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Center Stage: Concert, open mic and theater all in one

By Staff | Feb 25, 2020

Marsha Wagner

It’s that time of year again, when there is so much to see and do in the theater world that I must make a three-decker review performance sandwich.

Layer one: Fort Myers Community Concerts hit another high mark with a presentation of the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, featuring its powerful artistic Director and Chief Conductor Valery Polyansky, along with an equally merited artist of the Russian Federation, pianist Pavel Nersessian. This 1957-founded orchestra is ranked among the finest Russian Symphony Orchestras of the 21st Century – and they certainly proved that accolade after hearing them play. The program featured some sweeping, challenging concertos by Michail Glinka, Edvard Greig and, of course, P.I. Tchaikovsky. I have certainly heard these concertos before, but never with such depth and meaning. Proving that the Russian soul is still alive and well, despite the politics that try to tell us otherwise.

Thank you, Community Concerts for another glorious, long remembered musical evening that shook my soul.

For the next performance, Joe Pacheco emceed the island’s poets and writers, who performed their Open Mic presentation celebrating love and Valentine’s Day. Pacheco opened the evening with a reading of his poem dedicated to his wife, Marjorie, titled “Valentine Morning,” which was a tender musing on watching Marjorie in peaceful slumber.

John Pabilalla celebrated in word gems, the wedding to the love of his life, celebrating a 20th anniversary. Sid Simon artfully told of a son’s visits to his father, every Friday night, while honoring dad with family narratives. Mort Levy focused the love light on his mother’s warning “where and what love can lead to.” He then focused on less dangerous loves: sports, nature, reading, et cetera.

First-time reader Mel Moore boldly announced “I’m a Leap Year Baby and only 22 years old” (you figure out the math). Then, he lovingly described a late afternoon stroll on Sanibel. Nancy Carlile wove imaginative, romantic word dreams about a complete stranger on the commuter train. Pacheco read his latest comic valentine verse, titled “Do Not Be My Valentine.” Marjorie Pacheco lobbed back with an equally comic Valentine, which asked her husband not to send even one flower until he cleaned up his mess and bathroom shower. Ladies, does that sound familiar?

The Sanibel-Captiva Islander’s witty, weekly columnist, and first-time Open Mic poet, Art Stevens drolly described the hard work of writing poetry. Right on, Art, write on. Brody Burns cleverly picked up the mic and boldly proclaimed his love for a lovely female member in his high school band. Bravo, Brody! Bob Hilliard openly and poetically proclaimed the countless ways he loves Joanne, his wife; the twilight born love of his life. A last-minute unannounced entry, a young man whose name I didn’t write down, boldly and graphically described his early life on the Island of Jamaica.

What a terrific way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I do have one quibble. I know words of love should be shared intimately and softly spoken, but theater audiences are different. They need to hear – loud and clear! Thanks for the many whirling words of love for Valentine’s Day.

The last show of this busy week was the “live out loud,” Tony Award-winning production of “Kinky Boots,” with music and lyrics by the iconic Cindi Lauper with book by the legendary Harvey Fierstein which wowed the Broadway Palm’s audiences on opening night on Feb. 13. This show, which plays the Palm till April 4, will sell out fast!

Producer Will Prather (all decked out in six-inch-heeled, thigh-high, red Kinky Boots) introduced this laugh out loud 204 production with high style and humor. Gosh, Will! I never realized you are not only a terrific producer; you could play a leading character in most productions presented at the Palm. Who’d a thunk?

Now, on with the show.

Director Amy Marie McCleary and choreographer Chris Kane have both created a production that will heat up this season with its wonderful message of tolerance for all and any people that are “different.” Something we can all celebrate and acknowledge in this fractional time in our country. A line from the show that perfectly sums up this message is: You change the world when you change your mind. Another gem from the show was penned by none other than Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself; everybody else is already taken.”

The entire cast is quite simply astonishing, especially the three leads: David la Marr in the transsexual role of Lola, Luke Yellin as Charlie Price, and Danielle Poznanovic in the female lead Lauren. These three leading performers are making their mark as newcomers to the Broadway Palm. But let me tell you, their theater backgrounds cover every aspect of theater from national and regional road touring companies, summer stock, cruises, dinner theaters and television. I’d love to list the entire cast of performers each of whom have distinctive and humorous characters, but space won’t allow it.

I must list the guys playing Lola’s Chorus Girl Angels – Gideon Chickos, Les Gibbs, Andy Nuanbngam, Jermarcus Riggins, Dwight Robinette and Stephen Vaught. Not only are these guys gorgeous, sexy chorus cuties, they danced up a storm in six-inch-high heeled red thigh high boots, while singing out with panache. WOWEEEE!

Let me sum up this show in a word – SUPERCALAFRAGEISTICEXPEALADOCIOUS! Go to the phone now and call the box office at 239-278-4422.

There you have it, a three-in-one review. So have fun and see a live show – and live life large!