Showing posts with label theatre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label theatre. Show all posts

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Phantom of the Opera

The first time I saw The Phantom of the Opera was on Broadway in 1998 with my sister Kristine when we were on a girls trip to New York City.  I absolutely loved it and have now seen it at least a dozen times, including once on my most recent trip to NYC.  The production of The Phantom of the Opera that I saw at the Eccles Theatre on Thursday night is an all new touring version directed by Laurence Connor (the original is still performed on Broadway) and, for the most part, I really liked it.  The story about a disfigured madman living in the catacombs underneath the Paris Opera House and his love for the ingenue Christine Daae remains the same as does Andrew Lloyd Webber's magnificent music.  The biggest difference in this production is the set (there is still a crashing chandelier) which portrays a darker, grittier, and more realistic theatre and we definitely see more of the backstage areas.  There is a giant rotating cylinder on a turntable that opens up to reveal Christine's dressing room, the Managers' office, the rooftop of the theatre, and the graveyard (my favorite change to the set).  This cylinder also becomes a spiral staircase by which the Phantom leads Christine to his underground lair and I also really liked this change because it actually felt like they were under the theatre rather than in some fantasy.  The choreography is also more realistic and the operas performed seem like actual productions rather than caricatures.  The only change that I didn't like, and I really hated it, was the staging and the choreography for "Masquerade" which has always been my favorite number in the show.  The dramatic staircase is no longer used and the choreography employs more ballet than the stylized dancing of the original.  I also didn't really like the new costumes because they weren't as theatrical as I thought they should be since it is a masquerade ball. Another change from the original is the emphasis on the relationships between the Phantom, Christine, and Raoul.  The encounter between the Phantom and Christine during "The Music of the Night" is much more passionate, in my opinion, as is their performance of "The Point of No Return."  I have always believed that Christine should end up with the Phantom (although the only person who agrees with me is my sister) and in this version she seems really torn between him and Raoul in "Down Once More."  I usually think of Raoul as a fop but I also really enjoyed his encounter with Christine during "All I Ask of You."  I could really see the appeal of both of them for Christine and I appreciated this change in staging.  Quentin Oliver Lee is a fantastic Phantom and I loved his performance of "The Phantom of the Opera" and "The Music of the Night."  I sometimes couldn't hear Eva Tavares as Christine because the music seemed to overpower her but her version of "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" gave me goosebumps.  I enjoyed this new production and I am glad that I got to see it (every performance is sold out!).the

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Newsies at HCT

I really love the musical Newsies (go here, here, here, and here for reviews of other productions) so I have been anticipating Hale's production all season. I was really eager to see what they would do with it on their intimate stage and, when I saw it Thursday night, I was certainly not disappointed. It exceeded my expectations in every way.  When Joseph Pulitzer (Ric Starnes) decides to raise the price of newspapers, Jack Kelly (James Bounous) rallies his fellow newsies to strike. With a little help from intrepid reporter Katherine Plummer (Kelly Hennessey Pulver) and Governor Roosevelt (Bradley Moss), the newsies score a victory for all of the children of New York. I loved the entire cast (they are all so incredibly talented) but Bounous and Peter Reid Lambert, who plays Davey, are especially charismatic. I also really liked Pulver's rendition of "Watch What Happens." The big production numbers are absolutely amazing and, as always, I really enjoyed "Carrying the Banner," Seize the Day," "The King of New York," and "Once And For All." I had goosebumps in my very favorite song, "The World Will Know" because it was performed with such passion. The choreography maintains the spirit of the Broadway production (there are plenty of high energy leaps and spins in unison) but there are a lot of touches here and there which keep it fresh and vibrant. I think this production might be the best I've ever seen because the staging is brilliant! I felt so close to the action. The metal towers used to represent the New York City skyline are in the middle of the stage making them three-dimensional and the actors utilize them very effectively. The use of the LED screens around the theatre for Jack's drawings and for the newspaper headlines is extremely clever.  I also loved the use of a vintage printing press during "Once And For All" because it looks like they are really printing a newspaper! I enjoyed this show so much and I highly recommend it!  It runs through September 1 at the Mountain American Performing Arts Centre (go here for tickets) but act soon because tickets will go quickly!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Crazy For You at CPT

