Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chemistry

There have been questions thrown about since the first review came out about the romantic chemistry between the leads in “The Sound of Music.” In the conversations I’ve had on the subject since then, it’s clear to me that “chemistry” is one of those non-descript descriptors that perhaps gets invoked a little too readily. Still, it’s one that I’m sure I’ve used before and I’m sure to use it again. In fact, I plan to use it most distinctly in this post.

Chemistry may be an elusive trait but, like so many things, you know it when you see it. It’s both the ability an actor has to make you thoroughly believe the feelings they are supposed to be having for another actor but also that magic spark that happens between two actors. It can probably be broken down technically – where is the actor looking? What gestures, big and small, is he/she using to indicate affection? How does their voice, their body language, their expressions reinforce the power of their emotions? Is he/she acting like someone in the throes of love would act? And is his/her partner responding in kind? But beyond any technical analysis, there is also usually a secret ingredient, something that can’t be easily distilled from the interaction. For that reason, lack of chemistry may not necessarily be an actor’s or a director’s “fault.” It’s part of the mysterious energy that happens on stage that makes a production work. “Chemistry” is one word used to encapsulate all of this, which makes it both useful and dangerous.

I think back to productions where I thought there was some great chemistry going on. Sycamore Rouge’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” was full of it, with Bill Brock, Terry Gau and Angie Shipley all working the intense emotions of that play for all they were worth. And speaking of Ms. Shipley, I thought she shared some fine romantic chemistry with Brett Ambler in “Urinetown” at the Mill a couple of years back. And speaking of the Mill, chemistry isn’t always romantic: John Moon, Jodi Strickler Smith and Paul Deiss shared a fantastic familial chemistry in “Greetings.” Ronnie Brown and Jimmy Glidden nearly crackled with antagonistic chemistry in “Take Me Out.”

And now I turn to “Twelfth Night,” Richmond Shakespeare’s current production that wraps up this weekend. I really enjoyed this show. In particular, the comic bits with the hilarious trio of Foster Solomon, Stacie Reardon Hall, and David Janosik (and assisted at times by Jonathan Conyers and their foil, Thomas Cunningham) are delightful. These actors are totally going for it – something that must be particularly difficult in the oppressive heat. Whenever any of these folks were on stage, I was happy.

However, the matter of chemistry comes in when I think about the principal love quadrangle between Viola and Orsino, Sebastian and Olivia. Susie Haubenstock called Laurel Maughan charming and I couldn’t agree more. I am also a big Katrinah Lewis fan and I love that she is given so much to dig into with Olivia. Her big beautiful expressive eyes are almost all she needs to convey the many moods of the tempestuous beauty. Both Andrew Ballard as Orsino and Zachary Page as Sebastian do fine work.

But even with all of these actors making the most of their roles, there were misfires among the romantic sparks. Page and Lewis did well together; I think Page’s surprise and delight at his character’s unexpected good fortune provided much of the energy that made that coupling pop. But I had a hard time really believing that Maughan was stricken with affection for Ballard, or that he similarly fell for her by the play’s end. Maughan and Lewis also didn’t click as intensely as I wanted them to. Particularly given that Olivia is supposed to be so disdainful, I did not feel the heat between them that would melt Olivia’s cold demeanor.

As I said, chemistry is elusive and also subjective. Many people may have picked up all sorts of electricity in the performances that they saw. And, if I were writing a review for print with a limited amount of words, I may not even mention this aspect of the show. There is so much that is right with this production, including excellent costumes and consistently exceptional supporting players, that I might not find room for it.

One last note on “Twelfth Night:” Billy Christopher Maupin plays a beguiling fool in a performance that I still find myself mulling over. My first impression was that he brought a little too much darkness and not enough sense of play to this role. I tend to like my fools a bit, well, foolish. But there was a certain genius to making his character somewhat muted, and at times, surprisingly contentious. I’m still not sure I loved the approach but it definitely intrigued me. (I should note that, having to skip out before the very last scene of the show, I apparently missed a final jig that I’ve been told is BC’s finest moment. So my characterization of his performance is therefore incomplete.)

