Cedar Point Live Shows 2013 (Review) June 18, 2013Posted by ronannarbor in Cedar Point, Entertainment, Uncategorized.
Tags: Cedar Point Live Entertainment 2013, Cedar Point Live Shows 2013
Another summer of live shows is in full swing at Cedar Point, and it continues to offer the best overall live-park show entertainment outside of Walt Disney World’s theme parks. This year’s offerings are no exception.
Summer Daze at the Palace Theater in Frontiertown offers a front-of-the-park quality show at the back-of-the-park. This is the second year in a row for this super entertaining production that mixes in “summer vacation song” type numbers from Katy Perry to Broadway (kudos to whomever picked great songs from Pump Boys and Dinettes and Ragtime). This year’s cast is very talented and works well together. Musicianship, talent, and chemistry are at work here. The guys in particular dance much better than last year. This is a great place to grab lunch while watching the show, and the food options are much improved.
At the front of the park, the new “On Broadway” mixes-up a lot of Broadway standards in an awards-show format. The cast is strong, and they are given good material to work with here. Its the strongest front-of-park show at the Jack Aldrich Theater in many years. The production makes very few missteps and stars a fresh young cast of nationwide musical theater students in a production that includes songs from old favorites (Hairspray, Les Miz, and Chicago) while liberally sprinkling in lesser known tunes from My Favorite Year, and lesser songs from Jukebox musicals including Million Dollar Quartet and Jersey Boys (though that segment is a bit generic). The “You Can’t Stop the Beat” Hairspray finale is particularly well done. A costume parade is terrific here with instantly recognizable costumes from Broadway musicals (though the My Fair Lady costume represents the movie, not the stage version). Be sure to stop off and end your day with this production as it runs in the late afternoon early evening only.
There’s a fantastic cast in the Frontier Trail’s Red Garter Saloon at “Absolute Country” — its a shame you can’t make out a single word of what they are singing in the highly over-amplified poorly sound-designed ear splitting production. The kids are terrific — and they work very hard to shout their songs out over the high-volume semi-tracked (with live accompaniment) production. For country lovers, you will probably recognize most of these honky-tonk style pop country standards, but if you didn’t already know them, you wouldn’t understand a word of what you are hearing in this mic-mush production. This is also a return show, and it suffered the same mic-problems last season. While I would like to blame it on the accoustics in the theater I can’t — in the old days, performers did their show here WITHOUT any mics, and they were able to be heard by all. The problem here is the sound design.
All Wheels Extreme at the Aquatic Stadium offers its finest show to date. Gone are the old pander-to-the-guys-with-cheerleading-bimbos production values, and instead you now get a 25 minutes of purely stunt-driven high energy production with bikes, scooters, gymnastics, roller skates and a few surprises thrown in. All performed to high-energy summer hip hop and rock tunes, its a fun (and remarkably athletic) production that you shouldn’t miss. But kids, don’t try these stunts at home. Regular watchers of America’s Got Talent will recognize some of the folks in this group from last summer’s tv show. Note that this production is outdoors and is weather dependent. Also, do not sit along the “bird bombardment zone” (the second and third row around the seating area) where even after all these years CP hasn’t figured out how to eliminate the seagull droppings as they perch on the roof around the rim of the theater.
Also returning for another season at the Goodtime Theater is “Happiness Is…Snoopy” ice-skating show. This is the Point’s biggest indoor production with multiple set, costume, and lighting effects. Family friendly to a fault, the show is much improved over last summer’s offering, and the skating stronger overall. Half of the cast returns from last season, while a few newcomers help make things feel fresh and different. Don’t bypass this production, as much as they go out of their way to make it seem like its another Peanuts-pandering kids show…it is not. You’ll be impressed by the skating, and dazzled by the excellent stage design for this full-out ice show.
Luminosity (version 2.0 this year) returns to the Iron Dragon midway, and its a better show than last year. The song selection is better, and the singers stronger. The lighting is updated and the effects look great, and its a great way to end your day at the Point (the show starts at 9:30 and runs about 40 minutes, followed by dancing on the midway to a live DJ that rises from the stage). More people hung out to dance after the show this year, and the better placement (and expansion) of the bar-area behind the light booth certainly helps with the late night energy. You’ll recognize some of the folks you saw in other shows during the day as well. This is a much-needed improvement over the old laser lighting show, and it really sends you out of the park (or back to the resorts) in a great mood. Note that this production is dependent on the weather.
