Friday, March 31, 2017

It's been a while since I've done show reviews at local theater companies (or any of the multitude of tours in town), and I am thrilled to reawaken the beast, so to speak. Last night, I had the opportunity to join a friend at a performance with Brian Porter singing Cabaret tunes at What If?'s theater on Society Street. What commenced was stupendous, and you should go buy tickets right now for tonight's final show.

The venue itself is a beautiful little theater with VIP tables scattered around and covered in white tablecloths with a chilled bottle of champagne begging to be sipped. Comfortable seating lines the walls and offers a nice view of the stage. This evening, an enormous flower arrangement filled with giant pink and white lilies shined like perfect stars in the romantic setting, and lay invitingly across the piano.

The real star then came out, as Brian Porter (known for roles in productions such as Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Cabaret, Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story, and The Producers) entered with a rousing and flirtatious rendition from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Local pianist, Kevin Thorn, accompanied him through famous show tunes from The Bridges of Madison County, Hamilton, Taboo, and Little Shop of Horrors.

Porter's execution as he dove into each very evocative and provocative song took us on a wild ride, as he conveyed rich emotions ranging from glee to deep sorrow, and even touched on the edge of psychotic during a duet with guest, Brannen Daugherty. Becca Anderson also joined Porter on-stage and sang an unexpected but hilarious new hit with Oh Henry! Porter's ability to transform into each "character" was astounding, and his delivery of each tune was perfect. It comes as no surprise to find out that Porter is one of the most sought after theatrical performers in Charleston. As each guest joined him, their natural chemistry in song poured into the audience's eager ears.

Personally, I would love to see this show again and again, and I would highly recommend that anyone with an interest in show tunes head directly to tonight's show. It's that damn good.

The final show with Brian Porter is this evening at 7:30pm. Individual Tickets are available for $25, Adult Cocktail Tickets include 2 drinks for $35, compliments of Grain and Barrel Spirits. VIP tickets are unfortunately already sold out. You can purchase tickets here.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

NCPAC Hosts 2nd Annual Brew Haha

Are you in Charleston and looking for something to do on June 18th? Look no further, especially if you're a beer and comedy fan. The North Charleston Performing Arts Center is hosting its 2nd Annual Brew Haha and will feature a beer garden with tastings from local breweries. Comedians Jeremy McLellan and and Mike Brocki will perform shows throughout the day. Awendaw Green, known for its very popular Barn Jams, will provide live music. Home brewers are also invited to bring their craft to the tables as well! All you have to do is sign up here

The doors open for this fun event at 1pm and go until 6pm. Tickets are just $40 and include a souvenir tasting glass, 10 drink tickets, tickets to the comedy shows, free music, and unlimited tastings from the beer garden. VIP tickets are also available for $75 and include in addition to the above the following: early entry into the event, a Brew Haha T-shirt, access to the VIP area catered by Mellow Mushroom, specialty beers, wine and cocktail samples from Firefly. 

General admission and VIP tickets may be purchased here.

The band schedule is as follows:

First band goes on 1p-2pm 
W. Michael Freund 

Second Band goes on 2:20p-3:20p 
Muddy Kings 

Third band 3:40p-4:40 
The High Divers 

Forth Band 5:00-6:00PM

*I will be attending and live blogging throughout the event and will be sharing the experience with you. If you would like to be interviewed for the review, please let me know.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Pay What You Can @ Destiny Community Cafe

Destiny Community Cafe is located at the Scotts Grand Reception & Corporate Center in North Charleston and represents the first Pay What You Can Cafe in the state of South Carolina. The cafe serves members of the lowcountry by providing healthy foods at fair prices and allows everyone to eat well. If a customer comes in and cannot afford to pay, they are simply required to volunteer an hour of their time by dishwashing, serving, or helping to clean up the restaurant. 

Scotts Grand is most well known for its event space often used for weddings, receptions, reunions and much more. The owners took note of the community and the food insecurity that affects so many and decided to do something about it. They became a member of One World Everybody Eats, a foundation whose dedication to ending food waste and divert food from various sources to cafes around the world. Scotts Grand is just one of many cafes that have been successfully offering these services since 2003. As of today, One World Everybody Eats has either directly or indirectly helped over 60 community cafes open and currently are working to open 20 more.  Most famously, rocker Jon Bon Jovi joined Panera in opening the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, whose sole purpose is to further the mission. 

