Horizon Theatre Blog

REVIEW: ‘da Kink Uplifts Atlanta

Broadway World Atlanta: ‘da Kink in My Hair Uplifts Atlanta

by Courtnee Miles       July 18,2015

As I’m conditioning my hair and applying every essential oil known to man on my scalp, I am reflecting on the production I saw yesterday evening. I had the pleasure of seeing ‘da Kink in My Hair at the Horizon Theatre in Atlanta. The play was nothing short of amazing. It was personal to me because as an African-American millennial woman, it reminded me of the joys, as well as the struggles, of myself, my mother, my mother’s mother, and even my mother’s mother’s mother (I hope you’re following me). This amazing musical captivated me with songs and rhythms of Africa and the Caribbean, while reminding me of where I come from.

Directed by Thomas W. Jones II, ‘da Kink in My Hair features a notable cast, such as Terry Burrell (Novelette/Ensemble), Maiesha McQueen (Miss Enid/Nia/Ensemble/Dance Captain),Minka Wiltz (Patsy/Shannon/Ensemble), Marliss Amiea (Sharmaine), Jennifer Alice Acker(Suzy/Ensemble), Jeanette Illidge (Stacey-Anne/Milly/Ensemble), Onya Russell(Sherelle/Trina/Ensemble), Janeva Sibdhannie (Claudette/Ensemble), LeAnn Dunn(Reign/Ensemble), and Percussionist Monica Carter. Completely diminishing the fourth wall,‘da Kink in my Hair engages the audience in a way that’s unique to it’s own.

BWW Review: 'DA KINK IN MY HAIR Uplifts Atlanta

Written by Trey Anthony, this production tells the story of women from all walks of life with one common goal- to be beautiful. West Indian stylist, Novelette, reassures the other characters that their beauty is much deeper than just a hair style. She tells them that it comes from within and that learning and accepting their own truths are the keys to happiness and internal peace. Thank you, Ms. Novelette, for inspiring me to embrace ‘da kink in my hair.

‘da Kink in My Hair is showing until August 28. For tickets and other inquires, you may contact the Horizon Theatre at (404) 584-7450.

Atlanta INtown Review

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By Manning Harris
fmanningh@gmail.com

Horizon Theatre’s current “The City of Conversation,” by Anthony Giardina, directed by Justin Anderson, running through June 26, is a delicious piece of theatre that you must not miss.

It’s set near Washington D.C., Georgetown, where deals are made and fates are sealed at night in the comfortable salons of an elite group of powerful Washington hostesses.

So you thought that important political decisions were made solely in the halls of Congress or the White House? Oh, grow up, as the late Joan Rivers would say.

I remember the late Martha Mitchell’s (wife of Attorney General John Mitchell) face on the cover of Time Magazine; the caption was “The Wives of Washington.” You may be too young to recall the antics of Ms. Mitchell, who became famous for her late night phone calls to political power players or the press, especially during the time of Watergate. But the Georgetown power demimonde, if you will, exists, although Giardina’s play makes it clear that its influence has lessened, especially in this (2016) ferocious political year.

Potomac Fever, the lust and addiction to power that proximity to Washington can engender, is on ample display in “The City of Conversation.”

No one plays the game better than Hester Ferris (Tess Malis Kincaid), whom we first meet in the waning days of the Carter Administration, 1979. At a soirée in her elegant parlor she is helping pave the way for “a little Judiciary Committee thing” by entertaining Republican Senator Mallonee (Allan Edwards) and his wife, Carolyn (Deborah Bowman), both of whom stylishly make the most of their relatively brief time onstage.

Hester’s composure is somewhat challenged by the sudden arrival of her handsome son, Colin (Justin Walker) and his fiancée, Anna (Rachel Garner). Both have just finished their studies at the London School of Economics. Hester is not thrilled by her son’s long hair, nor by Anna’s tall boots; although staunchly Democratic herself, Hester, as stated, is plying the conservative Republican senator. She’s creating an entire milieu for her evening’s agenda, and as someone once said, these things must be done delicately.

Hester and Anna’s instant rapport is roughly that of a cobra and a mongoose. Hester can spot attempted flattery or manipulation a mile away, and Anna’s vaulting ambition is instantly apparent to Hester. She even suggests to Anna that she’s seen that movie, and it’s called “All About Eve.” Yet Anna’s no lightweight; she plays hardball, but then, so does Hester, and with a lot more experience. Both women are out of Colin’s league in intellect and cunning, yet he’s no dunce. He simply lacks their drive and fascination with power. Oh yes, Anna is Republican and has swayed Colin. Hester fumes.

Hester’s mainstay and Rock of Gibraltar is her sister, Jean (Carolyn Cook); her boyfriend is the senator from Virginia, Chandler, played with practiced poise by Chris Kayser.

Pretty soon Anna and Colin have a little boy named Ethan (Vinny Montague, in a feisty performance). Hester adores him, and when she and Anna bring out the big guns for serious battle over possible Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, there is full-out warfare; and Anna is not afraid to use Ethan as a bargaining chip. But she underestimates Hester’s total determination.

Playwright Giardina’s dialogue snaps and crackles, and this A list cast makes the most of it. The show is a feast for those who love fine acting. Carolyn Cook and Chris Kayser show why they are Atlanta acting legends: There’s not a false move or wasted glance or gesture from either of them. Rachel Garner more than rises to the occasion as she goes toe to toe with Ms. Kincaid in heated, tense scenes; it’s a breakthrough performance for Ms. Garner.

I do think that the essence of anger often comes out very quietly; yes, shouting must occur at times, but I think it must be used judiciously. There’s no extra charge to the director or cast for that caveat.

Speaking of Mr. Anderson, his direction is right on the money: the fluid blocking, the insightful handling of scenes, crescendos, and subtle shifts in the momentum and emotional atmosphere. A fine director is supposed to make these things look easy, and he does.

More praise for the actors: Justin Walker’s Colin is quite touching: Colin is a young man who is well-intentioned but all too aware of his limitations, and somehow a subtle undercurrent of sadness emanates from him; very impressive work from Mr. Walker.

It falls to Joshua D. Mitchell to lighten the mood a bit in the play’s final scenes, and he does.

Finally, there is Tess Malis Kincaid. She is flawless: All her formidable gifts—her fierce intelligence, her power, concentration, and subtlety—are on glorious display here. She hasn’t won three Suzi Bass Awards for Best Actress for nothing. Her Hester now ranks in my book with her Barbara in Alliance Theatre’s “August: Osage County,” a towering performance.

Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay have created a beautiful set for what is hands-down the best play on the boards in Atlanta. Don’t miss it.

For tickets and information, visit horizontheatre.com.

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FREE Toxic Avenger in Piedmont Park!

Critics and audiences couldn’t get enough of The Toxic Avenger, and so we’re bringing it back!    Horizon’s musical comedy sensation The Toxic Avenger will be outside in the ATL this summer when it hits Piedmont Park, June 9th through the 12th and thousands of FREE tickets will be available to the public beginning May 12.  Get ready to experience an Atlanta hit in the center of our city!

Last summer, Horizon’s sold-out musical Avenue Q was a rollicking fun party in the Park, playing to thousands who came to picnic, play and watch fantastic professional musical theatre in Piedmont Park.     “Avenue Q was so amazing and special last summer – audiences of all ages and types came together for a truly unique Atlanta experience.   There is just nothing else like it – live performance under the stars.  And it’s free!” says Lisa Adler, Horizon’s Co-Artistic/Producing Director.   “The Toxic Avenger was another runaway hit for Horizon in our Little Five Points home this past winter.  It’s just so much fun – upbeat, smart and silly at the same time with a hugely energetic and talented cast, fantastic rock music and a live band.   Everyone leaves smiling every night, so it is the perfect show to bring together Atlantans in the heart of our city under the sky and treetops this summer.”

 Full of off-beat humor and an amazing score, The Toxic Avenger is the Winner of the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical and is guaranteed to have the audience laughing on the green. “Infectious fun to watch….Just enjoy,” raved the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. ArtsATL noted it was, “most fun to be had in local theatre,” and Atlanta InTown promised, “you’ll have tons of fun.”  It’s a laugh-out-loud rock musical with an unlikely hero, the mild-mannered scientist, Melvin Ferd the Third, whose crusade to stop the corrupt mayor gets him dumped in toxic waste.  From the smoke emerges our green, gooey superhero with mega-strength – The Toxic Avenger, or Toxie for short.   He’s here to save his home town from toxic waste, win the love of the beautiful blind librarian, stop global warming and bring a brand new day of clean air and harmony to New Jersey and the world.   This tour de force for five powerhouse actor/singers playing over 30 roles keeps the action spinning as the music rocks the park.

Thanks to a major grant from The Charles Loridans Foundation, a supporting grant from the Mark and Evelyn Trammell Foundation and a partnership with the Piedmont Park Conservancy, Horizon continues for the second year the tradition begun by Georgia Shakespeare of bringing free professional theatre to Piedmont Park this summer, giving new audiences a chance to experience Horizon.  “Our mission is to connect people, inspire hope and promote positive change through the stories of our times – and this gives us the chance to do that on a larger scale and with great joy.” said Adler. “There has been a huge influx of new residents intown, and this is the perfect show to introduce them to the amazing work they will find at Horizon and our other professional Atlanta theatres and the talented theatre artists who are thriving here.”

Park performances will be Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 9-12 at 7:30 PM, and audiences will provide their own blanket or low beach chair.   Grounds open for picnicking at 6 PM.    Free and $15 Reserved Seating Section Tickets are available ONLINE ONLY beginning May 12.   General admission tickets will be available for free for each performance, but must be reserved online in advance.   Reserved Seating section tickets are $15 (plus tax and small service charge) and get you in the reserved seating area up close to the stage.  Arrive at your leisure and walk past the crowds to come right down front.   Limited Table Seating Tickets close to the stage are $35. Tickets are available online only at www.horizontheatre.com.    Audiences will bring their print-at-home or mobile tickets and will need to bring their own low chairs (30” back height maximum, 6” seat height maximum) or blankets for seating.   Anyone bringing a taller chair will be directed to the rear to allow good sightlines for all.   Food and non-alcoholic beverages may be brought in for picnics – although no glass is allowed.   No firearms allowed.  Food trucks will provide dinner options for purchase and wine, beer, water and soft drinks will be available for sale onsite.  The stage is in the Promenade green space at the North end of the Park, conveniently located near the Park/Botanical Gardens Sage parking garage and The Prado entrance to the Park.

AJC REVIEW: Topical Talk Highlights Horizon’s “City of Conversation”

Theater review: Topical talk highlights Horizon’s ‘City of Conversation’
by Bert Osborne
May 23, 2016

Despite all the intelligent, articulate and frequently witty political banter that fuels “The City of Conversation,” the most inspired and keenly observed moment in director Justin Anderson’s Horizon Theatre production owes more to sheer happenstance than deliberate design.

Anthony Giardina’s comedy-drama spans 30 years (1979-2009), principally involving a liberal Washington, D.C., socialite whose son marries an ambitious conservative activist. On the stately townhome set of designers extraordinaire Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay, the opening scene takes place at the end of Jimmy Carter’s presidency; the closing sequence is set at the start of Barack Obama’s first term; and, in between, the play’s second segment unfolds in 1987, when Ronald Reagan nominates Robert Bork for the Supreme Court.

Wait for it: When Anna, the daughter-in-law, suddenly realizes that she champions the appointment no more staunchly than Hester, her mother-in-law, opposes it, she proclaims, “We’re not going to lose on this … I mean, a president gets to pick his Supreme Court, doesn’t he?” (If you don’t know who Merrick Garland is, the serendipitous irony will be lost on you, but Horizon’s with-it opening-night audience reacted to the line with the most enthusiastic and spontaneous response in the whole show.)

There’s a decidedly sophisticated spark to the script and its fictional characters — at least as long as they’re talking politics, dropping real names like “Teddy” Kennedy or “Ollie” North and sharing anecdotes about them, or otherwise debating topical current events about racial progress and socioeconomic agendas.

“The City of Conversation” isn’t exactly fair and balanced, though. Both women can be equally headstrong or occasionally strident, but Giardina finally gives Anna a much harder time for her ulterior motives as a wife and mother, while essentially giving Hester a pass for keeping longtime companionship with a married man. Tess Malis Kincaid brings her usual flair to Hester, and co-star Rachel Garner holds her own serviceably as Anna.

Director Anderson casts even the smaller, more thankless supporting parts with qualified (possibly overqualified) heavy-hitters: Chris Kayser as that adulterous lover; Carolyn Cook as Hester’s subservient sister (whose back story is vaguely addressed and then ignored); Allan Edwards and Deborah Bowman as a smarmy Southern senator and his oblivious wife.

Elsewhere, in the meatier roles of Hester’s son, Colin, and later her grown-up grandson, Ethan, Justin Walker underwhelms — twice. So does Joshua D. Mitchell as the latter character’s gay boyfriend. And Vinny Montague as a younger version of the grandson.

Giardina’s comedy is squarely on target in depicting the “charmingly quaint rituals” of bipartisan dinner parties or in questioning the “decline of liberalism” and “legislatively coerced good behavior.” It’s as a drama that the play falters, reduced to a family soap opera that pits Hester against Anna for the love and admiration of Colin, and then for influence and control over Ethan.

Call it an “unwieldy” if hardly “necessary” union, but talk about striking a compromise …


Horizon Welcomes New Managing Director

Thomas Fowlkes joins the Horizon Theatre Company

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ATLANTA –After three years of searching, Horizon Theatre Company is proud to welcome Thomas Fowlkes as the new Managing Director. Thomas is an Atlanta native with a vast experience in arts administration and community building.  “He had a persistence about him that is critical to the job,” notes Co-Artistic Director Lisa Adler. “I am very confident he is the right person for the job.”  Managing Director is a critical position to the executive branch of Horizon, and the board and staff were deliberate in their search for the right candidate. “I would rather have the position open than give it to the wrong person,” Adler stated, and that mindset was evident in her evaluation of each candidate.  With Thomas joining the staff, Horizon is excited about the possibilities for 2016 and beyond.

Thomas was most recently Creative Manager at Jamestown, LP where he was a key member in the creation of the rooftop experience opening soon at Ponce City Market. Prior to joining the development initiative, he was the Director of Production for the Atlanta Ballet. This allowed this Atlanta native to reintegrate into Atlanta after a successful career in New York with Charles Cosler Theatre Design, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, and Barbizon Electric Company. Before his time in New York, Thomas worked with the Tony Award-wining Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago as their Director of Production where he helped orchestrate their move into their new home on Michigan Ave. In Chicago, his lighting design won him acclaim at the Chicago After Dark Awards, but his designs have been seen in New York, Houston, and on tour across the country.  Thomas received his education from Rice University, along with specific training for Nonprofit Management from the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. With a proven track record of joining an organization and bringing innovation and growth, Thomas was the natural choice for Managing Director.

 

Review: When Bibliophile Met I-Pad

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Atlanta Theatre Buzz

4/3/2016       SEX WITH STRANGERS                                      Horizon Theatre

****½  ( A )

WHEN BIBLIOPHILE MET I-PAD

Olivia is snowbound in a writer’s retreat with popular blogger Ethan.  #SexEnsues  #BlizzardsRule

Ethan’s blog is about Sex With Strangers, chronicling anonymous hook-ups and inevitable abandonment.  #OMG  #CreepAlert

Olivia is the author of a single novel, well-received but basically unread.  She loves books, their feel, their smell.  Is skeptical of E-Books.  #OMG  #BibliophileAlert

Ethan loves Olivia’s book and posts it anonymously on-line.  It rides the coat-tails of his popularity and makes Olivia’s pseudonym a hot commodity.  #OliviasHot

Olivia’s second book is even better than the first.  A movie of Ethan’s Book of Blogs will probably be as bad as expected.  #ItsAllAboutCasting

A prestigious publisher wants Olivia’s book, but only as an E-Book prototype.  Olivia wants a hard-bound physical version.  But there’s incentive.  #BigBucksRule

A plot complication remains unsaid.  #SpoilerPolice  But it does strike at the heart of the E-Book vs Physical Book debate.  #CantBurnAnEBook  #CantButtDeleteAHardCover

What About Love?  Can words on a page lead to love?  Or hate?  #Duh

The delectable Megan Hayes returns as Olivia.  She’s Perfect.  And there are no Mutt-Monkeys to fight (Ethan excepted).  #MeganCatchingFire #HayesOnFire

Michael Shenefelt is Ethan.  Charming.  Creepy.  Also Perfect.  #ItsAllAboutCasting

Two Sets by Moriah & Isabel Curley-Clay.  One Snowbound Cabin.  One Apartment.  Both Filled with Personality. Both Perfect.  #DetailDevils

Jeff Adler directs.  Also Perfect.  #AdlersAlwaysDeliver

Summing up?  Words are Foreplay.  Words are Process.  Words are Climax.  Words matter more than Sex.  And Sex matters.  IMHO?  Words need to be touched. And smelled.   #ElectronicSensuality #Oxymoron

IMHO?  Reading an E-Book is an empty experience.  Like sex without touch or smell or taste. Like Sex With Strangers,  But, as empty experiences go, it’s not bad.  #WoodyAllenJoke

Laura Eason’s “Sex With Strangers” at Horizon?  A Not-Empty Experience.  It touches the heart and the mind and the libido.  #KeyWord  #Touches

— Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com    @bk_rudy    #HorizonTheatre  #LauraEason  #SexWithStrangers)

Raising Awareness for Atlanta Arts

With that being said, we’d love to introduce our next leading lady, Collins Goss.

Where do you work and what do you do? I work as the Development Manager for the Horizon Theatre Company. I am in charge of all of Horizon’s fundraising efforts, including the annual fund, major gifts, foundation grants, government contracts for services, and special events. I also work closely with our Board of Directors, and I do a chunk of the project management work for Horizon’s community-based projects.With that being said, we’d love to introduce our next leading lady, Collins Goss.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? Honestly, I never really had a set goal. Most kids would list teacher, nurse, vet, doctor, but I never had a specific thing that I knew I wanted to do.

Who was your favorite artist/writer/performer growing up? I loved to read growing up, so most of my favorite artists were writers. I could not get enough of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series as a teenager. I really, really loved classic lit like Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, Peter Pan, Little House on the Prairie, etc.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you? I have been so lucky to have had several wonderful influencers and mentors. I had two teachers in high school who blew my world wide open: one was from South Africa and one was from Queens. They somehow ended up teaching in South Georgia where I grew up, and they exposed me to a world much larger than I had known. My biggest influences, though, are definitely my parents. In my completely unbiased opinion, they are the greatest people on earth who give and love unconditionally and who get up every day to make the world better even when it is really hard and no one says thank you. They taught (and still teach) me so many things, but “thank you” was a big one. Everyone is worthy of your attention and gratitude no matter who they are.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work? I took dance lessons from preschool through high school. I wasn’t very good, but I enjoyed it and still enjoy being a dance patron. I got into theatre the way a lot of kids do: my friends in high school were in the one act play and spring musical. I wanted in on the fun too. The alternative was playing basketball or jumping hurdles, and no one wants me to do either one. Yikes. I think I started unofficially working in some aspect of arts admin in high school and just never stopped. I am still not quite sure how that happened.

How is art a passion for you? Art is something that you can enjoy all of your life, and there is always a new show, art form, or artist to discover. The ability to keep discovering is what makes art a passion for me.

What are your thoughts on equality and representation of women in the arts? I work in an office of all women, and this has been the norm in most of my jobs in arts admin. I don’t know if that is typical or not, but I think it is awesome. Working in the arts full time is not easy. The hours can be long and the days frustrating, but women get stuff done and totally defy the odds. :)

Horizon Theatre presents Avenue Q to local audiences at Piedmont Park

Horizon Theatre presents Avenue Q to local audiences at Piedmont Park

What in your profession has  given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment? Looking back, what would you have done differently? What would you do again? The first thing that comes to mind is working on Theatre in the Park last summer. Horizon produced Avenue Q in Piedmont Park for a five night run in June 2015. That’s right. We produced a full scale Broadway musical outside in the middle of Atlanta in June with 28 puppets, a band, and 11 actors. Most of the tickets were given away for free, and we had more than 7700 people join us in the park that week. Moments like this are the reason I got into this business. All these people from all over the Atlanta area left their houses and Netflix to come outside, sit on a blanket, eat a picnic, and watch puppets sing about growing up and finding their purpose. Would I do it again? Heck yes.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta? Atlanta artists and administrators just make it happen in Atlanta, and their work is amazing. No one seems to take no for an answer, and I think that is pretty cool. There has been a lot of talk about Atlanta’s public art scene, and I am really excited to see what comes out of this. We have tons of space that could benefit from an art intervention: the Little Five Points plaza (Horizon is tackling this one starting in April, so stay tuned!), MARTA stations, and so many more.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community? I would really like to be a part of raising awareness of all the arts offerings in Atlanta and the impact the arts have on our communities. There are several individuals and arts organizations that are committed to advocating for the arts whether it is on the government level, among business leaders, or with individual patrons. I am really excited about an audience development project I am working on with theAtlanta Intown Theatre Partnership (AITP). AITP is made up of Horizon, 7 Stages, Actor’s Express, the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern and Theatrical Outfit, and we are committed to pooling resources and doing things together that we could not do as individual theatres. Currently we want to raise live theatre going as a top of mind thing to do among 20-40 year olds who live/work/play along the Atlanta Beltline. We are still in the very early stages of the project, but I see tremendous potential for success.

Where can I learn more about your organizations and work (websites, social media, etc.)?

www.horizontheatre.com

Twitter: @horizontheatre

Facebook: Horizon Theatre Company

Instagram: @horizontheatre

Little Five Arts Alive Program launching in April 2016: http://www.littlefiveartsalive.com/

Bio?

Collins Goss (Development Manager) joins the Horizon Theatre Company after working for the University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance. At UA Theatre & Dance, she served as the digital communications, marketing, and patron services managers throughout her three years. She has also worked for the Texas Shakespeare Festival and Rose of Athens Theatre in Athens, GA. No matter the location, audience development and communication have been the focus of her work, and she is excited to be a part of the staff and community at the Horizon Theatre. Collins completed her MFA in Theatre Management from the University of Alabama in December and has BA degrees in English and Theatre from the University of Georgia.

Review: Superhero+ Badass+ Lover=The Toxic Avenger

Superhero + Badass + Lover = The Toxic Avenger

 by Travis S. Tayler
March 2, 2016
I’ve seen The Toxic Avenger at Horizon Theatre THREE TIMES already! And will very likely go see it again.

