Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson is a Northern Virginia-based young professional with a passion for music and theatre. As a lifelong performing arts enthusiast, she is thrilled to write for and help support DC area productions.


BWW Review: MY FATHER'S DRAGON Dazzles Both Children and Adults at Synetic Theater
December 10, 2018

I've come to expect the unexpected from Synetic Theater's exquisite, wordless productions. Somehow they're always able to dazzle me, and their holiday season production of MY FATHER'S DRAGON, based on Ruth Stiles Gannett's children's novel, is an absolute gem. Wide-eyed performers, memorable scenes, and delightful puppets (puppet design by Matthew McGee) make this one a must-see for children (5+) and adults alike.

BWW Review: Creative Adaptation of Children's Book HOW TO CATCH A STAR Charms at the Kennedy Center
November 25, 2018

I had two main questions about the world premiere Kennedy Center commission of HOW TO CATCH A STAR: would it match the original children's book's ability to appeal to kids and adults alike, and would it be as visually charming as Oliver Jeffers's illustrations? I'm pleased to report that the answer to both is a resounding yes. Appropriate for ages three and up, HOW TO CATCH A STAR uses stunning projection design (Olivia Sebesky) and quirky choreography (Orange Grove Dance Company) to tell the story of how a boy's seemingly impossible dream of catching a star leads him to discover important lessons about life.

BWW Review: Scena Theatre Puts a Hollywood Spin on Oscar Wilde's WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
November 6, 2018

Now playing at the Atlas Performing Arts Center is an all-female, 1930s Tinseltown take on Oscar Wilde's WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, directed by Robert McNamara. It's an undeniably creative angle to approach Wilde, in the vein of Scena's previous gender-bending production of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, and it has its share of funny and dramatic moments. However, its busy design and occasionally manic delivery miss the mark at times.

BWW Review: THE FEVER at Woolly Mammoth is a Positive, Communal Experience
October 25, 2018

600 Highwaymen's THE FEVER, which has made its way to Woolly Mammoth for a limited run after a national and international tour, is a collaborative piece requiring full audience participation. I can't say much about its content, as the slightest spoiler would either ruin the effect or fail to do the show justice. But I can say for certain that it's well worth experiencing as an exercise in empathy and a reminder that, yes, we're in this together. Are you intrigued?

BWW Review: ROOMS: A ROCK ROMANCE Returns to MetroStage with Energy and Enthusiasm
October 17, 2018

Returning to MetroStage for its tenth anniversary, ROOMS: A ROCK ROMANCE boasts an enthusiastic two-person cast and energetic backing band. It's exactly as described, a simple girl-meets-boy tale steeped in 1970s musical flair. But instead of boiling the romance down to timeless emotion, the book's simplicity and pat ending make this a bit of a tough sell.

BWW Review: Chilling Edgar Allan Poe Musical NEVERMORE Returns to Creative Cauldron for October
October 8, 2018

If your interest is piqued by the words "Edgar Allan Poe" and "musical" and "October", you're likely to enjoy the Matt Conner-directed NEVERMORE at Creative Cauldron. It returns seven years after its first production with a set of top-notch actors delivering verses of Poe's poetry set to Conner's haunting melodies.

BWW Review: 1st Stage Presents Poignant Regional Premiere of HERO'S WELCOME
September 9, 2018

There's nothing quite like a British dark comedy to usher in the unofficial start of autumn. The poignant regional premiere of HERO'S WELCOME at 1st Stage in Tysons fits the bill, with its undercurrent of personal drama that quickly rises to the surface, engulfing a town in figurative flames that could turn literal at any moment.

BWW Review: Capital Fringe Comedies and Dramas are a (Mostly) Delightful Mixed Bag
July 21, 2018

Part of the excitement of DC's Capital Fringe Festival is not knowing when you'll stumble upon a true gem of a production. I was fortunate enough to find a couple when I indulged in two dramas and two comedies within 48 hours at Arena Stage.

BWW Review: Temptations Musical AIN'T TOO PROUD Pleases Crowds at Kennedy Center
June 30, 2018

If you're into smooth vocals, sharp moves, and nostalgia-inducing moments that give you goosebumps, AIN'T TOO PROUD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS is for you. The musical is completing a pre-Broadway run at the Kennedy Center, and its rock-solid performances and impeccable choreography (Sergio Trujillo) make it a cut above your typical jukebox musical.

BWW Review: WSC Avant Bard Conjures an Energetic TEMPEST
June 7, 2018

I've seen a lot of Shakespeare lately. It's a staple of the theater scene because it's relevant to nearly every time and place. In this spirit, WSC Avant Bard calls forth an enthusiastic, semi-contemporary version of THE TEMPEST, Shakespeare's New World piece predicting the drama of the American melting pot.