A fundraising event will be held at Scotts Grand on March 20 to help bring awareness to the Soul Food Foundation and Destiny Community Cafe. The event will cater to everything food, ranging from a huge all you can eat seafood buffet to a veggie table. A soul food buffet accompanies the meal, and island caribbean beverages will be available for sale. Beer and wine will also be available. Doors open at 3:30 Tickets are now $52.24 and run out fast. Pick them up early! Children 12 and under are invited for just $5 but must purchase full price tickets to enjoy the seafood buffet.  Door prizes, food trucks, games and vendors will help to make this family event one you'll never forget!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Review - World Premiere of A Sudden Spontaneous Event, by David Lee Nelson

Last night, I hung out with one of my besties and did the art walk through several of the fabulous galleries in Charleston. We stopped by the Brown Dog Deli for a quick bite before heading over to Pure Theater for the world premier of A Sudden Spontaneous Event, written by David Lee Nelson. I indulged in a delightful Wacky Jackie Salad made with a combination of roasted corn, onion, cucumber, sprouts and goat cheese over a bed of mixed greens. Instead of the black bean cake that often comes with it, I ordered chicken instead. It was lovely. Not too much, not too little, but just a taste of tender white chicken with each bite. A slight dollop of guacamole added a nice touch to the salad, as did sides of salsa acting as dressing. My friend got a tasty Chicago Dog with a root beer served perfectly chilled in a glass bottle. After filling our bellies with healthy treats, we headed over to see the well publicized play that centers around a "hilarious and heartbreaking look at what happens when the life you thought you were leading is over in an instant."

We arrived just in time to this comfortable theater located at 477 King Street and settled into our seats. The theater is nicely arranged, with seating allowing a perfect view of the stage from any angle. The theater was jam packed, and we were full of anticipation for the opening act. As the lights dimmed, the theater quietened with everyone's gaze focused on the characters on stage. As we had no idea what to expect, what happened was indeed surprising. Co-owner of the theater and resident Director, Sharon Graci, opened the show by introducing the event and the playwright, stating, "You'll learn a lot about David Lee Nelson tonight. He writes from the heart, and you'll find tonight to be eye-opening."

Without giving away too much about what the play is actually about, suffice it to say that the main character wakes up in some type of waiting room. Confused, she is trying to figure out her whereabouts as a man waltzes in with a mohawk, sporting large tattoos, and bearing an English accent. Our first thoughts are that she's found herself awakening in a psych ward, and she's waiting for an appointment with someone referred to frequently as "her".

As the scene develops, what happens next is completely unexpected. It expounds hysterically and grabs the audience directly into the storyline. Questions are thrown around in an interview style. "How did you hear about us?" "Rate your life experience from 1-10." "Are you sure you want to rate it a 7?"

The questions are leading Carole to a self-reckoning which forces her to acknowledge areas of her life that have been challenging, making her and the audience increasingly uncomfortable as she strips off layer after layer of thick skin she has developed to protect herself from her poor decisions. After bearing her soul, the scene ends only to continue into a twisted and fateful plot that focuses on love, relationships, forgiveness, and even death.

As is common with many of Pure Theatre's productions, "A Sudden and Spontaneous Event" doesn't shy away from exposing harsh realities and exploiting emotions that we may all relate to. Dating, one night stands, the benefits of having certain friends, or being broken due to familial heartbreak are just a few of the themes that are explored. Learning how to forgive one's self before being able to ask for forgiveness from others is probably the hardest, yet most important, aspect of many of our lives. The play delves into the deepest parts of our souls and creates an intimacy with the actors that touches our psyche as well as the characters'.

Ending on a strong emotional note, the play concludes with hope for the future for two lovers who have endured more than they should have.

Cast Credits are as follows:

Liz Coralli - Carrie
Michael Smallwood - George
Brannen Daughtery - Stan
Scott Smith-Pattinson - Wilfred
Joy Vandervort-Cobb - Carole

Developed by the PURE Lab.

Time & Place

A waiting room. A bar. A house.

