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A high school drama teacher experiences her own learning curve in Syracuse Stage’s No Child. . .
Teaching in an inner-city high school is hard, hard work. Teacher burnout is rampant. Disheartened idealists regularly turn over the challenge to fresher troops. That’s why audiences have favored upbeat tales of heroic teachers, usually formidable women, beating the odds. Think of movies such as Music of the Heart (Meryl Streep, 1999), Dangerous Minds (Michelle Pfeiffer, 1995), even Sister Act 2 (Whoopi Goldberg, 1993). We’re only a few minutes into Syracuse Stage’s current production of Nilaja Sun’s No Child . . . before we recognize the playwright has entered upon something vastly more ambitious. Indeed, we can see the “Yes, they can” cheerleading coming, but No Child . . . argues for the transformative power not only of theatricality but of art itself.School dazed: Reenah L. Golden in Syracuse Stage’s No Child. . . MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTO
Singers offer their own interpretations of Johnny Cash for Merry-Go-Round’s Ring of Fire
When Auburn’s Merry-Go-Round Playhouse announced that baritone David M. Lutken, the lead singer in last month’s Man of La Mancha, was going to be headlining Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash, it looked as though he was a Broadway player who could really stretch into a different role. Then again, although more than any of the other eight singers and musicians he really can sound like Johnny Cash and also much more than Joaquin Phoenix in the movie Walk the Line, but he doesn’t actually play him. In fact, nobody does. Ring of Fire is instead an evocation of the world of Johnny Cash, his taste and themes, and those turn out to be surprisingly theatrical.Cashing in: Helen J. Russell and Neil Friedman team for “My Old Faded Rose” during Merry-Go-Round’s Ring of Fire.
Even 50 years later, the courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men remains relevant
Most audiences enter Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men knowing the outcome. The expected pleasures from watching it are in seeing how playwright Rose gets us there and in seeing how 12 very different players give shape and tone to characters known only by numbers. As years have passed, however, Angry Men has come to provide a different reward: the chance to savor Rose’s prescience in anticipating the kinds of really unpleasant things that people are still saying, when they can get away with it. One of the most admired courtroom dramas ever written, it’s still a fast ride in a tight space. The current Not Another Theater Company show goes on at the Locker Room’s Fire and Ice Banquet Hall, 528 Hiawatha Blvd.
Local playwright Donna Stuccio uses her police training to impressive advantage in Rarely Done’s Elegy in Blue
Playwright-director Donna Stuccio takes excruciating pains to get details perfect for the world premiere of her policewoman drama Elegy in Blue, Rarely Done’s season opener at Jazz Central, 441 E. Washington St. Start with the bronze plaque on the memorial to the main character’s ex-partner and lover, Nolan McKenna. Or the 40-year-old postcard with Nixon-era stamps. Or how about the vintage 1970s lunch box with Wonder Woman decals. These might look like a producer’s indulgence if they did not point to the way her protagonist, Celeste Luna (played by Maureen Harrington), must confront the demons that initially make her such irascible company. But then the play is not called Elegy—mourning the dead—for nothing.Armed and dangerous: Al Marshall and Maureen Harrington in Rarely Done’s Elegy in Blue.
Getting audiences to pay attention to the act when most of them have come to party. That was the daunting task facing director Margarett Perry in getting Noel Coward’s 80-year-old high comedy, Private Lives, on the boards in the Kitchen Theatre Company’s gleaming new space at 417 W. State St. in Ithaca. Local merchants pitched in every night of the first week for casks of free-flowing wine and bountiful trays of munchies. Steady, even cascading, laughter commands attention, of course, but so does finding surprising new angles in a beloved treasure. Much like what has happened to the theater company itself.Cowardly lines: Brian Dykstra and Carol Halstead in Kitchen Theatre’s Private Lives.
The cynics are crushed. The arrival of the Alfred Uhry-Jason Robert Brown musical Parade as Appleseed Productions’ season premiere was greeted with—let’s face it—more apprehension than exhilaration. Despite the near-cult status for the CD, the original Hal Prince-produced Parade (1998) ran only a measly 39 previews and 89 performances. Many find the Brown score, ahem, an acquired taste. And the book, about an outrageous miscarriage of justice in 1913, looks from afar like a downer.
We love them from the day before yesterday, as in Forever Plaid or All Shook Up. And we love them before living memory, as in Tintypes. Old songs from the great deep river of American popular music are an inexhaustible resource. If there are a million songs out there (2 million? 5 million?), that’s more than enough to fill a thousand stage shows bringing them back to life, snapping their fingers and kicking up their heels. It’s just a matter of building the right package. And Roger Bean, creator of The Andrews Brothers, has the right frame: It’s a show about putting on a show.Dudes look like ladies: Counterclockwise from lower left, Gordon Maniskas, Andrew K. Moss, Sean Riley and Lara Hayhurst in Cortland Repertory’s The Andrews Brothers.
Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion’s 1965 Broadway smash Man of La Mancha is on that list The New York Times’ Jesse McKinley compiled of the 15 American musicals that can be revived endlessly. Coming one year after the arrival of The Beatles and two years before Hair, it is also arguably one of the last golden-age musicals. The show’s big number, “The Impossible Dream,” even feels like Rodgers and Hammerstein. But thanks to a complex book by Dale Wasserman (who also wrote the stage version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), with plays-within-plays and multiple characterizations, audience members who have seen La Mancha more than once have been known not to understand all the exits and entrances. The new production at Auburn’s Merry-Go-Round Playhouse magnifies and clarifies all that it has to offer.Dancin’ in the dungeon: The Man of La Mancha ensemble during Merry-Go-Round Playhouse’s current production.
Unlike most of my alternative newspaper colleagues, I have the good fortune of working in a city with a world-class school of journalism at Syracuse University. That means I am afforded the opportunity to meet, “hire” and nurture young journalistic talent through the bustling newsroom of the Syracuse New Times. Rarely am I without a 20-something charge to help with our Times Table, write about food and wax philosophic about music.
Through the heart of downtown Syracuse runs Montgomery Street. One block of it stretches north-south from East Fayette to East Jefferson streets and is home to the YMCA of Greater Syracuse, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Onondaga Historical Association (OHA).“The building we are in was not designed to be a museum:” Onondaga Historical Association executive director plans to open up the streetscape windows and let passers-by see the treasures hidden inside. AVANTIKA SHARMA PHOTO