In New Orleans Now, From Gennifer Flowers And Fiddler To Tchaikovsky And Rock Of Ages
Written by  // Tuesday, 25 October 2011 09:57 //


Hallelujah Girls, Fiddler, and Everything from Tchaikovsky to the ‘80s.

By Dean M. Shapiro

Gather up a group of gabby women, give them each a set of problems unique to them, sit them down at a small town beauty parlor (sorry, “day spa”), and what you’ve got is a plot for a comedy that’s almost as serious as it is funny.

The Jefferson Performing Arts Society’s current West Bank stage production of The Hallelujah Girls opened this past weekend and runs through Sunday, November 6 at Teatro Wego! Theatre in Westwego’s Salaville Historic District. Tickets are still available for all performances.

 Starring Gennifer Flowers as the “heavy” of the piece, The Hallelujah Girls are as determined to hang onto their little gathering place as Miss Flowers’ character is to take it away from them. The tug of war between the two factions forms the crux of the drama with a lot of laughs sandwiched in. The one-liners fly like . . . well, flies . . . as the women good-naturedly try to out-do each other in the yuks department. As in the following samples . . .

“Going bra-less at our age pulls the wrinkles out of our faces.”

“I’m learning to speak Spanish at Home Depot. What could be more American than that?”

“If someone tells me to ‘haul ass’ I’ll have to make three trips.”

“She brings a lot of joy when she leaves the room.”

. . . and on and on it goes.

OK, you’ve waited long enough for the plot, so here goes.

Mavis (Sandy Bravender), Carlene (Claire Conti), Nita (Anita Lyles), Crystal (Carol Woltering) and Sugar Lee (Karen Hebert) are gathered at the funeral of a friend in fictitious Eden Falls, Georgia, musing over their lives and affirming their determination to live out the rest of those now-middle-aged lives to the fullest, despite the obstacles they face. Mavis has to deal with her schmuck of a husband. Nita has to deal with her juvenile delinquent son. Carlene has to deal with the guilt of burying three husbands. Crystal has to deal with her own giddy, dotty self, dressing up in appropriate costumes for the holidays of the year (including the Chinese New Year, dressed up like a Madame Butterfly Japanese geisha?!) and twisting the lyrics of popular songs to fit the occasions.

And Sugar Lee . . . poor sweet old Sugar Lee . . . she has yet to bury an incident from thirty years earlier that cost her the only one she ever loved. Until the other party to that “incident,” Bobby Dwayne (Terrell Robinson) unexpectedly waltzes back into her life and forces her to confront and reevaluate her own values and judgments. The other token male is the deliverer of the mail: Porter (Leo Babin) who is wildly in love with Carlene and eager to be the next husband to die until, that is, his mother pulls the plug on his fantasy.

At the funeral Sugar Lee informs the others that she has just bought the church where the funeral service was held and is turning it into a day spa. Suddenly the stark and dark interior of the structure is transformed into a bright and cheerful Garden of Eden (forgive the pun). The other women now have a place to congregate and kvetch and they take fullest advantage of it.

But then along comes the spoiler: the butterfly stomper determined to stomp on their dreams. It comes in the person of the fashionably dressed, always prim and proper Bunny Sutherland (Miss Flowers), scion-ess (rhymes with lioness) of one of the town’s first families. She wants the building for a family museum to go with all the other structures and places in Eden Falls bearing the family name. It’s a pure ego thing with her and possibly payback for being left out of the chirpy little clique, and she will stop at nothing in pursuit of her objective.

That’s as much as I’m going to give away except to say, of course it has a happy ending. That’s the way these lighthearted comedies ALWAYS end. How it arrives at that point is for you, the potential audience, to go and find out. Because, as is often said, life is more about the journey than the destination. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. You’ll be entertained. This is a fun show; just the kind of thing to make you feel good on a weekend night or a Sunday afternoon. So go catch it while you can! You’ve got two more weekends to do it.

Show times are 7:30 Fridays and Saturdays and 2:00 for the Sunday matinee. Teatro Wego! is located at 177 Sala Avenue, Westwego. Call the JPAS box office at 504-885-2000 or log on to their website, www.jpas.org.

Fiddler on the Roof

Also opening last weekend at JPAS’s other performance venue, the East Bank’s Jefferson Performing Arts Center, was Fiddler on the Roof. One of the most popular and endearing musicals of all time, Fiddler is the heartwarming and heart-wrenching story of a poor Jewish dairy farmer who struggles to keep his family tied to Old World values in a changing, modern world. It is a time of upheaval in czarist Russia, heavy with anti-Semitism and growing dissatisfaction with centuries of autocratic, despotic rule.

The musical contains some of the most popular and familiar tunes in the Broadway songbook, among them being “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” and the showstopper – “Sunrise, Sunset.” The production stars Stephen Rushing in the lead role of Tevye and Dana Rice Guidroz as Golde. Directed and choreographed by Kenneth Beck, with the JPAS Broadway Pit Orchestra conducted by Maestro Dennis Assaf, the show has one more weekend to run.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 29 and 2 p.m. for the Sunday matinee. The JPAS Performing Arts Center is at 400 Phlox Street, Metairie (East Jefferson High School). For tickets and information call 885-4000 or visit the JPAS website, www.jpas.org.

From a Long Way Off

Coming up very quickly for JPAS in the main theater of the Westwego Performing Arts Center is the world premiere of From a Long Way Off, a new play by the three-time Big Easy Award Winner Jim Fitzmorris.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Quinncannon Family battles the Archdiocese of New Orleans over the closing of a beloved church. But they are about to find out, their biggest enemy might be their past.

The show opens Friday, October 28 and runs through Sunday, November 13. Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. for Sunday matinees. Call JPAS for tickets and information or visit their website.

Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra


Tchaikovsky Symphony #5

The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra continues its season of great works by the master composers of 19th and 20th century Europe with a featured performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #5 on Saturday, October 29 at the Mahalia Jackson Theater.

Featuring Jeffrey Biegel on piano and conducted by LPO Musical Director Carlos Miguel Prieto, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 takes the listener on a narrative journey through the depths of tragedy to the exuberance of triumph. Fatalistic and highly-strung, Tchaikovsky naturally inclined to the Romantic ideology of expressing the artist's inner passions at the expense of formalities.

Also on the bill are Messiaen’s “Les offrandes oubliées” and the world premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s “Shadows for Piano and Orchestra.” Curtain time is 8 p.m. For tickets and information call 504-523-6530 or log on to http://www.lpomusic.com.

Harry Potter Halloween Concert


Come out with the kids and join LPO for a night-before-Halloween Hogwarts evening of music that will inspire any Harry Potter fan. Costumes are encouraged! Selections from the Harry Potter movies as well as Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain will be performed.

The place is Benjamin Franklin High School, 2001 Leon C. Simon Boulevard near the UNO Lakefront Campus, and the time is 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Children under 12 are admitted free; adults pay $10 each. For tickets and info call the LPO office or visit their website.



Rock of Ages


Presenting their second show of the 2011-2012 season, Broadway Across America offers up Rock of Ages, an ‘80s musical that is certain to have multi-generational appeal. The show opens Tuesday, November 1 at the Mahalia Jackson Theater and runs only through Sunday the 6th, so those of you who plan on catching it had better make your plans soon.

In 1987 on the Sunset Strip, a small town girl meets a big city rocker and in L.A.’s most famous rock club, they fall in love to the greatest songs of the 1980s. Five-time 2009 Tony Award nominee Rock of Ages is an arena-rock love story told through the classic hits of Journey, Foreigner, Night Ranger, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Asia, Whitesnake, Starship and many more.

This worldwide party musical features a mix of 28 rockin’ ‘80s tunes, including “Don’t Stop Believin,’” “We Built this City (on Rock and Roll),” “The Final Countdown,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Here I Go Again,” “Can’t Fight this Feeling,” “I Want to Know What Love Is” and many more.

For more information check out the musical’s official website at www.RockOfAgesMusical.com. For tickets and information go to http://www.ticketmaster.com.



Opening Wednesday, November 2 and running through Sunday the 20th, Red is a slice of life in the life of renowned abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko. The Broadway production of this show won the 2010 Tony Award and raves from the New York media.


Rothko, having just landed the biggest commission in the history of modern art -- a series of murals for New York’s famed Four Seasons Restaurant – now faces the biggest challenge of his career, making good on the commitment for which he had been so highly paid. In the two fascinating years that follow, Rothko works feverishly with his young assistant, Ken, in his studio in the Bowery. But when Ken gains the confidence to challenge him, Rothko faces the agonizing possibility that his crowning achievement could also become his undoing. Raw and provocative, Red is a searing portrait of an artist's ambition and vulnerability as he tries to create a definitive work for an extraordinary setting.

The local production stars Bob Edes Jr and Sean Glazebrook and is directed by Aimee Hayes. Show times and ticket prices vary. Go to http://www.southernrep.com/SEASON/Red.HTM for more information. The Southern Rep Theatre is located on the third floor of Canal Place, 365 Canal Street in the heart of downtown N.O.


Be sure to reserve now, if you haven’t already, your tickets for the New Orleans Opera Association’s November 18 and 20 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball). Opera performances are usually sold-out events and if you don’t have a ticket in advance you have to rely on Lady Luck if you want a seat. That customarily implies a visit to the box office on show night, hoping that some last-minute cancellations have come in. That’s what usually happens but don’t count on it.

For tickets and information call the New Orleans Opera Association at 504-529-2278 or visit their website, http://www.neworleansopera.org.

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