Tickets are $27-$30 plus fees online, and the event runs through March 26th.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Favorite Holiday Party Cocktails

I just love Christmas, and holiday parties add to the fun! Bringing friends and family together to celebrate the season makes me happy. As I sit and peruse various recipes that I'll use for easy-to-eat finger foods, delicious dips, oppulent mains served with sizzling roasted veggies and sides, I'm also considering various cocktails that will be served during this year's festivities. Here are some that I thought I'd share. What are some of your favorites?

Sparkling Charleston Cosmopolitan

This might be one of my favorite combinations and really easy to make. It's easy to celebrate Christmas in the Lowcountry with a delicious and refreshing, drink.

1 cup crushed ice
3 tablespoons vodka
1 1/2 tablespoons peach nectar
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
1 tablespoon white cranberry juice
2 lemon wedges
2 tablespoons sparkling white wine
Garnish with an orange slice

Pear Basil Crush

This one uses a muddled basil and pear combination that is fabulous any time of year. Various restaurants downtown have their version of this delicious cocktail, but it's also easy to make at home.

3 fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup crushed ice
4 tablespoons pear nectar
3 tablespoons pear-flavored vodka
3 tablespoons lemon-lime soft drink
Garnish with fresh basil sprig and/or pear slice

Alcohol Free - Berry Good Ginger Ale

This one is for those who choose not to imbibe and is a refreshing alternative to alcohol. Serve it to the kids for a specialty cocktail of their own! Delicious!

5 fresh raspberries
4 fresh blueberries
2 fresh blackberries
1 1/2 tablespoons light agave nectar
5 fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup crushed ice
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons ginger ale
Garnish with fresh raspberries and blackberries

Homemade Eggnog

We love eggnog in our house. This recipe is just one of the fabulous ways to make this rich and creamy cup of holiday cheer at home.

6 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
12 pasteurized egg yolks
2 cups sugar
Praline or bourbon liqueur
Garnish with freshly ground nutmeg

Orange-Cranberry Gin and Tonic

Easily one of my favorite drinks, gin and tonics can also be decorated for the holiday. Add a few simple ingredients and voila!

1 (2-inch) orange rind strip
1 tablespoon fresh (or frozen) mashed cranberries
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup ice cubes
3 tablespoons gin
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/4 cup tonic water

Pomegranate Mimosas

This one is easy and delicious. Add a splash of pomegranate juice to mimosas instead of orange juice to add a bit of holiday cheer for your guests.

Pomegranate Juice (mix to taste)

Kris Kringle's Candy Cups

Want to feel like a kid again? Make these jolly little cocktails and garnish with your most colorful candy canes.

5 cups orange juice
1 cup vodka
1/3 cup orange liqueur
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice
Garnish with fruit flavored candy cane sticks, cherries with stems, orange and/or lemon slices

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spring Forward and March Ahead to Young Contemporary Artists at the Halsey

Ahh, Spring! It's back and bringing beauty back to the Lowcountry. Downtown is a hub of activity, and last night at the Halsey Institute was just one of the multitude of places that people flocked to enjoy the beautiful weather that has finally dawned upon us. The College of Charleston was buzzing with activity with aspiring students touring the campus with their families and being introduced to the campus's life. The Courtyard was filled with flowers, fruitfully blooming and showing off their colorful spirits to the Heavens, as youths meandered casually in the sunshine. The beauty of it all was astounding, and you could almost literally feel time standing still.

As 5 o'clock approached, we made our way over to the Halsey Institute, where they were celebrating the 30th Annual Young Contemporary Student Exhibition. The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art has exhibited many of the finest and most famous pieces found in the world. College of Charleston's Art students compete to enter this annual exhibit and are only invited to participate once a national jury has voted them into the program. This is their first time being shown in a professional setting, and it allows them to feel and appreciate the competitive nature of their field. Skill is not the only tool necessary to succeed, but professionalism, decor, and personal integrity also are integral to their success. Scuptors, painters, photographers, printmakers, and mixed media artists submitted a wide variety of pieces for consideration. Not everyone made the exhibit, but the ones that did were impressive and eclectic.

Here are a few samples of some of the types of art shown in this year's collection:

The first is entitled, "On the Ascendence of Hunting", by Grace Musser. This oil on linen piece was done in 2015 and indulges itself on the obvious hunter vs prey. However, if you notice, it follows the natural life cycle of animals. Whereas, the sloth (?) appears to be stalking a bug, the monkey is stalking him/her. Overtly, the entire frame is covered in a virtual bloodbath, with edges of suggestive death scenes surrounding the event. A lonely heart sits solemnly in the corner, but who is it beating for? Or is it the fact of the eventual ending of the beating heart that leads the question?

