Articles from Tampa Bay Times
"Legally Blonde' at Richey Suncoast Theatre
"Legally Blond" runs through May 28 at Richey Suncoast Theatre in downtown
New Port Richey. From left are cast members Suzanne Meck as Pilar, Kaela
Koch as Margot and Anthena Romanski as Elle.
You know a
musical is good when even two adorable little dogs can't steal the show
(though they do get lots of "oohs" and "aahs" when they make their
wide-eyed, well-behaved appearances).
But that's what
happens in Legally Blonde, the 2007 Broadway hit playing through May 28 at
Richey Suncoast Theatre in downtown New Port Richey.
Thanks to a
stellar, almost 50-member cast of high-energy singer/dancers, led by
beautiful RST newcomer Athena Tootie Jolee Romanski (yes, that is her full
name) as sorority president/aspiring Harvard Law School student Elle Wood,
Melissa Smith's knockout choreography, and Marie Skelton's fine
direction, Legally Blonde delivers so much pow and punch that the puppies
become just two more elements in an overall adorable show.
politically incorrect — note the hilarious Gay or European? in Act 2, or the
cynical Blood in the Water sung by the lecherous law professor Callahan
(David Bethards) in Act 1 or even the spoof of the near-sacred Riverdance —
but it's all done with such chutzpah that you can't help but burst out
That's in great
part because of Brian Moran, who goes from being the trashy,
good-for-nothing Dewey in one scene to the mincing pool boy Nikos in another
to a gorgeously hunky, "walking porn" UPS delivery guy Kyle in the still
another. (I had to double check it was the same man doing all three, just to
be sure.) Talk about talent — this guy has it.
As always, Beth
Phillips is a darling (remember her star turn as Billie Bendix in Nice Work
If You Can Get It?) as Paulette, Elle's wise and wonderful hairdresser, who
has just about given up on men until she meets Kyle. Mitchell Gonzalez
creates a convincing cad as Warner, a nastily ambitious Harvard man who
dumps Elle for the "more serious" Vivienne (played with appropriate snark by
Brooke Stinnett), a fellow law school student he deems more worthy of
himself. Jess Glass is a hoot as the spunky lesbian law student Enid, at
first skeptical of Elle, then her fiercest champion.
gets a chance to show not only his acting skills, but his wonderful singing
voice (Take It Like a Man, Chip on My Shoulder, Legally Blonde) as Emmett
Forrest, Elle's law school pal, supporter, encourager and, eventually, No. 1
fellow. Molly Cook bursts with energy and life as fitness guru Brooke
Wyndham, the murder suspect who poses as Elle's greatest challenge and
Marvelous in supporting roles are Mark Lewis as Winthrop, the sputtering law
school dean; Cody Farkas as the tie-dyed dancer Grandmaster Chad; and the
trio of Kaela Moran, Megan Gillespie and Suzanne Meck as Elle's
ever-faithful sorority sisters Margot, Serena and Pilar and her
ever-helpful, imaginary Greek chorus that appears to lift her up whenever
things get really tough for the Malibu girl turned courtroom fighter.
joy in the musical, however, is Romanski, as the upbeat, completely likable
Elle, whose metamorphosis from seemingly air-headed boy's toy to a creative,
perceptive and whip-smart attorney is a pleasure to watch. She can Bend and
Snap with the best of 'em, then direct the Scene of the Crime like a
seasoned pro, tossing her ice-blonde hair with zest and zeal. Her Elle is
proud but not arrogant, sweet but not syrupy — in short, just right at every
to David Daly, who stepped in to play Elle's Dad (in addition to four other
roles) when the original actor was taken to the hospital just before opening
hoping Paulette's mic problem is cleared up (one near the mouth, not on the
forehead, please) so that her "Where are they now" explanation at the end of
the show comes through clearly, because it's one of the most hilariously
surprising parts of the whole thing.
Review: Richey Suncoast's 'Jekyll & Hyde' captivates audience
In a recent informal poll of area actors asking
what show they would most like to do, the musical Jekyll &
Hyde was one of the top five choices of the
majority of respondents.
For one thing, it's very popular with audiences —
and what actor doesn't love an enthusiastic audience? But perhaps
more important, it has many plum roles that actors love to do.
Perhaps that's why co-directors Emily Nettnin and
Jess Glass were able to fill the current production at Richey
Suncoast Theatre in New Port Richey with many of the area's
top-notch singer/actors/dancers, several of them promising
candidates for lead roles in future shows.
Jekyll & Hyde, based on the Robert Louis
Stevenson novel, examines the dual nature of man for good and evil.
Respected Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jason Ensor) believes his father's
severe mental illness — indeed, the mental illnesses of the world —
could be cured if only there were some medication that could
overcome the evil in mankind and let only the good survive. He begs
the board of directors of the hospital where his father is confined
to let him experiment with these drugs. But five of them flatly
reject him; his future father-in-law, Sir Danvers Carew (Bob
Marcela), abstains, and his request is denied.
At that point, Dr. Jekyll decides to experiment
on himself so that he can then cure his father and others suffering
with mental illness. But the entire plan backfires. He concocts a
potion that brings out his evil side and sends him on a murderous
rampage, then finds that he can't reverse it at will, no matter what
combination of drugs he formulates.
I will admit I've seen versions of this show that
were downright silly, more Reefer
Madnessthan serious thriller, with bubbling
laboratories fit for Young Frankenstein and overacting that made me
stare down at my toes in embarrassment.
Not this production.
Directors Nettnin and Glass, the actors, the
production crew and the orchestra make all the right moves,
presenting a drama that captivates from start to finish, moving
smoothly from one scene to the next and building tension that is
both horrifying and convincing.
Great credit goes to young Ensor as Dr. Henry
Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Mallory Quinn as the prostitute Lucy Harris and
Mitchell Gonzalez as Jekyll's longtime friend, adviser and lawyer
John Utters. Kudos also go to set designers Adam Sieber and Patrick
Moran, whose simple laboratory is as realistic for the period as
Madame Curie's, and to costumers Marleen Gravitz, Jess Glass, and
Marie Skelton, whose opulent upper-class outfits and bawdy
prostitute garbs establish both the economic and social status of
both groups at first sight.
Ensor finesses every scene, tenderly hurting in Lost
in the Darkness as he faces the truth about
his insane father, resolute in I
Need to Know as he contemplates his choices
and, arguably most difficult of all, pulling off the famous "hair
with wild but controlled energy, raising his entire body to the tip
of his fist as he vows to be good, then collapsing and leering as
his evil self takes over. Quinn's Lucy is tough but tender, her
Broadway-size belt just right for this role. Gonzalez's Utterson
establishes the voice of reason and decency, without being prudish
Brooke Stinnett is lovely as Henry's fiancee,
Emma Carew, her soprano ringing the rafters, her angelic face kind
and sensitive. Bob Marcela as her father, Sir Danvers Carew, is the
epitome of caring father; Jeff Schoonmaker is impressive as Simon
Stride, the secretary of the hospital board. Makeup designer Lydia
Hazen deserves special notice for the grand job she did on bawdy
house pimp Spider (David Daly), a slimy degenerate with no heart.
Each of the 26 cast members deserves a special
shout-out, but space prevents. Kudos must go to music director Mark
Anthony Jelks, whose seven-piece ensemble keeps perfect pace and
tune. Listen for Lisa Grimsly's flute solo as Lucy sings her hopes
New Life in Act Two. Cheers to resident
choreographer Melissa Smith, whose colorful production numbers bring
out the best from the entire cast.
Directors Nettnin and Glass deserve special
praise for innovative use of space, with an opening scene that
brings the entire audience into the heart of the show right off the
bat, and use of the aisle and stairs keeps everyone as involved as a
walk through a Disney World haunted house. (Word of caution: Be in
your seat five minutes before curtain time, and if you must go to
the restroom during the show, use the outside aisles.)
