June 8, 2015

Best Tony Moments 2015


1.) Sydney Lucas, Ring of Keys

The little girl is amazing. She obviously possesses an understanding of humanity that exceeds her years. Her performance was raw… profound… moving…

I also loved the camera shots with Beth Malone (Alison) sitting behind Sydney (small Alison) and the final shot of Michael Cerveris (Bruce, father). Very nicely done. 

2.) Kelly O’Hara dancing off the stage

It’s all over Twitter. I suppose I would be dancing too, if it took me six Tony nominations to finally win a Tony. She waited a long time to make that exit. 

3.) Alan Cumming’s shorts. 

A bold, yet effective fashion choice. 

4.) Banter between Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming. 

I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a big opening number, such as the enthralling 2013 opening number performed by Neil Patrick Harris, but I did enjoy the comical exchanges between the two co-hosts and I definitely appreciated their comedic approach to hosting. They had great chemistry and were fun to watch, like a flashback to when they played Rooster and Lily in the 1999 Annie movie. 

5.) Lisa Howard’s performance (from It Shoulda Been You with Tyne Daly)

Having seen her live, I knew she would knock this out of the park. She was fierce, and yes, she sang “like a big black woman”. If anything or anyone can help this show sell more tickets, it’s this performance. I hope Tony viewers feel the same as I do because I want this show to be around for a long time! 

6.) Fun Home Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori win for Best Book and Best Score. 

In all of Broadway history, Fun Home is the first musical with an all-female writing team to win Best Book and Best Score categories. In other words, we witnessed Fun Home making history tonight! 


7.) Chita Rivera performing Kander & Ebb’s final musical at the young age of 82 years. 

An inspirational sight to see. 

What were your favorite Tony moments???? 




June 4, 2015

THE VISIT

Broadway
Lyceum Theatre
May 23, 2015 matinee

5 Reasons To See The Visit on Broadway

The Visit is an intriguing notion of a musical, a story centered on themes of avarice and vengeance. Claire Zachanassian, played by the legendary Chita Rivera, is merely a teenager when she falls in love with Anton Schell and becomes pregnant. Following Anton’s public denial of her, she is forced to leave their small town of Brachen, Switzerland. However, Claire accumulates a substantial fortune when she is repeatedly widowed through the years, and in her older age, she returns to the town that deserted her as a teenager. The townspeople are destitute and hope that Claire will offer a piece of her fortune to help revitalize the town. Instead, Claire offers the townspeople money in exchange for the murder of Anton Schell, her former lover, and the people must determine if the murder of a neighbor is a suitable exchange for wealth. 

1.) Chita Rivera

Chita’s performance is everything Broadway audiences desire from a legendary Broadway diva. She is a formidable presence on stage. Her performance is satirical and even comedic in some moments, insinuating the irony of the visit. Whenever Chita was on stage, which was most of the time, I was engaged and interested- she exuded a certain magnetism. 

2.) Chita Rivera is 82 years young. 

Who wouldn’t want to witness an 82 year old carrying a lead role on Broadway eight times per week? Actors such as Chita, Angela Lansbury, and Elaine Stritch, who have worked well into their ninth decade of life, simply amaze me. Such dedication to the craft is very admirable. After seeing The Visit, I can attest to the fact that Chita’s light has not dimmed with age! Her mobility and gracefulness on stage were quite remarkable.  

3.) Satire

I love a good satire, and it’s not every day that we see this musical “genre” on Broadway. Broadway abounds with Walt Disney, drag queens, youthful ingenues, and reimagined movies (to name a few). Let’s engage our imaginations with something unique and unconventional. The Visit may be a bit macabre, but it’s also a thought-provoking piece of theatre, depicting humanity in a much more realistic light than those musicals which culminate in a pleasant resolution.

4.) Jason Danieley

Admittedly, I am a fan. Jason Danieley’s performance of “The Only One” as Frederich Kuhn was one of the non-Chita highlights for me. The melody and lyrics are haunting, and I was transfixed. A great song performed by a great singer and actor. 




5.) It’s Kander & Ebb’s last musical. Need I say more? 




June 2, 2015

Gigi

Broadway
Neil Simon Theatre
May 30, 2015 matinee



Happy Tony Awards week, everyone! This past weekend, I saw the revival of the Lerner and Loewe musical, Gigi, which is currently playing on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre following a short run at the Kennedy Center in January. Gigi was originally conceived by the French writer Colette in her 1945 novel, and the novel was later adapted into an Academy Award winning movie and then a Broadway musical in 1973. The musical ran for only 110 performances on Broadway. 

My interpretation of Gigi evokes themes of female empowerment and feminism, and although these themes are often present on a Broadway stage, perhaps they are not present often enough. The story begins with Gigi as a young, carefree girl begrudgingly taking “society” lessons from her Aunt Alicia, who wishes to mold Gigi into a high class mistress, a common pursuit for privileged women in 1900’s Paris. Gigi is bored by the apparent obsession with “making love” in Parisian society, and prefers to explore the world beyond Paris. Gigi spends much of her time with her grandmother, Mamita, and the nephew of her grandmother’s former lover, Gaston, who is a rich socialite. Aunt Alicia and Mamita conspire to mold Gigi into a high-society woman, so that she may catch the eye of Gaston. Before long, Gaston falls in love with Gigi, and the clandestine plan is effective until Gigi decides that she does not wish to be someone’s mistress; rather, she desires something more meaningful. Gigi and Gaston must decide if they have a future together. 

I enjoyed this production of Gigi very much. First of all, the costumes by Catherine Zuber are stunningly beautiful. In particular, Victoria Clark (Mamita) and many ensemble actors wore gorgeous turn-of-the-century hats that I wish were still in style so I could have an excuse to wear one. (Costumes- Major Tony snub). I enjoyed all of the music and choreography. I think that Lerner and Loewe’s score is a bit underrated and I will very likely add this cast recording to my collection of Broadway music.   

Although this is a revival of an old musical, the production is youthful (like its lead character), energetic, and new. It doesn’t feel “old” or outdated at all. As Gigi, Vanessa Hudgens gives a respectable and solid performance. Unlike some movie stars cast in Broadway musicals, Hudgens can actually sing and dance and act, which is refreshing, and she appears to be working very hard to give a Broadway-caliber performance. Her performance is youthful, vibrant, and spirited. I enjoyed watching her perform on stage. 

Tony-nominated Victoria Clark is pretty much perfect in this part. She is the epitome of class and grace. In addition to wearing stunning costumes and hats, her voice is like butter, her singing is perfectly effortless. What I liked most about her performance was that it didn’t only serve the purpose of portraying Gigi’s grandmother and telling Gigi’s story- her character possessed a unique story of her own and offered the audience some depth and intrigue. 

Coming from the recent Broadway production of Newsies, Corey Cott was fantastic as Gaston and I enjoyed seeing him tackle a more mature role on stage. After seeing him in two shows, I really think he has the potential to have a long and productive career on Broadway. It’s hard to put into words, but he has an impressionable stage presence. His second act number, “Gigi”, was lovely. 

As Aunt Alicia, Dee Hoty nailed this comedic character. I particularly enjoyed her scenes with her “sister”, Victoria Clark- they had good chemistry together. Howard McGillin as Honore was also very good, and I also enjoyed his scenes with Victoria Clark. Come to think of it, Victoria Clark had good chemistry with everyone on stage. Though not the most likable character, Steffanie Leigh was very entertaining as the over-dramatic and wandering mistress of Gaston, Liane. 

Gigi was a very enjoyable afternoon at the theatre. I hope that you will consider checking it out at the Neil Simon Theatre!

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.