Archive for the ‘REVIEWS’ Category

BurgerFi–restaurant review   Leave a comment

 Burger Fi April 2018

After the movie I was in the mood for a cheeseburger not having one in a while but instead of going along with my first instinct–Gilbert’s–and being just a couple of blocks away I suggested BurgerFi.

It has been 2 years since I have been to BurgerFi and it didn’t take me long to remember why. After I paid and went to get my soda ($2.76), which working the machine is a hassle in itself, I realized the woman behind the counter didn’t ask me how I wanted my cheeseburger ($7.37) cooked I went back to her and she told it only comes medium well or well done which is a deal breaker for me as I like my burgers rare to medium rare. Normally I would have canceled the order but, for whatever reason, maybe having just seen a bad movie, I didn’t. I also ordered a small fries ($3.17).

Oh yes, how could I forget? Instead of a sliced onion, which I love, they serve chopped onions which I don’t care for on a burger. Let’s not get into the fries which had a few burnt ones in the order, nor did I know you have a choice of salt or no salt on them.

The place was clean, the employees pleasant and many walked around checking if everything was all right, cleaning tables, etc.

I had three thoughts leaving BurgerFi with the first being that I have to remember not to go again and why don’t they take the next, and best, step going from a ‘fast casual restaurant’ to a full-service one? Also, how do you handle the tipping in a fast casual place with a tip jar?

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“The Bodyguard”–review of touring musical   Leave a comment

The Bodyguard 2 Collage

A ‘jukebox’ musical? A tribute to Whitney Houston? A concert? A stage adaptation of a best selling movie which contained one of the best selling soundtracks of all time? With Deborah Cox in the “The Bodyguard”, presented at the Adrienne Arsht Center of the Performing Arts, it is all of those and a real crowd pleaser is shown by the response of the audience last night.

From her opening number Deborah Cox, as Rachel Marron, takes command of the stage and the audience with her statuesque looks and though sounding like Houston makes all the song hits her own. In the singing she gets some competition from Jasmin Richardson, who plays her sister, and when singing “Saving All My Love For You” makes you want to her at Saturday matinees when she takes over the role of Rachel Marron.

The show follows the movie closely with the love story between Rachel and Frank Farmer, played by Judson Mills, who is hired to guard Rachel after she had received threatening notes. Of course, originating in Hollywood, with a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan with the stage book by Alexander Dinelaris, you know Rachel doesn’t like Frank and the main reason Frank takes the job is that of her 10-year-old son Fletcher, played by Kevelin B. Jones III who is quite the dancing and singing trouper. Offhand I can’t think of another leading man in a stage musical that doesn’t sing or dance but Judson Mills makes his role believable in an underwritten role.

The ensemble of 10 men and women give a lot of support to the stars and the supporting players with the men, especially, doing a lot of athletic dancing and the women singing up a song when needed.

The sets and costume designs by Tim Hatley along with the choreography by Karen Bruce and the direction of Thea Sharrock keep the production moving and looking sharp.  The lighting designer, Mark Henderson, goes a little overboard with the strobe lights but gives depth to the moving sets.

The musical hits are there from “All At Once”, “I Have Nothing”, “I Will Always Love You” (including a funny karaoke rendition by Mills), “One Moment In Time” to “Run To You”, “Queen Of The Night”, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” among the 16 numbers including the cast’s curtain call of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” which gets the audience up on their feet and clapping!

No one leaves “The Bodyguard” disappointed but you can feel the energy and hear bits and pieces being sung by the audience as they leave the theatre!

 

“The Bodyguard” has a running time of 2 hours and 15 minutes including a 20-minute intermission.


 

Olive Garden Restaurant–review   Leave a comment

 Olive Garden 2 collage

I don’t go to the Olive Garden for an Italian meal as we have too many real Italian restaurants in Fort Lauderdale for the true experience. The Olive Garden is a wanna be Italian restaurant with real Italian names for their food items but that is as far as it goes. I have yet to taste a sauce there that isn’t just bland, tasteless.

I had a $35 gift card plus a $5 off coupon so off we went.

Upfront, Marlanea, our server was excellent. The breadsticks were warm while the salad was good but the Minestrone soup was loaded with vegetables and very little taste.

We both had the Shrimp ‘Scampi’, ($16.49 each) at least that was what they called it.  Yes, there are many variations of Scampi but the basic Italian restaurant will make it in an oil and garlic sauce while this was in some sort of cream sauce. They did put it over Angel Hair pasta.

I had a diet soda ($2.89)–is there some theme I am missing with all items priced to end in a 9? Allen paying heed to the latest report on diet sodas stuck to water.

We did share a piece of Black Tie Mousse cake ($7.79) which was very good.

Altogether our check came to $45.98 including tax plus we left a $10 tip so minus the $35 gift card and the $5 coupon it cost us about $8 each out of pocket.

It has been about 5-6 years since I had been to an Olive Garden and after this meal, I remembered why.

I’ll stick to Cafe Vico, Big Louie’s, MezzaLuna Bistro, etc., for an Italian meal!

Oh yes, a big plus in their favor was that I didn’t see a television anywhere! LOL

“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

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