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Archive for the ‘musical’ Category


This musical feels more like an Irish folk pub than a Broadway musical, right from the start.  As the audience files in from the street there’s a band playing on the stage mingling with audience members as they get drinks from the stage bar.  Number after knee pounding number is played and sung until the lights slowly dim and a spotlight isolates one guitar strumming singer from the rest. Before you realize it, the house is dark, the lead is singing and an actress has entered the stage to listen.

ONCE is a new kind of Broadway show, very different from the standard musical fare where the book is distinct from the songs and choreography.  Maybe that’s why it captured this year’s Tony Award for best musical. Have a listen.

In this show the music IS the show because the story revolves around musicians.  Of course there’s also a love story evolving but that is complicated.

Steve Kazee is the focus of the story and sings most of the emotionally charged numbers that rip through your gut.  He’s incredible and won a Tony for his performance.  Equally powerful is Cristin Milioti, Tony nominee, whose soulful contributions are haunting and melodic simultaneously.  The music is phenomenal and will soon join my CD collection.

ONCE is among the best theater I’ve seen where story and music are one entity and the result is an exhilarating, memorable experience.  BRAVO!

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The headlined star of this play is Jessica Chastain whom I know from the movie “The Help.”  She played the ditzy and curvy Celia Foote whom everybody hated.   In THE HEIRESS on Broadway she’s the lovelorn daughter, Catherine, who is considered too plain and too dull to be loved by a man. (Don’t know what happened to the generous boobs – they were missing). She’s adequate in the role; some of her lines lack sincerity and I often saw her acting the part instead of becoming the character.  She’s more wooden than I would have expected Catherine to be and that was periodically distracting.

The real show stopper is Judith Ivey who steals every scene she’s in.  She owns the role of Aunt Lavinia and delivers long strung together lines that could easily be stilted without her character’s stylized interpretation.  There is a bit of eccentricity in her performance in all the little quirks and pieces of business she adds.  She’s a terrific actress and brings her role to life, energizing all the characters in her scenes.  She’ll certainly be a Tony contender for her role as a supporting actress.

THE HEIRESS is a compelling story told very well through its various characters.  It all takes place in Catherine’s well-appointed living room and parlor.  Her father, played by David Strathairn, (just seen in the film “Lincoln”) continues to mourn Catherine’s mother who died during childbirth and he worries that the man Catherine has fallen for is really just a gold digger after her inheritance.  He’s quite good in the role, reserved yet sufficiently intense and serious.

There’s some mystery involved and the evolution of Catherine’s character as she reckons with newly learned insights.  It’s a terrific play and I loved it.

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South Park

South Park (Photo credit: zoonabar)

I waited a year to finally see this show and came away thinking it was – eh, pretty good, certainly entertaining and more than a bit childish.  The childish part stands to reason since its writers are the same guys who created South Park – Matt Stone and Trey Parker.  These guys get off telling fart jokes and others of the same ilk.

BOM is definitely outrageous in the way it pokes fun at religion and how it showcases profanity in the way 13  year old boys find hysterical.  How many times can we say fu** in a song, and better yet, words I don’t want to write in a blog.  Body excrements take center stage in this show and all the ways it can be showcased in sophomoric style humor.

My funny bone isn’t activated that way, unfortunately in this case since I paid a lot of money for seats in the nose bleed section of the theater.  That would have even been fine if I’d laughed occasionally with everybody else who appreciated the offbeat humor.  But then again, I never found South Park funny either.

Oddly enough I did enjoy the show though.  Music is fantastic, which isn’t surprising since it was created by Robert Lopez of “Avenue Q” fame, the adorably inventive and truly funny Broadway show.  Dance numbers were great too and well staged.  And the sets were colorful, elaborate and beautifully designed.  Performers were all simply terrific with powerful voices that punched out songs the way they were meant to be sung.

It was certainly a Broadway calibre musical.  But for me the book was a little too stupid and adolescent to become engrossed in.  I’m glad I saw it though; now I know what all the fuss is about.

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The show, NEWSIES,  is what Broadway is meant to be – poetry in motion.  It has all the elements working together to create an extraordinary experience.  No wonder it won a Tony for music and choreography – they bring the book to life and weave story, power and emotion into a frenzy that keeps the audience engaged and applauding enthusiastically.  I’m among the regular whoopers at the end of a powerfully performed number.  I can’t contain myself – the emotion has to go somewhere so why not channel it into my hands and out of my mouth!  The cast appreciates the appreciation and I don’t have to explode.  Win, win right?

Here’s their page on broadway.com

Newcomer Corey Cott plays the vulnerable lead in Jack Kelly.  Fresh out of Carnegie Mellon University, Corey landed this role as his Broadway debut.  Not too shabby.  And he’s great too.  He has a lovely tenor voice that needs a bit of strengthening to project more powerfully into the audience.  But I suspect that will come with practice.  In fact, all the fellows who play the news boys are terrific singers and dancers who bring to life the struggle of trying to make a buck as little guys against big business.  These guys win in the end – and oh how good that feels!

 Here’s a number from the show.

The writing team of Harvey Fierstein (book), Alan Menken (composer) and Jack Feldman (lyrics) is dynamic and magical.  I always marvel at how the strongly produced musicals seamlessly weave those vital elements together.  It’s a mystery to me and one that continually fills me with awe.

The set is so inventive and useful as it is continuously reconfigured to move the story along in place and for dance numbers.  Direction is tight and purposeful.  And the performers are top-notch!

NEWSIES is Broadway musical at its best.  What an exhilarating way to spend an evening!  How is it remotely possible that NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT won the Tony for best musical?!  Crazy!

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English: Matthew Broderick at the 2009 Tribeca...

Kelli O'Hara (South Pacific) at NYS ARTS Fall ...

Kelli O’Hara (South Pacific) at NYS ARTS Fall Gala 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This ’30s musical comes to life at the Imperial Theater on Broadway.  There’s a lot going for it, if you like these old-time musicals.  Costumes are colorful and gorgeous on a cast of talented dancers who make good use of a smaller stage.  Sets are effective and believable with most of the action taking place inside a mansion.  Voices are strong as they belt out popular ditties by the Gershwin brothers – “Someone To Watch Over Me,” “S Wonderful,” “Fascinating Rhythm” and others.  And the audience for our performance really seemed to like the show.  But I came away thinking – eh.. I hope the next one’s better.”

Matthew Broderick shares the leading role with Kelli O’Hare.  Here’s a sneak peek at one of their songs together.

Our matinée featured Ms. O’Hare’s understudy Cameron Adams in the role of Billie Bendex.  She was actually quite good – a strong performer with a lovely confident voice.  But Broderick was a different story.  We wished we’d seen his understudy instead, frankly.  He’s careful and tentative in his portrayal of this playboy, not at all believable in the part.  He’s light on his feet as a dancer but lacks any nuance to his performance.  His nerdy persona does not a playboy make.  And just about every singer was stronger than he.  Frankly, he was boring in the role.  We felt like we were watching a walk through of the show and not a scheduled performance.  Quite a disappointment since he received such glowing accolades in “The Producers.”  Ben Brantley loved “Nice Work,” but had similar sentiments about Broderick’s performance in his review of the show.

Direction and choreography for the show was so-so, rather lackluster and formulaic in places.  It lacked inventiveness even though Kathleen Marshall is a veteran director/choreographer on the Great White Way.  It almost seemed like she toned the show down to avoid overshadowing Broderick’s weakness on stage.

Obviously this wasn’t among my favorite stage shows, ranking with the likes of “Promises, Promises.”  But if you’re attracted to traditional Broadway flavor and singable tunes you’re likely to find “Nice Work” enjoyable.  It’s a predictable and formulaic production performed by a talented cast and executed by a professional production crew.

I’m glad it’s the first show we’re seeing on this trip and not the last.

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