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Wednesday, March 5,2014

Living ‘Color’

Riverwalk show depicts early American movement to advance freed slaves

by Tom Helma
History is sometimes a strange stew of colliding ideas that can form the foundation for a highly entertaining story, as is the case with Riverwalk Theatre’s production of “Free Man of Color.”
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Friday, February 21,2014

REVIEW: Into the woods

A pair of lost souls search for hidden truths in Purple Rose drama

by Tom Helma
Friday, Feb. 21 — Contrary to the eloquently expressed opinion of William Shakespeare, all the world is not a stage. Lanford Wilson’s script for “Redwood Curtain,” playing through March 15 at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, suggests that it is possible for people to step away from the fury of the madding crowd, to seek solitude and serenity in the quiet, stately forests of the Pacific Northwest.
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Wednesday, February 12,2014

Way of the Midwest

Riverwalk takes to the open road with humor, nostalgia

by Tom Helma
At first glance this is a simple nostalgia story, but wait. ”Leaving Iowa,” running through Sunday at Riverwalk Theatre, invites us back to be lost in the ‘70’s, where roadside attractions were advertised on highway billboards, Dad was king of the road and Mom’s role was simply to say “yes, dear.”
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Wednesday, November 20,2013

Curtain call: A vision in a dream

MSU roller-skating musical whisks audiences off to ‘Xanadu’

by Tom Helma
The debut show for MSU’s new Studio 60 Theatre is the charming and enchantingly infectious, high energy, feel-good production of “Xanadu.” With an outrageously ostentatious disco roller rink set featuring multiple photomurals and wraparound, rainbow-colored lighting, the set design alone makes the trip to campus worthwhile. Add to that a seemingly freestyle plot and you have the campiest theater of the season.
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Wednesday, November 6,2013

Curtain call: The curious case of Benjamin Braddock

LCC succeeds in seducing with adaptation of ‘The Graduate’

by Tom Helma
Mike Nichols’ 1967 movie adaptation of Charles Webb’s novel “The Graduate” was a scathing send-up of the existential emptiness of the lost-in-the-‘50s generation. The emerging Boomers celebrated it as the beginning of something new, revolutionary — the Age of Aquarius, no less.
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Wednesday, October 23,2013

'Hollow' on point

Riverwalk’s Halloween show an immersive, interactive thrill

by Tom Helma
Clearly, Riverwalk Theatre has put its heart into this adaptation of the classic Washington Irving short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” It begins with a walk through the darkened black box theater, which has been transformed into a living diorama representing the ghostly village of Sleepy Hollow.
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Wednesday, October 16,2013

The ‘Wonderful’ world of Johnny Mathis

A Q & A with the venerable crooner

by Tom Helma
In 1957, I took my prom date to a midnight show by this new singer named Johnny Mathis. We were the last people to get inside, and only then because I bribed the maître d’ with 50 bucks I’d saved from my paper route.
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Wednesday, October 9,2013

Existential matters

LCC’s ‘Agnes of God’ puts faith through the wringer

by Tom Helma
On a black box stage, less is more. Three shrouds of ghostly gauze with projected wrought-iron outlines of Review stained glass windows convey the sense of a cloistered convent. Two chairs are enough furniture for an entire play.
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Friday, October 4,2013

REVIEW: “The Vast Difference”

Purple Rose revives Jeff Daniels show for 20th anniversary

by Tom Helma
Friday, Oct. 4 — “The Vast Difference,” written by Michigan native (and recent Emmy Award-winner) Jeff Daniels, has been resurrected as a 20th anniversary piece at Daniels’ Chelsea performance space, the Purple Rose Theatre. The title is a play on “vas deferens,” which is the small tube that carries sperm to its ultimate destination in the male reproductive system. But this is more than a stage play about sperm. It is a comedic romp through the existential journey of what it means to be a real man, in both the post-WWII-era of larger-than-life, John Wayne-like heroes and in the ever-changing male-female dynamics of the feminist empowerment era.
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Wednesday, September 11,2013

Zombie be good

Over the Ledge show gets laughs with sci-fi parody

by Tom Helma
“Zombies from the Beyond” is a campy musical melodrama that pays homage to the cheesy science fiction black-and-white movies of the mid-‘50s. It’s a silly sendup, with elements of parody and nostalgia thrown into the mix, driven by solid singing, good acting and decent dancing.
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