I’d seen all five of the stars in other performances last year, so I knew it was going to be phenomenal. This quintet masters more than 30 costume changes during the show, performing more characters than I could count. It’s a fast-paced, raucous musical comedy that anyone with a sense of humor will absolutely love.

Julissa Sabino and Nick Arapoglou, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre

The Toxic Avenger is based on the 1984 cult classic movie of the same name. The film was wholly ignored by the Academy, however the stage version won an Outer Critics Circle Award for “Best Off-Broadway Musical“!

The show is about a nerdy-geek (I can relate) who is in love with a beautiful blind librarian. When he announces that he will save the city from a growing toxic waste problem, she totally falls for him. Later, the song “Thank God She’s Blind”…well, just look at what happened to him when a government official’s nincompoop puppets drop the ball…rather, drop him into a vat of toxic waste! He’s not entirely disappointed with the results.

Nick Arapoglou and Julissa Sabino, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre

The song list alone speaks to the fun that is this show. Songs like “Kick Your Ass”, “My Big French Boyfriend”, and “All Men Are Freaks” are hilarious and fantastic, but nothing compares to “Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore”, a rapid-fire lyrical battle between Melvin’s motherAND the Mayor of Tromaville—who are BOTH performed by the amazing Leslie Bellair. This is perhaps my favorite scene of the show!

How can two characters performed by one actress be on stage at the same time, you ask? Brilliantly! That’s how. This you must see live and in persons!

Austin Tijerina, Julissa Sabino, Michael Stiggers, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
I attended the pre-opening Sneak Peek at which we got to meet the cast, the crew and all of the theatre staff…what a magnificent, insightful treat that was!

I’d seen Nick Arapoglou (Melvin/Toxie) and Leslie Bellair (Mayor/Ma/Nun) last year inAvenue Q, the first time I’d ever seen that show…they were fantastic and both won Suzi Bass Awards for their respective roles in that show!

I saw Julissa Sabino (Sarah), Michael Stiggers (Black Dude) and Austin Tijerina(White Dude, and holder of at least two Suzi Bass Awards) all three in Rent last year at Actor’s Express. I’d seen the movie a number of times, but that was the first time I’d seen a stage performance of Rent…it too was amazing!

I was super excited to learn that The Toxic Avenger was by Joe DiPietro (book and lyrics) and David Bryan (music and lyrics), the same guys who brought us Memphis, which I saw at Aurora Theatre last year. The two shows are not even distant cousins, but I love each for what they are and the theatrical mastery they bring to the stage.

The third time I saw The Toxic Avenger, Julissa (Sarah) had taken ill, so her understudy was standing in. Actress Rose Alexander was brilliant! That was the first time I’d seen her perform, but I hope not the last.

Nick Arapoglou, Leslie Bellair, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
I’m totally a huge fan of Nick Arapoglou and Leslie Bellair. Having seen them perform together in Avenue Q was awesome enough, but in The Toxic Avenger, they went to a whole other dimension…fun, vengeful and lovable.

Lislie said, quite modestly, during the Sneak Peek event that this was the first role where she was tasked with playing “sexy”. As Melvin’s mother, if the Golden Girls is what gets your motor running, she nailed it. And as the Mayor of Tromaville, she’s totally smokin’ hot! I mean that respectfully, Leslie. In fact, I would venture to say that there’s not a role you couldn’t perform brilliantly!

Michael Stiggers, Nick Arapoglou, Austin Tijerina
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
Nick’s transformation from Melvin to Toxie is lightening-fast! The costume designers,Isabel Curley-Clay and Moriah Curley-Clay, who are also scenic designers, we got to meet during the Sneak Peek event. You figure out pretty quickly why they’ve received four Suzi Bass Awards!

Nick Arapoglou and Julissa Sabino, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
Surprisingly, many aspects of this ooey, gooey, eyeball-won’t-stay-in-its-socket superhero story are true to life…people who care about the environment, corrupt government, egotistical criminals, a disappointed parent, a sex-crazed doctor and a published author wannabe included! Most of all, it’s totally a love story! I think you’re going to fall in love with this show and many of its characters.

Sluggo (Micheal Stiggers) and Bozo (Austin Tijerina), by Greg Mooney with Daryl Fazio
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
Michael Stiggers, “Black Dude”, and Austin Tijerina, “White Dude”—seriously, those are their character’s names in the program—are constantly in and out of costume, all over the set and a different character seemingly every other minute. To name a few, these two alone portray thugs, a folk singer, a doctor, illiterates, and salon technicians. They’re awesome!
Jaquetta, Toxie, Nikki | The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
Jaquetta, Toxie, Nikki | The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor

I love getting to meet the actors as much as I love seeing them perform. Following the show, theatre-goers are invited to stick around to meet the cast and make photos with them! When was the last time you had your photo made with a superhero?

One of the times I saw the show, four friends joined me…it was a laugh-fest! Jaquetta(above left) and Nikki (above right) posed with Toxie, and friends Cameron and Jameswere along, too. Yes, that’s a Doctor Who phone case in Nikki’s hand…she’s a fellow sci-fi enthusiast!

The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor

On another visit, my best friend Barry came along. We’ve seen a lot of shows together at Horizon Theatre and we love this one, too! Pictured with Barry is ‘Ma‘, Melvin’s mother (above left, performed by Leslie Bellair) and ‘the cop‘ (above right, performed by Austin Tijerina).

The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor
I am so beyond impressed with this production…the actors, the set design, lighting, choreography…everything about it makes for a super fun evening out. I highly, highly recommend this show! The run wraps up on Sunday, March 13, so don’t waste time…get your tickets here and go see how to save a city and fall in love at the same time!

A pre-show dinner recommendation: Each time I’ve been to see The Toxic Avenger, I and friends have dined at the recently opened El Bandido Mex Mex Grill…I personally have been SIX times already! It’s that amazing and it’s very close to the theatre. Their calamari is some of the best I’ve ever had!

Up next at Horizon Theatre: Sex With Strangers! No, no, it’s (probably) not what you’re thinking, but it is provocative! Check it out at Horizon starting April 1…no joke!

ArtsATL can’t wait to see The Toxic Avenger again!

Review: Horizon’s “The Toxic Avenger” is one of the unsung super heroes of this theater season

February 10, 2016

By JIM FARMER
Leslie Bellair steals the show with dual roles in The Toxic Avenger. (Photo by Amanda Cantrell)

Leslie Bellair steals the show with dual roles in The Toxic Avenger. (Photos by Amanda Cantrell)

Oftentimes theater gems can be found when least expected. It’s not the splashiest show around, or even the highest profile musical in town, but Horizon Theatre’s The Toxic Avenger is arguably the most fun to be had at a local theater right now. Running through March 13, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable piece of musical theater.

Based on the movie of the same name, The Toxic Avenger boasts books and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, and music and lyrics by David Bryan. It’s the same team that brought Memphis to life, yet this is a much different creature, a show not likely to worm its way into highbrow patrons’ calendar books.

In the city of Tromaville, a toxic waste dump off the New Jersey Turnpike, Melvin Ferd the Third (Nick Arapoglou) is a mild-mannered, nerdish guy who wants to be an earth scientist. He also naively wants to clean up the area. While investigating the city’s problem at the library, with an assist from Sarah (Julissa Sabino) — the blind librarian he secretly loves — he discovers some secrets involving Mayor Babs Belgoody (Leslie Bellair).

Out one night, he is attacked and pushed down a drum of waste by the mayor’s goons. He lives but emerges from the waste a green monster, with a deformed face but a superhero’s physique. And he has an axe to grind.

Sarah is pretty hot for the avenger after he rescues her one evening; she affectionately nicknames him “Toxie” and tells her friends about him in the number “My Big French Boyfriend.”

Nick Arapoglou as Melvin Ferd the Third with his true love, played by Julissa Sabino.

Nick Arapoglou as Melvin Ferd the Third with his true love, played by Julissa Sabino.

The musical, which won an Outer Critics Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical, doesn’t stray far from the cult 1984 movie. It’s campy and too-thinly plotted, but it’s made with exuberance and a tongue-in-cheek tone. It’s also full of zingers, with jokes about Michele Bachman and Mother Teresa, and an air of political incorrectness.

It’s a little perplexing how this musical, which bowed in 2008, has never gone on to much mainstream attention. What really elevates it is a score that is bouncy, addictive and clever.

The material may not seem like it would make a musical, but it does — and Heidi Cline McKerley directs the hell out of this. Mckerley has become one of the city’s most reliable, versatile directors, bouncing back and forth between musicals and drama, and she really delivers here. She and her husband, Jeff McKerley, handle the choreography, and the musical numbers have a crisp flair to them.

The director get great assists from Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay’s industrialized set, which is appropriately run down and — yes — overflowing with waste, as well as music director S. Renee Clark, conductor/keyboardist Bryan Mercer and musicians Andrew Cleveland, Kent Osborne, Lorenzo Sanford and Joel Saidi.

The five-person ensemble cast is delightful. Arapoglou gives Melvin a decency while his Toxic Avenger becomes a reluctant superhero. The actor is expertly suited for the role, especially a chase sequence where he hauls out a harmonica and plays it. Sabino, a standout in Actor’s Express’ Rent last year, is a warm presence who can also belt her heart out, while Austin Tijerina and Michael Stiggers — who play multiple supporting roles — are as appealing as they’ve ever been, fleshing out a lot of different characters, from thugs to hairdressers to a folk singer.

As adept as they all are, however, this is ultimately a showcase for Bellair. She is in top form, with a rangy vocal vocabulary and superb comic timing. Besides playing the mayor and capturing her in all her sordid, Joisey-accented glory, the actress also portrays Melvin’s mother, who has long been disappointed in him, even before he turned green and toxic.

In her number “Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore,” both of Bellair’s characters face off at the same time and it’s one of the giddiest, most creative musical moments in recent memory. The song is a showstopper with catchy lyrics (“You’re a bitch, you’re a slut, you’re a liar, you’re a whore / Did I leave something out, let me think some more / You’re a tart, you’re a tramp, you’re as cheap as Demi Moore”) and Bellair nails it.

If she doesn’t win a Suzi Award for this, it will be a Tromaville injustice.

The second act seems a little anticlimactic and at times Toxie become a secondary character in his own musical. Nonetheless, even when the narrative stalls, the score doesn’t. Another engaging number is “Choose Me, Oprah!” with Sarah and her vampy back-up singers, Diane and Shinequa (Tijerina and Stiggers), detailing an idea for a memoir.

Anyone looking for high art or a message should look elsewhere, but musical junkies and those with an adventurous streak will eat this up. Aurora Theatre’s Wit moved me, and the Alliance Theatre’s Disgraced made me think (and think), but The Toxic Avenger is the production that slapped a goofy smile on my face.

I simply can’t wait to see Horizon’s version again.

– See more at: http://www.artsatl.com/2016/02/review-horizons-the-toxic-avenger/#sthash.m5TCiV60.dpuf

AJC Review: Horizon unleashes campy kicks in ‘Toxic Avenger’

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To how high a standard can you really hold something like “The Toxic Avenger”? It is what it is – a campy, lower-brow musical parody based on a cheesy, low-budget cult movie of questionable merit. The less you expect from the show in terms of basic originality or theatrical sophistication, the more likely you’ll be to give in to and go with the pure nonsense of it all.

(P.S. If you loved last year’s notably smart and stylish production ofthe musical “Memphis,” don’t even think about the shocking fact that the script and score for “The Toxic Avenger” is co-written by the same creative team, Joe DiPietro and David Bryan.)

Our hero is a nerd named Melvin Ferd the Third, an aspiring earth scientist and environmental activist of little self-esteem, who runs afoul of a corrupt gang of politicians and corporate types bent on turning his hometown of Tromaville, N.J., into a haz-mat dumping ground and wasteland. Left for dead in a vat of toxic goo, he emerges as a mutant monster with superhuman strength to take the wrongdoers to task.

But it’s not easy being green. When he isn’t persevering as an angry pacifist, literally ripping the bad guys limb from limb, he’s a hopeless romantic struggling to conceal his true identity from the woman he loves, Sarah, a blind librarian who affectionately nicknames him “Toxie.” As though that weren’t enough, during a couple of the musical numbers, he’s even compelled to play a mean harmonica, too.

In Horizon Theatre’s “Toxic Avenger,” Nick Arapoglou, the exuberant and engaging star of its “Avenue Q” a few seasons back, is a real kick in the title role, reuniting with “Q” director Heidi McKerley. Cast as his sweet love interest is Julissa Sabino, who shone in Actor’s Express’ recent “Rent.”

The industrious – and tireless – supporting ensemble features Leslie Bellair, Austin Tijerina and Michael Stiggers in a quick-changing multitude of other parts, ranging from a mad scientist and sassy hairdressers, to surly street thugs and a hippie folk singer, to a maniacal mayor and a meddling mother. They’re infectious fun to watch, especially Bellair in one terrific scene requiring two of her characters to be in the same place at the same time.

Under the music direction of S. Renee Clark, Bryan Mercer (on keyboards) leads a live four-piece band. The dozen or so songs — including “Hot Toxic Love,” “You Tore My Heart Out” and a pair of others that can’t be reprinted here — are more diverting than memorable.

Perhaps befitting of the source material, and for better or worse, the show’s production design is suitably tacky. At best, lighting designer Mary Parker occasionally uses black lights and glowing green slime to trippy effect.

However boisterously staged and performed it is, high art “The Toxic Avenger” ain’t. Get over it already, and then just enjoy.