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.

‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ Review – Dayton Playhouse – Corporate Charm

how to succeed

The Dayton Playhouse’s 2014-15 season is off to a promising start thanks to its delightful staging of Frank Loesser, Abe Burrows, Willie Gilbert and Jack Weinstock’s 1962 Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical satire “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Based on the 1952 book by Shepherd Mead and directed by Jeff Sams, this “Succeed” succeeds primarily because it doesn’t have to survive on the confident shoulders of R.J. Steck, a tall, lanky and personable presence who conveys the proper amount of gumption and shrewdness as window washer-turned-corporate honcho J. Pierrepont … [Read more...]

‘Miracle on South Division Street’ Review – Human Race Theatre Company – Kitchen Table Revelations

south division street

The charming Nowak family of Buffalo, New York receives a rude awakening in Tom Dudzick’s lighthearted and lightweight 2013 comedy “Miracle on South Division Street,” currently receiving a breezy regional premiere at the Loft Theatre courtesy of the Human Race Theatre Company. Strongly Catholic and affectionately Polish, the Nowaks have been tending to their late patriarch’s shrine to the Virgin Mary for decades. Built in 1943, the 17-foot-tall shrine (which Buffalo native Dudzick based on a local legend) was established after Grandpa Nowak had a vision of the Virgin Mary in his barbershop, … [Read more...]

‘Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music’ Review – Dayton Theatre Guild – Lone Star Connections

(l to r) David Hallowren, Noah Walters and Jared Mola in the Dayton Theatre Guild's production of "Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music" 
(Contributed photo by Craig Roberts)

Colorful characters attempting connection fuels Lee Blessing’s folksy1983 comedy “Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music,” the name of the Houston bar at the center of this simplistic summertime diversion at the Dayton Theatre Guild. Tough, hot-tempered ex-biker Jim Stools (David Hallowren) owns the bar in question which has undergone a renovation at the hands of his girlfriend Eve Wilfong (Angela Riley). Looking to appeal to the heart as well as the wallet, Eve brings a renewed sense of identity to the establishment, a more welcoming sense of purpose because she feels “there is a power … [Read more...]

Tender ‘Sugarhill’ Wins Dayton Playhouse FutureFest

linda sugarhill

Playwright Linda Ramsay-Detherage of Detroit received top honors Sunday, July 27 at the 24th annual Dayton Playhouse FutureFest of new plays for her World War II-era Southern family dramedy “Sugarhill,” a compelling exploration of race, heartbreak and hope. Set in the fictional titular Louisiana town in December 1941, “Sugarhill,” also named the Audience Favorite, scored highest among a commendable field of six original, developing plays adjudicated within criteria including theme, style/language, dramatic structure, character development, story/plot, pacing, page-to-stage, and the next … [Read more...]

‘Once On This Island’ Review – Epiphany Lutheran Church – Vibrant Storytellers

(L to R) Back Row: Desmond Thomas, Kathy Meyer, Kandis Wean, Bryan Burckle. Front Row: Brianna Russ in Epiphany Lutheran Church's production of "Once On This Island" 
(Contributed photo by Charles Woodward)

The Epiphany Players Drama Ministry of Centerville’s Epiphany Lutheran Church delivers a wonderfully heartfelt, joyously sung production of the1990 Tony Award-nominated musical “Once On This Island.” Composed by Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (“Ragtime”) and adapted from Rosa Guy’s 1985 novel “My Love, My Love,” this Caribbean-immersed show inherently appeals with its straightforward, touching emphasis on a young peasant girl’s coming-of-age. The effervescent yet strong-willed Ti Moune (sprightly portrayed by the winsome Brianna Russ) adores the wealthy Daniel (a charming, … [Read more...]

Saluting Dayton’s 2013-14 Theater Season

les mis wsu

Looking back on Dayton’s commendable 2013-14 theater season, appealing stories reflecting cries of revolution, love and forgiveness, identity and family, and relationships beyond repair gave audiences thought-provoking, richly rewarding memories. Wright State University certainly triumphed with an exceptional Les Misérables which catapulted its musical theater component to astonishing degrees from performance to design. The beautiful complexity of The Magic Fire, the wonderful earthiness of Oklahoma!, and the dynamic electricity within The Wild Party also gave the organization cause to … [Read more...]

‘Play it By Heart’ Review – Human Race Theatre Company – Sing Out, Jeannine!

play it by heart

Three generations of strong Southern women feud and reconcile against the backdrop of changing dynamics within the country music industry in “Play it By Heart,” a promising new musical still navigating its path as evidenced in its Human Race Theatre Company regional premiere at the Loft Theatre. In this sweet but predictable tale, the legendary Jeannine Jasper (Trisha Rapier), a Grammy and Country Music Association winner with a spot in the Grand Ole Opry on the horizon, yearns for retirement to the chagrin of her overbearing, ruthless stage mom Naomi (Sharva Maynard). As mother and daughter … [Read more...]

‘Million Dollar Quartet’ Review – Victoria Theatre Association – That Old Time Rock & Roll


There’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on at the Schuster Center as the outstanding national tour of “Million Dollar Quartet,” nominated for the 2010 Tony Award for Best Musical and based on a true event, lets loose with feel-good exuberance courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series. A jukebox musical written by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux unabashedly concerned with tone and era instead of plot or storyline, “Million Dollar Quartet” captures a glimpse of rock and roll history in 100 breezy minutes under Eric Schaeffer’s crisp direction. On Dec. 4, 1956 … [Read more...]

‘The Dead Guy’ Review – Dayton Theatre Guild – Reality Bites

dead guy

Would you kill yourself on live TV in a manner determined by viewers for the luxury of spending $1 million in a week?  Eldon Phelps ponders this intriguing notion hastily in the local premiere of Eric Coble’s fascinating 2005 dark comedy “The Dead Guy,” currently receiving a thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking presentation at the Dayton Theatre Guild deftly directed by Saul Caplan. At a nondescript bar in the nondescript town of Leadville, unemployed and aloof Eldon (a first-rate, credibly impulsive Christopher Hahn) is persuaded to become the Dead Guy, the focal point of a new … [Read more...]

‘Beauty and the Beast’ Review – Victoria Theatre Association – Delightful Disney Magic


A top-notch national tour of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” the recipient of nine 1994 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, has arrived at the Schuster Center as part of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series.   Based on the beloved 1991 Academy Award-winning film, one of the best animated movies containing one of the best cinematic scores courtesy of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, “Beauty and the Beast” wholeheartedly succeeds on the wonderfully relatable portrayals of Hilary Maiberger as bookworm Belle and Darick Pead as the troubled Beast. … [Read more...]