January 14, 2014

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Broadway
Walter Kerr Theatre
December 22, 2013

Hi everyone. For this blog entry, I’ve decided to use a slightly different format. I thought it might be nice to provide my followers/readers with some different perspectives for a change. I saw this show with my mother, and my friend Heather saw the show the week before I did. I prepared a short list of questions about the show and asked both of them to share their answers with my blog followers. I hope you enjoy the responses, and I also hope that they encourage you to check out this musical! 

Quick synopsis: The setting is London, England. The year is 1909. Monty Navarro (Bryce Pinkham) learns that he is the ninth D’Ysquith in line to inherit the Earldom of Highhurst, and conveniently decides to eliminate the eight heirs (all played by Jefferson Mays) ahead of him. Hilarity ensues.

1.) Who had the best death?

Heather: I'd say the priest (Reverend Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith) because his "death pose" was funny, and the aunt (Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith) because it took three times to kill her. 

Mom: The best death goes to the priest.  What a way to die!  It was hysterical.

Me: Not to be redundant, but THE PRIEST had the most hilarious and dramatic death of all the heirs. A horrific way to die, yet it was acted out with comedic perfection by Jefferson Mays! 

2.) Which heir would you like to have lunch with?

Heather: The gay cousin!! (Henry D’Ysquith) He'd definitely be the most fun to have lunch with!! (But his bees aren't allowed!)

Mom: The rich guy with the fur coat who fell through the ice! 

Me: Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith, so I could help him to understand the poor!

3.) Who gave the best performance and why?

Heather: I loved Bryce Pinkhams's performance because he plays a wonderful antagonist, but Jefferson Mays takes the cake...eight different roles...that's a major challenge, and he did every role fantastically. 

Mom: The best performance was the guy who had the eight parts (Jefferson Mays).  He was great in the way he portrayed all of them.  He was my favorite performer. 

Me: All of the performances were great. Of course, Jefferson Mays was incredible in his portrayal of so many characters! I loved watching him move from character to character with ease. However, I love love love Bryce Pinkham (Monty Navarro). He was my favorite- he plays the sketchy, creepy murderer SO WELL (thinking back to Ghost as well). We were fortunate to be sitting just a few rows from the stage and we could see his facial expressions very clearly, and some of his expressions were just hilarious. He is very capable of embodying that creepy persona! 

4.) Who will get nominated for a Tony Award and why? 

Heather: Jefferson Mays, hands down. Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Musical. It takes talent to play eight roles, and his talent is above and beyond.

Mom: I would say the two leads should get nominated (Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham).  They both did a fantastic job making the show hilarious and fun to watch.

Me: Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham should both be nominated, but a lot will depend on the other shows that will be opening this spring. There might be a lot of competition this year. I also wouldn’t mind if Jane Carr (Miss Shingle) or Lauren Worsham (Phoebe D’Ysquith) were nominated. 

5.) Would you recommend this show, and if so, to whom would you recommend it?

Heather: Yes, I would recommend this!! I'd recommend it to anyone looking to laugh, this show is clever and original. I actually begged a friend to take a chance and see it with me, with her fully knowing I'd never seen it, just based on reviews. She wasn't disappointed, and neither was I!! Incidentally, I'd also recommended it to strangers on the street, and sold them on it too! So I would say that this would be ideal for just about any adult with a good sense of humor! 

Mom: I would definitely recommend it, as I did Kinky Boots, to all my friends.  I went to see both shows without knowing anything about them and truly enjoyed both.  This one was a comedy that makes you laugh and you come out of the theater feeling good.  It was very entertaining.

Me: Yes, absolutely. This is probably my favorite Broadway show (so far) of the 2013-2014 season and is currently the show that I’m recommending to everyone. I agree that this show would be enjoyed by anyone who wants to laugh and see some super-talented Broadway actors give stellar performances! 


