Archive for the ‘THEATRE REVIEW’ Category

“Mamma Mia”–Farewell Tour Review   Leave a comment

 

 

Looking for about 2 hours and 20 minutes of living a fairy tale on a bright sunny Greek island and dancing, singing the time away? “Mamma Mia” is the answer to any blues you might have.

The book of this musical by Catherine Johnson is light weight but the songs by ABBA, the choreography by Anthony Van Laast  offers laughs, not to forget a bunch of finely chiseled bodies wearing wet suits and flippers dancing around and a director Phyllida Lloyd who gets all the laughs and even a tear that the show can offer.

 

With all this it is the music that will have you moving in your seat with the conductor Kevin Casey and his orchestra along with the sound designed by Andrew Bruce and Bobby Aitken plus the lighting by Howard Harrison along with some of the most outlandish 1970s disco costumes by Ron Glow inside the production designed by Mark Thompson helping it all along.

 

Whether you are familiar with the songs composed by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus along with Stig Anderson, and this audience was more than familiar with them, you will feel right at home with “Dancing Queen”, “Money, Money, Money”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “Thank You For The Music”, “The Winner Takes It All” with 16 others.

 

For the few who haven’t seen the show “Mamma Mia” is about Sophie (Lizzie Markson) who is marrying Sky (Dustin Harris Smith) and after secretly reading single mom’s (Betsy Padamonsky) diary she discovers her father could be one of 3 men; Sam (Shai Yammanee) an American architect, Bill (Marc Cornes) a Swedish writer and Harry (Andrew Tebo)      a British banker, and without telling Donna, Sophie invites them to the wedding while Donna has invited her old friends Tanya (Cashelle Butler)       and Rosie (Sarah Smith) who entertained as a singing trio 21 years previously.

 

All the leads are strong singers with Padamonsky and Yammanee having a bit of an edge mainly because of the songs they get to sing while Cornes and Smith do a very funny duet. They are backed up by a singing, dancing, acting ensemble that made the performance feel fresh, not a single performer on stage was phoning it in.

 

SPOILER: For those of you who run up the aisle as soon as the cast start taking their bows don’t as you will miss THE best part of “Mamma Mia” and which, since 1999, has helped make the show a long running success in over 23 countries including 14 years on Broadway.

 

Running time 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 20 minute intermission.

 

Check out  http://mammamiaontour.com/mm/  for the schedule of the tour.

Posted May 20, 2017 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, THEATRE, THEATRE REVIEW

“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

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.

“Something Rotten”–a must see Broadway touring company review   Leave a comment

DSC02628

Walk, run, drive, call a cab, uber, lyfte, go on the Internet (BrowardCenter.org) or call (954-462-0222) and get tickets for “Something Rotten” playing at the Broward Center for Performing Arts before it is sold out, if it isn’t already! You have until April 2 to see it here and if you don’t live in South Florida find out when it is coming to your city and get those tickets.

After seeing “Something Rotten” for the first time last night it has immediately been placed in my top 5 list of musical COMEDIES. From the opening musical number, “Welcome to the Renaissance” the show is a laugh out loud, tuneful show with a talented cast that shouts that’s why the Bottom brothers were sent to America to bring the world the Broadway Musical theatre.

You don’t know who Nick (Rob McClure) and Nigel Bottom (Josh Grisetti) are? It is the 1590s in England and the brothers are tired of Shakespeare (Adam Pascal), the leather clad, bleached blonde, rock star of the theatre, having all the hits while they have yet to make their mark. Nick goes to see a soothsayer, Nostradamus (Blake Hammond), who tells him that the next big thing in theatre will be a musical, where actors sing instead of talk and dance instead of just walk around the stage. This leads to a show stopping song and dance number called “A Musical” that is one of the most entertaining numbers in a musical that I have seen in years. From this point on it is chaos with double   entendres, misunderstandings, and a musical within the musical called “Omelette” plus low humor, sly humor and fun.

Along the way there is Nick’s wife Bea (Maggie Lakis), who has to be the first ‘feminist’, getting dressed in drag to prove a woman can do any job a man does and Portia (Autumn Hurlbert) the daughter of Brother Jeremiah (Scott Cote) a righteous confused man, becomes Nigel’s love interest which isn’t easy because both are innocents in a world that that they aren’t part of.  

There isn’t a false note by any member of the cast and the ensemble adds a lot of ‘razzle dazzle’ to the show just as the choreography and direction by Casey Nicholaw does.

The music and lyrics are by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick ranging from the aforementioned “A Musical” and “Make an Omelette” both being Broadway gold to musical lovers with countless references to every, or most every, show ever presented on the Broadway stage. Just as you don’t have to know the references to Shakespeare you don’t have to have seen all the Broadway musicals but you will recognize quite a lot of both. The Kirkpatrick’s go from rock to ballad to pop and certainly funny, toe tapping tunes. Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell wrote the book, flawlessly using modern language, jargon and references fit in to ye olde English of the Elizabethan age.

The scenic designs by Scott Pask, the lighting by Jeff Croiter, the costumes by Gregg Barnes along with all aspects of this production including the orchestra conducted by Brian P. Kennedy, fit together to make this a night of fun and entertainment.

“Something Rotten” is a fine representation of what the world has come to know as the Broadway musical comedy.

Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes including a 20 minute intermission.

“DISNEY’S THE LITTLE MERMAID”–TOURING COMPANY REVIEW   Leave a comment

In 1837 Hans Christian Anderson wrote a fairy tale about a young mermaid who wanted to become part of the human world and last night at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts the audience, the children, the adults with some kid still in them, all became enchanted with “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” no matter how well they know the story. We were taken under the sea to meet, and get to know, Ariel, the mermaid, her friends and the human being Prince Eric she falls in love with and watch as they become part of each other’s worlds.

The music by Alan Menken with lyrics by the late Howard Ashman in the original songs from the 1989 animated film and Glenn Slater for the additional songs range from a love duet between Prince Eric and Ariel  to Ariel’s wish to be part of Eric’s world in “Part of Your World”.

Whether it is the songs or the costumes by Amy Clark and Mark Koss or the scenic designs by Kenneth Foy, the remarkable lighting by Charlie Morrison and the choreography by John Macinnis and Paul Rubin, it isn’t long before you forget you are in a theatre and are joining Ariel, her family and friends living “Under The Sea”.

The cast from sweet voiced Diana Huey as Ariel to strong voiced Matthew Kacergis as Prince Eric and Steve Blanchard as King Triton, a father enchanted and puzzled by his daughter as most fathers are, and Melvin Abston as Sebastion, more than just comic relief, joins bombastic Jennifer Allen as the wicked sea witch who handles humor as if it is second nature along with a supporting cast bringing creatures below the sea and humans above to life with strong voices and ensemble work they all bring “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” alive on stage.

The book by Doug Wright and direction of Glenn Casale does have a few lagging moments by they are quickly diminished by a song, a dance or just wonder at ‘how did they do that?”

“The Little Mermaid” is filled with laughter, a few tears, a lot of tuneful music and a cast giving their all. It is a show for the whole family.

“The Little Mermaid” runs 2 hours and 25 minutes with a 20 minute intermission and will be at the BCPA until  March 25. Tickets available at browardcenter.org or call 954-462-0222

Definitely a show for the whole family and kids of all ages!

 

Posted February 23, 2017 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, MUSICAL THEATRE, THEATRE, THEATRE REVIEW

“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)

%d bloggers like this: