Monday, November 19, 2012

Great Modern Flair and Ensuing Hilarity: The Footlight Club Presents "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Director and Choreography: Steve Borowk
Musical Director: Shawn Gelzleichter

The Footlight Club has consistently put on strong productions.  Their most recent production, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat" had their final two shows this past weekend.  Having seen this show before, I was curious to see a different interpretation.  The music of the show itself is strong, being developed by two musical theatre greats, Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice.

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is taken from a story in Genesis. The story focuses on one of the twelve sons of Jacob: Joseph. Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams, however it is soon realized that he is meant to rule over his 11 brothers.  He receives a coat from his father, marking his favoritism among his siblings. Shortly after, due to their jealousy, the brothers sell him into slavery in Egypt. He uses his skills, wits and gifts to find his way, but ends up on his own unexpected journey that takes him to places he never imagined and meets people that would change his life forever.

The show is predominantly music and singing.  Despite the little dialogue, it didn't take away from the overall story at all. The music and lyrics were catchy, smart and incredibly fun.  Shawn Gelzleichter's music direction takes full advantage of this and creates a great sound.  The energy was upbeat and it created a solid feel for the production.  Even the direction and choreography by Director Steve Borowka were very well put together.  He doesn't have major congestion going on and utilizes the space incredibly well with placement and song moments The choreography is simple and fun as well, and its not trying hard to impress us, only to add to the overall joy in the better parts of the story. Borowka also created a modern feel, but with tones of rock and roll that gave the show some nice flavor.

The cast in this production overall is very solid.  Nate Haywood's Joseph has the pipes to carry the role, but doesn't really find his bearings and level of comfort until the second act. However, that might be the issue of the story itself, especially since we don't see much growth until later.  Despite the later immersion in the role, he had a strong presence and charisma, as well as a few hints of strong comedic timing.  He clearly has fun with the role. Needless to say, once he gets his golden chariot, it is by far one of the funniest moments of the show. The Narrator, played by Madeline McCord, carried the vocal demands of the part well enough, but lacks the maturity and strength of the role. At times, it seems like she feels out of place.  Her performance had strong moments and her interaction and chemistry with everyone else was great, especially the children, but overall falls short when it comes to the character. The Children's Chorus are incredibly engaged, as are the Women's Ensemble.  Both groups have fun and they mesh together strongly in tandem.  The big winners of the night were Joseph's father and brothers.  Each didn't overwhelm or upstage each other.  They were all brilliant in their character creation and didn't go over the edge with their performances.  Many hilarious moments from them were the highlights of the production, especially during "Those Canaan Days" and "Benjamin Calypso". There were many great moments with them, but those two songs were their show-stoppers. Even when they get to play other roles throughout the show, they each gave hilarious performances. Again, the entire cast was full of energy, comedic flair, all giving fun performances across the board.

The set, lighting and costume designs were yet another strong addition to the show.  Even though the story happened in many different places, the simple usage of steps and wooden climbing area really gave the production some character.  It was a nice jungle-gym, playground feel. There didn't have to be a lot of set changes. Levels are key the design had that in spades.  The lighting design is by no means overwhelming or over the top, but really utilizes some great color that presented some really memorable and warm moments throughout. The costumes were updated to a more contemporary feel, with jeans, tee shirts and suits. Joseph's coat was a colored leather jacket which actually was a great centerpiece, considering the name of this show.  The brothers all carried colored scarves, dressed a certain way with each of their costumes, adding a nice touch and connection to the story. 

The Footlight Club does a wonderful job with "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat".  With great direction, fantastic cast and playful design, this production had a fun and warm feel to it. It had welcoming and touching vibe that solidified a strong and incredibly well put together show.  Footlight does it again, as they know their audiences love, as they create a great theatrical and adorable experience.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Comically Creative and Cleverly Constructed: Vagabond Theatre Group Presents True Believers

"True Believers"
Written by Thom Dunn
Directed by James Peter Sotis

Comic Con is a fantastical world, overwhelming, yet a sight to behold.  Cosplay enthusiasts run rampant with gusto. Geeks and nerds becoming partners in an ultimate Venn diagram.  The worlds of movies, TV, comic books, fantasy, sci fi and everything in between come and play. Bringing all of that on stage within a theatrical production? Executed masterfully by the clever and passionate minds of Vagabond Theatre Group.  They recently opened their production "True Believers" by local playwright Thom Dunn at the Factory Theatre. It was quite the fun experience. Last year, I participated in their production of "The Unfortunate Cutthroats", so putting on a reviewer hat was lot of fun, especially being on the other side.

"True Believers" is quite the apt name, as it applies to so much more than expected in this production. There was such an interesting intertwining of different characters. Comic book writer Chad Mailer comes to hopefully get his career jump started after a series of setbacks.  His former partner, artist and aspiring writer Kt Watts, is on the rise as she hits big after completing their previous story they had worked on together years before.  Ted Thompson, an editor of DC Comics and one of Chad's friends struggles to keep sane while his online girlfriend, Chloe, is on her way to meet him for the first time.  Ultimate fanboy and writer Box, is over the top and philosophical, spreading his joy and love for the world of comics. Neurotic fan and video blogger Billy Horowitz comes to confront Chad for his recent depiction of a famed comic book character. He is accompanied by his best friend, aspiring artist, Calvin, who is also trying to become a crime fighter, Avenger.  All their stories come together, and its Chad story that takes the driver seat and we see his journey, though we get a taste of everyone's story slowly seep their way in.

