APPLAUDING ‘THE PLAYROOM’: Dallas director Julia Dyer’s The Playroom opens in L.A. and New York today. You might have heard about it – it played the TriBeCa Film Festival and, locally, VideoFest. And it opens next weekend at the Texas Theatre. (Can’t wait ’til then? You can also grab it on iTunes beginning today.) Leading up to its hometown run, Dyer’s tale of 1970s suburbia is getting the kind of pub money can’t buy in the form of nice reviews. “The Playroom captures the malaise of mid-’70s suburbia with a merciless accuracy not seen since Ang Lee’s 1997 film, The Ice Storm,” is how Stephen Holden begins his nytimes.com review. Sheri Linden also picked up on the Ice Storm comparison. “Recalling The Ice Storm but without the cinematic vigor of that Ang Lee masterpiece, the drama often feels posed and inert. Even so, it strikes more than a few chords as it digs deeper than period cliché,” she writes on latimes.com. Stay tuned to this site next week for a look into the way Dyer and crew used music in the movie.
JUBILANT AT JUBILEE: Jubilee Theatre’s Black Pearl Sings uses African-American folk songs to tell the story of two women connected by music. One’s a singer stuck in prison, the other’s an Alan Lomax-like song collector wanting to record her. Liz Mikel plays the prisoner, so aren’t we pretty sure the singing will at least be top-notch? “Mikel … is devastatingly good,” Punch Shaw writes on dfw.com. “If you are not moved by her performance, which requires her to frequently break into bits of a cappella singing, you have neither ears nor a soul.” Jimmy Fowler was also into it. “Director Akin Babatunde finds all the juicy dramatic complexity in playwright Frank Higgins’ script and guides his two lead actors straight into the wonderful messiness of it,” he writes on fwweekly.com. “The result is a rare and utterly satisfying theatrical experience.” And Mark Lowry writes on theaterjones.com that he likes Juiblee’s production even more than WaterTower Theatre’s 2010 version, which he really liked at the time. Catch it through Feb. 24.
THE MUSIC OF MOVIES: This weekend, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra presents a tribute to John Williams and Arthur Fiedler. The DSO has brought in Bob Bernhardt to conduct. And the special guest says that one of his favorite concert experiences was actually watching Williams on the podium. “One of the best concerts I’ve ever been to was just last October with John Williams conducting the Atlanta Symphony and Steven Spielberg narrating,” he tells Front Row. “That was just so much unbelievable brilliance on the stage, including a great orchestra and just hearing them talk about their careers together.”