The second piece is a self-portrait by Jordan Fowler, done in 2014. Fowler won in another category for another piece, a painting titled "Pinky". In this self-portrait collage, you can see Fowler's attention to detail and significant for this time of year. Considering it is Easter for Christians, it bears noticing the ethereal wreath of thorns surrounding Fowler's head. Chaos seems to crease his eyes, and faces of (who he might be dying for?) are just out of his eyesight to the left side of the collage. Snakeskin, representing Satan maybe, seems to adorn his crown. The intensity of the eyes in this self-portrait appear to exclaim Fowler's hope for humanity, however dire the circumstances may seem in this particular moment.

The third is called "Collision of Like Minds" by Heather Thornton. She created this mixed media piece in 2014. The colorful representation of two minds blending in unison to form a Universe(al) interpretation of shared knowledge is an intriguing parlay into conscious thought and Orwellean "Thinkspeak".

While the collaborative artworks above didn't win any of the awards given out last evening, they were a fine example of the talent and diversity shown in the talented arena of the College's art students. A full list of winners follows. The exhibit will continue to show until May 2, 2015, with all winners on display.

Best in Drawing - Kristin Budak-Haynes - “To My Mother”
Best in Painting - Jordon Fowler - “Pinky”
Best in Photography - Meagan Cain - “Sampeng Lane #2”
Best in Print Making - Sara Wilson - “From the Depths
Best in Sculpture - Lisa Diamond - “The Elephant and its Jewels”
Best in Show - Malcolm Knight - “My Name is Terry”

Monday, February 9, 2015

Oleanna, a play by David Mamet at the South of Broadway Theater in Park Circle

This is the first blog I have written in a while, as my reviews were diverted due to a personal situation (meaning I broke my hand and had surgery). I'm happy to delve back into it and jump with feet first with a review of the play, "Oleanna", performed at the South of Broadway Theater Company in Park Circle. The venue, a quaint little spot, sat up to 50 people for this intimate display. The setting was small yet comfortable, and it can seat up to 90 for larger productions. To set the mood, imagine a small desk in the center with two chairs on either side with a doorway leading into (or out of) what turns out to be a professor's office. Two rows of seating surrounded 3/4's of the stage, and a small bar served cocktails throughout the evening. The director, JC Conway, sat quietly off to the side while observing as his cast of two delivered a cerebral and disconcerting power struggle between an apparent frail student and distracted professor who is awaiting tenure.

As the first of three scenes opened up, one becomes immediately aware of the professionalism and experience of Mark Gorman, current artistic director of SOBT and acting as John the Professor. His ability to remove himself from his surroundings and completely delve into the character offered us further insight into the Professor's obliviousness to what was forthcoming. Julie Hammond, acting as Carol - a frail student in both ego and mind, opens up with a tentative yet nerve wracking position of having to ask her seasoned instructor for assistance in understanding his class in order to improve her grade. As his focus is on the phone and less on her needs, he exudes a particular vulnerability teetering on the edge of his own Pass/Fail situation at home and with his career.

As with most of David Mamet's work, the transcript of the play falls into a lyrical prose that edges along the vivacity of nuance. You're immediately drawn into the scenes completely unaware of the darkness that is about to smack you in the face upon the next turn. Not completely understanding what you've just seen, the play introduces you to a horror that could potentially happen to any of us. You sit watching, disbelieving what is happening right before your eyes, and hope that this train wreck is about to stop. As the play progresses, Carol develops into a manipulative (or easily manipulated) character that involves herself into a power struggle with the Professor. John falls prey to his own devices, either accidentally or idiotically, and we are left in wonder as to whom the real predator in the play is.

The scenes are played out passionately and in morbid detail. The writing, of course, is excellent, and under Conway's direction perfectly produced. The set, simplistic and understated, was peppered with the intermittent ringing of a terrifyingly lonesome telephone that brought increasing tension with each call. At the end of the play, the entire audience, stunned, looked on in shock and horror as the final scene imploded.

Oleanna may be seen again tonight at 8pm and again on the 12th, 13th and 14th at 8pm. Tickets may be purchased for $20 at the South of Broadway Theater.