Dunn's script is smart and sharply written. He creates memorable and believable characters set in this world who many of us can either relate to, or just be familiar with.  The comedic moments are great and chock full of fantastic one liners. He also is able to create strong and powerful dramatic moments that help balance the comedy.  It doesn't become a parody, but a snap shot of what this world could very well be like.  James Peter Sotis directed the piece, cleverly dropping in geeky and nerdy references here and there, pulling the audience into this world. As a director he accomplishes to not only give us complexity to these characters, but doesn't keep the audience outside. He wants us to be a part of everything on a much larger scale.  Its almost as though he has created a microcosm of sorts, and he executes everything fanastically. The Factory Theatre is a small space, and Sotis uses it every bit of it incredibly well. The set by Josh Friedensohn, lights by Lucas Garrity, sound by Sam Sewell all come together wonderfully and work in tandem, as they are put more than 100% into this world of Comic Con. The props and costumes deserve high marks as well for the originality and construction. Each tech aspect fell into place perfectly.  We even get a taste of an online RPG that seemed like it was created specifically for this show, as as video clips, peppered throughout. They both gave some wonderful flavor to the production. Tech wise, this show sits on high, while still keeping the audience invested in everything around them and still steeped in the world of theatre.

The actors, Ryan Edlinger, Zach Winston, Jeff Marcus, Rachel Katherine Alexander, Michael Avellar, Jim Remmes, Caitlyn Conley, Anne Colpitts and Steve Marois all bring their A-game. From the neurotic to the cavalier, they are all give great performances who would in any other production, could become parodies of themselves. In this production, however, they could easily be real people with doubts, insecurities, confidence and attitudes.  Edlinger plays Chad Mailer with ease and levels of complexity as well as managing to give us a strong sense of an arc, making us all root for him. We have all been there with ourselves. Zach Winston is the conniving and committed Billy Horowitz, and steals many scenes with his over the top grandeur and brilliantly timed one-liners.  Jeff Marcus gives us a sweet turn as Calvin, who himself is loyal to his friend to a fault, but we see there is much more underneath the layers of his calm.  Rachel Katherine Alexander plays the innocent Chloe very well, but like everyone else, has more to her than we realize, growing a great deal during the piece.  Michael Avallar's Ted rides the line between confidence and anger strongly, giving us a sense of what kind of person he was before the man he was today. Its great to see. The odd and philosophical Box, played by Jim Remmes, is hilariously impish and wonderfully theatrical in his representation of the character. Again, with everyone else, gives us something much deeper than what we see in many moments. Caitlyn Conley's Kt is wonderfully brash, confident and incredibly comfortable, as she gives us several helpings of well-placed snark. She is, in a word, awesome.  Anne Colpitts and Steve Marois give strong performances as the Ensemble, as they play different characters throughout, and have funny moments but not taking away from the main scenes at hand. Everyone in this cast shines.

What else can be said about this show except only more praise? The writing, actors, tech, direction and everything in between masterfully and beautifully clashed together.  Vagabond Theatre Group has put so much effort, attention and above all, utter geek and nerdy love into this production.  Yes, we get a taste of Comic Con, but we see that even in an environment that feeds off of fantasy, there is truth and faith under all those layers.  "True Believers", again, seems like not just a clever title, but rather something within, something we maintain as we latch onto something bigger. Even though we might lose faith in ourselves, we realize that we are more much more capable then we first thought.  We just need someone to help us, or in this case, believe in the world of "superheroes, cyborgs and slave Leias" to help give us that extra push. Kudos to Vagabond for wonderfully bringing it all together, culminating in a great night of theatre. Check it out!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Raunchy, Rude and Rocking: Lyric Stage Company Presents "Avenue Q"

In 2004, Broadway brought forth a new comedy musical that was a familiar take on reality that explored the post-college adventures and lives of several unique individuals.  However, these individuals were mostly made up of the furry and fluffy sort.  This show of course, was "Avenue Q". Viewed as an almost  R-rated "Sesame Street" this hilarious musical garnered several Tonys for not only its raunchy humor, fun characters and plot, but the more rambunctious songs peppered throughout, including "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist" and "It Sucks To Be Me". The Lyric Stage in Boston is currently running their production of "Avenue Q".

"Avenue Q" tells the story of young college graduate Princeton, fresh-faced and out to find his purpose in life. After moving to New York, he ends up finding a nice little neighborhood, a bit of the run-down side, but full of heart called Avenue Q.  There he meets all sorts of interesting characters, puppet and human alike, and their own stories intertwine with his as they deal with their own issues.  We see the reality that their adult lives were not all full of promise and hope they dreamed of when they were kids. Also, Gary Coleman happened to be the Superintendent, which of course, adds to the levels of hilarity.

The music composed Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx is without a doubt, clever, witty and above all, extremely funny.  With tones of sing songy children's tunes, the content is far from something for a child.  Most of the score is made up of ridiculous and funny songs, but within it, there are few sweet ones, that really give the show true heart.  However, there were a few in there, including "I Wish I Could Go Back to College" that in content, quietly lamented about the things we all miss about about college, good and bad, that had no real set up. It has no place in the story, but it doesn't mean it wasn't a great song.  It felt all across the board that the songs were written first, with a somewhat relatable story built around it.  Despite the shortcomings of book and song, everything was extremely solid.

The cast was a truly a talented bunch.  Each gave wonderful performances that shined in each of their individual moments and scenes. From the relationships they created, touching to tumultuous, they all shared a strong chemistry. The scene-stealer of the night had to be Phil Tayler, as he portrayed the loud and net surfing Trekkie Monster, fun-loving and well-meaning Nicky and one half the cute yet manipulative Bad Idea Bears.   With his songs and his puppets, they were in sync with plenty servings of hilarity. His moments did not upstage anyone else in the cast, of course,  as everyone in the whole cast not only were expert in their usage of puppets, but all played well off each other.  They were again, a very funny and enjoyable ensemble.

Spiro Veloudos' direction was solid, especially in the space for the Lyric. The stage was center between three audience seating areas, therefore this particular stadium setting had to be used carefully. Veloudos had everyone play to the audience as much as possible on all sides, though not nearly enough to house right. It was distracting, especially between moments where listening to the lyrics helped feed a particular funny song.  The space worked against it, but it was a strong attempt to use every bit of it, especially because of the design.  Kathryn Kawecki's set design  perfectly captured a down-trodden neighborhood and managed to cram it all in the space.  It was full of heart and character and reflected the uniqueness of the residents.  Frank Meissner's lighting was not a super complex design, as nothing over the top would be suited for this particular show. He did give us a great use of a disco ball that when the light hit it just right, it created wonderful moods and moments. 

There is not denying that bringing such a great such to Boston was a perfect move by the Lyric.  The show reflected a lot of what of people knew and felt as they either came right out of school, or found themselves at a difficult point.  Masked in catchy numbers and fun moments, this production "Avenue Q" was of full of heaps of heart and hilarity, and reminding that even though things sometimes don't turn out the way we want, life goes on and its okay to laugh about certain things once in a while.  The Lyric Stage Company presented a great show with a talented cast, human and puppet alike, showing us that in life, good and bad, everything is only "For Now".

Monday, June 4, 2012

Witty and Silly, Very Smart and Full of Heart: The Huntington Theatre Presents "Private Lives"

"Private Lives"

Written by Noel Coward
Directed by Maria Aitken

The Huntington Theatre brings so many interesting pieces to their stage and has had a very strong track record in their theatrical endeavors.  Playwright and songwriter Noel Coward's "Private Lives" recently opened and there was plenty of buzz surrounding it that it was evident that this one was going to be a lot of fun.

"Private Lives" tells the story of divorc├ęs Amanda and Elyot, having divorced each other five years early, starting fresh with their new respective spouses, Victor and Sybl, on their honeymoons.  By unfortunate chance, they both end up running into each other as they both are staying at the same place.   However, unexpectedly, they soon find themselves still harboring feelings for one another and their spark is once again reignited.

Coward's play is made up of three acts, but the structure feels like a miniseries in some ways. In the sense of how it was presented, it could be very well adapted into a TV show, as we are constantly given the typical "cliffhanger" after each act.  Granted, the first act could have been a standalone show because of how much was developed in a short amount of time.  The second act felt unnecessary, as it might have filled in gaps, but instead, it drew certain things out way too long. Very little was developed and watching the third act, it was a wonder why it was not shortened a bit.  All three could have been edited down to a two-act show.  However, despite its length, there was a great deal of clever wit and sharp dialogue within the piece.  Combined with the clever timing and energy of the performances, the words flourished. It was quite the riot.

Across the board, each actor gave a great performance.  Seeing Bianco Amato's Amanda and James Waterston's Elyot play off each was a lot of fun to watch, as their chemistry fired away like pistons.  They were in sync and not only worked well with one another, but their individual performances were strong and extremely, joyously energetic. Biano's Amanda was hilariously sassy and poised, giving a fiery performance. Waterston's wiry movements and reactions mixed with his wonderful comedic timing was quite enjoyable. The show was quite the marathon and those two never let up for a second. Their humorous presences helped carry the piece.  Far from being just the spouses, Autumn Hurlbert's Sybl was sweet yet sharp in her performance, and Jeremy Webb's Victor was confident and firm, always the protector. It was a great bonus to see those two play off each other as they got their moments to shine together.  Though she was only on stage for a few minutes, Paula Plum's servant Louise stole some scenes with her overly ridiculous French attitude and constant sneezing. It was very fun.  Everyone gave strong performances as expected and all contributed to develop fantastic moments.

Maria Aitken's direction was simple, yet she gave us nice scene pictures throughout the show.  Much of the time, there were several silent moments in the play that were sprinkled throughout ended up being quite hilarious.  The choices that were made during said moments were clever and fun, never becoming awkward.  There were also intricate physical and emotional distances that were created on stage, giving a bold statement on the relationship of Amanda and Elyot. It was very strong.

The set design was beautiful. Allen Moyer's design was not only meticulous and extremely detailed in presentation, but it also transported the audience back in time, drawing all of us in. Philip S. Rosenberg's lighting design deserves a great deal of praise as well, as his beautifully creates the afterglow of the evening and early morning sunshine. The colors were simple, but they were perfect choices for setting the moods of each scene. Tech wise, everything came together well and never upstaged each other. They worked in tandem. Overall, everything in presentation was very classy.

Despite being lengthy in some parts, The Huntington's production of "Private Lives" hits it out of the park. The performances, direction and production value were all fantastic across the board. Witty and fun, its a true testament that certain things in life are full of unexpected chances and unusual consequences, and this production has it in spades. This show will most certainly leave you laughing and smiling. This is definitely a show to check out. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Overall Enduring and Subtle: The Burlington Players Present "A Man of No Importance"

"A Man of No Importance"
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Book by Terrance McNally

Directed by Rachel Fennell
Music Direction by Shawn Gelzleichter
Choreography/ Asst. Directed by Kelly Murphy

In last several years, there have been many musicals adapted from movies.  Some have been better than others, and some have made theatre-goers and performers alike wonder why they were even produced in the first place.  I have seen many musicals based on movies, as well as the movies themselves, and I have enjoyed most of them.  The Burlington Players recently opened their production of "A Man of No Importance", which was in fact based off of the movie of the same name, which I hadn't realized until I did a bit of research.  I have not actually seen the movie, but I found myself enjoying the stage production quite a bit. I felt that I probably would enjoy the film as well.

"A Man of No Importance" takes us to Dublin in the 1960s and tells the story of bus conductor Alfie Byrne who is attempting with his local theatre troupe to put up a production of Oscar Wilde's "Salome"  at the local church.  Along the way, he examines and struggles with his own personal feelings and relationships in his life that soon start changing his day to day going-ons.

Playwright Terrance McNally, who wrote the book, was no stranger in adapting a movie into a stage shows. He done the same  for "The Full Monty" quite successfully.  The simple, yet powerful story was there, and McNally brought to a stage setting with ease. Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, the composer and lyricist team behind "Ragtime" and the film "Anastasia", had weaved together a beautiful mishmash pf Celtic and modern scores. Everything about the story and music came together nicely.  Specifically the 2nd act started a solid beat, but was soon overlapped with the hymn like number, "Our Father".  The Celtic energy and solemn hymn worked very well in tandem.

The Burlington Players had staged the production in their own black box, which was had an L-Shaped stage. As it was an odd shape, it could very well work against any show that is presented in it. It created a challenge, as it seemed like director Rachel Fennell was willing to take it on.  She left a bare stage within a minimal set, including a dozen chairs, a few tables and a moving door for creating different locations.  In many aspects, it worked well, as it created an almost meta feeling, as the characters were mounting a very minimalist production on a stage with very few set pieces.  However, there were some moments that were lost to the sight lines, specifically when two things were going on at once, but were on opposite sides of furthest parts of the stage. Moments like that could have been brought closer together. Also, there could've been more done with what actors were doing during the musical numbers. It almost seemed like there was more that each performer wanted to do, as they were trying to burst out.  The lighting design by Hugh Thompson was good enough for certain moments, whether it was to use an appropriate window gobo for one scene or lighting a different location. It was simple, but there could've been more color as many vital and important songs were very flat and untextured. Shawn Gelzleichter's music direction was not at all overpowering and remains behind the scenes and not in your face. The orchestra was small as for this show, as you cannot have one that is overwhelming. He keeps his crew simple and every instrument, specifically a memorable accordion, comes and brings a nice sound for the production. Kelly Murphy's choreography was not at all overly complicated as it was, again, a simple show.  Some great moments included "Going Up" with an obvious use for a fun little kick line, as well a quite a cute tap bit in "Art".

Robert Hallisey's Alfie was full of genuine kindness that really shined in several strong moments, but he lacked charisma and strength that needed to carry the show.  It was very hard to connect with him.  Emily Earle gave a sweet, grounded and innocent portrayal of Adele and combined with her impressive pipes, she created a lovely presence.  The only thing she was lacking was the strong vulnerability in some scenes, but her rendition of "Love Who You Love (Reprise)" was quite touching. Jennifer Bubriski captured Alfie's sister Lily in a hilarious manner, full of the typical sibling love that we all are aware of, but is clearly masked with the "knowing what's best" vibe. Along with Mr. Carney, energetically played by Curt Fennell, adorably perform together "Books", believably becoming more and more inebriated and not forcing the moment as it was clearly developing naturally. Eric Lamrache's spunky performance as Robbie was quite good as well. He was full of energy and his friendship and chemistry with Hallisey's Alfie was a lot fun to watch.  Sometimes, some of his numbers seemed a bit out of his vocal range, but his charisma and cavalier attitude were his strongest character aspects. The rest of the cast each gave solid performances and created very fun and silly characters, while avoiding the areas of caricature. Their numbers "Going Up", "The Streets of Dublin", and "Art" gave a chance for each character to shine and their passion for their creativity and love showed.  They were very connected with the material. Another impressive aspect was the consistency of the Irish dialects not only in the dialogue but with the singing as well.  However, though the community feel was there, some characters would try to stand out from others, sometimes for a laugh or an attempt to stand out, which became distracting from time to time. Overall, though, it was overshadowed by their connection to each other and their desire to genuinely create art. 

