Archive for the ‘THEATRE REVIEW’ Category

“Les Miserables”–touring review   4 comments

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“Les Miserables” opened on Broadway in 1987 winning 8 Tonys including best musical and score. It has had 2 successful revivals in New York and has been touring all over the USA for years while, opening in London in 1985, it has become the second longest running musical in the world.

The touring company opened at the Arsht Center in Miami last night and showed why this sung through musical soars with the right cast and they were on stage singing the emotional and beautiful score with such songs as “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Who Am I” and “A Heart Full of Love”.

“Les Miserables” is the story of Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell) who we meet being released from prison after 19 years having been arrested for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving daughter and then 14 more years for trying to escape. He has been paroled under the watchful eye of Inspector Javert (Josh Davis) who he eventually eludes and we follow the paths of these two men and the people who they meet and become involved with.

When Fantine (Mary Kate Moore) sings the previously mentioned “I Dreamed A Dream” you won’t hear a sound in the theatre while you will hear sobs here and there as (Cartell) touches hearts with “Bring Him Home”.  “Soliloquy: Javert’s Suicide” and “Stars” are sung with such power and feeling by (Davis) you see a completely different man on stage in each song. “Master of the House” a duet by Thenardier (J. Anthony Crane) and his wife (Allison Guinn) are way over the top very funny performers while Marius’s (Joshua Grosso) rendition of “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” is definitely a tear jerker!

Both the young Cosette (Vivi Howard) and the Older Cosette (Jillian Butler) shine in their own songs while Eponine (Paige Smallwood) not only soars and stops the show singing   “On My Owns” but adds her voice to 7 other songs whether duets, trios or group numbers. In addition, Matt Shingledecker as Enjolras, a student leader of the revolution, leads the ensemble in a rousing “The People’s Song”.

The songs mentioned, and the rest of the score, by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer need and get the singers and cast their music needs and deserves.

There are a few scenery aspects in the touring show that are different from the original Broadway production but they take nothing away from the show. The costumes, makeup, lighting and sound all add to the 1815-1832 France we see on stage. The show is directed by Laurence Connor & James Powell and the orchestra is conducted by Brian Eads.

As you walk up the aisle of the theatre don’t be surprised to hear yourself humming, or even singing out loud, the anthem of the show, “Do You Hear The People Sing”.

 

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Posted February 6, 2019 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, THEATRE REVIEW

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas”–theatre review   Leave a comment

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Last week at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts we saw “Hamilton”, a musical for the 21st century, and this week we saw “White Christmas”, a musical that represents all that made theatre-going so much fun in the 20th century, at the Adrienne Arsht Performing Center in Miami.
 
Based on a 1954 movie musical it was adapted for the stage in 2000 with the book by David Ives and Paul Blake that makes all that was corny in the film fun on the stage. There is the ‘Let’s put on a show in the barn’ gimmick along with a misunderstanding between one of the lead couples not to mention jokes like, “We fight. We don’t have sex. It’s like we are married!”, which still gets laughs.
 
It has the music of Irving Berlin, 18 songs that have become classics, including the title tune which is the biggest selling record of all time. Just as important is that it has a cast that is looking as if they are having as much fun as the audience.
 
Listen to Kerry Conte sing a sultry “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” while Sean Montgomery counterpoints with “How Deep Is The Ocean”. Try not to tap your toes while Jeremy Benton and Kelly Sheehan dance and sing, along with the chorus, “I Love A Piano” and, if you are old enough, try to not think of Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly as they dance to the choreography of Randy Skinner.
 
Can you decide who does “Sisters” better first sung by Kelly Sheehan and Kerry Conte or the version by Sean Montgomery and Jeremy Benton subbing for them?
 
When the audience is invited to a sing-a-long of “White Christmas” you can tell they have been doing it under their breath because they just let it out with a sigh. When Karen Ziemba sings “Let Me Sing And I’m Happy”, those who know her, you are just waiting for her to break out dancing. More than one person had a tear in their eye during “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep”.
 
The final curtain call number “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”, with costume, scenic and lighting designs in harmony along with the cast, and ‘snow’ falling on stage and in the auditorium puts everyone in that Christmas card we all want to be a part of every Christmas.
 
“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” is a gift to us all and not too late to give it to others. Get lost in a musical from yesteryear, laugh at the old jokes, sit back and watch the cast of 27 along with the 16 musicians and imagine yourself on the stage and when you get outside waiting for your car smile as a group of theatergoers start singing “White Christmas” and others join them.
 
“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” runs 2 hours plus a 15 minute intermission.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“The King and I”–touring company review   Leave a comment

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When a show is perfect all you can do is praise every part of the production and this Broadway revival of 2015, now at the Broward Performing Arts Center, is perfect.

Rodgers and Hammerstein have written many award-winning musicals but their music (Rodgers) and lyrics (Hammerstein) for “The King and I” are one of their best without one single less than memorable song from “I Whistle A Happy Tune”, “We Kiss In A Shadow”, “Hello Young Lovers”, “A Puzzlement”, “Something Wonderful” to the moment of emotion that brings everything together in “Shall We Dance” and that Is only part of the score. Imagine being moved by children marching on stage as you will be during “March of the Siamese Children”.

The book, written by Hammerstein, based on the novel Anna and The King of Siam by Margaret Landon, is strong dealing with race, gender, sex, love, and politics among other subjects with both humor and drama.

The choreography by Christopher Gattelli, based on the original work of Jerome Robbins, melds with the restaging by Shelley Butler of the 2015 revival by Bartlett Sher becoming one. The sets by Michael Yeargan, with one exception which isn’t noticeable if you didn’t see this in Miami in 2017, along with the costumes by Catherine Zuber add to each scene.

The most important assets to “The King and I” are the performers of music and with Angela Baumgardner as Anna and Pedro Kaawaloa as the King both making their national tour debuts in the roles it is like discovering gold on the stage of the Broward Performing Arts Center with both singing, acting and dancing without a flaw. Just hearing her sing “Hello Young Lovers” will bring tears to your eyes in the reprise while you will be laughing at her rendition of “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?”. Kaawaloa had the audience in the palm of his hand singing “A Puzzlement” and in his heart as he dances with Anna to “Shall We Dance?”.

As hard as it is to stand out as a singer with this group Paulina Yeung as Tuptim singing “We Kiss in a Shadow” and “I Have Dreamed” whether with Dongwoo Kang as Lun Tha, her secret lover, or a solo has a soaring pure voice that will make you melt. Deanna Choi as the King’s head wife, Lady Thiang, singing “Something Wonderful” will make you swear that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote it just for her to sing.

The ensemble ranging from the young Royal Children who are the definition of cute to the King’s heir apparent plus the Royal Wives along with Hayden Bercy as Anna’s son and others playing adult roles are just right.

There can’t be enough praise for the 16 involved in “The Small House Of Uncle Thomas” ballet while the same can be said of the orchestra under the direction of Conductor David Aaron Brown.

This touring company of “The King and I” is a must-see of this season and will be playing at Broward Center for the Performing Arts until December 2.

Playing time is 2 hours and 50 minutes with a 20-minute intermission and started at exactly 8 PM.

Posted November 22, 2018 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, THEATRE, THEATRE REVIEW

“Hello Dolly”–touring company review   1 comment

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With lines such as ‘spreading money around like manure so young things can grow’ and songs like the title tune plus “Before the Parade Passes By” from its original opening on Broadway in 1964 starring Carol Channing to its recent sold-out revival starring Bette Midler the only question people are asking is whether Betty Buckley is up to carrying on the legend of Dolly Levi in “Hello Dolly” and, folks, she makes the role her own!

Whether Ms. Buckley is singing out loud and clear to the last row in the balcony or bringing a tear to your and in the next moment making you laugh out loud as her song says, “It’s so nice to have you back where you belong”!

The next question is about the others on stage and the complete production itself which can be answered easily with that if you never see “Hello Dolly” again you know you have seen it on stage giving you all the show has to give.

Jerry Herman, writer of music and lyrics to such shows as “Mame”, “La Cage aux Folles” among others, gives his all to “Hello Dolly” and it is a classic of Broadway musical history. You have a feeling that Thornton Wilder, who wrote the original play “The Matchmaker” which the show is based on, wouldn’t have a single complaint with Michael Stewart who wrote the book for the musical.

Jerry Zaks, who directed the revival, kept the high standard of the Broadway show for the touring company. Warren Carlyle choreographed the musical basing it on Gower Champion’s original work but not imitating it. The costumes by Santo Loquasto add sparkle and color to somewhat drab settings.

For the supporting cast Lewis J. Stadlien is an excellent comic foil for Buckley while Jess LeProtto is a first-rate comic as the clerk Barnaby and even better dancer. Nic Rouleau, as Cornelius, who takes Barnaby on an adventure to New York so both can have their first kiss though he is 16 years older than the latter has the charm of innocence and a beautiful voice that makes “It Only Take A Moment” as fresh and as feeling as it was 54 years ago. Analisa Leaming though a widow and certainly more experienced than Cornelius conveys an innocence on par with him and when she joins him singing about that moment everyone believes in love again. Leaming has a sweet, beautiful memorable voice, especially when singing “Ribbons Down My Back”.

The rest of the cast deliver the goods but it is in their singing, dancing and strutting to “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” that you realize how much they add to an already winning show.

With a cast of 33 and an orchestra of 17 musicians conducted by Robert Billig the show is a must see and Betty Buckley brings emotions to Dolly Levi that makes the audience love her and give her the ovations she deserves.

“Hello Dolly” is only playing until Sunday so treat yourself to a memorable Thanksgiving by getting to the Arsht Center before it leaves.

“Hello Dolly” runs 2 hours and 30 minutes including a 15 minute intermission.

Posted November 21, 2018 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, THEATRE, THEATRE REVIEW

“Jersey Boys”–touring company review   Leave a comment

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“Jersey Boys” is often referred to as a ‘jukebox musical’ meaning a group of hit songs is taken, made into a story and presented on stage but this show is more than that with one of the hardest working casts on any musical stage. Sixteen actors/singers/dancers make it seem as if there are at least 50 people on stage plus each one of them is moving props on and off stage.

This is a “true” story of 4 guys from a blue-collar background in New Jersey, though technically Bob Gaudio was from Michigan, who become Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and each one has their own truth. The facts are they brought a new sound to pop music with such tunes as “Working My Way Back To You”, “Walk Like A Man”, “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Oh What A Night” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” among others, won Grammy awards and, to them, one of the most important awards of all, their entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Miguel Jarquin-Moreland as Frankie Valli, Corey Greenan as Tommy DeVito, Tommaso Antico as Bob Gaudio, and Chris Stevens as Nick Massi each take a turn at telling their truth and even though they had many personal problems when they get up to sing it is as if all is right with the world as the soaring harmonies wash the problems away, at least for a few minutes when they are lost in their songs.

Just as gifted as these four men are the cast working with, behind and in front of them including Dianna Barger, Ben Bogen, Tristen Buettel, Sean Burns, Jonathan Cable, Wade Dooley,Todd DuBail, Caitlin Leary, Keven Patrick Martin, Michelle Rombola, Jenna Nicole Schoen and Kit Treece. Nor can one forget the orchestra who give solid support to all of them.

The set is basically simple with a projection machine offering color and illustrations to the various scenes and the various tables, chairs, microphones and other props which help keep the show moving.

With the book by Marshall Brickman and Rice Elice bringing many clichés that are familiar to most of the audience they can hit a moving scene such as Frankie learning of his daughter dying or the knowledge that Tommy got into debt to both the mob and the IRS that make the audience realize these are human beings with a world away from songs.

“Jersey Boys” is an entertaining musical that had the audience on their feet swaying, clapping and some even singing along to the encore song, after their bows, of the cast singing “Oh What A Night”. The show is entertaining with a story that holds your interest and a score that will bring back many memories to many in the audience and will sound familiar to the younger members and have many dancing up the aisle as they leave.

Between “Chicago” in Miami and “Jersey Boys” in Fort Lauderdale South Florida and Broadway Across America are ending their season in high form with talent equal to any to be seen on Broadway!

“Jersey Boys” runs 2 hours and 30 minutes including a 20 minute intermission. It will be at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts until May 20th.

“Chicago”–touring company review   Leave a comment

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In 1975 two musicals opened on Broadway one being “Chicago” and the other “A Chorus Line”. The latter took home all the Tony awards but “Chicago” didn’t fade away! The revival opened in 1996 and now is the longest-running musical revival, the longest-running American musical in Broadway history and in the second longest running musical only behind “The Phantom of the Opera”.

The tour, with many cast changes, began in 1997 but some things don’t change showing why this musical remains a hit starting with the score consisting of music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb containing what are already considered classics as “All That Jazz”, “Razzle Dazzle”, “Mr. Cellophane” and “Class”. The book, which is mostly told in song and dance, is by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse with the latter doing the choreography which is recognized all over the world. In the revival Ann Reinking is given credit for the choreography ‘in the style of Bob Fosse’ and does a bang-up job having been in Fosse’s productions and his partner in their personal life.

