Archive for the ‘MUSICAL THEATRE’ Category

The Fort Lauderdale Broadway Across America 2018-2019 season   Leave a comment






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Posted January 27, 2018 by greatmartin in MUSICAL THEATRE, THEATRE, Uncategorized

“Riverdance 20”–A dance review   4 comments

 


Superman can fly but can he tap dance, do flips and take your breath away at the same time? The supermen and superwomen of the 20th-anniversary tour of the Irish dance phenomenon called Riverdance can do all that plus sing and leave you exhausted while they just keep on going!

Aside from Irish hard tap dancing and ballet, there are The Riverdance Russian Folk troupe, a Flamenco soloist, an ensemble of Irish dancers and singers from all over the world plus two African-American tap dancers and the Riverdance band consisting of 4 members.

The stage consists of the drummer on stage left and the fiddler, saxophonist and the combination Uilleann pipes/low whistle/tin whistle, concertina player stage right. In the center is a wide flight of steps backed by a projection of animated scenes.

Each and every person on that stage gave their best and you felt as if they were enjoying what they were doing as much as the audience was.

There is a rotation of male leads consisting of Will Bryant, Kieran Hardiman and Jason O’Neill with an equal number of women leads being Maggie Darlington, Amy-Mae Dolan and Ciara Sexton. Obviously, these 6 have to be the best of the best, looking glorious as they dance. The members of the ensemble are so fine that any could dance the lead without disappointing the audience.

While it really isn’t fair to choose anyone as outstanding in this outstanding troupe particular attention has to be given to DeWitt Fleming Jr and Tyler Knowlin, the two African-American tap dancers, who face off against the Male Troupe in a number entitled “Trading Taps” which stopped the show and had the audience at first taking sides and then giving up as they were all superb! Just before the competition started DeWitt Fleming Jr showed off a rich baritone singing “Heal their Hearts-Freedom”. 

Another outstanding member of the company was the drummer Mark Alfred who among other percussion instruments played a Bodhran, which I had never been aware of before, that got the audience really worked as much as the dancers did.

“Riverdance 20” takes what is known as ‘folk dance’ and makes it international, spectacular and leaves you exhausted in a good way.

Though the only performances at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts remaining are today and tomorrow get whatever tickets they may have remaining for an exciting time of theatre and dance!

The show is 2 hours and 5 minutes with a 20-minute intermission! For tickets call 954-462-0222 or go to wwwbrowardcenter.org

Theatre 2017–My picks   Leave a comment

Theatre 2017 collage

It is no secret that I love the theatre! There is a certain magic about it that I don’t find in movies, on television and/or reading a book though I do find a different kind of magic in each. There is a scene in “Finding Neverland” that blew my mind and I knew it could be explained logically but I didn’t want to know.

I’ve been invited to press conferences and in my early youth I was invited backstage a few times (which I declined) and I’ve blocked out a period in my life where I was involved putting a play onstage all because I didn’t want to know what goes on behind the scenes nor did I want to meet any actors and not have them live up to the characters they played on stage. Strange? That theatre.

This past year I saw 19 shows of which 3 stood out with the first being “Something Rotten”! I found it fun, original, had a great score and defined the “Broadway Musical Comedy Theatre” for me. I would love to see it again and hope it comes back to South Florida.

The second show was one I saw over 50 years ago and this was the first time since then and this production of “The King and I” was that pure magic I talked about and made me forget Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner who I saw in the original and that was hard to forget.

The third show was “Beautiful”, which featured the music of Carole King and I had seen in 2016 and watched the second time as if it was the first time I saw it. That makes for a good show!

Tonight starts the 2018 season and I will be seeing “Riverdance 20” and next Tuesday “The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” to be followed by “Wicked”, “The Color Purple”, “The Bodyguard”, “Waitress”, “Jersey Boys” and “Chicago”. Stayed tuned for my reviews.

Theatre 2 2017 collage 

I could listen to this all day every day! From “Something Rotten” at the Tony Awards “It’s A Musical”!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnvF6A2DCAE

 

And this one with show references

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KFNcy9VjQI

“Finding Neverland”–touring musical review   Leave a comment

Finding Neverland Dec 2017 collage

In 1897 the playwright J. M. Barrie met the Llewelyn Davies family which had 5 young boys and in 1902 introduced Peter Pan in a novel but it was in 1904 that he wrote “Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t grow up” as a play and the world came to know the boy of the title.

“Finding Neverland” tells the story of Barrie’s interaction with the 4 boys (in the show) and how he based the characters on the boys and various people who touched their, and his, lives. The book of the show by James Graham plays a little loose with the truth but keeps the musical running smoothly while the music and lyrics by Gary Barlow & Eliot Kennedy give everyone in the cast time to shine.

