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Hilarious “The Drowsy Chaperone” at Croswell Opera House (review) August 13, 2016

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Croswell Opera House opened its final musical of the summer season, The Drowsy Chaperone, last night in Adrian — and they have saved the best for last! Drowsy is a musical theater-lovers dream show, and it is hilarious and exceptionally well done at Croswell.

Man in Chair (gifted and very funny Patrick Toth) settles in to tell the audience the story of 1920’s musical theater “chestnut” The Drowsy Chaperone, complete with fond anecdotes about the cast, the show, and an equally catty look at musicals today. Toth is onstage the entire evening and the work that he does is remarkable. Never out of character, he guides, narrates, and even participates in some of the scenes. Great job. He does exactly what the opening monologue says he will do — transport you to another place, even if it is inside his apartment.

Equally wonderful are Erica Wyman as the chaperone, whose boozy “As We Stumble Along” equaled or maybe excelled over Beth Leavel’s tony-winning performance last night as she performed “the greatest anthem to alcoholism”; and Franny Kromminga as ingenue Janet — who clearly is having the time of her life “not showing off no more”. Matthew Pecek plays a spry bridegroom, Robert, and Joseph Ball a hilarious best man George. Suzanne Smith and Stephen Kiersey are delightful as Tottendale and Underling. Jared Hoffert is very funny as he chews the scenery as producer Feldzieg, and Jamie Lynn Buechele, as his girlfriend Kitty, shines in a hilarious vocal role. Throw in John Bacarella and Peter Stewart as dancing gangsters, a wonderful over the top performance by Bruce Hardcastle as Adolpho (whaaaat?), and fine Lori Macdonald as Trix the Aviatrix.

The leads are supported by a strong ensemble (though at times there are too many of them on stage making some scenes feel like, well, there are too many people on stage). But they sing and dance well, and help with set changes as necessary. Everything moves non-stop, even acting scenes take on a musical tone and movement. Bravo.

Director Mark DiPietro has done a masterful job keeping everything barreling along, laugh after laugh, and choreographer Delle Clair has provided fun (and audience pleasing) choreography including a plentiful smattering of tap. Musical Director Jonathan Sills stellar vocal work shows throughout, and his wonderful orchestra does the Croswell proud yet again.

Doug Miller has created a gorgeous set, and it all works well and runs like clockwork. Pam Krage and Emily Gifford designed the many beautiful (and often large) costume pieces. Tiff Crutchfield has lit it all in colorful broadway shades and it works well on the stage.

It should be noted that this otherwise intermission-less musical has an intermission added at the Croswell — so that instead of being out the door on your way to after-show drinks at 9:50, you’ll be there a bit later.

I have now seen Drowsy many times — and it makes me laugh out loud every time. DiPietro has mined the show for even more laughs than I can recall — and it made me feel positively giddy at the end of the evening.

Very Highest Recommendation.

The Drowsy Chaperone continues at The Croswell Opera House through August 21st. Tickets at croswell.org or by calling 517-264-SHOW

Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar.

 

 

This Fair Lady has Done Me In (Review – Encore Musical Theatre Company) August 6, 2016

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Photo courtesy Encore staff photographer, Michele Anliker

 

Lerner and Loewe’s MY FAIR LADY is probably the last musical you would expect to see at the Encore Musical Theatre Company – how do  you make all those costumes and sets work in a space that small? Well let me tell you, the production that opened last night at the Encore is not only scrumptious, but it is the finest musical they have done to date. Consider yourself lucky if you have a ticket, because its entire run is sold out.

Jessica Grové is a remarkable Eliza Doolittle and this is her musical top to bottom, acting, singing, and having the time of her life. You can’t keep your eyes off of her and her powerhouse performance, whether that is singing her way through a lovely “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” (with some great vocal support by the male quartet) or tearing through the more dramatic “Show Me”, leaving suitor Freddy literally floored.

