Archive for the ‘REVIEWS’ 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.

“The King and I”–Touring Company Review   Leave a comment

There is one word to describe the tour of “The King and I” that opened at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County last night and the word is perfect.

From the opening scene on the deck of the Chow Phyaarriving at the docks of Bankok and Anna (Laura Michelle Kelly) singing “I Whistle a Happy Tune” to Anna and the King (Jose Llana) singing “Shall We Dance” in the King’s study you couldn’t ask for a better score for a musical nor for it to be better sung than by the aforementioned plus the other 35 members of the cast.

The sets by Michael Yeargan, the costumes from Anna’s dresses to the Royal Children’s outfit by Catherine Zuber, to the lighting of Donald Holder along with a sound system by Scott Lehrer that allows you to hear every word along with choreography by Christopher Gattelli, based on the original by Jerome Robbins, not the forget the director Barlett Sher and add to this an 18 piece orchestra conducted by Gerlad Steichen and you have a magical night in the theatre.

Based upon the novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon Oscar Hammerstein wrote the book for the show plus the lyrics while Richard Rodgers wrote the music and with a score consisting of “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, “Hello Young Lovers”, “We Kiss in a Shadow”, “Getting to Know You”, “A Puzzlement”, “I Have Dreamed” and “Something Wonderful” along with 8 other songs making this is definitely one of their best scores. Put in the ballet “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” and you have just one more jaw dropping part of a show that will make you laugh and, yes, bring tears to your eyes. Oh wait I can’t forget “The March of the Siamese Children” that will have you being charmed by the children.

Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist King, in an inperialistic world, brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children.

Laura Michelle Kelley plays a strong Anna with a beguiling voice that just pulls you into her corner and Jose Llana is sly, funny, smart and an equal match for his co-star. Q Lim and Kavin Panmeechao, as the young lovers Tuptim and Lun Tha, bring tenderness and sadness in their duets of “We Kiss in a Shadow” and “I Have Dreamed”. I gather from the Paybill biographies this is Miss Lim’s National tour debut as part of the ensemble and is the understudy for the role of Tuptim. I am not sure if this was her first time doing the role but if it was you would never have known. Her narrating the ballet sequence was fierce and her performance moving. In addition to the strong performances and singing already mentioned Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang, the eldest of the wives, sings “Something Wonderful” explaining the man she is married to with such tenderness and strength she moves not only Anna but every member of the audience.

“The King and I” is the last show of the Miami 2016-2017 season and ends it on a very high note.

For anyone living outside the South Florida area I suggest you go to the web site http://thekinganditour.com/tickets/ to see when it is coming to your city and get tickets now!

For those living in the Miami-Dade/Broward county area call 305-949-6722 or go to the www.arshtcenter.org  site and get any tickets available between today and Sunday, May 14—a great Mother’s Day present!

The running time is 2 hours and 54 minutes including a 20 minute intermission.

 

Posted May 10, 2017 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, REVIEWS, THEATRE, THEATRE REVIEW

“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.

“A UNITED KINGDOM”–A MUST SEE MOVIE   Leave a comment

“A United Kingdom” is based on a true story that took place in the 1940s-1960s in Africa as apartheid was taking hold in that continent. We meet Seretse Khama(David Oyelowo), who is black and future king of Bechuanaland (now called Botswana), where he is studying law in London just after WW2 has ended. At a dance he sees, and meets, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white English woman office worker. They start off talking about American jazz and before you know it “A United Kingdom” turns into a love story, but not just any love story, one that changed history not only for a small country but affected the politics of England and politicians. 

The soaring love story, and the acting by Oyelowo and Pike, overtake the politics of race, discrimination and the bureaucrats that undermine the will of the people.

There are many shocking scenes in the movie, some you have seen before that have you shaking your head like seeing separate entrances for blacks and white, and some that are new, like finding a beloved figure in history not quite being who you thought he was. There are also many scenes in the movie that will remind you of what is happening outside of the theatre in your real world.

The screenplay by Guy Hibbert brings into play the power that love can bring to people’s ideals and at the same time shows that true love can give people strength to face anything from rejection by family, threat of exile from one’s country to being shunned by people of their own race.