If you want to see what I’m talking about, grab your tickets for “Twelfth Night” soon. Only 3 performances left. And any thoughts you have on chemistry -- good, bad or indifferent -- please share.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sitting in Judgment

I'm off to be a different kind of theater critic: jury duty! In the meantime, here's Mr. Porter's positive take on "Rent."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Quaffle or Perfection

Though my review is written and out there in the effluvium somewhere awaiting publication, I continue to mull over “Rent.” It took a while for the enthusiastic rave by the T-D’s Ms. Haubenstock to show up online but I finally found it last night. In the meantime, I had been mulling over suggesting to the editors of Style that they hire Ms. Honaker as my replacement, due to her entertaining take on the show.

I must congratulate the casts of “A Servant of Two Masters” and “Twelfth Night” who suffered through some powerfully oppressive heat to put their shows on this past weekend. The old deodorant commercial said, “Never let them see you sweat,” but no amount of Dry Idea could stop the torrents of perspiration I’m sure sprang from these devoted actors. I hope everyone stayed good and hydrated.

Just as “Servant” came and went in a flash last week, so did the revue “A Slice of Minelli” at Richmond Triangle Players. Here’s Ms. Lewis’s review in the T-D for those who want to read about what they missed. And just when you thought it’d be going on forever, “The Sound of Music” comes down this weekend. If you’ve been putting off checking it out, time is running out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Flash Review

OK, so the week went by and I didn’t have a spare brain cell to devote to CYT’s “Peter Pan” or Richmond Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Believe it or not, I actually think a little before I write about shows and I wouldn’t want to put anything out there without putting at least a little thought into it. I’ve got 16 hours of driving ahead of me this weekend so perhaps I’ll have some time to think then.

Right now, however, thoughts of “Rent” are crowding everything else out of my brainspace. I was at opening night last night and am still processing what I saw/heard/experienced. I loved this show when I saw it on Broadway so one thing I’m having to do is cleanse myself of the expectations I might have had and, to paraphrase Maureen and Joanne, take this production as it is.

There are some amazing moments in this show. As Tom Collins, Durron Tyre has a searing second act show stopper that is almost worth the price of admission all by itself. The ensemble’s “La Vie Boheme” is a delightful romp and I think I could hear the duet between Jaci Camden and Joy Newsome on “Take Me As I Am” over and over again without getting tired of it.

But great moments aside (are there are many more I haven’t mentioned but plan to highlight in my review for Style), I am also trying to integrate some niggling questions I have about staging, lighting, and sound engineering that veered from crystal clear to fuzzy and full of feedback. I’ll try to bring all of that into something cohesive in the next couple of days but in the meantime, I’ll provide this one sentence flash review: Stoked by the prodigious vocal firepower of a jubilant young cast and sustained by Jonathan Larson’s rollicking rock-and-roll score, Firehouse Theatre Project’s production of the acclaimed musical “Rent” has so much power and intensity that it threatens to explode the confines of the intimate Firehouse stage.

My lovely mom-in-law arrived in town this week bearing a program from “Fences,” the result of a recent New York trip. In the program was a story written by Seth Rudetsky about quick changes and their potential for causing onstage disaster. He highlights a particular incident involving Richmond-born Emily Skinner. I couldn’t find that exact story online but here’s a link to the same story encapsulated in one of Seth’s columns from two years ago:

Speaking of Broadway, here’s an interesting story about the Great White Way in the wake of the recent Tony Awards. Weird how an award can have an impact…or not.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Two for Tues…er, Wednesday

Two reviews in this week's Style, one for "Twelfth Night," and another for "The Sound of Music." 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Servant / Rent / As You Like It / Etc.

My first big theater-related disappointment of the summer comes this weekend. I’ll be heading out of town for a wedding – that’s not the disappointing part. But because of that commitment, I’ll miss the restaging of “A Servant of Two Masters” at Dogwood Dell this weekend. This delightful little romp produced by Henley Street featured a couple of my favorite performances of the past season: Richard Koch as the lead character Truffaldino and Christina Bellew in a couple different roles. If you missed it the first time, don’t make the same mistake twice!