 With such a believable story and relatable characters, "A Man of No Importance" stands out as remarkable and memorable show.  The Burlington Players brings this production to life quite well and doesn't hammer the audience over the head with its themes and moments.  A few minor weak moments were there, but it did not take away too much from the show and the experience. The presentation of the subtle music and story is just another reminder that less is indeed more and you don't need to force anything.  This production overall was in a few words, sweet and enduring.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Full of Pizazz, Jazz and Sazz: The Footlight Club Presents "The Wild Party"

Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party

Music, Lyrics and Book by Andrew Lippa

Based on a poem by Joseph Moncure March
Directed & Choreographed by Chad Flahive
Musical Directon by Mario Cruz

The Prohibition Era during the 1920s has often been a fascinating topic of discussion. It has been a part of our history that has been romanticized in all forms of media due to the decadent and care-free nature of fast living. On the flip side, we have also seen the dark side of this kind of living and how it affected the ones who truly embraced this era and its tempting offerings. "The Wild Party" is a musical that dives headfirst into this world, and gives us a sense of how sleazy and destructive this era was. Despite the negative, there is no denying its jazzy music and "wild" partiers gave us a different view on how to truly live, throwing regrets and doubts to the wind. This is the second version of this musical, the original written by Michael John LaChiusa, and it shares similarities with its predecessor, but examines and expands on some plot and character elements. The Footlight Club is currently running their production of "The Wild Party", so it was worth checking out to see how they presented this particular show.

"The Wild Party" takes us into the lives of Queenie, a show girl, and Burrs, a clown. Immediately attracted to each other due to their similar sleazy ways, we see them fall into crazy, fast and a lustful embrace and burning love, soon moving into an apartment together in Manhattan. However, after years of distrust and boredom, the feelings start to wear and tear. To top it off, Burrs become more violent and abusive towards Queenie. This sparks desire in Queenie to throw a party with all their friends to humiliate him, having enough of what he has been dishing out. With all their friends from all walks of life present, plus throwing into the mix Queenie's frenemy/rival Kate and her current beau, Mr. Black, the night is full of possibilities. Queenie and Mr. Black are immediately attracted to each other and Burrs is left to be tempted by Kate. Clearly, this is volatile situation.

"The Wild Party" is a show that is very dance heavy. Opening with a long and drawn-out exposition with dance and the song "Queenie Was a Blonde" we are given a taste of what's to come in movement and score. The songs and harmonies are complex, presenting great brassy, jazzy tunes. Reminiscent of the Jazz greats and a bit of show tune flair, the music is a lot of fun. However, it seemed like there was a bit of filler songs in the show. Eddie, a prizefighter and his wife Mae, give us a cute number, "Two of a Kind". It’s nice to see a non-destructive relationship for a change, but it feels out of place, overshadowed by the heavy group numbers. The amount of dance is a lot as well, as mentioned, but only because the score demands it. Can there be too much dance in a musical? Probably, especially when it’s the only driving force in the show and it dominates the story. It almost seems like dancing was used to hide the fact that the story was already stretched thin. Even being based on long and narrative poem, the fact that all the action takes place over the course of one night is extremely exhausting. It feels drawn out. Many characters and plots are introduced, but they stand in the foreground until it’s acceptable to use them, either for unusual or comic effect. They don't necessarily move the plot forward, but seem to only exist when it’s convenient.

Todd Yard's wonderful performance as Burrs was full of powerful angst, frustration and desperation that became a sight to behold. He gave a fantastic turn as a man who is grasping for a former time where things were simpler. He dominated the stage with his charismatic presence and wondrous voice. His rendition of "Let Me Drown" was the showstopper of the night and he carried it to a whole new level, with over-shot confidence and underlying desperation that were constantly battling each other. His escalation was remarkable. Taryn Cagnina's performance as Kate was flashy and sharp, boiling over with such cavalier confidence and sly manipulation. It was extremely enjoyable to watch, as we could not help but love her and love her some more. Her pipes soared and erupted with gusto with "Life of the Party", a testament that Cagnina's voice talent was another strong asset, along with her excellent creation of such a sassy character. Rebekah Turner's Queenie had a memorable and great voice, and a created a subtle calmness despite everything that was happening around her, but her connection with Burrs falls short. Even during their time together before everything went down, her chemistry with Yard is not as strong as it could be. The relationship felt very one sided, even before their trysts. By herself, her detachment is evident and is relatable, as it is captured extremely well, but it hardly goes beyond her one level. When it does, it almost could be more, reaching a point of serenity. When she first is introduced, very little about her captivates as much as it needs to in order carry the story. Nate Haywood’s Mr. Black gives a good performance as a sweet-natured and confident young man. He is soothing in voice and in presence, but we see no real depth with him, especially when some situations present opportunities, specifically with Kate and the others. His interaction and infatuation with Queenie is obvious, but the two share very little chemistry. There is little reason it seems for the two to be interested in each other. The ensemble gives a strong performance with plenty of sass and pizazz, as they never bat an eye when it comes to their choreography, interaction and movement. They were impressively in sync and deserve much praise for carrying on through such dance demanding show. There were moments where some numbers were more energetic than others and it felt like they were going through the motions, but again, with so much dance, everything seemed so exhaustive, which is understandable. The numbers that stood out as great pieces were "Raise the Roof" and "A Wild, Wild Party." Both had several helpings of sharp movement and excellent execution. As individuals, each stood out with such a great establishment of a silly, ridiculous or engaging character, and sometimes, without realizing, they end up stealing a scene. As a whole, everyone in this production gave solid performances across the board and was a truly talented bunch.

