"PBTS's 'The Wiz' As Good As Broadways"
Review by Ms. Victoria Thomas Poller
No, it’s not in Kansas, nor is it in NYC; but this rendition of “The Wiz” is in good-ole Jacksonville, Florida at the Players By The Sea. It has been over 44 years since this writer had the opportunity to catch an Amtrak from Philly to NYC, in order to see the original production of “The Wiz”; featuring Stephanie Mills, Mabel King & Phylicia Rashad. Today the privilege comes once again through the dynamic stage performance from PBTS. If you’ve seen this representation before, you will not be disappointed, and if you’ve never had the experience, you will be thoroughly entertained.
There is an abundance of talented actors/actresses who grace the stage for this show. Most are still in school (having to do homework, chores and get some sleep); some work every day (taking care of themselves and family members); yet they sing, remember lines and dance impeccably. Even though there are no large movable props, the actors’ makeup, the background and other visuals (trees, poppy fields, monkeys etc.). This writer had a smile on her face for the entire evening.
Please allow me to give a shout-out to a few of the phenomenal cast members of “The Wiz”. Samantha Nelson (Dorothy) can sing, gyrate down the road, and act with the best of any older actor. This young lady is a mere freshman at a local high school. Samantha also speaks volumes with her beautiful expressive eyes. Sherrod Brown (The Wiz) is a very animated on stage with all of his lines. J’Quan Jarrell (Scarecrow), Juquan Vickers (Tinman), and Tyvin Mcswain (Lion) fill some gigantic shoes in portraying their characters - well done gentlemen! Zoe Bell (Addaperle) kept a smile on my face. You’ve got to read the program and not just judge a book by it’s cover, especially with Michael Clifton whose makeup is perfectly done for his character and accolades for his wonderful singing.
There are 6 background Wiz singers (Jade Higgs, Chantel Hatton, Kanesha Frederick, James Webb, & John White) who compliment the actors on stage. Their harmony is phenomenal! The music for the entire show is provided by a young talented ten-piece band (Carson Smisek, Adrienne Bell, Ihlanm Martinez, Marissa Alvarez, Alexander Hernandez, Luis Ocasio LaChelle Bruno, Meghan Ramsey, Mackenzie Jackson & Gena Fitzpatrick).
Special shout-out to DeWitt Cooper and assistant choreographer Arielle Bryant in creating the wonderful footwork for the main cast, ensemble and the children. The amount of sweat that some of the dance number produced will probably accounts for some weight loss over the weeks of this presentation.
This whole production is the dreamchild of director Jereme Raickett who is an integral member of Players By The Sea. You may have seen his work over the years from Boleros Dance Studio and also the Alhambra Theatre & Dining. Don’t forget to take a look at the artwork of Erin Kendrick in the PBTS lobby and get your tickets for “The Wiz” before they run completely out.
FABULOUS OPENING SHOW!
"ROCKY HORROR" FANS WILL LOVE "THE TOXIC AVENGER" AT PLAYERS BY THE SEA
Reviewed by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom in EU Jacksonville
Jacksonville Beach’s Players by the Sea opened the cult classic “The Toxic Avenger” on October 25, 2019, which runs through November 10, 2019. The theatre is located at 106 6th Street North in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. For reservations call 904-249-0289 or visit playersbythesea.org.
This classic has its beginnings in a non-musical film released in 1984. Three sequels followed; none were hits. However, the story found a receptive audience as a musical, which made it to New York in 2009, and received the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best New Off-Broadway Musical. The work was crafted by Joe DiPietro (lyrics) and David Bryan (music). The artists, who collaborated on “Memphis” (four Tonys), are well-known to theatre-goers. DiPietro has written a number of musicals, which include the popular “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” while Bryan is famous as Bon Jovi’s keyboard player.
“The Toxic Avenger” is a timely rock musical that will knock your socks off. Players by the Sea’s production was expertly directed by Daniel Dungan who also designed the lighting and what must have been a challenging two-story set. His name may be familiar to you, as he is also the light designer for the Alhambra Theatre.
The play opens with “Who Will Save New Jersey?” and has the entire energetic cast (of five) singing and dancing. You will know that you are in for a fantastic evening with outstanding vocals as you learn that Tromaville, their hometown, has become a dumping ground for toxic waste, and they are powerless to change things (sound familiar)?
The first character we get to know is the nerdish Melvin, portrayed by Cole Marshall, who is employed by the city as an engineer. Notably, he has limited social skills and he is passionate about the environment and has a plan (sort of) to stop the pollution.
Melvin’s love interest is Sarah, a city librarian, who is beautiful, blind, and very independent. She has a unique technique for shelving a returned book: she uses touch to find a vacant spot and fills it with the book. She is portrayed by Alexandra Blackwell, who has a marvelous voice and stage presence, in her Players’ debut. She is a Florida State University graduate, and is the new Marketing & Communications Manager of Players by the Sea. You can expect to see more of her work in future musicals.