January 12, 2014

WICKED

1st National Tour
Boston Opera House 8-17-13 (matinee)
Providence Performing Arts Center 12-29-13 (matinee), 1-4-14 (matinee), 1-7-14



Today, the First National Tour of Wicked will once again vacate the Providence Performing Arts Center, moving on to another American city. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in October, Wicked has become a familiar old friend to many theatre-goers who have seen the show multiple times... some in the double digits.... some reaching the TRIPLE digits (now that’s dedication). I, myself, just hit #14-- one Broadway performance and 13 National Tour performances in Boston, Providence, Philadelphia, and Hartford. For a while, Wicked followed me around the United States as I moved from New England to Philadelphia and then back to New England, and so it’s been quite easy to catch a performance at least once or twice per year. As I said, Wicked is like an old familiar friend, one that offers a simple but beautiful message, while simultaneously blowing the audience away with its electrifying score and breathtaking special effects. Wicked is, indeed, something special. 

If you follow my blog, you are very likely to have seen Wicked at some point, and so I doubt that a long synopsis is warranted. Suffice it to say, Wicked is described as “the untold story of the witches of Oz. Long before Dorothy drops in, two other girls meet in the land of Oz. One, born with emerald-green skin, is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. Wicked tells the story of their remarkable odyssey, how these two unlikely friends grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good” (retrieved from http://www.wickedthemusical.com/the-show). I would add that its Ozian origins may attract an audience, but Wicked is truly its own story, and a much, MUCH better story than The Wizard of Oz

The purpose of this blog is not to review Wicked. I really don’t need to do that. Wicked has not only established its place in modern day musical theatre, but has also raised the bar for other new musicals during the last ten years, and that speaks louder than anything I could write. Instead, I would like to share some of the things I enjoyed about this particular cast. 

GINA BECK AS G(A)LINDA
Gina Beck comes from the West End production on Wicked, where she played Galinda for two years. We should all welcome her to the U.S. because she was a fantastic Galinda! 

1.) I love her accent. Obviously, she is from the U.K., but she spoke with an American accent that suggested the slightest hint of British. The accent was perfect for Galinda- it made the character seem less childish and truly from the “Upper Uplands.”  

2.) I’ve seen many actresses emphasize the childish, egotistical side of Galinda, and sure, watching her act like an airhead or a dumb blonde is perfectly funny, but sometimes I miss the depth. Of all the Galindas I’ve seen, Gina was the most balanced.  By balanced, I mean that she was the perfect amount of childishness, self-absorption, and ignorance, which was perfectly balanced with insight, sincerity, and kindness. She didn’t overplay the ditziness (thank goodness). It never seemed that she was trying too hard to give an over-the-top performance; rather, she embodied the character naturally. She was also one of the strongest Galindas vocally that I’ve heard to date. 

ALISON LUFF AS ELPHABA
This was my first time seeing Alison Luff perform, and she has certainly joined the ranks of the preceding Elphabas that I’ve been fortunate to see. Her Elphaba was young, vulnerable, and sweet. 

1.) What really stood out about her performance were her scenes with Galinda. The chemistry between the two witches just seemed more apparent with these two actresses. I enjoyed “For Good” more than I typically do. Actually, I felt like I was hearing the song for the first time (again). 

LAUREL HARRIS AS ELPHABA (standby)




Oh no, that dreaded piece of paper just fell out of your playbill!  Have no fear. Laurel Harris will not disappoint you, not even one bit. Between Boston and Providence, I saw Laurel twice as Elphaba and Alison twice as Elphaba. Both were fantastic. So have no fear. 

1.) I think Laurel is one of those Elphabas who makes it look really easy. Being on stage for three hours, singing songs like “The Wizard and I”, “Defying Gravity”, and “No Good Deed” surely cannot be easy, yet everything about her performance was done with ease. 

2.) Great belter. I wish I’d seen her as Eva Peron on Broadway. 

JOHN DAVIDSON AS THE WIZARD

1.) Best Wizard I’ve ever seen, hands down. Confession: I usually view the Wizard as a character that exists solely to propel the plot forward, not as a comedic role. I don’t know exactly what made this Wizard different from the others. His comedic timing? His mannerisms?  I have no idea. But, he was SO FUNNY. I loved his scenes. And for the first time, I actually felt sorry for the Wizard when (SPOILER) he finds out that Elphaba was his daughter. 

ALISON FRASER AS MADAME MORRIBLE

1.) Again, she is another cast member that seemed to breathe some new life into a character that’s been portrayed by many before her. She portrayed Morrible as younger and a bit more quirky and eccentric yet kind of endearing?  She may be a villain, but I didn't hate her this time! 


So there you have it! Thanks for reading! Oz speed. 

January 1, 2014

"My Favorite Things" About The Sound of Music LIVE


The Sound of Music is probably my all-time favorite musical, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to hear about plans for a live TV broadcast this December.  A few weeks have passed since the live performance aired on NBC and there has been a lot of "buzz" (for lack of a better word) about the quality of the production and some of the individual performances. I think this "buzz" has died down a bit, and so this might be a better time to cautiously assert my own opinion regarding the live performance. One of my favorite aspects of live theatre is the ability to see the same story replayed and re-imagined by different actors and actresses, sometimes within the same production (as with an understudy or replacement actor) or in a brand new production, years or generations after the story's inception (as with The Sound of Music Live or any revival). In either situation, I love the variety that live theatre provides. A particular story is never precisely the same from one performance to the next. Some people embrace variety and other people don't. Non-theatre-goers often criticize me for seeing a particular play or musical multiple times. "Why would you want to see Wicked eleven times? Or Memphis and Next to Normal five times?" Why indeed. Because a show is never exactly the same. The story-telling, the energy, the meaning are always a bit different. And I love this.

But I digress. Overall, I felt positively about NBC's production of The Sound of Music. I thought that some very wise casting choices were made, specifically, Christian Borle, Laura Benanti, Audra McDonald, Christiane Noll, and all of the children. And as I stated above, I really enjoyed watching a new interpretation of the musical and its beloved characters. In the spirit of keeping the commentary positive, I've listed some of "my favorite things" (yup, I said it) about The Sound of Music Live below.

1.) Carrie Underwood's singing

She may not be an acclaimed actress, but I enjoyed hearing a unique interpretation of the familiar score. No one can argue that Carrie Underwood is not a talented singer. The style of her singing is vastly different from Julie Andrews, and I enjoyed a more modern and perhaps younger approach to the role in general. With some hard work and acting lessons, she could be a future musical theatre performer. Let's root for her to improve and shine!

2.) The Goatherd song

My true confession. I love the goatherd song. Of all of Maria's songs, I thought this one was performed and staged the best. Who knew Carrie Underwood could yodel?

3.) Broadway actors

I love that NBC cast some real theatre actors in this Broadway musical. In my opinion, it was the talented group of Broadway actors that really shone in this production. Laura Benanti was absolutely fantastic as Elsa; in fact, this was the first version of The Sound of Music in which I didn't hate Elsa because Benanti seemed to tap into her human side. Audra McDonald as the Mother Abbess was perfection.

4.) The Attention

It's not every day that a major TV network airs a live musical. Musical theatre is rarely awarded any attention on network television, with the exception of the annual Tony Awards. Further, not every American is fortunate to live near New York City or another major city where the National Tours of Broadway shows perform. For some Americans, especially children, NBC's production of The Sound of Music may be their first exposure to musical theatre. It essentially allows access to musical theatre for millions of Americans who would otherwise be unexposed. I hope that my fellow theatre-goers understand the value of this. The fact that NBC is planning on airing other live musicals in the future is critical in supporting the arts in this country. And hopefully, the day will come when major television networks don't need to cast celebrities to improve ratings. (I'm not sure if this is realistic, but one can dream…)


Favorite Performances of 2013

Happy New Year, everyone! Today, I'm taking some time to reflect on my favorite theatre experiences of 2013. I was fortunate to see many entertaining productions on Broadway, tour, and off-Broadway. I've listed a few of my favorites below. Be sure to comment and share your own favorites. Here's to a great year of theatre in 2014! 

1.) Murder Ballad played off-Broadway at the Union Square Theatre this past summer. This production was very unique and intimate, unlike most of the big Broadway and National touring productions that I see on a regular basis. The music was raw and haunting, as were the individual performances. And I always love a twist at the end. 

2.) The Tony Award winning production of Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was one of the most comedic, yet poignant plays I have seen to date. Kristine Nielsen (Sonia) and David Hyde Pierce (Vanya) were especially hilarious, and I so wanted Kristine to win the Tony Award. With talent of that caliber, her day will come. 