Chad Falhive's directing duties were split with choreography duties. He pulls off a well-staged setting for everyone, keeping the interaction between all consistent and a bit on the cramped side, which worked very well for this show. The apartment is meant to be small and Falhive gives us a nice little view into this world and era, almost creating confinement and escapism in one swoop. His choreography is seemingly complex at times, almost Fosse-esque, which is a given, considering the nature and era of this show. It seemed a bit much at times, even though the score demanded it, like more of a balance between stylized movement and choreography should have been enabled. Brian Crete's set was wonderfully dingy and simple, which worked extremely well. The muted colors, high walls and odd paintings on were nice touches, giving an almost twisted version of this reality, a reflection of what was happening. He knows how to create a specific world. The lighting design by Paul O'Shaughnessy and Coco Coviello also stood out as another great aspect of the production. The usage of so many colors really brought an interesting flavor to everything. There was a fantastic use of smoky lights used as well, and it created a cabaret/speakeasy feel, furthering the idea that this world is forever shrouded and hiding from everything else. We were not just a part of this story, but we were seeing the bigger picture. The combined efforts of the tech and direction brought forth, again, an underlying environment of escapism and at the same time a confinement for the people in the story.

Again, the show presented itself as a true musical; full of dance, music and a world for all of us to experience. The length was probably like any another show but again, it seemed like the dance was almost used to mask the fact that there was a stretched a story. It overshadowed much of the production as a whole. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when slow action and a stretched plot are present but are dominated by a lot of dancing, it’s hard to view and invent in what’s happening. However, it is not a reflection on the specific production in question. The Footlight Club presented solid production of "The Wild Party". The era that was presented on stage seemed like the ultimate form escapism, a time where nothing mattered and losing yourself was the easiest thing to deal with. The show was this world, as well as challenging, musically and movement wise, and everyone, cast and crew alike, each showed the amount of work and effort that was put in to create such a large, brassy, decadent, dark, and sassy production. Kudos to the Footlight Club again for creating a fun and enjoyable theatrical experience

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A year already? Holy beejeezuses

I still don't know where I got the name of the blog.  But hey, it sticks, right?
 That's right! One year! And a day! 

One year ago plus a day, I started this little blog. Now it has become more than what I expected.  Granted, I don't have a HUGE following, let alone any following, but I know people read it and tell me about it. That's enough for me.  I never really expected it be just what it is now; just a little something to do on the side where I can not only share my thoughts, but hear what others have to say as well, whether about my posts or the show I review. It's been a great experience.

What I have gained is a ton of perspective and a new appreciation for theatre in general. As an actor, I felt that I never really understood what it was like to truly be a patron. I have seen a lot of shows, but writing about it has been fun, challenging, frustrated and above all, freaking wonderful.  I admit, I haven't been keeping up with it lately, especially in the last few months. When I first started writing, it was 2 or 3 shows a month. Now it seems because of the craziness of my current schedule, I can really do once a month, or every few months.  I feel that needs to change, or at least, I need to make more of an effort to see a show.

I have written about 18 reviews, which is not so bad, considering how many things I have going on in my life.  I think I can double that by the fall, if I really buckle down. I read some of my early work and I have to admit, I am improving little by little in my presentation of my thoughts and views.  It's a little improvement, but it's enough to make me feel really proud of the work I put it. Yes, I realize that I am really patting myself on the back and yes, it sounds a bit self-serving, but to be honest, I never thought I would be keeping this going for a year, let alone a few months. I am just super happy that I came this far.

It's been a lot of fun doing this and I think if I make more of an effort this year, I can get back to the point where I will be going to more shows and really experience what the Boston theatre scene has to offer, big and small.
Stay tuned.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lacking Grandeur and Real Go Go Go: Newton Country Players Present "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Music by
Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyrics by
Tim Rice

Michelle Leibowitz

Music Direction 
Karen Winkler

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice are household names in musical theatre, each having written and created the most fantastical and wonderful shows.  Lloyd Webber has written music for some of the most recognizable shows, including "Evita" and "Phantom of the Opera." Rice has written lyrics for a few Disney movies, including "Aladdin" and "The Lion King." "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" was a collaboration of the two in the 70s, having worked on "Jesus Christ Superstar" together as well.  "Joseph" has been produced thousands of times since its inception by schools and theatre companies alike. Recently, Newton Country Players presented their production.

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is based on a story from Genesis. It tells the tale of Joseph, who was the one of 12 sons of Jacob. Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams and soon discovers that he meant to rule over his brothers.  He is also given a coat of many colors as a sign of his father's favoritism. Jealous, his siblings sell him into slavery in Egypt. He must rely on this wits and abilities to make the best of the situation, which ends up taking him on a most unexpected journey.

The show has little to no spoken dialogue, therefore having music and singing driving the show. The score is catchy and fun, but Newton Country Players does not take advantage of this as much as they could. Granted, they have created a very energetic and good times on the surface, but its not nearly as grand as it could've been. The production fell short as it lacked many key elements to really make a memorable theatrical experience.  

