June 2, 2014


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. 

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…. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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!)

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. 

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. 

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! 

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