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Lively and funny “Barefoot in the Park” at The Dio (Review) February 13, 2017

Posted by ronannarbor in Theatre.
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The Dio is offering a lively and funny mid-winter treat in Neil Simon’s first mega-hit “Barefoot in the Park.”

Newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter (Mary Dilworth and Peter Crist) have just moved into their 5th Floor walkup in New York City, and the comedy quickly mines the travails of too-small, overpriced, crumbling starter apartments, surprise visit by Mother (Sonja Marquis) and quirky neighbor Victor Velasco (Dan Morrison), along with telephone installer Steve DeBruyne and Delivery man Stephen Dean.

Directed by Greg Bailey, the production breezes by with its one-liners and jokes.  There are terrific performances all around, and  the cast play off of each other well. Marquis in particular brings a genuine feel to Mrs Banks that is funny and refreshing. Dilworth and Crist play off of each other well in both more loving as well as angrier scenes.

Matt Tomich has designed an excellent set which looks unlike anything else you have ever seen at The Dio. Dominated by a center stage skylight (used to terrific effect in some very funny sequences) his lighting also looks terrific throughout, but in particular during some lovely moments with light shining in through the skylight.

Costumes look terrific, although I did have a minor quibble with a few prop items that were not period correct. I did like the condensation of three acts into two as well as the cleverly staged furniture arriving with Velasco supervising.

Greg Bailey’s program note states that one of the goals for the show was to bring warm hearted, funny theater to Livingston County. That the Dio has done terrifically well with Barefoot in the Park. Glad to see local theaters rediscovering this comedy – Ann Arbor Civic Theatre did an award-winning production of it last season as well. I enjoyed both of these productions in different ways. Chef Jarod’s pre-show meal, as usual, is tasty and filling. The New York cheesecake ice cream at dessert time was a particular treat.

You’ll find yourself laughing heartily at this Barefoot, and its well done fun.


Barefoot in the Park continues at The Dio through March 5th. diotheatre.com or (517) 672-6009




“Barefoot in the Park” at Ann Arbor Civic Theater is Hilarious Fun (Review) April 22, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Ann Arbor, Theatre.
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I don’t think I’ve laughed at a 50 year old comedy more than I did last night at Ann Arbor Civic Theater’s production of Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” — it is a non-stop laughfest, but more than that, it is impeccably acted and directed — a must-see.

Newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter move into their 5th floor walkup (I lived in one of those in NYC for awhile and can certainly relate to not calling the front stoop a “flight”) — she’s easy going and loving the whole experience, Paul is more of a stuffed-shirt lawyer, later referred to as a fuddy-duddy…(hey, it was in 1963 that this doozy hit the stage). Along for the ride come Corie’s mother, gasping each trip up the stairs; eccentric “upstairs” neighbor Victor; a very funny telephone company man; and a delivery man. Also along for the ride are some of Neil Simon’s funniest jokes and gags, perfectly meted-out over the course of the evening so that even 53 years later everything feels fresh and funny.

It helps that the production has a super director in Wendy Wright. She understands the patterns, both visual and vocal, that keep this show running smoothly and hilariously throughout the evening. Call it “Love American Style” crossed with “The Love Boat” with a touch of “Laugh-In” thrown in.

The ensemble cast is simply superior — Colleen Davis hits all of Corie’s notes just right — Karl Kasischke grows Paul from a fuddy-duddy to just the right level of hysteria toward show’s end and Larry Rusinsky does the same with the initially over-the-top Victor Velasco to mother’s  warm-hearted potential lover — Thom Johnson has a short funny walk-on that garners some big laughs — Theo Polley is a fantastic telephone repair man — and, I save the best for last, Ellen Finch plays a triumphant Ethel Banks (Corie’s mother) in a stage turn that you simply should not miss. This role is easy to overplay, and instead, Finch turns in a delicious and finely nuanced performance that will make you think that your own mother is standing in your fifth floor walkup (6th since she will count the stoop) and making you feel as guilty as hell for doing nothing at all. Bravo.