The standout is Billy Harrigan Tighe as Barrie singing solos such as the theme of the show “My Imagination” or duets such as “Neverland” with Lael Van Keuren, as the boy’s mother Sylvia, who falls in love with Barrie, or with the boys Peter (Connor Jameson Casey), Michael (Turner Birthisel), Jack (Bergman Freedman) and George (Colin Wheeler) singing “We Own The Night” and is always a standout in the ensemble numbers. Tighe not only handles the acting with ease but as a dancer he is so agile that sometimes you don’t believe the step(s) he just did in front of you.

Lael Van Keuren has a show-stopping number “All That Matters” which allows her voice to soar throughout the theatre and her scenes with the boys and/or Tighe are solid.

John Davidson as Charles Frohman, the producer andmodel for Captain Hook, is a pro nailing every song, every line and even a dance step or two.

The four boys are especially fine playing boys who just happen to be singers, dancers, actors and pirates while Casey as Peter holds his own in a fine duet with Tighe called “When Your Feet Don’t Touch The Ground”.

Kristine Reese as the first Mrs. Barrie, Karen Murphy as Sylvia’s mother and the boy’s grandmother along with various members playing parts of the production company that Frohman runs bringing the characters such as Wendy, Captain Hook, the crocodile and others that children all over the world are familiar with to life.  Dwelvan David playing the family’s dog in the Peter Pan production is as good as, and even funnier, than the real dog Sammy who plays Porthos.

The musical not only presents the magic that Peter Pan has cast over children and adults for 114 years but also shows the magic, not only in scene after scene but in one particular scene set by Air Sculptor Daniel Wurtzel, of the theatre for hundreds of years.

“Finding Neverland” is a first-class production that touches the audience and brings out the kid in all of them at such times like when they are asked to clap to revive Tinkerbelle and at other times touches their heart.

 

 

“School of Rock”–Broadway touring musical–review   Leave a comment


Rob Colletti who stars, and deservingly so, as Dewey, a wannabe rock star who is a loser in life, better watch his step because any one of the 12 children starring opposite him is ready, and sometimes do, to steal the spotlight from him.

Theo –Mitchell Penner, as uncool Lawrence, sees himself as the king of rock, plays the keyboard while Theodora Silverman as Katie plays bass and adopts the look of a rock winner and Phoenix Schulman as Zack can step into any rock band out there and play the guitar as a professional but has the moves of one. One who brings the house down is Gilberto Moretti –Hamilton as the drummer Freddy, who seems to have learned from the masters.

Olivia Buckner as Shonelle and Chloe Anne Garcia as Marcy are the backup singers to soon be joined by Gianna Harris, as Tomika, who stops the show with her rendition of “Amazing Grace”. Though not playing musicians Billy, played by John Michael Pitera, who is in charge of the costumes and gets one of the biggest laughs with a reference to Barbra Streisand, Ava Briglia as the know-it-all Summer becomes the manager, Tommy Ragen as James becomes a security guard for the band and Sophie, played by Gabriella Uhl dives into her role as a roadie. Carson Hodges, plays the lighting designer Mason makes up the 12th kid of this group of children attending an upscale school all having personal problems, mainly with their parents.

The story is a simple one of how Dewey lies himself into the school as a teacher and surprises himself by helping each of the kids turn themselves around with music. Rob Colletti holds the cast, along with the audience, in the palm of his hands with the former enjoying each moment on stage with him and the latter loving him each moment on stage, no matter how outrageous he is on stage.

Along with the kids, Lexie Dorsett Sharp, as the school principal, Matt Bittner as Dewey’s best friend Ned and Emily Borromeo as Ned’s wife an ensemble of adults playing various roles from parents to teachers provide strong support for the 12 kids and Rob Colletti.

Never having seen the movie I don’t know how much the book by Juiian Fellowes follows it and I understand, with Glenn Slater writing the lyrics with new music by Andrew Lloyd Webber there are 14 new songs. Two are standouts: “Stick It To The Man” song and reprieved twice by Colletti and the kids with “Where Did The Rock Go?” sung beautifully and full-voiced by Lexie Dorsett Sharp.

The production end, from sets to costumes including lighting and direction, are all first rate with only the choreography being a bit disappointing but then what does a hard rock band do but jump up and down? (Okay heavy metal and hard rock fans forget the hate letters!)

There are many shows from “Annie” to “Oliver” to “The Music Man”, “The Sound Of Music” and “Finding Neverland” but “School of Rock” is in a class of their own. As Andrew Lloyd Webber’s recorded voice says at the beginning of the show, “Yes, these kids are really playing their instruments along with doing their own dancing, singing and acting.”

 

 

Show is 2 hours and 45 minutes including a 22-minute intermission. Next show coming to the Broward Center of the Performing Arts will be “Riverdance20” January 5-7, 2018 followed by “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” January 9-21, 2018.

“The Book of Mormon”–touring company review   Leave a comment

Was it ‘The third time’s a charm’ or was it the dynamic performances by Robert Colvin, Conner Peirson and Kim Exum that made this performance on “The Book of Mormon” stand out in its third trip to South Florida?

