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Posts tagged ‘musical’

9
Jun

Review: Promises, Promises

This revival of Promises, Promises is being force-fed to potential audiences as “Mad Men The Musical.” It’s not, so let’s just get that out of the way. Regardless of being set in the 1960s, it does not embody the darkness that Mad Men does, even when one of its main characters attempts suicide. Instead of trying to appear to be something it’s not, Promises should revel in what it is—a charming musical.

This production has been widely panned by the critics. It’s not the high point of the Broadway season, but I found myself wrapped up in the earnestness of the musical. If you’re someone who identifies with the nice-guys-finish-last school of thought, and rally for that good guy who never seems to catch a break, you should find yourself captivated, as I was, by Sean Hayes. Playing Chuck Baxter, Hayes is an office underling eager to climb the corporate ladder. But he’s the type that people walk all over, so he let’s his lecherous bosses use his apartment for their trysts, in hopes that his loyalty will manifest into a promotion. Meanwhile, the downtrodden Chuck fancies the company cafeteria cutie Fran Kubelik (normally played by Kristin Chenoweth, but at my performance, understudied by Sarah Jane Everman). As you can imagine, things become really sticky for Chuck when he discovers Fran is “the other woman” to his top boss.

It’s Hayes’ show, as he appeals to the audience, constantly addressing us, and we throw our support behind him. Instead of making Chuck a twerp, Hayes turns him into a truly likeable guy, smiling through all his misfortunes, recognizing the ridiculous humor of his bad luck. But it’s not his pursuit of the corporate high life that we’re rooting for; it’s his potential relationship with Fran, the girl of his dreams. It’s important for Hayes to convey that he’s more than just an unfortunate chump, but that that romance and desire lives in him. For me, Hayes’ highlighting moment is the ridiculously sweet song “She Likes Basketball,” in which he realizes that his hopes of romancing Fran aren’t so far flung, that they actually share common ground. Hayes makes you remember what it was like to be a kid, reveling in every hopeful notion that you and your crush were destined to be together. Read more »

30
Apr

Review: Everyday Rapture

We all know that Broadway and hamminess go hand in hand. One is just a part of the other as peanut butter is to jelly. Yet the level of obnoxiousness that Sherie Rene Scott reaches in her one-woman show Everyday Rapture is downright off-putting.

As a last-minute replacement for Lips Together, Teeth Apart, (the play that Megan Mullally unprofessionally ditched), causing the show to cancel) the Roundabout Theatre Co. rustled up Everyday Rapture, which performed at the off-Broadway Second Stage Theatre last May. Written by Dick Scanlan and Sherie Rene Scott, the one-woman show (with backup vocalists and a brief character role, so… kinda sorta) focuses on Scott’s journey from oppressed childhood in Kansas to her self-proclaimed semi-stardom on Broadway.
Most know Scott from her Tony-nominated turn in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and for playing Ursula in the Broadway production of The Little Mermaid. In addition, she and her husband Kurt Deutsch founded S-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records, which is one of the largest Broadway record companies that publish cast recordings. Scott is by no means short of talent or artistic ability. That’s actually not my issue with Rapture—it’s the manner in which the material is presented. Read more »
23
Apr

Review: American Idiot

Michael Mayer has a knack for making us remember some of our worst memories. In Spring Awakening, he helped us recall our yearning teenage years. Now in American Idiot, he reminds us of the uncertain and melancholy times that followed 9/11. Mayer’s marriage of visionary theatrical direction and Green Day’s passionate music make for a haunting and indelible production.
It’s hard to believe the last show that played the St. James Theatre before American Idiot was Finian’s Rainbow. Although a stellar production, it couldn’t be a further cry in style and tone from this musical by Green Day. That’s just the point—everything is a far cry from this production. American Idiot adds a new layer onto the ever-growing popular genre of rock musicals. This is a punk rock opera.
Simple in story to allow for even greater conceptual depth, American Idiot follows three greatly unsatisfied suburban youths who flee their hometown for a less-restrained life in the city. But the three friends’ plans quickly fall apart. Will (Michael Esper) remains at home because his girlfriend is pregnant, Tunny (Stark Sands) joins the army and is deployed to Iraq, and Johnny (John Gallagher Jr.) becomes swept up in a whirlwind of drugs. The three men’s downfalls are spurred by political disillusion, media saturation, and lack of faith in society’s day-to-day rituals.
***VIDEO after the jump: Green Day makes a surprise appearance and performs at the April 22 performance. Here, they perform their classic hit “Basket Case.”*** Read more »
22
Apr