This is the second picture I have seen by director Amma Asante who, in 2013, introduced to me the beautiful, talented actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the film “Belle”. She is now one of those rare directors who films I will go see just because their name is attached to it.

The acting from Oyelowo and Pike to Tom Felton and Jack Davenport representing the British Empire so nastily, to Vusi Kunene and Terry Pheto, Charlotte Hope, Laura Carmichael, Jack Lowden, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Arnold Oceng, among many other supporting players, are all first rate.

“A United Kingdom” is being referred to as a political and romantic drama and though it is a political film bringing events, and people, that may have not been known or remembered such as recent films like “Loving” and “Hidden Figures” to me it is one of the best love stories I have seen in a long time.

I am a sucker for a good love story and whether it is the screenplay, the director or David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pikeso believable as the lovers or a combination of all of them, this is a moving love story that had me in tears more than once.

At the end of the second month of 2017 this is my pick, so far, as best movie of the year! Go see “A United Kingdom”!

“A United Kingdom” Trailer

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX5vI4osR50

“AN AMERICAN IN PARIS”–REVIEW OF TOURING BROADWAY SHOW   Leave a comment


There were times last night that the stage of the Ziff  Ballet Opera House in the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami didn’t seem it could contain the artistry, the talent, the love of dance that Garen Scribner brought to his role as Jerry  in “An American In Paris”. Whether dancing solo or doing a pas de deux with Sara Esty or dancing with the ensemble of 19, or the whole cast, his body takes amazing twists and turns and extensions that no body should be able to do. For a certain generation in the audience he even makes them forget the originator of the role in the Hollywood movie that the Broadway musical is based on.

“An American in Paris” is a story of 3 men in love with the same girl. Jerry (Scribner) and Adam (Etai Benson) are American soldiers who decided to stay in Paris at the end of World War 2 and Henri (Nick Spangler) is a Frenchman who is expected to lead a certain life already mapped out by his parents but who dreams of singing and dancing in New York at the Radio City Music Hall and the men are in love with Lise (Esty), a lithe ballerina wanna-be.

Add to this the memorable music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, an unending change of costumes and constantly moving set and projections by Bob Crowley all under the direction of, and choreography by, Christopher Wheeldon and you are spending an enchanting evening in the theatre. One has to add a special acknowledgement to the Music Director/Conductor David Andrews Rogers and his 14 piece orchestra who back the cast superbly!

Whether it is tapping your feet to “I Got Rythm” or getting hit with the razzle dazzle of “I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise” or laughing at Jerry singing and dancing to win Lise in “I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck” not to forget such standards as “The Man I Love”, “But Not For Me” or throwing in the mind and body bending by the whole cast in “Fidgety Feet” the music is always there to make the show feel ” ‘S Wonderful”.

To top it all off there is the show’s title ballet number that pairs Scribner and Esty is that pas de deux where they compliment, mirror, meld into each other becoming one beautiful moving defintion of what dance can show.

The whole cast, especially the leads, are triple threats not only with strong dancing, good acting but also singing with Sara Esty and Etai Benson being standouts, the latter being so good singing “But Not For Me”, and in the number with Nick Spangler, that I wish he had a couple of solos. Don Noble and Gayton Scott as Henri’s parents and Emily Ferranti as a diletante of the arts not only sings, dances and acts with aplomb but nails all her comedic lines along with showing the vulnerability of her character.

The bottom line is that there are many excellent reasons for seeing this touring production of “An American In Paris” you will not see a better dancer and entertainer than Garen Scribner and the memory of seeing him will have you singing “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” the last song you will hear as you leave the theatre.

Running time: 2 hours and 40 minutes including a 25 minute intermission

“An American In Paris” will be running through New Year’s Day–be sure to go to http://www.anamericaninparisbroadway.com to see when it is coming to your city.

Coming next to the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami “Beautiful” February 14-19


(Garen Scribner & Sara Esty–photo by Matthew Murphy)

“THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME” –A MUSICAL THEATRE REVIEW   Leave a comment


“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is based on the novel by Victor Hugo, and songs from the Disney film set, with music by Alan Menkin and Stephen Schwartz  and the book for the musical written by Peter Parnell. It is one of the Slow Burn Theatre Company’s largest physical productions and consists of a cast of 15 plus a choir of 18.