This production explains why this show has won 9 Tony Awards including Best musical and had been playing to sold out crowds since opening on Broadway in 2011.  

Robert Colvin, as Elder Price and Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham are Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda for 2 years to recruit new members to the faith. One of their rules is that they must be by each other’s side that whole time. Elder Price is full of himself who expects greatness to be his, while Elder Cunningham knows more about “Star Wars”, “Star Trek” and “Lord of the Rings” than he does about the Mormon religion. Kim Exum is Nabulungi, the leader’s daughter, a native of Uganda who is a love interest to one of the boys and not the one you would expect.

According to the program Colvin is the understudy for the role of Elder Price and played the role this evening. I don’t know whether it was his first or hundredth time playing the role but he owned it. Delivering the opening number “Hello” with the ensemble or “I Believe” Colvin wins over the audience and when things take a bad turn for him they are on his side pulling for him to be okay. He is also the butt of one of the funniest bits in the show and that’s a play on words that you will understand only if you have seen “The Book of Mormon”!

Conner Peirson is one of the most natural, funniest men you will ever see on stage. Whether it is walking, talking, singing, glancing or lying you will laugh out loud and, yet, when he is hurting or doing wrong you want to hold him and tell him that everything will be okay. He has a running bit through the whole show calling Nabulungi every name but her real name that never fails to get a laugh from the audience. There is nothing funnier than his explaining the Mormon religion to the natives, trying to ‘sell’ them the religion except maybe the “Baptize Me” number with Exum.

Kim Exum seems to have it all starting with a sweet, melodic voice, beautiful looks and handles comedy and drama with equal first rate ability.

Talking about Colvin, Peirson and Exum does not take anything away from the other 29 members of the cast who excel in both individual roles or as an ensemble. Each give as much, even more, than you could ask of any musical performer.

Every aspect of this touring show from costumes by Ann Roth to the scenic designs by Scott Pask to the 12 piece orchestra under the direction of Alan Bukowiecki, to name just a few, contribute, and explain, why “The Book of Mormon” is a hit on Broadway and touring.

The book, and some of the songs, by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone gets a little ‘rough’ at times and though it is satire and a ‘musical comedy’ “The Book of Mormon” touches on many serious issues making it more of a show for grownups than kids.

The running time is 2 hours and 22 minutes including a 20 minute intermission. The show coming to the Arsht Center in Miami is “Finding Neverland” December 26-31.

 

“Finding Neverland”–a touring company review   Leave a comment

Walking into the Broward Center for the Performing Arts I really didn’t have much knowledge of “Finding Neverland”. I had listened to a few of the songs, written by Gary Barlow & Eliot Kennedy, on Pandora and knew that it was based on a motion picture starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet which in turn was based on a play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan” by Allan Knee called “The Man Who Was Peter Pan”.

Playwright J. M. Barrie was that man and “Finding Neverland” is the story of how he met Widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her 4 boys in a park one afternoon, befriended the family and, through Peter who grew up too quickly upon his father’s death, found the child in himself and the boy. He remembered Neverland, an imaginary place he had created in his mind when he was a child and taking the other three boys playfulness recreated that world not only for Peter but for the now adult Barrie.

In the first act we meet Barrie (Will Ray), the theatre producer Charles Frohman (Rory Donovan) his actors (the ensemble), the Widow (Christine Dwyer), the 4 boys George (Finn Faulconer), Peter (Ben Krieger), Jack (Mitchell Wray), Barrie’s wife Mary (Lael Van Keuren), Sylvia’s mother Mrs. Du Maurier all having strong voices and excellent stage presence. The 4 boys are especially fine being boys who just happen to be singers and dancers as naturally as they are pirates and whatever else their imaginations bring to their every day play. Near the end of act 1 there is a 4 part song, “Circus Of Your Mind”, that gives the adult leads to soar above the  orchestra conducted by Ryan Cantwell while before that the 4 boys are highlighted singing “We Own The Night”.

Act 2 basically leads up to the Peter Pan story so many of us know. I must admit I was transported back to 1954 when Mary Martin as Peter Pan asked the audience to clap if you believe in fairies when Peter Pan (Dee Tomasetta) asked us the same last night. It is also in the second act that we get to have fun with Captain Hook (Rory Donovan and Connor McRory), Wendy Adrianne Chu and let’s not forget the real dog Porthos, played by Sammy, who deserves a bow of his own.

The company of “Finding Neverland” have a first rate production staff starting with the director Diane Paulus, the ever changing set and lighting designs by Scott Pask doing the former and Kenneth Posner the latter but there is a piece of stage magic done by ‘air sculptor’ Daniel Wurtzel that just dazzles the audience.

“Finding Neverland” has some dark moments but we are distracted by the music and theatre magic that takes place on a stage.

Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes including a 20 minute intermission. It is the last show of the 2016-2017 season with the 2017-2018 season staring in October.

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