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Very strong cast in Dexter’s Hilarious “Avenue Q” (Review) January 16, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, musical theater, Musicals, Uncategorized.
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There is a very strong cast in Dexter Community Player’s Avenue Q, now running at the Copeland Auditorium in Dexter, Michigan. Ok, I thought, I’ve now seen so many productions of this show, what could another add to the canon? Well, it is a strong, hilarious cast that makes this production soar.

Under the fast-paced direction of Jason Smith and the excellent musical directorship of Jonathan Sills, the production barrels along with it’s outrageous songs (and lyrics), and it’s foul-mouthed over-sexed puppets (this is absolutely NOT a show for kids, no matter how cute those puppets might be).

N. Leo Snow is superb as Princeton, and Jamie Lynn Buechele a knock-out as Kate Monster. Her “Fine Fine Line” is simply sublime as it ends Act I on a bittersweet note. There’s a big big heart beating inside Avenue Q (one of the reasons it won Best Musical over Wicked), and this cast finds that quickly and isn’t afraid to share it throughout. But the entire cast is terrific — witness Erik Olsen’s excellent Nicky, Jared Hoffert’s over-the-top Trekkie Monster, and Katrina Chizek’s Lucy the Slut.

Rounding out the great cast are: Chris Bryant as Brian, Stacey Smith as his wife Christmas Eve and Keshia Daisy Oliver as Gary Coleman (like Sesame Street, they are the three non-puppet “people” that live in the neighborhood); Antonio Argiero as closeted Rod; Mary Rumman as school teacher Mrs Thistletwat; and the other characters (Bad Idea Bears, singing boxes, Ricky, etc): Amanda Burch, Neil Clennan, and Eric Redfern.

Sills’ 6-piece combo band sounds great. The set by David Chapman is Avenue Q pretty. The costumes by Kristi Kuick look sharp. And then there are those amazing puppets.

What didn’t click? Well, sound design is in a word awful. Mics drop in and out consistently (most noticeably on Erik Olsen). Cues are missed throughout so that actors starting speaking offstage are unheard, then come blaring on. There were multiple feedback problems on opening night. Tires squealed instead of a phone ringing. Ironically, the phone rang when a toilet flush is supposed to be heard. The actors cleverly covered those mistakes, but they mar an otherwise excellent production. Also missing on opening night were projections, which I am assured will be there for future shows. I’m hopeful they’ll iron out these problems as the run continues this week and next.

But don’t let that scare you off — this cast is great; and in that small intimate house you can hear (most) of it without the mics. Its a hilarious evening of entertainment that you should not miss.

Highly Recommended.

Avenue Q continues through January 24th at DCP — tickets at dextercommunityplayers.org

 

 

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Surprisingly excellent “School of Rock” at the Winter Garden Theatre (Preview review) December 3, 2015

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For the record, School of Rock is still in previews at the Winter Garden Theatre in NYC, though I can’t imagine it isn’t frozen (or close to being frozen) at this point. Seen at the Wednesday Evening Dec 2nd performance, this is a rocking, excellent surprise — and I am going to predict that it gives Hamilton a run for its money at award time.

Featuring almost all of the songs from the original movie, with 14 additional new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical follows the Mike White script pretty closely (re-written for the stage by Julian Fellowes, but don’t worry, you won’t miss any of the signature lines from the movie which all remain). Glenn Slater wrote the additional lyrics for the new songs.

Alex Brightman turns in a superstar performance in the Jack Black role of Dewey Finn (aka Ned once he assumes his “teacher” role). Sierra Boggess turns in a lovely vocal performance as principle Rosalie (though her talent is a bit wasted in this small role), but it is as it should be, because the stars here are Brightman and the kids — and oh, those 13 kids. First, yes, they DO play their own instruments on stage, and the multiracial casting is sublime. Second, you can’t take your eyes off of them — I started picking my favorites, but within a few songs I loved every one of them — and judging from the ecstatic audience reaction last night, so will you. The show receieved a standing ovation before it was even over following their big Battle of the Bands performance.

The entire supporting cast is excellent — but really, it is those kids and the remarkable musical numbers that will keep audiences flocking to the Winter Garden for years, and New York is the perfect market to supply a steady stream of new young talent as these kids grow up and age out of their roles. And you know what, I’ll be back to see them as soon as I can, because I simply loved School of Rock. And you can feel free to take your entire family — the crudity from the movie is toned down, and there isn’t an out-of-place joke that won’t leave you either doubled over or groaning.

It all plays out on a gorgeous accordian-like set that slides, moves, tilts, turns to create school hallways, house interior, classrooms, stages, theatres. The lighting is remarkable for its austerity at the beginning and its outstanding visuals once you hit the rock concert sequence at the end. In fact, its some of the best lighting design I’ve ever seen in a Broadway show (Natasha Katz, of course!).

The last time I felt like this when leaving a theatre was at Kinky Boots — and we all know how that turned out. Expect tony nominations for musical, book, score, Best Actor, lighting, set design, choreography, orchestrations, Scenic design, costume design, sound design.

“The Philadelphia Story” at Ann Arbor Civic Theater – (Review) May 8, 2015

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First, disclosure — I was the marketing liaison for this production, and I did organize the scene changes — that being said, I was not involved in any other way with this production, and since this is my own blog, I can review whatever I want. In the past I have had a guest reviewer, but quite frankly, there isn’t time to do that with only a few more performances at hand…

It is a delight to have The Philadelphia Story back on stage — those of us of a certain age will remember lots of college and community productions of this show, before it went out of fashion many years ago — but it needn’t have…it is just as relevant today as it was in the late 30’s when it was written.  Philip Barry was known for witty patter and his humorous take on society in the 30’s. The Philadelphia Story was written for Kathryn Hepburn for Broadway in 1939, and then gifted to her as a birthday present for the movie version a year later.

Here, Colleen Kartheiser does a great job playing Tracy Lord, society girl on the eve of her second marriage, and the eye-opening journey that ensues when confronted with current beau George Kittredge (solid Adam Weakley), ex-husband CK Dexter Haven (terrific Karl Kasischke), and soulful writer Macauley Connor (excellent Nick Boyer) at the same time. One girl. Three guys. Laughter (and romance) follows. But how those twists and turns follow suit are exactly what makes this show so well written — and why its considered the “original romantic comedy” because of the way the third act plays out in its romantic final moments.

Also terrific is the entire supporting cast, including matriarch Kathleen Beardmore and patriarch Jared Hoffert of the Lord Clan, funny and meddling sister Dinah Megan Shiplett, photographer Alix Berneis (in a subtle underplayed role that makes her story all that more interesting), and additional family, servants, and others (David Angus, Rob Roy, Thom Johnson, Laurie Atwood, Keith Rikli, Lisa Gavan, and Charlie Sutherland.)

It is all played out on a gorgeous revolving set designed by Cathy Cassar, period-gorgeous costumes by Wendy Katz Hiller, period perfect furnishings by Wendy Wright, and nicely lit by Zachary Johnson (I particularly liked the Act II Scene 1 sequence lit outdoors at nightime, with its romantic shadows and surprises lending an almost dreamlike quality to the proceedings.)

Wendy Wright’s direction paces things well, includes plenty of surprises, and makes for a fine evening of theatre — posh enough to depict society life at its best, while adding enough modern-day sensibility to make it all work 75 years later.

A final note: dear audience member the row to my left: if your deaf husband does not understand what is going on, please do NOT explain to him during the show loudly and for all to hear exactly what is going on — oh, and by the way, your interpretation of events wasn’t all that accurate.

I loved the show — you will too. If you are familiar with it already, you will find how remarkably these actors make the roles their own. If you have never seen the show, well you owe it to yourself to see this chestnut in its very pretty incarnation at the Arthur Miller Theater for the rest of this weekend.

Tickets at http://www.a2ct.org/tickets or at the door.

A2CT’s Lucky Stiff is like a warm puppy (Guest Review) March 13, 2015

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A guest review by Wendy Wright!!

—————

A2CT’s Lucky Stiff is Like a Warm Puppy

I must confess upfront that I am a loud and devoted cat fan…dogs, not so much. But A2CT’s production of Lucky Stiff proves that happiness IS a warm puppy. Under the creative and passionate direction of Isaac Ellis, Lucky Stiff sprints along at a break neck speed while keeping the heart intact.

The story revolves around an unassuming English shoe salesman, Harry Witherspoon (Justin Dawes) who is forced to take the embalmed body of his recently murdered Dead Uncle Anthony (Thom Johnson) on a vacation to Monte Carlo. Should he succeed in passing his uncle off as alive, Harry stands to inherit $6,000,000. If not, the money goes to the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn represented by Annabel Glick (Jackie Gubow), or else his uncle’s gun-toting ex, Rita La Porta (Lauren Norris) and her bumbling brother, Vinnie De Ruzzio (Zak Stratton).

The cast is so enthusiastic, well-staged and choreographed (thanks to Ellis and Kat Walsh respectively), that even opening night set and sound problems couldn’t throw them off their game and actually provided some great laughs.

While some of the cast many exude more eagerness than singing ability, the two leading ladies are vocal and acting powerhouses. Jackie Gubow as Annabel Glick combines great comic timing with a beautiful voice, but it’s Lauren Norris’s Rita La Porta that steals the show. Her voice is magnificent, her presence larger than life and her comic fearlessness hysterical. 

You will also spot a different special guest each performance during the nightclub scene in the form of a community luminary. Let’s just hope that the guests to come (Matthew Altruda, Keith Hafner and Ingrid Sheldon) will throw themselves into their parts as completely as current Ann Arbor mayor, Christopher Taylor did on opening night (the man can shake his tail feathers!)

The four piece band under the direction of Jonathan Sills spends the show onstage and sounds great, the costumes by Alix Berneis are adorable and the props by Cassie Mann inventive.

If that isn’t enough, I haven’t even gotten to the DOGS yet. During the preshow and during certain musical numbers a screen above the stage rotates pictures of dogs that are currently available for adoption at the Humane Society of Huron Valley. The partnership is a win-win. The photos really add to the show and I’ll bet more than one of those pups will have found a good home by the end of the weekend (heck, I was tempted and I’m an avowed cat woman).

Credit must also go to A2CT as a whole for continuing to produce these little known gems that you never get to see (a few years ago they tackled another rarity, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater). Other theater companies should take note. Here is a fun, crowd pleasing musical with a manageable cast size. Of course, it might not work as well without an insane genius behind it like Isaac Ellis. 

Lucky Stiff continues tonight and tomorrow at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm at the Arthur Miller Theatre, UM North Campus. Tickets are available by calling (734) 971-0605, at the door or at A2CT.org.

Twelfth Night – AACT (Guest Review) November 1, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Shakespeare, Theatre, Uncategorized.
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This guest review is brought to you by Wendy Wright. Thank you, Wendy!

One of the reasons the works of Shakespeare have stood the test of time, are their ability to be shaped and interpreted in many different ways. In Kat Walsh’s production of Twelfth Night at the Arthur Miller Theater for A2CT, the play has been stripped down to the bone which allows the text to take center stage.

The story of Twelfth Night is basically about twins who are separated. The girl twin dresses as a man and has to woo a Countess for a Duke, whom she herself loves. Then the boy twin comes back, they look identical, and there are crazy misunderstandings. There’s also a subplot involving the uncle of the Countess, a cowardly knight and an arrogant servant.

What sets this production apart from other versions I’ve seen was the simplicity and clarity. This is helped in great part by a minimalist set by Nathan Doud and the understated costumes by Liz Getty. A quick glance at the program shows that a large majority of the cast has lots of experience in interpreting Shakespeare’s language, and it shows. It is clear that these actors know what they’re saying and can easily communicate it to an audience.

The roles of Viola and Olivia have some of the greatest scenes in all of Shakespeare and Carol Gray and Kaela Parnicky make the most of them. Parnicky’s Olivia is especially effective in running the gamut of necessary emotions and mining every comedic moment. A new comic duo is born with the combination of Jeff Miller’s Sir Toby Belch and Chris Grimm’s Sir Andrew Aguecheek. They play off of each other effortlessly and provide some of this production’s highlights. The live music is lovely and Feste as played by Dory Mead has a beautiful voice.

Was this the funniest production of Twelfth Night I’ve ever seen? No. But Walsh’s choice to concentrate on the text and the music makes for a very enjoyable and understandable evening. As a director of an upcoming A2CT show, I hope that many of the actors making their A2CT debut return later this season.

Twelfth Night continues tonight at 8pm and tomorrow at 2pm at the Arthur Miller Theatre, UM North Campus. Tickets are available at the door or at A2CT.org.

“Bullets Over Broadway” the musical…left me cold…(Review) March 23, 2014

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Seen in a preview performance on March 22, 2014 (the show opens April 10th — an inexplicably long time for a preview period for such a slight show)

There is nothing really wrong with “Bullets Over Broadway” at the St. James Theatre. There is also nothing really right. The entire big-budget affair is commercial Broadway musical theater at its most average.

Woody Allen, working from his own movie script, follows a (very small) story about the development of a Broadway-bound play in the 20’s, complete with neurotic author (Zach Braff — who thought casting him would be a good idea?)…fading star (Marin Mazzie…”don’t speak, don’t speak”)…angry Mobster (Vincent Pastore)…his talent-free want-to-be-an-actress doll (Helene York)…and a handful of other assorted stereotypes that work well in his small-budget movie but don’t work so well on a big Broadway stage.

Woody Allen movie-regular Santo Loquasto wraps it all in a very bleak scenic design that thrusts the stage out 8 feet beyond its normal proscenium boundaries and creates blocked sightlines for all people in house right and house left. Its all dark and lifeless, even the moving chaser lights seem to be dulled. William Ivy Long has created serviceable (at best) costumes, and some are downright unflattering.

So mediocrity, begin your role call:

The script, one of Woody Allen’s smaller works, probably isn’t the main problem here. Its funny where it needs to be, but it also borders on crass — his movie was never crass, it was funny…

The direction by Susan Stroman is flat, and seems to borrow from every other major blockbuster she has directed — you can predict where each actor is going to move, and what they are going to do, and how they are going to gesticulate once they get there. And you can be assured that there will be too much choreography (and there is). There isn’t anything “wrong” with it — there is just too much direction and not enough originality.

Zach Braff is unfunny. Seriously. For a guy who made a career of being very funny on Scrubs, here he just falls flat. He’s not bad — he’s pretty good, actually….but he’s given nothing much to work with, and at times he just looks like that big goofy college kid stuck in a role he isn’t comfortable with.

Marin Mazzie and Karen Ziemba prove that they are troopers no matter how outlandish the blocking given to them. Both turn in very good performances.

Helene Yorke does the best she can as moll Olive stuck under a horrible blond wig, but at least it lets her hide in her character and she does a good job doing so. She brings some of the few sparks of life to the show — albeit so predictable you know where its going all along.

The standout here is Nick Cordero as Cheech (gangster turned playwright). He’s charismatic, always fun to watch, and seems to be enjoying himself (the same can not be said of many of the others on stage). His “big number” that turns into a full male-cast mobster tap number is the show’s highlight.

The second musical highlight is Olive’s “The Hot Dog Song” — its over the top and borders on material stolen from “The Producers”, but its the single funniest scene in the entire 2:45 show. (The run time, by the way, needs to be cut by at least 15 minutes prior to opening or you’re going to kill ’em, Susan…may I suggest cutting “The panic is on” and “She’s funny that way” to start?)

Music — what was once intended to be an original score (and should have been) turned out to be a hodgepodge of old 20’s trunk songs — none of which have any real impact and while sounding pleasantly jazzy throughout have little energy and little life to them. The additional lyrics written for them show some promise, but overall it all falls flat.

But the crowing achievement of mediocrity is the entire finale sequence…take the ending from Anything Goes, and throw in the song “Yes, we have no bananas” (seriously) and you have the ending here. Its horribly conventional and, well, um, just odd.

You won’t hate Bullets Over Broadway. But you won’t walk out thinking its great either. The audience reaction at intermission was sort of a stunned non-reaction. I saw Susan Stroman duck out toward the end of intermission. Apparently even she had better things to do for the rest of the night.

Not recommended.

Heathers, the musical (review)… What’s Your Damage? March 22, 2014

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Seen in preview March 22, 2014 – the production opens officially on 3/31.

Much in the way Kinky Boots won me over last year over all the larger budget musicals I had seen last spring, Heathers, the musical, now previewing at New World Stages off-Broadway won me over as this spring’s favorite new musical.

Working from the original movie script, writers Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness) and Laurence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde, Bat Boy) have crafted a hilarious new musical theater work that takes edgy material yet presents it in a very traditionally musical theater way.

Outsider Veronica Sawyer (an uncannily talented Barrett Wilbert Weed) meets bad boy JD (Ryan McCartan) who begins open season on bitch-girls the Heathers (Jessica Keenan Wynn, Elle McLemore, and Alice Lee) and football players Ram (Jon Eidson) and Kurt (Evan Todd). This core of young actors is probably the strongest ensemble cast you are likely to see in NYC this spring. They are supported by an excellent ensemble that play multiple roles. The “Heathers” are theater-naturals — and the ladies here make the most of those juicy roles — Alice Lee does things with her eyes I’ve never seen anywhere, its almost worth the price of admission just to see her facial expressions. Barrett is a triple-threat: singing, acting, dancing, and she exudes charisma from her first scene to the last.

The score is tuneful and has at least one certifiable hit in “Seventeen”. The songs all skew toward humor, with a particular highlight being Dan Cooney and Anthony Crivello’s “My Dead Gay Son”. Direction by Andy Fickman and choreographty by Marguerite Derricks is fast-paced and solid, yet also very focused for a musical of this kind — they direct your eye directly where it needs to go, and there isn’t a misplaced step in the entire show. For a musical that still has a week of previews, its pretty much ready to go.

I expect this to be a big hit in NYC — and hopefully it will lead to a Broadway transfer, where it solidly belongs. But its an easy one-block walk across 8th Avenue to the New World Stages theater “multiplex” (remember when this used to be our newest neighborhood movie theater?)

The crowd at today’s performance was enthusiastic and ate up the humor. It should be noted that this is a big, competently done musical theater work, not a small off-Broadway spoof of the movie — its a solid, well-crafted, and well-polished piece.

Timothy R. Mackabee has created a nice set, and Jason Lyons lighting design is sharp, colorful, and works well throughout — even creating an explosion effect in the final sequence. Very nice.

If I had the time, I would go back and see this again tonight (alas, Bullets Over Broadway becons on my last evening in NYC), and then I would get tickets for myself and friends for next weekend…and probably the one after that as well. This show is that good.

Very Highly Recommended.

If/Then more like So/What? (review) March 22, 2014

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At my favorite theatre in New York (the Richard Rodgers), and seen in preview on 3/21 (the show opens 3/30), Brian Yorkey and Tim Kitt’s new musical (next to normal), “If/Then” is providing Idina Menzel with a shriek-worthy score and not much to support it.

The show is in trouble from its very first sentence — a self-absorbed New York woman nearing-40 has divorced her husband with whom she has moved to Arizona for the past decade and returned to NYC to start anew. Right there, you already have a problem — the audience is asked to care about a woman who has divorced her husband because she felt bored and wanted “more out of life”. Who cares?

What follows is the show’s high concept (playing out on a gorgeous 10 million dollar multi-level set by Mark Wendland, beautifully lit by Kenneth Posner) — Elizabeth imagines two scenarios — one as Liz, and one as Beth, if she had made different choices (not in the past, mind you, where the audience already knows she’s bad at making good decisions) but in a make-believe present day. In one, she goes with a friend to a coffee shop and her life takes a fateful turn toward romance — in the other, she goes along with another friend to a different event and it sets in spin a great career in NYC.

Spoilers Follow: what happens next is so inconsequential it reflects the Raiders of the Lost Ark Syndrome (Thank you Big Bang Theory!) — it doesn’t matter what storyline you convolutedly follow, the ending is the same! With or without Nazi chase scenes, the ark is still opened and destroys everyone. With or without the “two choices” the show reveals the SAME eventual ending….

So, to get there, you have to suspend belief that anything here is real in any way other than in Elizabeth’s mind as she contemplates two different options — and you have to somehow care about this self-absorbed egotistical woman and her self-absorbed friends. There isn’t a single character on stage that you really care about, and probably wouldn’t have any of these people as your friends in real life. They’re the kind of people I spent 14 years of my life in NYC going out of my way to avoid, not spend 2:40 onstage watching.

Yorkey’s story doesn’t work on any level. His score with Kitt fares better, and there are a few strong tunes, well delivered by the very good cast.

Idina Menzel sings her heart out in every number — and I do mean sings her heart out in every number. Thankfully, she gets a few slower, quieter moments, but for the most part, she “sings her heart out” in “every number”. Clearly, the score is written and shaped directly for her, and every song is greeted by audience shrieks of enjoyment instead of standard applause — a trend that was created in Wicked, and which carries over here with her now older audience groupies.

Anthony Rapp sings and acts well, and has his own audiences shriekers in attendance. LaChanze turns in a fine performance, lacking any nuance, but certainly worthy of her musical skills. Faring best are Jerry Dixon as her boss, helping with her career while conflicted as to his feelings (the resolution of his storyline is the least realistic of any of them in the compact ending), and James Snyder (yes, that tv-star James Snyder) who sings beautifully and is given the woefully underwritten part of Idina’s love interest Josh — its as if every scene that he and Idina are in together was written in such a way that his talent never oversteps the bounds of Idina’s stardom — as a result he looks like he’s hitting his marks and moving along which creates a lack of charisma between the two of them.

There are some beautiful moments in the show, but audience members expecting a thoughtful, meaningful musical follow up to their previous work “next to normal” are going to be sorely disappointed.

There were sniffles toward the end of the show — and I have NO IDEA what they were crying about — there wan’t a single thing in this show that hit me as emotional, or even emotion-filled. But clearly I must not be the target demographic for this show.

The sole thing that this show has going for it is that it is original — in a season where every other musical is based on a movie or pre-existing source material, its nice to see people thinking about and creating something original. The payoff here, though, is not worthy.

Recommended only for musical theatre die-hards, and Idina Menzel fans. Not recommended for casual theater-goers.

Rocky on Broadway is a technical knockout (review) March 20, 2014

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You will go home whistling the sets after Rocky the musical. What you won’t go home whistling is any of the tunes. That’s not to say you won’t like the show. In fact, I loved it.

Rocky (a beefed-up excellent Andy Karl) and Adrian (superb Margo Seibert) play out their South Philadelphia love story with the requisite emotion and they both have charisma to spare. Adrian is given the evening’s only memorable songs (the ballad “Raining” and the angry-song ‘I’m Done”), though she and Rocky together have a half-song “Happiness” which barely begins and by the time it reaches its lyrical core is already over. Its underscored numerous times with “Eye of the Tiger” and the “Rocky theme” from the first two movies. Otherwise, Ahrens and Flaherty have written what is their weakest score, and its a shame.

What makes this show a real knockout is Christopher Barreca’s scenic design — I’ll go on the record here to say that it is the best set I have ever seen in a broadway musical — and its matched scene for scene by Christopher Akerlind’s excellent lighting design.

Set pieces slide, glide, lift, rotate, stack, flip. Video is integrated on large moving panels both on stage and above the audience. And you’ve probably heard about the last 20 minutes, where the premium seating patrons are moved on stage and the boxing ring slides out into the audience — no matter what your thoughts might be on the musical overall, the last 20 minutes of this show are a tour-de-force of theater — and the audience was on its feet cheering the fight long before they were urged to stand up by the cast…Video screens with rink lighting lower from the ceiling, and the atmosphere is one of a real fight. Its exciting and electric theater.

The Winter Garden Theatre has a new longtime client — and dare I say this is the show that will be the male equivalent of “Wicked” — I fully envision cool dad’s bringing their sons to the show for an evening of bonding for years to come (okay, mom will get stuck buying the tickets, and I guarantee she won’t be bored, while maybe not understanding why dad and son are so much more enthused than she is about the entire affair).

Recommended.

“Aladdin” brings Disney magic back to Broadway (review) March 19, 2014

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I have previously reviewed Aladdin when seen in its pre-Broadway tryout in Toronto. I now follow with an updated review of the Broadway production as seen today in NYC (the official opening night is tomorrow night). And what has occurred between the show’s pre-Broadway tryouts and now is magic in itself.

I liked the show in Toronto. I loved it in New York. The musical has been pumped-up in color, tempo, and stage spectacle — and my single complaint about the Toronto production was the lack of typical Disney “magic” — but its back. The numerous subtle (and some not-so-subtle) changes all work in the show’s favor — and its quickly rising to the top of the list of musicals to beat this year in many categories.

The movie’s 6 songs are augmented by 14 new numbers (though some are reprises). Some of them were written for the movie and cut, others are original (with additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin). The other biggest problem (what to do with Aladdin’s three “boyband” buddies) here has been resolved as well. They are now integrated into the production. Overall the musical numbers work well, and the book’s broad jokes all land well.

The magic, of course, is nowhere more evident than that starlit magic carpet ride during “A Whole new World” — and it’s become even more fascinating since the design team has gone on record to state the the illusion is NOT done with wires. I have zero idea how they did it, and I’m pretty tech savvy with these things. The remainder of the show’s illusions are stage-tricks that work well throughout. But oh, that carpet…which now appears in the curtain call as well, in full light, with no visible means of floatation — I love it.

But close on its heals are the two major production numbers in the show: “A Friend like me” is a bone-fide show stopper — it got a standing ovation mid-show…and “Prince Ali” pumps up the costumes and glamour — and by itself should earn Aladdin this year’s Best Costume award at Tony time.

Also sure to win a Tony is featured actor James Monroe Iglehart as Genie. Its an all-around star turn from this man who has to follow in Robin Williams movie shadow. His is a crowd pleasing, but also very talented, performance from beginning to end. The rest of the cast remains intact from its pre-Broadway tryouts in Seattle and Toronto.

Overall, Aladdin is a fun, funny, and entertaining evening of Disney Theatricals magic — and it has found a long long tenure at the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street. What fun it has been to follow its development along the way. Recommended.

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