With the 14 piece orchestra, conducted by Robert Billig, on stage and, basically one set with a slight change near the end, the leads, supporting players and stars are given a chance to shine and show off the costumes, mostly designed in black, the music and certainly the choreography.

The leads of Velma and Roxie are played by Terra C. MacLeod as the former and Bianca Marroquin as the latter. Both have a history with the show including playing their roles on Broadway and their duets of “Nowadays” and “Hot Honey Rag” at the finale brought the house to a standing ovation and a showed why “Chicago” is a fan favorite after 43 years.

Jaime Camil is making his “Chicago” debut as the lawyer Billy Flynn and the Miami audience welcomed this well known Spanish actor who has also become additionally known for his part in the television series “Jane the Virgin”. Another standout was Paul Vogt as Amos Hart who sings “Mr. Cellophane” and stopped the show. Jennifer Fouche, as Matron “Mama” Morton has the powerful pipes to belt out “When You’re Good To Mama” to the last row in the balcony. D. Ratell as Mary Sunshine is first rate.

There is no way you can see “Chicago” and ignore the ensemble, not that you would want to. They are sultry, sexy, fun and excel in the dancing whether as partners or a group or solo along with being good singers.

“Chicago” is a show you can visit again and again and enjoy every moment of it as if for the first time.

“Chicago” runs 2 hours and 25 minutes with a 20-minute intermission

“Waitress”–Touring Broadway Musical–review   Leave a comment

One of the most memorable performances I have seen in a musical in the past decade took place in the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in the first act when Jeremy Morse sang and danced “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” in “Waitress”! This man finds comic gold in every lyric he sings, every word he speaks, every dance step he takes and the audience eats it up!

He would be reason enough to see this show but there are plenty of more reasons starting with the book by Jessie Nelson based on the movie by Adrienne Shelly. “Waitress” is the story of Jenna who not only works as a waitress in the town diner but also is known for many varieties, with wicked names, of the 27 pies she bakes every day. She finds herself married to an abusive husband, unable to escape and when we meet her she finds out she is pregnant. Her only hope seems to be entering a pie contest in a near county where the winning prize is $20,000. Her OB-GYN is a new doctor in town who has taken over the practice of the female doctor Jenna has known all her life. This new doctor is married and his wife is doing her internship at the local hospital. Though he betrays his wife both he and Jenna are basically decent people who give in to their attraction for each other.

At the diner there are two other waitresses one being Becky who has an invalid husband whom she loves but he isn’t able to fulfill her physical needs and Dawn who has reenacted Betsy Ross as she loves history and is a virgin who decides to put a profile on the Internet. When she and Ogie meet, who by the way reenacts Paul Revere, they play off each other so perfectly you just know where that relationship is going to end.

The waitresses played by Desi Oakley (Jenna), Lenne Klingaman (Dawn) and Charity Angel Dawson (Becky) are each first-rate singers, each handling the comic and dramatic scenes but most of all showing the true meaning of sisterhood.

Along with the doctor, played by Bryan Fenkart, the diner’s cook Ryan G. Dunkin, the doctor’s nurse, Maiesha McQueen, Nick Bailey as the abusive husband and David Hughey as the owner of the diner you couldn’t ask for a better cast, including the ensemble. And we can’t forget that Autumn Rae Sanchez and Quinn Eden Titcomb, alternating in the role of Lulu, who are making their musical Broadway debut, were discovered in Fort Lauderdale!

In many scenes, it is obvious that the director Diane Paulus and the choreographer, Lorin Latarro, worked very closely together giving the cast intricate scenes that depend on split timing. The scenic designer, Scott Pask, keeps the set fluid, moving unobtrusively as the songs, dance and story as the show goes on from the diner to Jenna and Earl’s home, the doctor’s office and the hospital.

The musicians conducted by Jenny Cartney are on stage backing the actors, not overpowering them and are as much a part of the ensemble as anyone else on stage.

The music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles are tuneful, meaningful when need be and funny but, and this was a problem opening night which I hope is fixed, in the first act the lyrics were indecipherable though it didn’t seem to affect the speaking lines. It was a bit better in the second act. 

Though the movie and the musical were written over 2 years ago the #metoo moment in the show had an impressive reaction from the audience.

“Waitress” is an emotional telling of an independent film that did and still does tackle a lot of problems faced today in a warm, funny and moving way.

By the way, did I mention an unforgettable performance by Jeremy Morse?

“Waitress” runs 2 hours and 40 minutes including a 20-minute intermission.Waitress April 11 2018 Collage

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