About Russell Florence, Jr.

Russell Florence, Jr. is a member of The American Theatre Critics Association and The Drama League. In addition to his role as arts and culture editor of Dayton City Paper and theater critic for Dayton City Paper and Impact Weekly, he served as a Dayton Daily News freelance writer and editorial page contributor. He has also written features for such theater publications as Spotlight Ohio and The Sondheim Review. He attended over 30 Broadway/Off-Broadway productions during the 2014-15 season.

‘Pippin’ Review – Victoria Theatre Association – All the Right Moves


  Exhilarating acrobatics and fantastic choreography catapults the outstanding national tour of “Pippin” to marvelously magical heights at the Schuster Center as the launch of the Victoria Theatre Association’s 2015-2016 Premier Health Broadway Series. Based on its 2013 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival and originally staged and choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse in 1972, “Pippin,” featuring a book by Roger O. Hirson and score by Stephen Schwartz, tells a humorous and fanciful tale of the titular son of Charlemagne. Following college graduation he boldly pursues a quest for … [Read more...]

‘The Columnist’ Review – Dayton Theatre Guild – Power and Secrecy Inside the Beltway


The intriguing double life of prominent Republican syndicated columnist Joseph Alsop (1910-1989) provides the thought-provoking basis for David Auburn’s engrossing 2012 drama “The Columnist,” currently receiving an excellent local premiere at the Dayton Theatre Guild. As he ascended in fame and influence in Washington, D.C. from the 1940s through the late 1960s, Joe hid his sexuality, a fact Auburn frankly details at the outset which depicts the legendary writer awakening from a tryst with a handsome tour guide in a Moscow hotel circa 1954. Afterward Joe is busted by the K.G.B, but his … [Read more...]

‘The K of D, An Urban Legend’ Review – Magnolia Theatre Company – Captivating Storytelling

k of d

An outstanding Annie Pesch inhabits 17 colorful characters in Magnolia Theatre Company’s terrific local premiere of Laura Schellhardt’s humorous and gripping 2008 ghost story “The K of D, An Urban Legend” continuing through Sunday, Oct. 4 inside the black box Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center.   One-person shows always demand immense versatility, energy and breadth of scope, particularly when the material requires the actor to embody multiple ages and personalities. Thankfully, Pesch, having already proven her worth in this realm years ago in Dayton Theatre Guild’s “The Belle of … [Read more...]

‘The Great Gatsby’ Review – Wright State University – Man of the Moment


Frank Loesser had it wrong. There’s wonderful music in the very sound of Gatsby, a name immediately conjuring images of power, prestige, wealth, infatuation, and mystery. As the seductive, titular focal point of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 novel, widely considered one of the greatest ever written, millionaire Jay Gatsby’s transformative history and romantic obsession is not lost in Wright State University’s current presentation. However, there are moments of detachment that could use a jubilant Jazz Age lift. Breezily adapted by Simon Levy and directed by W. Stuart McDowell, “The … [Read more...]

‘Carousel’ Review – Dayton Playhouse – You Love Who You Love


In the Rodgers and Hammerstein repertoire the governess with the cute kids always seem to grab the most attention. But what about their darker, practically forgotten collaboration about the ill-fated New England couple unable to make the most of their life together? Yes, it’s time to become reacquainted with or introduced to “Carousel,” the heartrendingly beautiful 1945 musical drama enjoyably mounted by the Dayton Playhouse with vocally impressive flourish.   Based on Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár’s 1909 play “Liliom,” “Carousel” primarily examines romance from the sheer … [Read more...]

‘The Full Monty’ Review – Human Race Theatre Company – Measure of a Man

HRTC-MONTY-prod-4 copy

Skin is in at the Loft Theatre. But if seeing a bunch of guys in their undies is the only reason you’re tempted to check out the Human Race Theatre Company’s delightful production of composer David Yazbek and librettist Terrence McNally’s outstanding Tony Award-nominated 2000 musical comedy “The Full Monty” you’ll miss out on the compelling facets that propelled it as one of the finest, relevant and heartwarming musicals of the last decade. Set in blue-collar Buffalo and based on the 1997 Academy Award-winning British film of the same name, “The Full Monty,” unlike any contemporary musical, … [Read more...]

‘Into the Woods’ Review – Dare to Defy Productions – It Takes Time


Dare to Defy Productions beckons the imagination with its stark, minimalist production of composer Stephen Sondheim and librettist James Lapine’s 1987 musical dramedy “Into the Woods,” but the attempt doesn’t coalesce. Presented at the Victoria Theatre under the direction of Mathys Herbert, this “Into the Woods” appears to be pulling in different directions with musical awkwardness and structural unpreparedness resting underneath the surface. Part of the problem lies in the odd conceptual atmospherics (there are no woods in these “Woods”) which confines the action within an ominous, … [Read more...]

‘Outside Mullingar’ Review – Dayton Theatre Guild – Learning to Love

outside mullingar

The Dayton Theatre Guild’s 71st season opens with an outstanding local premiere of John Patrick Shanley’s 2014 Tony Award-nominated dramedy “Outside Mullingar,” a poignant look at romance between fortysomethings on a cattle and sheep farm in rural Ireland. Deftly directed by David Shough, “Outside Mullingar,” sharing an Irish kinship to the plays of Martin McDonagh in terms of intimate authenticity, carries itself as contemporary (it begins in 2008) although it has a wonderful throwback quality at its core as if it could have been written 40 years ago. Neighbors Anthony Reilly and … [Read more...]

‘The Book of Mormon’ Review – Victoria Theatre Association – Irreverent Bliss

Candace Quarrels (Nabulungi) and Cody Jamison Strand (Elder Cunningham) in “The Book of Mormon” (Contributed photo by Joan Marcus)

“The Book of Mormon” isn’t for the easily offended, but if you’re simply looking to be entertained to the hilt you cannot let your weekend pass by without seeing this one-of-a-kind, Broadway-caliber experience.

‘Tarzan’ Review – Epiphany Lutheran Church – Earthy Excellence


Dayton’s 2015-2016 theater season has been impressively ushered in by Epiphany Lutheran Church as evidenced in the Epiphany Players Drama Ministry’s delightfully touching and vibrant production of Disney’s “Tarzan,” the organization’s 25th anniversary presentation. Adapted by Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang (“M. Butterfly”) based on the 1999 Academy Award-winning film of the same name and the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, “Tarzan” reiterates the power of love and family in its engaging tale of a boy raised by apes in West Africa following the death of his parents who … [Read more...]