It was quite a scene at Short Pump Mall this past weekend, with scores of talented kids coming out for the “Sound of Music” auditions. At least one collection of performances has shown up on YouTube if you want to get a sense of the general atmosphere. I hear it was near-freezing when everything started, though it was balmy and in the 70s by midday when I showed up.
From what I heard, I expect Chase and Sandy are going to have a relatively easy time with the first cut – trimming the 500 or so wannabes to maybe 100 or so that really had serious chops. But from then on, I think its going to be tough; I saw many fresh faces with soaring voices even during my short visit to the proceedings.
Susan Haubenstock’s review of “Mahalia” was in Sunday’s paper. I’m glad to see a review of the show – I was under the impression the show opened last weekend and was surprised that no review had shown up last week. The AART folks might not be as glad as Ms. H’s review is not exactly a rave.
I caught the matinee of “Avenue Q” this weekend and was generally delighted with what I saw. Unfortunately, I was not as delighted with what I heard: my sole complaint about the show was a somewhat muddled sound quality. It probably didn’t help that I was in the third row, house left section so was probably not in prime position for listening. Still, you kinda hope every seat in the fabulously designed Carpenter Theatre would afford equal access to quality sound. It was disappointing because I was there with two “Q” newbies and I really wanted some of the clever lyrics in songs like “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” and “Schandenfreude” to register with them the way they did the first time I saw the show. Neither of my companions heard the name of the kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Thistletwat. Me telling them afterwards was not nearly as funny.
This was my third stroll down Avenue Q. The first time I saw the show, I loved it and was one of the only people I know that defended its Tony win against “Wicked” way back when (I defended it in print but can’t find the review online, sorry.) The second time was a bit of a letdown. I was thinking that the show wasn’t as good without the initial shock value but now I wonder if part of the letdown was not having the phenomenal original cast that included John Tartaglia and Stephanie D’Abruzzo. This time, I was surprised to find myself enjoying some of the non-madcap parts of the show; Jacqueline Grabois's delivery of "Fine Fine Line" I found especially affecting.
The cast at CenterStage was great, I thought, and I particularly enjoyed Grabois as Kate Monster. I could tell the she was not an experienced puppeteer though because from my vantage point the puppet of Kate often blocked my view of the actress and the puppet’s mouth was not always in sync. Brent DiRoma was fantastic as Princeton but I thought his voice as Rod was a bit forced. I really loved the Christmas Eve, Lisa Helmi Johanson, who was just the right mix of sassy and sweet.
Besides the sound, the show was impressive technically and found the lights extremely effective, a definite improvement over what I’ve seen in places like the Landmark that seem more in tune with concerts versus theatrical productions.
I was curious how the show sold; the matinee still had seats in the back of the orchestra so was far from a sell-out. I had been wondering whether a two-day run was right for “Avenue Q;” apparently the Jam Theatricals planners know the audience better than I do. Another thing I didn’t know: apparently the cast is non-Equity for this show (according to Wikipedia). I think that really muddies the claim that this show represents “Broadway in Richmond.” Hmmm….
I know some local theatre peeps caught the show this weekend; I saw a few at the matinee. I’d be curious what others thought about this first big traveling show to open here in a long time.