Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Barefoot In The Park" Now Showing At The James F. Dean Theatre--An Evening Full Of Laughs

What is it with women wanting their guys to consider the idea of taking off their shoes and running barefoot in the park? Do you know what knichi is? Have you ever heard of Ouzo? Interested in finding out the answers to these seemingly superfluous questions? Then, grab your shoes, on or off, makes no difference one way or the other, and head on over to the James F. Dean Theatre in Summerville from February 5th through the 14th to become enlightened and enriched on these subjects and more by the Flowertown Player's presentation of Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park.

I went into this play an open book. I had not seen the 1963 Broadway production starring Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley, and as far as I can recall, I had not seen the 1967 movie adaptation with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. After 1,530 performances, the 1963 play was nominated for three 1964 Tony Awards, and Mike Nichols won the award for Best Director. A revival opened on Broadway at the Cort Theater in February, 2006 and closed on May, 2006 after only 109 performances.

Barefoot in the Park is a romantic comedy by Neil Simon about looking at the humorous side of the complexities and unknowns of newly-wed life. Conservative Paul Bratter is a young attorney with high ambitions and a meticulous capacity for doing things by the book, which are qualities totally uncharacteristic of his new wife, who is free-spirited, idealistic, and irresponsibly fun-loving. As they end their whirlwind honeymoon fantasy of six days to enter the real world of everyday life, they are in the beginning process of setting up house in a fifth floor apartment of a New York brownstone that Paul has not really seen as of yet. This is her first time away from home and her mother. So, she is inexperienced and concerned about what her mother may think of her new apartment.

It opens with Corie dancing and painting while awaiting the delivery of her furniture and things, which is late, and a phone to be installed. Needless to say, straight-lace Paul will be in for a few surprises on his arrival that will ultimately test their compatibility and convictions. "Six days does not make a week," lamented Corie.

In this Neil Simon work, the hilarity builds incrementally in intensity as each character successively emerges on scene. With just a few laughs here and there in the beginning, once the play got past the mushy kissing and the participants were all in place, the laughter explodes. With an artfully designed and crafted set to work with, Director JC Conway skillfully pulled together a capable group of actors, who were able to build upon their characters in a way where the audience could connect with them.

Lovable Marissa Rocco as happy-go-lucky Corie was full of youthful enthusiasm and imparted to me the feeling that what I was seeing on stage was a genuine reflection of her own personality. As for Joseph Demerly playing Paul Bratter, you can see the growing frustration on his face as he tries to adjust to his problematic living conditions--bathroom without a bathtub, drafty apartment, hole in the skylight, tiny bedroom, and the craziest tenants in the city, and of course, his madcap wife.

Ernie Eliason, not new to portraying zany characters, amusingly played the part of Victor Velasco, the flirtatious and flamboyant 58 year old tenant that lives in the attic of Corie and Paul's New York brownstone, who shamelessly mooches his way into their delicate marital lives and then takes them on a crazy, riotous ride, including Corie's mother, Ethyl Banks--brilliantly played by Susan J. Vinick. Susan, new to the Flowertown Players but not to the stage, from fur coat to kimono, was a delight to watch and nimbly appropriated a generous portion of the evening's laughs.

J. Barry Gordon, a veteran Flowertown Player, put aside his duties as a tour guide and put on the digs of a telephone repairman. He added to the laughs and had a few words of wisdom for the harried couple. To round out the cast, Dustin Lack played the part of the delivery man.

Although, written many years ago and on the cusp of a social revolution, Barefoot in the Park is a love story with a timeless lesson interwoven within its script. While life styles have drastically changed since, the human condition when it comes to relationships remains basically the same. Falling in love can be easy, but staying in love requires hard work and sacrifice, and despite the elating ups and agonizing downs of married life, there is a humorous side to it all and Neil Simon drew on this.

You just might see a bit of yourself portrayed in this play. Served up on a platter of knichi and in a glass of Ouzu, you are guaranteed an evening full of laughs.

