About Russell Florence, Jr.

Russell Florence, Jr. is a member of The American Theatre Critics Association and The Drama League. In addition to his role as arts and culture editor of Dayton City Paper and theater critic for Dayton City Paper and Impact Weekly, he served as a Dayton Daily News freelance writer and editorial page contributor. He has also written features for such theater publications as Spotlight Ohio and The Sondheim Review. He attended over 30 Broadway/Off-Broadway productions during the 2013-14 season.

‘Family Shots’ Review – Human Race Theatre Company – Matters of the Heart

HRTC FAMILY Prod Photo 2

Inside a suburban New Jersey hospital, the Baker family has come undone. Crisis brings them together, but what will keep them together? Playwright Michael Slade provides clues with wonderfully relatable authenticity and astute, unresolved ambiguity in his new original play “Family Shots,” an excellent, touching comic drama superbly presented in its world premiere at the Loft Theatre courtesy of the Human Race Theatre Company.

‘Flashdance’ Review – Victoria Theatre Association – The Maniac Returns


A 1980s pop culture explosion can be found at the Schuster Center with the presence of the national tour of “Flashdance – The Musical” courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series. It’s quickly apparent how important nostalgia is to the appeal of this middling adaptation of the 1983 film of the same name set in and around a steel mill in blue-collar Pittsburgh. The Schuster lobby contains various images of the Greed Decade from Culture Club to Cabbage Patch Kids and the show curtain recalls MTV’s glory days. But eye-catching distractions can’t disguise the … [Read more...]

‘Oliver!’ Review – Muse Machine – Pleasures, Large and Small

muse oliver

The Muse Machine’s incredibly entertaining, excellently cohesive production of Lionel Bart’s 1960 musical “Oliver!,” the arts education organization’s 31st annual student musical, touches the heart and radiates with joy at the Victoria Theatre.

‘4000 Miles’ Review – Dayton Theatre Guild – Someone to Watch Over Me

4000 miles

The Dayton Theatre Guild enters 2015 with a solid local premiere of Amy Herzog’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-nominated dramatic comedy “4000 Miles,” an emotionally awkward and surprisingly poignant depiction of two headstrong individuals in need of stability and protection.   Sharply directed by Kathy Mola with an excellent grasp of tone,”4000 Miles” concerns 21-year-old college student Leo Joseph-Connell who travels by bike from Seattle to New York’s Greenwich Village to visit his 91-year-old grandmother Vera. Grief, tragedy, uncertainty, and disillusionment cause Leo to seek temporary … [Read more...]

‘The Last Five Years’ Review – Dare to Defy Productions – Falling In and Out of Love


In just 80 compelling minutes, “Last Five Years,” delicately directed with contemplative touches by Mackensie Vonderbrink, paints a fascinating portrait of twentysomething lovebirds in New York City particularly torn apart by differing career paths.

‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ Review – Sinclair Community College – Holiday Joy


Charlie Brown, bothered and bewildered as ever, can’t seem to get into the holiday spirit because he feels the season has become too commercial. He even turns to his ever-reliable therapist Lucy (a.k.a. the Christmas Queen) for help. But everything changes when Lucy pulls Charlie out of his doldrums by asking him to direct the school play.

‘The Breakfast Club’ Review – Playground Theatre – This Is Our Youth

breakfast club

Symbolically bound together during a nonchalant Saturday detention at Shermer High School overseen by Assistant Principal Richard Vernon (Jason Antonick, fittingly stern and agitated) with occasional assistance from trusty janitor Carl Reed (Rick Burnette, amiably observant), outspoken rebel John Bender (co-founder/artistic director Christopher Hahn), popular and privileged Claire Standish (Lisa Glover), brainy Brian Johnson (Timothy Walling-Moore), athletic Andrew Clark (Titus Wolverton), and oddball Allison Reynolds (Kirsten Johnson) despise and disagree until they realize how much they have in common from peer pressure to family dysfunction

‘Bare’ Review – Sinclair Community College – The Heart Wants What it Wants


The confusion, elation and heartbreak of secret love propels Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo’s powerful, provocative melodrama “Bare: A Pop Opera,” commendably presented in a student-produced production inside the Black Box Theatre of Sinclair Community College. At St. Cecelia’s co-ed Catholic boarding school, popular Jason (Bobby Mitchum) and timid Peter (A.J. Breslin) choose to keep their passionate relationship private. They can’t seem to overcome strict religious doctrine, administrative wariness, parental passiveness, and the unpredictability of their fellow students basically … [Read more...]

‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ Review – Victoria Theatre Association – Baby, That Is Rock and Roll

smokey joes cafe

The 20th anniversary national tour of the enjoyably entertaining musical revue “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” housed at the Victoria Theatre courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series, thrives on warmhearted nostalgia and incredibly melodic songs by iconic tunesmiths Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.   Nominated for seven Tony Awards in 1995 including Best Musical and the record holder as Broadway’s longest-running musical revue, “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” places the music front and center as is typical of the somewhat polarizing revue format. There is no story, arc … [Read more...]

‘Hot Mikado’ Review – Wright State University – Gotta Dance!

hot mikado

Without a doubt the first pleasant surprise of the fall is the area premiere of Wright State University’s highly entertaining and fabulously choreographed “Hot Mikado,” Rob Bowman and David H. Bell’s little-known 1986 jazz-era twist on Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1885 comic opera “The Mikado.” With great skill and efficiency, Bowman and Bell impressively dusts off this silly, thin tale of love, law and customs in the quaint, cutely named Japanese town of Titipu. Instead of taking a more familiar, traditional approach to the material and Gilbert and Sullivan’s legacy as particularly evident … [Read more...]