A new old face takes over the theater beat

Yes, it's me – the same guy you saw a few pages back in the movie section. Former theater critic Julie York Coppens left to take a job in Ohio, and I'll be theater critic for the fifth time at The Observer.

I first had the job from 1983 to 1988, after The Charlotte News merged with the O. Since then, I've stepped in each time we've lost a theater critic or sent one on sabbatical. This time, I'll be in the chair indefinitely.

Being a veteran has merits: I saw the original Broadway runs of “Hello, Dolly!” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” so I've been stagestruck for 43 years. I love a great night of theater more than any other form of artistic expression. (And I'm more tolerant than I used to be of the not-so-great nights.)

I have stage experience, too: I've sung in the chorus of about 60 Opera Carolina productions, so I've done a lot of acting (and a lot of overacting, I suspect). This gives me special sympathy for performers, though not so much for dictat – er, directors.

I work only 40 hours a week, so we'll supplement my coverage with freelancers on the theater beat and wire-service reviews for movies. And obviously, I'll need your help keeping up with the beat.

If you have news, suggestions or complaints, get me at 704-358-5232 or ltoppman@charlotteobserver.com. I hope you will.