3.) I saw Diane Paulus' production of Pippin at the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.) in Boston in January of 2013 and knew instantly that it was something very special. During the past year, the show has transferred to Broadway, garnered multiple Tony Awards, and is enjoying a successful run at the Music Box Theatre. Once again, Diane Paulus has demonstrated her remarkable talent. 

4.) Kinky Boots, the Tony Award winner for Best Musical in 2013, is still going strong. Who would have thought that a musical about women's boots for men would be a box office success?  I definitely attribute part of its success to Cyndi Lauper's score and the individual performances of some of the actors, especially Tony Award winner Billy Porter, Stark Sands, and Annaleigh Ashford. The message of acceptance is also one that the world needs to hear from time to time. P.S. Kudos to Macy's for supporting this timely show. 

5.) The Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) has offered an unusually solid season so far. This fall, the touring companies of Evita, Once, Ghost, Phantom of the Opera, and Wicked have performed at PPAC. All of these shows are favorites of mine. And there's more to come- The Book of Mormon will be playing at PPAC this spring. 

6.) A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder is the most recent addition to the long list of musicals I have seen. (I will be posting a blog soon!) I appreciated the skilled acting, clever comedy, and originality of the piece and would recommend this show to any theatre-goer. Hopefully, this musical will enjoy a solid Broadway run. 

7.) Does anyone remember Hands on a Hardbody? This show had a lot of heart, but that wasn't enough to sustain a long run on Broadway.  I'm so glad I had the opportunity to see it. 

December 28, 2013

GETTING STUCK

The other night, I was texting with my friend and fellow theatre-goer, Heather, when we came to a very important realization. We realized that our old and comfortable Broadway cast albums sometimes unintentionally deter us from discovering new Broadway show tunes! Frequently, we become “stuck” on a few select cast albums or songs, which we promptly play on repeat for days and weeks (maybe months?) at a time. Why? Because (for whatever reason) these endorphin-producing songs leave us with abounding feelings of happiness and inspiration. Who wouldn’t want to reproduce those feelings... over and over and over again?  Who needs the new stuff? (just kidding)

Anyway, this led to a fabulous conversation about our top five (or maybe ten) cast albums or songs that cause us to get “stuck” in the “old stuff” (in a good way!). I thought some of my followers might enjoy reading our lists, which contain some random and unexpected choices (as well as some obvious choices). ENJOY and please share your own favorites below! :) 

Name: Kris
Occupation(s): nurse practitioner and Standing Ovations Blogger
Favorite shows: The Sound of Music, Wicked, Evita, Cabaret, Memphis, Fiddler on the Roof, Next to Normal, A Little Night Music (in no particular order)

1.) Carrie the musical (Off-Broadway, 2011)

MY GUILTY PLEASURE. Yes, I admit it- I love this cast recording. My favorite “on repeat” song is “The Destruction.” It’s fierce. 



2.) “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad” from Bonnie and Clyde

Give me a break, I’m a nurse. I’m comfortable with death, and I absolutely believe in these lyrics. Dyin’ ain’t so bad/ not if you both go together/ only when one’s left behind does it get sad/ but a short and lovin’ life/ that ain’t so bad. And Laura Osnes is one of my favorites! 



3.) “Fly, Fly, Away” from Catch Me If You Can

All I can say is that this song causes my brain to release massive numbers of endorphins. Maybe it’s Kerry Butler’s insane belting at the end.  I also like to listen to this song on repeat when I fly in an airplane. It just feels appropriate. 





4.) Evita (Broadway revival, 2012)

Andrew Lloyd Webber may be a jerk (according to Ms. Patti LuPone), but he is a genius. In my opinion, this is his best score (yes- better than Phantom of the Opera). I love almost every song on this cast recording, and because there is no dialogue in the show, the listener can hear the story from start to finish without any major gaps. And while Elena Roger may not be the strongest singer, I really like her accent and phrasing as Eva Peron. 

5.) “Air” from Hair

This song is the most frequently played song in my iTunes library, probably because it’s only a minute and a half long. I’m not suggesting that pollution shouldn’t be taken seriously, but this song is just so much fun. I love clever, quirky lyrics. Vapor and fume at the stone of my tomb/ breathing like a sullen perfume/ eating at the stone of my tomb/ I’m looking rather attractive/ now that I’m radioactive. I'm not making this stuff up. 



