Archive for the ‘MUSICAL THEATRE’ Category

“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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I am spending the evening with Peter Pan!   Leave a comment





The last Broadway touring show of the 2016-2017 season, “Finding Neverland”, the story about playwright J.M. Barrie and the family that inspried Peter Pan, opens this evening at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale and I’ll be there!
LOOK FOR MY REVIEW HERE TOMORROW!

The King and I Part 3 Trivia   Leave a comment

It didn’t take long for the song “We Kiss in a Shadow” to become a Gay anthem in 1951. There wasn’t a bar in New York City that didn’t have the song on their jukebox, usually the Perry Como recording, or in a piano bar wasn’t requested from the piano player to play and sing it at least a dozen times. (Yes I was only 15 but back then the drinking age was 18 and not only did I look older I also had a phony ID card!)

This is a recording by Jose Llana who played Lun Tha in this Broadway rival and took over the role of the King for 11 weeks on Broadway and is now starring in that role on tour opening in Miami tomorrow night.

“We Kiss in a Shadow” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dOXbILvZwQ

 

“The King and I” was revived in NYC 5 times and won a total of 15 Tony awards including best musical in 1951 and best revival in 1996 and for the current production.

Yul Brynner played the role of the King 4,625 times plus in the movie. When the show opened he was a ‘featured’ player until, Gertrude Lawrence, knowing she was dying, asked Rodgers and Hammerstein to put his name above the title.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein are considered the greatest musical partnership of the 20th century writing 22 shows together for Broadway, the movies and television. Among their works are “Oklahoma”, “Carousel”, “South Pacific”, “Sound of Music” with “The King and I” considered one of their best and most successful scores. These 15 song videos from the current “The King and I” revival to open at the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center in Miami will show you why.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypK2l4QvkTw&list=PL8YeGqOUYwM_reNudnsh46OgKAjfxqG2a

 

Posted May 8, 2017 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, MUSICAL THEATRE, THEATRE

How do you expalin feelings/emotions that take you over completely?   Leave a comment

I came across this video by accident and was immediately transferred back to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1976, sitting on the couch with Johnny as we got ready to watch the Tony Award show as I did every year since they started being televised. What I watched today is the exact same thing I watched 41 years ago and I had the exact same feelings when it reached the 1:33 mark. I don’t think I breathed for the next 7 minutes back then or today or the 101 times I had seen it performed live on stage.

Not having a computer back then, and it being Sunday which meant the theatre box office was closed, I waited until Monday morning and immediately made arrangements to spend a week in September in New York to see “A Chorus Line”. The first time I saw the show sitting in the second row of the mezzanine I was as stunned for the 2 hours and 10 minutes I watched this show.

Every time I see the show, every time I see a video from it, I become overwhelmed with feelings and to this day, as it happened again, I can’t explain what the feelings are and why I feel those emotions.

The Tony Awards opening number in 1976 with the original cast

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htLGQ3CDODY

 

On June 11 there is a good chance that Bette Midler will win an award for Best Actress in a musical for her starring role in the “Hello Dolly” revival when this year’s Tony Awards will be presented on TV. Here she is 43 years ago explaining why everyone should go to the theatre.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uf8ql7lbwg

The King of Siam, Anna and I in 1951 Part 2   Leave a comment

Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Jose Llana as the King and Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna  

Photo by Matthew Murphy

The first time I saw the complete show was when I was invited to the Actors Fund performance which was held on a Sunday as most shows didn’t give performances and it gave the casts of those shows to see the ones they heard so much of and were anxious to see.

The night was a star studded night and I was sitting in the middle of an audience that I had only seen on stage or in movies. It was a night I would never forget as this was an audience of professionals who knew what work went into a show and it was clear both on and off stage all were having a night even better than an opening night! Gertrude Lawrence was loved by her peers and Yul Brynner captivated the audience.

The next time I was to see “The King and I” was in December. My mother belonged to “Show of the Month” club and as my father was usually out of town I would be her escort. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but something was off as the show wasn’t as ‘exciting’ as it had been the last time I saw it. I won’t say that I knew something was wrong but 9 months later, at the age of 54, Gertrude Lawrence died of liver cancer that was never diagnosed.

I had been going to the theatre since 1944 when I saw the original cast of “Oklahoma” and picturing myself as Alfred Drake being Curly and the following year I wanted to be John Raitt as Billy Bigelow bringing me to tears as he sang the “Soliloquy”. I saw some of the best dramas such as “A Streetcar Named Desire” but I never remembered falling apart as I did when I heard about Gertrude Lawrence’s death. I was never to feel that way about another actor or actresses’ death.

Not seeing a stage production of “The King and I” for the next 66 years had nothing to do with that but just not being at the right place in the right time each time it was revived.

