I Saw a Beautiful Show: Once (a review)



Every now and again I am really impressed with the whole of a production. Virginia Rep’s production of Once is one of them.

The play is about a moment in time when a broken Irish musician has a chance meeting with a dynamic Czech woman who becomes the catalyst for resuscitating his life. The story is primarily told through a clever script and some rollicking folk rock music. What blew me away the most in this show is the level of proficiency required by the actors. They must be able to act, dance, sing and play a musical instrument very well and all at the same time – which they did beautifully.

Aside from moments when accents seemed to get a bit muddled, I spent an evening of pure bliss in the theatre.

Highlights: Ken Allen Neely as Guy, Katherine Fried as Girl and seeing a kid (Trevor Lindley Craft) whose performance cracked me up in a Live Arts version of Xanadu all grown up and being fabulous onstage with some heavy weight actors.

This show is a gem that shines brightly in the Virginia Rep crown. I put it in my Must See category of shows for this season. Good for ages 10 and up – especially hopeless romantics.

Warning: The title song will get stuck in your head.

For more information click here.


Competent Crimes



I would like to see a play about Southerners that I liked and Crimes of the Heart is not it.

Presented for one more weekend at Hanover Tavern, this dated play revolves around the relationship of three sisters and how they deal with the brainless, violent act committed by the youngest. Most of the characters are contemporary Southern stereotypes (the helmet haired social climbing cousin, the silky smooth lawyer, the sacrificial spinster, etc) and there is a reference to white-Southern pride that made my stomach turn.

It could be my disdain for the script but I was not so impressed by this show. The cast was good and consistent across the board with only one stand-out performance put in by Tyler Stevens as Barnette Lloyd, the aforementioned lawyer. His perfect drawl floated over the ears like warm honey to hypnotic effect.

All production elements and Steve Perigard‘s direction were also good, and executed with professionalism.

In summary: It is a solid production and worth the trip for the sake of seeing such. But as a person who wishes to raise the level of racial consciousness in our society,  plays like this must go by the wayside. It seems innocent enough but the white privilege underlying it is just what needs to be obliterated in order for the ethnicities of our society, particularly African-Americans, to gain real equality. If you want to better understand why I feel this way about Crimes of the Heart feel free to ask.

Thankfully Stuffing My Face

I really like food.  I adore really good food.  Since the last couple of weeks has been about good food and some of Charlottesville’s rather Anglophile traditions I have been fatly happy.

It all began on Friday the 22nd with a business dinner at Fleurie, one of Charlottesville’s finest restaurants and a particular favorite of mine because the owner/very talented chef, Brian Helleburg, is one of the first friends I made after moving here about 2.5 years ago while working on a story for VIRGiNIA LIVING. Brian cooked up some Chinese Mystery snails for a story I wrote on invasive species and I knew right then that a guy who could make those things taste good was someone worthy of pal-dom.


The crab appetizer was divine.  Served on an elegant skinny rectangular plate, substantial chunks of sweet blue crab meat swam in a shallow pool of some yummy sauce.  I followed up with the venison, two tender, juicy medallions that melted in my mouth served over thinly sliced potatoes au gratin (because I don’t eat spatzel which I love but contains gluten). It is a rare meal that is prepared with such perfection and really I would marry Brian if I could eat like that everyday but I’m afraid his girlfriend might not like that.

Saturday found me at a tourist standard, Michie Tavern, on 53 on the way to Monticello.  It was my sister’s birthday celebration and she wanted to eat there (she is from out of town) and visit Carter Mountain Orchard.  Michie Tavern serves plain old Southern fare, like spoon bread, fried chicken and green beans boiled with ham for flavoring.  I grew up on this type of food so it is hardly a delicacy for me but I can see the appeal to foreigners and the nostalgia this type of cooking holds for my sister.  We sat at a long wooden table in front of a roaring fire, the perfect place to be on a chilly autumn day while being served by a woman in colonial garb.  It is all quite charming.

Following the obligatory cider purchase at Carter Mountain and sufficiently celebrating my sister, I dropped my daughter off at her friend’s house to watch the season opener of DR. WHO and went for a short hike.  Evening plans included dinner next to a roaring fire, this time in the bar at Keswick Hall.  I adore this particular venue for cold weather dinners because one may choose from the bar menu (which offers the best truffle oil fries I have ever tasted) or the dinner menu from Fosset’s, Keswick’s more formal dining area.  The bar is intimate and cozy and there is a lovely fire place to make it even cozier.  I dined on muscles in tomato broth and seared brussel sprouts which were so good – just tender on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside- that my escort, who is not particularly a veggie fan, devoured at least half of the ample serving. After dinner we sauntered across the street to the Keswick Hunt Club (my friend is a member) for the tail end of a clam bake and dance party.  We danced to about 7 songs before the party shut down and it was time to head home.

Sunday I attended the final performance of BYE BYE BIRDIE at Tandem Friends School. The play was performed solely by TFS eighth graders offering a variety of skill and enthusiasm levels making the show a total hoot to watch.  Director and Middle School drama teacher, Lydia Horan, is brilliantly talented and somehow is able to get these young teens to put together a pretty good show.

The next event on my calendar was Love Cannon at the Jefferson Theatre on Wednesday the 27th.  I took my daughter and we delighted in the catchy, kitchy-ness of ’80’s pop tunes orchestrated to blue grass instruments.  It is just such happy music one MUST move to it.

Thursday morning I experienced another horsey tradition, the Blessing of the Hounds at Grace Church in Keswick before the annual Thanksgiving Fox Hunt.  People gather in front of the adorable stone church as mounted riders are blessed along with the hounds.  There is a ten minute ceremony then the riders, all dolled up in their English hunting costumes, head across rt.22 to a large field, give out some awards, then when the hunt master gives the signal, begin their ride. Apparently they actually hunt wild foxes. What happens to the fox or foxes once they are caught is unknown to me and I thought it impolite to ask at the time.  The event is pretty and pastoral and it is my dream to go out with them one year.

Thanksgiving dinner in Richmond at my sisters. Yum. Then on Friday, dinner of peanut soup (a personal favorite dish) and salad at TJ’s at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond before celebrating Chanukah at Virginia Rep’s production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. This was my friend, Christina’s first visit to the Jefferson (she lives in Charlottesville and her daughter, Mila shares the part of one of the daughters in the show) so I was reminded through her eyes of the splendor of the place.

It was fun to see FIDDLER during Chanukah.  It just added extra meaning to the story. Va Rep even had a menorah displayed in the theatre lobby which I found quite touching and thoughtful. I enjoyed the show, particularly David Benoit’s embodiment of Tevya, the choreography and the dancing. Everyone on stage looked like they were having fun.  At the end of the show, I chatted with WCVE theatre critic, the formidable John Porter, who said this was the best production of FIDDLER he had ever seen.


I laid low the remainder of the weekend, hiding from the shopping crowds venturing out (other than for long walks) only for groceries on Sunday and to be interviewed about Radio Resource (a partnership between Music Resource Center and WNRN designed to give MRC members and other high school aged kids the opportunity to generate a half-hour radio program featuring music created by local teens) before the premier of the 30 Minute Throwdown on WNRN. Damani Harrison of MRC was supposed to be on the show but he was caught up in holiday travels making it impossible for him to be there so as a coordinator of the project, I filled in. 30 Minute Throwdown is full of youthful energy and showcases some amazing young local artists. You can learn more by going to the 30 Minute Throwdown FB page.  By the way, Trader Joe’s has outdone themselves with holiday treats this year, especially the caramels- go for them.

So until next week…be safe, be healthy and have fun.



The Culture Maven

Color Purple auditions at VA Rep

this just in from Virginia Rep:


For Immediate Release

Date: October 20, 2013


Susan Davenport
Director of Communications Virginia Repertory Theatre susandavenport@comcast.net 804-513-8211

News Release Virginia Repertory Theatre


Virginia Rep Introduces Felicia Curry as Celie in The Color Purple

Public Auditions for Remaining Cast on November 2, 2013

EMCEE hosts include Radio One, Cheryl Miller from Channel 6, and Karla Redditte from Channel 12

Richmond, VA – Virginia Repertory Theatre introduces Washington, DC actor, Felicia Curry, in the lead role of Celie in the 2014 summer production of The Color Purple. This inspiring musical based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Alice Walker, features a joyous score of jazz, ragtime, African music and blues. The show will run June 19 through August 3, 2014 at the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre, 114 West Broad Street.

Felicia Curry is one of the regions most sought after musical theatre performers. She has performed on stage at many of the nation’s leading regional theatres, including Arena Stage, Signature Theatre, Ford’s Theatre, Studio Theatre and has been seen in multiple productions on The Kennedy Center stage. She is a Helen Hayes Award recipient for her work in Signature Theatre’s groundbreaking production of Les Miserables and a Helen Hayes nominee for her work in Godspell and Aida at Toby’s Dinner Theatre. She has toured nationally with the Capital Steps and Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka.

Public auditions for the remaining roles in The Color Purple will take place on Saturday, November 2, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Local celebrities from Radio One, CBS-6, and NBC-12 will EMCEE the event. The casting call is for African American adults and children ages 7 and up who are strong singers, actors, and dancers. Auditions are by appointment in two-hour sessions: 10:00 a.m. to noon, noon to 2:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Those auditioning will be asked to perform one of five songs. Accompaniment lyrics and tracks can be downloaded from the website. Family and friends are invited to watch the audition. Admission is free and open to the public.

For downloads, online forms, and more details on the auditions and show please visit http://va-rep.org/auditions.html or email casting@va-rep.org or call 783-1688 option 3.

For information about tickets for The Color Purple coming June 19 – August 3, 2014 visit http://va-rep.org/show_color_purple.html.

Ticket Information for The Color Purple Box Office 804-282-2620
Full Price Tickets: $48-$60

Discounted Group Rates and Rush tickets available.
U-Tix for college and high school students $15. Available by phone or in person day of show only. Student ID required.

The Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre is equipped with a new state-of the-art induction loop hearing system that is compatible with all telecoil-equipped hearing aids and cochlear implants. A handheld receiver and headphone system is also available free of charge for anyone who is hearing impaired.

About Virginia Repertory Theatre

Virginia Repertory Theatre, located in Richmond, VA, combines the talents and strengths of two nonprofit companies that shared facilities, resources, and management teams for over a decade. Now the heritages of Barksdale Theatre (founded in 1953) and Theatre IV (founded in 1975) live on in their new form, as Central Virginia’s leading professional theater company. Virginia Rep presents national caliber productions of the great dramas, comedies, and musicals as well as classics, contemporary works, and world premieres, always seeking to demonstrate the unique power of theater to engage, enthrall, educate, and inspire. Productions are staged at four distinct venues: the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre and Theatre Gym at the downtown Virginia Rep


Center, Virginia Rep’s Children’s Theatre of Virginia located at Willow Lawn, and at Hanover Tavern, home to Virginia Rep’s Barksdale Season.

WNRN Culture Connection for Oct. 7 – 13


A favorite autumn tradition at my house in the annual watching of the original film version of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD which has a critical scene that takes place in the fall of the year.  I adore Gregory Peck in this movie and long to find a real life Atticus Finch to date while teaching my children important morality lessons. Anyway this week you can see a live performance of this moving story, get a glimpse in the to secret creative lives of local “Makers” and experience some serous mountain culture.

Get to Richmond to see one of the greatest Southern classics of all time as nonprofit Virginia Repertory Theatre presents TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, a timeless exploration of conscience, race, class and justice.

On Saturday, makers of all varieties will display their wares at Charlottesville’s Mini Maker Faireat Monticello High School. Billed as ‘the greatest show (and tell) on Earth, this is a family friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness. I had the pleasure of seeing Sigrid Eilertson’s entry displayed at Firefish Gallery this week and if her fabulous fashion creation is anything like other items that will be displayed, it should prove to be a wondrous event.

Also on Saturday, the town of Buena Vista hosts Mountain Day an annual celebration of the culture, traditions, history and natural beauty of the Shenandoah Valley. Bring the whole family to learn about the arts, crafts, music, farming and fun of old Virginia.  I wonder if they will be churning apple butter?


If you know of a great event coming up, let me know about it at mary@wnrn.org and help me to help you make a WNRN Culture Connection.


If you want to see what I was up to in terms of area Arts and Culture last week, go to my blog, culturenuts.wordpress.com.


Have a great of getting out there and making a culture connection!


The Culture Maven


WNRN logo

Trouble in River City- The Music Man coming to Va Rep

I have said it before – musical theatre is far from my favorite genre and The Music Man is definitely on the short list of my least liked musicals. But other people LOVE it.  So if you are in the LOVE it camp this is good news…

Virginia Repertory Theatre announces the opening of The Music Man at the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre on Friday, June 28 with a Preview on June 27.  The show runs through August 4, 2013.  Part of the “Broadway at the November” Series, The Music Man is the all-American quintessential summer musical with book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Wilson.  The score features favorite tunes such as “Seventy-Six Trombones”, “Ya Got Trouble”, and “Goodnight My Someone”. The story of Harold Hill, who attempts to con the naive townsfolk of River City, Iowa, and the unlikely courtship with librarian, Marian Paroo, is a sentimental classic.  The original Broadway hit in 1957 won five Tony Awards including “Best Musical”.

“Celebrity Saturdays” will feature walk-on cameo appearances by some of Richmond’s favorite celebrities during the Saturday evening performances, and   patrons can enjoy specially made local Dixie Donuts during most performances and ice cream during our “Sundae Matinees”.

Ticket Information

Box Office 804-282-2620


 Tickets:  $30 – $60 with group and student discounts available.

VA Rep has Hay Fever (by Noel Coward)


Premier Sponsor, BB&T

BB&T logo

February 15 – March 3, 2013

Previews on February 13 – 14

At the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre (formerly the Empire)
Marjorie Arenstein Theatre Stage
at Virginia Rep Center

Part of the Signature Season
Part of The Acts of Faith Theatre Festival
By Noël Coward
Directed by Steve Perigard

This exhilarating comedy from Noël Coward has been recognized as one of the world’s most hilarious classics ever since it first dazzled London’s West End in 1925. How does “the other half” live, when “the other half” is a family of four celebrated bon vivants each of whom finds it impossible to share the spotlight? The eccentric Bliss family — including matriarch Judith (a “retired” actress), her husband David (a renowned author), and their two artistic, adult children — has decided to host a “weekend in the country” at their rural estate / artists’ retreat. The unsuspecting guests all become victims in the self-serving shenanigans of the four bohemians as they seek to out-trip each other in the light fantastic. Everything goes blissfully awry in this sparkling and stylish comedy of manners.


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