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.

‘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...]

‘Mame’ Review – Human Race Theatre Company – Live, Laugh, Love


Based on Lawrence and Lee’s 1956 play “Auntie Mame,” adapted from Patrick Dennis’ 1955 novel of the same name, “Mame” chronicles nearly 20 years in the life of Mame Dennis, a lively, eccentric socialite who throws lavish soirees in her posh Beekman Place apartment no matter the occasion.

‘Good People’ Review – Dayton Theatre Guild – Boston Bliss

good people

The Dayton Theatre Guild, who staged memorable local premieres of “Fuddy Meers” and “Kimberly Akimbo” by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rabbit Hole”), delivers a splendid local premiere of “Good People,” Lindsay-Abaire’s 2011 Tony Award-nominated working-class dramedy about misunderstanding, regret and neighborhood pride in South Boston’s Lower End a.k.a. Southie. Delicately directed with impressive authenticity by Debra A. Kent, this terrifically insightful, humorous and engrossing character study concerns the resilient yet brash Margaret “Margie” Walsh, a down-on-her-luck … [Read more...]

‘Pride and Prejudice’ Review –Sinclair Community College –Inclusive Austen

pride and prejudice

Film and TV actress Keke Palmer made headlines three weeks ago when she became the first African-American Cinderella on Broadway in “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” But you don’t have to go to New York City to witness that kind of unique, outside the box casting. After all, Sinclair Community College’s wonderfully charming production of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” takes a similarly non-traditional approach that allows the classic tale to refreshingly breathe anew. Elegantly directed with beautifully fluid transitions by Kimberly Borst, “Pride and Prejudice,” breezily adapted by … [Read more...]

‘Fences’ Review – Wright State University – The American Family in Conflict

fences 2

August Wilson’s tremendously visceral 1987 Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Fences,” among the finest inclusions in his remarkable 10-play “Pittsburgh Cycle” chronicling the African-American experience in the 20th century, opens Wright State University’s 40th anniversary season with emotionally riveting resonance. Beginning in 1957 and spanning nearly eight years in the life of a middle class African-American family in Pittsburgh, “Fences,” splendidly and poignantly co-directed by W. Stuart McDowell and Sheila Ramsey, centers its thought-provoking account of race, regret, … [Read more...]

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

how to succeed

Datyon Theater critic Russell Florence Jr. review Dayton Playhouse's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”.

‘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...]