Step Afrika! will perform in the Eisemann Center’s new 2023/24 season (Courtesy photo)

Stage Notes is a weekly aggregate post about theater, classical music and stage news, events, reviews and other pertinent information. Trying something new by moving up our stage calendar to the top.

Opening this week:

Matt Matthews, today at the Addison Improv.

ATTPAC Broadway at the Center: Fiddler on the Roof, today-Saturday at the Winspear.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra: Carmina Burana, today-Saturday at the Meyerson.

MBS Productions: Adam & Eve in the Garden of Delights, or Love, today-May 21 at the Addison Theatre Centre, pictured.

Teatro Dallas: The 22+ Weddings of Hugo Multiple, today-May 21 at the Latino Cultural Center.

Firehouse Theatre: Saturday Night Fever, today-May 28.

Hip Pocket Theatre: Riders of the Purple Sage, today-June 11

Rockwall Community Playhouse: The Wizard of Oz, Friday-May 28.

Theatre Frisco: Rounding Third, Friday-May 28.

The Core Theatre: Our Town, Friday-June 4.

The Contemporary Chorale: Perspectives, 2:30 and 7:30  p.m. Saturday at the Eisemann Center

Fine Arts Chamber Players: Hallam Family Concert, 3 p.m. Saturday at the Dallas Museum of Art

Avant Chamber Ballet: Ballet in the Park, 3 p.m. Sunday at Klyde Warren Park.

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra: From Despair to Hope: Three Chamber Music Masters: Mozart, Poulenc, and Lutosławski, 2 p.m. Sunday at the Kimbell.

Broadway Dallas: To Kill a Mockingbird, May 16-28 at the Music Hall at Fair Park

Emma Willman, May 17 at Addison Improv.

Lyric Stage: Tarzan, May 17-21 at the Majestic Theatre.

Sammons Cabaret: Jodi Crawford Wright, 8 p.m. May 18 at the Sammons Center

Onstage now:

Art Centre Theatre: The Bad Seed, through Saturday.

Garland Civic Theatre: Snapshots, through Saturday at the Granville Arts Center.

Pocket Sandwich Theater: Captain Phantasm vs The Nefarious Dr. Noir, through Saturday.

Prism Movement Theater: Circe: The Song of Benedito, through Saturday at Kidd Springs Park.

Ochre House Theatre: Darkness: Less a Light On, through May 20.

Echo Theatre: Natural Shocks: A One-woman Play in a Tornado, Saturday at the Bath House Cultural Center.

MainStage Irving-Las Colinas: The Light in the Piazza, through May 20 in the Dupree Theater at Irving Arts Center, pictured.

Allen Contemporary Theatre: Something’s Afoot, through May 21.

Bishop Arts Theatre Center: World Classic, through May 21.

Stage West: Cruel Intentions: the 90s Musical, through May 21.

Theatre Arlington: On Golden Pond, through May 21.

Elevator Project: #Filtered by mixtamotus, today-Saturday at the Wyly Studio Theatre.

Broadway at the Bass: Tootsie, through Sunday.

The Eisemann announces the 2023-2024 season of Eisemann Center Presents

On Thursday, the City of Richardson and the Eisemann announced an impressively hefty season of Broadway legends, dance, theater and more for its 2023/24 season. At its announcement celebration, the center also hosted a performance by the vertical dance company Bandaloop, that performed on the front side of the venue as well as from the heights of its Bank of America Theatre inside. The company will perform at next weekend’s Wildflower Music and Arts Festival in Richardson.

The season features Broadway heavyweights like Patti LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Michael Feinstein as well as the final tour of the Manhattan Transfer.The season includes the series Jeffrey Siegel’s Keyboard Conversations with a total of four concerts.

The new season includes (from the Eisemann):

Sept. 23: Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein. Manual Cinema presents its version of the classic Gothic tale. The Chicago-based performance collective imaginatively combines shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, sound effects, and live music in haunting shows.

Sept. 29: Mariachi Herencia de México with La Marisoul. Simultaneously honoring the past, celebrating the present, and creating the future of regional Mexican music, Mariachi Herencia de México and La Marisoul take mariachi music to whole new heights in this vibrant celebration of Mexican music and culture.

Oct. 13: Ranky Tanky with Lisa Fischer. The soulful songs of the Gullah culture are brought to life by this band of native South Carolinians who mix jazz, gospel, funk, and R&B. The GRAMMY-winning vocalist Lisa Fischer (20 Feet from Stardom) joins. 

Oct. 22: Step Afrika! This company blends percussive dance styles practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities, traditional African dances, and an contemporary dance and art forms.

Oct. 26: The Manhattan Transfer. As they celebrate their 50th Anniversary, the group looks back on a career that has spanned genres from pop to jazz to rock and roll and more.

Nov. 10: When You Wish Upon a Star: A Jazz Tribute to 100 Years of Disney. Popular songs from famous Disney films have been interpreted and recorded by Disney fans such as Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Dianne Reeves and more. When You Wish Upon a Star will be performed by the house band of The National Jazz Museum in Harlem featuring pianist Sean Mason, and vocalists Kim Nalley and Sasha Dobson.

Nov. 11: Get Happy — Michael Feinstein Celebrates the Judy Garland Centennial. Liza Minnelli serves as executive producer of this multimedia live show, with film clips, archival photos, rare concert footage, never-before-heard audio recordings with Feinstein exploring her songs, legacy and more.

Nov. 17: Versa-Style Dance Company.  Co-artistic directors Jackie “Miss Funk” Lopez and Leigh “Breeze-Lee” Foaad,  created the company to promote, empower and celebrate the artistry of hip-hop and street dance culture.

Dec. 29: Nochabuena: A Christmas Spectacular. Performed by Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles and Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuellar.

Jan. 19: The Hot Sardines. The jazz band is on a mission to make old sounds new again.

Jan. 27: Judy Collins with the Richardson Symphony Orchestra. Collins will be accompanied by the RSO led by Maestro Clay Couturiaux as she presents Wildflowers in Full Bloom.

Feb. 1: The Sound of (Black) Music. This production reimagines one of America’s musical classics through an Afrofuturistic lens. 

Feb. 24: Brian Stokes Mitchell. The two-time Tony Award winner performs his signature Broadway hits. 

March 17: Cenicienta: A Bilingual Cinderella Story. Ten-year-old Belinda is a budding poet and loves to tell stories, but when she’s stuck in the basement preparing for a party upstairs that her stepmother and stepsisters will host, she’ll have to get creative. It’s a story within a story; Belinda lives out her version while also re-enacting the classic tale of Cinderella

March 23: Patti LuPone: A Life in Notes. The three-time Tony Award winner describes her new concert as a “personal musical memoir.”

March 30: Contemporary West Dance Theatre. Founded in March 2007 by Alvin Ailey protege Bernard H. Gaddis and Charmaine Hunter, the company integrates classical and modern paradigms with athleticism for a profound dance experience.

April 5: 360 AllStars. A physical performance exploring all forms of rotation, this company uses BMX, basketball, breakdancing, acrobatics and drumming to deliver a supercharged urban circus. 

April 13: 123 Andres. These high-energy, family-friendly shows celebrate the Latinx experience and incorporate Spanish, English and ASL languages. 

April 24: The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.  Somewhere between sincerity and insanity; punk rock sensibilities and restrained British humor; the not-too-silly and the not-too-serious have recieved  international and critical acclaim.

April 26 and 27: Farfalle by Compagnia TPO. The show is rich with different languages: dance, sounds, images, interactive animations where every scene has its own particular movement-sensitive environment; the dancers’ movements cause new images and sounds to appear and compose the visual and sound frames which allow us to play with forms and colors…the world of butterflies.


Cruel Intentions at Stage West digs into the ’90s vibes with sex and revenge

Stage West is having a moment with its current production. The Fort Worth theater opened Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical last weekend. The show, based on the film and the French epistolary novel Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons), is a co-production with Uptown Players which will feature the musical at the Kalita in June.

What’s fun about the show is that — at least for fans of the movie — it follows it quite faithfully with some clever tweaks here and there both for the stage and to flesh out some originally peripheral characters. Along with hits from the decade though, the show is a whole different beast that was part camp, part high drama and even part WTF.

Sebastian (Ethan Massengale) and Kathryn (Kathryn Jacobson) are step-siblings in a one-percenters family. The teens are preparing for their first day at a prestigious high school. They also, for fun, make wagers involving people that will likely ruin their lives through sex, gossip and plotting. Their primary targets are the virgin transfer student Annette (Hannah Valdovinos) and headmaster’s daughter Cecile (Logan Graye), whose beau Court (Garrett Caelan Weir) dumped Kathryn for. Sebastian attempts to seduce Annette who published an article about waiting for sex, while Kathryn seeks to ruin Cecile’s also-virginal reputation. The wager is Sebastian’s vintage Jaguar if Kathryn wins, or if she loses, she has sex with Sebastian.