6.) “Defying Gravity” from Wicked

Wow, this is a really obscure choice. But allow me to clarify. I don’t like the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Wicked. I wore it out when I was in grad school and now I rarely listen to it. Kristin and Idina’s rendition of “Defying Gravity” is so firmly ingrained in my memory that I really don’t ever need to hear that version again. 

Instead, I listen to bootlegs on YouTube. This is my go-to exercise song. I can’t explain it, but I burn more calories when I exercise to this song. My arteries thank you, Stephen Schwartz. 



7.) Ghost

Another guilty pleasure. I actually think this cast album and the show in general were underrated. Or maybe I just like songs about death? I love cast albums that I can listen to from start to finish without skipping the less appealing tracks, and this is one of those albums for me. It's solid. 



8.) “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” from My Fair Lady

I have never seen My Fair Lady, but I love Julie Andrews and I think this song is so much fun. 



9.) Grease, specifically "Freddy, My Love" and "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee"

Grease is fun. It was the musical that got me interested in theatre when I was 14 years old. Is it terribly profound?  Not at all. I wore out the 1995 Broadway cast recording when I was in middle school. (Megan Mullally was Marty and Billy Porter was the Teen Angel). In high school, I even wrote my own satirized version of "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" about my soccer coach, who was a miserable human being. I still remember some of the lyrics

"Look at me, I'm Miss Leary, (FYI name has been changed)
lousy with malignity. 
Won't beat O-R till I go to the bar,
I can't, I'm Miss Leary.

Watch it, hey- I'm Mia Hamm. 
Move or I'll give you a slam." (That's all I remember)

And that's why I'm not a songwriter. I've also matured quite a bit since I was 14. 




**********************************************************************************************************************************

Name: Heather
Occupation: nursing student
Favorite shows: Hair, Rent, Next to Normal, In the Heights, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, The Book of Mormon, Wicked, Promises Promises, Rock of Ages, Memphis (in exactly that order)

1.) Ok, Rent is my quintessential show. It's the first show that I "branched out" on, meaning it was the first one I ventured away from the "classics" for. I listened to RENT exclusively for a year and a half when I first got the cast recording. Today, the songs are just as fresh as they were 16 years ago. The music has something for everyone, and it can pick me up from any mood. I have a song for every occasion, I can quote it at any time, and the slightest thing can trigger a memory or a song.

2.) Wicked...so many songs are applicable to my life now..."For Good" is how I feel about people I meet, or people I'm no longer friends with as every encounter is a learning experience. "Defying Gravity" makes me feel empowered and strong. "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" is how I feel when I do things for people that goes unappreciated. "I'm Not That Girl" seems to relate to every guy who sparks my interest. I feel Wicked is very "now," extremely applicable to not only me but everyone. I think almost everyone has felt these emotions. Wicked can be pulled out for any occasion. I get stuck on Wicked when I need a confidence booster, or when I'm sad, or feeling under-appreciated.

3.) Next to Normal I love. And what's NOT to love?? Such a heavy topic broached with rock music and explained in such a way that you can feel all the emotions a person going through a manic depressive episode could go through. "You Don't Know" helps me with frustration, "Light" let's you know it will all be okay, "Didn’t I See This Movie?" reveals how people react when something traumatic could be happening, "Everything Else" I use when I dream of escaping reality, "Superboy and the Invisible Girl" I play when I feel my brother has been the only one of us that matters to my mom, "I'm Alive" is a song I use when I need a jump start in the morning, it wakes me up and gets me going. "Why Stay/A Promise" reminds me of the kind of man I deserve, and "Maybe" reminds me that “I don't need a life that's normal... but something next to normal would be okay.” I can't get enough of this album. 





4.) In The Heights...first, anything by the marvelous Lin Manuel Miranda is automatically deemed fantastic by me!! I love his rhymes, they are clever and flow well. His beats are catchy too!  I listen to “Breathe” when I need to calm down when I'm overwhelmed, "96000" when I need to dream. "Paciencia y Fe-” what a powerful song of overcoming odds and dealing with situations while always maintaining patience and faith. I use this when I feel I need guidance. "Sunrise" is such a tender song, good for newly being in love. "Alabanza" and "Everything I Know" are interchangeable to me. When I'm extremely sad I play these. "Everything I Know" is special to me, as I rewrote the lyrics to fit my family in September of 2008 when my grandfather passed. I was lucky enough to be able to tell Mr. Miranda how his song touched my life, which was so important for me to do. This show and its songs touch your heart strings in so many ways.




5.) Shrek. Such an odd choice one may think. Yes, it has fun songs-I get stuck on "The Ballad of Farquaad" because I love love love the references to fairy tales- same with "I Know It's Today." "Make A Move" is one I love to play for a potential boyfriend interest to hopefully get something to sink in. Same with "When Words Fail," as I tend to communicate heavily through music more than anything. "Build A Wall" is essentially me. I love to keep myself "safe" by hiding behind emotions."Freak Flag" is the ultimate ‘accept everyone for who they are’ song. And "This Is Our Story" basically shows acceptance of yourself. Surprisingly great songs for a musical that is for kids, and fun!

6.) Billy Elliot. For those who know me, they may be surprised to see this on the list, as I refused to see it for the longest time. Then it closed and went on tour. Much to my dismay, I started seeing Billy Elliot tour ads on my TV. The music became catchy and I bought the cast album. I should have known that Sir Elton John wouldn't let me down! "The electricity sparks inside of me..." And that's what this show was. Electric. I finally got to see it live on tour, and I was blown away, but sad I hadn't seen it before. Anyway, I'm constantly listening to the whole album! "Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher" just cracks me up every time I hear it. "Solidarity" is simply amazing. I love how they band together for their beliefs and cause. "Angry Dance" is great to feel emotion and great for when you don't quite know how to express yourself. Speaking of "Expressing Yourself," that song has to be my absolute favorite. Another empowering song, it tells you to be who you are, and not be afraid to show it. "Deep Into The Ground" is so soulful to me, like a wistful memory. It is surprising that I like it, as I'm not a ballad person, but this a beautiful piece. I've learned a lot about myself from Billy Elliot.

7.) Godspell. Another one that may surprise people who know me, as I'm not exceedingly religious. But one of my favorite songs comes from Godspell- "By My Side." Another ballad. Beautiful. It really makes me think. The song is about Jesus being by your side, but it can also relate to people you know in real life. Who really is "by my side?" "Turn Back O Man"- a sassy piece with innuendo that I could see myself performing. "On The Willows" is beautifully haunting. It gets stuck in my head constantly. "All For The Best" I saw as a wonderful tongue twister challenge that I mastered. Most Godspell songs are feel-good, and make me feel good!



8.) Murder Ballad. It's funny that a show I never actually saw made the list. But I love the music! "I Love NY" is a great rock song that makes me happy because I Love NY. "Troubled Mind/Promises" describes how I feel about trusting in relationships. "Coffees On" is always stuck in my head. The music is catchy, and for about 4 months was all I would listen to. I like how the music is mostly softer, as it helps to de-stress.



9.) Bring It On. Another great one by Lin Manuel Miranda. I get hooked on "I Got You," which emphasizes the importance of valuing your friendships over material things. Always a good life lesson to keep remembering. "It's All Happening" is about putting your dream or goal together to achieve it, a great philosophy which reminds me of how you much effort you need to get things in life. "It Ain't No Thing" reminds me to "love who you are and the world will adore you, and the couple that don't- well they can ignore you." Definitely helps boost my self esteem. A great feel-good musical.






10.) Hair. My #1. What can I say? It mellows me out and calms me down-without the use of drugs. The music is almost ethereal, ahead of it's time in my opinion. It's beautiful yet strong and peaceful and the whole cast album speaks to me. Hair is an unwind soundtrack for me.

December 18, 2013

(Last Minute) Holiday Gift Ideas for the Broadway Lover (Updated 2013)

Happy Holidays to all of my followers!  It's been a while since I've blogged, but I'm back- just in time for the holidays! Shopping for the die-hard Broadway fan is about to get a whole lot easier. Just keep reading below as I suggest lots of unique gift ideas that theatre fans will be sure to love! If you would like to read my (longer list of) suggestions from last year (2012), click here.