Since moving to Bountiful three years ago I have become a huge fan of CenterPoint Theatre. Last night I had the chance to see their production of Crazy For You, a wonderful musical featuring the music of George and Ira Gershwin and lots of tap dancing! Who could ask for anything more? Bobby Child (Fred Lee) just wants to dance for the Zangler Follies but he has a fiance, Irene (Hailey Weeks), who has been waiting five years to get married and a mother who wants him to work at the family bank. He is sent by the bank to Deadrock Nevada to foreclose on a theatre owned by Polly Baker (Landry Thomas) and her father Everett (Shane Casteel). Instead, he immediately falls in love with Polly and comes up with a plan to save her theatre by producing a show. Polly doesn't want anything to do with him so he decides to impersonate Bela Zangler (Adam West) and brings the Zangler Follies to Deadrock. The show comes together until both Irene and the real Bela Zangler come to town! I loved all of the classic Gershwin songs: "Shall We Dance," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Embraceable You," "I Got Rhythm," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," and "But Not For Me." The choreography is spectacular, especially in "I Can't Be Bothered Now," "Slap That Bass," and "Nice Work If You Can Get It." I also loved all of the physical comedy in "What Causes That." All of the ensemble are great dancers and perform with a lot of energy. The leads, Lee and Thomas, are both incredibly talented with strong voices and impressive tap dancing skills. Lee, especially, is very charismatic and the two of them have a lot of chemistry. I am always really blown away by the costumes and sets for CenterPoint Theatre and this show is no exception! I highly recommend this fun and energetic show which runs through July 14 (tickets may be purchased here).

Note:  One of my former students was in the ensemble and he was fantastic! I didn't know that he could tap!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Jersey Boys

The first time I saw the musical Jersey Boys I was one of the youngest in the audience and the lady next to me asked me how I knew all of the words to every song (apparently I was singing along).  I told her that my Dad played the Four Seasons on road trips.  I knew that my Dad would absolutely love this musical so, at intermission, I bought him tickets to see it the next night.  He, of course, loved it.  When he found out that the Broadway touring company was coming to SLC again he kept telling me that he wanted to go so I got him tickets for Father's Day last year and we were finally able to see it last night.  I love this show because it uses all of the great songs by the Four Seasons to tell the story of how they rose from four guys singing under a streetlamp to become superstars and then how the pressure of fame caused it all to fall apart.  My favorite numbers are "Sherry" performed on American Bandstand, "Dawn (Go Away)"  performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, and "Rag Doll" performed at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  I also really liked it when Frankie Valli sang "Can't Take My Eyes Off You.”  The crowd went absolutely crazy afterwards!  I think the staging of this show is so clever, especially when they would record a song and then seamlessly transition to performing the song.  Aaron De Jesus, who plays Frankie Valli,  grew up in Utah and left the Broadway production to perform here in SLC.  He is absolutely amazing in the role and he captures Valli's falsetto perfectly.  Tommaso Antico, as Bob Gaudio, Corey Greenan, as Tommy De Vito, and Chris Stevens, as Nick Massi, are also fantastic performers who have the look, sound, and choreography of the Four Seasons down pat.  If you are a fan of the Four Seasons, this show is a must-see.  There are two more performances today (tickets may be purchased here).

Note:  This show contains a lot of profanity.  My sister did not like it at all.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Hamilton in Las Vegas

I absolutely loved the cast of Hamilton when the show made a stop in SLC a few months ago and, even though I had the opportunity to see it three times, I still wanted to see it again.  Luckily the same show is now in Las Vegas and I was able to get a ticket.  Before I left on my road trip from SLC to Las Vegas I learned that Joseph Morales, who plays Alexander Hamilton, would be out of the show all this week and I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed because I loved his performance so much!  However, I really liked Julius Thomas III who played Hamilton last night.  His voice is really beautiful and I especially loved his renditions of "Dear Theodosia" and "Hurricane." I've started judging each each actor in the role by how he makes me feel in "It's Quiet Uptown" and his version was incredibly emotional!  Just about everyone sitting near me was crying!  The show also featured the understudies for King George (Conroe Brooks) and George Washington (Desmond Sean Ellington) and both of their performances were more traditional like the other casts I've seen.  I especially liked Ellington's performance of "One Last Time" because he basically turned the ensemble into a gospel choir complete with choreography.  Like the SLC production, I was blown away by Nik Walker as Aaron Burr, especially in "Wait For It."  I loved all of the humor he infused in "Non-Stop" and "The Room Where It Happens." In this production Kyle Scatliffe, as Thomas Jefferson, blew kisses to the audience in "Cabinet Battle #1," Fergie L. Philippe, as Hercules Mulligan, threw his flowers to the audience in "Satisfied," and Shoba Narayan, as Eliza Hamilton, threw in some wild hand gestures as she was beat boxing in "Take a Break."  All of this business was new to the show since I saw it in SLC and it makes me wonder if the company changes things up when they move on to a new city!   Because I've now seen this show seven times, I am able to notice different things because I'm so familiar with the main action and last night I was particularly struck by the choreography of the British soldiers in "Stay Alive" and by the choreography of "Washington on Your Side."  Every time I see it I also notice something completely new and last night I noticed that the lantern lights flicker when Angelica (Ta’Rea Campbell) sings about Benjamin Franklin’s key and kite in “Satisfied.”  This show is so brilliant!  The excitement in the audience was palpable and I loved it when they applauded after the dance break in "Yorktown."  I've never been in an audience that did that!  A lot of people ask me if it gets old after watching it so many times and I can honestly say that I was just as giddy walking into the Smith Center last night as when I walked into the Richard Rodgers Theatre to see it for the first time.  I love this show so much!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mamma Mia at PTC

