All articles by James MacKillop

Prejudice Drives Tony-Winning Tuner Tragedy

SU Drama throws a ‘Parade’

Parade sounds like an unlikely title for a musical about a lynching. The title also carries two meanings for this season opener from the Syracuse University Drama Department.

Famous Artists Musical Takes Missionary Position

The Book of Mormon coming to The Landmark Theatre

The edgy, irreverent, sometimes profane cartoon satire South Park has been a part of the landscape so long, some playgoers might feel it is a known quantity. Something happened, however, when that energy moved from the tube to the stage.

Fiddler Tradition Rolls On

James MacKillop reviews Salt City Center’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’

Almost a decade after leaving its South Crouse Avenue home, and many months of silence, Salt City Center for the Performing Arts - the Energizer bunny of local companies--is back on the boards with a heartfelt, frequently touching Fiddler on the Roof at the State Fairgrounds’ Empire Theater.

Merry-Go-Round Laughs with Lutherans

James MacKillop reviews ‘The Last (Potluck) Supper’ at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse

Like the Catholic-based Nunsense franchise that preceded it, the series of five shows under the Lutheran-themed Church Basement Ladies banner is essentially vaudeville reborn. Any turn in the action can prompt a gag, a song or a spinoff skit.

The House Keys Humor over Property Values

(Review) The House

Speed. Breathtaking, high-velocity delivery is an even more decisive element in farce than mistaken identities or slamming doors. The world premiere of Brian Parks’ The House at Ithaca’s Kitchen Theatre Company runs a bit more than 90 minutes without intermission, but if its four leads spoke at the rate of characters in, say, a Eugene O’Neill play, the running time would be more than twice as long. And there might be as many giggles as there are in O’Neill.

Laughing with Letter Carriers

(Review) The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

The core of the drama is built into The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: Many will compete, but only one will win. Yet the show avoids the brute, soul-draining competition of Jeffrey Blitz’s 2002 movie documentary Spellbound. Instead, its beguiling sweet pathos originates in Rachel Sheinkin’s one-act comedy, which lyricist William Finn expanded into this award-winning musical, which opens the Redhouse Arts Center season.

Hate and Homophobia in a Chilling True Story

(Review) The Laramie Project

Moisés Kaufman’s The Laramie Project is a folk epic, running three hours (with two intermissions), with 25 performers in about 65 speaking roles. After the widely publicized October 1998 murder of gay student Mathew Shepard, 5-foot-2 and barely 100 pounds, Kaufman went to interview about 200 people in the Cortland-sized college town in southeastern Wyoming. He trimmed the testimony down to what we hear, allowing contrasting views to be addressed.

Witty Wopat Wows with Will Rogers Follies

(REVIEW) The Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Review

As a folksy but astute humorist, Will Rogers lies between Mark Twain and Garrison Keillor, but was far bigger in his heyday than either. Yes, Rogers in his lifetime was bigger than Twain. When he died in a plane crash in 1935, an event ominously foreshadowed often in The Will Rogers Follies, an otherwise sunny tribute show at Auburn’s Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, the entire country came to a mournful halt.

Cash and Carry at Cortland Repertory

(REVIEW) Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash at CRT

Two parallel, life-size steel rails atop wooden ties sprawl across scenic designer Jason Bolen’s atmospheric set and are thrust out into the Cortland Repertory Theatre audience for Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash. We often hear the far-off call of old-fashioned steam locomotives, since this is a show about traveling and loneliness. But it is also about speed: Ring of Fire gets right into the music and squeezes 32 songs in less than two hours with an intermission.

Appleseed Takes the A-Twain

(REVIEW) Appleseed Productions’ The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

It’s a book every American knows, but most people misquote the title. It should be The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Appleseed Productions artistic director C.J. Young has seized upon the word “adventures” and run with it. The production breaks with years of tradition, includes intervals of music and dance, and delivers plenty of, well, adventure.