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.

‘Bring it On’ Review – Victoria Theatre Association – Smells Like Teen Spirit


Fun, sassy exuberance is the bill of fare at the Schuster Center as the appealing national tour/ local premiere of “Bring it On: The Musical” charms and entertains. Presented as a special Star Attractions courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association, “Bring it On,” a 2013 Tony Award nominee for Best Musical, effectively adheres to the silly, fluff-filled cinematic franchise of the same name launched in 2000 starring Kirsten Dunst. Popular Truman High School cheerleader Campbell (truly delightful triple threat Nadia Vynnytsky) is thrown for a loop when she’s suddenly redistricted to urban … [Read more...]

‘Memphis’ Review – Victoria Theatre Association – Music of the Soul


The current national tour of Joe DiPietro and David Bryan’s “Memphis,” recipient of the 2010 Tony Award for Best Musical, vigorously thrills with potency and heart in its firm local premiere at the Schuster Center courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series. Set in the 1950s and based on a concept by George W. George, “Memphis” centers on the forbidden interracial romance between kooky DJ Huey Calhoun (an immensely amiable Joey Elrose) and R&B nightclub singer Felicia Farrell (a radiant Jasmin Richardson). Huey, an uneducated outcast who feels a deep … [Read more...]

‘Other Desert Cities’ Review – The Cost of Thriving **Ticket Contest**

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Painful lies and political allegiances consume the dysfunctional Wyeth family of Palm Springs in Jon Robin Baitz’s compelling 2011 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-nominated drama “Other Desert Cities,” commendably staged by Margarett Perry in its local premiere by the Human Race Theatre Company. On Christmas Eve 2004, envisioned within beautifully stylish surroundings by set designer Tamara L. Honesty, the Wyeths are far from merry and bright. Republican hotshots Polly and Lyman fiercely clash with their liberal, emotionally scarred daughter Brooke, a novelist who plans to publish her … [Read more...]

‘Les Misérables’ Review – Wright State University – Stunning Success

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Wright State University delivers an outstanding local collegiate premiere of Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Herbert Kretzmer’s “Les Misérables,” the popular, unabashedly sentimental 1987 Tony Award-winning pop opera based on Victor Hugo’s legendary 1862 novel exploring the human condition through plight and promise within turbulent France. Inspired by the harrowing June revolt of 1832 (the French Revolution concluded 33 years prior), “Les Miz” hasn’t lost one morsel of its angst-ridden, melodramatic urgency under W. Stuart McDowell’s excellently firm, fluid and inventive … [Read more...]

‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’ Review – Dare to Defy Productions – Love Is In The Air


It can be extremely challenging for emerging troupes to stake their claim within Dayton’s continuously expansive theater scene. However, Dare to Defy Productions has done so with highly entertaining ease as evidenced in its very charming production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ hit 1996 off-Broadway musical revue. Presented in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center fashioned in a colorful 1950s, Roy Lichtenstein–inspired decor by set designer Ray Zupp, “I Love You...” paints an amusing, appealing portrait of the relatable ups and downs of … [Read more...]

‘Expecting Isabel’ Review – Dayton Theatre Guild – Whatever It Takes


Lisa Loomer tackles the very delicate subject of infertility with humor and tenderness in her eye-opening 1998 contemporary comedy “Expecting Isabel,” breezily directed by Robb Willoughby at the Dayton Theatre Guild. Down-to-earth Manhattan couple Nick and Miranda, respectively relatable as an aspiring sculptor and greeting card writer, eagerly endeavor to have a child, but face continuous obstacles along the way. In addition to coping with colorful input from Nick’s larger-than-life Italian family and Miranda’s tipsy mother, the duo attempts everything from marriage counseling and support … [Read more...]

And The Oscar Goes To…


It’s time to find out which films and artists will reap Oscar gold according to the over 6,000 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who determined nominees for the 86th annual Academy Awards. American Hustle and Gravity tie with 10 nods, but 12 Years a Slave follows with nine. Additionally, local filmmaker Julia Reichert, an Emmy winner and three-time Oscar nominee, served as associate producer of Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall, nominated in the documentary short subject field. Anything is possible when winners will be revealed tonight at … [Read more...]

Victoria’s 2014-2015 season offers ‘Billy,’ ‘Joseph,’ ‘Mormon’ & More


The Victoria Theatre Association combines recognizable titles with fresher fare for a 2014-2015 season absolutely bound to please unlike any other lineup from the organization in recent memory. The Premier Health Broadway Series, Projects Unlimited Variety Series, Star Attractions and PNC Family Series were announced Thursday, Feb. 13 in the Wintergarden of the Schuster Center. Emceed by Larry Hansgen of WHIO AM/FM, the event incorporated business and community leaders, media personalities and Victoria subscribers in addition to Victoria donors and friends. Attractive promotional banners and … [Read more...]

‘The Magic Fire’ Review – Wright State University – Our Private World


Wright State University returns to sophisticated fare with a beautifully executed regional premiere of Lillian Groag’s semi-autobiographical, thought-provoking Argentinean drama “The Magic Fire.” Commissioned and originally produced in 1997 by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the engrossing, highbrow “Magic Fire” concerns a close-knit family of European immigrants living in Buenos Aires circa 1952 during the divisive Juan Peron regime. As chaos consumes the streets with ever-present military force, the argumentative, opinionated, opera-adoring Bergs are reticent to join the fray, opting … [Read more...]

‘Working’ Review – Dayton Playhouse – It’s a Living


The Dayton Playhouse delivers an admirable, often touching production of Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso’s 1978 musical “Working,” based on Studs Terkel’s 1974 book “Working: People Talk About What They Do and How They Feel About What They Do.” Nearly 30 wide-ranging occupations from a publicist and project manager to a community organizer and fundraiser are the lifeblood of this meaningful, intermissionless outing insightfully conceived from a series of interviews. The allure of the material, including additional contributions by Gordon Greenberg, rests in its endearing simplicity reminding … [Read more...]