director that was as unique as this piece.  freeFall Theatre needed to produce it with Eric Davis at the helm. It contained all of the elements that we all love about freeFall Theatre Company.  I couldn’t help but wonder what this piece might become in the hands of Eric Davis.  Later that same year, I unexpectedly became a member of the freeFall staff. Eric just so happened to be choosing the pieces for freeFall’s 2015/16 season for which the theme was “As I Remember It”, and I sent him the script to Mr. Burns.  Much to my surprise, he chose it!

The show is all about memories.  What happens when they are all we have to rely on?  When story telling can’t occur through some sort of electronic device, what happens?  We are forced to disconnect from our gadgets and re-connect with one another.  This group of people you meet in Mr. Burns does it in a really interesting way.  Through The Simpsons.  Who hasn’t seen at least one Simpsons episode (even if it WAS by mistake)?  I fell for The Simpsons in college, much as many people my age did, because it wasn’t just a cartoon.  It was an incredibly irreverent cartoon.  In my opinion, it was the first successful cartoon that was geared more towards adults than children.  It made it OK to, as an adult, enjoy the mindless entertainment of cartoons again.  It was a show that, in its prime, was watched by everyone.  So, it makes sense that it would end up being a common thread for a group of people who very likely might not have a lot in common other than shear survival.

I was struck by the importance of story telling in this piece, which is the very basis for all theatre.  It becomes so important to this group of people.  It is the one thing that they are holding onto in a world that has been turned upside down.  While civilization is starting over from scratch, the stories these characters have to pass down are based on their favorite television program, The Simpsons.  I hope that if the apocalypse comes, and I make it, I’m able to make my way in the world as these characters do.  By continuing to tell stories to all of you.

 

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CASTING ANNOUNCED!! T. Robert Pigott, Susan Haldeman headline freeFall’s MR. BURNS!!

matthewApril 12th, 2016UncategorizedNo Comments

Casting has been announced for freeFall’s upcoming production of MR. BURNS: A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY opening April 30 and running through May 22.

Susan Haldeman and T. Robert Pigott headline a cast featuring Nick Lerew, Kelly Pekar, Christopher Rutherford, Hannah Benitez and Kaylin Seckel.

Civilization has come to an end. The grid has failed and a few survivors are left to rebuild. We find them shortly after the cataclysm attempting to remember the details of an episode of The Simpsons. From this unlikely jumping-off point, we watch the transformation of iconic pop culture into mythology as we spring forward seven years and then seventy-five.

This evocative, funny and genre-bending play asks important questions about the value of live theatre and the nature of culture and myth in society. freeFall’s production will be directed by Eric Davis, musically directed by Michael Raabe with set designs by Steven K. Mitchell (freeFall’s ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST).

Tickets can be obtained by contacting the freeFall box office.  There are discounts for seniors, teachers, students and members of the military. Rush tickets available for students and members of Actor’s Equity Association (id required). Group rates and information can be obtained by contacting Matthew at 727-498-5205 X 7.

For more information and tickets visit www.freefalltheatre.com or call (727) 498-5205.

 

 

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Sondheim closes this week!!

matthewApril 6th, 2016UncategorizedNo Comments
SOSPromo

To paraphrase Woody Allen, what can you say about Stephen Sondheim that he hasn’t already said much better about himself?

Allen was talking about bombastic sportscaster Howard Cosell. The dilemma, though, is a familiar one to anybody trying to explain someone else’s hugeness. Director James Lapine answered that challenge concerning Sondheim with a Broadway revue,Sondheim on Sondheim, and it’s a pretty successful way of doing it.

Now Freefall Theatre has taken up the challenge of doing justice to one of the most astounding popular composers of all time. InSondheim on Sondheim, performers sing selections from 18 musicals, hopping across boxes decorated with scribbled notes and lyrics. Between songs, the composer chats at length on video about his rocky childhood, career choices, relationships and writing rituals. This dimension, plus tons of added clips from Sondheim’s public life, gives the show more depth than two previously staged anthologies, Side by Side by Sondheim (1976) and Putting it Together (1999).

This is a delightful show. It combines some stellar singing with top-tier acting in the likes of Ann Morrison, whose Broadway debut in Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along won her a Theatre World Award. There is a range of repertoire but it all works.

The best part is what we learn about Sondheim. Reclining on the sofa — just as he writes, with Blackwing pencils and a shot glass nearby — the composer narrates his parents’ divorce when he was 10 years old; his subsequent emotional bond with a friend’s father, lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein, who taught him how to write a song; and a bit of his inner life and the wounds he still carries. Sondheim also gives the inside story on some significant business decisions, such as deciding to take Hammerstein’s advice and write the lyrics for West Side Story.

Director Chris Crawford has cast eight singers so as to bring out the best. Highlights include Larry Alexander and Floral City native Kissy Simmons (who played Nala on Broadway in The Lion King) in Loving You (from Passion); Simmons in Ah, but Underneath(Follies); Freefall artistic director Eric Davis singing Epiphany(Sweeney Todd); Nick Lerew in Franklin Shepard, Inc. (Merrily We Roll Along); and Morrison in Send in the Clowns (A Little Night Music).

And really, that’s just scratching the surface.

Some players take on multiple roles. Davis designed the set. Resident company member Kelly Pekar acquitted herself well as a cast member and designed costumes. Michael Raabe directs the orchestra and plays keyboards. All of those elements combined for a most enjoyable evening, one that gives a glimpse into the mind of a creative genius, throwing in some laughs along the way.

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

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freeFall announces 2016/2017 Season!!

matthewMarch 31st, 2016UncategorizedNo Comments

From the first black actor to play Othello on the London stage to an icon of fantasy inspired by a family friend of the author who wouldn’t grow up, our 2016/2017 season is peopled by history makers. Some you already know, some you think you know, and a few you’ve probably never met. A few happened upon notoriety by chance, others fought unbelievable odds to leave their mark on the world, and some committed unspeakable acts to be remembered. Take a seat, and experience everything on offer at Tampa Bay’s most award-winning professional theatre.

ASSASSINS

October 8 – November 6, 2016

Music and Lyrics Stephen Sondheim

Book by John Weidman

Based on an idea by Charles Gilbert, Jr.

Perhaps the most controversial piece of musical theatre ever written, Assassins is a fantasia on the darker recesses of “The American Dream.” In moments both true and imagined, this riveting musical looks at the four successful and five would-be assassins of Presidents Of The United States. Together, John Weidman and Stephen Sondheim have crafted and evening of provocative, intelligent, and surprising theatre that turns on a dime between shocking pathos and biting humor. This groundbreaking work sheds a blinding light on exactly the lengths to which some are willing to go in pursuit of their slice of happiness.

December 10, 2016 – January 29, 2017

In what can only be described as an epic theatrical event, freeFall’s record-breaking production of Peter and The Starcatcher returns, playing in rep with J.M. Barrie‘s classic original, Peter Pan. See them in either order during their extended engagement, or on Saturdays see both plays – one at 2pm the other at 8pm.

PETER AND THE STARCATCHER

By Rick Elice

Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Music by Wayne Barker

After a sold-out run during the 2015 holiday season this audience favorite returns. A secret society must protect the powerful Starstuff lest it fall into the hands of the evil king Zarboff. When two identical trunks are switched, the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of Molly, an apprentice Starcatcher. Filled with magic and mayhem, this origin story of Peter Pan comes to life through old-fashioned stagecraft and the imagination of the child in us all.

PETER PAN

By J.M. Barrie

The classic that spawned countless adaptations and derivative works comes to our stage in a production that will enchant anyone who has ever dreamt of taking flight and never growing up. When a mysterious boy appears at the nursery window of the Darling household, Wendy and her brothers are swept away to a magical land…but treachery awaits in the person of the infamous Captain Hook and his band of devilishly hilarious pirates.

RED VELVET

February 25 – March 26, 2017

By Lolita Chakrabarti

Among the pantheon of legendary Victorian actors, you may have heard of Irving, Kean, or Tree, but chances are you’ve never heard of Ira Aldridge, the American actor of African descent who became the first black actor to play the title role in Othello on the London stage. Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 1833. Edmund Kean, the greatest actor of his generation has collapsed onstage whilst playing Othello. A young black American actor has been asked to take over the role. But as the public riot in the streets over the abolition of slavery, how will the cast, critics and audience react to the revolution taking place in the theatre? This award-winning new play, which premiered at London’s Tricycle Theatrein 2012, is an important work, which paints a vivid picture of an early chapter in the ongoing struggle to bring diversity to the stage.

END OF THE RAINBOW

By Peter Quilter

April 29 – May 28, 2017

A play with music about the final years in the life of Judy Garland, End of the Rainbow triumphed in London’s West End in 2010/2011 and on Broadway in 2012. It’s Christmas 1968, and Judy Garland is booked for six weeks of “comeback concerts” at London’s Talk Of The Town. The failed marriages, the suicide attempts, and the addictions are all behind her. At forty-six and with new flame Mickey Deens at her side, she seems determined to carry it off and recapture her magic. But stormy skies are on the horizon as old patterns resurface, and the drama backstage chip away at the onstage brilliance of one of the greatest singers of all time. Shifting back and forth between moments of onstage triumph and backstage tribulation, this speculation on a pivotal chapter in the life of a legend is at once wildly entertaining, irreverently funny, and deeply moving.

MARIE ANTOINETTE

By David Adjmi

July 15 – August 13, 2017

The pulsating contemporary look at one of history’s most enigmatic pariahs puts Marie Antoinette under the microscope of our own society’s obsession with celebrity. While Marie distracts herself with fanciful and decadent diversions in Versailles, the “have-nots” grow increasingly intolerant of the excesses of the “haves.” David Adjmi‘s driving script lets loose a barrage of energy, wit, pageantry and humor as the players are catapulted toward the title character’s inevitable end. Perhaps we too raise our celebrities to great heights in order to watch them fall.

For more information and to purchase subscriptions visit www.freefalltheatre.com or call (727) 498-5205.

 

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