"If Lyric Stage doesn't win a regional
Tony Award in the next five years, those Yankee award-givers
aren't paying attention. With each season — and Lyric's
about to begin its 20th at the Irving Arts Center — Steven
Jones' company gets better at finding and producing neglected
old American musicals, doing them the way their creators intended,
with original orchestrations, cut scenes restored, full casts
and a 40-piece orchestra.. Kismet at Irving's Lyric Stage ticked
all the boxes of what makes a musical great... this was an event.
It felt like something special, a celebration of the best in
Elaine Liner's entire Dallas Observer review
"Rare, exotic Kismet seductive at Lyric
Stage... Kismet will reel you in to its lush, exotic world from
the astounding opening number in which singing muezzins surround
the audience from the top balconies. It doesn’t come around
often. Seize the opportunity... Lyric Stage’s musical
director, Jay Dias, has a 40-piece orchestra to play all the
original orchestrations... All the gorgeous songs certainly
benefit from that massive orchestra. They wouldn’t count
for much, though, without the appropriate voices to sing them.
Fortunately, this Kismet has one of Lyric Stage’s strongest
Lawson Taitte's entire Dallas Morning News review (subscription
"Arabian Delight: With its concert
version of Kismet, Lyric Stage again proves that it's worth
its weight in gold... stellar cast... powerful voices... Get
tickets asap, and then buy season tickets to Lyric's fantastic
lineup for its 2012-'13 season. With Kismet, Lyric again proves
why it's the most important musical theater in the region."
Mark Lowry's entire TheaterJones.com review
"Lyric Stage turns little-known ‘Rags’
into riches... Lyric Stage has uncovered a treasure in Rags
and polished it up into something rich and wonderful... Amanda
Passanante is an amazing find, with a voice that combines operatic
qualities with the ability to belt. Kristin Dausch confirms
the glittering impression she made here in Funny Girl, and Brian
Hathaway creates a tough, serious figure unlike anything he
has done before. Lois Sonnier Hart and G. Shane Peterman are
superb in beefy supporting roles. Director Cheryl Denson keeps
the whole cast grounded in reality, and, man, that orchestra
under conductor Jay Dias keeps convincing you Rags may actually
be Strouse’s masterpiece"
Lawson Taitte's entire Dallas Morning News review
"Lyric Stage makes a strong case for
reviving ‘Rags’... the show is getting a revival
with a 35-piece orchestra and a stellar cast. Under the music
direction of Jay Dias, this production again proves that Lyric's
full-orchestra revivals are a pursuit well worth the time, effort
Mark Lowry's entire TheaterJones.com review
"Packed with powerful vocals by its
leads and played with a 35-piece orchestra in the pit, Rags
is the sort of noble, heartfelt effort that underscores Lyric's
dedication to doing great and often underappreciated American
musicals in a big way."
Elaine Liner's entire Dallas Observer review
"A first class, classic production...
Lyric Stage’s cast of fine performers supported by the
spectacular orchestra will not disappoint... Mathys’ powerful
voice, warm and silky when needed to charm or wheedle and bursting
with iron-willed grit when life lets Mama Rose down, drives
the show with gut-wrenching desperation... Mathys fills spacious
Carpenter Hall’s bare stage with her dynamic persona and
superlative instrument, displaying every iota of the vocal talent
and star quality that has earned her the highest of accolades,
and standing ovations, on both sides of the Atlantic... Lyric’s
production, under the inspired musical direction of Jay Dias,
engages all original thirty-nine orchestra instruments in cooperation
with the Jule Styne estate’s best intentions. From the
moment the overture stirs the audience with robust intonation
and sassy spotlighted trumpet solo, the sound fest carries the
Alexandra Bonifield's entire criticalrant.com review
"Overture’s Original Orchestrations
Lead Way For Luscious Gypsy... the show is sublimely polished...
Sue Mathys is a force, bulldozing her way through Rose’s
iconic songs and relentlessly pushing her scenes with a focused,
almost manic, determination. She makes the mothers on “Toddlers
& Tiaras” look like wimps... Under the energetic baton
of Jay Dias and with the talent of 39 musicians, Jule Styne’s
classic tunes pour forth with adrenaline-pounding, nostalgia-inducing
fervor. Before the curtain even rises on Lyric Stage’s
production of Gypsy, there are goose bumps."
Lindsey Wilson's entire D Magazine review
"Lyric Stage’s ‘Gypsy’
is the total package... Sue Mathys creates a fascinating, offbeat
Mama Rose for Lyric Stage’s take on the world’s
worst stage-door mother... To make GYPSY work, you have to have
a great Mama Rose. Everything else is usually considered icing
on the cake. In the production Lyric Stage opened on Saturday,
Sue Mathys fulfills the first requirement. She’s surrounded,
though, by superb ingredients that prove how rich — and
varied — this great musical can be... It’s always
a treat when a whole meal, not just the main course, is sensational."
Lawson Taitte's entire Dallas Morning News review (subscription)
"It's almost unthinkable that Lyric
Stage could top the best of its full-orchestra revivals of classic
musicals from recent years, especially The King and I (2009)
and My Fair Lady (2010). But the gang has done it again with
Gypsy... Mathys proves herself a force, with a multilayered
voice and fierce determination. In the final number, Rose's
Turn, which is like the "To be or not to be" soliloquy
of musical theater, she captures all the internal anger and
emotion that the musical has led up to."
Mark Lowry's entire Star-Telegram review
"Lyric Stage has matched a dynamic
show and masterful orchestration with a stellar cast... Lyric
Stage's production gives you an opportunity to see this show
like almost no one has ever seen it. The novelty combined with
the high production value and powerful performances make Gypsy
Kris Noteboom's entire TheaterJones.com review
"Lyric Stage's full-orchestra revival
of Oliver! is glorious... Lyric Stage has uncorked a magnum
of a production of Oliver!... Jack VanGorden, as Oliver, is
a director's dream... Jonathan Beck Reed (Fagin) is a delight...
Catherine Carpenter Cox has pipes to die for as Nancy..."
Perry Stewart's entire TheaterJones.com review
"Lyric Stage only runs a show for two
weekends. Fortunate for those who are lucky enough to get a
ticket, it's worth the drive to Irving to catch Lyric Stage
at its best... Jonathan Beck Reed's performance was one for
the books!... Cast as Nancy it would seem that the role was
tailor-made for Catherine Carpenter Cox. Cox was riveting! ...
powerhouse performances ...Jay Dias conducted a beautifully
orchestrated team of musicians permitting Lyric Stage to boast
as one of the only local theatres to host a full orchestra for
productions...the set for Oliver! received its own applause
when the curtain was drawn for Act I, Scene I."
Bonnie K. Daman's entire Pegasus News review for John Garcia's
FLORA, THE RED MENACE
Theater review: Lyric Stage shows
off forgotten gem in ‘Flora, the Red Menace’
"Every so often, Lyric Stage digs up a show that even the most
fervent fan of musical theater is unlikely to have seen –
and it’s so good you wonder why it’s not a standard.
Flora, the Red Menace is one of the most exciting.
It helps, of course, that the strong production the company
opened on Saturday stars Kristin Dausch, a Dallas favorite since
she appeared in Lyric’s Funny Girl. She sings like an
angel. Or like that celestial trumpet that archangel Gabriel
The first collaboration between John Kander and Fred Ebb, who
went on to write Cabaret and Chicago, it introduced a 19-year-old
Liza Minnelli to Broadway and won her a Tony Award. An off-Broadway
revival cut the cast down to nine performers.
The title character graduates from high school in the first
scene, then goes out to look for a job during the height of
the Depression. Flora, the Red Menace definitely sports a social
conscience. A revival in the current era of high unemployment
makes as much sense as taking a new look at Chicago did right
after the O.J. Simpson trial.
Flora spontaneously organizes a group of friends as an artists’
cooperative. She recruits a good-looking painter, Harry (Keith
J. Warren), who in turn recruits her into the Communist party.
The leader of the cell, Charlotte (Danielle Estes), is even
more aggressive in her romantic pursuit of Harry than Flora
is. Eventually, political differences make for a bittersweet
ending to the love story – which may be one reason the
show has never caught on.
Director-choreographer Ann Nieman and musical director Scott
A. Eckert share credit for a gorgeously sung and sympathetically
acted interpretation, all the way around. Every word of the
unfamiliar lyrics proves immediately intelligible, too.
Dausch sets the standard. Judging from the original cast recording,
she sings the role with as much power and much more finesse
than Minnelli did. A natural comedienne, she can be goofy or
sincere at will. She still lacks physical grace on stage –
and a star in the making should insist on more flattering dresses,
even when the costume is supposed to be unflattering.
Warren and Estes are fresh faces with enormous potential. So
is Calvin Roberts as Willy, the friendly clarinet player. Thomas
Christopher Renner and Katherine Gentsch hoof it charmingly
as the aspiring dance team."
Lawson Taitte, Dallas Morning News
Join the Party!
At Lyric Stage, Flora the Red Menace makes love and Communism
fun.Oh, the things people do for love.
Support hobbies they have no interest in. Care for
a significant other when they’re sick. Join the Communist
Wait! What? Sure, changing political affiliations, especially
to communism, might seem absurdly extreme in the matters of
love, but that’s just what one woman does in Irving Lyric
Stage’s rambunctiously fun production of Flora the Red
Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, Flora
(Kristin Dausch) is introduced, innocently enough, as a fashion
illustrator in search of a job. While on the hunt, she meets
Harry (Keith J. Warren) and is instantly smitten.
As the two become better acquainted, Harry informs Flora
he is a member of the Communist Party and would like her to
join. Uneasy about the proposal, she hems and haws until Harry
cements his feelings for her, prompting her to sign up.
However, before Flora can attend her first meeting, she’s
hired by a department store to work as an illustrator. She arrives
at the party meeting and tells Harry the news, which only ends
up prompting him and the other members to urge Flora to covertly
drum up interest for a union.
Charlotte (Danielle Estes), the group’s matriarch
and fellow admirer of Harry, seeks to undercut Flora’s
burgeoning momentum with the group and Harry by instead advocating
a rally outside the department store.
Naturally, events and feelings come to a head as Flora
haphazardly attempts to balance her love for Harry and being
a communist with the good fortune of having a job in the terrible
economy and helping out her friends, a collective of artists
she shares studio space with.
And pleasantly, though the ending is undoubtedly a happy
one, it takes a different route than one might expect, highlighting
the personal growth of its lead character.
Staged as a presentation by the Federal Theatre Project,
an actual branch of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration,
Flora is a brilliantly conceived comedy that takes a look at
the Great Depression from an angle rarely examined through the
lens of a dual-layered performance.
Belying the discouraging moniker with which that time in
America’s history is saddled, David Thompson (book), John
Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics) create a cast of uniquely
self-aware characters who often exude a positive, almost tongue-in-cheek
quality, reinforcing the meta nature of the show-within-a-show
and themselves as employees of the WPA in the 1930s acting for
a depression-era audience.
Joining Dausch, Warren and Estes is a versatile ensemble
comprised of Calvin Roberts, Jeff McGee, Jaclyn Stapp, Katharine
Gentsch, Thomas Christopher Renner and K. Doug Miller. Each
plays numerous roles and do so with amusing aplomb, keeping
in mind their performances should be somewhat transparent, given
the layering of the roles.
Warren is endearing as the stammering Harry, and the passion
with which he believes in his cause is admirable, if not misdirected.
The fact that Warren can elicit any sympathy at all from the
audience is a tribute to the depth he instills in his character.
Perhaps even a greater accomplishment is how Estes is able
to make the ravenous Charlotte somewhat likeable. Playing her
as a passionate woman rather than a villain proves a cunning
choice by Estes that lends depth to an otherwise one-dimensional
antagonist. Under Estes’ careful guidance, Charlotte becomes
human. A violently passionate human, but human nonetheless.
And as the cherry on top of this delicious sundae, Dausch
makes joining the Communist Party over a boy not only plausible,
but acceptable. Charlotte and Flora are really two sides of
the same coin. The passion and vigor with which both women pursue
their goal is only differentiated by their dispositions. Dausch,
as a result of her sunny disposition and formidable pluck, had
the audience rooting for her. Even if that meant becoming a
communist. And considering this country’s stance towards
that particular political philosophy, the effectiveness of her
performance is no small feat.
Scenic designer Jane Quetin’s set is simple and functional,
a smart reinforcement of the depression era setting of the production.
And director/choreographer Ann Nieman’s choice to make
scene, and some costume, changes visible to the audience, carried
out by the actors themselves, deftly communicates the show-within-a-show
aspect, and strikes a crucial balance allowing the story to
have maximum effect.
And that effect is telling a very human story. For in the
end, Flora learns that true love isn’t always about one
person. Sometimes, it’s been right in front of us the
And you don’t even have to join the Communist Party
to find it
Kris Noteboom, TheaterJones
FLORA, THE RED MENACE
- Theatre Review
Lyric Stage's production of Flora the Red Menace is a show with
enough love to be a Valentine's date, and good music, comedy,
hopes and dreams for everybody else. It's the epitome of musical
theatre, and yet, for a nice change, no one was singing along
Flora the Red Menace follows headstrong wannabe fashion
illustrator Flora Mezaros, a member of an artists' co-operative
of bohemian types struggling to find work during the Depression.
Hoping to find a job paying at least $15 a week, she is hired
by a large department store for $30. Flora falls in love with
Harry Toukarian, another struggling artist, who attempts to
convert her to his Communist ideals. Even though it compromises
her job at the department store, Flora seeks to hold down both
job and relationship (taken from Lyric Stage's website). It's
the age old problem - happiness vs. doing the right thing. It
is based on the novel `Love is Just Around the Corner' by Lester
Atwell that was originally adapted by George Abbott. The book
is by David Thompson, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred
Irving Art Center's Dupree Theatre is a large proscenium
theatre that Jane Quetin's set design transforms into various
locations in New York, mainly the co-op the artists live in
and the department store. Making use of large white arches that
have street lamp posts on one side and are plain on the other,
desks (which are rolled in and out), the set changes are quick
and often to the music. It's a realistic yet minimalistic set
design, and it works very well. The costumes by David Blades
are appropriate to 1935, well fit, and give us a glimpse into
who the characters are. The spot on hairstyles (or wigs?) of
each actor finish off these costumes with perfection. Lighting
designer Julie N. Moroney utilizes lights to create mood and
draw our attention to the real happenings of a scene (and hide
various set transformations as needed).
Sound design by Bill Eickenloff was truly key, and it blended
the miced actors perfectly with the live band that was placed
upstage left (audience right) behind all the action. There were
also some very nice sound effects added, such as the elevator
ding. I did, however, crave a little music for intermission.
Director Ann Nieman, who also doubles as the choreographer,
has assembled a fine cast of excellent singers. The dance numbers
are on the slightly simplistic side, but they still entertain
and keep the story moving. It was nice to finally see Kenny
and Maggie dance together in an all out number that included
both ballroom and tap dancing. The actors rarely stand still
and the fast-paced blocking mixed with intricate set changes
helps keep the energy of the show up. The scene in the elevator
showcases each actor's physical acting capability. They all
make mime and unified timing for starts and stops look easy.
The use of a cyc screen for the protest scene made 2 or 3 actors
look like a lot more. Scott A. Eckert is the music director,
and since more of the show is sung than spoken, he carries the
weight of this production. Luckily, he has a great band and
on-pitch singers to delegate this responsibility to, and they
most definitely pull their fair share.
The storyline itself is a little predictable, but it has
many heartwarming moments. From Flora and Harry's innocent yet
comical love that warms your heart here at Valentine's Day to
the song "All I Need is One Good Break" that has every
artist in the audience nodding their head and saying, "ME
TOO!," it holds that magic of musical theatre. It's not
a complicated story, and it seemed to end rather abruptly.
I know, personally, I needed a more "happily ever
after" ending, but perhaps there was some sort of message
about the consequences of associating with evil Communists that
resonated with the original audiences back in 1965 that somehow
passed by me. The final song was very sad, then slightly hopeful,
and then, it was suddenly over. I guess I wanted one more song.
No doubt these singers would have done well in that number,
The story calls for 9 actors to play over 25 roles, and
not a beat was missed in the creation of all these roles. Kristin
Dausch returns to Lyric Stage in the title role of Flora. She
is quirky, charming and allows her voice to bellow and sore
with ease. In previous reviews for other roles, she has been
compared to a young Barbara Streisand, and I think these comparisons
are spot on and a compliment to Dausch's talent. Yet, she brings
her own sass and spunk to this role, too. She isn't without
her softer moments, such as in the song Quiet Thing.
Playing her love interest is Keith J. Warren as Harry.
With a beautiful tenor voice and earnest puppy eyed love/communistic
ideals, he seems to be the calm to her passion. Harry has a
strong stammer and also works as an artist, painting murals
in the subways. Warren handles the stammering well and seems
to truly believe in the Communist party almost to the point
of convincing the audience it's the right choice, too. He doesn't
have your typical leading man physique, but in a way, this makes
him endearing to the audience.
As the story progresses and Harry is pursued by Comrade
Charlotte, played by Danielle Estes, one must wonder why all
these women are so hot for a poor stammering artist who is a
loud and proud Red. That's where one must let "musical
magic" take over. Estes has a very sultry voice and uses
it well to convey her many meanings, though she could have been
even more seductive towards Harry with her body. Calvin Roberts
plays Willy, a clarinet player and other characters as needed,
including at times the narrator. He has a beautiful speaking
voice and a way of engaging the audience with even just a few
Mr. Weiss, the older jeweler of the group, is played by
Jeff McGee and, like the others, plays many other characters
as well. He makes the best use of various New York accents along
with different physical manifestations of each character. Mr.
Stanley is the staunch, strict department store boss of Flora,
and K. Doug Miller brings all of this and more to the stage.
Like the others, his acting muscles are flexed, allowing him
to create one character after another.
Elsa is the fashion designer and is well played by Jaclyn
Stapp. Maggie is the dancer, along with her love Kenny, and
they are brought to life with innocence and spunk by Katharine
Gentsch and Thomas Christopher Renner.
Lyric Stage's Flora the Red Menace is a lesser known musical
that follows the formula of a traditional American Musical.
If you like this formula, you'll love this show. If not, you'll
probably still find moments that reach out and touch you.
Laura L. Watson, Associate Theater Critic, for John
Garcia's THE COLUMN
MY FAIR LADY
"My Fair Lady proves its excellence at Lyric
Stage in Irving... My Fair Lady is the greatest of all operettas.
You'll never see better proof than the version currently at
Lyric Stage... Over the last three years, Lyric Stage has been
giving the top musicals of this period the deluxe treatment.
No one else anywhere is performing this kind of show with a
full orchestra today. In Irving, however, Jay Dias' pit band
numbers 38 – more than the size of the original Broadway
forces. Hearing the score this way makes all the difference...
All in all, My Fair Lady just doesn't get any better than this."
Lawson Taitte's Dallas Morning News review of MY FAIR LADY
"The Lady is a Champ... Lyric Stage's production
of My Fair Lady sets the new standard for revivals of classics...
Lyric’s production is a breath of fresh air. Lyric’s
staging of this classic is a heartfelt effort illuminated by
excellent design and dedicated performances... Featuring more
musicians than the original Broadway production, the orchestra
adds a richness and texture to the proceedings that cannot be
matched in other productions... Lyric Stage’s production
of the ultimate classic, My Fair Lady, is a definite must-see."
Kris Noteboom's TheaterJones.com review of MY FAIR LADY
"My Fair Lady Lifts Lyric Stage To New Heights...
They don't make shows like My Fair Lady anymore and nobody does
them with as much love, respect and enthusiasm for how they
should be done as Lyric Stage. "
Elaine Liner's Dallas Observer review of MY FAIR LADY
"Lush 'My Fair Lady' has stunning amount
of talent on display... a musical lover's dream come true."
Mark Lowry's Ft. Worth Star-Telegram review of MY FAIR LADY
BYE BYE BIRDIE
"Lyric Stage's 'Bye Bye Birdie' captures
retro essence perfectly... No cast has ever sung Charles Strouse
and Lee Adam's songs more confidently, and the 32-piece orchestra
under musical director Jay Dias allows us to hear the snazzy
orchestrations – something no other fully staged production
has had since the original closed nearly 50 years ago."
Lawson Taitte's Dallas Morning News review of BYE BYE BIRDIE
"Lyric Stage in Irving knocks it out of the
park with their current production of the 1960's stage musical,
"Bye Bye Birdie." It's a funny, refreshing, well-staged
Gary Cogill's WFAA review of BYE BYE BIRDIE
"Lyric Stage ups the ante, again, for musical
theater in North Texas... It's becoming a little embarrassing
to keep heaping such praise on Lyric Stage, but this production,
directed by Cheryl Denson, is deserving of it. Every time Lyric
puts something on stage, it is generally so above other local
productions of musicals that going to the Irving Arts Center
for a Lyric show is more than just a night at the theater, it's
an event. If you haven't discovered Lyric yet—why
the hell not?"
Mark Lowry's TheaterJones.com review of BYE BYE BIRDIE
"Wonderful Cast, Retro Romance Boost Lyric
Stage’s Bye Bye Birdie...Bye Bye Birdie was a huge hit
when it came to Broadway in 1960, for its ability to combine
searing social commentary and exhilarating fun. It still works.
It’s still enjoyable, and Lyric Stage put on a flawless
Will Arbery's D Magazine review of BYE BYE BIRDIE
JULIE JOHNSON SINGS
"When Julie Johnson sings, you want to be
listening... Julie Johnson is a force of nature. North Texas'
diva of divas is performing a weekend of concerts for Lyric
Stage in place of its annual Dallas Divas! show. On Friday,
she sang for a solid hour, took a short intermission, then sang
for another 60 minutes. Whew!..."
Lawson Taitte's Dallas Morning News review of JULIE JOHNSON
SHOW BOAT: IN CONCERT
"Audiences at Lyric Stage's concert version
of Show Boat have a glorious opportunity to hear the first –
and in some ways still the greatest – American musical
drama in a more complete form even than the 1927 Broadway premiere...
Jay Dias' research for Lyric Stage has produced the most definitive
reconstruction yet. He conducts a 40-piece orchestra –
and an onstage cast of more than 60 performers. They sound fabulous.
Even without costumes, director-choreographer Ann Nieman has
them acting their roles in a grand but natural style, too."
Lawson Taitte's Dallas Morning News review of SHOW BOAT
"A restored "Show Boat" sets
sail at Lyric Stage. While there is no such thing as an official
version of the landmark musical Show Boat, the Lyric Stage production
comes close to the original intentions. First-rate cast, excellent
chorus and full orchestra: 108 performers in all."
the TheaterJones review of SHOW BOAT
THE ROAD TO QATAR
"Autobiographical 'Road to Qatar' proves
a bubbly tour of creating a musical... In recent years, musicals
about writing musicals have become a dime a dozen. But few are
as funny, as much sheer fun, as The Road to Qatar."
Lawson Taitte's Dallas Morning News review of THE ROAD TO QATAR
"Sheik-down: It's all true in Lyric Stage's
"The Road to Qatar," a good show about a bad show."
Elaine Liner's Dallas Observer review of THE ROAD TO QATAR
"The grand oil opry: ‘Qatar’
makes the Middle East funny...
Composer David Krane’s bouncy score and librettist Stephen
Cole’s clever lyrics (“Dubai Bye Birdie” —
genius) is an effervescent delight. Watching it rattle-and-hummus
along is a breezy joy."
Arnold Wayne Jones' Dallas Voice review of THE ROAD TO QATAR
"Singing, Dancing in the Desert.. Writer
Stephen Cole and composer David Krane’s wacky re-telling
of their most un-likely commissioning, The Road to Qatar, is
an enchanting and hilarious piece of musical theater."
Alexandra Bonifield's Renegade Bus review of THE ROAD TO QATAR
"A wacky, pun-filled romp... For Lyric Stage,
The Road to Qatar leads
to fun, frivolity, and the freedom to laugh out loud."
Mary L. Clark's Pegasus News review of THE ROAD TO QATAR
"Lyric Stage's revival of "Funny Girl"
is so good, audience members will think they're the luckiest
people in the world... This production is Lyric's fourth revival
in two years that breathes new life into a classic via a full
orchestra (30-45 pieces), following Carousel, West Side Story
and The King and I... It's almost embarrassing how much we critics
continue to gush over Lyric's full-orchestra musical stagings,
but honestly, no other musical theater company in North Texas
is playing on this level."
Mark Lowry's TheaterJones.com review of FUNNY GIRL
"Another star is born in 'Funny Girl'....
For its production that opened Saturday, Lyric Stage found 22-year-old
Kristin Dausch. This newcomer has everything the role needs
– first and foremost, a voice that could belt high notes
to the far reaches of the new Cowboy Stadium if need be... Dausch
can act, too, and she has a gift for comedy – which you'd
better if you're going to star in a show called Funny Girl..."
Lawson Taitte's Dallas Morning News review of FUNNY GIRL
"People, people who see ‘Funny Girl,’
are the luckiest people in the world’...
Lyric Stage’s positively splendid, old-timey barnburner
of a musical... soars."
Arnold Wayne Jone's Dallas Voice review of FUNNY GIRL
Martha Heimberg's Turtle Creek News review:
"Belting, brash Funny Girl lights up Lyric
Funny Girl, the musical based on the career of Ziegfeld Follies
star Fanny Brice, made Barbra Streisand famous when it opened
on Broadway in 1964. Now, Lyric Stage producer Steven Jones
has mounted a production of the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill musical
that gives its gifted, 22-year-old leading lady, Kristin Dausch,
a terrific platform to strutt her stuff.
I love Lyric Stage performances, when Jay
Dias’s huge orchestra breaks into the overture from the
pit and the house lights start going down. In those opening
moments I always feel the excitement of being in a Broadway
theater at the Irving Arts Center’s Carpenter Performance
Hall, with its huge red velvet curtain and deep proscenium stage.
And director Cheryl Denson doesn’t disappoint us when
that curtain rises.
Dausch stomps onto the stage insisting “I’m
the Greatest Star!” and I believed her instantly. She
doesn’t copy Streisand, but delivers her songs with a
clear, vibrant style and a voice that projects right to the
back row – and reverberates off the walls. She’s
moving on “People” and commanding in “Don’t
Rain on my Parade.” When she needs to deliver her funny
Jewish girl lines, she’s right on the money. I loved her
exuberant, comic rendition of “Sadie, Sadie, Married Lady”
– one of several songs in the show that makes you want
this girl to have it all!
The star stays in the spotlight in this
show – and is present in almost every scene! But she also
has great support from the 30-member ensemble of dancers, singers
and actors. Christopher Pinnella is a handsome and masculine
Nick Arnstein, the love of Fanny’s life, and Jeremy Dumont
is a crackerjack tap dancer in the big supporting role of her
rejected suitor. Connie Coit is a hoot as the gossipy Mrs. Strakosh
who understands how tough it can be “If a Girl Isn’t
Pretty.” Lois Sonnier Hart is both formidable and fetching
as Fanny’s saloon-owner, poker-playing mother.
We know there are some wonderful songs in
this show, but it was a treat for me to see the marvelously
produced big Ziegfeld Follies numbers. The costumes and chorography
are especially superb and hilarious in the comic piece “His
Love Makes Me Beautiful.”
It’s hard to find anything bad to
say about this production – it’s just another terrific
night at Lyric Stage theater! Get your tickets right away.
THE KING AND I
"Quite a Night in Bangkok: Lyric Stage's
"The King and I" is a feast.... It seemed unimaginable
that Lyric Stage could top its phenomenal 2007 full-orchestra
production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, but its staging
of the famous duo's better-known musical The King and I has
done just that...."
Mark Lowry's TheaterJones.com review of THE KING AND I
"This is an unforgettable production, resplendent
with a wide array of vocal power, imagination-sparking visual
imagery, masterful choreography and the Rodgers & Hammerstein
Organization’s original Robert Russell Bennett’s
orchestration for thirty-five-piece orchestra... We in the Dallas/Ft.
Worth region are so lucky that the National Endowment for the
Arts saw fit to award Lyric Stage with a grant to mount this
Please don’t miss The King and I. It’s no “puzzlement”
that it’s a stunning success....."
Alexandra Bonifield's review of THE KING AND I
"This is eye-popping theater... Lyric’s
massive production has everything... You don’t see locally-grown
shows like this very often... A 35-piece ensemble performing
the original orchestrations of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s
“The King & I” with gigantic sets and costumes,
including a custom-made scrim that soars above the stage of
the Carpenter Hall proscenium? Good luck finding this big of
a show on Broadway nowadays."
Arnold Wayne Jones' Dallas Voice review of THE KING AND I
"Strong performances anchor 'King and I'
at Irving Arts Center... Lyric Stage has wisely chosen to go
back to the musical's roots... Most notably, this concern for
the past means that the Irving company is the first anywhere
to play the original Broadway score painstakingly restored by
the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization..."
Lawson Taitte's Dallas Morning News review of THE KING AND I
"At once subversive and precious, near-kitschy
and vibrant, quaint and ironic, Lyric Stage's revival of
The King and I, restoring the orchestrations from the original
1951 Broadway production,
is spectacular and, at its best moments, profoundly moving."
Christopher Soden's Examiner review of THE KING AND I
Martha Heimberg's Turtle Creek News review:
"Nemmers and Aronson make The King and I something
wonderful at Lyric Stage
The opulent costumes and lavish sets in the Lyric Stage production
of The King and I are every bit as grand as a Broadway production.
And the orchestration, the singing and the dramatic performances
come together to create a huge and thrilling musical evening
of Rodgers and Hammerstein at their most moving and melodic.
Lyric Stage founding producer Steven Jones
has returned to the original Broadway score, not heard since
the show was first produced – and the 35-member orchestra
conducted by Jay Dias makes an exciting event of the show’s
overture alone! Cheryl Denson directs a cast approaching 50
– including all the king’s children, the many wives
and the dancers moving crisply to Jerome Robbins’ original
Joe Nemmers is a virile and entirely appealing
King of Siam, eager to gain the respect of Western nations –
especially England – and move his country into the “scientific”
Victorian era. An accomplished actor on stage and in film, the
King is Nemmers first musical role – and he delivers with
verve and enormous presence. Nemmers’ King is fabulously
fit, folding his legs into a yoga position on his throne or
strutting about his palace with deliberate and weighty steps.
It’s easy to see why his wives are so devoted to this
smart and sexy man!
When the king hires an English schoolteacher
Anna Leonowens (a lilting and lively Luann Aronson) to tutor
his children, she ends up also teaching him a thing or two in
the course of the evening. The sexual tension between the two
– sometimes lost in less dramatically focused productions
– crackles from their first encounter. Their chemistry
reaches an especially provocative level in “Shall We Dance?”
as the commanding king bounds barefoot around the floor, Anna
in his arms, and hardly touching her enormous and luminous gown
in Shall We Dance? Everyone applauded the delightful vigor and
playfulness of the moment.
The King and I is a spectacular show –
including the charming “March of the Siamese Children”
and the lovely second-act ballet based on Uncle Tom’s
Cabin – but I loved the solos and duets are the most moving
Aronson’s best turn is her rousing
version of “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?”
-- an indictment of the “spoiled” king and his polygamous
lifestyle – delivered in his absence and with increasing
and hilarious fury. Ya Han Chang as Lady Thiang turns in an
especially evocative performance, singing a touching and insightful
“Something Wonderful.” Also excellent are Adrian
Li Donna as Lun Tha and Jung Eun Kim as Tuptim singing “We
Kiss in a Shadow.” Virtually all the performers handle
the inherent weirdness of bursting from conversation into song
with convincing style."
AS THOUSANDS CHEER
"Merry mayhem: Lyric Stage's AS THOUSANDS
CHEER. It’s an evening of first class, high-energy high
jinks and musical numbers... It’s smart
witty, with a wealth of sophisticated double entendres and innuendos..."
the Examiner review of As Thousands Cheer
"As sharp as Lyric Stage’s founding
producer Steven Jones has been in nabbing regional- and world-premiere
musicals, not to mention gussying up well-known classics with
full orchestras, he has outdone himself with the current staging
of Fiorello! And it’s not just because he has unveiled
an admirable (if occasionally flawed) staging of this criminally
forgotten Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning gem."
Mark Lowry's full Pegasus News review of FIORELLO!
"Lyric Stage doesn't just dust off 1950s
musical; it gives it a high polish...Lyric Stage succeeds gloriously
...with a glistening production that works the audience like
a lobbyist buying senators."
Punch Shaw's full Star-Telegram review of FIORELLO!
"Fiorello! is funny and entertaining, with
music by Jerry Bock and delicious rhymes by lyricist Sheldon
Harnick. ...a strong ensemble and several stand-out performances
made the production an enjoyable winner."
Chris Shull's full Park Cities People review of FIORELLO!
Following is the entire Dallas Observer Review
by Elaine Liner:
"Imagine a Republican candidate elected for standing
up for working stiffs and sweeping money-grubbing crooks from
office. A fairy tale? No, Fiorello! The 1959 musical recounts
the rise of Fiorello H. LaGuardia, elected to Congress before
World War I and then to the office of mayor of New York City,
which he wrested from the control of the corrupt Tammany Hall
Democratic political machine.
In the roisterous production directed by Cheryl Denson for Irving's
Lyric Stage, we see why this rarely revived show earned its
Tony and Pulitzer (besting Gypsy and The Sound of Music). Here
is a masculine musical about big men doing big things. And it
needs a big talent to play its short, wide title character.
Lyric has that in Brian Gonzales, who returns for this production
after taking over a main role in the Broadway hit 25th Annual
Putnam County Spelling Bee. Gonzales plays Fiorello as a passionate
firebrand full of good intentions and boundless energy. He has
a magnificent singing voice and the presence of a bona fide
star. Physically and vocally, Gonzales resembles Jason Alexander,
especially in LaGuardia's Costanza-like tantrums.
With similarities to a certain Runyon-esque musical,
Fiorello! sets its idealized political biography against a bittersweet
love story. One of LaGuardia's loyal employees, Marie (Noelle
Stanley), falls in love with her boss but keeps her feelings
hidden until after the death of the mayor's pretty wife, Thea
(Connie Kegg). The secondary plot follows the sweatshop-to-penthouse
journey of Dora (the delightful Megan Woodall), a garment worker
who grows disgusted at the dirty dealings of her underworld-connected
husband (Brian Patrick Hathaway). Singing "I Love a Cop"—"If
I loved a dentist or a doctor, I'd be on top... but I looooove
a cop"—Woodall affects a comic nasal squeak not unlike
Miss Adelaide's in Guys and Dolls.
Fiorello! boasts a tight, witty book by Jerome Weidman
and George Abbott, and a score of good, loud tunes by Sheldon
Harnick and Jerry Bock. "Politics and Poker" and "Little
Tin Box" haven't become standards the way "Luck Be
a Lady" has, but maybe that's just a bad roll of the musical
Lyric has a winner with Fiorello!"
Following is the entire EDGE Review by Christopher
"In a time when political corruption seems more
brazen and rampant than ever, when the presidential election
is just over the horizon with all its mudslinging, how appropriate
to stage a revival of Fiorello! a musical about the honest,
altruistic, and dedicated attorney, Fiorello LaGuardia, who
took on the corrupt Tammany Hall machine that had dominated
New York City politics since before the Civil War. Who’d
have thought that a show dealing with unions, the draft, Washington,
cops, schmoozing, strikes, cronyism, influence pedaling and
Mayoral campaigns could work so well? The music is bright (if
a bit heavy on the trumpets) and varied, the lyrics clever,
the story poignant and uplifting. There’s romance, chutzpah,
tragedy, energetic dancing and evocative period costumes that
run from blue collar to glamorous. As if all that weren’t
enough, it’s exhilarating to see a believable show where
valiant and decent people win.
"Fiorello!" (the name means "little flower"
in Italian) opens in the 1930’s, as Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia
is reading the Sunday funnies to the children over the radio,
due to a newspaper strike. The rest of the musical is flashback
to 1915 and Fiorello’s Law Office in Greenwich Village
where most of the story takes place. We are introduced to Neil,
Morris and Marie, LaGuardia’s diligent, energetic, persevering
staff. LaGuardia, a champion to the underdog is this day meeting
with Dora, a factory seamstress, who needs his help. The women
are striking for better wages, and the cops have arrested Dora’s
friend, Thea, on a baseless charge of solicitation. LaGuardia
wastes no time in getting Thea released and organizing the ladies’
protest efforts in the bargain.
Brian Gonzales in the title role is inspired, full of moxie,
bluster and brio. With his diminutive stature, enormous hat
and smartly tailored dark suit he can seem pugnacious and a
bit too close to megalomania but to quote the songbook, it’s
all "on the side of the angels." We follow LaGuardia’s
career as he runs for Congress, goes to Washington, enlists
in the war, and runs for mayor. Needless to say, he has his
share of setbacks, from daunting to tragic, but he soldiers
on, flawed, human, discouraged, and all the more moving for
Considering the time in which "Fiorello!" is set,
the women’s roles are atypical. They are savvy if not
necessarily educated, and the two main ladies in Fiorello’s
life, Marie and Thea, are his intellectual peers. In the song,
"Marie’s Law" she takes men to task for being
so insensitive and unreliable when it comes to romance, and
here in 2008 nothing has changed.
The milieu of "Fiorello!" is rich and detailed. A
law office, a backroom poker party, a protest march, a penthouse,
strike headquarters together with the panoply of blue-collar
citizens create a vivid sense of New York working-class life
at the turn of the 20th Century. The set design is vivid and
the costume design by Drenda Lewis, natty and spectacular. Her
evening gowns and dancers’ togs are sexy and vivacious.
Standouts in the fabulous cast include: Noelle Stanley as Marie,
Megan Woodall as Dora, Doug Jackson as Morris, Clayton Younkin
as Neil and the light, chipper feet and comedic gifts of Brian
Patrick Hathaway as Floyd. Mr. Hathaway, what DO you sprinkle
on your cornflakes?"
WEST SIDE STORY
Following is a review by Mark Lowry
of Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:
"Lyric Stage brilliantly brings 'West Side Story'
There is a stunning moment in Act I that encapsulates Lyric
Stage’s glorious revival of West Side Story.
After Tony (Micah Shepard) has been smitten
with Maria (Kimberly Whalen in a phenomenal performance) at
the dance, he beautifully sings Maria. Shepard is downstage-left
on the Irving Arts Center’s expansive and deep Carpenter
Hall stage. He’s the only actor out there, but a short
distance behind him is a 33-member orchestra and the spotlighted
music director/conductor Jay Dias.
As the song shifts in intensity ("Say
it loud and there’s music playing/Say it soft and it’s
almost like praying"), so does Dias’ impassioned
baton-wielding — and Leonard Bernstein’s legendary
score. It’s simple but spectacular.
This is the second time that Lyric Stage
— led by Steven Jones, who has to be one of the most astute,
brave and visionary producers of musical theater in the country,
including on Broadway — has staged a landmark musical
with a full orchestra. Last year, it was Carousel with a 40-piece
orchestra. In that show, the orchestra in the pit left room
for a giant set.
But in director Grover Dale’s vision,
West Side is spare, using mostly rolling industrial ladders
and stand-alone doors (the set changes are surprisingly fluid)
to represent the New York City locales, from fire escapes and
fences to the stairs to the basement of Doc’s store. That
leaves the spectacle where it rightly belongs: Bernstein’s
music, Arthur Laurents’ book, Stephen Sondheim’s
lyrics and Jerome Robbins’ iconic choreography (re-created
here and ingeniously embellished a bit by Kate Swan and the
None of the performances of the young characters,
especially from the women (Whalen, Christie Peruso’s Anita
and Lili Froehlich’s Anybodys) rely on previous versions
or stereotypes. It’s saying a lot that Gordon Fox, in
the show’s smallest part, Glad Hand, makes you care about
a character to whom you had never paid attention.
One quibble is Shepard, who is not the most
compelling Tony — but he has a terrific voice.
The spare set allows the audience more power
of imagination. After Tony sings Maria, it’s as if he
magically wishes himself outside her window. And the audience
is transported as well."
"Crazy Cool. The gang's all here, dancing
like dreams in Lyric Stage's West Side Story..."
Read the full Dallas Observer review
of WEST SIDE STORY
"Lyric Stage shakes up 'West Side Story'
with punchy choreography and full orchestra..."
Read the full Dallas Morning News review
of WEST SIDE STORY
Following is a review by Martha Heimberg
of Turtle Creek News:
"The Jets (and everybody!) are in gear in Lyric Stage’s
West Side Story.
So much depends on the skill and energy of
the dancers in West Side Story, the great American urban love
story conceived by chorographer Jerome Robbins, and set to music
by Leonard Bernstein, with Stephen Sondheim’s moving and
witty lyrics. And in the big Lyric Stage production, directed
by Grover Dale, the dancers deliver the moves that set the mood
for the song, whether it’s about a gang rumble or the
throbbing hope of young lovers. And, of course, these athletic
guys and gals can sing and act, too!
Dale opens up the Carpenter Theater stage
at the Irving Arts center and puts the 32-piece orchestra, expertly
directed by Jay Dias, across the back. The minimal set is a
collection of two-story staircases on wheels and battered wooden
doors, all easily manipulated to form a minimalist backdrop
for each scene -- and leave plenty of room for the dancers.
Kate Swan has recreated the original Robbins’ choreography
with style and expert pacing. The Jets and their laid-back ladies
are all cool and taunt, while the Sharks display their machismo
and fiery sexuality.
Dias and the orchestra carry this unique
musical/ballet forward from the finger-snapping opening number
defining the style and history of the warring gangs to the finale
when Maria holds Tony’s body on the midnight street. From
start to finish, the 30 members of the cast sing their hearts
out, leap effortlessly through the air and dance to the rhythms
of their cultures. They make us feel once more both the thrilling
exuberance – and relentless restlessness -- of young men
and women determined to survive – and even find love –
in an inner-city world of violence and bigotry.
The Jets’ ensemble performance is
a delight – the young guys actually look like teenagers!
Philip Groft’s Riff is a tough, fast-moving gang leader.
And Jeremy Dumont as Action delivers easy acrobatics and also
shows engaging comic charm as the lead singer in the sharply
satiric “Gee, Officer Krupke.” Antonio Jimenez is
a handsome and macho Bernardo, the leader of the sharks. And
Christie Peruso’s performance as Bernardo’s girl
Anita heats the stage to a wildly raucous flame in “America”.
Later, in a red dress with her dark hair flying about her on
the top rung of a ladder at stage center, Peruso seduces the
entire audience when she delivers her super-hot version of what
“Tonight” is about to bring her!
Of course, this story based on Romeo and
Juliet must have convincing star-crossed lovers at its center
– to make us feel that “what was just a world is
a star” when they meet. And the chemistry is there. Micah
Shepherd’s Tony is a young man filled with longing and
desire – a man who feels that “Something’s
Coming.” When that “something good” turns
out to be the beautiful and innocent young sister of the Sharks
leader, Tony doesn’t care. All he sees at the dance is
the girl’s face. Shepherd’s tenor voice is true
and clear, if not huge. He’s especially moving on the
soft, falsetto-like notes in “Maria” and “One
Hand, One Heart.”
Kimberly Whalen is an exquisite and tender
Maria – with a lovely, full soprano voice. When she sings
“Tonight” with Tony, a thousand stars glimmer on
the scrim and the gorgeous promise of young love rings out across
time. Her touching and womanly delivery of “I Have a Love”
is stronger and even more soaring, as she defends her love for
Tony, even though she knows he has killed her brother in a sudden
reaction to Bernardo killing his best friend. One of the most
dramatic moments in the show is when the mourning Anita joins
Maria in this powerful song about the fateful nature of love.
Lyric Stage’s production of West Side
Story is so gorgeous and vibrant, you’ll want to tell
everybody you know to see it. That’s what I’m doing.
The production is onstage at Carpenter Performance Hall in the
Irving Arts Center, 3333 North MacArthur Blvd., through September
14t. Tickets are $20 to $50; for reservations and information,
call 972-252-2787, or check lyricstage.org."
"Lyric Stage's Julie Johnson breathes
life back into 'Hello, Dolly!'... How do I love Julie Johnson?
Let me count the ways ... First of all, she can make me like
Hello, Dolly!, a musical I had hoped never to see again. Go
crazy for it, actually... Director Cheryl Denson deserves the
credit for putting all these performers together and convincing
them that Hello, Dolly! deserves more care and respect than
it has been given over the last 40 years of endless touring
and stock versions... this is likely to beat any other performance
you've seen, hands down. As long as Ms. Johnson cares to play
her, we can all hope this Dolly will never go away again."
Read the full Dallas Morning News review
of HELLO, DOLLY!
"From hello to goodbye, this 'Dolly' shines
all show long... Irving Lyric Stage has Julie Johnson as
the title character in its current production of Jerry Herman
and Michael Stewart's classic Hello, Dolly! and it is a match
made in theater heaven... There may be a flaw in this production
somewhere. But if there is, it sure got by me. If you have ever
considered seeing Hello, Dolly!, you would be well served by
saying, "Hello, Julie!"."
Read the full Ft. Worth Star-Telegram review
of HELLO, DOLLY!
LOOK HOMEWARD HONKY TONK ANGEL
"'Look Homeward' hits concert mark... Great voices sell country oldies, new tunes... Lyric Stage gave 'Look Homeward Honky Tonk Angel' its world premiere on Saturday with a performance that couldn't get much better, especially in the vocal department... The new tunes are some of the best written for a musical in years."
Read the full
Dallas Morning News review of LOOK HOMEWARD HONKY TONK ANGEL
"It's Southern-fried, corny and delicious... It all equals plenty of chuckles... Larry Gatlin's music and lyrics effortlessly fit into the story, both his old tunes and the new ones, a few of which have the potential to become as memorable as 'Houston' and 'Sure Feels Like Love'."
Read the full
Ft. Worth Star-Telegram review of LOOK HOMEWARD HONKY TONK ANGEL
RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN'S CAROUSEL
"'Carousel' is big, bold, brilliant and not to miss... Every musical theater fan better get over to Irving this weekend, where the show has four performances left... Turns out, having a 40-piece orchestra in the pit not only enhances every nuance of Richard Rodgers' lush score for Carousel but also brings out the best individual vocals and ensemble chorals from Lyric Stage's cast... Not only does it sound unlike anything you've heard or will hear at the theater, but it's also a good-looking, sprawling but tight production with nicely honed characterizations molded by director Cheryl Denson... You might not be transported like this at a musical again."
Read Mark Lowry's full
Star-Telegram review of CAROUSEL
"A glorious spin on 'Carousel'... Lyric Stage gives classic musical new flair... If you've never quite understood why Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical plays were the dominant American theater pieces of the mid-20th century, you need to see Lyric Stage's Carousel. Those already in the know will want to see it twice... Kimberly Whalen and Christopher Pinnella could hardly be bettered as the faithful-hearted Julie Jordan and her ne'er-do-well Billy Bigelow... this Carousel is cast to strength, top to bottom. They don't make musicals like this anymore – and, until Lyric Stage proved otherwise, you'd have thought they didn't perform them like this anymore, either."
Read Lawson Taitte's full
Dallas Morning News review of CAROUSEL
"Lyric Stage's sparkling Carousel... Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous... This is Carousel as it was meant to be, fully choreographed and elaborately costumed for a wide proscenium stage. Nobody does musicals this way anymore... How fine, how satisfying to be thrilled through and through by a local production of one of the best shows in American musical theater. It's not enough to say the singing, dancing and acting in Lyric's Carousel are Broadway caliber. Broadway rarely casts anything this well anymore. Given the budget limits and space restrictions of regional theater, it's unlikely that a Carousel this big and beautiful will come this way again."
Read Elaine Liner's full
Dallas Observer review of CAROUSEL
Following is the entire Park Cities People Review by Glenn Arbery:
"A New Gold Standard. Lyric Stage’s Carousel changes the stakes for musicals in Dallas...
There’s one major problem with the otherwise superb production of Carousel at Lyric Stage in Irving. In all justice, it should run for a year or two, and it should make the work of Steven Jones and his collaborators, Cheryl Denson and Jay Dias, nationally famous.
But in fact, its last performance is this Sunday — after only two weekends. It’s a shame, a dark injustice, that work of this quality can’t go on indefinitely.
Using a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Jones assembled a 40-piece orchestra for the first time since the show’s run on Broadway over 60 years ago. Musical director and conductor Jay Dias handles the complexities with consummate skill. The orchestra adds a depth and magnitude to the performance, but never once overpowers the singers.
True, it must be very expensive to put on this show. On the other hand, the audiences it’s sure to get after the first reviews could keep it going for a long time if this were a perfect world.
As the curtain rises and the orchestra plays, there’s a vivid pantomime — like a Breugel painting brought to life —at the seaside amusement park in the New England mill town where the action takes place. What’s interesting is how deeply American Carousel feels, despite being adapted from a 1909 Hungarian play by Ferenc Molnár.
In this production, it captures with light naturalness the regimented life of the girls in the mill, the paternalism of the mill owner, the excitement offered by the carousel world, and a Horatio Alger theme. Director Cheryl Denson lets the story unfold without heavy messages to distort it.
It’s a big production, full-bore, nothing held back, and there’s an electric excitement in the cast. You get the feeling that they know they’re in the middle of a production they’ll use from now on as the standard for whatever else they do, and the elation of it instantly conveys itself to the audience.
It had me at “Mr. Snow.” Dara Whitehead Allen as Carrie Pepperidge, the mill worker telling her friend Julie about the man she’s going to marry, sings with a joyous energy, and her acting perfectly complements what the song says. Kimberly Whalen as Julie Jordan matches her with a quieter, more melancholy charm combined with a superb voice.
Christopher Pinnella plays a forceful Billy Bigelow, Julie’s unlikely boyfriend, the barker at the carousel. Bigelow is so cocky and full of himself he can hardly stand it, a guy who’s never met anybody who really trusts him before he meets Julie. A proud man, full of self-doubt, explosive, he lacks Enoch Snow’s work ethic, but he’s driven by a fundamental attraction to goodness. Pinnella has a voice that does Bigelow’s big solos full credit, and the show rides on his talent.
In other words, a confident ease soon comes over the audience, and more pleasures keep coming, such as the strong, comic tenor of Jackson Ross Best Jr. as Enoch Snow, the fisherman Carrie’s going to marry.
Natalie Arduilo plays Nettie Fowler who runs a boarding house for the girls who work in the town’s textile mills, with lots of sand, as Huck Finn might say, and Stacia Malone gives amusement park owner Mrs. Mullin, who also loves Billy Bigelow, a worldly knowingness that contrasts sharply with Julie Jordan’s passive trust.
And I’m not even mentioning the 12 other fine cast members, such as Joshua Doss and Francis Fusilier, and the ensemble of 29 singers and dancers.
It’s unquestionably the best musical (including the expensive touring productions) that I’ve seen since WaterTower’s Urinetown, which I liked because it made fun of musicals. This one succeeds without once puncturing its own conventions, and it even survives an overlong ballet scene in the second act.
It’s the kind of show you want everyone you know to see — if only they can get a seat. "
DALLAS DIVAS! 2007 in JERRY'S GIRLS
"'Dallas Divas!' delivers... Big sounds of Broadway ring out in Irving..."
Read the full
Dallas Morning News review of DALLAS DIVAS! 2007
"A Winning Formula... Irving theater's political musical gets our vote... With so many new musicals these days, you're lucky to get one of these elements: outstanding story, memorable music or a strongly acted production.
Joe Sutton and Lewis Flinn's The Winner, having its world premiere at Lyric Stage, is three-for-three... GRADE: A"
Read the full
Star-Telegram review of THE WINNER
"LBJ's story, in song... He is larger than life in musical's debut... The Winner treats its audience like grown-ups as it portrays the historical figure of the young Lyndon Baines Johnson in all his complexity. Few plays or movies give us this kind of searching look at our collective past..."
Read the full
Dallas Morning News review of THE WINNER
CABIN IN THE SKY
"What becomes a legend? The kind of mink-and-sable treatment that Lyric Stage is giving the fabled 1940 musical CABIN IN THE SKY... The whole evening flows along on a current of spirited and subtly balanced movement... Anybody with an interest in the history of the American musical has to make the pilgrimage to see
CABIN IN THE SKY."
Read the full
Dallas Morning News review of CABIN IN THE SKY
"The ensemble for this production deserve a standing ovation for providing some of the most beautiful singing I have heard all year... If you want to hear some of the most exquisite singing being done on a metroplex stage today, then rush to Lyric Stage now!"
Read the full
The Column review of CABIN IN THE SKY
in concert at the Meyerson
"Razor-sharp. 'Sweeney Todd' simply thrills. Lyric Stage, usually based in Irving, has invaded Dallas with a semi-staged concert version, which was reviewed at its Monday dress rehearsal. This one takes Sweeney Todd to the max. An orchestra of symphonic proportions and a huge cast fill up the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center with waves of enormous sound..."
Read the full
Dallas Morning News review of SWEENEY TODD
This is no plain 'jane'
by Mark Lowry
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Published: Tuesday, May 2, 2006
"Will some wealthy reader out there please give about a bazillion bucks to Lyric Stage?
Even when the Irving-based musical company selects a good-but-not-great musical and gives it a slightly imperfect staging, as is the case with the current Jane Eyre, Lyric's productions blow every other local groups' musicals out of the water. Most certainly in the vocal department, but usually in acting and design as well.
Jane Eyre is Paul Gordon and John Caird's overly earnest musical version of Charlotte Bronte's 1847 proto-feminist novel about a plain governess who wins over a wealthy estate owner. It ran for six months in Broadway's 2000-01 season, and was nominated for a Tony in the year of the biggest Tony-sweeping show ever, The Producers.
Jane is the kind of show Lyric founder and producer Steven Jones adores.
It's almost entirely through-composed and features lots of sung dialogue and a sweeping, almost filmic, score. Some have compared Gordon's music here to the work of Claude-Michel Schonberg, of Les Miserables. In Jane Eyre, the song Sirens is so reminiscent of Les Miz you'll want to wave a giant French flag.
Directed by Candace Evans with musical direction by Scott A. Eckert, Jane includes many awe-inspiring moments, mostly in the ensemble musical numbers.
Julie Stirman, a former local now based in New York, plays the title role and exhibits all the resilience and passion Jane needs. She overrides vulnerability, even when the show's creators give her something to be uncharacteristically vulnerable about.
Local leading man Greg Dulcie, stalwart of voice and build, is Rochester, the enigmatic man who falls for Jane but has a dark secret. He's terrific in scenes with Jane and others, but his solo soul-searching songs lean to the bombastic side.
No doubt the audience favorite is Deborah Brown as Mrs. Fairfax. Brown, known to Casa audiences especially, does that Angela Lansbury-esque not-quite-there aging caretaker shtick like none other, with hysterical results.
Wade Giampa's set consists of a main, raked platform with elevated walkways extending into the wings. There's a Victorian elegance about it even in its simplicity.
Backdropping everything is a white scrim on which lighting designer Susan A. White casts mood-setting colors, making the actors and set pieces look almost like silhouettes. Think of the Vivien Leigh "I'll never be hungry again" image from Gone With the Wind and you'll get it."
"Star-spangled show. Dallas Divas! join talents to salute Rodgers and Hammerstein. It would be positively un-American not to love this year's Dallas Divas!..."
Read the full
Dallas Morning News review of DALLAS DIVAS!
"An 'Evita' so good, you'll cry. Lyric Stage revives Lloyd Webber classic with stunning soprano."
"'A little touch of star quality,' Eva Perón sings in Evita. When Catherine Carpenter Cox barrels through that line, she's doing herself an injustice. The lady has a whole lot of star quality. Ms. Cox headlines the revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber favorite in a Lyric Stage production that's exciting from top to bottom..."
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Dallas Morning News review of EVITA
"Lyric gives extra attention to every last note from every person on stage."
"Director and choreographer Len Pfluger has made dead-on casting choices
in Catherine Carpenter Cox, Blake Davidson and Brian Gonzales..."
"...fiery with dramatic passion." GRADE: A-
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Star Telegram review of EVITA (registration required)
110 In The Shade
"Lyric Stage's spiffy production, perfect in almost every way, proved once again
the worth of this gentle masterpiece... The cast performs brilliantly from top to bottom."
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"Lyric Stage's musical '110' really cranks up the heat...
a staging that crackles like heat lightning... and touches the heart."
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Star Telegram review of 110 IN THE SHADE (registration required)
Lyric Stage's show lives up to name with heart, humor."
Read the full Dallas Morning News review of THE FANTASTICKS
"Exquisite, poetic, heartfelt...
perfect-as-it-gets staging... GRADE: A"
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Star Telegram review of THE FANTASTICKS (registration required)
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