Purchase tickets for "Barefoot in the Park."

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Carnival's 7-Day Southern Caribbean Cruise--Alluring Islands With A Connection to Charleston's Past

Petit Piton
Cruising south from Castries City, for a glimpse of the island's major attraction, the rugged cliff-lined coast of St Lucia was dotted here and there by stretches of secluded beaches overshadowed by thick droves of palm trees and dripping wet rainforest-covered mountains. Glistening in the equatorial sun, well positioned luxury resorts clung to the lush, rocky landscape for optimum views. We exchanged cutesy group poses and soaked in the natural beauty as the boat cut through the warm Caribbean waters and balmy breezes. Despite the rolling surf, I strategically positioned my bobbing camera to record each passing panorama.

After many snapshots and a couple of complimentary rum concoctions, the islands oldest town, Soufriere, came into view and not far beyond, the two volcanic spires of the Pitons--our first stop. From peak to surf, the steeper Petit Piton sharply descended from a dizzying height of 2,469 feet before disappearing into the surrounding arsenic blue waters to a depth of 3000 feet. Separated by Sugar Beach, the taller Gros Piton descended from a height of 2619 feet. The captain slowed the boat to a crawl. We humbly gazed upon its majesty and fantasized about diving from its rocky ledges. With first leg of our excursion accomplished, it was time to move on to our next stop--a sandy beach and a relaxing swim.

The preceding commentary described one of the memorable highlights of my first trip to the turquoise-wrapped islands of the Caribbean. An extra special trip because I spent it with my oldest daughter and a group of some thirty other spirited vacationers brought together by our cruise organizer and friend, Tony Colon of Tony's Travel Service. Initial destination was Old San Juan in Puerto Rico. Moored in its port, Carnival's 2974 passenger ship Liberty awaited our presence. For 7 days, we cruised around the sundrenched, rum soaked islands of the Southern Caribbean to five different ports-of-call: St. Thomas/St. John, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten, respectively. We were nurtured by an abundance of sunshine, caressed by warm tropical breezes, gently rocked by calm seas, soothed by the rhythmic sounds of the steel drum, and treated to an abundance of food, drink, and entertainment.

After a 20 minute drive from the airport through the busy, narrow streets of Old San Juan, we arrived at the terminal around 4:30 pm, Puerto Rico time. Docked nearby Carnival's drop-off point was a fully outfitted replica of a pirate ship--a tantalizing preview of what was yet to come. We checked in, received our sail and sign cards, and made the exhilarating walk to the gangway where we crossed over and through Liberty’s teak-trimmed entryway into its beautifully decorated Main Lobby. We located our cabin on Main Deck 2, went to Lido Deck for our first buffet dinner, returned to cabin to unpack our suitcases, hung out with fellow travelers, attended the safety meeting, back to Lido Deck and the RedFrog Rum Bar for a celebratory drink, and at 10 pm, stood on Panorama Deck to view the historic sights of Old San Juan as the ship gracefully exited the port and entered the open sea. Destination--the cosmopolitan island of St. Thomas/St John.

Day 2: St. Thomas/St. John. The Liberty eased into the port of Charlotte Amalie around 7 am. I was up early on Panorama Deck to watch the 110,000 ton steel behemoth gently make contact with the pier bumpers for a picture perfect docking. Our plan was to spend the day at Cinnamon Bay on John's Island. We didn't purchase the excursion on the ship, Tony nimbly negotiated transportation. We would take a tour bus to Redhoook Bay for $16 round trip, board a ferry to Cruz Bay on St. John for $12 round trip, and then take another tour bus to Cinnamon Bay for $8 round trip. The beach was picturesque, the water pure Caribbean, and offered terrific snorkeling for the hearty swimmers. We tossed the football and drank Carib beers (reminded me of a Corona).

Day 3: Fun Day At Sea. We hung out at the pool, watched drink mixing contests, played corn hole, sat in the hot tubs, and ate awesome burgers from Guys Burger Joint on Lido Deck--Liberty's onboard activities.

Day 4: Barbados. On this day, the group went two different directions. Some went to Harrison's Cave, but the majority of us purchased the 4 hour Jolly Roger Pirate Party Cruise and Snorkel for $69.99--this was the only excursion purchased on ship. It was a short transfer from the ship to 110 foot Jolly Roger pirate ship--not exactly a tall ship, no sails, but it did have a big ship's wheel. We snorkeled around a sunken ship and cruised the coast to a location to snorkel with sea turtles. Though I personally did not see a sea turtle, I did have a blast walking the plank for a twelve foot plunge into the warm Barbados waters. We partied like pirates, drank rum and Banks beer, danced on the upper deck, and made one water rescue--an over-enthusiastic partier did a face-plant overboard while dancing on the boat’s rail--courtesy a little shove.

Day 5: St Lucia. By far my favorite island, the scenery was dramatic and strikingly impressive. After fellow cruiser, Dane, skillfully haggled for a $25 boat excursion, we piled into the tour bus ($18 round trip) to the boat where we traveled the rugged coastline of St. Lucia to the island's number one attraction--The Pitons. After taking in the splendor and grandeur of the Pitons, we spent the rest of the excursion on one of the island's secluded beaches. Rum concoctions were served on board and I learned how to blow into a conch shell like a fog horn.

Day 6: St. Kitts. The ride ($20 round trip) to Cockleshell Bay at Reggae Beach Bar and Grill was filled with winding, steep hills and picturesque vistas--expensive homes and beautiful, emerald bays. The beach was crowded. "There is nothing free on the beach," the local beach attendant said in a typical island accent. Negotiating for a chair and umbrella for a large group was tricky, but Dane did his best--two chairs and an umbrella for $10. The snorkeling wasn't the best and the beach was narrow, but the view of the volcanic mountain on Nevis was spectacular. We played beach volley ball and drank $2 Caribs.

Day 7: St. Maarten. A beautiful tropical breeze greeted us in port. We secured a tour bus ($18 round trip) that would take us to the Pinel Island ferry at Orient Bay on the French side of St. Maarten. It was a pleasant ride through the small towns of the interior. The ferry was $8 round trip, which was a short ride over shallow waters. The beaches on Pinel Island had soft sand and marked off swimming areas. Two chairs and an umbrella was $15 for the day. The snorkeling was decent near the rocky shorelines outside the swimming areas. On the beach, the Karibuni Restaurant served excellent food and selections were made from your chairs and brought to you by beach attendants. We soaked in the warm, tropical sun and drank Presidente beer and Pina Coladas.

I have always said, "I am happy doing anything, along as I am doing something," and my cruise to the Southern Caribbean on Carnival's Liberty was something. It was well worth the $625 per person fee for an Ocean View cabin. The Liberty was nicely presented and graciously represented. The dinners were satisfying, the buffet filling, the shows entertaining, and the dining service top notch.

It was a wonderful 8 days spent with my daughter, revisiting old acquaintances, and forming new friendships. The group of fellow cruisers I had the pleasure of hanging out with, mostly young couples, were refreshingly open and exceedingly entertaining. My late seating dinner group were a pleasure to break bread and tilt a glass with. I partied like a pirate, drank rum like Captain Jack Sparrow, busted a move with our head server, participated in a dance-off, and succeeded at not embarrassing my daughter. For everything else I did, blame it on the Malbec.

St. Thomas/St. John Excursions
Barbados Excursions
St. Lucia Excursions
St. Kitts Excursions
St. Maarten Excursions

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Victor Social Club On Hutson Alley--Enjoy A Double Dose Of Hemingway In Your Daiquiris

Ernest Hemingway was an American novelist, short story writer, and journalist. He published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works, most of which were produced between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Additional works, including three novels, four short story collections, and three non-fiction works, were published retrospectively. Many of his works are considered classics of American literature.

Hemingway was a seasoned traveler. His journeys took him from Key West to Cuba and distant places like Kilimanjaro, Venice and Paris. To get a real taste of local life, he advised, "Don't bother with churches, government buildings or city squares, if you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars." Hemingway did exactly that, and in the process acquired a self proclaimed reputation.

Hemingway was well known for drinking. Many of his stories and most famous quotes are laced with references to drinks and drinking. In The Sun Also Rises, Jake Barnes has a Jack Rose while waiting in vain for Brett. In A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry has a couple of "cool and clean" Martinis; they made him "feel civilized." In For Whom the Bell Tolls, it is the ritual of dripped absinthe that gives Robert Jordan’s temporary solace from the rigors of war. And in "Islands in the Stream," young Tom Hudson made a drink for his father, with the assurance, "I put lime, bitters, and no sugar in it."--Hemingway did not like sugar in his drinks. "Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut" and "An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools” are just a sprinkling of quotes ascribed to Hemingway.

During an extended stay in Cuba, whenever someone made the trek to Havana to be introduced to the novelist, Hemingway would meet them at La Florida bar, affectionately known as the "Floridita." A. E. Hotchner, the playwright and biographer who wrote "Papa Hemingway," reported after shaking Hemingway's "thick and square" hand, the first round of giant Daiquiris arrived. Hemingway himself described a properly beaten Daiquiri as looking "like the sea where the wave falls away from the bow of a ship when she is doing thirty knots." The giant Daiquiris, christened Papa Doble, were double frozen Daiquiris made to Hemingway’s particular specifications. Hemingway boasted to have "made a run of sixteen here one night."

Hemingway, as far as I know, never visited Charleston, but his drink has found its way into one of its drinking establishments. The place is The Victor Social Club and the drink is called The Hemingway. The sophisticated social club is quietly tucked away off of busy King Street on classy Hutson Alley.

Part of a multi-establishment concept of Holy City Hospitality called the Hutson Alley Project, it is flanked on both sides by Michael's on the Alley and Vincent Chicco's. Originally, there were hints of another registered name to be called The Blue Marlin Bar, but it appears the idea was woven into the character of The Victor Social Club. A prominent feature of the club's ornamentation is a huge painting of a marlin mounted high above its bar. It fits the Hemingway theme--The Old Man and the Sea, one of his most famous works, tells the story of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Florida.

Hutson Alley is beautifully adorned by a brick lined, patterned-cement walkway with evenly spaced palm trees and black light posts while green, leafy vines cover the building's aged red brick walls. Each establishment has its own glass door entrance and each is marked by a rustic, sliding steel door leftover from the building's honored past. Although, each has their own entrance, they share one central kitchen headed by Executive Chef Aaron Lemieux.

As you step through The Victor Social Club's entrance, you're greeted by a room with vaulted ceilings, exposed brick, and a most engaging bar. Nautical paintings highlighting more of Hemingway's favorite fish adorn the outer walls, intimate table settings for two line its perimeters, and a grouping of cozy, black couches set in a circle embellish the middle of the spacious room--perfect for socializing. For private events, it offers rooms that can be transformed to host professional gatherings or celebratory affairs.

The Victor Social Club menu features classic cocktails, icy cold beers, as well as an extensive wine list. Holding to the Hemingway theme, a New Happy Hour Menu combines Cuban inspired fare with innovative cocktails. Available Monday-Friday between 4-7pm, the new menu delivers an array of flavors from fresh local ceviche to a pulled pork Cuban sandwich.

Some of the elite clubs of Charleston's past included the St. Cecilia Society, the Charleston Club, the Huguenot Society, the Carolina Yacht Club, Emerald Social Club, the Annex Club, and the Harmony Social Club. Today's Victor Social Club pays homage to the social club legend of eighteenth-century Charleston with some Papa Hemingway whirled vigorously in.

