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Forgotten Musicals Part 2: They’re Playing Our Song (1979) July 24, 2022

Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.
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Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz, Photo: Martha Swope

When a show is as huge a hit as They’re Playing Our Song was, you’d think everyone would know it, right? Well, not in this case.

Running for over three years in NYC with major productions in LA and London’s West End, the musical has a storyline based on the real world relationship of Carole Bayer Sager and Neil Simon — with book and lyrics written by the two, and music written by Marvin Hamlish.

Starring comedian Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz, it’s a two-character show with a 6-member backup of “egos” for both Robert and Lucie. While it seems like a small show, it had an enormous set by Douglas W Schmidt including the first use of stage-wide moving projections. 

A movie was planned and sold to Columbia, but never made. Nominated for awards across the board, it won none losing out to Sweeney Todd that same season. Bad timing for the show. (It’s other competition that year? Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Ballroom). It had a terrific tv commercial that ran day and night in NYC.

Neil Simon’s hilarious one-liners were on full display, which came naturally to comedian Robert Klein, with Lucie Arnaz making her Broadway debut with precision timing and a natural comedic style she no doubt learned from her mother (Lucille Ball).

The show had a series of headliners over the years after the original cast left — and there was talk of friction between Klein and Arnaz, the most famous being Klein’s boredom with playing the same role and reciting the same lines night after night, being a standup comedian…Lucy would act by looking at Klein and making eye contact…Robert would act by looking at the audience and playing all the jokes to them. The friction increased throughout the run, although it was never apparent from the audience side of the stage. They remained friends after the show closed. 

Some of the songs are more familiar than the show itself – many of them becoming standards at the time recorded by Jack Lawrence, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, and others. The script itself was reviewed as reflective of Simon’s The Goodbye GIrl and other comedies of the era. 

Rarely produced, it is a show that is appropriate for both large and small theaters, although  some of the laughs and jokes are now dated so it remains strictly a show trapped in time during the late 70’s.

With songs like “If He Really Knew Me”, “I Still Believe in Love”, and “Just for Tonight”, it’s a cast album you really should have in your collection.

Peele’s Nope is a big Yup July 22, 2022

Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.
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Jordan Peele has crafted a Spielberg-ish suspense thriller in his latest movie Nope, which is incorrectly classified as a “horror” movie, which it is not. Unless you consider films like Jaws or War of the Worlds horror movies.

Following a brother and sister trying to get the “ultimate movie shot” of a UFO pestering their local valley, the film creates the perfect summer blockbuster – suspenseful, often funny, sometimes weird, always entertaining. Grab your popcorn and settle in for summer fun.

The very solid cast are realistic and make you root for characters rather than stereotypes. A side story about a sitcom gone tragically wrong is gripping and comments on the unpredictable nature of our world.

The first half of the film plays out like Jaws…things happen but the monster lurks almost unseen in the shadows (or in this case bright clouds). The second half echoes War of the Worlds as things play out to a very satisfying conclusion.

Nope gets a big Yup from me. Scare rating- somewhere between Jurassic Park and Aliens. Grade A – highly recommended.

“Come-a, Come-a, Come-a” on down to this Little Shop (Croswell Opera House – Review) July 16, 2022

Posted by ronannarbor in Croswell Opera House, musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.
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There’s a whole lot of fun going on in Adrian where Croswell Opera House is presenting Little Shop of Horrors, a musical theater staple. Under the direction of Jared Hoffert, musical direction of Jonathan Sills, choreography of Jessica Briggs and Scenic Design of Doug Miller, how can you not have one spectacular production. And this is. The show has a great off-Broadway feel to it, and it looks and sounds fantastic. Chris Goosman designed sound, Marley Boone designed costumes, and Tiff Crutchfield designed lighting.

I mention the technical staff first, because this is a first rate production that requires all those elements to be in place for success. The script succeeds on its own merits, but without fine surrounding elements, it’s the same show you’ve seen in every high school, college, and community theater around the area for the past 40 years. It’s hard to believe it has been that long since I saw the original production in NYC at the Orpheum Theater down the street from NYU. But you’ll feel like you are watching the show all over again for the first time in this fast-moving, vocally delicious production. 

Jared Hoffert’s direction is swift, and focused. You won’t miss anything here. The cast is top-notch from top to bottom. Mikey Del Vecchio is a nerdy powerhouse as Seymour, and Jamie Lynn Buechele makes the rafters shake with her vocals. Their act-2 “Suddenly Seymour” brought down the house. 

John Bacarella is a fine Mushnik, Jarrod Alexander is a smarmy Orin the Dentist, and Adam Baker voices an incredible plant, not the least of which is it’s physical controls by Rob Roy. Sabriyah Davis, Keshia Daisy Oliver, and Casaundra Taulton are omni-present muses as they shoo-bop the night away (and watch the clever hair and costume design as they transition from street urchins to eventual Motown stars). The remainder of the ensemble is exceptionally strong vocally and comedically: Megan Beckett, John Lamb, Julia Hoffert, Henry Seifried, and Joel Twitchell. Each has a moment to shine in this hilarious production.

But lets not skip the most important question you most likely have: how’s the plant, Audrey II?  Suffice it to say that it is spectactular in all 4 of its forms, and it chews up the scenery every time it comes to life (designed by MonkeyBoys Productions). 

All-in-all you’ll be hard pressed to find something more fun the next few weeks as Little Shop continues it’s destruction of Adrian (prominantly featured in a great moment). Don’t miss it.

Very Highest Recommendation.

Little Shop of Horrors continues at the Croswell Opera House through July 24th. Tickets at croswell.org