There are several other smaller productions geared toward the kiddees (all themed to Snoopy and the Peanuts gang) throughout the day. The peanuts characters make frequent appearances in Camp Snoopy, and they are more than amenable to taking photos with adults as well. Overall, this is a very strong season of live entertainment at Cedar Point — be sure to take some time out of your coaster-riding day to sit down and enjoy some of the great performers.
Tags: I hate Smash, Smash NBC
If I didn’t know anything about theater, Broadway, or musical theater, here is what I would have taken away from the now-cancelled series SMASH which ended its run last night on NBC:
The girl that doesn’t act, look, sing, or dance like Marilyn will get cast as Marilyn because she was on American Idol.
Everyone lives in the theater district in NYC: nobody drives a car, let alone goes home to New Jersey at the end of the night. All cast members walk to work, they don’t take the subway, busses, taxis, or bikes. Nobody has to take the train home to Flushing, Westchester, or anywhere else for that matter. A few of the cast might live as far away as Dumbo in Brooklyn. They walk there.
The director makes all hiring and firing decisions, and he can decide what you will do on the Tonys without notifying anyone, in fact, he can make any changes he wants even seconds before the performance on live TV.
You can fully cast a multi-million dollar musical before you even have a script and score ready to go (although I guess Motown the Musical might have proven this to be true).
The director sleeps with every woman he wants to cast. Its just the way it goes. In fact the director sleeps with women.
Out of town theaters can become available for a pre-Broadway tryout with one phone call. They can have a full house at the first preview just three days later, including newspaper coverage.
You can move a mediocre off-Broadway show to Broadway, because theaters are instantly available, and you can do so overnight.
When a new director takes over a show, mostly he is in charge of how to make scene changes happen during intermission, and the union crew is available at his beck and call.
The new girl gets the role, even when not right for it, because she has “that certain something”.
A big finish will help them forget what came before — especially when its set to practically the same tune as the finale for Catch Me If You Can.
A major broadway director will drop everything and go to the aide of an unwritten mediocre-at-best Off-Broadway musical because he “believes” in his girlfriend’s judgement.
The Outer Critic awards take place in a small dining room with about 25 guests. Oh, and while we’re at it: you can pick up a dead person’s tickets and use them for your friends at the Tony’s.
Shows and major decisions made about them are influenced entirely by whom is sleeping with whom, because everyone cares about that.
You can add a new number to the show between matinee and evening, and have a complete new set and costumes ready to go for that performance.
Nobody uses body mics, there is no backstage crew, and there is no tech rehearsal necessary to make it just happen. Probably because the new director took care of all of that himself.
If you cast the right people in the leads, everything else will happen by itself. (That is only true in community theater).
If you need a really really really really really big movie star to play your lead on Broadway, bring in Sean Hayes.
You can just fire the best performer in your show (Will Chase) because the book-writer slept with him and the book-writer thinks its a bad idea for him to stick around. The book-writer can bypass union rules to do so, because the book-writer is the most important person in your artistic staff.
Speaking of book and score writing: apparently the shows write themselves because the writers are too busy sleeping around and drinking wine at the local bar. The latter is pre-requisite to take over the role of director for a major multi-million dollar musical.
There are no musical directors on Broadway. Music rehearsals don’t take place, just performance quality scenes, and the Musical Director apparently only conducts the orchestra.
And the coolest thing I learned from Smash….when you win the Tony for Best Musical, you can bring your just-out-of-jail boyfriend on stage with you to accept the award.
“Catch Me if You Can” tour review. May 13, 2013Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Broadway Tour, musical theater.
Tags: Catch Me If You Can musical, Stephen Anthony
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The non-AEA tour of the Broadway musical “Catch Me If You Can” makes its second local stop this week and next at the Fisher Theater in Detroit (It was at Wharton Center in East Lansing last month).
See my original review from the Broadway production for a more detailed review, but let me say that this is a very strong tour, with a very good (and VERY young) cast that works hard and delivers the evening’s highly entertaining production with no concerns about the non-union tour quality. Great performances are delivered by all.
The sets have been whittled down, but they are colorful and effective, though they rely more on video than did the original. Lighting is very colorful, and costuming is virtually intact from the Broadway production and everyone looks great in them, in particular Frank Jr. played by the stupendously talented Stephen Anthony (who, by the way for those who need to know these things does NOT take his clothing off for those scenes that Aaron Tveit made so memorable in NYC).
Overall, this is an electric ensemble cast — they are in character and spot-on entertaining throughout the 2.5 hour production, and there are many future Broadway stars among this (very good looking) cast, not the least of whom is Anthony. Recommended.
The Lion in Winter at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre May 10, 2013Posted by ronannarbor in Ann Arbor, Theatre.
Tags: Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, Laurie Atwood, Rob Roy, The Lion in WInter, Thom Johnson
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I don’t usually review plays, just musicals, but I wanted to give a shout-out to the terrific production of THE LION IN WINTER currently being produced at the Arthur Miller Theater by Ann Arbor Civic Theatre.
Thom Johnson directs James Goldman’s quip-filled look at the Plantagenets one Christmas eve, shortly before history would set its course as Henry II’s son Richard would eventually win the thrown, while King Philip of France divided up his holdings and led to the eventual Angevin decline. Here Henry II has freed his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, for the Christmas holidays and his sons, battling for the throne, set about their early stages of rebellion — it is said that they spend more time together on stage during The Lion in Winter than they did in all their years of real life.
Rob Roy is excellent as Henry II, while Laurie Atwood is sublime as Eleanor. Their scenes together are an example of what can be done with James Goldman’s hilarious dialogue, and a storyline that outdoes any kind of family dysfunction we can imagine today. There’s a reason this play stands the test of time — and this terrific cast does it justice across the board. Its a reminder that once upon a time on Broadway, a drama could be filled with humor too.
Eli Tell makes for a pouty son John; Geoffrey’s duplicity is skillfully played by Anthony L. Morton; and eventual King Richard is played by Jarrod Cassar alternating between commanding and bewildered. Richard Graham is a fine (if young) Philip Capet, and Anna Paone plays his sister Alais who becomes a pawn in their game, with skill.
The simple but effective set is adorned with Debra Golden’s beautiful hand-painted faux-tapestries. Nan Wirth’s costumes create character and define the high Medieval time-period appropriately.
There are some reminders that this isn’t professional theater — scene changes take too long and things bang and clang in the process; the sound editing is poor, instead of fading music it just jarringly ends at full volume with full lights up cues, and lighting is minimal – mostly lights up and lights down for scenes.
Still, you’ll have a bloody (pun kinda intended) good time at this Lion — recommended.
THE LION IN WINTER plays through Sunday May 12th at the Arthur Miller Theater. Tickets at a2ct.org or at the door.
Gatekeeper Opens at Cedar Point (Media day 2013) May 9, 2013Posted by ronannarbor in Cedar Point.
Tags: Gatekeeper Coaster Cedar Point
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Directly after work today I sped down to Cedar Point for Media Day 2013 and the opening of CP’s newest coaster: Gatekeeper.
Here’s me on the ride:
Thanks to a friend in CoasterBuzz coaster club (and I believe the Plain Dealer) there I am — making my maiden voyage flight. Incidentally, I’m already home. 1:45 there — 15 minutes in line — 2 minute ride–another 15 minutes in line and 2 minutes to reride — 15 minutes to grab a souvenir — 1:45 home….and its a day.
So, what’s the verdict? The coaster is great. It’s smooth as can be, and the feeling of “flying” on the wings of the coaster is quite amazing. The wind blowing over you as you fly feels great, and I imagine will feel awesome on a hot summer day at the Point (although it was about 75 degrees and hot when I rode). The OTSRs feel really comfortable, and you don’t have to worry about the “size” problems like you do on Top Thrill Dragster and Millenium Force, where many riders can’t fit into the seatbelts. Here, a chest-protector “shield” holds you in with the over the shoulder restraints comfortable and cozy.
There isn’t much air time on Gatekeeper, because you are snuggly strapped into your seat, though you do get a bit of the “feeling” in your stomach on the final few hills. Starting relatively quickly, the coaster slows slightly as it approaches two “keyholes” over the entrance way to the park and then continues to slow through the remainder of the ride. But it will be those keyholes you will most remember. They don’t look big enough, and because the coaster twists directly as you go through them, they appear much smaller than they really are.
There is some degree of nausea factor. I had already been warned by a friend earlier in the day — and sure enough, if you get that nauseous feeling on Raptor, you are going to feel it here. I got off feeling just a touch queasy, but not enough so that I didn’t immediately get back into line to ride it again.
So what’s the grade? I give Gatekeeper a solid A. My CoasterBuzz friends were even more enthusiastic than I and rode it multiple times throughout this media day.
Cedar Point, by the way, was amazingly gracious. Not only was Gatekeeper enough to keep everyone happy, but they also opened up Raptor and Millenium Force (no doubt to help train new employees for tomorrow’s pre-opening Ohio State Day at the park and Cedar Points Official Opening at 10:00 am on Saturday). Platinum Pass holders and Resort guests can enter starting at 8:30 0n Saturday.
One final warning: get there early and ride immediately, or ride with Fastlane+ because the lines are expected to be 3 hours long on the busiest days and at least an hour on normal operation days. Each train carries 32. Only one train runs on the track at a time similar to CP’s other major coasters. A new train launches about every two minutes at peak. That makes about 960-riders an hour. Keep that in mind as you plan your next trip to CP. And remember that everyone else 52″ or taller will ALSO be getting into line first thing in the morning. For resort guests and season pass holders, use your pass, get there an hour early, and park in the Soak City lot and walk along the entire beachfront until you reach the new gate right next to Gatekeeper’s entrance. I’ll update on how the lines look after I spend two days there next weekend.
Happy 2013, Cedar Point!
Ron’s Broadway Musical Awards 2012-2013 season April 21, 2013Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Musicals.
Tags: Best Broadway Musicals 2013
Pippin Broadway revival (Review) — Spectacular April 21, 2013Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, musical theater, Musicals.
Tags: Diane Paulus, Fosse, Pippin, Pippin Broadway, Pippin musical, Pippin revival
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PIPPIN, revived by American Repertory Theater and opening this week at The Music Box Theater in NYC is, in a word, Spectacular.
This is turning into an exciting season: I feel sad because this year’s Best Revival of a Musical award would have otherwise gone to the excellent “Mystery of Edwin Drood” which I loved very much…but along comes the year’s other Best Revival of a Musical – PIPPIN, which I loved even more.
Re-staged (but incorporating much of Fosse’s original choreography by Chet Walker), director Diane Paulus sets the action in a circus-themed environment where Gypsy Snider of Les 7 doigts de la Main has created the circus stunts and effects. The circus performers are so well integrated into the ensemble cast of this production that you really can’t tell who is who — and that is Broadway magic.
Matthew James Thomas plays Pippin, and he is in excellent vocal and physical shape. He almost seems to mold himself from insecure nobody, to physical hunk before your very eyes. Patina Miller plays the Lead Player, and while it isn’t a definitive career move like it was for Ben Vereen, she is none-the-less perfectly cast and sings/dances up a storm. She is particularly good in the Fosse recreations within the “Manson Dance” and cakewalk sequence (which has been moved, inexplicably, toward the end of the show).
Terrence Man is a commanding King, Charlotte d’Amboise a wild-limbed but never out of control Queen Fastrada, and Rachel Bay Jones plays an endearing Catherine. Erik Altemus is an athletic and entertaining brother Lewis (among many of his other parts).
But that leads me to hand-her-the-T0ny Andrea Martin as grandmother Berthe. In the Irene Ryan role (and probably on stage a full 10 minutes in this production) she is going to walk away with gold come Tony night (and just about every other award night, mind you) for her trapeze-swinging performance. Its rare that you see a real showstopper these days, and this one does, and it deserves it. 66-year old Martin makes it look easy and with a wink and a smile she’s on her way. And talk about a show that everybody now knows: her sing-along is tremendous fun and I didn’t see a single person sitting around me that didn’t know the words! While Pippin is re-appearing in NYC again for the first time since the 70′s, it has been done by countless high school, college, community, and regional theaters for all these long years in between. I have personally directed it three times already.
There are some curious changes — in particular almost all the verses in “War is a Science” have been rewritten. New words are substituted in places throughout many of the “standards” which is a bit off-putting in a score that every man, woman, and child in the audience knows by heart. There is also an intermission added — which makes the under-two hour production now run 2 and a half hours and interrupts the flow, although as the Lead Player states leading into it “attention spans these days aren’t what they used to be.” Roger O Hirson’s book has been changed very little from the original, although some of the dialogue scenes in Act II which were so zippily played in throw-away in the original, here tend to drag on a bit.
Diane Paulus’s direction, overall, is fast-paced and clever. Things happen similarly to the Fosse original, and yet very differently at the same time — but never once in the evening does one feel that the show is far from the spirit of the original — and as things start to veer out of control in the larger dance numbers, she cleverly brings your eye back to the very original heart of Pippin still beating inside the modern staging…the hand claps and head turns are all still there in “War is a Science”…the aforementioned Manson Dance is there in its entirety complete with hand gestures and pelvic thrusts…the spear-carriers are there with their instantly recognizable stance…and once “On the Right Track” hits its stride about three quarters of the way through, you see a cast that not only channels Fosse, but excels in doing so and in some ways, outdoes the original.
In almost all ways, this new staging is superior to the original — its zippier, better focused, and better designed. The circus theme works well, and looks great on Scott Pask’s colorful set. Kenneth Posner provides excellent lighting, and Dominique Lemieux’s costumes take notes from the 70′s original, but create something all its own. She has better bodies to work with (the lithe thin lines of the original’s ensemble are here replaced by muscle in both men and women) and understands clothing flow to make it all look just right. Men’s shirts come and go throughout the evening, and women appear in various layers of clothing throughout.
And finally, oh that score. Stephen Schwartz’s songs stand the test of time – from “Corner of the Sky” to the stirring “Morning Glow”, the sing-along of “No Time at All”, and the lovely ballads “With You” and “Love Song” and all the tuneful rest. This is the way shows used to be written — lots of great songs strung together with creative choreography which made the whole greater than the sum of the parts it made of. Wink nod.
Highly recommended — and quite possibly one of the overall best musicals currently running on Broadway, new or revived.
Motown the Musical on Broadway review April 20, 2013Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, musical theater, Musicals.
Tags: Motown the musical
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Move over Mamma Mia and Jersey Boys, Motown the Musical has taken your place as audience favorite…and count me in. I loved it.
The book by Berry Gordy is weak: but the music is a dream. Rapidly directed by Charles Randolph-Wright and zippily choreographed by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams, the show barrels along over 67 Motown hit songs, some fully realized, some truncated.
The audience reaction throughout the show is ecstatic, clearly hitting an emotional note resulting in spontaneous applause, sing-alongs and shout-backs. This is probably the first rock musical ever aimed directly at 50 to 80 year olds. And boy, did the house love it at my performance this afternoon. And so did I.
The very talented cast is entirely interchangeable with the exception of the superb Brandon Victor Dixon as Gordy; Valisia LeKae as Diana Ross, and a heart-melting Charl Brown as Smokey Robinson.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not art. This is something different–a musical entertainment clearly meant to entertain and there is nothing wrong with that. Seen the afternoon after the nation sat rapt watching the capture of the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, the Act One finish to “War, What is it Good For” was absolutely stirring.
Motown the Musical is recommended. But its sold out through September so good luck with your ticket search.
“Jekyll & Hyde” Broadway Review April 19, 2013Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, musical theater, Musicals.
Tags: Jekyll & Hyde 2013, Jekyll & Hyde musical
First, I have previously reviewed this production when it played at the Fisher Theater and that review is here:
Second, the show now seen at the Marquis Theatre in New York is basically identical to that seen on tour.
The New York Media have not been kind to this revisal, and of course, they weren’t kind to the original either. I happen to like this show, and I like this production, and my opinion after having seen it tonight has not changed.
Constantine Maroulis remains in fine vocal form, and it must take energy of steel to keep this up night after night. Deborah Cox, if anything, sounds even better than she did on tour. She seems to have grown into the role, and appears to relish the audience reaction. Teal Wicks remains clear-voiced and lovely in her underwritten role of Emma. “In His Eyes” with Cox has become a showstopper.
I continue to be impressed by the staging, which eliminates the milling and posing by the Ensemble from the original in 97. Here, everyone has a purpose, and every move has stage meaning. Calhoun has done a fine job making it all move dramatically around Tobin Ost’s set.
The audience reaction was, of course, diametrically opposite of what the critics would have you believe — in a full house, the audience was enthusiastic throughout and ecstatic after the major numbers. This is a show that is critic-proof, and those who hated it last time will probably hate it now; while those of us who liked it last time around will probably like it much better now.
One final note: I absolutely hate the Marquis Theater, which is just one big echo chamber with no charm whatsoever. I’ve hated it since it opened with “Me and My Girl” in the 80′s. I continue to hate it now, and it is the wrong venue for this show, which would have looked and sounded better in a smaller Broadway house.
Dry Season March 30, 2013Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.
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Wow — we’ve hit a dry spell here in SE Michigan — nothing to report on musical theater wise for the past two weeks.
Croswell Opera House has done their casting — you can checkout Croswell.org for their summer season casts (some of which look mighty young this year to me)…
Otherwise — nothing to report until next week, when Memphis hits the Fisher Theater — I’m not seeing this tour — I’ve seen it a half dozen times now on Broadway and on tour, but its highly recommended for those who haven’t seen it.
For those who want to save some money, the DVD of the Broadway cast is available for download from iTunes and Netflix, and for purchase wherever DVDs are sold. It features the original cast in a dynamite live HD recording.