Both Michael's on the Alley and Vincent Chicco's are on the list for Charleston Restaurant Week--January 6-17, 2016.

Want to try Papa Doble in true Hemingway fashion? Combine two and a half jiggers (or 3 3/4 ounces) of Bacardi White Label Rum, the juice of two limes and half a grapefruit, and six drops of maraschino, all placed in an electric mixer over shaved ice, whirled vigorously and served foaming in large goblets.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

An Upper King Street Eatery You will Relish--Four Ninety-Two

August 2013
The old building in the featured photo was photographed from the rooftop of the Stars Restaurant in August of 2013. As I looked down on King Street at the building and took the picture, I wondered about it and its destiny. As I contemplated the future of the neglected and abandoned building, my first thoughts were that of a restaurant. Upper King Street in most recent years has seen an explosion of restaurants and eateries. At the time, I was totally unaware of the fact the building had been purchased by the Relish Restaurant Group. My intuition proved correct. It just seemed to be a fitting hypothesis.

The building dates back to 1888 when clothiers such as Reuben's, Leon's and Bluestein's were a large part of the economy in Charleston. It is believed to have been a Leon's Men's clothing store. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo devastated Charleston. The building was damaged and remained abandoned since until it was purchased by the Charleston restaurant group. After a complete renovation of the building, the highly anticipated King Street "contemporary American" eatery opened in the Spring of 2015. Its name is its address, Four Ninety-Two. Executive Chef Nate Whiting presides over the kitchen.

December 2015
The main downstairs dining area is outfitted with a long community table accompanied by red, low-backed chairs. On the left, diamond-backed booths topped with large mirrors line the wall and to the right a bar. Moving beyond the community table is a more intimate seating area with wing-backed chairs and to the right a long, wood covered bar where patrons can be seated with a view of the open kitchen. Chef Whiting said they wanted to "dissolve the borders" between the cooks and the diners. The space features an artistic piece called the "button wall" and an "eating room red" ceiling. It seats around 75 guests.

Upstairs is an event dining room and a sun-drenched rooftop garden. The upstairs hall ceiling is painted a "piazza blue"--a well-known Charleston paint color. The rooftop garden is filled with wooden planters and white, plastic pillar planters filled with seasonal herbs and vegetables that will be used in the kitchen.

The most predominate and daring feature is the addition of the large metal fence separating 492's courtyard from the busy King Street sidewalk. The jazzy abstract metal work is actually patterned after Sanborn Street Maps. It leads to the 40-person outdoor seating area filled with tall palm trees and a curious gnome--an attractive space for guests seeking to enjoy the beautiful Charleston outdoor atmosphere.

The menu is broken down into seven categories: Fields And Gardens, Pasta And Grains, From The Sea, From The Land, Dessert, Cocktails, and Local Craft Beers. It changes daily, so you will need to call for information about your chosen night's menu. A three course dinner will cost about $30 on average. Cocktails are $10 and Local Craft Beers $6.

There are two upcoming events scheduled. On Thursday, December 31st at 5-11 pm, there will be New Year's Eve Dinner featuring a special five-course dinner menu for $75. To view the menu, click on New Year's Eve Dinner. To make a reservation, you can call (843) 203-6338. On Sunday, January 17th at 6 pm, a Truffles and Hazelnuts Dinner with internationally acclaimed Chef Carlo Zarri of the Ristorante Villa San Carlo in Cortemilia, Italy is scheduled for $95. For tickets, click on Truffles and Hazelnuts Dinner.

There is a documented Charleston story linked to the address of 492, which is located at the corner of King Street and Mary. Notably, today's Four Ninety-Two restaurant overlooks the very spot where Reverend John Bailey Adger first met his future wife, Elizabeth Keith Shrewsbury. The meeting took place in 1831. Reverend J. B. Adger was in the second year of his studies at Princeton Theological Seminary. He was back in Charleston for a month of Spring Break. The event is described in his My Life and Times. It is recorded as follows:

"I was returning from a prayer-meeting with my mother (Sarah Elizabeth Ellison Adger) and sister Margaret (Milligan Adger Smythe). At the corner of Mary and King Streets my sister observed Elizabeth Keith Shrewsbury, with whom she had recently become very intimately acquainted, on the other side of King Street, engaged in the duty of tract distribution. She called to her to come over. It required some little urging to get her consent, but she came. My sister said to me, "Now you shall see blushes," and I saw them. I was introduced to her, and with me it was love at first sight."

John Bailey Adger was the son of a prominent businessman in Charleston. North and South Adger's Wharf are two short, cobblestone roads near the Charleston Battery named for the location of his father's shipping company, James Adger and Co. He encouraged the Charleston Presbytery to build the church that today serves a congregation at 93 Anson Street as St. John's Reformed Episcopal Church.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Charleston's Chain Of Beautiful Barrier Island Beaches--Picturesque And Pristine

Caressed by the splendor of the rising sun and often threatened by the fury of the Atlantic Ocean, the picturesque and historic city of Charleston presides over her panorama like a queen. Resting on a peninsula cradled by the meandering currents of two merging tidal rivers, the vibrant and diverse downtown cosmopolitan and its welcoming deep water harbor are sheltered and sustained by a chain of barrier islands from Cape Romain to the ACE Basin. Some are inhabited and some are not. Some you can access by car and others only by some form of water craft. Each of these delicately balanced islands are fringed by pristine, sandy beaches with stands of old, weatherworn oak, palmetto, magnolia and pine trees and linked to the mainland by a maze of verdant saltwater marshes and nutrient rich creeks. All of this natural grandeur makes Charleston a wonderland for water enthusiasts and camera toting naturalists.

During this year, I visited three of the uninhabited barrier islands--Bulls Island, Capers Island, and Morris Island. Bulls Island, part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, has a staggering variety of wildlife both local and migratory and is known for its Boneyard Beach. You can book a multi-day tour and stay at the famous Dominick House. Capers Island, also known for its Boneyard Beach, is the favorite of boaters with excellent fishing. You can camp overnight with a permit. Morris Island is famous for its decommissioned water-bound lighthouse and was the location of the embattled Civil War fortress of "Glory" fame, Fort Wagner--no longer there.

Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island, Folly Island, Edisto Island, and Kiawah Island are popular vacation destinations with public beaches. Seabrook Island and Dewees Island are private and access to their beaches are only possible if you are renting one of the many beachfront vacation homes. There is one other barrier island with a stunning beach that is part of a wildlife preserve on Edisto Island, and it is a jewel--Botany Island. It too has a boneyard beach and an abundance of seashells. It is by far my favorite.

I have selected from my collection of photographs a favorite picture of each of the barrier island beaches you will want to consider visiting on your next trip to Charleston. They are a huge part of why Charleston is the top destination in the United States. Enjoy and I'll see you on the beaches.

Isle of Palms
Charleston's Barrier Islands-Beautiful Beaches, Abundant Wildlife, Great Stays, And Pleasure Packed
Sullivan's Island
Folly Beach
Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island
Edisto Island
Capers Island
 A Charleston Barrier Island Tour Highly Worth A Trip To The Past
Bulls Island
Bulls Island Beach Drop With Coastal Expeditions--Thoroughly Enlightening And Deeply Soul Soothing
Morris Island
Charleston Outdoor Adventures' Morris Island Lighthouse Eco Tour--Uplifting And Enlightening
Botany Bay
Botany Bay Plantation Personifies The Reasons Why I Love Charleston And The Lowcountry-A Must-see

Monday, December 21, 2015

Four Superb Charleston Walking Tours To Satisfy Your Intellectual Curiosities And Your Culinary Cravings

Broad Street
I love walking the streets of Charleston. It's both educational and inspirational. There is always
something new to learn and always a different angle to photograph. Shadows of the City's celebrated past are everywhere and if your free your imagination, those spectral wisps of antiquity will speak to you. A colorful cityscape that thrives off its past, but flourishes off its present.

Charleston is exceptionally friendly--an attribute that is one of six criteria used by Conde Naste in determining the recipient of its Readers' Choice Award for Top City in the World. So-named several consecutive years running, the bestowing of the Award is a testimony to the warm and generous spirit of hospitality Charleston's residents show to its visitors, and is the exact reason it distinguishes itself from so many other places. But this welcoming spirit is just a portion of the pleasantness equal to the gratification one would draw from savoring a piece of the prized Ultimate Coconut Cake offered by the Peninsula Grill on North Market Street.

Chalmers Street
Charleston's numerous historic streets and alluring alleys are exceedingly walkable. From eclectic Upper King Street to charming South Battery, its famous landmarks, social drinking establishments and outstanding culinary restaurants are easily accessible by simply taking a leisurely stroll. With this in mind, there is no better way to soak in the ambiance of the Downtown District than by booking one of its many culinary walking tours and Bulldog Tours offers four of them.

Meeting Street
Savor The Flavors of Charleston is a 2 ½ hour immersion into the history and culture of the Lowcountry. As you walk, you will learn how Charleston’s unique cuisine has evolved over the past 300 and some years. Including briefs stops at local eateries, markets, bakeries, restaurants, and culinary landmarks, you will be treated to samplings of delicious Southern favorites like Stone Ground Grits, Charleston Benne Wafers, Locally Made Gourmet Chocolates, Southern Pralines, Collard Greens, Lowcountry Barbecue, and Sweet Tea. This tour is offered Monday to Saturday at 9:30 am and 2:00 pm for $60--Information and tickets.

Charleston Dessert Tour is a 2 hour tour where you will indulge in samples of one-of-a-kind treats prepared by some of Charleston's culinary artisans from establishments like Market Street Sweets, Carmella’s Dessert Bar, and Christophe’s on Society Street to name a few. Typical tastings include Huguenot Tort, Lemon Bar, Coconut Cake, Southern Pralines, Chocolate Truffles, and Petit fours. Cost for the tour is $60 and is only offered on Saturday 4 to 6 pm--Information and tickets.

Chef’s Kitchen Tour takes you behind the scenes into the very kitchens of some of Charleston’s best chef’s for a close-up peek at what it takes to produce the fabulous meals residents and visitors have come to love and rave about. On this 2 ½ hour walking tour, you will explore the history of the restaurant, learn about the chef’s approach to culinary excellence, and have the menus interpreted. This tour is only offered on Fridays 9:45 am until Noon for $60--Information and tickets.

Savor the Flavors of Upper King Street is offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays 3 to 6 pm. On this tour, you will explore the growing Upper King Street restaurant district sampling mouth-watering dishes of Lowcountry cuisine from its popular culinary trendsetters. One of your stops will include a visit to Victor's Social Club located in the busy Hutson Alley on John Street. As you step through its doors, you're greeted by a most inviting bar overshadowed by a huge painting of a blue marlin and a boat. Nautical paintings adorn the walls, bar tables line the outer part of the room, and a cozy circular couch is situated in the middle of the room--Information and tickets.

Victor's Social Club
Bulldog Tours was voted best tour company in Charleston by the Charleston City Paper for five years in a row from 2009 to 2013. Its Culinary Tours have been featured by Southern Living, The Food Network, Cooking Light, Michelin Guide, Bon Appetit, Turner South, South Carolina ETV and National Public Radio. The mission of the tours is to promote Charleston area local artisan growers, restaurants, culinary institutions, producers, and to help preserve South Carolina's rich culinary heritage. Bulldog Tours is located at 18 Anson St., but the exact meeting location details for each tour will be provided immediately upon purchase of tickets.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Feel-Good Play You Will Leave Smiling--"You're A Good Man Charlie Brown" Now Showing

The Peanuts gang is back in a huge way and despite a big screen debut in state of the art 3D animation, they haven't changed in the least bit since Charles M. Shulz created them in the 1950's. They are still riddled with the idiosyncrasies common to the childhood experience. In addition to their movie debut, they are making an appearance at the James F. Dean Theatre for the next two weekends singing and dancing in the 1999 Broadway revival of Clark Gesner's classic musical "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown."

