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SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER

John Badham and Robert Stigwood’s 1977 blockbuster film Saturday Night Fever is remembered largely for its soundtrack and a few indelible pop culture images, but it’s always been a darker, more complicated story of Brooklyn strivers terrified of being left behind and the community and catharsis found in a dance club. Short North Stage continues its disco Christmas trend as they present the hit Broadway-by-way-of-London musical adaptation in a production directed by Michael Licata, with all the ecstatic dancing you’d want and with much of its darkness intact.

Nan Knighton’s book (in collaboration with Arlene Phillips, Robert Stigwood and Paul Nicholas) softens the edges of the characters, particularly Tony (Jesse Corbin) and Bobby (Cody Schmid), but keeps their core. Knighton and Licata understand the desire to get out of your own skin, that brings people to the discos over and over, and Licata’s production draws striking contrasts between the world of the dance floor and the world outside, helped by Edward Carignan’s set choices, particularly a side-platform as a terrifying Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and Hailey LaRoe’s moody lighting.

 

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES
Flamboyant and funny, Short North Stage’s “La Cage aux Folles” is also ravishingly intimate and heartwarming. Director Michael Licata takes his cue from the most recent Broadway revival of “La Cage” to strip the Tony-winning musical down to essentials without sacrificing its giddy and glittery theatricality.

 

Licata also turns up the warmth on the human story backstage and after hours, aspects that made La Cage such a boundary-crossing hit in the 80s. Mayer’s Georges and Warren’s Albin have delicate, lived- in chemistry. A delightful aspect of this production is how it foregrounds the difficulty and the benefits of growing old with someone, of keeping love alive for years.

 

KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN

Few musicals encompass such extremes of brutality and kindness, love and death as “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Daring and disturbing, but also romantic and sentimental, the sophisticated fantasia won seven Tony awards in 1993, including best musical and score.

Yet, only now has the legendary Broadway hit arrived in Columbus. The gripping production by Short North Stage, opened Friday at the Garden Theater. Director Michael Licata weaves passion, suspense, humor and poignancy into a web of theatricality reinforced by Edward Carignan’s flamboyant choreography. 

 

BWW Review: Audience Not Left Hanging in Short North Stage's KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN  Short North Stage's epic production of KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN: THE MUSICAL is one of the "can't miss" musicals in the Columbus' fall season. Director Michael Licata's artistic touches, dynamic performances by Eli Brickey, Scott Hunt, Joe Joseph and a lavish stage design by Jason Bolen bring together a dynamic theatre experience. 

 

 

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC   The Short North Stage

Short North Stage has done well by Stephen Sondheim, but the musical- savvy troupe rises to a new level of bliss with A Little Night Music. From the textured acting and plangent singing to the lovely staging and ruefully romantic designing, the lavish production seems to shed new light on the eternal themes of love, loss, infatuation and illusion. The director, Michael Licata, finds fresh ways to enliven scenes while enhancing subtleties in the Hugh Wheeler book about Swedish couples in the early 1900s who are torn by marriage, adultery, longings and regrets.

 

STAND BY YOUR MAN Circa 21 Playhouse

“Licata does a fine job of orchestrating Stand by Your Man's vignettes into a production with real flow.” (River City Reader)

“The trek through Wynette's storied life is interesting and entertainingly told.” (Quad Cities Dispatch)

 

OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY John W. Engeman Theater Northport, NY

“As directed by Michael Licata, OTHER PEOPLES MONEY animates the 73rd annual report of the play's New England Wire & Cable with a palpable flesh-and-blood pulse.” (New York Newsday)

 

WEST SIDE STORY The Bucks County Playhouse

“The current production of West Side Story at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pa., is likely to be the finest staging of the Leonard Bernstein musical you have seen.”  (The Princeton Packet)  

 

“This is an excellent production from just about any angle. It is one of those productions that stands out from the usual and it is the kind of work that needs to be supported by the audience.” (Bucks County Town and County)

 

A Christmas Carol The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina Hilton Head, SC

“But even with Jakes' magical touch, he and skilled director Michael Licata were both compelled to keep the original feel of the play -- a story of redemption inspired by the true spirit of Christmas.” (Island Packet Hilton Head SC)

 

After-Play  Walnut Street Theatre Independence Studio 3, Philadelphia, PA

“Licata's direction is a deft exercise in coping with the constrictions of the small stage area, and he has a sympathetic ear for Meara's humor.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

"Director Michael Licata keeps this 90-minute straight-through production on track at a brisk pace."  (SouthPhilly Review)

“Licata moves the action briskly but never sacrifices reality for a laugh.” (Bucks County Courier Times)

 