I have seen the Broadway touring production of Mamma Mia several times and I've even seen it in London's West End twice (once on a theater trip with PTC and once with my Mom who danced in the aisle) so I was really curious to see what a regional theater like PTC would do with it.  I am happy to report that I loved their version and I think some of the choreography, especially in "Lay All Your Love On Me" (more about that in a minute) and "Voulez-Vous," even surpassed the Broadway version.  This musical features some of Abba's best known songs, such as "Dancing Queen," "Money, Money, Money," "S.O.S.," "Knowing Me, Knowing You," and, of course, "Mamma Mia."  Sophie Sheridan (Kathryn Brunner) wants her father to walk her down the aisle at her wedding but she doesn't know who he is.  When she reads her mother's diary, she discovers three possibilities:  Sam Carmichael (Brian Sutherland), Bill Austin (Dan Sharkey), and Harry Bright (Paul Castree).  Without telling her mother Donna (Coleen Sexton), she invites all three of them to the wedding and chaos ensues!  The cast is incredible in this show, especially Sexton!  During the fourth performance she broke her foot but decided to continue the run, wearing a boot and occasionally using crutches.  When I heard about this, I worried that this might take me out of the illusion of the show.  But the production team did such a great job of adjusting the costumes, choreography, and lighting (in just 24 hours) that, after her initial entrance on stage, I really didn't notice at all.  Sexton is definitely a trooper (a super trouper?) for continuing to perform with such a severe injury!  As great as the main cast is, I think the male ensemble steal the show with their scuba gear in "Lay All Your Love On Me" and their acrobatics in "Does Your Mother Know?"  This show is so much fun and I absolutely recommend that you take a chance (too much?) on PTC and see one of the remaining performances (go here for tickets).

Note:  I have really enjoyed the 2017-2018 season at PTC!  Highlights have been The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Bright Star.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Music Man at HCT

Last night I went to Hale Theatre's production of The Music Man and I had a huge smile on my face during the entire show because it is just so delightful! There is something so comforting about the old favorites and I eagerly anticipated every familiar song: "Ya Got Trouble, " "Goodnight My Someone," "Seventy-Six Trombones," "Marian, the Librarian," "The Wells Fargo Wagon," "Gary, Indiana," and "'Till There Was You." I tried very hard not to sing along but the adorable older gentleman sitting next to me told me he didn't mind if I did! Hale does a fantastic job of staging this show to make it interesting and fresh. I especially loved the choreography in "Seventy-Six Trombones," "Marian, the Librarian," and "Shipoopi."  This new stage may be bigger and more technologically advanced than the old one in West Valley but it still impresses me what the choreographers can do with such a large cast in a relatively small space. The sets are absolutely amazing! The train in "Rock Island," the multi-level library with wrought iron spiral staircases in "Marian, the Librarian," and the foot bridge in "'Till There Was You" were my favorites. Addison Welch is incredibly charismatic as Professor Harold Hill and Rachel Woodward Hansen has a beautiful voice as Marian Paroo. There are a lot of funny characters in this show and I thought they were very well cast especially Janae Gibbs Cottam as Mrs. Paroo, Brandon Suisse as Mayor Shinn ("Not one poop out of you madame!"),  and Sharon Lynn Kennison as Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn ("One Grecian Urn.").  Ryder Mason and Christine Bernards are adorable as Winthrop and Amaryllis, respectively.  Finally, the barbershop quartet (Luke Shepherd, Juston Lebaron, Jason Baldwin, and Ricky Parkinson) is fantastic! If you are a fan of the classic musicals, then this will definitely put a smile on your face like it did me.  It runs at the Mountain America Performing Arts Centre until June 9 (tickets may be purchased here).

Friday, April 20, 2018

One Last Time

I honestly had not planned on seeing Hamilton more than once during its SLC run but after seeing it as a subscriber I had the opportunity to see it again with my sister, niece, and nephew and that was such a wonderful experience.  I considered myself extremely lucky for being able to see it twice and seeing it again was the last thing I expected (I am actually working on getting a ticket for the Las Vegas production).  I have been very vocal about my love for this production so my friend and colleague Angela told me that there were  center orchestra seats near the stage available for last night's performance at a really great price. This was essentially like holding crack cocaine in front of a junkie!  I absolutely could not pass up this opportunity so last night I saw Hamilton one last time in SLC!   It was totally unexpected but that is what made it such a fun night!  I love being spontaneous!  We met downtown for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and then walked to the Eccles Theater.  I could not believe how great the seats were and it was yet another opportunity to experience the show from a completely different vantage point!  I could see all of the actors' facial expressions and I especially loved Kyle Scatliffe as Thomas Jefferson and Fergie L. Philippe as James Madison.  I don't think I've ever seen one production three different times before and it was so interesting to see subtle changes in a particular performance.  I think Jon Patrick Walker, as King George, is getting more and more over the top every night.  He is just hilarious and you can definitely tell that he is having so much fun!  I am more and more impressed with Nik Walker as Aaron Burr, Ta'Rea Campbell as Anglica Schuyler, and Marcus Choi as George Washington.  All three of them were incredibly powerful last night.  I also think that Joseph Morales gave an even more affecting performance.  He seemed to be much more emotional in "It's Quiet Uptown."  I think he is an amazing Alexander Hamilton and there were many times last night when it seemed like he was looking right at me.  I am so glad that I had the opportunity to see Hamilton one last time (in SLC anyway), especially with Angela because this was her first time and she loved it!

Note:  When I heard about these tickets I texted my friend Karen (who is probably a bigger Hamilton fan than me, if such a thing is possible) and she ended up getting a ticket, as well.  She was two rows in front of me and it was so fun to see her!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hamilton with Sean and Tashena

She is inimitable.  He is an original.  There are a million things they haven't done but just you wait!  They will blow us all away!  I think Hamilton is such a powerful show for many reasons so I really wanted Sean and Tashena to see it!  Luckily, I was able to find some reasonable tickets (relatively speaking) in the balcony for last night's performance so my sister and I could see it again and the kids could see it for the first time.  Sean was beside himself when he found out about it because he loves the music and Tashena was excited because it is such a status symbol at her school to see it.  They both loved it!  I knew that Sean would love it but I was so happy that Tashena loved it, too!  Sean's favorite character was Aaron Burr (Nik Walker) and he really loved his rendition of "The Room Where It Happens."  Tashena really liked the song "Burn" and she was impressed that Eliza (Shoba Narayan) actually burned the letters on stage.  It was really fun for my sister and I to see the same production for a second time because we both noticed new things that we hadn't picked up on the first time.  Since we were in the balcony, we really noticed how dramatic the lighting is and it was awesome to see the double turntable from that vantage (I sat in the balcony the first time I saw it but I've been on the main floor ever since).  I was particularly struck by the choreography in "My Shot," "Yorktown," "Hurricane," and "The World Was Wide Enough" because there is so much going on that you don't necessarily see if you just focus on the main performers.  It was  incredibly special to share something that I love so much with my niece and nephew and I'm very glad I had the opportunity!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Hamilton in SLC

Last night I got to see Hamilton for the fourth time in two years and this musical has definitely not lost its magic for me.  In fact, the more I see it the more powerful it becomes!  I can honestly say that I was just as excited for this production as I was when I stood outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre!  I am so glad that I got to see this production because it is fantastic!  This cast is actually tied with the original Broadway cast as my favorite!  Joseph Morales is absolutely phenomenal in the title role.  He reminded me so much of Lin-Manuel Miranda (he played Usnavi in the touring company of In the Heights) but I think he is a stronger singer, especially in "Dear Theodosia" and "Hurricane."  He did quite a few things to make the role his own but I think my favorite bit of business is when he wipes away his tears in "It's Quiet Uptown."  Nik Walker is so powerful as Aaron Burr and I think his is my favorite performance of "Wait For It."  Ta'rea Campbell is an incredible Angelica because she not only raises the roof of the Eccles Theatre during "Satisfied" but she also gives such an emotional rendition of "It's Quiet Uptown."  Marcus Choi is very different from the other actors I've seen play George Washington and his interpretations of "History Has Its Eyes on You" and "One Last Time" are also quite different but I really liked what he did with the role.  Jon Patrick Walker is absolutely hysterical as King George and his performance is so completely over the top.  He totally hams it up and I almost died laughing when he stomps his foot in "What Comes Next?"  I've not seen this character portrayed at such a pitch before but it was hilarious!  Shoba Narayan, as Eliza, has an unbelievably emotional response to Philip's death which made me start crying then instead of during "It's Quiet Uptown" like I usually do.  Finally, every Jefferson I've seen has has done something completely different in "What'd I Miss" and Kyle Scatliffe dances a little jig, which Hamilton imitates during "Cabinet Battle #1"  I also loved Jefferson's expression at the end of "The Election of 1800." I really loved every aspect of this production but what made it so much fun is that I have been hyping this show up to  the couple who sits in front of me, with whom I have become very good friends, all season long and, after the bows, they told me that it was everything I said it was!  The hype is real!  If you were not able to get tickets for the show during its run in SLC, you can enter the lottery daily for the chance to buy up to two $10 tickets!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Twelfth Night at PTC