Daniel Gerroll plays a dynamic Henry Higgins and his interactions with Eliza have a particular poignancy. The wordplay and meaning are clear in this intimate setting. Their interactions in Act II brought an angle to the show I had not considered before, and it works well here. Eliza’s transformation is particularly compelling, while Higgins goes for a slightly different ride than the usual take on the part.

There’s a wonderful performance by UM Musical Theater senior Riley McFarland as Freddy whose vocal chops soar in “On the Street Where You Live”; Dale Dobson turns in a fun Colonel Pickering; and always one of my favorites Keith Kalinowski plays a boisterous and humor-laden Alfred Doolittle singing and dancing his merry way through “With a Little Bit of Luck” and later the very fun “Get Me To The Church on Time”.

The entire ensemble is terrific — and they sing, dance, and support the leads throughout. The work here is simply stellar from top to bottom. Great to see old favorites on stage, as well as a handful of newcomers who I hope stay here forever.

Director and Designer Tony Walton has created a sumptuous feast of a musical, and despite its long (three hour) length, it never feels too slow. The sets fit in a jigsaw puzzle fashion in the space, and everything looks open and airy. Projections by Mr Walton are gorgeous, at times black and white, at times spotted with color, and representational of the original Broadway sets. It works magnificently here, and with no surprise given Mr Walton’s Tony/Drama Desk/Academy Award background. He’s helped by some terrific lighting by Robert Perry, gorgeous costumes by Caitlin Graham and Yuka Silvera (Eliza’s costumes). Choreography by Matthew Brennan is appropriate to the space and never repetitive. Anne Donevan’s props looks terrific as does Andy Galicki’s projection work. Tyler Driskill has done his usual excellent vocal work as musical director, and his 6-piece backstage band sounds terrific throughout.

As mentioned earlier — the entire run, every single ticket is sold out. If you hold a ticket, consider yourself the bearer of treasure, because you will not want to miss this MY FAIR LADY. There is a cancellation list at the box office — which is several pages long. I suggest you join it if you are looking for tickets – any tickets – to this production.

Very Highest Recommendation.

Very slick and hilarious “SPAMALOT” at Farmers Alley Theatre, Kalamazoo (review) July 23, 2016

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Farmer’s Alley Theatre is currently presenting their largest show to date. Kalamazoo’s professional theater company has never mounted as large a Broadway musical production as Spamalot, and it is resounding success.

Hilarious from the get-go, it weaves together a fractured tale of King Arthur and his men seeking the Holy Grail. (The musical is primarily based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, although it lifts some sequences from their other movies as well). When it opened in NYC, it brought in a whole new type of audience — one that wasn’t necessarily musical lovers, and it led to a whole new style of musical theater meant for broader audiences (and sometimes putting off seasoned musical theater lovers). Though what’s not to love about Spamalot as it makes its way through 2.5 hours of hilarity at WMU’s Little Theatre.

Director Choreographer Stephen Brotebeck has done an excellent job of keeping everything looking spiffy, moving quickly, and delivering big laughs. Music Director Kellee Love Hazleton’s work is outstanding — in fact, this ensemble cast sounds (and moves) terrifically. W. Douglas Blickle’s set design is outstanding, and it is lit well by Jason Frink. Sarah Mauer’s costumes fill the stage with color and flash.

Dirk Lumbard is an excellent King Arthur — his underplayed facial expressions had me laughing all night. Also outstanding is Zachary Joel Smits in his many roles, but none of them had me laughing harder than his French Taunter (you know, “your mother smells of elderberries….I’m going to fart in your general direction”). Jamila Sabares-Klemm is an exceptional Lady of the Lake and she blows the vocals out of the water during her Vegas sequence. The entire ensemble is excellent – not a week link in the bunch, and the non-stop choreography is funny, fast moving, and very well executed.

This production is also the very best I have seen locally. This is a show that almost every regional and community theatre has picked up by now. But Farmers Alley’s production is by far the best of any that I have seen locally. If you are a Monty Python fan, its well worth the drive to Kalamazoo to see the show. Its sold out this weekend, but there are tickets available for next weekends final shows.

HIGHEST Recommendation. You won’t see it done better anywhere.

Monty Pythons Spamalot continues at Farmers Alley Theatre, at WMU’s Little Theatre through July 31st. farmersalleytheatre.com or 269-343-2727

Daniel Clair and Kyrie Bristle shine in “Leap of Faith” – Croswell Opera House, review July 16, 2016

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Daniel Clair, playing a conniving traveling tent-show preacher, and Kyrie Bristle as a small-town sheriff are the reasons to see this shiny musical theater adaptation of “Leap of Faith” which opened last night at the Croswell Opera House. Your enjoyment will be enhanced if you like bible-belt hokum and are a fan of the film from which it is adapted. But…well… I’ll get to that momentarily…

Directed by Michael Yuen, the cast is strong, including the stellar Clair and Bristle, and also a fine performance by Anthony Isom in the role of sham-exposer which features soaring vocals and acting chops indeed. Also very good is Sarah Nowak as the preacher’s sister, whose sincerity shines through in one of the shows nicest most underplayed scenes, willing to take the blame when things go south fast. Cooper Adams is a fine young boy in the tear-jerker part (you can see what’s coming a mile away). The entire ensemble has plenty to do in multiple large musical numbers — even if they do all sound (and pretty much look) the same. Still there is no denying how good this ensemble is, and how much work has gone into making these three tent-revivals move on stage. From a blocking point of view, I thought the staging was somewhat flat, and most often played in two, rarely moving down toward the audience.

I saw “Leap of Faith” on Broadway and had the same reaction I had here — there is nothing wrong with this show. There also isn’t anything that makes it great. The show is bland and there isn’t much you can do about it. Most of the (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater) songs feel like they are cut from other shows (and many likely were from “Sister Act” which Menken had written shortly before). The mini-dramas do not have enough sizzle to them to make things truly spark — and the “big moment” toward the end of the show is a direct rip-off from The Music Man. But it all clearly works, as the audience members around me were tearing up in the requisite places and were moved to a standing ovation, so it clearly connects to many. Although its Broadway run was very short, it did garner Tony nominations across the board, including a nomination for Best Musical, although you might wonder why after seeing it. I am probably not this show’s primary target market.

And now the but…Daniel Clair owns this show from the moment he appears. You’ll remember him as Huey Calhoun in last summer’s production of Memphis. Here he gets to expand his singing chops and wow, he presents a masterclass in musical theatrics. Its a shame that Cercone and Leight’s script lets him down (as it did the equally fine Raul Esparza on Broadway). His ability to sell a song be it a ballad or a rollicking spiritual-laced rock song is stellar. Throw in the equally vocally gifted Kyrie Bristle, and it is no surprise that their scenes alone and together are what make this musical truly slick.

Doug Miller’s set design is beautiful, and its cleanly lit by Tiff Crutchfield. Costumes, props and other technical values are up to Croswell’s usual best. Dave Rains musical direction is excellent — and his large orchestra sounds terrific. The sound design by Joe Gozdowski balances the (loud) orchestra with stage sound with a good mix.

Recommended.

Leap of Faith continues at Croswell Opera House through July 24th.Croswell.org or 517-264-SHOW for tickets.

Stratford Festival 2016 – A sampler (Reviews) June 18, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in A Little Night Music, All My Sons, As You Like It, Musicals, Plays, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in Love the play, Stratford Festival 2016, Theatre.
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The Stratford Festival (Stratford, Ontario. Canada) has grown from a small theater-in-a-tent company to one that is the largest, longest, and most varied theater festival in North America. Every year, the company now produces 15 shows in repertory, 4 shows each day from May through October. Unless you are the heartiest of theater goers, one gets a sampling of shows during a typical 2 or three days visit.  On my latest visit, I saw the following:

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE — is everything you would imagine. Very faithfully following the movie script, the production is the American premier of the West End play — in fact, it IS the West End play, complete with the same sets, costumes, and blocking. I’m going to guess that Stratford, in exchange for presenting the show at their festival, will be given the option to produce it on Broadway, where it should move. Its a fun near-three hour romp through Shakespearean London and a disguised love story. I had a great time, as did the audience from the comments after the show. I’m giving this one 4.5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it. At the Avon Theatre.

ALL MY SONS — the searing drama by Arthur Miller is performed in the round at the Tom Patterson theatre. The production is, in a word, devastating. If you know the show, you’ll find some wonderful nuances here in a superb color-blind-casting production. If you don’t know the show, don’t read about it in advance. You’ll love the drama and by the end of the evening you will feel like you have been eaves-dropping on your neighbors. This is one of the strongest ensemble casts I have ever seen in a Stratford production.  5 Stars out of 5. Highest Recommendation.

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC — is gorgeous. Leave it to Canada to produce the most beautiful productions of American musicals. (the Festivals A CHORUS LINE is also getting raves at the Festival Theater). Starting in a semi-steampunk type city sequence in Act One with its browns and blacks — the show opens up once they head to the Armfeldt manse in the country where colors switch to whites and creams. The cast is super, the music is wonderful, and I loved this production. At the Avon Theatre. 5 stars out of 5. Highest recommendation.

AS YOU LIKE IT — or, “You Won’t Like It” aka “As You Don’t Like It” at the Festival Theatre is terrible. It is presented as an “audience participation” show, complete with audience sometimes holding “tree branches” to create the Forest of Arden, for example — or stars in the balcony to create, well, stars. You get a nice canvas bag of “stuff” you are supposed to use but get to keep when you are done. Friends have already nicknamed it a “barf bag”.  I did get to hold a sheep-sound-maker that I got to turn over every time they said “love” in one sequence with the shepherd, and it was at least funny. Then I left at intermission. If you are 13 years old, you might enjoy the antics which (for better or worse) do clearly help you understand what is going on — not usually a problem with As You Like It. If you are not 13, you will think the show is condescending and tries to make you have “fun” but you are not having “fun” and the participation becomes annoying. This production is the first time I have witnessed people walking out DURING the show. Many more left at intermission, including myself. 1 out of 5 stars. Not Recommended at all.

I’ll update this if I get out to the Festival to see some additional shows this summer.

Billy Elliot soars at Croswell Opera House (Review) June 12, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals.
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Landon Brimacombe takes flight with Aidan Ziegler-Hansen (as Billy and Older Billy) in Billy Elliot – photo courtesy Croswell Opera House.

Croswell Opera House has pulled another magic trick out of it’s current big hat of hits and created a production of Billy Elliot that truly soars (in Act II in more ways than one). Director Julianne Dolan has created an emotion-filled musical, and scenic designer Doug Miller has matched it with picture perfect sets. Jonathan Sills’ musical direction is super — and the entire cast and orchestra sound rich. Sarah Nowak makes it all move — and move it does, from start to finish.

You probably already know the story – young Billy Elliot stumbles upon dance and finds himself taking classes with a local teacher, hiding it from his tough coal-mining dad and family, who are on strike in 1984 England. When the secret is out, the drama ensues, as his teacher tries to get Billy to audition for the school of ballet in London, while his father struggles with what it all means.

There are two alternating Billy’s (Landon Brimacombe at my performance) and it is a challenging role that requires singing, acting, dancing, and a tremendous amount of energy as he is on stage almost the entire time. Landon’s “big moment” (flying during a sequence with Older Billy, played by UM’s Aidan Ziegler-Hansen) is exciting and emotional at the same time. What kid hasn’t dreamed about getting caught up so much is something that they love that they wish they could actually soar and fly to express their excitement. Here he does, and its thrilling.

There are terrific performances by rich-voiced Jared Hoffert as Billy’s father, Erin Satchell Yuen as empathic dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson, Steven Kiss as tough older brother Tony, Jay Hillard as a hilarious Grandma, and funny George Bacarella as boxing instructor George. But my heart was won over by the absolute scene-stealing dynamo Gabe Omlor as Michael in a performance that is so self-assured it could be on any Broadway stage this very evening. Of course Michael is my favorite character in the musical, and the haunting final image on his bicycle, a larger than life boy trapped riding in a circle in a dying village with no way out watching Billy flee and pursue his dream, is heartbreaking.

The entire ensemble is excellent — from minor characters to all the dancing kids, cops, and miners – and they are all beautifully costumed by Pam Krage and well lit by Tiff Crutchfield.

Oh, and if you somehow missed the news today, Croswell Opera House received a 2.5 million dollar donation last night at their annual fundraiser Great Big Night. And that is Great Big Wonderful News for this beloved theater which will keep it soaring well into the future.

Highly Recommended.

Billy Elliot continues at the Croswell Opera House through June 26th. Tickets at croswell.org or 517-264-show. 129 E Maumee St, Adrian, MI 49221.

 

 

 

Assassins at Encore Musical Theatre Company is can’t miss musical theater (review) June 11, 2016

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Photo by Michele Anliker

Every now and again, my role as a musical theater director and reviewer compels me to launch into teaching mode — and that mode was fully activated while watching the breathtaking production of Assassins at Encore Musical Theatre Company that opened last night.

See it because you owe yourself a chance to see this remarkable (and rarely produced) Sondheim musical. It is not without its flaws as a show, but it certainly is one of the landmarks of American musical theater and you should know it (things barrel along at lighting speed, and then bog down a bit in a very speechy book depository scene). While on the surface, it is about misguided people who shot or tried to shoot American Presidents, it is really much more than that — and you’ll find something that strikes you personally, from family dysfunction to mental illness and civil activism. At its core, it is about people making decisions — in this case very poor decisions — and you’ll find those decisions alternately compelling and repulsive, but never uninteresting. Sondheim has written some wonderful material for this musical, and it is a score you should know.

See it because it is one of the most professional productions Encore has yet produced. What a year this has been for this theater! And what a cast. Beautifully directed by Matthew Brennan (who also takes on the role of The Balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald) and superbly musical directed by Tyler Driskill, the cast is superb. From the exceptional performance of John Wilkes Booth by David Moan to the creepy fantastic performance of James Fischer as John Hinckley, this is a cast that is in top form. Songs develop naturally out of scenes. Book scenes engage the audience and make you care about the characters, as repulsive as some of them are. Every lead and ensemble member has a specific role, a specific story to tell, and they are excellent.

See it because of Sarah Tanner’s beautiful set design, and Tyler Chinn’s wonderful lighting — the best I have seen in an Encore show. This is the first time I have seen ensemble groups and actors individually isolated on stage in their own pools of light, and it looks fantastic. Also see it because of Sharon Larkey Urick’s excellent costuming, and Anne Donevan’s property work which, both by necessity of the show, span several time periods and eras.

See it because Encore should be presenting more shows like this. If you are seriously interested in musical theater, you will be thrilled to see Encore taking a risk and producing something that will turn off some of its target audience and stop playing it safe by presenting family friendly fare. Its about time the theater has started to present some edgier material (Assassins joins last fall’s Bonnie and Clyde and the upcoming The Full Monty this fall as essential adult entertainment.) These are the types of shows that will advance Encore into a different category — that of modern music theater which spans many topics and interest levels, and will allow it to compete with every other theater in SE Michigan that has, for years, already produced edgier fare — and by edgy, I mean normal modern musical theater which is no longer designed to cater only to family audiences. The very Dexter family sitting behind me said after the show, “Well that wasn’t a show I liked very much”…and THAT is exactly why some of the members of this local audience need to be educated as to what current musical theater is about, what it says about our human condition, and how music is now integrated into drama.

Bravo to Encore for taking the risk and presenting an evening of musical theater that is breathtaking. Clocking in at 100 intermission-less minutes, it is a fascinating look at a weird slice of American history — attention has been paid.

Highest Recommendation.

Assassins continues at the Encore Musical Theatre Company through July 3rd. 3126 Broad Street, Dexter MI.  Tickets at theEncoreTheatre.org or 734-268-6200

 

 

 

 

 

A2CT’s The Wedding Singer: This Robbie Hart Will Certainly Steal Yours (Review) June 3, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.
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By Guest Reviewer Wendy Wright, photo by Aaron C Wade

I’ll start by saying that I saw a rehearsal of this production of The Wedding Singer about a week ago and the growth in that time has been remarkable. Of course it’s not surprising that the addition of all of the technical elements, a full band and an audience would make a difference, but what I didn’t expect was to see a performance from the leading actor that would be worthy of any New York stage.

If you are one of the handful of people unfamiliar with the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movie upon which the show is based, the year is 1985. The hair is big, collars are up, and greed is good. Rock-star wannabe Robbie Hart (Chip Mezo) is New Jersey’s favorite wedding singer and the life of the party—until his own fiancée leaves him at the altar. Shot through the heart, Robbie makes every wedding as disastrous as his own. Things look up when he meets Julia (Kimberly Elliot), a winsome waitress, but she’s about to marry a Wall Street shark. Unless Robbie can change his tune and pull off the performance of the decade, the girl of his dreams will be gone forever.

Mezo’s performance as Hart is a masterclass in extraordinary vocals and amazing comic timing. I can honestly say that having seen and been in dozens of Ann Arbor Civic Theater musicals over the past 30 years, he may be the most talented performer to ever grace their stage.

That isn’t to take away from the rest of the cast. Elliot as his love interest Julia is a vocal powerhouse in her own right. Daniel Hazlett and Chris Joseph as Robbie’s bandmates Sammy and George are also wonderful and the way the three play off each other is a joy to watch. Becca Nowak as Julia’s bestie Holly and Salina Burke as Robbie’s runaway bride are appropriately slutty and bitchy, respectively and Rich Roselle and Brandon Cave give hysterical cameo performances in multiple roles.

Director, Ron Baumanis stages the show with his usual attention to detail and pacing, first time A2CT Musical Director, Jim Territo leads a wonderful and restrained 80’s rock band and the choreography by Patricia Mazzola will have many suffering from flashbacks…or should I say “Flashdances”(the second act opening number is particularly clever).

For better (and sometimes worse) Molly Borneman’s costumes will remind you of every 80’s fashion faux pas you can think of (in the best possible way), while Pat Johnson’s first act ending special effect brings the house down in more ways than one.

Highly Recommended.

A2CT’s The Wedding Singer continues at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre on University of Michigan’s Central Campus through Sunday June 5th. Tickets at a2ct.org or at the door.

A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On at Croswell’s “Million Dollar Quartet” (Review) May 15, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Croswell Opera House, Entertainment.
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You’d be hard-pressed not to think that the Broadway tour of Million Dollar Quartet has made a stop in Adrian, MI, because this production, launching the 2016 summer season at Croswell Opera House is that terrific.

Start with the remarkable set by Doug Miller. Upon entering the theater, you’re greeted by his car-part-shop-turned-studio set, and its gorgeous. Then the lights come up and the evening is filled with one remarkable song after another, as four talented gents and one uber-talented lady enact the night in 1956 that four of rock-and-roll’s highest profile stars all gathered at Sun Studios to jam (and later, there’s a real-life photo to prove it, which brings some surprising audience tears).

Jonathan Crayne gets the night rolling as Carl Perkins. Add in Phillip Baugh as Johnny Cash. Don’t leave out John Grieco as Jerry Lee Lewis, and top it off with Lawrence Havelka as Elvis Presley. Along for the ride is Presley’s girlfriend Dyanne (Tatiana Owens). The band is rounded out by Tim Prettyman on bass, and Keith Kemner on drums. Director Eric Parker plays Sam Phillips, Sun Records owner, who serves as narrator for the evening. And for anyone who thinks acting is a glamorous job — take into consideration the remarkable talent involved in not only singing, dancing, and acting your way through a show filled with non-stop songs but to actually play the instruments yourselves live on stage. Yes, its remarkable.

What follow are 23 exciting rock-and-roll songs, and a jam-packed megamix finale that will leave you clapping, cheering, and dancing along. (Literally — Jerry Lee Lewis comes into the audience to make sure you are standing and shakin’).

It is a fine fine night indeed — while some numbers rock a bit more than others — there isn’t a dull moment in the show, and you’ll find yourself fully absorbed in one of those “birth of rock and roll” iconic moments (much like last summer’s Memphis). Watch for Grieco’s spot-on Jerry Lee Lewis back-bending theatrics before evening’s end, Johnny Cash’s sultry bass singing, Elvis’s pre-icon swagger, and Perkins straight-out rock and roll. And you’ll leave the theater having not only been enormously entertained, but also having learned a bit about the whole process of early music making.

Credit also Tiff Crutchfield’s excellent lighting; Dave Rains super work as Music Director, Betsy Lackey’s wonderful costumes, and Joe Gozdowski’s exceptional sound design. Director Eric Parker keeps everything moving swiftly and looking utterly professional from top to bottom. Choreographer Meg McNamee gives everyone character-appropriate moves.

You’ll have your favorites — from singers to songs, but you won’t leave disappointed as Million Dollar Quartet rocks the Croswell Opera House.

My only complaint is the addition of an intermission. This show is written and meant to be performed straight through (it is only 100 minutes long) and in this instance the addition of an intermission is particularly glaring as it breaks the integrity of the show when lights simply go out on stage and come up in the house. Boo.  I hope a similarly egregious intermission does not occur in the intermissionless Drowsy Chaperone later this summer.

Highly Recommended.

Million Dollar Quartet continues at the Croswell Opera House, 129 E Maumee St, Adrian, MI through May 22nd. Tickets: croswell.org or 517-264-SHOW

 

 

 

 

 

“Ragtime the Musical” tour is spectacular (Review) May 14, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Broadway Tour.
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Kate Turner (Mother) and Matthew Curiano (Tateh) sing “Our Children” in RAGTIME

Seen on its journey through Toledo’s Stranahan Theater, the newly minted national tour of Ragtime the musical is in a word spectacular.

First, take a top-notch cast making some amazing music together. Next, add a genuinely affecting story (book by Terrence McNally, Music by Stephen Flaherty, and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens), that works no matter how many times you’ve seen the show, and add in a gorgeous set, costume, and lighting design, and it all makes this a great production.

Based on EL Doctorow’s novel, the musical tells the story of a fictional family intertwined with real world historical characters in three social realms — established white America at the turn of the century, an ever increasing influx of European immigrants, and a growing sense of social justice for black Americans. Each of these mini-dramas is clearly defined by its characters, and the stories play out in turn.

The tour is based on the 2009 revival of the musical, rather than the more lavish 1996 original. It uses a reduced cast size, and simpler sets and costumes. But the smaller size of the show doesn’t at all detract from the story — in fact, it might actually enhance the drama. Marcia Milgrom Dodge has directed and choreographed the production with an assured hand and a big heart.

A few performances in particular stand out. First, there is a star-making turn as immigrant Tateh by Matthew Curiano. His vocal and acting work first breaks your heart and later makes you laugh and then cry again (“Our Children” is so well done here).  Also very fine are Kate Turner as Mother, and Chris Sams as Coalhouse Walker Jr. Her “Back to Before” is remarkable, while his “Make Them Hear You” is stunning. As usual “Wheels of a Dream” (sung by Sams and Leslie Jackson as Sarah) is the score’s showcase number.  But every cast member is very strong, and they play interchangeable characters over the course of the musical. Congratulations to all.

The simple but beautiful set design is by Kevin Depinet, the excellent lighting design is by Mike Baldassari, and the gorgeous costume design is by Gail Baldoni. Steven Bishop provides first rate musical direction.

Do not miss this excellent tour.   Highest Recommendation.

For tour schedule, visit http://www.ragtimeontour.com

 

 

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