The cast of ‘Big Scary Animals’ at Theatre Three. (Courtesy photo by Jeffrey Schmidt)

Stage Notes is a weekly aggregate post about theater, classical music and stage news, events, reviews and other pertinent information.

Review: Theatre Three’s Big Scary Animals brings humor to neighborly discomfort

Dallas playwright Matt Lyle’s Big Scary Animals led by director Rebecca McDonald was an immediate catapult to Theatre Three’s 60th season. With some hometown flair that touched on big topics, the dramedy opened on Labor Day Monday. With high energy and clever dialogue, T3’s season certainly started on a high note.

On the whole, the cast was dynamic in the opening night performance. As the Paris, Texas conservative couple Rhonda and Donald, Charlotte Akin and Bob Reed were delightfully naive as they spend a dinner with their new neighbors, same-sex couple Marcus and Clark. Bradley Atuba played the more serious half of the couple while Chad Cline’s Clark was certainly the sassier, funnier half. When they comedy shifted to drama, the cast transitioned smoothly into disquieting and poignant performances. Cline and Akin had showier performances and didn’t disappoint with wisecracks and drunken laughter against the more straight man characters played by Reed and Atuba.

As the show’s younger voices, Monica Jones gave strong energy as the enlightened feminist college student Sophia who was still rebellious to her two dads and Brady White’s Ronnie was a mix of explosive highs and sympathetic lows as Rhonda and Donald’s “troubled” home-schooled son. Two complete opposites, the actors’ chemistry created an exceptional exchange in their dialogues.

T3 AD Jeffrey Schmidt was the show’s scenic designer who gave the set a Two-Face look dividing it down the middle as each of the couple’s homes. Initially, it looked like it would be a crowded set, but clever blocking and lighting by Jacob Hughes made the idea very effective and still homey for both families.

The play was a complete package. Big Scary Animals revealed that anyone can be scary and become an animal, but sometimes a casserole can fix all that. This is Texas after all.

The show runs through Sept. 25.

Undermain’s Lonesome Blues brings Dallas music history to life 

A special thing happened at the Undermain Theatre last Saturday. In its official opening night, Lonesome Blues was  having technical troubles. Troubles that delayed the start by half an hour. There was even audience concern that the show wouldn’t go on.

But it did.

Undermain’s producing artistic director Bruce DuBose thanked the audience for its patience and explained that the soundboard wasn’t playing the show’s soundtrack. A troubling thought being that the show was about Dallas blues singer Blind Lemon Jefferson. DuBose then said that actor J. Dontray Davis was willing to do the show a capella. The approving applause was only the beginning of the magical night.

The show, written by director Akin Babatunde and Alen Govenar, followed Jefferson from his street corner days in Deep Ellum to his recording days in Chicago and back. Along the way, he meets a variety of people such as other bluesmen like Leadbelly, a few women including his wife and others. The play brings Jefferson back to his home and up to his death in 1929.

Davis played all the roles but certainly the focus was on Jefferson. Davis certainly gave Jefferson many layers that ranged from cocky musician to a lonely man, but he never played him with sympathy. In short, Davis’ performance was regal. That he proceeded without the music took nothing away. Although without comparing it to a soundtracked performance, Saturday night’s show was practically perfect and if the soundboard breaks again, there really won’t be a problem.

Lonesome Blues runs through Sept. 18.

Ain’t Too Proud is a tempting look at The Temptations

The national touring company of ‘Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations.(Courtesy photo by Emilio Madrid)

The Temptations were front and center at Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, a jukebox musical featuring all the group’s big hits and more. But a compelling backstory made the revue much more than a checklist of iconic music. The musical about R&B’s biggest group opened Broadway Dallas’ new season at the Music Hall at Fair Park on Tuesday.

Led and narrated by Otis Wiliams (Marcus Paul James), the show follows the origins of the group to its almost demise and then back again. Based on Williams’ book, the story reveals the troubled side of The Temptations including the alcoholism of Paul Williams (James T. Lane), the fame-addicted David Ruffin (Elijah Ahmad Lewis) and the health issues of Melvin Franklin (Harrell Holmes Jr.). These issues and more all paint a much different side of the group Motown’s Berry Gordy (Michael Andreaus) was determined to sell as fine gentlemen.

James performance was wonderfully centered as the star of the show but not as the star of The Temptations. That would be Lewis’ Ruffin whose voice propelled the band into big hitmakers. The two with the other singers including Jalen Harris as Eddie Kendricks were a beautifully oiled machine with slick dance moves and gorgeous harmonies. They were The Temptations.

The hits though are what made the show exciting as well as the actors’ performances and that make Ain’t Too Proud a thrilling experience.

The show runs through Sept. 18.

Opening this week:

DFW Play: Perpendiculars, 8 p.m. Friday at Lewisville Grand Theater Black Box

Theatre Arlington Play Reading Club: Fat Pig, Friday and Saturday.

Bare Bones Shakespeare: Henry V, Friday-Sunday at Sanders Theater.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra: Aida Cuevas The Queen of Mariachi, Friday-Sunday at the Meyerson

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra: A New Musical Era Begins: Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert, Friday-Sunday at Bass Hall.

North Texas Performing Arts: Rent, Friday-Sept. 18.

Garland Civic Theatre: Carnival, Friday-Sept. 23 at the Granville Arts Center, pictured.

Lakeside Community Theatre: La Cage aux Folles, Friday-Sept. 24.

Greater Lewisville Community Theatre: Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play, Friday-Sept. 25.

Shakespeare Dallas: Hamlet, Friday-Oct. 15.

Casa Manana: My Way – A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, Saturday-Sept. 18

Theatre Arlington: Comedy Club, 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Jazz at Symphony Center: Roy Ayers, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Meyerson.

A Star is Back: A Celebration of Judy with Janelle Farias Sando, 8 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Sammons Center

Dallas Symphony Orchestra: Holst’s The Planets, Sept. 15-17 at the Meyerson

Onstage now:

WaterTower Theatre: The Bridges of Madison County in Concert,  through Sunday.

The Classics Theatre Project: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, through Sunday.

Hip Pocket Theatre: Savage Love, through Sunday.

Richardson Theater Center: The Hollow, through Sunday.

Stage West: Between Riverside and Crazy, through Sunday, pictured.

Broadway Dallas: Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations, Through Sept. 18 at the Music Hall at Fair Park.

Undermain Theatre: Lonesome Blues, through Sept. 18.

Circle Theatre: August Wilson’s Fences, through Sept 24.

Firehouse Theater: Violet, through Sept. 24.

Ochre Theatre: St. Ella, through Sept. 24.

Dallas Theater Center: Clue, through Sept 25 at the Wyly.

Theatre Three: Big Scary Animals, through Sept. 25.

Upright Theatre: Next to Normal, through Sept. 25.

Artisan Center Theatre: Tuck Everlasting, through Oct. 1.

–Rich Lopez