Archive for the ‘THEATRE REVIEW’ Category

“My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy”–review   Leave a comment


Brad Zimmerman wrote and stars in this one-man show that is playing at the NSU Art Museum’s Art/Horvitz auditorium.

He was a waiter for 29 years and I was one for 38 years and we both are Jewish so I thought this might be a fun show. Upfront I must admit I am not a fan of standup comics or most one-man shows and I thought it was brave of Mr. Zimmerman to book his show from February 1-March 25 doing 6 shows a week.

Reading his credits I was surprised that I haven’t heard of him. His show played off-Broadway for 15 months, he has opened shows for Billy Crystal, Gary Shandling and Joan Rivers. He had a role in “The Sopranos” and had taken his show across the country.

He originally came to New York to be an actor but was a waiter for 29 years before he took a lesson in stand-up comedy and decided to pursue a theatre career writing and performing this play.

In my opinion, most of his 80 minutes take place ‘yesterday’. He tells many old waiter jokes and talks about old comedians, many who aren’t with us anymore, using one-liners that were funny then and are funny now. The Jewish and waiter jokes take up too much of his act while he is more effective talking about his personal life, though even there his ‘mother’ jokes are mostly cliches.

At the age of 62, Zimmerman could easily pass for late 40s, early 50s, works out and is still trying to get his act together and while this show entertains it is still not a finished piece. He is doing another show called “My Rise to the Middle” which he is doing for one night only on Sunday, March 18, which he bills as a sequel. It might be interesting to see “My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy” before the 18th and see his progression with “My Rise to the Middle”.

For tickets go to http://www.MySonThe Waiter.com or call 1-855-448-7469


PS As he says on stage and on his web page–he is looking for a date!

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Posted February 3, 2018 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, THEATRE, THEATRE REVIEW, Uncategorized

Chita Rivera & Tommy Tune–a review   Leave a comment


I wonder how many people reading this know who Chita Rivera and/or Tommy Tune are? A few facts about each:

Chita has won two Tony awards as Best Leading Actress in a Broadway musical plus 8 nominations. She originated the role of Anita in “West Side Story” 60 years ago and was the  Spider Woman in “The Kiss of the Spider Woman”, was Rosie in “Bye, Bye Birdie”, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, in 2002 was the first Hispanic woman ever chosen to win the coveted Kennedy Center Honor. In the past few years, she did a one-woman show on Broadway and in 2015 she headlined at Carnegie Hall in New York. Last season at the age of 82 she appeared on Broadway in “The Visit” and this year, at the age of 83, turning 84 this Monday, she is touring across America with Tommy Tune.


Tommy Tune is as charismatic as he is tall and he is tall–6’3″–and a smile just as wide. He has 10 Tony awards for performer, choreographer and director for such varied shows as “My One and Only” with Twiggy, “Seesaw”, “The Will Rogers Follies”, Grand Hotel” and other Broadway musicals. He starred in the musical “Hello Dolly” with Barbra Streisand directed by Gene Kelly. Tommy will be 79 on February 28.

I fell ‘in love’ with Chita Rivera in September 1957, when she opened in “West Side Story” at the Winter Garden Theatre and returned the next day to buy tickets for the next 4 performances. It would remain my most favorite show until 1975 when “A Chorus Line” opened at the same time Chita starred in the opening of “Chicago” playing Velma. Three of my favorite Broadway dancers/performers were on Broadway that year: Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdon and Donna McKechnie.

As I watched Rivera I saw and heard the young girl, younger woman, as she sang “All That Jazz”, “A Boy Like That” and “America”. My younger self sighedas she and Tune danced a bar or two of “The Dance at the Gym” but then reality hit. Chita Rivera looks great with a dancer’s figure, certainly walks like one and uses her hands and body as a professional dancer does. I knew of her car accident when she broke her leg in 12 places and I knew it would be too much for her to twirl about, high kick and have the energy of her 20-30-year-old but there was a minimum of dancing and certainly, none show-stopping as she had done in the past. To give her credit she did stop the show and get standing ovations after singing “Love and Love Alone” from her last show “The Visit” and “Carousel” from “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”.

I accepted the fact that the dancing would be at a minimum but I was very surprised that after 60 years on stage, while singing, you could hear her gulping for words, not having breath control. It really brought me down duringher numbers where I couldn’t picture the younger Chita. I was aware that she was old–and so was I!

I saw Tommy Tune in 3 Broadway musicals and the movie “Hello Dolly” plus his one-man show a few years ago. He really doesn’t have any ‘they are playing my song’ numbers but he still has that style, grace and, yes, smile that he had 62 years ago plus a full head of hair, now a beautiful white and though he doesn’t kick as high as he use to he can still win an audience over with his tapping. He also did a funny and fairly accurate impersonation of Carol Channing giving him advice when he was first starting in the business.

There were some charming moments of Chita and Tommy singing, dancing and trading stories. I really wish they had dome more of the latter.

I left the Parker Playhouse sort of ‘down’ knowing I was unfair thinking that Chita had let me down but that’s how I felt. 

Posted January 20, 2018 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, THEATRE REVIEW, Uncategorized

“The Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”–touring company review   Leave a comment

Imagine being an actor who is playing 8 different roles, each requiring a change of costume, mannerisms and even gender, while remembering which one who says what and where on stage they should be interacting with the rest of the cast. James Taylor Odom has that job and does it to perfection. Oh, yes, let’s not forget he is singing and dancing also.

Equally in his expertise and talent is his co-star Blake Price who seems to be on stage the whole 2 hour and 10 minutes the show takes. He has a couple of outstanding solos but he, Colleen McLaughlin and Erin McIntyre doing “I’ve Decided To Marry You” stops the show.

The story of “The Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” is about Monty Navarro (Price) having to kill 8 people (all played by Odom) in order to get the title, and all the wealth and respect that goes with it, Earl of Highhurst, while at the same time dealing with a fiancée and mistress.

The story can be summed up easily but the production starting with the opening set by Alexander Dodge, takes a lot of work. The many changes of costumes designed by Linda Cho involving the whole cast, the comedy ranging from satire to slapstick and everything in-between, with choreography by Peggy Hickey who also directs the tour, based on the original direction by Darko Tresnjak, comes down to split timing from everyone on and behind the stage including the 9 piece band directed by Josh Cullen. Adding to the fun and wonder are the art projections by Aaron Rhyne

The book, lyrics and music provided by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak offer the complete cast of 14 to shine plus makes a very unfunny subject of killing people very funny.

“The Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” is a laugh filled way to start the 2018 theatre year.

 

Running time including a 20-minute intermission is 2 hours and 30 minutes. The next show of the Broadway Across America series in Fort Lauderdale is “Wicked” opening on Valentine’s Day February 14.

“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

“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.

 

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