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“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” at Wharton Center, East Lansing (Review) is a Dream December 9, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Theatre.
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Okay, let me state this for the record: I have seen White Christmas, the musical, 7 times now – between San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, and East Lansing. I love this show, and am not going to review the show itself…This is the 2009 Tour that made a one-week stop at the Wharton Center at MSU, East Lansing.

The show is a dream – and the cast is one of the best I’ve seen since the initial production in San Francisco (still my favorite cast – but maybe just because I saw them first and could brag for a year until other people started to see the show in it’s season incarnations). Stephen Bogardus and Kerry O’Malley reprise their roles from the NYC 2008 production. David Elder and Megan Sikora play their dancing-fool sidekicks, and they are dandy together. This production features the best-danced “I Love a Piano” that I have seen in four different incarnations. The Elder/Sikora “Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” is perfection. The tap dancing throughout this production is spectacular by the entire cast. Stephen Bogardus brings charm and style to his role, while Kerry O’Malley is just plain lovable.

What is currently a drought of productions and jobs on Broadway has resulted in one of the most talented dancing casts in ages — there are folks in this show that normally play leads in other musicals. It all lends a wonderfully polished perfection to the show as a whole. Lorna Luft makes a fine Martha Watson and sings her heart out in her big show-stopper number. Her stardom in no way overshadows any of the cast members, and she appears to be having the time of her life.

For those who saw the show at the Fox Theatre, be warned that it’s a different creature at Wharton Center — featured as part of it’s Broadway tour season, the performances are near sold-out throughout the run. There appear to be balcony and scattered rear orchestra seats available for some performances this week — but don’t expect you can walk up to the box office like you could at the Fox and just get great seats. Not the case here.

For those not in the know – this is just a holiday treat — a big, colorful, Randy Skinner tap-dance filled extravaganza. It could really play at any time, not just Christmas time — it’s a full-blown Broadway musical with spectacular dancing and a fine familiar book and score. Filled with classics like “White Christmas”, “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep”, “Snow”, “Blue Skies”, “Sisters”, “I’ve Got My love to Keep Me Warm” and a half-dozen others. It moves at lightning pace, and it’s a musical lovers musical, much like “42nd Street” or “Babes in Arms”.

Go, have fun, and see a spectacular cast. On a final note — beware the weather. I don’t know which was more exciting on Tuesday night — opening night at White Christmas, or the spectacularly dangerous drive home to Ann Arbor for an hour in some of the worst driving weather you could imagine — snow, turning to sleet, turning to ice. I hate driving, and I particularly hated driving home after the show. Luckily I had the White Christmas cast album on my iPhone to play through the car stereo system to keep me in a good mood. Check the weather reports before you head out this week. I leave for Florida tomorrow, or I would have seen the show a second time if I could. But I’m glad I will be out of this weather in less than 24 hours for a week. For those of you left behind in this Michigan weather — go enjoy this “warm cup of hot chocolate” musical. Go see a Broadway show.

And that’s the view from Ann Arbor this week.

Holy Xanadu!! March 23, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Movies.
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Recently saw the Broadway tour of Xanadu in Chicago — and it brought back this bizarre sweep of nostalgia for the original movie, which I hadn’t seen since 1980…So ABC Family comes to my rescue again this weekend with the movie version of Xanadu….and what a suprise…


First — let’s not get carried away — this is one of the WORST movie musicals ever made — and it has nothing to do with the sometimes excellent music and performances, and completely has to do with the terrible script.

But there is some brilliant in this terrible movie as well. First is Olivia Newton John in an amazing musical performance that includes tap dancing (she’s good!), roller-disco, and hip hop (okay, let’s call it what it was, there was no Hip Hop back then, it was all plain old DISCO)…but she is good….and I mean good. She matches other musical theatre singers/dancers for strong song and dance, and stage presence.

Then there is the wonderful art design — granted, it doesn’t get off to a good start with the purple-aura muses coming to life….but it gets better — the studio work looks great, and the sequence in which the Swing Band and the ELO Band slide together is sheer musical theatre brilliance.

The final sequence, as aweful as it is, features some terrific footwork and tap — when was the last time you saw Tap in a movie musical?…and these folks tap dance on roller skates!….

Give it a look — it’s aged well, and it’s a highly entertaining 90 minutes. It’s a great filler for your Netflix list — and if your old enough to remember, it’s a blast of 1980’s nostalgia that reminds you how terrible our clothes were, how awful our hair was, and the bizarre taste we had in colors. It’s all there, and it’s all more genuine than movies like Grease, because this movie wasn’t designed to be nostalgic — it was real-life living, breathing musical culture circa 1980. And it’s hilarious.

Now where is my shirt with the buttons that closed on a diagonal across my chest?….I know it’s in some closet somewhere…although this time, what goes around is NOT going to come back around…