Just a Kid Putting on a Show!

“Voyage de la Vie” – Singapore

The saying goes: “There’s a broken heart for every light on Broadway.”   My feeling is for every light on Broadway there’s a kid with a dream. Somewhere along the way the kid stopped living his/her dream and started to live someone else’s and that’s where the broken hearts come from. I’ve always said be careful who you stand next to, you don’t want to catch their dream. Live your own dream. I’m a kid that lived my dream and I’m fortunate enough to still be living it.

I suppose I’m too old to be called a kid anymore. But I’ve always thought of everyone in the theater as a kid. To me it’s not a sign of age, it’s an indication of your spirit. The colleagues I’ve worked with whom I’ve admired the most had that “can-do” spirit that we all have as children. There are no boundaries, no restrictions, only hope and the belief if I dream harder it will come true. I worked with George Abbott who is often referred to as the “Father of American Theater.”   Mr. Abbott was the biggest kid in the neighborhood. At one hundred years old he still had that gleam of adventure in his eye you only find in the undying spirit of a child with a dream and a purpose.

There are people I’ve worked with who have taken offense to me calling them “kids.”  They find it demeaning in some form or other. It’s as if I’m indicating their lack of knowledge or education. But for me, we’re all a bunch of “kids” just putting together a show in the backyard. The same way we put on shows when we were growing up in all those small towns across the country before we packed up and moved to the big city to find our dreams. I use “kid” as a term of endearment to illustrate the person has not lost their inner child, the kid that allowed us to search for the dream.

The difference for me now? Not much. I’m still that “kid” putting on shows in the back yard. The shows just got bigger and a lot more expensive. 


Elf the Musical with book by Thomas Meehan & Bob Martin, Music by Matthew Sklar and Lyrics by Chad Beguelin has opened at the Dominion Theater in London for the 2023-24 holiday season. The production stars Matthew Wolfenden, Georgina Castle, Tom Chambers and Rebecca Lock. Produced by Ingrid Sutej and Miguel Esteban, this joyful and spirited musical is playing to sold out houses again this year. It seems London can’t get enough of Buddy the Elf!!!

Georgina Castle, Tom Chambers, Rebecca Lock, Nicholas Pound and Mathew Wolfenden star in Elf the Musical.

Matthew Wolfenden and Georgina Castle

The 2023 Cast of Elf the Musical at the Dominion Theater, London


William Ryall, Cady Huffman & Joshua Morgan

by Kay Kudukis Jan. 19, 2023  

Adam Karsten took the helm at CV Rep in the summer of 2022. His season opener was the quirky and rather perplexing The Humans which he followed up with Fun Home, an unconventional musical, which hit me extremely hard in the feels.

“And now,” as Monty Python would say, “for something completely different” he has brought us Claudia Shear‘s Tony-nominated Dirty Blonde, a fun, sexy, ribald romp of a story within a story chronicling the life of Mae West through two rather ordinary people with an extraordinary love of all things Mae.

If you aren’t familiar with Mae West let me tell you about the time she played The Chi Chi Club in Palm Springs. It was in the 1950s, and Mae was in her late fifties. Her act consisted of six bulging muscle men dressed in loincloths parading around her while she reclined on an eiderdown chaise drinking tea served by a black maid, comedienne Louise Beavers. It was the ultimate in camp. When a writer from Playboy asked Mae to define “camp,” she didn’t miss a beat, “Camp is the kinda comedy where they imitate me.” Oh.

Cady Huffman shines as both Mae West and as Jo, an unrealized actress, who meets Charlie (Joshua Morgan), a film archivist, at Mae West‘s crypt. They’re both there to wish Mae a posthumous happy birthday.             

Cady Huffman and Joshua Morgan

Jo loves Mae’s wit, she was a take-no-prisoners woman in a time when woman were more often the prisoners than the warden. Her love of Mae is dwarfed only by Charlie’s. Like Mae, Jo shares a healthy outlook toward sex (or so she tells us).

Charlie has been fascinated by Mae since he was a young boy. When he was seventeen, he would stand outside Mae’s front door with hopes of meeting her. And one day, he does. He shares those stories, photos, and all things Mae with Jo. It’s a “will they or won’t they situation” with the prerequisite wrench thrown in. But I’ll admit, it’s a pretty good wrench.

Interspersed with that, is a light-hearted romp through Mae’s past – the long vaudevillian road to her success on stage, and eventually film, is chronicled with Morgan and Broadway veteran Wiliam Ryall playing the characters that come and go in her life.

William Ryall and Cady Huffman

This production is all pro. All three actors can belt out a song (did I mention it’s a musical? It’s a musical), and all three have superior comic timing.

Huffman delivers all of Mae’s zingers with the appropriate sass and sexual innuendo. Her first appearance as Mae she had the house eating out of the palm of her hand.

Her Jo is fun, and although she seems to know herself well, she finds out she might have a little more to know.

Ryall has the lion’s share of the side characters, from Mae’s husband, to her companion, to her maid. He reminds me of John Malkovich and not just in looks; some of his characters have that dry delivery Malkovich does so well. On the other hand, some of his characterizations are intensely vaudevillian, but all of them are highly entertaining.

Joshua Morgan and Cady Huffman

While all of the actors are terrific, there is usually one that I can’t stop watching.  In this production it is Joshua Morgan.   His Charlie is a sympathetic nerd, a guy who lives in the past every day, bu finally begins to enjoy his present as his relationship with Jo grows.  He also plays a few side characters including W.C. Fields and a hilarious turn as a drag queen.  Twice, Morgan steps to the piano and plays it brilliantly.

Director Philip Wm. McKinley has an impressive directing resume including hi-octane Broadway productions Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark and five-time Tony nominated The Boy From Oz with Hugh Jackman. He gives no less to this show. The direction is crisp, and the pace is quick keeping all eyes on the stage at all times.

Cady Huffman

Production values were also top-notch with special shout outs to Frank Cazaras’ costume design and Emma Bibo on wardrobe with additional thumbs up to Lynda Shaeps hair and makeup design.  Moria Wilke’s lighting was spot-on as usual, and he sound design by Joshua Adams with Kiki Roller on audio did a great job of enhancing the action. 

ELF the Musical – The Dominion Theater/London

Who needs Will Ferrell? This show is a real cracker: VERONICA LEE reviews Elf The Musical 

By Veronica Lee For The Daily Mail02:03 25 Nov 2022, updated 06:53 25 Nov 2022
Rating: ****

Verdict: Slick festive fun

Rating: ****

Verdict: Fantastic fever dream

The 2003 film Elf is an established seasonal favourite and, inevitably, audiences will have Will Ferrell lodged in their heads when they think of Santa’s hapless ‘little’ helper Buddy.

Thankfully, Simon Lipkin in Elf The Musical overcomes any comparisons (and a dreadful wig) to make a convincing lead.

The story, should you need reminding, is about the naive Buddy, who at the age of 30 discovers he’s not an elf at all, but a large human who, as a baby, crawled into Santa’s sack and was then brought up by his elves at the North Pole.

Buddy goes to New York to find his father, frazzled businessman Walter Hobbs (Tom Chambers), who is too busy for his wife, Emily (Rebecca Lock), and son Michael, let alone for this weird manboy who wants to hug him all the time.

The 2003 film Elf is an established seasonal favourite and, inevitably, audiences will have Will Ferrell lodged in their heads when they think of Santa’s hapless little helper Buddy. 

To make matters worse, Hobbs is on the Naughty List because — oh, the horror — he doesn’t believe Santa exists.

Philip McKinley’s classy revival — the scenes in Macy’s look particularly gorgeous in Tim Goodchild’s design — has some rousing song-and-dance numbers (the book is by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, with songs by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, choreography by Liam Steel).

TIME OUT – “ELF the Musical” Review

Photo by Mark Senior

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

The stage adaptation of the beloved Will Ferrell film bounds joyously back into town

‘Elf the Musical’ rolls back into the West End with the same blunt-force charm as Buddy, its star. The last time this production was at the Dominion Theatre, in 2015, it was the venue’s fastest-selling show in nearly a century. It’d be a huuuge surprise if it’s not a success this time either.

Apart from a few tweaks and a couple of excised characters, the story largely follows the smash-hit 2003 Will Ferrell movie vehicle that’s now a perennial Christmas favourite. Titular hero Buddy’s Teflon-coated cheer can’t disguise the fact that he’s suspiciously tall for an elf. When Santa Claus breaks the news to him that he is, in fact, a human, Buddy sets out from the North Pole to find his real father in New York City.   

The influences on the film and this show are legion, particularly ’80s fish-out-of-water classics like ‘Big’. Buddy arrives to find a fraught New York, full of Christmas as a sales pitch, but not with its spirit. His father, Walter Hobbes, is a harried, snappy publisher of kids’ books with no time for the young son he actually knows he has. (Buddy was the result of a college romance, whose mother died without ever telling Walter.) From initially stumbling onto the shop floor of department store Macy’s, to inveigling his way into Walter’s office and then his home, Buddy’s open-handed, child-like joy shows everyone he meets the true meaning of Christmas.

This show lives or dies depending on its Buddy. Thankfully, Simon Lipkin knocks it out of the park. There are shades of Will Ferrell in his performance, but he brings an innocence that feels distinct. He tempers what could easily be an annoyingly consistent optimism with some killer line deliveries. He never descends into saccharine. Meanwhile, as Walter, Tom Chambers is grumpy and overworked rather than a full Scrooge. It lends a welcome trace of reality to the show’s otherwise cartoon altitude. Elsewhere, in a show largely focused on male relationships, Rebecca Lock and Georgina Castle still make their characters spark as Walter’s wife, Emily, and Buddy’s would-be girlfriend, Jovie, respectively.  And Kim Ismay, as Walter’s assistant, Deb, pretty much steals every scene she’s in.   

Philip Wm McKinley’s production is a fast-paced, Tim Burton-esque visual feast, full of exaggerated angles, art deco stylings and slick projections. There are throwaway references to modern tech – and some jarringly attempts to crowbar in some British-isms – but this is really a fantasia. It whirls you up in a Technicolor dream of Christmas, with Liam Steel’s choreography rarely giving you time for breath. Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin’s script is quippy and witty, while Chad Beguelin’s knowing lyrics stay on the right side of affectionate rather than arch. There are a couple of subplot cul-de-sacs and a few dodgy moments (particularly the initial presentation of a Chinese restaurant). But propelled by Matthew Sklar’s score – which hits all the right joyful/bittersweet notes – this is a slickly irresistible and fizzily enjoyable confection of a show. You may find yourself feeling festive even before Santa makes his final act appearance.

Review: At the Big Apple Circus, It’s a Family Affair

Veranica and her trained poodles making the most of their time in the spotlight.
(Photo by Seth Caplan for New York Times)


Though smaller and less glitzy than extravaganzas of years past, “Dream Big” is a brisk, welcoming, back-to-basics experience brimming with pizazz.

Big Apple Circus

NYT Critic’s Pick

By Alexis Soloski

Photographs by Seth Caplan

  • Nov. 25, 2022

Nepotism babies, performers who were launched into the entertainment industry with a boost from a family member or two, have a bad reputation. Maybe they deserve a better one. During the Big Apple Circus’s “Dream Big,” the latest splendid show to alight beneath its lavish tent in a corner of Lincoln Center’s plaza, second-, third- and fourth-generation performers swoop, swing, somersault and traverse a high wire 20 feet in the air. In the short videos that precede the acts, each credits their success to the mothers, fathers, uncles or grandparents who went into the ring before them. Nik Wallenda, the headliner, can trace his big top lineage back nearly 250 years, as can his 69-year-old mother, Delilah Wallenda, who helps him onto that wire.

The Wallenda family executes a truncated version of their signature pyramid tightrope trick.
(Photo by Seth Caplan for The New York Times)

Rokardy Rodriguez performing a precarious balancing act.
(Photo by Seth Caplan for The New York Times)

Irina Akimova twirls the hula hoops.
(Photo by Seth Caplan for The New York Times)

Sure, these performers started their careers a couple of rungs up the ladder. Then again, that ladder is unstable and balanced atop a tottering platform. So who’s complaining? And who has time to complain when one’s mouth is too busy shrieking in terror and delight?

In the past decade, the Big Apple Circus has undergone a few contortions of its own. It filed for bankruptcy in 2016 and re-emerged a year later as a for-profit enterprise. The 2019 show delivered a more grown-up experience, with a ringmistress imported from the adults-only Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and the introduction of some sexed-up acts. The Covid-19 pandemic foreclosed the 2020 season. And though the tent opened again in November 2021, this was weeks before anyone in the 5-to-12 crowd could have been considered fully vaccinated. But now vaccines are available to all, making the one-ring a more comfortable space, and the lineup is meaningfully similar to last year’s, a gesture that assuages any feelings of having missed out.

The Big Top
(Photo by Seth Caplan for The New York Times)

The circus reopened in November 2021, before young children could be considered fully vaccinated. This year’s show is more family-friendly.

My family is among those who gave the circus a pass last year. And I had wondered how it would feel to be back — at close quarters, with no masking or vaccine requirements — at the big top again. Would a modifier like “death-defying” mean less when everyone in the tent — performers, spectators — had lived through a global pandemic? Shouldn’t we get spangled costumes, too? And in truth, the evening didn’t begin especially well. There were long lines — in the rain — to walk through metal detectors, and the promised preshow performances never materialized. The main event started 20 minutes late, 15 minutes after an $8 bag of cotton candy had been consumed.

But as soon as the curtain opens, wonder makes a swift return. “Dream Big,” directed by Philip Wm. McKinley, is a brisk, back-to-basics experience, smaller and less glitzy than the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey extravaganzas of years past, but brimming with pizazz. There is no Wheel of Death this time, and even the Wallendas seem to fly with just a bit more care. If the show doesn’t tell a story — “Dream Big” is the organizing theme in only the loosest sense — it suggests, welcomingly, that anyone might want to grow up and join the circus, particularly those performers who grew up in it.

Johnny Rocket the clown.
(Photo by Seth Caplan for The New York Times.)
Elli Huber on the trapeze.
Johnny Rocket up to his antics.
(Photo by Seth Caplan for The New York Times.)

After the opening song and dance, the performers desert the petite, red-curtained ring and Elli Huber rises above it, spinning atop a trapeze. The safety wire strapped to her waist is clearly visible, but those, like me, who run a little anxious, may consider that a relief. She is followed by Veranica, a cheerful tween who leads a quintet of trained dogs through a frolicsome routine. Two of her poodles can pilot scooters. Bliss. Gena Cristiani juggles pin upon pin; Rokardy Rodríguez performs a precarious balancing act. Axel Perez, his nephew, swings and sways atop the rolla bola, a platform balanced atop one or more rolling cylinders. TanBA, a magician who had surprising success on “Britain’s Got Talent,” presents a frantic, pop-eyed act in which he swallows a dozen or more razor blades. (“DO NOT EVER TRY THIS,” I whispered to my children.) After the intermission, Irina Akimova performs a hoop act, and Nik Wallenda and his family perform a truncated version of their famous pyramid act, in which two of them traverse the wire while balancing a third Wallenda — without nets. Truncated is fine!

The Ringmaster, Alan Silva
(Photo by Seth Caplan for The New York Times)

In between the defter displays, Johnny Rockett, the clown, lampoons various circus skills. His character is a janitor and general roustabout, angling for a spot in the show. Rockett is of course a third-generation clown and a practiced comedian. But his routine pokes fun at a popular alternative to the nepo baby route — the overconfidence of the mediocre white man. The character he plays can’t do handstands or hula hoop or train dogs with any dexterity. (At the performance I attended, the dog in his act defecated on the stage, an apparent improvisation.) But the show keeps giving him the space to try. Arguably too much space. Three appearances might have been enough. Then again, he dropped a prop light bulb on me to general laughter. So maybe that’s just my wounded dignity talking.

The most extraordinary act is among the simplest, an unpretentious silks routine performed by the ringmaster, Alan Silva, a sixth-generation circus performer. Silva is a little person, standing at 3 feet 10 inches. In his early life, as he says in the video that precedes his act, he was bullied for his height and urged toward clowning. But he dreamed of an aerial act instead. When he removes his frock coat and abandons himself to the silks, he really seems to fly. It’s a dream come true, through practice and audacity. And it’s as big as anything.

Big Apple Circus
Through Jan. 1 at Lincoln Center, Manhattan;

REVIEW: Studio Tenn delivers a sleek, yet vibrant ‘Camelot’

By Amy Stumpfl

Photo by Keoni Keur

Based on T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, the action still centers on the tragic love triangle involving an idealistic King Arthur, his queen Guinevere and the gallant Lancelot. And fans certainly will recognize familiar songs, such as “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “C’est Moi,” “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood” and, of course, the title song, “Camelot.” But David Lee’s streamlined adaptation (which opened at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2010) strips away much of the pageantry of the past, along with a number of supporting characters – including the mysterious Merlin and the loyal Pellinore. It’s an interesting choice, and one that pays off with focused, yet highly theatrical storytelling and a refreshingly crisp pace.

This reimagined version actually trims the cast down to just a handful of players – or “revelers” – who are eager to share the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. They deliver concise narration directly to the audience, but also provide a good bit of cheeky stagecraft – easily becoming the “tree” under which Guinevere prays to Saint Genevieve, or the “stone” from which a young Arthur pulls the mighty sword Excalibur. Director Philip Wm. McKinley (Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the DarkThe Boy From Oz) makes the most of this fast-paced humor. But he also takes care not to rush the audience, drawing us in with some lovely stage portraits and allowing us to savor more poignant moments.

Steffanie Leigh (whose Broadway credits include Mary PoppinsGigi and War Paint) is simply radiant as Guinevere, capturing all the flirty spirit of “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood” and “Then You May Take Me to the Fair.” But she also reveals her character’s genuine heartache in ballads such as “Before I Gaze at You Again” and “I Loved You Once in Silence.”

Brian Gligor offers a thoughtful performance as Arthur, giving us a reluctant king who is at once wise, uncertain and devastatingly human. Gligor occasionally seemed to struggle vocally at Saturday’s matinee, but I thoroughly enjoyed his take on “I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight,” and his “How to Handle a Woman” is quite tender. And Bryce Dunn (currently a sophomore at Lipscomb University) is excellent as Lancelot, whether leaning into the pompous fun of “C’est Moi,” or serving up an emotional “If Ever I Would Leave You.”

These lead actors receive tremendous support from a seemingly tireless crew of revelers, who jump into various roles along the way. Curtis Reed, Easton J. Curtis and Dustin Davis (who stepped in for Darian Goulding at Saturday’s matinee) are especially impressive as the daring knights who challenge Lancelot to joust. Annie Huckaba is terrific as Squire Dap, and Alan Harrisohn Foeder is charming as young Tom of Warwick. And Abram Guice is a pure diabolical delight as Mordred, scheming against Arthur with “The Seven Deadly Virtues” and “Fie on Goodness.”

Andrew Cohen has fashioned a marvelously crumbling castle set, which ably supports the unfolding action, and Darren Levin’s evocative lighting enhances each scene. Neno Russell and Lauren Roark’s simple costumes feature plenty of medieval flourishes, but never let us lose sight of the merry revelers concept. Music Director Stephen Kummer leads a wonderful orchestra, and Everett Tarlton’s choreography adds polish, with “The Lusty Month of May” providing one of the performance’s most memorable moments.

This may not be the Camelot you’ve seen before. But with imaginative storytelling and vibrant performances, die-hard fans will no doubt find Studio Tenn’s staging quite congenial for “happily-ever-aftering.”

Camelot continues through May 15. Visit for complete details.

Elf Musical to Return to London’s West End

Philip Wm. McKinley will direct the production based on the 2003 film.

Elf the Musical, which made its London premiere at the West End’s Dominion Theatre in 2015, will return to the venue for a limited engagement beginning November 14.

Directed by Philip Wm. McKinley, the production will officially open November 24 and continue through January 7, 2023. Casting will be announced at a later date.

Based on the 2003 New Line Cinema film starring Will FerrellElf features a book by Tony winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone), with songs by Tony nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer). The musical made its Broadway debut in 2010 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre and returned there in 2012.

The production will also have original set and costume design by Tim Goodchild, choreography by Liam Steel, lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe and sound by Gareth Owen. Casting will be by Grindrod Burton Casting.

Elf the Musical is produced by Temple Live Entertainment.

BROADWAY WORLD REVIEW: David Lee’s ‘Sparkling and Winning’ Adaptation of Lerner and Loewe’s CAMELOT at Studio Tenn

Production Marks End of Studio Tenn Residency at Jamison Theatre at The Factory

by Jeffrey Ellis May. 7, 2022  

The cast of Camelot at Studio Tenn – photo by Keoni Keur

Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, the 1960 musical based on the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table and adapted from the T.H. White novel The Once and Future King, is now onstage in Franklin, in an entertaining, sparkling and winningly fast-paced rendition from Studio Tenn. Under the direction of Broadway veteran Phillip William McKinley (The Boy From Oz, Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark) who, with his creative team, brings to life the show’s 2010 update by multiple Emmy Award-winning, multi-hyphenate television producer David Lee (Frasier, Wings, The Jeffersons).

Unlike the original script, which tends to run long (at well over three hours), Lee’s adaptation presents a script that has undergone some judicious editing, excising some characters (say “goodbye” to Merlin, Sir Pellinore, Morgan Le Fay and sundry others), rejiggering some of the dialogue, eliminating some scenes and focusing on what he – and most of the musical’s fanbase, to be clear – believes to be the more intimate and highly engaging story that gives the show its vibrant heart: the romantic triangle of noble King Arthur, his beautiful queen Guinevere and the arrogant French knight Lancelot du Lac.

Brian Gligor as King Arthur – photo by Keoni Keur

McKinley stages the musical with a capable and versatile cast of ten, who portray a band of traveling troubadors or “revelers,” as they are identified in the show’s playbill, who bring the show to exhilarating life with bravado and a sense of fun that pervades the theater, particularly in Act One, and adding a soupcon of levity to the darker scenes that comprise most of the show’s second stanza. With his cast featuring a clever blending of seasoned professional actors – including his leading lady from Broadway in the form of Steffanie Leigh (from Broadway’s Mary Poppins, Gigi and War Paint) – and some fresh-faced younger thespians, McKinley injects a light-hearted, almost confectionary, air that gives the oftentimes dour and broody Camelot a more light-hearted mien that ensures audiences will leave the theater enthusiastically singing the praises of all the talent assembled onstage.

Brian Gligor and Steffanie Leigh – photo by Keoni Keur

While Lee’s script makes for a faster paced show, he manages to retain its romanticism and key points of the Arthurian legend to please most aficionados. In doing so, he is able to create a musical that is more easily accessible to Arthurian neophytes and members of the theaterati who have long preferred the exquisite score by Frederick Loewe over Alan Jay Lerner’s too-talky and overly dense book and lyrics. What was once plodding and heavy is now scintillating and sometimes effervescent in this production.

Yet make no mistake about it, Lee’s Camelot is still Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot. And even the most ardent fans should be able to find much to love in this new adaptation. And remember there is still another revision ahead, with a new revival of Camelot set to open at Broadway’s Lincoln Center in December, directed by Bartlett Sher from a script adaptation by Aaron Sorkin. Should we expect some fast-talking knights and ladies to gather around the round table? Only time will tell.

Bryce Dunn – photo by Keoni Keur

Musical director Stephen Kummer conducts his talented orchestra made up of Nashville musicians, from their location offstage at Studio Tenn’s current home in the Jamison Theatre at The Factory at Franklin. They perform the show’s memorable score with vigor and aplomb, providing the cast with sublime musical support. Everett Tarlton, who has gained a notable reputation for his work on productions throughout the region, provides the show’s ensemble with all manner of fancy footwork that seems new and fresh, with an amusing maypole dance during “The Lusty Month of May” that reveals his cheeky approach to the material at hand.

While “Fie On Goodness,” “Then You May Take Me to the Fair” and “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” are lighter-than-air buoyant entertainments, the musical highlights of Camelot remain its beautiful ballads: “If Ever I Would Leave You” is sung with confidence by Bryce Dunn as Sir Lancelot who, despite his relative youth, exudes unrequited love and heartache in his rendering of the song. Likewise, Steffanie Leigh’s Guinevere blends pathos and despair in her haunting “I Loved You Once in Silence,” which provides the musical’s lyrical high point (with her “Before I Gaze At You Again” vying closley for that designation).

Brian Gligor is well-cast as Arthur, ably embodying the somewhat reluctant monarch who comes into his own through the course of the play. Leigh, with her crystalline soprano and regal stage bearing, not to mention her own comedic abilities, creates a Guinevere who is at once chaste and sensual. Her stage presence is palpable and her chemistry with Gligor’s Arthur and Dunn’s Lancelot is noteworthy.

Dunn is quite good as Lancelot and when one considers that he is a college sophomore the appreciation for his performance only intensifies. He affects a nicely comical French accent, for the most part, although he has trouble maintaining it over the play’s two-and-a-quarter hour playing time.

 Abram Guice, Curtis Reed, Easton J. Curtis and Darian Goulding – photo by Keoni Keur

Stage veteran Curtis Reed is sublime as Sir Lionel, excelling in the physical comedy at which he is especially adept. Two of local college theater’s most exceptional leading men – Belmont University’s Darian Goulding as Sagramore and Lipscomb University’s Easton J. Curtis as Dinadan – once again show the talents that herald successful theater careers still to come. In addition, Dustin Davis, Annie Huckaba and Alan Harrisohn Foeder lend their talents to the production’s commendable ensemble.

But if one member of the cast is to be singled out for his extraordinary contribution to the production, the spotlight should be focused on young Abram Guice (yes, he’s the younger brother of the talented Arden and Aubrey Guice), who virtually steals the show as Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son. His performance and sheer command of the stage elicits warm applause from the audience, but perhaps more importantly he makes certain all their attention is riveted to him when he is onstage.

Brian Gligor and Alan Harrisohn Foeder – photo by Keoni Keur

Performed on a visually appealing and clearly stageworthy set designed by Andrew Cohen, McKinley’s clever staging emphasizes a swashbuckling flair that seems ideal for Camelot, while Darren Levin’s gorgeous lighting design gives an able assist to the audience in helping to focus their attention on the scenes playing out onstage. Costumes, designed by Neno Russell and Lauren Roark, are imaginative and timeless, allowing for the addition of elements every now and again to signify the essence of the scene in which they are worn.

 Steffanie Leigh, Brian Gligor and Bryce Dunn – photo by Keoni Keur

On opening night, there were some troublesome moments (Leigh had difficulty removing the cloak she was wearing in the wedding scene and her microphone failed her in another scene and there were some overlong transitions that could use some polish) that we suspect were eliminated by the second night of performances.

Camelot is the final production to be presented at the venue. Studio Tenn artistic director Patrick Cassidy announced prior to curtain on opening night that his company is collaborating with The Factory’s owners to build “a real theater” in the space, which real include balcony seating, better dressing rooms and rehearsal space, and ample restroom facilities. For the 2022-23 season, still to be announced to the ticket-buying public, Studio Tenn will perform in various local venues.

Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot. Music and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. Music by Frederick Loewe. Based on The Once and Future King by T.H. White. Book adapted by David Lee. New orchestrations by Steve Orich. Directed by Philip William McKinley. Musical direction by Stephen Kummer. Choreographed by Everett Tarlton. Production stage managed by Cecilia Lighthall. Presented by Studio Tenn at Jamison Theatre at The Factory at Franklin. Through May 15. For further information and for tickets, go to Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (with one 15-minute intermission).

Circus Voices w/ Jonathan Lee Iverson

Jonathan Lee Iverson

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jonathan Lee Iverson, Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey’s first black ringmaster for his Circus Voices podcast. Jonathan and I had a few good laughs as we reminisced about our days at Ringling with the Feld family.

In this episode of Circus Voices, Phil McKinley director, choreographer, writer, and producer, shares with us unforgettable anecdotes from his remarkable career, the sage advice of mentors that still inform him decades later, and he’ll recount for us a real time example from one of his more recent endeavors, of how live shows may COVID proof their productions. Philip William McKinley is the creator of multiple shattering extravaganzas around the world. From Salzburg to Tokyo, Broadway to Las Vegas to the Circus. He is an artist of immeasurable depth, range, and generosity.

Enjoy the interview at this link: