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Brett J. Banakis

The Cher Show

December 17, 2018

Elice is no stranger to biographical musicals.  His "Jersey Boys" is still running off-Broadway.  Here he was inspired to divide the eponymous character into three personalities:  the Star (the sensational, charismatic Stephanie J. Block), the current, living legend; the Lady (Teal Wicks, fascinating in this bridge role), the mid-career Cher; and the Babe (Micaela Diamond in a gutsy, eager performance) the young Cher just discovering herself guided by her Svengali, Sonny Bono (Jarrod Spector, not a physical match to Bono, but a fine singer and actor). [more]

Renascence

October 30, 2018

In her own time, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) was a rock star and a best-selling author until illness and postwar culture dimmed her luster. Still she fascinates with her bohemian lifestyle, beauty, love affairs with both men and women, feminist views, and effortless sounding poetry. In recent years, her life has again obsessed biographers and playwrights in such works as "Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay" (2001), "Becoming Vincent" (2013) and "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay" (2014). Add to this list the adventurous Transport Group’s world premiere musical "Renascence," with book by Dick Scanlan and lyrics from Millay’s own poems set to music by Carmel Dean. Unfortunately, the new show is often arch and pretentious and the musical settings are entirely in the wrong style for Millay’s lyrics from the 1920’s. [more]

Coriolanus (Red Bull Theater)

November 9, 2016

Just as Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower did centuries later, Coriolanus, urged on by his powerful mother, Volumnia (a startling, stinging Lisa Harrow), uses his military success as a springboard for a high political office, Consul, which he easily wins with help of two Tribunes of Rome, Sicinius Velutus (a wily Stephen Spinella) and Junius Brutus (Merritt Janson, playing cross gender to perfection) and a friend, Menenius Agrippa (Patrick Page, using his weighty voice and commanding eyes brilliantly). [more]

The Winter’s Tale

February 27, 2015

"The Winter’s Tale" is classified as one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays” or “dark comedies” and as such it does not get produced very often. Under the direction of The Shakespeare Society’s Michael Sexton, The Pearl Theatre’s revival is elegant and entertaining. It solves some of the play’s problems while creating new ones. Surprisingly, the contemporary sets by Brett J. Banakis and costumes by Tilly Grimes work amazingly well for a tale told of the 16th century. [more]