“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.
Ron’s Broadway 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: http://a2view.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=992&action=edit
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.
Hands on a Hardbody (review) Broadway. March 24, 2013Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.
Tags: Hands on a Hardbody, musical
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I’ve held off a few days on posting my review of Hands on a Hardbody, seen on Thursday night. I have to admit right off the bat that I didn’t like the show, and haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly why.
Trey Anastasio certainly creates a good musical score, if a bit too country-twangish for my taste. Its not the fault of the very strong cast from top to bottom, though their stereotyped roles certainly didn’t draw me in very much. And its not the direction, which does everything it possibly can to draw dynamic movement from a musical about a bunch of people standing around a truck holding on for dear life, in order to win the vehicle in depressed Texas. Based on the 1997 documentary of the same name, which I have to admit I also have no interest in seeing, its not the script, which tries to wring interest out of the setup.
But then there is the opposite: things don’t move enough, The show seems slow, and the set is basically one big advertisement for Nissan trucks. Much like Once last season, which I also did not particularly like, there isn’t anything exactly “wrong” with the show…it just wasn’t of much personal interest. It all seems very “small”, the stories just one piled upon another. I really didn’t care who won the truck, and that’s a big problem in a show where the entire purpose to have someone win the truck. Its about a truck.
And I can’t imagine this show is going to survive very long: seen only days after its official Broadway opening, the house was only about 2/3 full — not a good sign during the first weeks of a show. Its not a show I would recommend a casual visitor to NYC put on their must-see list (though I did recommend Once to friends that I thought would enjoy it). As usual, your mileage may very — and there have been a lot of good reviews for the show.
I’m going to stop here, because I really don’t have anything else to say.
Cinderella on Broadway (review) is a scrumptious mess March 24, 2013Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals.
Tags: Cinderella Broadway, Laura Osnes, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, Santino Fontana, Victoria Clark
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Let me start by saying I love Rodgers and Hammerstein, pretty much their entire repertoire. So when a new Broadway version of Cinderella was announced, with Laura Osnes, Santino Fontana, and Victoria Clark, you know I had to be there.
Second, all the requisite songs are there, and they sound great. Everything looks terrific on a gorgeous set with delicious costumes. Cinderella’s transformation before the ball is theater magic and gets prolonged applause. The addition of a fox and raccoon that transform into carriage footmen is delightful, and yes that carriage and horses are beautiful.
But, some of what happens here is a total mess that I fully blame on Douglas Carter Beane’s horrendous script. Now granted, the original did need to be fleshed out a bit, but this social-conscious infused nonsense was not it. It all flies by breezily enough, but I can venture a bet that not one of the audience members went there to see a subplot about improving the living conditions of the villagers. Beane even recycles word-for-word a 30Rock joke (“My mother isn’t always evil, sometimes she’s asleep”)
Santino Fontana, at first an unconventional choice for the Prince, turns in a super performance and by evenings end is indeed the charming prince Cinderella falls in love with. Laura Osnes is perfectly cast as Cinderella herself. Their scenes together are delightful.
Victoria Clark has a thankless role as beggar woman/fairy Godmother and gets to sport the evenings ugliest evening gown and headwear. She also gets to spout awesome lines like “fiddle deedle dumble, fidgety diddly dee”. There is far far too much of the evil stepmother Harriet Harris, and some characters should have been cut altogether — wait, what am I saying, they should never have been added to begin with.
The score is augmented by several Rodgers and Hammerstein trunk songs (including one cut from South Pacific!) but they fit well and sound great.
So, overall, this is a gorgeous production that will leave you both satisfied and also disappointed. The kiddies aren’t going to notice anything out of the ordinary. Adults will recognize its easily 20 minutes too long. Musical Theater lovers will recognize its easily 45 minutes too long…and Douglas Carter Beane is to blame for all 45 of those minutes.
Tags: Broadway, Matilda the musical
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Matilda the musical, now playing at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway, is a naughty big brash musical comedy freshly imported from London where it won a record number of Olivier awards a few months back. Half of that cast has come along for the ride.
It probably helps to have read Roald Dahl’s book prior to seeing the show: some audience might otherwise walk away from this show thinking “what the heck was that?” — it plays differently to adults and kids: adults can see the destructiveness of the dysfunctional parents and teachers on an otherwise genius young girl (a superb Bailey Ryon at my performance), while kids take the characters for what they are and revel in the revenge story. Its the rare musical these days you can take your 8-year old to that they will sit captivated by, while also entertaining you.
Bertie-send-him-his-Tony-now-Carvel plays a lunatic headmistress Miss Trunchbull in kinda the weirdest drag you will ever see on any stage anywhere. Lesli Margherita and Gabriel Ebert are terrific as Matilda’s white-trash parents, the Wormwoods. Ryan Steele turns in a fantastic dance role as ballroom dancer Rudolpho and Lauren Ward is practically perfect as Miss Honey.
I’m going out on a limb to say Matilda will pull a “Billy Elliott” at the Tonys this year and win everything except best score — Tim Minchin’s lyrics are ridiculously funny, his music bland and repetitive without a single standout. When it finally gets rolling with the luscious “My House” in the show’s penultimate scene, it peters out before you know it.
Peter Darling’s choreography is outstanding throughout, with “School Song” the highlight. Matthew Warchus directs as if the musical is Benny Hill on acid…sometimes its brilliant, sometimes it falls into British pantomime…but it is never ever dull. Your tolerance of the show will completely depend on your enjoyment of broad-stroke pratfalls and slapstick. Really big, over-the-top slapstick.
The audience ate it up. The kids (many many many) in the house loved it. What the heck, pack up the car right now and head to the Shubert for this season’s biggest hit.
Kevin Rose in Concert – Encore Musical Theatre (review) February 13, 2013Posted by ronannarbor in Theatre, Entertainment, musical theater, Broadway Musicals, Musicals.
Tags: Kevin Rose
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Every now and then, a rising star swings through the Ann Arbor area, most recently thanks to Dexter’s Encore Musical Theatre Company, and treats the audience to an evening of polished, superb Broadway fare that really makes you think about the amazing talent out there in the world, and how fortunate we are in the area to have them drop by.
New York City-based Kevin Rose (recently appearing in Plaid Tidings, and now the title role in Joseph…Dreamcoat) took a night off from his normal musical theater duties to present a sublime evening of (mostly) love songs from Broadway, off-Broadway, and even a little Beatles sprinkled in. Supported by the ever-charismatic Sebastian Gerstner and pitch-perfect Thalia Schramm, clear-voiced Rose sang through delightful songs from She Loves Me, West Side Story, Into the Woods, Carousel, and some lesser known shows like I Love You Your Perfect Now Change, I Love You Because, and (ever workshopping) Elyria. Accompaniment was provided by R MacKenzie Lewis and his three-piece ensemble.
Rose’s voice is particularly lush in ballads like “If I Loved You”, and “My Funny Valentine”…but he also has a delightful mischievous side that had the audience rocking with laughter often throughout the 80 minute set. His musical choices are good, and the entire evening very well rehearsed and energized. Its a concert cabaret performance he can take with him anywhere, and I hope he does. Rose joins an ever-growing number of performers like Laura Osnes and Erich Bergen who can ply their wares nationwide, and share the enthusiasm of musical theater wherever they are through their cabaret performances. Meanwhile, you can catch Kevin in Joseph through March 3rd at the Encore.
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It’s hard to make a “best of” list in this area of the country, since the blend of collegiate, community, and professional often overlap and sometimes Community theater productions can be as good as (or better) than some professional productions, while at other times, college shows can look better than Broadway tours….nonetheless, here is my summary of the good, the bad, and the ugly…
The Best overall community theater production this past year was: GREY GARDENS at Ann Arbor Civic Theater. Special kudos to Kathy Waugh for her terrific performance.
The Best summer theater production was: SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS at Croswell Opera House. Its been a long long time since Croswell had such a dance-tacular production, thanks to the Hissong’s direction and choreography.
The Best summer theater production that was indistinguishable from a Broadway Tour: AVENUE Q at Croswell Opera House. It was so good, it was hard to even compare it to other local productions, it had to be held to professional Broadway tour standards — and it was as good as, if not better, than the tour that came through Michigan a few years ago.
Speaking of tours: The best Broadway Tour to come through Detroit was: JEKYLL & HYDE — Broadway Bound with a spectacular Tobin Ost set, and a remarkable performance by Constantine Maroulis.
The best Broadway Tour to come through Wharton Center in East Lansing was: ANYTHING GOES, with a touring cast led by Rachel York that was stronger than the Original Broadway cast.
The best local university musical was: CHICAGO at the University of Michigan. Although it had strong runners-up in SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (also at UM) and LEGALLY BLONDE at MSU. Also delicious was SWEENEY TODD at Sienna Heights.
Speaking of Legally Blonde: I saw 4 productions of this show, and despite varied levels of good lead performances, it just goes to show that this is a musical that is hard to recreate without a multi-million dollar budget. The Original Broadway production is so deeply visually ingrained (thanks to MTV’s relentless showings a few years ago) that any non-professional production just pales in comparison. One favorite note: in the Croswell production, when the trailer door stuck, David Blackburn hilariously announced “I’ll just use the back door!” and came around from stage left complete with bulldog. It was the biggest laugh of any show I saw this past year.
The best small-cast show of the year: THE LAST 5 YEARS at Jackson Symphony Space — Jayna Katz and Adam Woolsey blew the roof off of the place nightly.
The best “becoming an annual tradition around here” musical: EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL at Dexter Community Players. Expanding community theater’s boundaries by squirts and bounds, with a strong cast and twice the splatter-power.
I wasn’t impressed much by any of the local professional musical theater productions this year, although there were some mighty fine performances. The Dionysus Theater made a strong debut as a professional theater company with their holiday offering HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS – right out of the gate hitting all the right notes in a finely performed production in a gorgeous proscenium theater space. A couple shows will go without mention here, because I abhor when major changes are made to Broadway musicals to fit a director’s “vision” or a small budget — but it is worthy to mention the lovely GODSPELL at Encore, where Dan Cooney took a show that has become bloated and almost unwatchable over the years, and turned it into a fresh, sparse, and clown-makeup-free delight.
Finally — one “ugly” — the reworked BEAUTY AND THE BEAST arrived at the Stranahan on tour, with a non-equity NETworks production, featuring some of the ugliest costumes and sets I have seen in a Broadway tour. UGH.