Richey Suncoast's Jekyll &
Hyde got off to a stormy start when the
arrival of Hurricane Irma forced the cancellation of three of
opening weekend's shows, so seats may be scarce for the final three
performances on Sept. 22, 23 and 24. It would be wise to purchase
tickets quickly so as not to miss this really fine production of a
Review: Onstage lunacy makes
'Shakespeare/Abridged' a must-see
Okay, so maybe you were turned
off by the very thought of a play by William Shakespeare somewhere in your
sophomore year of high school, back when you were more attracted by sports
or band or the person three rows up in Algebra 1 class than a lecture on
Or perhaps you've seen The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged,
somewhere else and think once is enough.
Forget all that. The Shakespeare/Abridged playing at Richey Suncoast Theatre
II, Charlie and Marie Skelton's Cabaret, isn't "real Shakespeare," even
though the Bard of Avon's words are generously scattered throughout the
play. And it isn't exactly like the one you saw somewhere else.
Sure, this is still a zany version of all 37 Shakespeare plays, plus 154 of
his sonnets, condensed to about two hours, including intermission. But it's
new and updated, with ad-libs and crazy physical humor that is seriously
physical, and especially effective since you're sitting on stage, often less
than 3 feet from the flying "swords" and knives and flailing arms and legs
of the actors.
Even so, have you seen Othello done in rap, Hamilton-style, with foot
stomps, hand claps and couplets that would make both Shakespeare and Lin
Manuel-Miranda giggle? Or a Juliet (of Romeo and Juliet) with a 5 o'clock
shadow? Or several Shakespeare plays condensed into one wild and crazy
football game? Or all 16 of Shakespeare's comedies mashed into one madcap
five-minute play? Or Macbeth lugging around a golf bag (after all, it is set
And it's also different from what you might have seen before because it
stars four of Richey Suncoast's (nay, the entire area's) best actors (I
would have said "the best" except that RST has a deep bench of fine male
performers in addition to these four) — brothers Mitchell Gonzalez (Conrad
Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie) and Patrick Gonzalez (Lancelot in Spamalot) and a
second set of gifted brothers, Brian Moran (title role in Young
Frankenstein) and Patrick Moran (Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; Igor in
Frankenstein). There's no human way to resist these talented young men, who
work together like the brothers and/or good friends they are.
(You probably should know that two of them stepped in at the last moment
when another actor had to drop out — but I'm not saying which two because
there's no way you can tell it, they are all so good.)
The show is usually done in one 90-minute act, but the RST version is
expanded to two hours by a comically sincere introduction by Patrick
Gonzalez, an intermission and an extended version after version after
version of what many Shakespeare aficionados consider the perfect play,
which would be Hamlet, but not the Hamlet, much less the Ophelia and
Gertrude (both done by Patrick Moran) you might expect.
There's audience participation, and a couple of spit takes that call for the
kind of ponchos one might don at a Gallagher watermelon smash. And even
though there are some off-color asides, double entendres and muttered
obscenities, they go by so fast, the younger set probably won't catch them.
So this could be considered suitable for all ages.
As with Shakespeare, there is wordplay: Mitchell Gonzalez patiently explains
that being a "pre-eminent" Shakespearean scholar doesn't mean he is a
superior scholar; the "pre" makes it mean that he is "before" being eminent,
and that's why he knows little, if anything, about the subject at hand.
The lunacy on stage couldn't happen without a lot of behind-the-scenes
support, starting with director Emily Nettnin, who managed to corral the
on-stage foursome without dampening their energy, enthusiasm,and abundant
talents. Stage manager Adam Sieber kept the action going, with the help of
his crew — Brittany Gonzalez, Suzanne Meck and Janine Moran. Light designer
Matt Beil and light board operator Garrett Case added to the comedy. And
producer Marie Skelton made sure everything was where it should be.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged, at 8 p.m. April 22 and
29, and 2:30 p.m. April 23 and 30, at Richey Suncoast Theatre, 6237 Grand
Blvd., New Port Richey. Tickets are $25, open seating. Call (727) 842-6777
or at the box office before the show.
Review: Hermine delays, but fails to dampen, Richey Suncoast
Hurricane Hermine may have blown opening weekend at Richey Suncoast
Theatre down the road a week, but it didn't dampen the performances or
the enthusiasm of the cast and crew of Dirty
Rotten Scoundrels, the musical comedy about charming con men and the
ladies they charm, playing weekends through Sept. 25.
As performed by the amazing cast at RST in New Port Richey, it's 2 1/2
hours of laughs, surprises, singing, dancing and Mark Anthony Jelks's
sweet little orchestra that keeps everything moving.
Director Emily Nettin's stellar lineup was in perfect form for the
belated "family and friends" final dress rehearsal on Sunday that, for
the most part, looked and sounded as sharp as it would at the end of a
three-week run. This show requires six top-notch singer/actors, as well
as a sizable ensemble to do multiple roles, and this show attracted the
best of the bay to do them.
That's what happens when a theater chooses shows that actors want to be
in, and RST has scheduled a bunch of them over the past couple of
seasons — Spamalot, Young
Drowsy Chaperone, Urinetown —
that have helped the theater build a full bench of outstanding
performers to audition, including professionals and several who could be
if they so choose.
Almost stealing the show is Patrick Moran as Freddy Benson, the
low-level gigolo who yearns for Great Big Stuff like his new friend and
mentor, the suave and successful Lawrence Jameson, played with smooth
irony by the always wonderful Michael McGuigan. Both these roles require
perfect timing, where pauses can mean everything, and they both have
those down pat.
Moran's high-energy physical humor combined with his innocent baby face
create a Freddy who can go from winsome to wicked on the turn of a dime.
McGuigan's Lawrence is unfailingly charming and resourceful, always one
step ahead of everyone else … until he isn't.
David Bethards is marvelous as Andre Thibault, Lawrence's faithful
sidekick with a captivating French accent, which, by the way, he
maintains throughout the show. Watch for Bethards's dance moves; for
someone so, um, substantially built, he is as light and graceful as a
The men are wonderfully matched by three of the bay area's top females.
The gorgeous Victoria Stinnett makes Muriel Eubanks, a wealthy, but
naive do-gooder, irresistible, even as she maddeningly falls for
Lawrence's transparently phony royalty routine. After all,What
Was a Woman to Do? she
melodramatically sings as she sheds her jewels to save Lawrence's
Suzanne Meck nails the rowdy Jolene Oakes, a big-haired oil heiress from
Oklahoma who is determined to marry the marriage-averse Lawrence. Meck's
Oklahoma twang, skin-tight jeans, well-worn cowboy boots and fringed
jacket (tip of the hat to costume designer Katherine Rivera) bring the
wide-open spaces right into Lawrence's elegant chateau (hat tip to set
designer Dan McConaghy and crew).
The slender, beautiful Janine Paradiso makes a perfect Christine
Colgate, "The American Soap Queen" who arrives on the scene just as
Lawrence and Freddy have reached an impasse over who should have
exclusive swindling rights of Beaumont de Sur women. So the two make a
bet: The first one to con the soap heiress out of $50,000 wins — and the
other must leave town.
That's when the real twists and turns start. Listen carefully; writers
David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane wrote some clever, funny lines and astute
cultural references (note Freddy's favorite comic book, too) that are
worth hearing and trying to remember.
A special shout-out to the 10-member ensemble, which sings and dances
its way through playing house staff, casino patrons, sailors and a
chorus line, with quick-changes in costume and attitude suitable for
each role. Watch especially for RST veteran Mark Lewis as Gerard and
newcomer Adam Sieber as the Coupier, who seem to be everywhere at once.
And kudos to Brendan Boniol, who stepped in at the last minute to do a
fine job operating the sound board when the original operator was
suddenly taken ill.
Word to the wise: Don't leave when the you think the musical has ended;
there are one, two, or three more twists coming, and you don't want to