BWW Review: Mosaic Theater Brings Back Thought-Provoking HOODED, OR BEING BLACK FOR DUMMIES
May 8, 2018

If, like me, you missed Mosaic Theater Company's HOODED, OR BEING BLACK FOR DUMMIES last season, here's your second chance: a remount, featuring almost all of the original cast, has arrived by popular demand. As timely as ever, it uses elements of realism, surrealism, and Greek mythology to convey what it's like to be a young black man in America at this very moment. I've called plays from Mosaic "essential viewing" before, and that description certainly applies here.

BWW Review: Paapa Essiedu is a Fresh, New HAMLET at the Kennedy Center
May 5, 2018

If you've somehow missed the buzz surrounding Paapa Essiedu in the title role of Royal Shakespeare Company's HAMLET, let me be the one to tell you: get thee to the Kennedy Center before the end of its very short run. Simon Godwin directs this contemporary, graffiti-splashed, West Africa-set take on the classic, buoyed by enthralling performances from an excellent cast.

BWW Review: Synetic Theater's TITUS ANDRONICUS is Beyond Words
April 29, 2018

It's strange to think a Shakespeare production could render words unnecessary, but Synetic Theater's most recent wordless Shakespeare play, TITUS ANDRONICUS, gives you the impossible idea that dialogue might ruin the drama. Without speech, and without stage blood, this incarnation of TITUS is a violent spectacle brought to life by impeccable choreography, top-notch acting, and innovative scenic and lighting design (Phil Charlwood and Brian Allard).

BWW Review: Landless Theatre's THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD [SYMPHONIC METAL VERSION] is Original and Entertaining
April 9, 2018

After multiple Helen Hayes nominations for their 2015 production of SWEENEY TODD [PROG METAL VERSION], Landless Theatre Company is back with their second MetalTheatre adaptation: THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD [SYMPHONIC METAL VERSION]. A captivating cast and three-piece rock orchestra guide us through the choose-your-own-adventure story with a blend of spot-on comedy and seamless rock arrangements.

BWW Review: UNDERGROUND RAILROAD GAME is Searing and Sensational at Woolly Mammoth
April 8, 2018

It can be unsettling to reflect on the experience of learning about slavery in middle school: was the content accurate and appropriate, or harmful to our perceptions of history and the present day? Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard explore this - and much more - in their creative, fearless production of UNDERGROUND RAILROAD GAME at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. No matter how uncomfortable or thought-provoking you found American history class, it's nothing compared to this searing comedy.

BWW Review: Rorschach Theatre Presents Creative, Compelling 410[GONE]
March 28, 2018

It seemed unlikely to me that a play set in a fantastical arcade, complete with the old favorite Dance Dance Revolution, would be able to stir deep emotions in an audience. But Rorschach Theatre's impactful production of Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig's 410[GONE], directed by Gregory Keng Strasser, does just that. It uses unlikely imagery to tell a highly personal but universal story of trauma and recovery.

BWW Review: The Klunch Presents Wildly Funny ADULT ENTERTAINMENT
March 11, 2018

The premise is promising: when a group of porn stars decides to make a "real movie", hilarity ensues. Veteran director Joe Banno and a talented cast make the absolute most of it in the Klunch's production of Elaine May's play ADULT ENTERTAINMENT - to fun, fizzy, and surprisingly human effect.

BWW Review: Theater J's BECOMING DR. RUTH is a Sweet, Energetic Take on a Remarkable Life
February 27, 2018

Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer's true life story of becoming "America's favorite sex therapist" is a fascinating and unlikely one. Naomi Jacobson portrays Dr. Westheimer with charm and vigor in the one-woman show BECOMING DR. RUTH at Theatre J, combining autobiography with a broader tale of Jewish origins and identity.

BWW Review: Brave Spirits Theatre Presents a Powerful CORIOLANUS
February 10, 2018

Brave Spirits Theatre again provides a fresh, immediate take on a Shakespearean classic, this time with a hard-hitting production of CORIOLANUS, directed by Charlene V. Smith. Underappreciated compared to many of Shakespeare's other plays, it's particularly timely in 2018 as it explores a power struggle among great men and the masses they're supposed to serve.

BWW Review: Pointless Theatre's IMOGEN Creatively Spotlights a Female Star of Shakespeare
January 21, 2018

Shakespeare's CYMBELINE may be named for the play's king, but his daughter Imogen is the real star of the tale, the center of the action. Pointless Theatre's original adaptation by playwright-director Charlie Marie McGrath corrects the misnomer in a version entitled IMOGEN, which uses creative choreography and shadow puppetry to captivating effect. It's overly long, but it's Shakespeare as you likely haven't seen it before, which is saying something.