Jacobson and Massengale were a perfect fit for the rich teens and their diabolical demeanors. They both gave their characters a distinct coldness and nonchalance to everything around them but themselves. Valdovinos was a lovely Annette that gave the right contrast to Massengale’s character. While there’s never a need to root for them to get together (I mean, Sebastian is NOT a good person), the two had nice chemistry as the characters began to fall for each other.

For comic relief, Logan Graye played Cecile with abundant energy. The character falls for her student music instructor Ronald played by Jonah Munroe and both had an adorkable rapport that worked quite well with their budding romance.

D’Mariel and Andrew Meier played the very out Blaine and the closeted jock Greg, respectively, both who are friends of the step-siblings and who also start off in contemptuous fashion. Although dismissive characters in the film, the musical gave them a blossoming romance. That storyline never felt forced despite being added to this stage version. Both actors also navigated that love-hate thing quite well in the beginning to a touching high school couple by the end.

Director Garret Storms led the cast with a lot of thought and love. The show moved at the right pace with salacious energy and heartfelt exchanges. The vibes of the movie were there with brooding feels and youthful disregard, but that’s what you see Cruel Intentions for.

What punctuates the story was the soundtrack of 90s hits that serve as the show’s emotional language. Music director Cody Dry led the band deftly through familiar songs by The Cardigans, No Doubt, The Verve Pipe and others. Essentially, Cruel Intentions is a jukebox musical but because these songs worked so well, it was hard to consider it just that.

Despite its dark side, Cruel Intentions was a fun watch that’s somewhat nostalgic but also juicy and despicable because the story is still a compelling one to watch play out.

Tootsie owns up and delivers at Bass Hall

On paper, Tootsie, the musical, sounds problematic. A cis man dressing up as a woman to get ahead just has red flags all over it. But what made the show palatable was that it addressed that right away. Perhaps depending on the audiences LGBTQ, women, persons of color seeing a straight white man deceive his way to success isn’t the most fun. But the charm of Tootsie was that it recognized that and worked it into the dialogue. That gave at least me permission to take a breath and enjoy what turned out to be an unexpectedly fun and delightful ride on opening night this past Tuesday at the Bass.

Away from the original film, the story is updated to today where stage actor Michael Dorsey (Drew Becker) proves to be difficult to work with and can’t get a decent casting through his agent Fran Fields (Dianne Manaster). His roommate Jeff (Connor Alston) reminds him why he’s so difficult. Their actor buddy Sandy (Payton Reilly) is equally stressed about not getting cast. Dorsey comes up with the idea of auditioning for a role Sandy is going for not only as himself but as Dorothy Michaels. When she gets the part, Dorsey is torn between working success and his leading lady Julie (Ashley Alexander) who he’s fallen for but only knows Dorothy.

Becker had a difficult task of both carrying the show and also not being a loveable leading man. Without being a villain, he had to be somewhat unlikeable because Michael Dorsey is lying to everyone. Becker managed to be appealing enough to keep the story and audience engaged. As Michael, Becker was self-aware of the mounting bad decisions his character made. As Dorothy, Becker was charming but headstrong.

The show’s heart rested more in the surrounding characters. Alston was the roommate everyone could hope for. As Jeff, Alston was a comic gem but also played with sweet best-friend-energy. Reilly had to steer a neurotic Sandy with endless energy and she did so convincingly.

With not much stage time, Manaster really nailed her agent role. With maybe two big scenes, she made them unforgettable. Alexander’s romantic lead fell a bit short. Her voice was beautiful but the role didn’t really call for much which unfortunately didn’t allow her to make a strong impression.

The ironic thing in this show was that the actual villain, theater producer Ron Carlisle (Adam Du Pleiss) was always fun to watch. He served up smarmy energy with physical comedy nonstop.

The production was a beautiful one with sets by Christine Peters and David Rockwell punched up with rich colors and lights by Don Holder that aligned with the show’s overall upbeat vibe. Choreography by Denis Jones mixed both some classical and modern steps and was always exciting to watch.

Tootsie was a lot like a summer blockbuster show at the movies. You don’t go for the heavy stuff. The production was simply fun and funny throughout. But not to ignore the man-in-drag trope, which has been criticized, the show never felt offensive about that. There weren’t even any punchlines against the character dressing as a woman or judgy dialogue regarding the ultimate reveal. Tootsie felt like a story written particularly for today that was thoughtful and sensitive to immediate notions and that ultimately satisfied through its charm.

The show runs through Sunday at Bass Hall

–Rich Lopez