Doug Hodge's Joseph never really stands out amongst the sizable cast.  Needing to really carry the show, his Joseph was not at all engaging, and he almost feels detached from everything that is going on around him. He truly lacked the charisma needed for the character.   The role of the Narrator had been split into three characters.  Lisa Huntington, Kadie Greenfield and Cathy Merlo have shared duties of the character, which didn't really translate that well to the stage.  Their performances were uneven, as some were stronger than others in some moments during the story.  It really took away from the show as it never created a lasting, much needed, powerful impression. There was a significant lack of chemistry between many of the main characters as well.  However, Joseph's 11 brothers did give a fun and enjoyable performance as a unit, especially during the big numbers, including "One More Angel In Heaven" and "Those Canaan Days". However, the rest of the cast, looked like they were just going through the motions.  A few did look like they were having fun, but it was not enough to create a strong production. It had potential to be more. 

Michelle Leibowitz had taken on the roles of director and choreographer, trying to balance both jobs.  As a director, she had made unusual choices, including spliting the aforementioned Narrator into three characters. This potentailly bold choice, again, didn't work as it was inconsistent and hurt the production. Her choreography choices were repetitive and lacked real originality.  Her staging was typical and she did manage to utilitize thespace appropriately. However, sometimes when something needed to be the focus of attention, ie the Phaorah, his placement raised the questions why he was not the main attraction and why was he not center stage?  She also utitlized five featured dancers, but their placement and usage was often distracting, taking away focus during scenes.  Karen Winkler's music direction was decent enough, but she and the orchestra would overpower the actors on the stage.  This was in conjunction with many sound issues that plagued the production as well.  This a rock musical, but there is no reason that the actors could be louder and the orchestra could pull back more.  Liz Peer's costumes were clever in their presentation, having everyone in collage-like tee-shirts as a base, but there was no consistency. Many characters were given lavish and fun costumes, whilst others had jeans and dissimilar footwear. It was distracting.  The set and lighting design lacked any real creativity. There were sandstone steps that were created, but the set almost looked unfinished. Granted, when Act 2 came along and the back pillars were switched from confusing stained glass windows to the Pharaoh's palace, the use of images from Boston and Massachusetts was very cute. However, the lighting design never went beyond lights on and lights off.  The story and big dance numbers were begging for different colors and gobos, but nothing was used and the whole look of the show was very flat.

There was so much potential for this show, but it never went beyond what was presented on stage.  With a few weak performances, low production value and confusing direction, this production fell short.  The story and score offers so much and all the pieces were there, but the show never brought anything powerful or memorable. Newton Country Player's production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" fails to bring a potentially colorful and magical experience.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Musicals based on Movies: Is this the future of Broadway?

How many of you have been to New York and seen a show?  If you haven't and you find yourself making a much needed trip to the Big Apple, take some time to catch a Broadway musical or play.  Seeing a live theatrical experience is a wonderful thing and the very memory of it, good or bad, will stick with you forever. I remember my first Broadway show: "Cats". Young me loved the dancing, singing and overall feel of the show.  Mind you, I was 10 or 11 at the time, so at that point, anything and everything was pretty fantastic.  Now, I look back and wondered what was so appealing about the show. Despite my reservations about it now, there is no denying that it stays with me. I have seen so many shows since then, but I will never forget the first time I got see a Broadway show. It was magical.

How do you even pick a show? Broadway offers dozens and dozens of shows, some new, some revamped classics, some starring Hollywood actors, and of course, musicals based on movies.  That's right. Hollywood, with all their reboots, remakes and re-whatevers have become a staple of Broadway.  This is not a recent development, as this has been happening for several years. Decades even. Not all the time mind you, but enough to raise some eyebrows. In the last ten years, however, there have been several musicals, based on well-known movies that have been produced for the masses. Some better than others, but whether good or bad, it seems the main function of these shows is to bring in the new audiences. On the outside, it seems like a great business plan.  Produce shows that are based on familiar movies and bring in the people and new generations of fans. But is that really what's happening?  That raises another question.

Turning off original ideas? 
Is creativity is dead on Broadway? In the last 5 years, there have been new shows based on movies, including "Legally Blonde","Sister Act", "9 to 5", "Priscilla Queen of the Desert", "Catch Me If You Can", "The Adams Family", "Ghost" and now there is news for a musical based on "Animal House." The short answer? Yes. However, the long answer may actually be "Yes, but maybe there is a big plan to bring people back and tell them that even though there are shows like these out, maybe they should come and see the other original shows!" I really would like to think that.  I am amazed, shocked, confused and above all annoyed with the dozens of attempts to bring Hollywood to Broadway.  Then again, I am not completely against the idea. I feel torn and split on the matter because if you think about it, despite all the plot holes and annoying songs in "Legally Blonde" the first half hour actually felt like a real musical, something that maybe Stephen Schwartz might have thrown together after he wrote "Wicked".  My apologies to Schwartz fans, but if not him, some other composer. Jason Robert Brown wrote "13" for goodness sakes. My point is that despite everything, it had the potential to be something more and make itself standout.  In the long run, though, I can tell you it did not. It fell right on its pink, glittery face.  On the other side we have "The Full Monty", a movie which I adore.  They completely Americanized the show, departing from the cheeky and dry fun of the original British film. I was shocked and appalled when I heard about it and couldn't believe the very notion.  I did end up seeing the show several years ago and I couldnt have been more wrong. Final verdict? It blew my mind. It had great music, great characters and it did a fantastic job sticking out as its own little production. Its by far one of my favorite shows.  Years later, I even got to perform in a production of it. 

Is this Broadway's version of writer's block? Creativity may not be dead, but its in desperate need of something else.  These are shows that will bring in audiences, but what about original shows that are waiting for their Broadway premieres?

I guess my point in all of this is that I'm not sure where I stand on all this. Like I said. Torn.  Part of me just boils up in anger and frustration because, how dare they? Whoever these producers and writers are, how dare they even try to capture the magic of its originator? Or, I just end up sighing and rolling my eyes. A lot of people I know feel the same way. I saw "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark" last year, and despite its high-flying appeal, it was a terrible show, trying so hard to be something it wasn't. That's when I get angry.  But again, on the flip side, I still try to convince myself that its a good idea, and Broadway is just biding their time, making money to hopefully produce a slew of new shows, giving young artists and writers a chance to share their projects and passions. I do love a handful of musicals based on movies, but I get frustrated when you hear how bad they were. Can we predict the outcome of how bad they really are?  Maybe this will just be a moment in Broadway and theatre history where movie musicals will just be a way of life.  Maybe in another few years, we will start seeing some originality. That is, if new artists are even given the chance.

Final thoughts? I have no idea. Either way, I just don't want to see a musical based on "Ghost Rider."

What do you think?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Fun and Delightful Production: The Footlight Club Presents "Absurd Person Singular"

"Absurd Singular Person"

Written by
Alan Ackybourn

Directed by
Will Luera

Sidney - Scott Colford
Jane - Michelle Bonanno
Geoffrey - Ted Batch
Eva - Frances Vella
Ronald - Stephen Peters
Marion - Anne Colpitts

The Footlight Club recently opened the play"Absurd Person Singular", written by Alan Ayckbourn. Originally written in the 70s, the play has been presented in London, New York and even adapted for TV.  Bordering on British farce and comedy, the show sounded intriguing for a night of theatre.

The play examines three very different couples during their respective Christmas Eve parties, one year after the next.  Each act establishes a different year, all taking place in their respectable kitchens.  We come to view each couple, Sidney and Jane, Geoffrey and Eva, and finally Ronald and Marion.  We see their interactions and marital hang ups, getting a sense of their relationships with each other and the other couples.  Over the course of three years, we see their journeys reach some semblance of resolution.

Each actor does a wonderful job of establishing the typical archetypes in this production.  The show called for the use of accents and the variety of dialects in the show was quite refreshing.  Scot Colford's Sidney is wonderfully impish in delivery and attitude. He plays it delightfully and nearly steals the show.  Frances Vella's Eva is captures the quirkiness of the character very well and in her non-speaking moments in quietly brilliant, adding a great flair of humor in what can seemingly be dark moments. She balances her dramatic and comedic moments with ease. Anne Colpits, gives us quite the performance as the regal and classic Marion, who is quite the liquor aficionado. We all want to have a drink with her and just want to absorb her presence.  Michelle Bonanno's Jane is adorably naive we just want to give her a hug. Her evident excitement for the simplest of things is incredibly fun to watch.   Geoffrey is played cooly by Ted Batch. He is so cavalier, and carries himself with heaps of confidence.   Steve Peters' Ronald is full of experience and a noticeable calm.  During the silliest moments of the show, he marvelously plays the straight man.  The couples' relationships with each other is fun to watch as their chemistry speaks volumes about their characters' friendships over the years. They are all incredibly comfortable with each other.

Though the performances were quite good, the play on the other hand is poorly written from start to finish. During many points of the play, the sequence of events seemed to be the result of a long improvisation sketch that just needed to end. Much of the play could have easily been cut as some of it dragged. As it with farces, the most ridiculous series of moments are constantly happening. With this play, moments seemed out of place. Some of bits of plot seemed disjointed and the relationships between the characters could change unnecessarily for one moment then not give us any strong or believable resolution. Also, the play couldn't decide whether it was a drama or comedy. With some weak comedic moments and over the top dramatic moments, the two did not mesh well. There was one scene that examined what seemed to be a serious interaction that ended up being played with a hint of humor that collapsed the entire moment. The writing broke the scene, not the performances. Though, the usage of the kitchens for each act was a good choice, as many charged conversations and some escapism from unwanted situations, in this place and in real life,  find their way to that particular room. That felt real.

Will Luera's direction is finely put together. It is far from forced, as he chose to avoid the use of center stage from time to time therefore using the kitchen's many areas. He created beautiful stage pictures that perfectly reflected reality, really connecting with the audiences' own experiences. Cat Stramer's set and Sherilyn Levy's costume work come together well, establishing the 70s and its overall feel nicely.  We are truly visually immersed in this world thanks to the fine work and effort put into creating this production. Even the simple lighting and sound design (with a great creation of lightning) deserves a thumbs up from making it actually look and sound real. Kudos to the produciton value of this show.

The Footlight Club puts in great effort into this production, despite the weak script and story.  Even with the many tropes that comedies and farces produce, it falls over itself many times throughout.  However, the actors and production crew did a wonderful job to keep it fresh and full of energy. This show is a fun little romp presented by a premiere community theatre that has always and will continue to entertain and create memorable theatrical experiences for everyone.