Seeing the teaser from Firehouse’s “Rent” on Virginia This Morning yesterday really got my blood pumping in anticipation of this show. The looong, awkward pause before they start singing notwithstanding, both these women are powerhouses and I can’t wait to see them tear up the stage, along with the rest of their castmates. (Side note: when I was in the studio for the “Sound of Music” appearance on VTM, they ran the music off of a miked boom box. Not exactly high tech and I expect a glitch with that kind of setup was the cause of the awkward pause.) I’m also tickled that a song about lesbian love got performed so boldly on morning TV. Welcome to the 21st century, Richmond!

I’m glad some folks took the opportunity to shamelessly promote their upcoming work in the comments of a recent post. As I said there: it’s my blog but your forum, if you choose to use it. I know a tiny fraction of what goes on in this town and I started this blog to generate conversation, not to provide a platform from which to expound. My hope has been that it would leak out into the larger community and be another venue for promotion of Richmond theater in general. I don’t know how successful it’s been but that’s still my focus.

Anyway, along those lines, the talented Mr. Carlson has started a blog to talk about his upcoming Theatre in Battery Park production of “As You Like It,” another entry in the local Shakespeare sweepstakes. I know he’s got some good folks lined up to perform so it’s certainly a project that warrants attention.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Buffalo

I’m a little exhausted after a busy weekend including a fun-filled Father's Day and a theater double-header on Saturday where I was able to check out CYT’s “Peter Pan” in the afternoon and Richmond Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” in the evening. The big opening of the weekend was Swift Creek Mill’s “Moon Over Buffalo;” you can read Ms. Haubenstock’s measured response to the show in today’s T-D. While you’re reading that, I’ll try to recover enough to write up my impressions of the Saturday shows. Oh, and have you voted for Jason, Ellie and Jon yet? You can do so once a day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Big Broadway Breakers

As mentioned before, here's the link to Jason Mark's Big Broadway Break audition. Vote now!

And Jason isn't the only local making a play for their big break. The adorable couple, Ellie Atwood and Jonathan Perez, who have done great work together in Stage 1's "Summer of '42" and Theatre IV "Sideways Stories from Wayside School," are leaving for the Big Apple in August. A little boost to their careers wouldn't hurt. Here's Ellie's audition and here's Jonathan's. Support your local faves!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Do Your Part

There are two unique opportunities over the next few days for anyone / everyone to play an active role in the local theater world whether you are a performer, technician, designer, or audience member.

First, beloved local composer/performer Jason Marks has entered the “Big Broadway Break” contest. This contest represents is an incredible opportunity for an artist to spend some time in New York and really focus on breaking into the biz there. Finalists are selected by popular vote and voting starts midnight on Saturday. As soon as I have a link to where you can vote, please go there and help get Mr. Marks get his break!

Second, Richmond.com is in the midst of its Adventure Quest, a wide-ranging contest where you can win 2 tickets to “The Sound of Music” and also be in the running for a $500 Apple gift card. The catch is that you have to sing a song from the show on the Empire stage. The judging will happen starting at noon next Monday. So, if you want a good excuse to get out of the heat, check out the details and plan to come on down. You might want to check out the other “quests” listed for the next couple of days – some of them look pretty fun.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In Conversation and In the Studio

An alternate title for this post might be: Why They’re Pros. The “Sound of Music” machine continues to chug through the summer and I continue to find additional reasons to be impressed with the production’s company. And, before I get in too deep, let me say that, while I may heap praise on these folks because I’m most familiar with what they go through, I’m also well aware that nearly every production has its share of amazing stories and challenging circumstances that it has to overcome.

