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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 2013-14 season.

‘Shrek’ Review – Playhouse South – Come Look at the Freaks

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In order to save his home, Shrek agrees to rescue the lovely, abandoned Princess Fiona and return her to the villainous, diminutive Farquuad, who plans to marry her and rightfully become king of Duloc. But along the way, and with a wisecracking Donkey in tow, Shrek and Fiona grow to a newfound appreciation of love’s fundamental ability to look beyond outwardly appearances and treasure the glories of inner beauty.



‘Grease’ Review – Dayton Playhouse – Lukewarm Nostalgia

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Most people assume “Grease” is an easy show to do because the tuneful music fuels the story and the characters are instantly relatable. However, you have to rely on specific types to truly sell the cool factor inherent in the comedic material set in and around Rydell High School in the late 1950s.



‘Wicked’ Review – Victoria Theatre Association – Wonderful Witches of Oz

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The production’s tremendous technical elements heighten the show’s appeal as usual, but this mounting, even stronger than its well-received 2010 engagement, uncovers new depths in the vital relationship between the green-skinned, misunderstood Elphaba and the beautiful, bubbly Galinda, the engaging duo that respectively becomes the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch of the South.



‘Taking Shakespeare’ Review – Human Race Theatre Company – You Have To Be Carefully Taught

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Over the course of five strenuous, enlightening weeks (lighting designer John Rensel and sound designer Jay Brunner expertly mark the moody passage of time), Prof educates Murph on the Bard’s fascinating intricacies while also revealing truths behind the politics and professionalism of academia.



‘Sondheim on Sondheim’ Review – Wright State University – Let Him Entertain You

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Case in point: Wright State University’s excellent regional premiere of the 2010 musical revue “Sondheim on Sondheim,” a fascinating, revelatory tribute to Grammy, Oscar, Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Stephen Joshua Sondheim, who celebrated his 85th birthday last month.



‘Songs for a New World’ Review – Sinclair Community College – Embracing the Moment

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This contemporary musical revue, expresses an array of emotions grounded in the expectancy, wonder, vulnerability, and discovery of a single moment. In fact, Brown has stated: “It’s about hitting the wall and having to make a choice, or take a stand, or turn around and go back.” The songs are not connected, which may puzzle or polarize those in search of a traditional plot or story structure.



Review Roundup – Friendships & Feuds

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In the mood for sketch comedy, musical theater or classic drama? Here’s a rundown of a few offerings currently on local stages.



Landmark ‘Lion King’ centerpiece of Victoria’s appealing 2015-16 season

Tshidi Manye as “Rafiki”THE LION KING National Tour.  Disney.  Photo Credit  Joan Marcus

The lineup includes the exhilarating 2013 Tony-winning, circus-themed revival of Stephen Schwartz’s “Pippin,” 2014’s breezy and nostalgic Woody Allen adaptation of “Bullets Over Broadway,” the intimate 2012 Tony-winning adaptation of “Once,” the gorgeous 2013 Tony-winning revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” and composer Jason Robert Brown’s beautifully romantic, Tony-winning adaptation of “The Bridges of Madison County.”



And The Oscar Goes To…

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The 87th annual Academy Awards salutes the best of 2014 cinema tomorrow night at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Go ahead and anticipate one of the most predictable Oscars in recent memory considering most categories have been cemented since the Golden Globes.



‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ Review –Victoria Theatre Association – Giddy, Glorious Gershwin

Photo by Jeremy Daniel (www.JeremyDanielPhoto.com)

Nice Work” is a silly, summertime, Prohibition-era romantic farce that finds goofy criminals, sexy dames, handsome henchmen, and the haughty upper crust colliding on Long Island. As is standard fare for such zany stories, mistaken identity runs rampant nearly to the point of excess.