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Entertainment: Our Local Theaters

Both area playhouses offer a show in September with each show unique enough from the other to make theatre enthusiasts consider going to both of them.
Both playhouses are employing COVID-19 restrictions – everything from deep cleaning, potential mask wearing and social distancing – as both the City Repertory Theatre in Palm Coast and the Flagler Playhouse in Bunnell each have curtain calls this month. As they say in the entertainment business, the show must go on.
In a tribute to Billie Holiday, an American jazz and swing music singer popular in the 1930s and 1940s whose unique improvisational style led the way for other female jazz singers, the “Lady Day” show features only two characters – Holiday and a piano player whom not only plays the accompaniment to the songs that made Holiday’s career but also lends a listening ear as the Holiday character talks about her difficult life from a turbulent childhood to drug abuse as an adult and being incarcerated on narcotics charges. As the musical continues, the Holiday character become increasingly drunk.
“It’s a real emotional adventure,” said Angela Young, CRT social media director, of the plot of “Lady Day.”
Longtime CRT actress Laniece Fagundes play Holiday. Fagundes has been with CRT since its founding 11 years ago.
“The way she performs, she has such an intuitive presence on the stage. Her eye contact with the audience brings them in to her world,” Young said. “She has such a commanding presence that just makes the audience ant to know more about the character she is playing.”
Ben Beck, the CRT’s ultra-versatile pianist was the obvious choice for the piano player character in “Lady Day.”
“He can do anything and everything,” Young said. “He plays so well by ear and he can feel what is happening in the musical and as he is playing when he senses Laniece may be having an emotional moment with the material, he knows exactly how to pause and improvise until she is ready to move on.”
The Flagler Playhouse situated in the former First Baptist Church at 301 E. Moody Bouvelard in Bunnell historically begins its fall season with a large musical production.
Not so this year. Again, blame COVID-19.
In search of a play that required a smaller sized cast, had comedic elements and didn’t involve any singing, the folks at the Flagler Playhouse opted for Neil Simon’s, “Rumors” to open its fall 2021 season.
“Typically, when we begin our fall season, we do it with a big musical with large numbers of cast,” said Jerri Berry, president of Flagler Playhouse. “But this year with COVID, we were unsure. And now with the resurgence, we are still unsure. We for sure knew to avoid anything that involved singing because when one is singing, you are exerting more air and spitting and may be able to transmit things to other quicker.”
Thus, a ten-member cast will take the stage for Flagler’s production of “Rumors.”
“It’s a comedy,” Berry said. “We could all use some comedy right now and Neil Simon plays are generally well-received.”
Indeed. “Rumors” has been a hit with theater fans since its premier in September 1988 at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California. It moved to Broadway in New York in November 1988 where it had a 535-show run before its final show.
The plot gets a bit complicated – which is what creates the comedy – as one man in a couple attending another couple’s aniversary party is shot in the earlobe by another that has taken Valium. Yet another couple is in a car crash as discussion of who is having an affair with who becomes the dominant conversation. Soon, another gunshot is heard from the upstairs and one of the female characters thought to be missing is heard calling from the basement.
For CRT, its venue usually seats 50. Due to COVID concerns, Young said the decision to limit attendance to 37 per show was made. CRT has been on the road for most of COVID and the September performance marks its return to its usual venue at 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite B207 in Palm Coast above Dominic’s Deli & Eatery.
For Flagler, its playhouse usually seats 150. For previous performances during COVID, attendance was limited to 50. Berry said current plans include opening at full capacity, but she asks that patrons remain flexible if COVID conditions warrant a reduction in planned attendance.
Masks are required by patrons at both theatres as attendees enter and leave. Masks may be removed at the patron’s discretion upon being seated.
The CRT plans to keep its season ticket purchase option for $120 open through the last of its September “Lady Day” performance and will be available at the venue. “Lady Day” is scheduled for September 17 through 19 and September 24 through 26. Friday and Saturday night performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.; Sunday performance is at 3 p.m. Individual tickets for “Lady Day” are available online at www.crtpalmcoast.com.
Flagler is not offering a season ticket option this season. It will reevaluate offering one for the fall 2022 season in January, Berry said. “Rumors” plays weekends September 16 through 26. Friday and Saturday performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.; Sunday matinee shows for 2 p.m. Individual tickets for shows are available at www.flaglerplayhouse.com.
— Amy Armstrong