There was a Coffee and Conversations event at the Barksdale last week, featuring Stacey Cabaj, Kara Harmon and young Cooper Timberline. It was an amiable little gathering skillfully emceed by Bruce Miller. Possibly the most amazing thing I learned during the hour-long session was some details about the journey of the lovely and talented Ms. Cabaj. You may know that she was in the running for the reality series, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” that was focused on casting the female lead of the Canadian production of “Sound of Music.” What you probably did not know is that one of the reasons she did not make it into the final round of the London version of the show was because of concern on the part one of the producer over her recovery from a surgery where her jaw was broken in several places. After the surgery, she did not have feeling in much of the lower half of her face and she had to retrain herself how to sing again. The producer in question noticed what he thought was a small speech impediment because of this and that was enough for him to want her out of the competition.

Just this week, a subsection of the “Sound of Music” cast appeared on Virginia This Morning where they performed “Favorite Things.” Video of the spot is available online now and it sure seems like the song goes off without a hitch. I happened to be in the studio and can attest that the spot could have just as easily been a mess if not for the flexibility and professionalism of all involved. The song “Favorite Things” lasts about 2 minutes; shortly before the live broadcast, it was communicated that the spot was supposed to be 2 ½ minutes. Barksdale publicist Judi Crenshaw and director Chase Kniffen quickly improvised a way to include a piece of the scene preceding the song into the spot. Lines and blocking had to be altered slightly and the cast – the majority of them less than 10 years old – was instructed on these changes about 10 minutes before the show began. They had one brief run-through and then it was show time. Still, even with these last-minute alterations (not to mention getting their audio from a boombox versus an orchestra), everyone worked the scene as if they always did it that way.

To me, both of these anecdotes demonstrate an impressive level of professionalism. Ms. Cabaj worked through potentially crippling setbacks and has gone on to succeed in a role that puts incredible demands on her physically and emotionally up to 8 times a week. Both she and the cast of kids are flexible and adroit enough to navigate past obstacles without even a hiccup. I wish more theater-goers knew that putting on a show is a lot more than getting the lines right, figuring out some blocking and freezing it all in amber. The work than goes on before, during, and after the show requires more dedication, drive and ongoing creativity than most ticket-buyers will ever know.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

All Over the Place

Any happy hangover from the star-studded Tony Awards ceremony has now faded. I’m still not sure what to make of the whole thing. The fact that so many of the big acting awards went to performers who were essentially imports from other realms sticks in the craw a little. With her performance on Sunday, Ms. Zeta-Jones raised serious questions about how she managed to score her Tony (though I have seen YouTube clips of her doing the song much better). Viola Davis’s and Scarlett Johansson’s speeches seemed earnest enough. I love Denzel Washington but, despite the times he has appeared on the New York stage, he is clearly of a different world (the “Tony Committee?”)

But the three things I’ll remember most about the broadcast are: 1) Katie Finneran’s “follow your dream” speech, 2) Green Day, and 3) Lea Michelle and Matt Morrison from “Glee.” Even though she has been a film and TV actress as well, Ms. Finneran seems to be much more a creature of the theater world and I thought her speech reflected that. I loved the varied reactions to Green Day: Nathan Lane politely clapping, Matt Morrison enthusiastically pumping his head back and forth to the beat, etc. And I think the Glee stars displayed some serious talent. After Sunday, Ms. Michelle is my new star crush of all time; sorry Catherine and Scarlett.

But in the afterglow of Sunday’s awards, something significant was happening here in Virginia that may have more of an immediate impact on local actors. Gov. McDonnell signed legislation that should stimulate the production of films in Virginia. As the impact of this bill takes hold, perhaps there will be a little flurry of opportunities for Richmond-area folks.

Two local media notes: Boomer magazine has a nice cover piece about Roger Gregory, judge and actor, who has appeared on the Barksdale stage a few times. Which is a good opportunity to mention that Amy Berlin (also of the lawyerly persuasion, I believe) and her compatriots in “Kitchen Witches” will be playing at CAT through this weekend, your last chance to catch them. Finally, Maria and the kids from “Sound of Music” were on Virginia This Morning this morning. I expect they’ll post video at some point and when they do, you can bet I will be linking to it. In the meantime, you can check out this video from a recent appearance on the show by a couple of the stars from CYT’s production of “Peter Pan.”

UPDATE: Here's that link to the appearance by the "Sound of Music" kids. Enjoy!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Free, Glee, and Tone-ees!