You might think that after a day spent teaching A Midsummer Night's Dream to sophomores I wouldn't want to spend the evening attending yet another Shakespeare play.  If the play in question is PTC's production of the hilarious comedy Twelfth Night you would be wrong because that is exactly what I did last night and I loved it!  Sebastian (Zach Fifer) and his twin sister Viola (Grace Morrison) are shipwrecked in a terrible storm and each thinks that the other is dead.  Viola disguises herself as a man called Cesario and offers her services to the Duke Orsino (A.K. Murtadha) with whom she immediately falls in love.  Orsino is desperately in love with the Countess Olivia (Kelsey Rainwater), who is in mourning for her brother, and sends Cesario to make overtures on his behalf to her but she, in turn, falls in love with Cesario.  Meanwhile, Sebastian is wandering around and is, of course, mistaken for Cesario.  Chaos ensues!   There is a secondary story, which is the source of much amusement, involving Malvolio (David Andrew Macdonald), a priggish steward in Olivia's household.  He makes life difficult for the other members of Olivia's household, most notably Sir Toby Belch (Kenajuan Bentley), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Conner Marx), and Olivia's gentlewoman Maria (Susanna Florence).  To get their revenge they have Maria mimic Olivia's handwriting and send a letter to Malvolio from Olivia professing her love for him, requesting that he wear yellow stockings with cross garters.  These scenes involve a lot of physical comedy and they are so funny!  I was laughing out loud along with everyone else in the audience.  I usually don't like it when the setting is changed in a Shakespeare play (I'm a purist) but I thought that having the action take place in New Orleans after a hurricane during Mardi Gras was incredibly effective and I loved the set design and costumes.  This allowed the character of Feste (Richard E. Waits) to become a sort of Greek chorus singing old spirituals (which Waits composed for this production).  Sometimes you have to suspend your disbelief a little bit with this play but Fifer and Morrison look so much alike that it is easy to see why they would be mistaken for each other.  All of the actors give spirited performances and I really enjoyed myself.  I highly recommend this show but the production closes on Saturday so get tickets (go here) quickly!

Note:  Last night's audience was a bit more appreciative of Shakespeare than my sophomores!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Tuck Everlasting at HCT

When I went to New York a couple of years ago I had the chance to see Tuck Everlasting, the musical based on the beloved novel by Natalie Babbitt, and I really enjoyed it (I didn't review it here because the production closed a few days after I saw it). It was a big show with multiple sets and elaborate choreography so I was very eager to see what Hale Theatre would do with it. I saw it last night and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It is a delightful and heart-warming show that the whole family will definitely enjoy. Winnie Foster (Mia Bagley) feels trapped in a house of mourning for her father and longs for adventure. One day she sneaks into the woods and meets Jesse Tuck (Kooper Campbell) near a stream. He stops her from taking a drink from the stream and inadvertently reveals a secret: the water has made his family immortal. Jesse is happy to have made a friend but Mae (Bailee Brinkerhoff Morris), Angus (David K. Martin), and Miles (Marshall R. Madsen) Tuck worry that their secret will be revealed.  Little do they know that the Man in the Yellow Suit (David W. Stensrud) has overheard Jesse and has evil plans for the water. Eventually Jesse asks Winnie to drink the water when she turns seventeen but his family warns that being immortal is not as enchanting as it appears. I loved this production! It is as good, if not better, as the one I saw on Broadway! Both Bagley and Campbell are so endearing in the lead roles and the rest of the cast is very strong. The choreography is wonderful and I am always amazed at what the choreographers are able to do on such a small stage. The final dance sequence is just lovely and brought a tear to my eye. The sets are incredible! The stage is framed by a giant lattice (the live orchestra sits at the top of the lattice) and all of the sets feature lattice-work, including the tree that the characters climb. It is incredibly clever. The costumes all feature beautiful floral patterns to go along with the lattice theme and this is very effective at portraying an enchanted world out of time. My favorite song in the show is "The Wheel" because Angus tells Winnie that she doesn't have to live forever she just has to live. I love that message so much! I highly recommend this beautiful show (go here for tickets) which runs through June 23 in the Jewel Box Theatre at the Mountain American Performing Arts Centre.

Note: A friend that I made on the New York trip is one of the dancers in this show and she was amazing!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Hamilton in Denver

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean make me spend so much money on tickets to see a musical about his life?  By making his life story the best thing that I have ever seen on stage!  By now I have spent almost $1,000 on tickets to Hamilton (New York, Los Angeles, Denver, and an upcoming performance in SLC) but I absolutely love it!  I know that people think I am crazy but whenever I do these crazy things I never regret it!  When I found out that the Broadway touring company production would be in Denver over my spring break and that there were tickets available, I jumped at the chance to have a fourth row seat and it was absolutely incredible to be so close!  Every production that I have seen has been so different and I really like what the actors do to make the roles their own.  In this production I really liked Nicholas Christopher in the role of Aaron Burr because he infused a lot of humor into the character, Isaiah Johnson in the role of George Washington because he had a beautiful voice, especially in "Right Hand Man" and "One Last Time," and Peter Matthew Smith as King George because his facial expressions were an absolute hoot (I sat so close I could actually see them) and I almost died of laughter when he filed his fingernails with his scepter.   However, the two who absolutely stole the show were Chris De'Sean Lee and Mathenee Treco who played Marquis de Lafayette/ Thomas Jefferson and Hercules Mulligan/ James Madison, respectively.  In both of their roles, the two of them played off each other hilariously, especially in the Cabinet Battles.  I loved Jefferson's mic drop and I loved Madison's waving handkerchief.  Once again the song "It's Quiet Uptown" brought spontaneous tears to my eyes.  I loved it when Eliza (Julia K. Harriman) gave Hamilton (Austin Scott) her hand and then he kissed it.  This scene has been very different in each production I've seen but each one has been so emotional.  I really loved having the chance to see Hamilton again and I'm looking forward to seeing it, yet again, in SLC in two weeks (I think it is the same company as this one).  If you can get a ticket, I highly recommend this brilliant musical!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A View from the Bridge at the Grand

Yesterday Darryl, my colleague in the English department at HHS (and dear friend), and I took a group of students to see a performance of A View from the Bridge at the Grand Theatre.  Every year the Grand Theatre performs matinees for high school students free of charge and I absolutely love this because many of our students would not have an opportunity to see live theatre otherwise.  I derive so much enjoyment from live theatre and I love being able to share my passions with students.  All of them had read the play by Arthur Miller and they really seemed to enjoy the production.  In fact, many of the students on my bus talked about the differences between the performance and the text which pretty much made me giddy!  The story focuses on Eddie Carbone (Jason Tatom), a longshoreman in an Italian community in Brooklyn, his wife Beatrice (Teresa Sanderson), and his niece Catherine (McKenzie Steele Foster).  Eddie is extremely protective of Catherine and is almost obsessed with her.  Eventually, Beatrice's relatives Marco (Aaron Adams) and Rodolpho (Rusty Bringhurst) arrive illegally from Italy and stay with them in their apartment.  Rodolpho and Catherine begin dating, much to Eddie's dismay.  He believes that Rodolpho is only interested in Catherine because he wants to use her to become an American citizen and his jealousy leads to tragedy.  The set is extremely clever with the apartment in the middle of the dock.  All of the lead actors give amazing performances, especially Tatom, and the students were very impressed with the dramatic second act.  A View from the Bridge runs at the Grand Theatre until April 7 (go here for tickets) and I highly recommend it.

Note:  Arranging a field trip is like planning the D-Day Invasion but it is ultimately so worth it!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

In the Heights at PTC

Before Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and starred in another Tony Award winning musical called In the Heights.  I have seen it a couple of times (including a full production at PTC in 2012) and I really love it, maybe not as much as Hamilton, but it is a very powerful story about love for a community and the family you make with those around you.  Pioneer Theatre Company is currently performing the concert version, a stripped down performance with minimal blocking and choreography (I am a huge fan of this concept and really enjoyed  the concert versions of The Rocky Horror Show and Chess).  My friend Angela and I went to see the performance last night and I was a little bit afraid of her reaction because I have a tendency to really hype the things I love and I worried that I may have overdone it.  Luckily she absolutely loved it and commented that she was really impressed with how well it was staged. The story revolves around a woman named Claudia (Jayne Luke) who acts as an abuela (grandmother) to everyone in a small community in Washington Heights.  Usnavi (Diego Klock-Perez) runs a bodega which is beset with problems, such as a refrigerator that doesn't work, and tries to keep his wayward cousin Sonny (Tomas Joaquin Matos) in line.  He dreams of returning to the cool breezes of the Dominican Republic.  Vanessa (Ariana Escalante) is hoping to escape the barrio, and an abusive mother, to move downtown but a credit check for her new apartment stands in her way.  Nina (Micki Martinez) is the pride of her parents (Enrique Acevedo and Melissa Blatherwick) and the whole neighborhood because she received a scholarship to Stanford.  But college is a lot harder than she thought it would be, especially when you have to work two jobs to make ends meet, and she is thinking of quitting.  Will all of their worries be solved when Abuela Claudia wins the lottery?  In the concert version the music takes center stage and I really enjoyed all of the songs but my favorites were "When You're Home," "Sunrise," "Alabanza," and "When the Sun Goes Down." The actors are fantastic and give incredibly passionate performances.  I was particularly impressed with Martinez’s characterization of Nina because you could really feel her pain at disappointing her community and Klock-Perez looks and sounds so much like Lin-Manuel Miranda that it is uncanny! This production is just wonderful and I highly recommend getting a ticket (go here) to the final performance tonight!

Note:  This is the first time that I have seen In the Heights after seeing Hamilton and I was particularly struck by the similarities.  You can definitely see Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical progression from one to the next.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Sound of Music

Last night I had the opportunity to see the Broadway touring company production of The Sound of Music now currently playing at the Eccles Theater.  This story about a high spirited nun who is sent to be the governess to Captain Von Trapp's seven children has long been one of my very favorite musicals but I am more familiar with the 1965 movie starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer than I am with the stage version.  The production that I saw last night is based on the original book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse which is quite different from the movie and I found it to be a bit jarring.  I was happily anticipating all of my favorite scenes and songs and I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed when I was surprised by something else.  Some of the songs from the movie are omitted, such as "Confidence" which is such a fun number.  Some songs that are not in the movie are included, such as "How Can Love Survive?" and "No Way to Stop It" which are both sung by Baroness Schraeder (Melissa McKamie) and Max Detweiler (Jake Mills).  I didn't particularly care for either song because I don't really care about either of these characters.  I wanted more time with Maria (Sarah Brackett) and the Captain (Mike McLean) because their romance seems very rushed in this version.  Quite a few of the songs are performed in a different scene than they are in the movie.  For example, "My Favorite Things" is sung between Maria and the Mother Abbess (Lauren Kidwell), "Do-Re-Mi" is sung when Maria first meets the children, "The Lonely Goatherd" is sung when the children are scared of the thunderstorm, and "Eidelweiss" is not sung until the music festival near the end of the show.  After a while I decided to stop comparing it to the movie and simply enjoy the performances, which are fantastic!  Brackett, who is the understudy, is delightful as Maria.  All of the Von Trapp children are adorable, especially Sophia Massa as little Gretl, and they have beautiful voices which harmonize very well.  Kidwell just about blows the roof off the Eccles Theater with her rendition of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," definitely a highlight of the show.  I would absolutely recommend this show because it is such a classic that everyone in the family will enjoy but if the movie is your touchstone, like it is for me, just be prepared for some differences.  It runs at the Eccles Theater until March 4.

Note:  Broadway at the Eccles announced the shows coming to SLC next season and I could not be more excited!  The lineup includes Waitress, Come From Away, Finding Neverland, Aladdin, School of Rock, and RENT!  The season add-ons are Wicked and The Book of Mormon.  My sister Kristine has never see Wicked before so my Mom, Marilyn, and I are going to take her for a fun girls night!  Broadway at the Eccles also teased us with the announcement that Dear Evan Hansen will be coming the following year!  Squeal!  Go here for more information.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

i at PTC

Last night I went to the world premiere of an incredibly thought-provoking play by Jeff Talbott called i.  I didn't know anything about it because there were no director's notes provided in the program and the setting was listed as a city sometime soon.  Now that I have seen it I think it is much better to go in blind and let the events (and the plot twist) surprise you.  It begins with a clearly distraught young woman named Sarah Cooper (Kathleen McElfresh) as she is interviewed by a doctor before undergoing a mysterious medical procedure.  The next time we see her she seems to be a completely different woman who has relocated to another city.  Then she meets Jake Bellamy (Todd Gearhart) and her new life begins to unravel.  This play is a profound meditation on identity and my mind was swirling with so many ideas as I left the theater!  What role do our memories play in who we are?  Is it better to feel nothing at all rather than feel sad?  Just because something is possible does that mean it should be done?   This play requires quite a bit of engagement as it is comprised mostly of intimate conversations between the two main characters (several people sitting near me were clearly restless) but I really enjoyed it.  The minimal set, composed of moving plexiglass panels, and the lighting cues are very effective at conveying the isolation felt by the main characters.  Both McElfresh and Gearhart give highly nuanced performances that I found to be incredibly affecting and I was very impressed by the sheer number of characters portrayed by Nefeesa Monroe.  I applaud Pioneer Theatre for its willingness to produce new works like this and I highly recommend this production.  It runs through March 3 and tickets may be purchased here.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Hunchback of Notre Dame at HCT

I have been anticipating HCT's production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame since the 2018 season was announced and I finally had the opportunity to see it last night! It is amazing and you should probably stop reading right now and go here for tickets because they are going fast (with good reason). I loved just about everything in this show! Victor Hugo's classic tale about outcasts who find sanctuary in a Gothic cathedral is full of so much pathos!  Quasimodo (James Bounous) has been hidden by his master Frollo (Josh Richardson) in the bell tower of Notre Dame Cathedral all of his life because he is deformed until he decides to walk the streets of Paris during the Feast of Fools.  When the crowd turns on him, he is rescued by the gypsy Esmeralda (Rebecca Burroughs).  She also catches the eye of the captain of the cathedral guard Phoebus de Martin (Preston Yates) who falls in love with her and she bewitches Frollo who becomes obsessed with possessing her. When Esmeralda rejects Frollo, he orders Phoebus to arrest her but when he refuses they both become fugitives who are aided by Quasimodo until the final confrontation in the bell tower. The music by Menken and Schwartz is so amazing!  I liked every single song but my favorites were "God Help the Outcasts," "Top of the World," "Heaven's Light," "Someday," and "Made of Stone." All of the lead actors have beautiful voices but I think my favorite characters were the gargoyles (Jacob Theo Squire, Brock Dalgleish, and Kaitlyn Dahl) who act as a sort of Greek Chorus. The set for this show is absolutely incredible! I loved the many different levels of the bell tower and it was so cool to see Quasimodo ring the bells! I also really loved the stained glass windows shown on the LED screens throughout the theater.  This, along with frequent Latin chants, adds so much to the Gothic feel of the story. This show is much darker than the usual Disney musical so some might not like it as much as I did but I think the theme of being an outcast is an important one and I think the redemption at the end of the show is incredibly powerful. I highly recommend this show (I may need to see it again!).

