City Paper throws some love at What If? in year-end theatre review

The Year in Charleston Theatre
by Maura Hogan for Charleston City Paper

Bloodiest Good Fun

With a splatter zone for fake blood, a goofy, talking moosehead, and amped-to-11, made-for-mayhem musical numbers, Evil Dead: The Musical served up a deliriously hot mess of a Halloween offering from What If? Productions, in partnership with Threshold Rep. This ever-so-silly send up of the B horror movie was full-tilt, unapologetic fun. Is that so wrong?

Best Mess With Your Head

I have to call another toss-up for this one. What If? Productions' fourth-wall smashingRoger & Tom took aim at its own black box form, and had a high old time doing so. Over at PURE, Constellations went astral on us, breaking through our own dimension in a barrage of alternate universes, which offered strange, transcendent comfort as it exploded my head.

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REVIEW: 'Amadeus' is a Theatrical Triumph

by Mark Leon for

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was given the rarest of gifts; a brilliance so rare it was incomprehensible in his time.  He felt the music of the world and served as a messenger with his composition.  Hints of his brilliance are captured in Kyle Barnette’s latest What If? Productions of Amadeus playing at the Threshold Repertory Theatre.

This carefully scripted masterpiece is only matched by its hauntingly beautiful acting.  Brannen Daugherty as Antonio Salieri is triumphant as a man who must fight his inner demons and jealousy for the divine prodigy Mozart while maintaining poise and a level of rationality.  What may be one of the most compelling scenes in Charleston theater this season, Daugherty closes the first act with an monologue and impassioned conversation with the Almighty Lord that builds on his madness and jealousy.  The power and rawness of this scene is complimented with flawlessly choreographed music and lighting that leaves shivers throughout the audience.

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Preview: Rock Me, Salieri

By Vincent Harris for Charleston City Paper 

What's perhaps most odd about Amadeus, the play by Peter Shaffer written in 1981 and made into an Oscar-winning film in 1984, is that its title character (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) isn't really the main focus. Most of the dialogue is spoken by Antonio Salieri, a contemporary of Mozart's who, in this highly fictionalized version of their relationship, is jealous of Mozart's skill and fame and actively works to destroy him.

"It's not Mozart's story, it's Salieri's," says Kyle Barnette, who is directing a production of Amadeus with Charleston's What If? Productions theater company. "But there's no glory in calling a play Salieri when you can call it Amadeus. People are more familiar with that. Salieri has so many lines and these great monologues. It's definitely told from Salieri's point of view, experiencing this monster of a child. I kind of compare it to a fading pop star watching something new come on the scene and this person is suddenly like a relic. This was a raw, new approach to music, and Salieri's bitterness against that is what really drives the story. Even though it takes place in the 18th century, it's got such a modern feel in the way that Salieri has kind of got this catty, bitchiness about him, and Mozart's got this unhinged party-boy quality in him."

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REVIEW: Evil Dead: The Musical - A Raunchy Comical Horrorfest

By Mark A. Leon / Edited by Minta Pavliscsak for

“Evil Dead: The Musical” is a hauntingly beautiful evil comedy packed with silly madness that will fulfill your need for a Halloween scare.

Set in a misty dark foggy night deep in the heart of the forest, five broke and horny teenagers find their way to an abandoned cabin in the woods where the only thing standing in their way from a perfect spring break is an explosion of demons comedically unleashed via stumbling across The Book of Dead and recordings of passages from its pages.  What follows next is blood, mayhem and sheer lunacy.

Enter Ash, his sister Cheryl, his S-Mart love Linda, fowl mouthed best friend Scott and Scott’s three-day old fast fling Shelly.  Now sit back and enjoy one of the most exhilarating evenings this holiday season.

Based on the book and lyrics of George Reinblatt, the carefully crafted stage direction of Kyle Barnette and the wickedly enchanting cast, What if? Productions and Threshold Repertory take you on a journey combining legendary elements of Grease, Rocky Horror Picture Show and the campy B-Movie essence of Tromaville, the hometown of Toxic Avenger.

The opening number, “Cabin in the Woods” is reminiscent of any great road trip and is soon followed by romantic duet of “Housewares Employee” by Ash and Linda that is so utterly romantic, it will make you think twice about the “no love in the workplace” rule by the time it is over.....Click for full review

REVIEW: Evil Dead is 'bloody, screechy, silly fun' - City Paper

Five clueless Midwestern college kids make their way to a secluded cabin in the woods, with thoughts of spending spring break alternating between hook ups and maybe some beer pong. They manage, instead, to unleash an evil force from the Book of the Dead, opening a vortex of demonic possession that compels them to turn against each other limb by mangled limb. 

Sound like the makings of feel-good musical theater? It’s scary, but curiously true. Evil Dead: The Musical, which takes a gooey, ghoulish swipe at horror film shock and schlock, now rushes the stage at Threshold Repertory Theatre with craven zeal, thanks to a collaborative project between Threshold Rep and What If? Productions, directed by Kyle Barnette. 

Infectiously, intentionally inane, this high-octane, lowbrow romp of a show makes blood sport of the Evil Dead cult horror trilogy, simultaneously celebrating and skewering the genre. Think fake blood madly splattering into the “splash zone” theater seats, foot-stomping numbers flashing freakish with strobe lights, and shout-outs from the audience a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show. With amped-up camp and mega-energy, this self-possessed, unapologetically silly production is by design a hilarious hot mess, spilling its guts and glee so that we can enjoy the lighter side of, well, darkness... Click for full review