On the surface the story is about three men who fall in love with a Gypsy woman while the underlying stories are about being different, unwanted immigrants, religious faith and conflicts along with the differences between a man, a monster and a hero.

Quasimodo (Bobby Cassell) is a hunchback who rings the bells in the church ofNotre Dame which have made him partially deaf, lives in isolation and refers to his uncle as “Master’, the latter having promised his brother upon his death to take care of the child. Quasimodo falls in love with Esmeralda one afternoon when he leaves the sanctuary of the church to take part in the Festival of Fools and is elected as the Pope of Fools ‘winning’ a contest for being the ugliest fool in Paris. Later when he is being beaten by the townspeople she is the only one to give him water when he begs for it and he falls in love with her for the very rare kindness she shows him.

The uncle, Frollo, (Matthew Korinko) is the Archdeacon of Norte Dame, tortured by his lust for power and, upon seeing Esmeralda, his lust for her, betraying his own faith and setting off a chain of events that will effect everyone.

The third man is Captain Phoebus (Landon Summers) who saves Esmeralda from being abducted and becomes intrigued with her as she becomes infatuated for him.

Esmeralda (Shenise Nunez) is a Gypsy street dancer filled with fire and passion who is use to the attention of men and sees herself as their equal and demands respect from them.

Another main character is Clopin (Trev Whittaker) who aside from narrating the story is also the King of the Gypsies and is a standout of the cast.

The use of a choir of 18 singers is both a blessing and a curse. They make many of the songs soar but at the same time, in many cases, they drown out cast members when they sing along or behind them.

The 8 piece band, led by Caryl Fantel, does a good job of the score by Menkenand Schwartz while the production staff, from the scenic design by SeanMcClelland, the costume design by Rick Pena along with the lighting design by Becky Montero, add to this production.

The main problem with “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is not anything done by the Slow Burn Theatre Company but by the almost impossible task Peter Parnell had of condensing the Victor Hugo novel of over 900 pages to a book for a 2 hour 10 minute musical. It just doesn’t work though it makes for an interesting time in the theatre.

SPRING CHICKEN–NEW RESTAURANT CHAIN–REVIEW   Leave a comment

Spring Chicken Restaurant July 2016 Collage

Spring Chicken is so new that they still haven’t put the name of the restaurant over the front door–though it is on the other 3 sides. Walking in everything is clean,sparkling and though they try for that old down home feeling it is too modern!

The best thing, and I can’t rave enough about him, was our ‘host’ David. It has been a long time since I was greeted with such a big,handsome, lasting smile and by someone using my name from beginning to end (as soon as he asked for it to put on the receipt) including as I was walking out! I’d like to think it was because I was special but whether talking to a co-worker or a customer he acted the same.

Alright it was nice he was called a ‘host’ on the receipt (which reminds me hearing “Instead of a title give me a raise!”) but he was the order taker and he did a good job at that including good suggestive add-on selling.

I ordered the Country Club ($6.95) choosing the crispy chicken breast over the grilled, while Allen had the Natural Griller ($5.95). I ordered 1 regular house fries ($3.75) for us to split and while I had a diet coke ($2.25) and Allen had the shake of the month–orange–for ($6.95).

Allen didn’t have much to say about his sandwich while I find mine tasty except the potato bun was cut in such a way that the bottom part was cut way too thin making it a mess to hold and eat. The fries were pre-seasoned and tasted okay.

Spring Chicken falls in the category of the new, fast casual restaurant which means not having table service. You place and pay for your order when you enter, are given a vibrator ‘caller’ that will let you know when your food is ready then you pick it up. You also clean your table when you are finished by removing the plates and tray.

While there was nothing bad about the food there was nothing special either that warrants spending $13.73 for one lunch.

The big selling point aside from everything being new and sparkling clean was David the host. Restaurant owners and managers should use him as an example of who to hire to ‘sell’ their business!

By the way the ceiling decor was fascinating!!

PS I don’t know if he was a manager and/or owner but the only one not smiling and walking around with a dour look on his face was the one person not dressed in the Spring Chicken uniform! David, give him a lesson in making a customer feel special whether behind the counter or walking around the dining room.

Posted August 10, 2016 by greatmartin in RESTAURANTS, REVIEWS, Uncategorized

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