The Touring company montage

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eU3KfgXd6c

The King of Siam, Anna and I in 1951 Part 1   Leave a comment

It was 66 years ago this month that I became a “2nd act-er”. I don’t know, with all the security these days, if there are people who still do it. Going to Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx I would run out of my last class, get to my locker and take my sports coat and go to the IRT subway at Pelham Parkway and White Plains Road and take the train down to Times Square. Depending upon the time I would either walk slowly or fast so that I would arrive at a show that I wanted to see as it was taking an intermission. I would light a cigarette, pick up a stray Playbill program and when the bell started ringing I would walk into the theatre, go to the men’s room and by the time I was finished I, usually, could find an empty seat or, at the least, take a place in the Standing Room Only section.

In 1951, I was 15 years old that April, and I was already a theatre lover but it was Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner who cemented that love. I didn’t know who Brynner was but his performance as the King of Siam with his body glistening from oil and his shaved head bringing sexiness to his already pronounced masculinity which a month later would win him a Tony Award as Best Featured Actor.

From Gertrude Lawrence’s entrance, seemingly floating across the stage to her showing the strength that Anna was made of, she had me, and the audience, in the palm of her hands. She didn’t have the voice of an Ethel Merman or Patti Lu Pone but they didn’t have the sheer force of her acting.

I would see “The King and I” two and a half times, including that first time as a 2nd act-er. It would be 66 years later that I would see it on stage again!

“Shall We Dance?”  Gertrude Lawrence & Yul Brynner

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

“The King and I” coming the Arsht Center in Miami on Tuesday May 9.

 

“Matilda”–A Broadway Touring Company Musical Review   Leave a comment


To start with here is a high five to director Matthew Warchus and choreographer Peter Darling for blending a dozen or so adults with 8-9 kids making scenes appear as if it is a classroom of schoolchildren filling the stage. Also a nod to those 8 kids, plus Jamie Maclean who plays Matilda, for their aplomb on stage that many adults don’t have.

I wasn’t familiar with the story of Matilda. written by Roald Dahl and published in 1988 so after the first act I thought it might be too dark for school kids  but speaking to a few parents during intermission I became aware that it has been a best selling children’s book all these years and kids loved it. There is a lot of negativity against children starting with Matilda’s parents towards her and then when she goes to school the principal refers to the students as maggots. The fun is seeing how Matilda at times can get revenge, liking putting glue in her father’s hat, and how being naughty can help the kids cope with the adults.

Darcy Stewart and Matt Harrington as Matilda’s parents could easily be hissable villains but they also bring a lot of humor to the show. Ms. Stewart does a dance number with Stephen Diaz that still has my head shaking as I didn’t know bodies could make some of the moves, especially Mr. Diaz, they make.

Keisha T. Fraser as the friendly librarian Mrs. Phelps who can’t wait to hear Matilda’s made up stories and at the same time supplies the gifted girl with the books she so much likes to read. I kept on waiting for Fraser to have a solo or at least a duet but it never happened.

Jennifer Bowles, as Miss Honey a teacher at the school, who immediately senses Matilda’s smarts and pain, has 3 solos that show off her lovely voice and as a defender of the young girl adds a poignancy to the show.

I know it is an old show business custom in England, and the U. S. has been doing it also, of having men playing women’s roles but I don’t understand the reasoning of having Dan Chameroy playing the principal Miss Trunchbull. Don’t get me wrong as he is perfect in the role showing the authority, menace and the humor in the character but I can think of a half a dozen woman ho could have done the role just as well.

The role of Matilda is rotated between Jaime Maclean, Jenna Weir and Gabby Gutierrez with Jaime in the role this evening playing it with feeling, timing and an ease that makes you believe she is a 5 year old. Also have to give a shout out to a local boy, Blake Ferrante, from Broward County who plays Bruce and nails the scene where he has to eat a whole chocolate cake plus adds some high notes in an ensemble number. 

I don’t know how close the book of the musical by Dennis Kelly is to Mr. Dahl’soriginal story but there seems to be a lot of padding. The music supplies  few catchy songs but presents a problem throughout the whole show and I am not quite sure if it is all the many words of his lyrics pushed into a bar of music or the British accents used or the sound system, maybe a combination of all 3 as many of the words are garbled and a punch line here and there is lost.

The sets by Rob Howell are not only in constant motion but also add an extra dimension to each scene. I especially liked the number where each letter of the alphabet got their minute or second in the spotlight.

Between “Matilda”, the revival tours of “Annie” and “The King and I” plus “Finding Neverland” coming to Fort Lauderdale in June and Miami in December plus “the Sound of Music” it is obvious there are a lot of talented children in today’s theatres!

The running time of “Matilda” is 2 hours and 40 minutes including a 15 minute intermission. It is playing at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts until May 7.

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