OKLAHOMA     West Virginia Public Theatre

“Director Michael Licata has assembled a talented cast of principals and a winning ensemble, creating a slick production with very few signs of opening-night jitters. Thomas Heiman's set rolls the action from one venue to another seamlessly.” (Pittsburgh Gazzette)

 

MY WAY National Tour

“This show draws a keen focus upon his (Sinatra’s) music and Michael Licata's original direction drives the production forward with nary a lagging moment.” (The Republican, Springfield, MA)

“Under the direction of Michael Licata, the performers kept alive and in a constant fluid motion.”  (In The Spotlight, Springfield, MA)

 

THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina

“The wild and wacky production has all of the elements that make for wonderful theater -- an amusing and clever script that becomes hilarious when delivered by a talented, well-matched cast; the sure and firm directorial guidance of Michael Licata that leaves room for individual artistic imagination; a luxurious, historically correct set from the genius of Bob Phillips; stunning period costumes and makeup; and professionally precise technical effects.”  (Island Packet Hilton Head SC)

 

SWEET CHARITY  Bucks County Playhouse, New Hope PA , Struthers Library Theatre, Warren PA.

“Sweet Charity is being revived at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pa., in a production that tries valiantly not to show the creaky plotline or tenuous characterizations, instead relying on youthful energy, strong acting and clever directorial twists. Bucks director Michael Licata, who manages to return for at least a show or two each season, has come up with a neat twist in casting: he has entrusted all three of the male love-interest roles to veteran Jim Lynch. It is the first time an actor has played the three males and it came about because Mr. Licata understudied the roles in the 1986 Broadway revival and realized it could be done. Further, he has trimmed the show to two hours (including intermission), cutting the fat, but leaving Cy Coleman's best tunes: "If My Friends Could See Me Now," "Big Spender" and "Where Am I Going?" He even inserted a brief snippet that suggests there indeed might be a happy ending.” (The Princeton Packet)

 

Gypsy Foothills Theatre Worchester, MA

"What elevates Gypsy above most musicals is that it has a fine book by Arthur Laurent's to complement the rousing score. Michael Licata always keeps the human drama in focus, despite the large and colorful canvas, and this production flows like a river going downstream, inexorably, just like Rose's single-minded obsession to turn her younger daughter June into a vaudeville star."  (Worcester Telegram & Gazette)

 

Jekyll and Hyde  Bucks County Playhouse

"It takes a focused director and an accomplished company to realize the intricate qualities of the show. The Playhouse has them: Director Michael Licata is back for his 12th production in New Hope, Pa. He brings a real knack for developing characterizations. In particular, he has discovered that every character in the show, not just the Jekyll/Hyde role, has a dark side to complement his or her light side."  (The Princeton Packet)  

 

They're Playing Our Song   Bucks County Playhouse, New Hope PA 

"Bucks County Playhouse Director Michael Licata, however, has done an extraordinary job of cutting, pasting, smoothing and inventing to give the evening a polished sheen in New Hope. You probably won't see a more enjoyable production of They're Playing Our Song for a long while."   (Princeton Packet) 

 

Driving Miss Daisy  Millbrook Playhouse Lock Haven, PA 

“Stunning. A masterpiece are the words most often used by reviewers to describe books, movies and plays. We see them so often it becomes cliche. We think, yeah they say that about everything. Funny though, after seeing the opening night performance of Driving Miss Daisy at the Millbrook Playhouse, those were the words that came to mind."..." Under the Direction of Michael Licata, actors Terri Sturtevant as Daisy Werthan and Carl Barber- Steel are absolutely wonderful...." (The Express)

 

Fiddler on the Roof  starring Eddie Mekka. Bucks County Playhouse 
 " ...As an example of just how effective a combination of actor, actress and director can be, one need look no further than that Act II song, "Do You Love Me?" At the Broadway opening, several critics objected to the duet, saying that the lyrics sounded like gag lines. Now, however, Mekka, Larsen and director Licata offer the song as fully authentic, reminding one that couples such as Golde and Tevye never saw each other until their wedding day, had to learn to live with each other and quite possibly had never given thought to romance. In this production, it is a powerful moment of truth."    (Princeton Packet)

 "For the current production at the Bucks County Playhouse, director Michael Licata combines guest star Eddie Mekka with a company of the all-singing and all-dancing regulars in a compact smooth running entertainment that serves the domestic plot as well as the weightier elements of the immigrant experience"  (Bucks County Courier Times)

 

Gypsy  Bucks County Playhouse

"...This economical Bucks County Playhouse production, under the able direction of Michael Licata, is simple and direct and allows the greatness of the material to shine through. There's no pretense no gimmick, and the result is  a charming and engrossing evening of theatre going."  (The Trenton Times)

 

Gypsy   Media Theatre Media PA

"To it's credit the current Media theatre production staged with creativity and care by Michael Licata, veers sharply in the direction of glory with both Licata and choreographer Lorelei Lee showing independence and originality. Licata does the essential by making the book the major focus of the show."  (Delaware County Times)

 

Man of La Mancha   Virginia Music Theatre, Virginia Beach, VA

"Director Michael Licata attended to every detail. Most of all he has kept the drama----avoiding the usual temptations to popularize this into a standard musical."  (The Virginian-Pilot)

 

Rags   University of the Arts, Philadelphia

"Rags the Charles Strause-Stephen Schwartz-Joe Stein musical debuted in 1986 when it garnered five Tony nominations and disappeared. It was revived recently at The Paper Mill Playhouse and Walnut Street Theatre but the production at the Artsbank Broad and South Streets with an all student cast from the University of the Arts may be the best yet."..." Michael Licata directs at a fast clip with varied choreography by Rex Henriques"  (Bucks County Courier Times)

 

Oklahoma   Bucks County Playhouse   

"For real satisfaction, there's nothing like an old chestnut, roasted to perfection and served with style. Oklahoma! is 60 years old (it premiered on Broadway March 31, 1943) and the current production at Bucks County Playhouse lets all the lovely memories come rushing back." ..." Director Michael Licata is superb at bringing out every nuance."  (Princeton Packet)

 

They're Play Our Song    Pocono Playhouse

  "Bucks County Playhouse Director Michael Licata, however, has done an extraordinary job of cutting, pasting, smoothing and inventing to give the evening a polished sheen in New Hope. You probably won't see a more enjoyable production of Our Song for a long while." (Princeton Packet)

 

The King and I    Bucks County Playhouse

"The King and I is getting a suburb revival at the Bucks County Playhouse. A large company oozes talent at every pore. Michael Licata directs them with intelligence and wit." (

Bucks County Courier Times)

 

My Way Act II   Playhouse , Ambler PA

"Michael Licata and his cast don’t overdo their presentation; they simply sing the songs." 
 

The Music Man  Bucks County Playhouse

" Michael Licata directs the evening, with Stephen Casey handling the dancing. The pair has come up with hit after hit in the past, and here is another one.

Casey's ensemble numbers, especially the library scene, are sensational; Licata has a special knack for finding the heart amid seeming

sentiment."   (Princeton Packet) 

 

Cabaret   The Bucks County Playhouse

"Director Michael Licata moves the action briskly and keeps the historic situation crisply before us"   (The Trenton Times)

 

Lend Me A Tenor   Bucks County Playhouse

“Playhouse director Michael Licata has come up with a few nice twists that give the show more humanity than usual along with the expected farce. The evening is a surprise success.” …”What director Licata has infused into the wacky events is a sense of warmth. His cast is perfectly capable of knocking the playwright’s funny lines off the back walls and frequently does just that. But also Licata adds a touch of stylish reality in the performances ” (Bucks County Courier Times)

 

The Mikado The Hilton Head Orchestra

"Monday night's audience at "The Mikado," the Hilton Head Orchestra's latest offering in this season's 'Musical Marriages' series, did anything but 'sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock.'The production, featuring the orchestra and the Lowcountry Festival Chorus, two dancers from the Hilton Head Dance Theatre and nine terrific actor/singers, was a marvel of melody and color, wit and silliness and extraordinary performances." (Island Packet Hilton Head, SC)

 

 MIRACLE ON 34th STREET Bucks County Playhouse

…Director Michael Licata has assembled a first-rate company and set a bubble-light pace. By using rear projection photos, a spirited stage crew, clever lighting and a chorale group ready at an instant to break into transitional music, he has brought the show to the final curtain in just 100 minutes, with the audience happy and excited.Macy's gets plenty of good will. And so does Gimbel's. Bellevue Hospital gets to be the villain and the U.S. Postal Service gets to be the hero. Not bad for one show.He the show to the final curtain in just 100 minutes, with the audience happy and excited.

 

The Fantasticks  The Gateway Playhouse

I have to say that having seen in London and New York, almost all major musical hits, I rarely have had such an enjoyable evening in the theater and having seen every Gateway show for the last thirteen years, I also believe that The Fantasticks rates as one of their very finest productions and everyone associated with it deserves applause.

 

Michael Licata has directed and choreographed this “Fantasticks” with sly humor, creative flair, and high speed forward motion. And so, the latest Bellport production of this timeless, touching musical is not only a should-see, but a must-see for anyone with a heart and an affection for fine, fully realized theater.

The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940

Stand By Your Man

The Wedding Singer

My Fair Lady

The Fantasticks

Evita

Other People's Money

My Fair Lady

The Wizard of Oz

Peter Pan

The Man Who Came to Dinner

Stand By Your Man

 

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©2020 by Michael Licata