The original musical premiered Off-Broadway at an East Village theater with a total of 1597 performances and a Broadway production opened in 1971 with 32 performances. It featured Peanuts characters Charlie Brown, Linus, Schroeder, Lucy, Patty, and Snoopy. A 1999 Broadway revival featured new dialogue and additional songs with one major change to the characters with the replacement of Patty with Charlie Brown's sister, Sally. The 1999 production is the one now playing at the James F. Dean Theater in Summerville.

The Peanuts comic strip, on which the play is based, is called the most popular and influential in history. It is largely based on Shulz's own childhood experiences. In this comic strip, kids rule. An adult has never appeared in the comic strip and in the television specials featuring the Peanuts gang. When an adult is heard, what they say is totally irrelevant and represented by a "WaWaWa," which to me is some of the funniest parts of the dialogue. It is utilized once in the play when Sally approaches her teacher concerning the "C" she received on her coat-hanger sculpture. It cracked me up.

Assembled in progressive rising levels, the unchanging set designed by Robert Venne is crayon box colorful featuring square blocks, a small, purple piano, a giant, red doghouse and a live, sky-blue piano positioned at the top where Sarah Morrison flawlessly hammered out the musical cues and scores from start to finish. The costumes designed by Patti Kelly were exactly what they needed to be.

Sara Armistead is awesome as Sally Brown. She portrayed her character with child-like authenticity and shined as she led her dog Snoopy on an epic rabbit-chasing adventure in "Peter Rabbit" and as she charmed her teacher into upping the C-grade on her coat-hanger art saying, "Its the squeaky wheel that gets the grease." She then capped of her winning performance in "My New Philosophy."

Jessica Wells was the perfect choice for the crabby and bossy Lucy. She just physically emits that quality of being a force to contend with. She was convincingly endearing in the vignette "Little Known Facts" where Lucy teaches Linus about nature the way she views it explaining to him that bugs make the grass grow, clouds make the wind blow, snow comes up from the ground or eating eagles for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Allison Brower secured many of the plays laughs as the ferociously imaginative, supremely confident, world-famous beagle, Snoopy. She safely and successfully succeeded at maintaining her balance high atop her big, red doghouse as her character pondered life and engaged in aerial combat with the notorious Red Baron. Her glowing moment was in the vignette "Suppertime."

Charlie Brown, the lovable loser dressed in the recognizable black zig-zag shirt, was pitifully played by Erik Brower, and I mean that in a complimentary way. He had the frowning expression, the slumping shoulders, and wilting walk down pat. Seeing him with a bag over his head was priceless.

Other notable scenes include Robert Venne dancing with his blanket as Linus in "My Blanket and Me" and Randolph Middleton as Schroeder leaning over his little, purple piano playing Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" and fending off Lucy's advances.

Chelsea DeRoche and Company did an excellent job bringing it all together with a well rehearsed and clearly executed presentation. The live piano play and performers were in complete sync throughout the play. As a group, the vocals were pleasant and suitably matched.

"You're A Good Man Charlie Brown" does not have a heavy plot nor does it have a social statement weaved within its storyline. It is simply a delightful, upbeat, and heartwarming play about a bunch of kids and a dog going about the business of dealing with their little, complicated lives. It is a feel-good play in which you just might see a little bit of yourself when you were that age. Your kids will love it and you will leave smiling.

You can purchase tickets at "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown."
Now showing December 4th to 20th and the Flowertown Players ask you to consider this: