May 16, 2015

An American in Paris

Broadway
Palace Theatre
May 9, 2015 matinee



This past weekend, I saw a performance of An American in Paris, which was nominated for a whopping twelve Tony Awards this season. Based on the 1951 musical film starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, An American in Paris is comprised of the musical works of George and Ira Gershwin. The storyline follows an American World War II veteran named Jerry Mulligan as he falls for a young Parisian dancer, Lise Dassin. However, Lise is inconveniently betrothed to the French singer, Henri Baurel, who is conveniently questioning his sexuality as he pursues a career as a performer. Though it seems complicated from a superficial perspective, the storyline is actually quite simple- perhaps too simple. Fortunately, the production abounds with exquisite choreography that adds layer and depth to the rather unambiguous plot. 

As I was sitting in the Palace Theatre, I felt as though I had been transported to another era, not just to 1940’s Paris, but to another era of theatre. The dearth of flashy, extravagant sets and the simplicity of the orchestrations and lighting were refreshing in the setting of modern day theatre. When old musicals are revived on Broadway, very often they are incongruous with the original conception or idea: some revivals are bold and ostentatious in comparison with the original production. This production exudes an authentic energy. 

I was also taken with the effortless flow of the production, a credit to director and choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon. The best word to describe the production as a whole is: fluid. The choreography was absolutely ethereal, led by Leanne Cope (of the Royal Ballet) and Robert Fairchild (of the NYC Ballet) who were both nominated for Tony Awards this season. Although dancers by trade, both could sing and act fairly well, with the most dramatic acting emerging from their expressive dancing. 

Certainly, the choreography and direction of this musical are the predominant strengths, which undoubtedly contributed to its twelve Tony Award nominations. Because I appreciate acting and singing more than dancing, I would have enjoyed more character and plot development through dialogue and song. If you are anticipating a show with a complex storyline or an abundant score, this musical is not likely to fulfill your expectations. However, the production is quite beautiful and authentic, like traveling in a time machine to a 1950’s Broadway theatre. For the consummate Broadway theatre-goer, this show is not to be missed. An American in Paris is a unique theatre experience.  

May 7, 2015

Dr. Zhivago

Broadway
Broadway Theatre
May 2, 2015 matinee

Last weekend, I saw a performance of the new Broadway musical, Doctor Zhivago. Based on the book written by Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago was denied publication in the USSR due to its anti-socialist nature and persuasive, political insinuations of a corrupt and volatile Soviet government, but successfully gained publication in Italy in 1957. The book has also been translated into a 1965 film starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie. The musical depicts the life of Yurii Zhivago, a physician and poet living in Russia during the Russian Revolution and World War I, as he strives to fulfill his passion for poetry and his love for Lara, while eluding troubled Soviet revolutionaries.   

The storyline is a bit intricate and convoluted, so the plot must be researched prior to seeing the stage musical, much like Les Miserables. The backgrounds of the characters are presented in the opening number, but if you blink, you may miss a very important piece of the puzzle. So, please do your homework. The show will be much more enjoyable and meaningful. 

In a nutshell, Yurii Zhivago is taken in by the Gromekos after the death of his mother when he is only a young boy. The Gromekos have a young daughter named Tonia who is about the same age as Yurii and the two fall in love and marry as adults. At the wedding, an angry and unrecognized woman (Lara) storms in with a gun and attempts to shoot the ruthless lawyer, Komarovsky, who we later find out has been forcing her into a romantic relationship for some time. Lara and Yurii meet for the first time and he suspects that there is a justifiable motive for her seemingly insane actions. She disappears and later marries Pasha, but when Pasha finds out about the affair with Komarovsky, he storms off and joins the Imperial Russian Army. Yurii, who is now working in battlefield hospitals, and Lara, who is volunteering as a nurse, cross paths once again and fall in love. To avoid spoilers, I will simply say that the remainder of Doctor Zhivago chronicles their love story and their tragedy. 

Doctor Zhivago is a beautifully crafted story and a valuable lesson in world history. Although they were unrecognized by the Tony nominators, the cast of Doctor Zhivago is really quite phenomenal. Ultimately, I believe that this production received a lukewarm reception, not because of a dearth of talent, but because the content is simply too heavy for Broadway audiences. 

The mood of the production is dark and grim, even bleak at times, especially during the second act. After all, the story does take place during a war and the writers could not avoid the depiction of bloodshed on stage. Audiences want to laugh and smile when they go to the theatre and many theatre-goers prefer shows that offer something a bit lighter and easier on the brain (not a history lesson). Further, I don’t believe that most Broadway audiences appreciate the historical significance of the story and the political power and influence of the book. Lastly, I didn’t see much media coverage of this production compared with other new musicals this season. Dr. Zhivago was sorely lacking much-needed “hype”. 

In my opinion, this lukewarm reception is unfortunate because the historical context is extremely interesting and the book is quite thought-provoking if you can get past the gunshots and explosions and bloodshed. The characters in Dr. Zhivago offer a degree of depth that is not always evident in modern theatre; in this sense, the show was refreshing because it is “something different” on a Broadway stage. Yet, I’m not terribly surprised that the show will close this Sunday because I can see that it’s not for everyone. I liked it. 

Tam Mutu makes his Broadway debut as Dr. Zhivago. He was an impressive stage presence and had great chemistry with Kelli Barrett, who played his love interest, Lara. I thought that Kelli Barrett carried the show and truly embodied her character. Her singing had a mournful quality to it, ideal for this character. My favorite performance (and probably the favorite of many people) was Paul Nolan as Pasha. I cannot even fathom how he did not get a Tony nomination for his performance. His character certainly undergoes the greatest transformation of anyone, and his performance encompasses both comedic and dramatic acting. The beauty of his performance is that, despite playing an abhorrent villain, I could not hate him, which is truly a testament to his portrayal of his character’s depth. As Tonia, Lora Lee Gayer sang beautifully, shared what was probably the best scene in the entire show with Kelli Barrett, and wore the most gorgeous costumes. Tom Hewitt, as Komarovsky, was just about perfect for his complex character. A great cast. 

Because of my seat in the front row, I had limited view of the sets, so I will not comment on them. The music (Lucy Simon) was pretty good. The most memorable song was Paul Nolan’s comedic number in the first act (I believe it was called “It’s A Godsend”). Some of Kelli Barrett’s songs were also quite beautiful (and mournful), like “When the Music Played”. 


Dr. Zhivago will close on Broadway this Sunday, May 10. 

February 14, 2015

Celebrate Valentine's Day With Broadway Love Songs!

Happy Valentine's Day! With love in the air, it's the time of year to play Broadway love songs on repeat, regardless of your situation! 

No love

1.) Who Will Love Me As I Am? (Sideshow)




2.) On My Own (Les Miserables)




3.) Goodnight My Someone (The Music Man)


 

4.) There's a Fine, Fine Line (Avenue Q)





New Love

5.)  A Whole New World (Aladdin)




6.) Seven Wonders (Catch Me If You Can)


 


7.) Falling Slowly (Once)




8.) Happiness (Rocky)


 


9.) Maybe This Time (Cabaret)




Tragic Love

10.) Dyin' Ain't So Bad (Bonnie & Clyde)




11.) You Must Love Me (Evita)




Love Lost

12.) It All Fades Away (The Bridges of Madison County)




13.) With You (Ghost)




14.) Always Starting Over (If/Then)




Psychotic Love

15.) Losing My Mind (Follies)




16.) Screw Loose (Cry-baby)




Married Love

17.) Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying)




18.) Do You Love Me? (Fiddler on the Roof)






December 31, 2014

Favorite Performances of 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR to my followers!  At this time of year, I like to reflect on my theatre-going experiences of the past twelve months. In 2014, I had significantly less theatre-going experiences compared to previous years, largely due to my academic responsibilities as I slowwwwwly work toward my PhD in nursing. Fortunately, I was able to see all of the new Broadway musicals prior to the Tony Awards in June, as well as the entire Broadway Series at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC). 

Despite the reduction in my NYC theatre excursions, I would still consider 2014 to be a fruitful year in the theatre! I crossed one item off my bucket list; that is, seeing Cabaret on Broadway, something I’ve been anticipating eagerly since age fifteen! It was thrilling, especially with Mr. Alan Cumming as the Emcee! I also saw Idina Menzel perform on a Broadway stage for the first time in If/Then, which has since become one of my favorite cast recordings. I am patiently waiting for a rather long list of musicals to be revived on Broadway (aren’t we all?)- Side Show has been taken off this list as of last week, and I must say, I am in love with the story and the score. I also learned that I hate boxing but I love Rocky- at least when Andy Karl is singing the role. I saw some “oldies but goodies”, such as the ever-dependable Wicked, Camelot on tour, and Les Miserables on Broadway. And I FINALLY joined the club and saw The Book of Mormon. Yes, it’s been a good year. I cannot complain. 

In celebration of the culmination of 2014, I will list my five favorite performances of the year below. Please comment and share your own theatre-going experiences as well- I would love to hear from you!

1.) Alan Cumming, Emcee, Cabaret

I grew up listening to the 1998 revival cast recording of Cabaret starring Alan Cumming, and when I finally witnessed him in his Tony Award-winning role at Studio 54 in August, it was one of the most thrilling theatrical moments for me. No one embodies the role of Emcee like Alan Cumming. For more comments on Alan’s performance, click here



2.) Idina Menzel, Elizabeth, If/Then

I was never a Fanzel (or whatever Idina’s fans call themselves) until I saw her perform in If/Then. Finally, I understand what all the fuss is about after years of hearing shrill, off-key renditions of “Defying Gravity” at her live concerts and listening to under-whelming YouTube videos from her Wicked days. In this more well-suited role, Idina shines. Truly, the role was made for her. (So stop watching YouTube videos and check out If/Then). 



3.) Side Show (the entire production, with special attention to Erin Davie and Emily Padgett as Violet and Daisy Hilton)

I will never understand why the best shows on Broadway close early. Slotted to close on January 4, the revival of Side Show is one of the most poignant and heart-wrenching stories of 2014, with an impressive score by Henry Krieger. Erin Davie and Emily Padgett are outstanding as the Hilton sisters, twins conjoined at the hip who are objectified as a side show exhibit before moving on to vaudeville and movies.   



4.) Andy Karl, Rocky, Rocky

Remember Rocky? I felt that Rocky was under-appreciated by Broadway audiences, especially its mega-talented star, Andy Karl (although he was nominated for a Tony Award!). Rocky had a great book, a catchy score, and the show as a whole had a lot of heart. This character was an ideal role for Andy Karl to showcase his unique talent. 



5.) Alysha Umphress, Hildy, On the Town

I include Alysha Umphress as my fifth favorite performance for three reasons. First, I had no idea who she was before I saw On the Town, and now I’m a big fan. Second, she is Funny with a capital F. Lastly, her riffing is insane. I rest my case. 




Goodbye to 2014 and Hello to many more enjoyable theatre performances in 2015!  Happy New Year, everyone! 

December 14, 2014

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Broadway Lover 2014 edition

Happy Holidays to my followers! It's that time of year again- time to holiday shop for the Broadway fan in your life. What a tedious task, but have no fear- I am here to help you! I am about to provide you with an updated list of gift ideas for the Broadway lover. You may also wish to read entries from holidays past by clicking here (2013) and here (2012).

1.) Seth's Broadway Diary by Seth Rudetsky

Seth Rudetsky wears many hats in the Broadway community: music director, pianist, radio deejay, "deconstructor", and author. In his latest book, released in October, he details his personal experiences on the Great White Way in this comical compilation of stories.




2.) Movie tickets to see "Into the Woods"

The latest musical to be transformed into a movie is the Stephen Sondheim favorite, "Into the Woods", which will open on Christmas Day. Though the quality of the movie musical is often  debatable, most theatre lovers will not be able to resist checking out the latest musical-turned-movie. Watch the trailer below.



3.) Idina Menzel's "Holiday Wishes"

Capitalizing on her recent "Frozen" success and "Adele Dazeem" notoriety, Idina Menzel has released a holiday album. The album includes many holiday favorites and an original song, "December Prayer", written by Idina herself.




4.) Kristin Chenoweth's "Coming Home"

It seems that Idina is not the only Wicked alum that has released a new album. Kristin Chenoweth has also released a compilation of favorite theatre songs and other classics, recorded in her hometown of Broken Arrow, OK.



5.) Playbill pajamas

It's winter. It's cold. Every Broadway fan needs a pair of warm Playbill pajamas. Check them out here.

6.) The Untold Stories of Broadway, Volume 2, by Jennifer Ashley Tepper

The second installment of this successful series is a behind the scenes look at the Broadway community, theatre by theatre, including the Barrymore, Circle in the Square, Gershwin, Nederlander, Palace, Shubert, and Vivian Beaumont.




7.) Not My Father's Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming

A Broadway favorite, Alan Cumming is currently the Emcee in the latest revival of Cabaret at Studio 54. Released in October, his autobiographical memoir is centered on his relationship with his father.



8.) Lady Parts by Andrea Martin

Recent Tony Award winner for her role in Pippin, Andrea Martin released her memoir, "Lady Parts", in September.



9.) Peter Pan LIVE- Original Soundtrack of the NBC Television Event

To be released on Amazon.com on December 16, here is the soundtrack of the recent live broadcast of Peter Pan on NBC.




Holidays in NYC 2014

December 12, 2014

CAMELOT

December 9, 2014
Providence Performing Arts Center
National Tour

The 2014/2015 National Tour of Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot is playing at the Providence Performing Arts Center this week through December 14. Reimagined by director Michael McFadden, the production is promoted as “the story as you’ve never seen it before…” The original production opened on Broadway in 1960, starring a young Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, and Robert Goulet, and ran for 875 performances. 


Fortunately, I’m familiar with this musical because I was in a high school production of Camelot… a few years back. I can recall feeling devastated when I heard that Camelot was our spring musical and my final show, since it was my senior year of high school. After performing in Grease and The Sound of Music, I thought Camelot was a stodgy and uninteresting choice, too medieval for my liking.  I did come around once rehearsals began, but I don’t think I ever really appreciated the nuance and innuendo of the story until last night when I experienced the show for the first time as a member of the audience. 

The salient strength of the touring production is its modesty… or simplicity. There is nothing gaudy or ostentatious about this performance. Very often, musicals that are set against a backdrop of fantasy and magic are portrayed extravagantly, boasting excessive special effects and loud, brash musical numbers- but not this production. This production of Camelot is more subdued and understated, reminiscent of theatre before Wicked and Spiderman. When I say that the production is modest, I’m speaking in terms of the fairly small cast, the scenic design, the orchestrations, and even the beautiful costumes. I love Lerner and Loewe’s score as well (My personal favorite is “How to Handle A Woman”, but all the songs are pretty solid!). 

As King Arthur, Adam Grabau epitomized the strength of a king and the vulnerability of the human condition, eliciting the sympathy of the audience. His character struck me as more ordinary and less royal. Mary McNulty portrayed Guenevere as an amalgamation of flirtatiousness, “convivial joys”, devotion to Arthur, and heart-wrenching angst. She had great chemistry with both leading men. The character of Lancelot lacks development, but Tim Rogan was very good, and sang beautifully. In fact, he probably gave the best vocal performance of everyone with numbers like “C’est Moi” and “If Ever I Would Leave You”. Providing comic relief were Mark Poppleton as Merlyn and King Pellinore, and Kasidy Devlin as Mordred. 

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this musical (through older and wiser eyes). Not only is the cast talented, but the creative team’s “re-imagination” of Camelot is just what this “oldie but goodie” needed to give the show new life. More information about the production, cast, and venues can be found here. Check it out at the Providence Performing Arts Center through December 14th. 

October 31, 2014

Assassins

Bridgewater State University
Bridgewater, MA
October 25, 2014

(This blog entry was written by my friend Heather for a school assignment. I have never seen Assassins, but I found her thoughts on the show to be interesting since I love Stephen Sondheim. I hope you find her comments interesting as well. Please let us know if you've seen Assassins and what you thought! --Kristin/Broadway Blogger)

   I saw Assassins at Bridgewater State University, at the Rondileau Campus Center Auditorium.  This is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by John Weidman.  This production was directed by Colleen Rua. 
Assassins is about eight individuals who have either attempted assassination on a president, or succeeded in assassinating a president. While any attempt at assassination is a serious matter, I would say the most important assassins are the ones who succeeded- namely John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Charles Guiteau’s assassination of James Garfield, and Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of John F. Kennedy. 
I would like to begin by saying I had never seen this show, and had nothing to go on while watching it. I didn’t know the storyline, the music, or what the cast was supposed to look like in costume. After I saw the show, I did go back and research the characters, and looked up costumes and sets and other things, just for comparison reasons. 
I would like to begin with what I thought of the set.  While watching this production, I noticed there was one main set piece, which consisted of several different levels of platforms, almost like stairs, and then what I would consider the most important part of the set, a giant television screen with the American flag around it as a border.  It was simple, but effective, as the television was used for certain events, such as showing President and Mrs. Lincoln sitting in the theatre. John Wilkes Booth snuck up behind them and shot President Lincoln. By far, the creepiest thing that was shown on the screen was the Proprietor coming on the screen in black and white, announcing “The President has been shot” in about one minute intervals. It achieved its desired effect, though!  The acting was very well done, better than I expected it to be. I did notice a couple of missed lines, but nothing that was too terrible. I did, however, find that actor Zach Boulay, who played Guiseppe Zangara, needed to work a bit on his Italian accent.  I thought he was Russian at first. I enjoyed listening to their voices; I thought the singing was absolutely wonderful, and on pitch.  I also thought the dancing was done well, there were a couple of times the actors stumbled a little, but they recovered nicely and it wasn’t that noticeable.  While I thought the cast handled singing the score and danced the choreography well, I would like to also mention that I didn’t particularly like the score. I found the music to be unmemorable. It was not something I ran out of the theatre humming, or anything I would want to download through Amazon or iTunes.  The costumes chosen for the cast were fitting, they were appropriate for the decades each assassin was in. I liked that John Wilkes Booth’s outfit looked like it was from the 1800’s, and Lee Harvey Oswald looked like a young man from Texas in the 1960’s.  When I went back and researched the characters, I also noticed that Samuel Byck’s character was spot-on with the Santa suit, which the real Samuel Byck did wear in a protest.  All the principal cast looked as close to the real assassin as possible. Little details, such as Charles Guiteau’s goatee, were impeccable. The makeup that the cast wore blended well, it looked like they weren’t wearing anything, which is good as they were depicting real people and didn’t need much makeup.  The Proprietor’s makeup was eerie, with dark circles under his eyes, and paler-looking skin than the other characters, which suggested that he was almost immortal, there to be the “bad angel on the characters’ shoulders” in a way.
The theme of the show was to portray assassins, from various decades and centuries, who have tried to kill presidents. In my opinion, I don’t think I would have made a show revolving around this theme.  I don’t think it is appropriate to glorify criminals in any way. Overall, I felt the show as a whole was weak.  I was not interested in the subject matter, because I didn’t know that everyone was an actual person who had lived and tried to assassinate presidents. I don’t feel the show portrayed that well. I honestly thought the show was a focus on John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, and just created other people as filler. I had never been taught about any of the other assassins, not in school, and certainly not in the show. I feel as though the show expected you to just know who everyone was. There wasn’t really an introduction to the characters, the opening number was at a carnival and people “trying their luck to win a prize.”  If the opening number had solidified who each person was, maybe the show would have made more sense. The show as a whole seemed like random people unhappy in life, so their solution was to kill a president. I would say the most powerful moment in the show was what I would consider the “eleven o’clock number,” The Ballad of Guiteau. That was the most entertaining scene to me; I loved the dancing and the portrayal of Guiteau’s character. The actor, Michael Bradley, did a great job, and stole the show whenever he was on the stage. He kept my attention.  I actually enjoyed the opening number as well, for the energy.  It didn’t explain who the characters were, but the song and setting felt fun, like you were actually at a carnival. The weakest moment is not easy for me to choose, as I thought the whole show lacked.  I would say the absolute weakest problem with the show is the lack of continuity.  It starts with the assassination of President Lincoln, but then jumps up several decades to a more modern setting and the attempt on President Roosevelt, and keeps going back and forth like that.  I think that the show would have done better to go in sequential order, with more emphasis on who each character was. Anyone can identify John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, but everyone else was undefined. In the case of Lynette Fromme, she was identifiable because of her obsession with Charles Manson, but you had to KNOW who Charles Manson was, first of all, and a bit about his biography. 
The message of the show is to have people understand the severity of national tragedies. The assassination of a president is a major event that will leave the country in turmoil, whether you like the president or not. According to the director’s note, the show is supposed to seek an answer to the unanswerable question, “why”?  I don’t feel that it really answers any questions; it still looks to me as though, you have a problem, why not kill a president?  In the case of Guiseppe Zangara, his character is introduced to us as having a belly ache. John Wilkes Booth, who had died in a previous scene, pops back up, and is asking Zangara what he has done to make his belly feel better. Zangara cites multiple things he has done, and none of them culminate in any relief. Booth then tells him a variation of, “you know what would make you feel better? Why not kill the president?” Zangara then proceeds to go and try to do just that, unsuccessfully. Also according to the director’s note, “Assassins demands that we reevaluate and revise the American Dream.” The show wants you to see how the world would be if everyone was entitled to do what they wanted. But it’s NOT everyone. It is a select handful of people who believed they would change the world or live in infamy by killing the president. I don’t believe that most people would decide to assassinate a president. These people had formed ideals in their heads, really, 8 isolated incidents.  In this day and age, I honestly think a show about assassination is a bad idea. It is too easy to obtain a gun, and many people are easily mislead and influenced. The power of suggestion is a powerful thing. 

I see a lot of theatre productions, and I like about 98% of what I see. I see many productions without reading reviews or doing any research, so that my mind isn’t predisposed one way or another. I didn’t enjoy this show. I found myself looking at my watch a lot, so I wasn’t engaged in the story. This is probably because, to me, there wasn’t much of a story. I found it very confusing, to the point that I researched the show and characters afterward.  When I researched the show, I learned and understood each character, what they did, where they came from, and how it related to the show. It would have been helpful in this case to have researched the show before I had seen it. Additionally, I found that it was on Broadway ten years ago with a star-filled cast, and only ran under four months. This show, in my opinion, could have had a much longer life if it had been done differently, either approached as a strict comedy, or as a strict drama, instead of trying to be a historical musical with comedy interspersed. Something in the style of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson would have been much better, with a solid, historical storyline, and songs that stuck in your head long after you left the production. 

September 30, 2014

CABARET

BROADWAY
STUDIO 54
August 30, 2014 matinee



When I was fifteen years old, my great aunt took me to see a local community production of Cabaret. Immediately, I fell in love with this show, which was unlike anything I had ever seen in my fifteen years of (somewhat) sheltered life. It was edgy and scandalous, yet it offered a very poignant message. In college, I spent more time listening to the 1998 Broadway cast recording than I spent studying anatomy (priorities). By the time I discovered this gem of a musical, the revival had long since closed…. so I’ve been waiting patiently for another Broadway revival. I’m happy to report that I crossed “see Cabaret on Broadway” off my Bucket List a few weeks ago and it was entirely worth the wait! And to see the immensely talented Alan Cumming reprise his role as the Emcee was just icing on the cake. 

Upon entering Studio 54, I was transported immediately to the Kit Kat Club in 1920’s Berlin. The orchestra seats were set up in likeness of an authentic cabaret with small tables and lamps. “Even the orchestra is beautiful.” The orchestra sat on a platform above the stage, visible to the audience, musicians in full Kit Kat Club attire. Mysterious dancers quietly took the stage, alluding to the story that was about to unfold over the next three hours. The excitement and anticipation in the house was palpable as the orchestra began the opening bars of “Willkommen.” 

A Tony Award winner for his 1998 portrayal of the Emcee, Alan Cumming is still as fabulous as ever, even sixteen years later. The role fits him like a glove. Joel who? His Emcee is satirical, mischievous, and eerily foreboding of a bleak future for the Jews of Nazi Germany. His performance alone renders this production worth seeing. 

Screen star Michelle Williams portrays the seductive British cabaret singer, Sally Bowles. I respect her interpretation of the character, although her Sally was not what I was expecting. Maybe that’s a good thing. She embodied Sally as meek, timid, nervous (bordering on mousy), and vulnerable. Her singing was adequate, which was fine because Sally is not meant to be talented.  I think that I would need to see her performance again to fully grasp her interpretation of the character. I’m still not sure what I think, to be honest. Alan Cumming is certainly the more exciting performer of the two leads. 

Linda Emond and Philip Hoffman (u/s) were heartbreaking as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. Cliff is not the most intriguing character, but Bill Heck gave a dependable performance. Gayle Rankin is impeccably comical as the sly prostitute, Fraulein Kost. The ensemble was spectacular; their quiet, but conspicuous presence perpetuated the dark, foreboding undertones of the story. Like the story, each character seemed to personify a light, comedic exterior, while harboring a darker side. 

The latest Broadway revival of Cabaret is edgy, provocative, and relevant. I hope you will check it out at Studio 54. Emma Stone will take over as Sally Bowles in November. 

June 2, 2014

SNAPSHOTS OF NINE BROADWAY MUSICALS: PRE-TONY AWARDS COMMENTARY

Hello to my followers!  I apologize for the dearth of blog posts during the past few months. No, I most definitely have NOT abandoned my blog. I love my blog and I love connecting with other theatre-loving people. And I have some great news! I have seen NINE new Broadway musicals since January and I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on them below. 

In comparison with recent years, there has been a seemingly strong selection of musicals opening on Broadway this spring. Some of the productions met my expectations and others didn’t, while other shows completely exceeded my expectations! (Don’t you love it when that happens?) Below, I will attempt to provide you with a “snapshot” of each musical, including what I loved about the show, what I disliked, the stand-out actors and performances, and maybe some Tony nomination-related commentary. Please note that my snapshots are 100% biased and based solely on my honest and humble opinion. I would love to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to comment below or on Twitter and Facebook. 

**I will not be seeing the Broadway revivals of Les Miserables or Cabaret until August, so stay tuned! 



AFTER MIDNIGHT (with Fantasia Barrino)
Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Broadway
January 19, 2014 matinee

When I was in college, I wrote a paper on Duke Ellington for a Humanities class, and decided then that he was genius. The plethora of Ellington music in this musical revue is probably what attracted me to the show because typically, I tend to not gravitate toward revues. 

A few comments…. The dancing was phenomenal- some of the best choreography I’ve ever seen on Broadway or anywhere else (choreographer is Warren Carlyle for those who are interested). The cast was very energetic and succeeded in transporting the audience to the 1920’s Harlem club scene. Full disclosure: I am not a fan of Fantasia Barrino or American Idol; however, I thought she was exceptional. She truly has a unique tone to her voice that lent itself well to this genre of music. 

While the show was enjoyable, I do have one major issue with this production— the fact that it was nominated for Best Musical. Huh? The show does not have a story line. It was a revue. How can it be placed in the same category as The Bridges of Madison County (who did NOT get nominated for Best Musical)? Or Aladdin or Beautiful?  Obviously, my definition of a musical is incongruent with that of the Tony voters. In my opinion, musicals should contain three crucial elements: music, dancing, and a story. Oh well. I don’t make the rules. 



THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY
Schoenfeld Theatre, Broadway
January 25, 2014 matinee



Ahhhhh, Bridges. The musical that was supposed to win all of the awards this season, but was passed for a Best Musical nomination and soon after announced its closing date. What a shame. Many theatre fans are still grieving the loss of this show to a cutthroat business. 

There were many positive things about Bridges, which closed on May 18. In my typical fashion, I rolled my eyes when I first heard of ANOTHER movie-turned-musical, but I got over it when I heard the names Jason Robert Brown and Kelli O’Hara. The story is very simple and beautiful. Deserving of a Tony win, Jason Robert Brown’s music is dark, haunting, and richly orchestrated. I was fortunate to attend a performance that was conducted by JRB himself. 

As the female lead, Kelli O’Hara truly embodied the character of Francesca, and articulated an impeccable Italian accent. Though I’m not a big fan of her singing, her acting performance combined the perfect amount of subtlety and nuance. It’s probably time that she wins a Tony Award! 

I would like to say for the record that there is so much more to Stephen Pasquale than his good looks. His performance was soulful and his rendition of “It All Fades Away” was one of the most exhilarating moments on Broadway. In some ways, I question if his good looks impeded others’ perceptions of his acting in this show, causing Tony voters to underestimate his talent. It wouldn’t be the first time aesthetics distracted Tony voters from the essence of an actor’s talents. 

Bridges was well-done, a solid show that I may have seen again had it run longer. But that’s the business. There may be a national tour in 2015…. 



BULLETS OVER BROADWAY
St. James Theatre, Broadway
March 15, 2014 matinee



If you want to see an authentic Broadway musical boasting the talents of director/choreographer Susan Stroman and the infamous Woody Allen, look no further than Bullets. Big dance numbers. Flashy costumes. Comedy. 1920’s NYC. Murder. The audience gets a little bit of everything in this show. And it’s all a little OUTRAGEOUS, but in a good way.  

The cast is super talented and it’s difficult to pinpoint a few stand-out performances because the whole cast is just hilarious. Be prepared to encounter many unique CHARACTERS. Also, be prepared to laugh. The show is a good time spent at the theatre. I was disappointed that the show didn’t garner more Tony nominations, including Best Musical, because it’s a solid show and unlike anything else on Broadway right now.  

P.S. When is Marin Mazzie finally going to win a Tony Award because she so deserves it. 



BEAUTIFUL
Stephen Sondheim Theatre, Broadway
May 24, 2014 matinee



I was resistant to seeing Beautiful because a) I don’t know who Carole King is, b) the ticket prices are really high, c) I hate juke box musicals, and d) I didn’t think I could sit through another juke box musical. What persuaded me to get a ticket was Jessie Mueller, who plays the role of Carole King. I’m a fan of Jessie ever since I saw her in Drood last year and I ONLY hear good things about her performances. So I went to the box office and avoided paying full price for a ticket (but had to sit in the mezzanine of course). P.S. I attempted rush tickets twice but they did not offer any rush tickets on those days…. so the moral of the story is: don’t depend on rush tickets. 

Beautiful was a show that exceeded my expectations because (plain and simple) it is a juke box musical that has a fairly rich story-line, offers considerable character depth, and didn’t just rehash fifty Carole King hits (sorry Motown). Jessie Mueller was, as expected, just exquisite. Her voice. Oh my God, her voice. I can’t tell you if she sounds like Carole King, but I can tell you that her voice is unique with a little twang (for lack of a better description) and simply impeccable. Her piano skills were impressive. With her talent, she is definitely a contender for the Best Actress Tony Award. Good luck, Jessie. 

So in conclusion, Beautiful is a good juke box musical, largely due to Jessie Mueller and good writing. If you hate juke box musicals like I do, give it a chance. I’m glad I did. 



VIOLET
American Airlines Theatre, Broadway
May 24, 2014 evening



I wanted to like Violet, the story of a disfigured young woman who longs to be healed. A story of self-discovery and acceptance, Violet is headlined by Tony winner Sutton Foster. 

Well, normally I love a good story about self-discovery- who doesn’t?  Stories of self-discovery can be very cathartic for the audience. But I did not like this story. Sutton is giving a great performance every night. Her love interest, played by Joshua Henry, is also giving a phenomenal performance, but in my opinion, it is the material which is lacking. 

The Problem: The story line is too simple. Girl gets hit in face with ax. Girl grows up. Girl is affected by scar on her face and decides to take a bus to find a preacher that can heal her wound. On the way, girl hooks up with guy she met on bus, but decides she likes another guy on the bus better. Girl realizes that beauty comes from within and that she can never be physically healed. The end. I felt that there were many repetitious themes in both the music and book. I was a little bored. I didn’t feel like she was taking a journey. There was not much of an arc to the character’s story line. 

Does anyone know why this was revived? 

I wanted to like it, I swear. 



ALADDIN
Amsterdam Theatre, Broadway
May 29, 2014 evening



When I was young (and to this day), I never liked Disney movies with two exceptions: Mary Poppins and Aladdin. As a kid, I sang “A Whole New World” over and over and over and over again. On the bus ride home from school, I would make my friend Lisa sing Aladdin’s part and I would sing Jasmine’s part. So for the first time, I was actually excited when I found out that a Disney musical, Aladdin, was coming to Broadway. 

Overall, I liked the show. The best part of the musical, indisputably, was James Monroe Iglehart as the Genie. He stole the show to put it mildly. “Friend Like Me” is phenomenal and he earned every second of his standing ovation. I would be very happy for him if he won the Tony on Sunday as it would be well-deserved. 

The other part of the show that I really appreciated was “A Whole New World”. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who has not seen the show, but the special effects were just perfect. I couldn’t imagine the song being presented or staged in any other way. The entire scene was beautiful. 

My only criticism is that I thought the production (the costumes, the dance numbers) was a bit too showy… too “Broadway”? It didn’t feel like a Disney musical set in Agrabah, it felt like a showy Broadway musical. I think the production needs to be true to its roots… and its roots are Disney. 

However, I did enjoy the show overall. 



ROCKY
Winter Garden Theatre, Broadway
May 30, 2014 evening



Rocky. I rolled my eyes at this musical for months and months. Another movie-turned-musical and to make it worse, this one is about boxing, which I hate.  But when the reviews starting coming in and they were (what?) positive, I decided that I would be a bad blogger if I didn’t give it a chance. Plus, I do like Andy Karl (also from Drood). 

I loved Rocky. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen on Broadway this year. My fear was that the show would be entirely about boxing without a story line or a good score. Much to my surprise and delight, there was a story line, character development, a love story, and some great songs!  In other words, I wasn’t bored with the boxing scenes because they were intermingled with other story lines. 

As Rocky, Andy Karl was phenomenal. Part of me hopes he wins the Tony.  He’s giving a powerhouse performance, not to be missed. He is another actor that completely embodies his character (also with a great accent). He is tough, yet charming and vulnerable. 

As Adrian, I also enjoyed Margo Seibert’s singing voice, rich and haunting. 

The final fight could not have been staged any better; the ring extends out into the audience and some audience members are allowed to sit on the stage in stadium seating to witness the fight. Large screens provide live images of the fight. The atmosphere created by the staging truly makes the audience feel as though they are at a real fight. 

Rocky may be my biggest surprise of the season. I love surprises. Can’t wait to see Rocky again! (Yes, I said that!)



IF/THEN
Richard Rodgers Theatre, Broadway
May 31, 2014 matinee



What attracted me to If/Then was the simple fact that it is an original musical. They are so rare these days. If/Then is ambitious in that it attempts to depict two possible life paths of one woman side by side within a musical. Sounds confusing. Well, it is confusing, but I think the musical does succeed in its story-telling and its message. 

The premise in itself makes the musical worth checking out. Elizabeth is 39 years old, recently divorced and wanting to start over. She makes one simple, everyday decision: to go with one friend vs. another friend, and based on this decision, her life goes in two very different directions which are presented in tandem within the musical. In one life, she has a career; in the other life, she has love. However, everything works out in the end. No spoilers. 

I have not been a fan of Idina Menzel, thinking that she is a bit overrated and inconsistent to say the least. As Elizabeth, Idina is giving a phenomenal performance. My like for her as a performer is renewed. She was in GREAT voice at this performance. She did not hit a bad note. She belted effectively. Her voice filled the Richard Rodgers Theatre. She was funny and real. She may be a celebrity now (Thanks Frozen), but this was not celebrity casting- she was well-suited for this part. 

I think that people either love or hate this musical.  I near-loved it. I liked the message. If you like serendipitous stories like I do, you will like this. At the very least, the story is bold and original, something that is sorely lacking on Broadway these days. 



HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
Belasco Theatre, Broadway
May 31, 2014 evening

If you are a big Neil Patrick Harris fan, stop reading here. You may not like what I’m about to say. 

I was curious about Hedwig and his botched sex-change operation, but I was more interested in seeing Neil Patrick Harris perform (especially after his amazing opening number at the Tony Awards last year!). And NPH did not disappoint. He is a gifted performer, without a doubt. He sang well, but his strongest moments were in his monologues and improvisation. 

I liked seeing NPH perform, but I did not like this musical. Why? I didn’t care for the music and I found the story difficult to follow. However, there are many people that will love this show, so just know that this is only my humble opinion. For example, a friend who saw the show with me loved it and her sole criticism was that the story was hard to follow in comparison to the movie (which I have not seen). So take this snapshot with a grain of salt. 



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I hope that you enjoyed my snapshots of nine Broadway musicals! More importantly, I hope that they provide you with some insight when deciding which shows you would like to see in the future! And most importantly, I hope everyone enjoys the Tony Awards this Sunday!