Review: Million Dollar Quartet

The fact that two musicals have opened on Broadway this season that focus on 1950s rock and roll in Memphis speaks greatly to the current creative drought in musical theater. Or maybe it speaks to the gatekeepers of Broadway and their resistance to take creative chances. Either way, Million Dollar Quartet, trailing the first rock and roll musical of the season—Memphis, is a play-it-safe show that employs some incredibly smart strategies to escort its audience out of the theater grinning. These choices, I’m sure, will make the production a commercial success.
The story takes places over the course of just a few hours on December 4, 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. The true backstory is that Sun Records founder Sam Phillips has invited Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis for a recording session. It would be the only time these four rock and roll gods would ever play together. Eighty percent of the show is this jam session with some light (and I do mean light) banter and relations between the musicians. For the show’s only dramatic backbone, Phillips, who has recently sold Presley to RCA to keep his fledgling record company afloat, is preparing to resign Cash for another three years. What Phillips doesn’t know is that Cash is on his way to break the news to him that he’s already signed with Columbia Records.
The main aspect of this show is the simulated performances of these rock and roll greats, and that part is right on the money. The four actors who play Presley, Cash, Perkins, and Lewis (Eddie Clendening, Lance Guest, Robert Britton Lyons, and Levi Kreis, respectively) are the show’s orchestra. Their instrumentals and vocals are incredibly strong. Their performances of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Hound Dog,” and “See You Later Alligator” are fire-breathing rock and roll spectacles. Quartet holds up as well as it does because of the acute musical talent of these performers. It doesn’t have a lot else to ride on. Read more »
17
Apr

Review: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Being that I was an AP History student in high school, I’m embarrassed to say this: going into Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, I couldn’t remember a thing about this particular president. It’s a good thing there’s nothing like a loud rock musical to pound the facts into your head.
Chronicling the childhood and political rise of Andrew Jackson, our country’s seventh president (I learned this from the show!), this creation of Alex Timbers (book writer and director) and Michael Friedman (music and lyrics) is a random, wild-child piece of genius. Billed as an “emo rock musical,” Andrew Jackson strips the characters of any dense, political verbiage and colonial form. Instead, a rock star ensemble screams a hilarious rock score of the president that is both adored for being a “people’s president” and loathed for genocidal acts against the Native Americans.
Timbers, Friedman, and the rest of the creative team have dedicated themselves to the show’s “look,” and it’s that commitment that makes Andrew Jackson such a standout piece. Upon entering the theater, the audience’s experience begins. Scenic designer Donyale Werle and lighting designer Justin Townsend have strung distressed gold and red chandeliers on the ceiling, extending over the audience to the back row. Single-color decorative string lights pass over the chandeliers, and long neon bulbs (a la Kevin Adams’ designs for Spring Awakening and Passing Strange) hang on the sidelines. I felt as if I had walked into a grungy New York rock hall. The stage bears the same rock-grunge motifs, as well as wilderness clutter, to reflect Jackson’s Tennessee upbringing. There are so many details to look at on the stage that it’s frustrating to realize you can’t catch them all. Read more »
10
Apr

Review: Anyone Can Whistle

Since I was a fool and missed Raul Esparza’s last mind-blowing on-stage pairing, it was even more exciting to see him co-star in a musical with Broadway’s leading lady, Sutton Foster. That man is a fantastic dramatic actor, but he really needs to do more musicals.
The show is City Center Encores!’s production of Anyone Can Whistle. This i s a rarely performed Sondheim show, and it’s got a collect-’em-all factor for fans.

To summarize this play would be missing the point. If you don’t understand it (which I didn’t), there is still fun to be had. But for a primer, it’s about a plotting mayor, played by Donna Murphy, who rules over a destitute town. A rock starts spouting water and people flock to the town to see it and the “mayoress” charges them for it. Suddenly, Raul Esparza arrives to sort out the town crazies and the mayor is out to arrest Sutton Foster for questioning the validity of the lucrative miracle. Read more »

16
Feb

The Odd Couple: Dame Edna and Michael Feinstein unite in theatrical harmony

When Dame Edna Everage and Michael Feinstein walked into the journalist-filled private room of the Red Eye Grill for their press conference last night, there was a gasp from the crowd. I’m positive it was due to the hulking presence of Ms. Everage, who appears easily over six-feet tall, and the stark contrast to her companion, the rather diminutive Mr. Feinstein. These two entertainers, varying in many ways than merely the physical, were there to promote their Broadway show, All About Me, which begins previews this Sunday.
“I’m not at all sure what I’m here for,” Everage said in her innocent, elderly coo. “People say to me, ‘Edna, what kind of show are you going to do?’ and I say, ‘I never divulge and I never think about what I’m going to do until the minute before I step onto the stage.’”
“I can vouch for that,” Feinstein deadpanned.
This mismatched pair—Feinstein, the pianist/cabaret owner/music archivist, and Dame Edna, the cross-dressing alter ego of comedian Barry Humphries—will open a musical-comedy review on March 18, complete with dance numbers and duets at the Henry Miller’s Theatre. It was publicized that the performers had intended on unveiling separate, solo shows this same Broadway season, but decided to join forces due to lack of theater availability.

***VIDEO AFTER JUMP: Dame Edna heckles an innocent waitress who gets too close*** Read more »

14
Jan

Finian’s Rainbow

When I received the Twitter update on my phone that Finian’s Rainbow received its closing notice for January 17, I let out a tremendous, “Nooooooo!” I was at a loud bar in Morningside Heights at the time, so luckily, my exclamation went unnoticed. I rushed Finian’s Rainbow in November and knew that my review of the show would be heavily influenced by the fact that it was closing. I’ve been avoiding writing this ever since. But since Finian’s is three days away from its final performance, this is my last chance to support the show. So I give you…

5 Reasons To Rush Finian’s Rainbow This Weekend

The rush is $27 and box seats might be available. The situation might be different this weekend, as rushers might be getting in their last chance to see Finian’s before it closes, but when I rushed, I was at the St. James Theatre at 8:55 a.m. and was the first and only person on line until a half hour before the box office opened. It’s a student rush, with up to two tickets per ID. At my performance, I got box seats, which gave me a great view of the beautiful St. James Theatre and great, close-up views of the actors. Unfortunately, the box seats are an extreme side view, so I don’t feel I saw enough of John Lee Beatty’s set design to properly review it. Many characters’ entrances were blocked, as well.

Christopher Fitzgerald’s pants. Playing the loveable leprechaun Og who has traveled to Missitucky, USA from Ireland in search of his stolen pot o’ gold, Fitzgerald cements himself as one of Broadway’s greatest current character actors. Having played quirky and riotous characters in Wicked and Young Frankenstein before this, his performance in Finian’s is delightful. A mute performance by Fitzgerald would be equally as entertaining, because the man’s eyes and mouth work to create such animated facial expressions, he can convey almost anything and make it just as enjoyable. While he’s staying in Missitucky, away from his magical homeland, the leprechaun finds that he is growing. Costume designer Toni-Leslie James puts Fitzgerald in different sets of pants throughout the show, each new pair shorter than the last. This simple, not-fooling-anybody gimmick becomes so hysterical, and Fitzgerald wears the joke perfectly. Read more »

24
Nov

Fela!

How do you solve a problem like Fela!? If you’re crafting a musical based on the radical Nigerian musician who created the genre “Afrobeat” and used it to criticize his government, you must formulate a production that is just as outside-the-box as the man was. Director Bill T. Jones presents a Broadway-quality experience that feels unlike anything “Broadway.”

Jones paints the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in Fela’s colors. The show felt like it had already begun when I walked into the director/choreographer’s old Spring Awakening home. The band is already playing, and as I step into the building, I see that covering the walls are murals of African art, enlargements of Fela’s headline-making antics, and strands of lights stretching all the way from the back mezzanine to the boxes. The theater is unrecognizable and I felt like I wanted to get a table and eat a good meal there. For this show, arriving to the theater early allows you time to soak up the mood of Fela’s world and by the time the show begins (forgoing the parental “Unwrap your candy, turn off your cell phones” warning), your interest will be piqued.

I knew nothing about Fela Anikulapo-Kuti prior to this show, and I’m venturing to say few others did too. But being this is a bio-musical, the narrative is supposed to take care of that for you. By curtain call, I did have an understanding of Fela’s life, but I can’t say I’d pass a test on the details. I then thought theatergoers would benefit from a little trip to Wikipedia before taking their seats, but then certain plot points would be less of a surprise, such as Fela’s mother’s death (don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler. It’s made clear in the Playbill that she is dead, but the circumstances surrounding it are the real shocker).
Read more »

23
Nov

Dreamgirls

Having the national tour of Dreamgirls kick off at the Apollo Theater in Harlem is a special event. The historic theater is celebrating its 75th year, this incredibly successful show is coming off a much-lauded film adaptation, and it happens that the opening and closing scenes of Dreamgirls take place at the Apollo. So it’s a particularly commendable gesture that the Apollo is making an outreach to the community.

The theater is offering half-price tickets for specific “community performances.” To be eligible, you need to either be a Harlem resident or work in the neighborhood. Since I just happen to be a proud SpaHa resident, I sent my roommate to the Apollo to snap up some tickets before they were all gone. Sammy said there was a good line of people at the theater, and quite a bit of curiosity from passersby as to what the line was for. She was armed with an addressed envelope, to confirm our Harlem residency, and an ID to connect her with the mail. So as to keep this as close to a typical rush experience as possible, I entrusted Sammy not to purchase any tickets over $30.

I received an elated text from Sammy exclaiming, “$18.50!!!!” Ding ding ding! Ladies and gentlemen, we have our record-lowest rush price ever – $18.50! Congratulations, Dreamgirls; let’s see how long it takes for another production to beat that. (I know what you’re thinking. Bye Bye Birdie offered $10 tickets to the first preview. But those tickets were sold way in advance and… well, I didn’t get those tickets. Leave your objections in the comments.) Read more »