So the Tonys are this weekend. I have to say that, honestly, I’m not feeling it too much this year. There’s not one specific show or performance I’m particularly excited about getting recognition. It’s a bit ironic too since two of my biggest all-time crushes (Ms. Zeta-Jones and Ms. Johansson) are nominated. Sean Hayes may be a perfectly fine host but I’m sure I’ll miss Neil Patrick Harris. I kind of hope “Ragtime” picks up a few wins as a poke in the nose of the producers who shut the production down too early but that’s a bitter attitude to bring to a more celebratory event. If you want to review of some of the highlights of previous years, you can read this piece. Remember “Avenue Q” versus “Wicked?” Now THAT was a year to be watching the Tonys. Will you be watching on Sunday?

Something that I’m more excited about than the Tonys is high-quality, free theater and it looks like Sycamore Rouge will be offering some this summer. Though in process for a while, it was confirmed yesterday that the Rouge’s July production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be absolutely free. And also held outdoors on the beautiful-looking grounds of the Battlesea Plantation. Do you need any more reasons to drive a few miles south this summer? I don’t.

In another realm, I’ve come to the opinion that “Glee” must be the most actively criticized show in history. After the season finale, my favorite rag, EW, wrote not just one but three different wrap-ups, including these two critical quibbles (one and two). It then immediately launched into dishing about next season. In the past couple of months, Facebook would light up with people in anticipation of – and then in post-show discussion of – the merits of each episode. Hey, I’m not one to try and put a damper on the critical process but I’m thinking people may want to chill out a bit. I remember when “Twin Peaks” came out (yes, I’m that old) and people went crazy over a show that was so completely different. But the joy for “Peaks” fizzled long before its second and last season clambered to a close. The fact that so many people were so excited about the show made its collapse that much more painful.

Personally, I think “Glee” has certainly made a misstep or two and the “theme” episodes have been highly divisive (I loved the “Gaga” ep, many people didn’t. On the other hand, the Madonna show was just a-ight for me.) But, in general, I have been consistently surprised at how well the show works. It may not always be cranking on all cylinders, but at least once every episode, something impresses me, whether it’s a blockbuster song, a particular arrangement, a wickedly funny line, an awesome bit of choreography or a clever plot point. And when they all work together, well, it’s still pretty magic. I’ve got high hopes for next season but also, I’m willing to overlook the small stumbles, let the show flow and soak in the overall high-quality of the whole endeavor.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

She’s the Man

If you are looking for something to get you in the mood for Richmond Shakepeare’s upcoming production of “Twelfth Night,” I would heartily (if perhaps unexpectedly) recommend a viewing of the movie, “She’s the Man” from 2006. The film stars an enchanting Amanda Bynes back before she was a Twitter queen and just a promising comic actress. It also features a very hunky Channing Tatum before he became so well-known for his hunkiness. The plot updates and corrupts the general outline of “Twelfth Night” but keeps the essential mistaken-identity relationship between Viola, Sebastian, Olivia and Orsino. There are some truly ridiculous moments (i.e., most of the last 15 minutes) but there are also some hilarious scenes and great interplay between Bynes and Tatum. The movie is a family favorite (particularly with three female soccer players in the family) and so I have heard or seen it about a dozen times. If you don’t have high expectations, I think you’ll find it a nice diversion.

Speaking of expectations, the production of “Rent” that’s being assembled for the Hollywood Bowl sounds pretty amazing, with Neil Patrick Harris directing and Nicole Schwerzingsomething from Pussycat Dolls/Dancing with the Stars recently added to the cast. Personally, I’m just as impressed with the cast for the production opening later this month at the Firehouse and it’s a whole lot more convenient, so I’ll have no problem settling for that.

Sometime recently, I said something about the few shows that are about sports in reference to “Take Me Out.” Shortly thereafter, I started hearing about this new show called “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” which is all about the “sport” of professional wrestling. It’s sounds like a hoot and like a show I’d love to see done here, though it may be a challenge to cast. Still, it’ll go on the “maybe” list for the next trip to NYC…

Monday, June 07, 2010

By the way...