Ilana Gould portrays two characters: The hard-nosed sometimes in-your-face Mayor of Tromaville, and Ma Ferd, Melvin’s country-fried mother. Ms. Gould was the award-winning poished lead in Theatre Jacksonville’s “Hairspray;” she auditioned afterword for the part in a Broadway production.
The program lists Clayton Ridley as Black Dude and Chris Berry as White Dude. These are demanding roles: both portray multiple characters which include men, women, thugs, policemen and more. Both have twelve costume changes, and have clearly mastered the split-second timing required for farce.
Ridley, who teaches musical education and performance at KIPP VOICE Elementary School has been in a number of local musicals. Berry, who is relatively new to the local theatre scene, appeared as Eddie in “Wild Party” at Players, and Monty in “Violet” at ABET.
The show revolves around Melvin’s transformation to superhero Toxie after being tossed into a vat of toxic waste by two bad guys and emerging with green disfigured skin and a dislocated left eye. While he looks like a damaged Shrek, he continues his pursuit of those responsible for the contamination and the corruption that made it possible and his courtship of Sarah. Marshall has a strong voice and handles this role well; his transformation from a somewhat timid civil servant to a righteously raging reformer is believable. (Well, almost believable; we need to remind ourselves from time to time that the story IS fiction).
Rather than go into the plot, we will note that it does include violence and some song titles. They include “Hot Toxic Love,“ “The Legend of the Toxic Avenger,” “Evil is Hot,” “All Men Are Freaks” “Bitch/…” and “A Brand New Day in New Jersey.” ADVISORY: Leave the kids at home.
Thomas Toomy was the prosthetics designer. Lisa Fleming created the many costumes, and was also backstage to help with the quick changes. Fleming will be making her stage debut in December as Mrs. Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol” at Players. Gayle Featheringill was the Stage Manager.
Sound design was the work of Chinua Richardson. Stephanie Riner created the frenetic choreography; Anthony Felton was the Music Director. The Production Manager was Jereme Raickett.
Check out the art in the gallery, which features fantasy scenes painted by Drew Hunter, who is VP of Creative Design at Sally Dark Rides in Jacksonville.
Being Rocky Horror Show fans, we have been hoping for a challenge to that popular show; Rocky fans will love this one. Staging is in the Studio Theatre which has limited seating, so call for your tickets as soon as possible.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
On Our Mainstage • December 6 - 22, 2018
An adaptation of the story of Ebenezer Scrooge's journey from an embittered, ungenerous creature into a giving, caring human being at the hands of three spirits, who, one Christmas Eve, show him what life means. This richly textured play brings the full spirit of the book, as well as those of Christmases Past, Present and Yet To Come, to life on the stage.
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM
On Our Mainstage • January 24 - February 15, 2020
Broadway’s greatest musical farce takes us back to Ancient Rome for a unique and unforgettable production. Pseudolus, a devious slave, makes a deal to win his freedom by playing matchmaker for his lovesick master, Hero. Rife with pompous generals, domineering parents, and wiley courtesans, this hilarious Tony-winning musical is a non-stop laugh-fest with “something for everyone!”
TWO TRAINS RUNNING
On Our Studio Stage • March 13 - 29, 2020
In August Wilson’s masterpiece, history unfolds around everyday lives against the backdrop of the civil rights movement. Long-time regulars gather at the local diner in Pittsburgh’s Hill District to gossip, flirt and play the numbers. Now the owner must decide whether to let the city take over his building or sell it to a shrewd, local businessman. Part of Wilson’s trailblazing American Century Cycle, Two Trains Running paints a compassionate and unforgettable portrait of ordinary people in the midst of transformation.
On Our Mainstage • April 24 - May 16, 2020
The winner of eight Tony Awards (including Best Musical), Spring Awakeningexplores the journey through adolescence with poignancy and passion. It examines morality and sexual politics while unapologetically plumbing the depths of the hormonal teenage psyche in a way that feels both fresh and all too familiar. This landmark musical is an electrifying fusion of sex, rock & roll, and 1890s Germany.
THE MUSICAL COMEDY MURDERS OF 1940
On Our Studio Stage • June 12 - 28, 2020
The creative team responsible for a recent Broadway flop, in which three chorus girls were murdered by the mysterious "Stage Door Slasher,” assemble for a backer's audition of their new show at the Westchester estate of a wealthy producer. The house is replete with sliding panels, secret passageways and a German maid, all of which figure diabolically in the comic mayhem that ensues when the infamous "Slasher" makes his reappearance and strikes again…and again.
HYSTERICAL HALLOWEEN MUSICAL