Cathy Cassar has designed a lovely NYC apartment, Megan Shiplett’s costumes are period perfect, and Zach Johnson has lit it all to make it look shiny and bright. Lisa Gavan’s props are practical and funny, and there’s some great sound design by Wendy Wright — musical selections greet you from the moment you enter, and comment perfectly on the stage action later during the production.

Go. This show is near perfection in timing, acting, and design. You won’t see a better production of this (now) rarely produced comedy. It adds a terrific third Neil Simon production to the already seen “Odd Couples” at The Purple Rose and Tipping Point. “Barefoot in the Park” is Simon’s funniest play — the one that put him on the map on Broadway, and this production should not be missed.

Highest Recommendation.

“Barefoot in the Park”, Ann Arbor Civic Theater, continues through May 24 at the Arthur Miller Theatre, UM’s North Campus, Walgreen Building. Tickets at a2ct.org or at the door.




Thoroughly Entertaining “Promises, Promises” – Broadway, Review April 25, 2010

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, musical theater, Uncategorized.
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Chalk another one up for Director/Choreographer Rob Ashford as he leads a talented and very funny cast of actors/singers/dancers in the Broadway revival of “Promises, Promises” which first appeared on Broadway in 1968. The Book written by Neil Simon, Music by Burt Bacharach, and Lyrics by Hal David instantly transport you to the 60’s; as does the set design, costume and wig work, and lighting.

Sean Hayes carries the comedic role of Chuck Baxter with stage presence, comedic timing practiced on years of episodes of Will and Grace, and charm. His singing voice is fine for the part, although he struggles a touch with higher notes and some of the endings of songs have been shortened so he doesn’t have to hold the notes as long as Jerry Orbach was able to in the original production.

Kristin Chenoweth is in fine vocal form in the role of Fran Kubelik, and this production gives her two additional songs added to the score (“I Say a Little Prayer” and “A House is Not a Home”). Many in the audience were clearly there to see Kristin, and she gets cheers and hoots after every song…the same annoying response she got while in Wicked where younger audience members mistook Broadway songs for American Idol numbers.

Tony Goldwyn turns in a nice performance as Sheldrake, and surprised many in the audience with his clear singing voice. He oozes charisma in every scene, and it’s easy to see what Fran would see in a lout like him. It’s harder to see what Fran would see in Baxter, but that’s where the story goes.

The cast is uniformly terrific, especially in the many many dance sequences throughout the show. Rob has added creative dance touches throughout, including a dance number during the Overture that not only sets the tone, but clearly defines the male/female take on office sexual politics in the early 60’s. They had me at the Overture.

Katie Finneran stops the show as alcoholic one-night-stand Marge. Her comic timing is to die for, and her dance sequence with Hayes earns well-deserved laughter through creative use of dance pratfalls and her own chemistry with Sean on stage. Terrific featured actress work here — look for a Tony nomination.

The set design is colorful and stunning. At times Scott Pask fills the stage with sparse furniture pieces to represent location; at other times he creates complete environments that capture New York City perfectly. Bruce Pask has built beautiful costumes for everyone, and they all look good in motion.

There isn’t a weak link in the cast or design. Jonathan Tunick’s orchestrastions sound “fab” as played by the large orchestra, which retains it’s backup girl singers in the pit.

Promises, Promises is a problematic piece to be sure. Not all of the music is up to Bacharach and Davis’s best work — but some of it is terrific. “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” remains the signature tune, and got an extended ovation. It was wise to include both interpolated standards to round out the tunefulness of the show, even if they force Fran into a somewhat conflicted role throughout.

Some of the script has been tweaked; a few numbers slightly modified or moved; some awkward scripting reworked. Generous use of ad-libs and clever staging by Rob Ashford tie everything together in a way that makes the show zip and zoom throughout it’s 2 hour 40 minute length.

I had a tremendous time. Its great to see the types of things I grew up with being restaged and re-imagined. And it’s awesome to hear this almost-forgotten score again! Sean Hayes, Kristin Chenoweth, and Tony Goldwyn are true stars, and it shows throughout the production.

Highly recommended.