Theater round up: 'Rock of Ages' and 'Company,' a tale of two musicals

BY January 13, 2012

Rock of Ages is at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers through the weekend.

One of Southwest Florida’s greatest secrets is the ever-expanding diversity of theater offerings. From tiny community troupes to big budget traveling Broadway companies, you can find some sort of live theatrical performance just about every night of the week. (Well except for Mondays. Most venues take Monday off.)

This myriad of performance offers up endless productions of all stripes. Want to see avant garde productions of thought provoking work? Check out some of the stuff Annette Trossbach does at the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center. Looking for an all-volunteer performance of “12 Angry Men?” Seek out the Marco Players, who are putting the show on this week.

By now we all know about Florida Rep, which has consistently put out the best professional theater product in the area. But there are several small, professional companies working to put out great productions.

From Gulfshore Playhouse to the Naples Players to Theater Conspiracy, the number of groups is astounding.

In the past week, I caught two musicals that couldn’t be any more different.

First I saw Company, put on by TheatreZone, Working out of the small G&L Theatre on the campus of Community School of Naples, Mark Danni has made it his mission to revive long-forgotten or little-known Broadway gems and produce them with professional Equity actors.

It’s difficult to imagine the words intimate and Broadway musical in the same sentence. But that’s what TheatreZone gives you. With a couple of hundred seats, it’s almost like seeing a musical in a black box. The results often give you a different perspective on musicals. Without the big stage and spectacle, the general lack of narrative in Sondheim’s Company becomes painfully obvious. Try as the performers might (and trust me there were some fine performances from the cast) the story never really took off.

At the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall,, the players in Rock of Ages created a spectacle, just as expected. The razor-thin story was masked by big sets, big sounds and big performances. Something was always happening on stage. So, even when the story got a bit ludicrous, it didn’t matter. You were distracted by the scantily clad dancers, the layered jokes or just the big neon signs. It was the perfect musical for an ADD crowd.

While both musicals weren’t equally satisfying, they were worth attending, just as the many, many performances yet to grace local stages this season. Chances are without too much trouble, you’ll be able to find a venue and a production that will bring you a great experience.

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