Archive for the ‘THEATRE REVIEW’ Category

“Jersey Boys”–touring company review   Leave a comment

 Jersey boys

“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.

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“Chicago”–touring company review   Leave a comment

Chicago poster

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

“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.


 

“The Color Purple”–a Broadway touring musical review   Leave a comment

In the 1930 Black women were in the lowest position of the human chain with violence, poverty, rape and incest just part of what they endured. In 1982 Alice Walker wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Color Purple” which told the story of Celie, a poor, uneducated, ‘ugly’, 14-year-old who is raped by her father and has two children who are taken away. She has a younger sister, Nettie, who is on the verge of going through what Celie has and the latter makes her go away to save her.

In 1985 Steven Spielberg made a successful movie of the book starring Whoopie Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.

In 2005 a Broadway production presented by Oprah Winfrey opened and had a 3 year successful run to be revived in a stripped down version by the Menier Chocolate Factory Productions in an even more successful run from 2015 to 2017.

Last night at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami the touring company of the latter production opened to a full and very appreciative audience with stellar performances by Adrianna Hicks as Celie, Carla R. Stewart as Shug Avery, Carrie Compere as Sofia, J. Daughtry as Harpo, Gavin Gregory as Mister, Erica Durham as Squeak and N’Jameh Camara as Nettie along with a first-rate ensemble of 14 men and women in various roles with Angela Birchett a standout!

The book of the musical is written by award-winning playwright Marsha Mason and the cast of outstanding singers present the Grammy award-winning music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray with a few show-stopping numbers.

Though the story is a somber one and very much a part of today’s women fighting to help other women it is not as harrowing as the movie or as disturbing as the novel is the musical does find joy in many of the songs and humor as the women turn the tables on the men. 

All the cast had impressive voices and most had a chance to show them off singularly in such such songs as “I’m Here” (Adrianna Hicks), “Celie’s Curse” (Gavin Gregory), “Push da Button” (Carla R. Stewart) or in various group numbers like “Mysterious Ways”, “Miss Celie’s Pants”, “Uh Oh!” and the title tune.

“The Color Purple” touring company will make you want to buy/download the book and the album while possibly make you look at the movie but get down to the Arsht Center where it is playing until Sunday.

“The Color Purple runs 2 hours and 15 minutes with a 20-minute intermission.

Posted February 28, 2018 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, THEATRE, THEATRE REVIEW, Uncategorized

“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!

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

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