Rich Massabny is a theatre, arts, & food critic in the nation's capital. He has been quoted in the Washington Post and Washington Times. One of the most visible cable television personalities in the Washington, D.C. area, his celebrity chefs on cooking shows, his weekly reviews and his hour long talk show, reach over 3,000,000 homes.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SIGNATURE THEATRE - - “Sex with Strangers”

  Over the years, I’ve seen local actress Holly Twyford in many, many roles, but none as terrific as the one she is now playing as Olivia in “Sex with Strangers”  at Signature Theatre. Partnered with equally talented Luigi Sottile, in the role of Ethan, these two make “Sex with Strangers” a Must See show!  They are truly mesmerizing. The story is about Olivia, a 39 year old gifted writer who has yet to see success and the much younger, tech savvy blogger, Ethan. They  meet in a small getaway lodge where they are trapped by a  snowstorm. While wildly different, they are  attracted to each other sexually and find themselves in an interesting relationship. “Sex with Strangers” is provocative and raises issues of privacy. Beautifully written by Laura Eason and directed by Aaron Posner.  Twyford and Sottile do great justice to this new contemporary play. For more information and tickets, call 703-820-9771 and check the website at “Sex with Strangers” runs through December 7.


     The fairly new center of attraction in Bethesda for entertainment and dining is the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club at 7719 Wisconsin Avenue. You can’t miss it with its sparkly marquee on the front of what used to be a movie theater. Inside there’s a spacious lobby and bar, reminiscent of the old time movie theaters. Beyond the lobby theactual theater has been transformed into a supper club---think mini Copacabana. Owner Rick Brown has established a reputation for bringing in quality entertainers. For example, when I was there last week, the headliner was the well-known Brazilian singer Glaucia Nasser. What a sultry voice! With Nasser was band leader and bongo player extraordinaire, Sammy Figueroa. The whole band was terrific. I have to tell you that I was quite happy with the food. My steak was cooked perfectly and my wife’s stuffed chicken breast was delicious. The soup du jour was vegetable and it was tasty and hot.You would be surprised how often soup is not served hot. The classic Caesar salad was crisp with an excellent Caesar dressing. Other entrees on the menu  include Cajun style veal chop, seared grouper, vegetable pasta and a roasted lamb rack. To check upcoming shows at the  Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, check the website at Call 240-330-4500 for reseervations and details about free parking. You can also go to the club just for the show for a cover charge only.

SIGNATURE THEATRE - - “Elmer Gantry”

     Signature Theatre has a powerhouse musical in “Elmer Gantry,” the second production in its 25th anniversary season. A wonderful 10 piece orchestra backs the large cast led by Charlie Pollock as Elmer and Mary Kate Morrissey as Sister Sharon Falconer. “Elmer Gantry” is based on a Sinclair Lewis novel and has a lot of  revivalist music. It’s also a sad love story and exposes raw emotions of people searching for their dreams. This Signature version is a bit different from the first  time Eric Schaeffer directed it 15 years ago.  Some of the familiar tunes are “You Don’t Know Who I Am,” “”No Greater Love,” “Should’a Known Betta Blues” and “My American Dream.” The Washington Sisters, three gospel singers, Nova Y. Payton, Ashley Buster and Daphne Epps, can really belt out a song. A few of the other cast members are Harry Winter, Jessica Lauren Ball, Matt Conner, Larry Redmond, Paul Scanlon, Bobby Smith, Stephen Gregory Smith and Russell Sunday.  Another great show at Signature! “Elmer Gantry” runs through Nov. 9. For information and tickets, call 703-820-9771 or check the website at


Simulcast of “Le Nozze de Figaro”
     “Figaro” is one of those happy operas and it was simulcast from The Metropolitan Opera in New York City last weekend at the Regal Theatre 12 in the Ballston Mall. The premise of this delightful opera is beautifully silly with characters loving everyone around. The great conductor James Levine was on hand leading the orchestra. The role of “Figaro” was  played by Ildar Abdrazakov.  Lovely Rene Fleming hosted the event with backstage interviews—always such a treat. The next simulcast from the Met will be on November 1 with the exciting “Carmen”. For more information and tickets check the website at

Monday, October 13, 2014


Virginia Opera ---“Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
When I saw the original “Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” on Broadway, I never dreamed  it would become an opera many years later. Well, the Virginia Opera opened its 40th season at the Center for the Arts with a magnificent production of  Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd!” I knew the minute Stephen Powell stepped forward  on the stage as Sweeney Todd that we were in for a wonderful evening of opera at its best—and I wasn’t wrong. Todd’s partner in crime, so to speak, Phyllis Pancella as Mrs. Lovett, was wonderful. Set in 1846 London, the story is about an embittered Todd who was wrongfully sent to prison years ago by a perverted  Judge Turpin (Jake Gardner). The judge then stole Todd’s wife, Lucy (Diana Dimarzio)  and  daughter, Johanna (Amanda Opuszynski). Years later Todd returns to London for revenge and is told his wife is dead and the daughter is the ward of the judge. He is befriended by a young sailor (Andre Chiang) who becomes Johanna’s hopeful lover. He is terrific. Todd teams up with Mrs. Lovett, the maker of London’s worst meat pies, and let’s just say, thanks to  Todd, her meat pies  suddenly become tasty.  While the story is gruesome, this musical thriller, directed by Ron Daniels,  was enjoyable because of the  talented singers and  remarkable orchestra conducted by Adam Turner.  Virginia Opera’s next production is “H.M.S. Pinafore,”  in December.  For a list of all upcoming  shows at the Center for the Arts,  check the website at or call 703-993-2787.