...does anyone know what happened to the production of "Langston is My Man?" It's still listed on the AART website as being scheduled to open this past weekend but I don't see it on the CenterStage schedule. Was it cancelled?

What a Day!

The Facebook world lit up on Saturday with news of what happened in and around the Empire Theatre. To say it was eventful is an understatement. To be brief(ish), a patron attending the matinee performance of “The Sound of Music” had a serious wound on her foot that she was unaware of, causing a pool of blood in the lobby and the first call of the day for an ambulance. During the matinee, power went out in the whole neighborhood, causing a blackout in the theater. Both Phil Whiteway and Chase Kniffen were on hand to help stall for around 20 minutes until power was restored. During that time, both audience and performers shared a magical experience as Phil leads everyone in a sing-a-long version of “Edelweiss” (alertly captured on video by Jonathan Perez).

Outside of the theater, things were not so magical as an SUV and a VCU police car collided little more than a block away apparently because of traffic lights not being operational. The vehicles plowed into the building at the corner of Marshall and Adams, which then partially collapsed (luckily, none of the passengers was apparently seriously hurt). This accident caused traffic in the area to be tied up for the next several hours.

After weathering the matinee, all seemed to be restored to normal but there was additional excitement at the end of the evening performance when a pregnant patron started going into labor at the top of the Empire Theatre stairs. She was eventually helped to the bottom of the stairs and made comfortable until the second ambulance of the day could come by the theater.

I was only personally around for the last circumstance so would take offense (just kidding) if anyone considers my attendance at previously memorable performances a curse of some kind. I did talk to several cast members who said it was about the weirdest day in the theater that they can remember. As per “The World According to Garp,” I hope this means that the SOM production has had its share of craziness for one run and that that’ll be it. But you never know…

I hope the benefit for Dogwood Dell at the Byrd on Sunday, the "A Thorn Between Two Roses" production, and the James Dean show at Sycamore Rouge all went off without any similar mishaps!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Weighing In

Style’s newest theatre critic, Rich Griset, weighed in on “Kitchen Witches” a few days ago. It’s not in the print edition so you might have missed it.

No one from Style has weighed in on “The Sound of Music” yet. I couldn’t have written one for print, for obvious reasons. But I can expound here so I might as well.

Even three weeks into the run, there continues to be things that impress me about this production. Technically, it is a real knock-out. Brian Barker’s set is among the best I’ve seen at Theatre IV. And I have to give an extra dose of credit to the scenic artists who worked on this production (Julie Gallager, Ann Minerick and Terrie Powers). The Austrian landscape they have created on stage is awe-inspiring. Every time I see the show, I find myself looking into the mountains as if the light might have changed or new crags or treelines emerged. It really seems like a living thing, assisted in no small measure by the lighting Lynn Hartman has engineered.

I don’t know where to start with the cast (I know what you’re thinking, the very beginning, right?) I guess I’ll get this out of the way before I go any further: I’m fairly convinced now that Ali Thibodeau can do no wrong on stage. She is an enchanting Leisl and one of the late-in-the-show highlights for me is her duet with Maria on the “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” reprise. Two wonderful voices that blend and complement each other extremely well.

Susan Sanford and Michael Hawke have the difficult task of performing the two songs in the show that will not be familiar to most audience members. I don’t think Chase could have picked a better pair. Not only do they both bubble over with personality, they have the technical skills to render these songs in such an engaging manner that even the more tongue-twisting aspects (“Mer-ced-eses!”) are clear.

I like the Elsa / George plotline trajectory in the stage version better than in the movie. It’s a little trite to simply have a girl-on-girl fight for George’s heart. The political subplot becomes a more living and affecting aspect of the story by having it disrupt the engagement.

In the same category of things that are different about the play, I’d have to put Jody Ashworth’s portrayal of Captain von Trapp. Christopher Plummer’s performance in the movie had a singular charm but there is a humanity in Mr. Ashworth’s portrayal that breathes new life into the story. I particularly like his work in the key scene when Maria and George have returned from their honeymoon and immediately are confronted by the Nazi presence. George is alternately elated to be home, furious and heartbroken about the Anschluss, and confused about how best to protect his family. Jody takes us through each of those emotions clearly.

