I just realized, looking through my very small selection of local theatre and dance production reviews, that I missed quite a few that I’ve been to in the past couple of years. In fact, I didn’t write up any of the performances that I saw in 2017. The only reason that I write the reviews here, incidentally, is because I usually spend quite a lot to attend them, but if I don’t write my thoughts on them, I barely remember going. Here are a few capsule reviews for local dance, music, and theatre productions that I didn’t review in 2017, but meant to. They are presented in reverse chronological order.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the Van Wezel, December 2017
The performance of Cirque Dreams Holidaze that we attended in December 2017 was a holiday present from us to us for my partner and myself. It was their 10th anniversary tour, and they made their way around Florida during December, stopping here the week before Christmas. They were not in town long, and we were very excited to go to the performance, since my partner and I are both Cirque du Soleil fans. The tickets, which all Cirque fans will know, were extremely expensive, so I got us seats in the nosebleed section. I’ve never been to the Van Wezel before, but it was massive, and the seats went up to the ceiling in the back (not exaggerating). The audience we were with (like the Momix audience below) was horrid. Committing such audience crimes as taking flash photos, recording long videos, leaving in the middle of acts, and coming in late.
We missed the first scene because the people in our row, and the row in front of us, were late, but they were allowed them in anyway (about ten people in total). The show itself was amazing, and I would absolutely see it again. It wasn’t the typical holiday show at all, with very few religious overtones, which I really appreciated. Some of the performances left me wondering how a human being was able to perform them at all, which is a really cool feeling.
I will never see a performance at the Van Wezel again, however, since they just allowed the audience to behave however they pleased, and endanger the performers with flash photography. A performer was injured at a different Holidaze performance at this venue, and I am not surprised. I would be surprised if Cirque returns to the Van Wezel, since they let the audience treat their performers with so little respect.
Much Ado About Nothing by American Stage Theatre Company, November 2017
This version was set in the Florida Keys in the 50s, and my whole family was concerned, but we love Shakespeare and American Stage, so we went. My misgivings were all for naught, since the production was absolutely wonderful. American Stage has the best sets – I say it every time I go – just see my photo above for the proof. This was the third American Stage production I’d seen, and it’s tied for favorite. I seriously considered seeing it a second time. Benedict and Beatrice were both incredible, and so fun to watch. There’s one scene where they were diving behind bushes and parts of the set, they were all in, and it was delightful to see actors so fully committed to their parts.
Richard Watson played Dogberry, and he is such an asset to the American Stage; he is always great. At one point someone’s phone was going off, and he actually handled it masterfully, with the whole audience laughing along with him. (Speaking of phones, the person in front of me got about 10 phone calls, and their phone just buzzed away, they never turned it off.) Also, there was a rooster that was carried around, and I love chickens for some reason. I think I actually said, “A chicken!” out loud when it appeared on stage because I was so excited. It was one of the best plays I attended all year, so I’m surprised I didn’t give it a proper review. I had that rare experience of actually getting lost in the production, and I really can’t say enough good things about it.
Midsummer Night’s Dream by St. Petersburg College Clearwater, March 2017
Full disclosure, I work at SPC so I attended this play for free, which I feel like I should mention. It was a college production, but I believe that the amazing set designer from American Stage does all the SPC sets. I don’t review college, high school, or any student productions as a rule, but I want to mention this one because the rude mechanicals were amazing. They were all women and were janitors, complete with different colored jumpsuits so you could tell them apart. Bottom was particularly amazing, with a presence that filled the theatre, and ever moment they were on stage was delightful. All four of the ‘lovers’ were a joy to watch as well; the wonderful thing about student productions is that you call tell how much love and time they put into cultivating their characters. This Midsummer was a favorite in my house, and we still talk about how much we enjoyed it.
Life on Venus by The Florida Bjorkestra, March 2017
This show was a combination of Bjork and Bowie songs performed by a local Bjorkestra, which I believe features members of the Florida Orchestra. Since I am a huge fan of early Bjork, and my partner is a big Bowie fan, it seemed like the perfect fit. What we didn’t really take into account was how little he’d like the Bjork part, or how little I’d like the Bowie part. Oops! We both felt that the instruments were underutilized, but that the performers seemed to genuinely be having fun, which was nice. The singers were talented, but neither of us liked the song choices for our respective artists. That’s about us though, not the performers. I was surprised though, considering that Florida Orchestra members were onstage, that they didn’t attempt a version of the Brodsky Quartet’s “Hyperballad,” a favorite b-side of mine. Maybe they felt that it would be too ‘on the nose’ or there was a copyright issue. I am under the impression that the singers chose the pieces, since they were geared more toward voices than instruments.
Momix Opus Cactus at the Straz Center, March 2017
My partner very much wanted to go to the Momix show Opus Cactus in March 2017. I believe that it’s a love letter to the American southwest and it’s desert, which is a really cool idea. I had pretty much sworn off dance productions at this point, but I want to say it was his birthday present that year, so we went. It was phenomenal. The costumes, the movement, the dance pieces, it was unusual, gorgeous, and mesmerizing. The reason that I didn’t review it at the time is that the audience I was in was rude and horrible, almost as bad as the Cirque Dreams Holidaze audience.
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by American Stage Theatre Company, February 2017
I think that I didn’t review this production because I really liked the play, until I didn’t anymore. I had seen Jitney in 2016, and was blown away, but I couldn’t connect with Joe Turner. I was all-in until the end, and then I was like, “Wait, that’s the ending?” I was told the message was Christian, and I wasn’t raised that way, so I didn’t even understand what I was supposed to get out of it. I loved Bynum because that’s the tradition that I understand, and the use of folk magic in the play was probably not obvious to most, but it was everywhere.
The cast was absolutely great, but I didn’t enjoy the main character, whose performance was so intense that it bordered on upsetting. There’s a scene where he’s supposed to connect with a woman, but pulls himself back; it’s supposed to be touching, but came off as predatory, and one person in the audience said “Uh-oh!” reflexively, which is exactly what I was thinking. Just like I don’t review student productions, you’ll notice that, in my reviews, I never critique children’s performances. All I have to say is that all the young actors in this production were great, which was very cool to watch. Joe Turner was beautifully acted, but I just didn’t connect with the play, which is why I never reviewed it before now.
There you have it, my dance and theatre reviews from 2017. Now, hopefully, I’ll remember them. I get the meanest comments on my local theatre reviews, which is really strange because I didn’t think many people read them, but if you get nasty in the comments I’ll have to close them. Just an FYI.