Friday, January 26, 2018

Cash on Delivery at HCT

Wednesday night I took a little break from the Sundance Film Festival to see Cash on Delivery, a lighthearted slap-stick comedy, at Hale Centre Theatre. Eric Swann (Bryan Dayley) began defrauding the office of Social Services by accepting payments for nonexistent lodgers at his house two years ago after losing his job at the Electric Company. Social Services, becoming suspicious of so many payments being sent to the same residence, sends Mr. Jenkins (Mark Fotheringham) to investigate. Swann enlists the help of his actual lodger Norman McDonald (Greg Larsen) and his uncle George (George Anderson) in order to keep up the ruse with not only Jenkins but his wife (Michelle Linn Hall), Norman's fiancee (Shannon Ricks), a grief counselor (Margie Johnson), an enthusiastic undertaker (Ben Parkes), a marriage counselor (David Marsden), and Jenkins' superior Ms. Cowper (Alison W. Henriksen). Chaos ensues as each of them are forced to tell one outrageous lie after another and impersonate fictional characters, including one who is supposed to be deaf and two who are supposed to be dead, until the whole thing unravels with hilarious consequences. At one point, I couldn't remember who was impersonating whom! I laughed and laughed at all of their antics! Every member of the cast, especially Dayley and Larsen, has impeccable comedic timing and the British accents are entirely believable.  The physical comedy is an absolute hoot, especially when one of the characters who is pretending to be dead is stuffed into a window seat and I always love a comedy that features lots of slamming doors. My only complaint is that I couldn't see some of the action because a large couch blocked my view from the left side of the stage (perhaps the scenic designers are so used to creating sets for the theater-in-the-round that they need some practice for a more traditional stage).  It was such a fun evening and I highly recommend this show but, as always, tickets are going fast (go here).

Note: This was quite the departure from all of the dark and edgy films I've been seeing at Sundance!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bright Star at PTC

When I went to New York almost two years ago there was one night when the group didn't have theatre tickets together and we were free to get tickets on our own.  I thought about Waitress (which I eventually saw with my friend Esther) and I also thought about Bright Star because I had heard so many great things about it.  But then Hamilton became a possibility and that eclipsed everything else!  Of course, seeing the original cast of Hamilton on Broadway was a dream come true but there was a little part of me that regretted the fact that I didn't get a chance to see Bright Star.  Little did I know that the show would be coming to Salt Lake City so soon and that almost the entire cast would be reprising their roles from the Broadway production, including the incomparable Carmen Cusack as Alice Murphy!  It is fantastic and to say that I loved it would be an understatement.  Featuring music and lyrics by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, the story takes place in North Carolina during the 1920s and just after World War II.  After returning from the war, Billy Cane (A.J. Shively) briefly returns to his small town and his childhood friend Margot (Maddie Shea Baldwin) but he decides to try writing for a magazine in Asheville and meets the uptight editor, Alice Murphy, who once made Hemingway cry.  When the magazine staff tease Alice about her boring existence, we see her (literally) transform into a wild and rebellious girl in love with Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Patrick Cummings).  The narrative goes back and forth from one timeline to the other as Alice learns to deal with heartache and loss and Billy learns the importance of home and the one who really loves him.  There is a plot twist that I predicted almost immediately but I was still completely engaged with the story because the performances are wonderful and the bluegrass music is incredible!  The song "Please Don't Take Him" brought tears to my eyes and I do not know how Cusack can sing it with such emotion night after night.  I think my favorite song in the show is "Asheville" because it is sung by a girl who is worried that the boy she loves will forget all about her when he goes to the big city.  Baldwin fills it with such longing and I liked how the song is staged.  In fact, the staging of the entire show is extremely clever with the ensemble cast moving props and scenery on and off stage seamlessly.  Finally, the band, sitting in a rustic cottage that is moved to various places on stage, is superb.  I especially enjoyed the fiddle solos played by Martha McDonnell.  Pioneer Theatre Company is only the third regional theater to produce this musical and I consider myself lucky to get to see such an amazing cast right here in SLC!  I highly recommend seeing this show, but you better hurry because tickets are going fast!  The rush pass line was the longest I've seen for any show at PTC (Including Newsies!).  Go here for tickets and information.
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