And Stacey Cabaj – well, she must have walked through some big angel dust storm at some point in her life because she is just illuminated with a bright, beautiful spirit. The amazing part is that really only a fraction of it comes across on stage. In person, she’s even more appealing. I have always adored Julie Andrews as Maria but there is something a little prissy or even ethereal about her performance (that gauzy movie lighting has something to do with it). If anyone could make you forget about Julie Andrews with her down-to-earth, straightforward portrayal, it’s Stacey.

Of course, the kids are cute. But they are so much more, too. The fact that as a group they nail some pretty involved little numbers every single performance is extremely impressive. Can you imagine doing what Ellie Wilson does as Gretl when you were 6? Hell, I don’t think I was tying my shoes by myself yet. The stage version gives Brigitta a more filled out character and Meghan Cordner really takes that challenge head on and succeeds every single show. Oh, and the kid that plays Kurt, well, he’s not too bad either. My favorite scene in the entire show (not just because of Kurt) may be the “Lonely Goatherd” number because it is so different from the movie and all of the kids fill it with such life and energy.

I could ramble on about this production for a long time – and I may have to augment this post at some later time to do so. In the meantime, do plan and go see it. You won’t be sorry you did. I ran into a theater friend at a matinee this week who said she felt like “scream-crying” after every musical number. That’s the kind of reaction the show is spurring. Sure, some of that is undoubtedly nostalgia because of such a well-loved show. But the production pretty much kicks butt too.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

More Reviews and More Out

Mary B’s review of “Crowns” hit newsstands with the latest Style and John P's take on CAT's "Kitchen Witches" is now available on his website. Also, old friend Tim Timberlake posted some very nice (if embarrassingly Cooper-centric) comments about “Sound of Music” on his blog recently. Thanks, Tim!

I haven’t been able to let go of “Take Me Out” even though it’s been two weeks since I saw it. It's one of those rare productions that I would have gladly seen a second time. A couple of thoughts regarding the cast: I ran into Eddie Tavares and he told me that he learned the Japanese he spoke in the show phonetically with the help of a Japanese friend of his. He had to say A LOT of Japanese so this must have been a monumental task. You really have to admire that kind of dedication.

Also, I had the pleasure of meeting Jimmy Glidden last weekend before he bolted back to NYC. I usually don’t go out of my way to introduce myself to actors because a) I’m shy and, b) depending on who they are or who they’re best pals with, the possibility for awkwardness is great. But I really wanted to meet Mr. Glidden because his performance in “Take Me Out” was so all-encompassing and natural – even for a somewhat extreme character – that it made me wonder whether any traces of the shy furtiveness he displays on stage would be evident in a casual interaction. I was delighted to find that he is a bright, intelligent and personable fella with an engaging personality that doesn’t seem to contain even a shade of the na├»ve xenophobe that he played in the show. This, of course, makes me that much more impressed with his work in the show – and I was pretty damn impressed already. I hope NYC treats him well.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Special Events

CAT’s “Kitchen Witches” got a bit of dressing down in the T-D review by Ms. Haubenstock this past weekend. This doesn’t seem to have cast an evil spell on ticket sales if I can believe some Facebook posts which indicate full houses for upcoming shows.

Some folks have asked me to mention some special events happening this upcoming weekend, which I’m happy to do. Local thespian Bill Brock has written a new play called “James Dean: Crossing the Finish Line” and will be directing a production of it as part of Sycamore Rouge’s Six Block Series. The show runs this Thursday through Saturday. World premieres are relatively rare around here so that alone makes this worth checking out. An interesting subject doesn’t hurt either.

The folks at Bifocals are staging a run of “A Thorn Between Two Roses,” a show where Jackie Jones plays a character named Sassy so I can only imagine what we can expect from her! Only two nights for this one, Thursday and Friday, so don’t procrastinate.