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. Overall, he has seen over 400 Broadway shows.

‘One Slight Hitch’ Review – Human Race Theatre Company – Wedding Woes

Cuteness abounds inside the Loft Theatre as the Human Race Theatre Company presents the second professional production of comedian Lewis Black’s comedy “One Slight Hitch.” The play’s Cincinnati setting is cute. The notion of a summer wedding is cute. A slacker ex-boyfriend provoking chaos is cute. A precocious teenager grooving to music on her Walkman is cute. But conceptual issues dampen this flimsy, problematic farce which transpires like an overlong “Saturday Night Live” sketch pushing hard for laughs and relying heavily on nostalgia for appeal. Directed by Margarett Perry and … [Read more...]

‘The Wild Party’ Review – Dare to Defy Productions – Revenge & Revelry

Dare to Defy Productions terrifically explores the brutal depths of an extremely complicated relationship in its vibrant and sexy presentation of Andrew Lippa’s 2000 off-Broadway musical “The Wild Party,” adapted from Joseph Moncure March’s 1928 narrative poem of the same name and staged inside the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center.   In this Prohibition-era New York tale, Queenie, a sultry dancer, and Burrs, a vaudeville comedian, are dangerous, abusive lovers who have reached an emotional breaking point but can’t bear to live without each other. It’s a messy game, a … [Read more...]

‘Reasons to Be Pretty’ Review – Playground Theatre – Slip of the Tongue

Words hurt. And when it comes to waging a war of words, you can always count on masterfully raw playwright Neil LaBute to go for the jugular. Case in point: “Reasons to Be Pretty,” his vicious yet thought-provoking 2009 Tony Award-nominated tale of relationships gone bad currently receiving a knockout local premiere in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center courtesy of Playground Theatre. Lights up: Greg and Steph, arguing to the profane hilt, explosively dismantle their four-year relationship over an off-the-cuff comment Greg told his best friend Kent about Steph’s appearance. What … [Read more...]

‘The Music Man’ Review – Wright State University – Amazing Americana

Threats of trouble arouse the small town of River City, Iowa in Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey’s classic 1957 Tony Award-winning musical comedy “The Music Man,” but there are no signs of distress in Wright State University’s fantastic presentation running through April 3 in the Festival Playhouse. In this exceedingly charming tale about a con artist reawakening love and possibility within a vulnerable community in July 1912, a first-rate Nathan Robert Pecchia leads the way as Professor Harold Hill, a traveling salesman who decides to go back into his bag of tricks during a seemingly … [Read more...]

‘The Bridges of Madison County’ Review – Victoria Theatre Association – Sublime Desire

A handsome stranger forever changes the life of an Italian-born Iowa housewife in “The Bridges of Madison County,” a gloriously romantic heartbreaker of a musical written in 2014 by composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown (“Parade”) and librettist Marsha Norman (“The Secret Garden”) based on the 1992 best-seller by Robert James Waller. As evidenced in its sublime regional premiere at the Schuster Center courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series, “Bridges,” set in Winterset, Iowa in 1965 and the following years, remains an impactful, fascinating and complex … [Read more...]

‘Slowgirl’ Review –Dayton Theatre Guild – Redemptive Reunion

Greg Pierce’s quietly compelling 2012 two-hander “Slowgirl,” a contemporary tale of reunion and redemption, has received a terrific local premiere at the Dayton Theatre Guild.   Delicately directed by Rick Flynn, this character study examines the loving yet stained relationship between retired lawyer Sterling (Peter Wallace) and his 17-year-old niece Becky (Jenna Gomes). The relatively content Sterling moved to the tiny town of Los Angeles, Costa Rica following his divorce and a highly publicized bad business deal. He is unexpectedly thrust into parental mode when Becky, suspended from … [Read more...]

And The Oscar Goes To…

Controversy threatens to diminish the accolades associated with the 88th annual Academy Awards honoring the best cinema of 2015 Sunday, Feb. 28 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Oscars So White has been trending since last month, but the broader voting landscape still indicates Hollywood’s surprising leeriness to fully embrace diversity in storytelling and filmmaking. In particular, the marvelously conceived, gay-themed Carol being shut-out of the Best Picture and Director categories is just as disappointing as the egregious omissions of minorities in the acting fields. Nevertheless, the … [Read more...]

‘Kinky Boots,’ ‘Motown,’ ‘Dirty Dancing’ headline Victoria season

Box office and pop-friendly titles, familiar and new, are on the horizon from the Victoria Theatre Association for its 2016-2017 season.   The VTA’s Premier Health Broadway Series, Projects Unlimited Star Attractions, Morris Company Family Series, National Geographic Live! Series, and Frank M. Tait Foundation Discovery Series were announced Monday, Feb. 22 in the Wintergarden of the Schuster Center. Emceed by Meteorologist Tara Hastings of WDTN, the ceremony was attended by more than 400 people and incorporated business/community leaders, media personalities, and Victoria subscribers, … [Read more...]

‘Cinderella’ Review – Victoria Theatre Association – A Lovely Night

Marvelously inventive costumes, gorgeous vocals, terrific performances, and timely social themes fuel the outstanding national tour of the 2013 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” continuing through Sunday at the Schuster Center courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series. Fluidly directed with subtly substantive flair by Mark Brokaw and cleverly reconceived with contemporary flourishes by Douglas Carter Beane (“Xanadu”), “Cinderella,” originally written for television in 1957, is new and improved for all the … [Read more...]

‘The Glass Menagerie’ Review – Human Race Theatre Company – Dissecting Memory

Dysfunction reigns and happiness is fleeting within Tennessee Williams’1945 semi-autobiographical drama “The Glass Menagerie,” a powerhouse of a play currently receiving a lovely, attractively designed presentation courtesy of the Human Race Theatre Company at the Loft Theatre. Set in a St. Louis apartment in the 1930s, this potent saga of a disillusioned, regretful Southern belle stuck in the past and her two emotionally scarred children meandering in the present never fails to entice. In stark contrast to Williams’ equally marvelous “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a masterpiece primarily … [Read more...]