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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 2014-15 season.

‘Tarzan’ Review – Epiphany Lutheran Church – Earthy Excellence

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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...]



Saluting Dayton’s 2014-15 Theater Season

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Friendship among witches, a delightful journey to Neverland, a Boston single mother awaiting opportunity, a modern family attempting connection at a New York hospital, an ogre in love, and African-American stories of faith and redemption were some of the key contributors to Dayton’s engaging 2014-15 theater season.



‘Crowns’ Review – Human Race Theatre Company – Feel the Spirit

HRTC CROWNS Production Photo 4

A marvelously soul-stirring production of Regina Taylor’s off-Broadway spiritual play-with-music “Crowns” concludes the Human Race Theatre Company’s 2014-15 season at the Loft Theatre.   Adapted from the book of the same name by photographer Michael Cunningham and journalist Craig Marberry, “Crowns” is a fascinating, humorous, potent and celebratory portal into the African-American custom of church hats. Generations of African-American women, harkening to African tradition, have valued and taken pride in wearing their finest, most flamboyant hats to Sunday service, particularly … [Read more...]



‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ Review – Victoria Theatre Association – Adequate Whimsy

starcatcher

The fanciful Peter Pan play-with-music prequel “Peter and the Starcatcher” adequately closes the Victoria Theatre Association’s 2014- 15 Premier Health Broadway Series at the Schuster Center. Sprightly adapted by Rick Elise based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, this “Starcatcher” primarily presents a unique quandary, specifically for theatergoers expecting to see the national tour of its tremendous Broadway mounting, nominated for nine Tony Awards in 2012 ultimately winning five. When the “Starcatcher” tour folded last year, the Victoria searched for a … [Read more...]



‘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

grease

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

sondheim on sondheim

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

songs for a new world

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.