1.) The Wicked 10th Anniversary World Souvenir Program

For the die-hard Wicked fan, there is never enough Wicked memorabilia to be collected. Here is a brand new souvenir program in celebration of the hit musical's 10th anniversary. Congratulotions, Wicked! Click here to check it out! 

2.) The Sound of Music Live

Despite the recent Internet controversy resulting from NBC's airing of The Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood as Maria, any true theatre fan will appreciate the value of a major television network devoting a three-hour time slot to live theatre. The cast recording or DVD of the live event would make a lovely holiday gift for many Sound of Music fans. 

                 

3.)  Staged by Ruby Preston

Last year, I recommended Ruby Preston's Broadway mystery novel, Showbiz. Staged is the highly anticipated sequel to Showbiz, which continues the story of Scarlett Savoy. Wouldn't you like to know what happens next?





4.) Broadway Tails by Bill Berloni

Animals are some of Broadway's most beloved "actors." Recent Broadway revivals of "Annie" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" have boasted the talents of cats and dogs. Broadway Tails is the story of Bill Berloni, Broadway's go-to animal trainer. This book is a great read for any Broadway fan or animal lover.



5.) Carols for a Cure

Shop for a great cause! Carols for Cure is a compilation of holiday tunes sung by the casts of your favorite Broadway musicals to support BC/EFA. I look forward to this CD every year-- therefore, it will always have a place on my list of holiday gift recommendations!

6.) Movie tickets to Saving Mr. Banks

Mary Poppins may have ended its Broadway run, but the practically perfect nanny lives on in this new movie about the making of the beloved movie (starring Broadway's Tom Hanks). Check out the movie's trailer below.




7.) Felicia Ricci's Belt Your Face Off

This former Elphaba Standby and author of the hilarious book, Unnaturally Green, has created her own online belting course (click here for a description). Since many theatre fans are also aspiring singers, what better gift than the gift of music? If you are unconvinced, check out Broadway Spotted's review of the Felicia's course.




8.) Tickets to see the U.S. Tour of The Phantom of the Opera

I saw the newly staged version of this long-running hit musical a few weeks ago at the Providence Performing Arts Center (blog to come soon…). Seeing the show for the third time reminded me of how truly awesome it is. The familiar musical phrases, the massive orchestra, the eerie chandelier dangling from the ceiling, the special effects. This is the musical production that I am recommending this holiday season!  



9.) Sheet music!

For the musically-inclined theatre lover, sheet music makes a great gift!  This year, I'm recommending the sheet music from Kinky Boots, which won Cyndi Lauper her first Tony Award for Best Score. 


10.) A subscription to Playbill magazine

The gift that keeps on giving all year 'round.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE!  

June 30, 2013

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

BROADWAY
JOHN GOLDEN THEATRE
MAY 3, 2013

SYNOPSIS: Siblings Vanya and Sonia have sacrificed their own happiness to care for their elderly parents at the family’s farmhouse in Pennsylvania, while their self-absorbed sister, Masha, has enjoyed success traveling the world as an actress. One morning, their soothsaying housekeeper, Cassandra, warns Vanya and Sonia of an impending terrible event, and before long, Masha has returned home with her 29 year old boy toy named Spike. Hilarity ensues at this “family reunion”. 

COMMENTS: Since I saw Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the play has won the Tony Award for Best Play, and I couldn’t be happier! This show had me laughing out loud for the majority of the evening- in fact, I haven’t laughed this hard at a show in a long time. This is attributable to Christopher Durang’s clever writing and the stellar acting of all six actors. 

Kristine Nielsen as Sonia stole the show with a performance that was hilarious, neurotic, and heartbreaking. She was the definition of perfection, and I so wanted her to win the Tony Award. She brought so many different layers to this character and had the audience rooting for her (despite her neuroses).  Her Maggie Smith impression was spot-on and her chemistry with David Hyde Pierce and Sigourney Weaver was perfect.  Her performance alone makes this play worth seeing. 

This was my first time seeing David Hyde Pierce on stage and he did not disappoint as Vanya, the dry and quietly sarcastic brother of Sonia and Masha. Often acting as the mediator between his two sisters and as a “voice of reason”, DHP garnered many laughs with his facial expressions alone. And no one wears a Dwarf costume better than him! His passionate and cathartic monologue was hilarious... and true! 

Sigourney Weaver was impeccable as Masha, the glamorous, self-absorbed movie star. She played a selfish and insecure actress very well. Her scenes with Billy Magnussen, who played her boy toy Spike, were hilarious. Billy Magnussen was also well-cast as Spike and he had the abs to prove it. Liesel Allen Yeager (love her name) was great as aspiring actress, Nina. Shalita Grant gave the second most hilarious performance (after Kristine Nielsen) as Cassandra, the soothsaying housekeeper. Her presence on stage always guaranteed many laughs. She was completely over the top and I loved it. 

I was also impressed by the detail of the sets. From the audience, I actually felt like I was looking at a real farmhouse, complete with grass, trees, a screened-in porch, wicker furniture, a ceiling fan, and stairs leading to the second floor. Pictures of a younger Masha adorned the walls and old board games like Monopoly and Scrabble were hidden under the table. I was actually glad that I arrived at the theatre early, just so I could take in the amazing set before the show started. 

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is the best play I have seen in a long time and I HIGHLY recommend that you check it out at the Golden Theatre on Broadway! And good news- it has been extended through August 25, 2013! 


June 29, 2013

KINKY BOOTS

AL HIRSCHFELD THEATRE
BROADWAY 
MAY 4, 2013

SYNOPSIS: The most recent Tony Award winner for Best New Musical is currently playing to sold out audiences at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Based on the 2005 movie, Kinky Boots follows a young man named Charlie, who moves away from his father’s Northampton shoe factory to the bustling city of London in order to pursue a career in marketing with his fiance, Nicola. When his father dies unexpectedly, Charlie is forced to return to his home and he must decide what to do with his father’s failing shoe factory. Enter Lola, a sassy but classy drag queen, who inspires Charlie to start a new and innovative line of men’s footwear for drag queens, AKA kinky boots, and together, they work to save his father’s factory and the jobs of its workers. 

COMMENTS: I love it when a new show comes to Broadway and initially, there’s not much buzz about it. Then (seemingly overnight), the rush lines are a block long, performances are sold out, there are no ticket discounts, and the show becomes the Broadway musical to see. 

This seems to be the case for Kinky Boots, a new musical directed by Jerry Mitchell, with a book by Harvey Fierstein, and music by Cyndi Lauper. Big names in the world of theatre. One might expect some hype, but instead, all the hype surrounded the Olivier award winning musical, Matilda. For months and months, all I heard about was Matilda, who was sure to win the Tony Award for Best New Musical. What’s a kinky boot? 

Luckily, the world soon found out what a kinky boot is. Now the winner of six Tony Awards (with 13 nominations) including Best New Musical, this production is doing quite well over at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre and I suspect it will be running for a long time. 

I think the success of Kinky Boots is largely attributed to the fact that most everyone loves a story about equality and acceptance and can appreciate its heartwarming message. The story is injected with humor and great musical numbers so that it avoids becoming too predictable or bland. Speaking of the music, the score (composed by Tony winner Cyndi Lauper- the first female to win Best Score solo) is very strong. I have since purchased the cast recording, and it’s one of those CDs that I can listen to without skipping any songs. 

After being away from Broadway for many years, Billy Porter has finally found his perfect role. As drag queen Lola, Billy Porter is wise, vulnerable, sassy, and fierce. He truly steals the show. I think the group of actors who were Tony nominated for Best Lead Actor in a musical gave some of the strongest performances of the season and I myself was having difficulty deciding who to root for. When all is said and done, Billy deserved to win. 

Not that fellow nominee Stark Sands wasn’t great in his role as Charlie. Billy Porter may have stolen the show, but Stark Sands was the glue that held the show together. He had great chemistry with the other actors on stage, especially Lauren, played by Tony award nominee Annaleigh Ashford. Annaleigh, as usual, nailed the comedic timing. She is truly one of Broadway’s “funny ladies”. I also loved the factory workers, who gave the impression of being one great big family on stage. 

I highly recommend Kinky Boots on Broadway. There’s something for everyone in this new musical. Check it out at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre!