"Dear Evan Hansen" - 11.16.16/05.25.17

Show/Venue: Dear Evan Hansen at The Music Box Theatre

Date: Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 @ 8pm & Thursday, May 25th, 2017 @ 7pm

Starring: Ben Platt, Michael Park, Rachel Bay Jones, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Laura Dreyfuss, Mike Faist, Kristolyn Lloyd, Will Roland

Website: http://dearevanhansen.com/

 

I have a difficult time explaining the brilliance of Dear Evan Hansen to my non-theatre friends; the plot is a tough one, but the music is astonishing and the acting is superb, so let me see if I can capture it for you. I started my experience at Evan Hansen, after seeing the show in previews last year, but felt that I could only really write about the emotions after seeing it a second time. This time, I came fully equipped with a pack of tissues and knew that ugly crying would be in order at some point.

In between my two experiences at the show, the cast album has come out, Pasek & Paul have won an Oscar for La La Land and the show has received numerous Tony Award Nominations, including a well-deserved Best Actor nod for Ben Platt.

The show follows anxious teenager, Evan Hansen (Ben Platt, Pitch Perfect, The Book of Mormon), composing a letter to himself, per his therapist’s prescription. His single mom, Heidi (Rachel Bay Jones, Pippin), is encouraging him on his first day of school and that it’s going to be a “good day,” perhaps a “good year,” for them both. Evan is hesitant, as we can feel his anxiety and nervousness, about having to talk to people and be social. Heidi suggests that he can make friends by having his classmates sign the cast on his left arm, which he broke over the summer from falling out of a tree. Heidi emphasizes how proud she is of Evan, which only seems to add to the distance between them. Heidi heads off to work as a nurse’s aide, but reminds Evan she won’t be home that night, since she must attend school. Evan only nods, as it seems he is used to being left at home alone often.

As they struggle to connect, the audience is introduced to the Murphy family: Cynthia (Jennifer Laura Thompson, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Urinetown), Larry (Michael Park, Tuck Everlasting), Zoe (Laura Dreyfuss, Once, “Glee”) and Connor (Mike Faist, Newsies), who are also struggling to relate to one another. The mother’s mutual struggle with their own families is revealed (“Anybody Have a Map?”).

Evan walks into his first day of school and runs into Alana (Kristolyn Lloyd, in her Broadway Debut), an overachieving student, who asks Evan how his summer was, but is quick to speak over him and prove that she had an even busier summer. Evan seems exhausted from this conversation, when he runs into his only friend, Jared (Will Roland, also in his Broadway Debut), who is quick to point out that they are only “family friends,” and he only speaks to Evan, so his parents will continue to pay for his car insurance. Neither of these friends take Evan up on his offer to sign his cast, then as he turns away, Connor rushes into school and pushes Evan to the ground. Seeing Evan get bullied, Zoe, Evan’s longtime crush & Connor’s sister, runs over to check on him. He insists that he is fine, but wonders if he will always feel this alone and invisible (“Waving Through a Window”).

At the of the school day, Evan is in the computer lab, printing out one of his “Dear Evan Hansen” letters for therapy. It’s then that he notices that Connor is also in the computer lab and has found his letter in the printer. Connor offers to sign Evan’s cast, so that they can both feel like they have a friend. Grabbing Evan’s arm, Connor writes “CONNOR” in large letter across the length of Evan’s cast, almost branding him.  Still holding Evan’s letter, Connor begins to read it; noticing that it mentions Zoe and Evan’s feelings for her. Connor takes this as an insult to him and runs out of the lab, taking the letter with him.

Over the next few days, Evan sees no sign of Connor at school and begins to delve deeper into his anxieties. What if Connor uses this letter against him? What if he shares it with the whole school and everyone finds out about his feelings for Zoe? One day, Evan finds himself called into his school Principal’s Office, where he meets Cynthia and Larry Murphy, Connor’s parents. Evan is confused as to why he is there, but Cynthia realizes that she must explain that Connor is no longer with them; he has taken his own life. As Evan starts to absorb this information, Cynthia produces Evan’s therapy letter, which she and Larry believe is Connor’s suicide note. They believe that Evan was/is Connor’s only friend and invite him over to their house for dinner to learn more about their relationship.

Not knowing what he’s gotten into, Evan confides in Jared, who mocks him and knows that he is an awful liar. Jared advises Evan that he shouldn’t try to make up a story, but to just nod in agreement to whatever the family tells or asks of him. Of course, at dinner time, Evan begins to fall apart and makes up a vast story about how he & Connor were friends, best friends (“For Forever”). He tells the family about their adventures, visiting the abandoned apple orchard and the feelings that they would share. Zoe and Larry are skeptical about the whole situation, but Cynthia is clinging onto hope that her son had a friend and some good in his life. In his desperation, Evan tells the Murphy’s that he and Connor had a secret e-mail correspondence and he can share with them their relationship.

As Evan is explaining this to Jared, Jared laughs and is convinced that Evan will never get away with this lie. However, he decides to help Evan make all the fake e-mails, egging Evan on that it sounds like he & Connor had a secret gay relationship (“Sincerely, Me”). It’s here that Connor comes back on stage to sing his “e-mails” to Evan, as Jared types out what they were writing back and forth to each other.

Back at the Hansen’s home, Heidi tries to find a way to relate to her son. She knows that college is impending and that they will not have the money to send Evan to college. She produces a bunch of scholarship applications and promises that they will go through them the next week on “taco Tuesday,” she’ll skip work and spend some time with him. This seems to brighten Evan’s mood, as Heidi leaves him, again.

After working with Jared, Evan brings a stack of e-mails between himself and Connor over to the Murphy’s house at dinnertime. Cynthia is emotional, trying to understand that her troubled son had a friend. Larry is disappointed that Connor never appreciated what they did for him; therapy, rehab, etc. Zoe can’t seem to believe that Connor was ever nice, as he was always awful to her and threatening to kill her (“Requiem”).

After Zoe notices her name in Connor’s suicide note, she asks Evan if there were other things she didn’t know about her brother. Evan tries to conceal his own feelings for Zoe through Connor’s view, but struggles (“If I Could Tell Her”) and his adorations comes out when he leans in and kisses her and she tells him to leave.

Barely a week or two after Connor’s suicide, Evan notices that people at school are starting to forget about Connor, and thus, will forget about Evan. He decides to act and found “The Connor Project” to remember Connor and to help raise money for other troubled teens. Alana and Jared join Evan in the endeavor and get the Murphy’s to help fund the project (“Disappear”).

At the all-school assembly and launch of “The Connor Project,” Evan must give a speech about his friendship with Connor. Evan fumbles with his note cards, shuffling them back to the first, dropping one on the ground and falling onto the stage. He slowly regains his composure and goes on to deliver an inspiring speech about his friendship with Connor (“You Will Be Found”). Evan’s speech goes viral and Zoe slowly starts to realize the impact that Evan has had on Connor and she kisses him.

In the aftermath of Evan’s viral video, Alana and Jared decide to start a Kickstarter campaign to raise money in Connor’s honor. This money will be used to reopen the apple orchard where Evan and Connor used to hang out (but not really). However, Evan starts to spend more and more time with Zoe, thus spending less and less time with “The Connor Project” and his mother. By hanging out with Zoe and the Murphy’s, it’s like he’s found the family that he has always wanted to be a part of. Connor reappears to Jared, proving to Evan that by distancing him from “The Connor Project,” he might be losing his new-found friends, too (“Sincerely, Me [Reprise]”).

When Evan gets home, Heidi confronts him about his relationship with Connor. She tells Evan that she has seen his video about Connor and “The Connor Project” and can’t seem to understand why he wouldn’t share this information with her and how he denied knowing Connor when she asked him about it the first time, weeks ago. Evan then throws Heidi’s constant absences in her face and flees to the Murphy’s house. Once there, he finds Larry in the garage, and they go through a box of old sports memorabilia, looking for things to auction off for “The Connor Project” and the Kickstarter campaign. While going through the box, Larry finds a baseball glove that he’d given to Connor, but was never used. Larry starts to teach Evan about how to properly care for the glove and comes to terms with Connor’s death (“To Break in a Glove”).

A few days later, Zoe finally gets the chance to see Evan’s house and they’re talking in his room. Evan mentioned that they have the whole house to themselves, as Heidi is rarely around; which Zoe seems startled by. Evan begins to talk more about his relationship with Connor, when Zoe interrupts him; she wants the chance to just be with him and not talk about her brother (“Only Us”).

As Jared struggles to stay connected to “The Connor Project,” he points out to Evan that Connor’s death was the greatest thing to happen to Evan, as it increased his popularity. Evan tries to deny it, but deep down he knows that what Jared is saying is true. Evan escapes by hanging out with Zoe and heading to the Murphy’s house for dinner, only to discover that his mom is already there. After hearing that the Hansen’s don’t have the money to send Evan to college, Zoe intervenes and the Murphy’s offer the money that they had saved for Connor’s college education to Evan and Heidi. Shocked that not only did she not know that Evan was spending so much time at the Murphy’s, but that he has shared their money problems with them, Heidi storms out of their house, declining their invitation for dinner.

Back at the Hansen’s home, Heidi and Evan fight. Heidi is upset that her financial struggles have been shared with strangers and Evan blames his mother for never being around, the real reason he’s been spending more and more time at the Murphy’s; they’re the family he has never had. Shortly after, Alana has found several discrepancies in Evan and Connor’s e-mails and she starts to wonder if they were really friends. Evan starts to think that everything is falling apart and he goes to Jared for help, but as Evan left Jared alone before, even he won’t come to the rescue. The three of them lament about how Evan has changed and only been looking out for himself (“Good for You”).

Evan’s guilt starts to mount and Connor reappears, trying to encourage him to keep up the lie. After all, the lie is the only thing keeping Evan popular at school and a source of relief to the Murphy’s, and keeping Zoe with Evan. Evan tries to quiet Connor’s voice in his head, but he’s nearing his breaking point and really wants to come clean about the whole situation.

Desperate to stay in the lie, Evan goes to Alana, who remains cautious about the whole story. In a last-ditch attempt, Evan says that he can prove his friendship with Connor and produces Connor’s suicide note (a.k.a. Evan’s therapy letter). Alana is shocked by the letter and says this is just what “The Connor Project” needs to gain more momentum! They can post the letter online and people will go nuts for it and the money for their Kickstarter campaign will start pouring in. Evan immediately objects to posting the letter, knowing the full truth, but he can’t stop Alana. She posts the letter online and suddenly the Murphy family is thrust into the spotlight. All sorts of bullies come out and start attacking the family for not preventing Connor’s suicide.

Evan arrives at the Murphy’s house to find them all fighting with each other about the bullies, Connor, their family; everything. Becoming more and more agitated with all the yelling, Evan bursts out and confesses that he never knew Connor (“Words Fail”). The family cannot believe what they are hearing from this boy that they trusted and Evan runs out of their house and back to his own.

As soon as he arrives at home, Heidi is waiting for him. She has seen the letter posted online and knew immediately that it was one of Evan’s therapy letters and that something darker was going on with him, something darker than she could ever have known. It’s here that Evan alludes to the fact that he didn’t fall out of a tree last summer, he threw himself off the branch on purpose. To comfort her son, Heidi recalls the day that Evan’s dad left (“So Big/So Small”). It broke her heart when Evan saw the U-HAUL truck come and take his dad away, but when he asked if “is there another truck coming to our driveway? A truck that will take Mommy away?” was when Heidi knew that she would never and could never abandon her son.

Another year passes and Zoe is in the apple orchard, reopened and named in Connor’s honor. It’s here that Evan meets her and they catch up on the last year. The Murphy’s never exposed Evan’s lie, but they haven’t stayed in touch at all. Zoe tells Evan that even if his story was made up, everyone needed that story; it helped bring her family back together. Zoe leaves the orchard and Evan composes another “Dear Evan Hansen” letter, ending on it being a “good day.”

Since seeing the show in November, and then, seeing it again in May, I noticed a few changes; but that could have been since my own experience viewing the show had changed. Going into my first viewing, I had only a basic idea of what the show was about, I only knew “Waving Through a Window,” and knew that Ben Platt was earning rave reviews for his performance. I knew that I was going to get emotional, but I had to focus my attention on catching all the plot points and trying to understand all the lyrics in the context of the story. For my second viewing, I could sit back and enjoy everyone’s performances. Armed with all the songs and lyrics from the cast album, I knew what to anticipate in the story and really sat back to just observe and absorb the show.

During the second showing, I could easily see why all my theatre friends have been going on and on about Ben Platt’s performance. The nervous ticks, the sweaty brow, the ability to cry and to ugly cry, at that. Everyone keeps saying that they can’t understand how he can go through this performance 8 times a week, and he’s been doing it for years! I wonder how he can shed the skin of Evan when he gets home and how he doesn’t carry some of that anxiety with him, wherever he goes.

Laura Dreyfuss’ voice was even more raspy and beautiful than I could remember. I didn’t get to see her in Once and can’t remember her for the life of me on “Glee,” but the quality and tone of her voice, certainly made an impression on me. At the end of “Requiem,” my heart broke for Zoe and how no one could understand how she really didn’t love Connor.

The comedic relief comes from Jared and Connor. Will Roland is perfect in his own nerdy moments, but plays to Evan’s weaknesses and neurosis; highlighted in “Sincerely, Me” and later in “Good for You.” Mike Faist certainly knew how to shed his Newsies persona, to become the troubled Connor and gets a few funny moments, as he comes back to haunt Evan. Mike gets the chance to show off his vocals, which were a little lost in the large ensemble of Newsies.

As Larry, Michael Park, had a few awkward moments the first time I saw the show. I didn’t understand his character and why he was so stand-offish. Having seen him in Tuck Everlasting, where I loved him as Angus Tuck, I expected a similar reaction in this show, but it wasn’t the same type of role. One of my friends pointed out that his song, “The Wheel,” in Tuck Everlasting was slightly like his character’s arc in this show and “To Break in a Glove” helped complete that. I’m still hoping he’ll do a mash-up of the two songs, someday!

The other highlight for me, besides Ben Platt, was Rachel Bay Jones. I saw her years ago in Pippin, but I didn’t care for that role. I did love the raspy, rocker-edge tone in her voice, but something about her character didn’t connect with me. Oh boy, did she prove me wrong in this show! From “Good for You” to “So Big/So Small,” Heidi had me wrapped up around her little finger. I completely empathized with her pain as a single mom and how she needed to protect Evan. I loved watching her Broadway.com “Show People” interview with Paul Wontorek and learning about her past in the theatre and what kept her away from the stage before making her return in Pippin. She became so relatable to me and I really latched onto her character for this second showing.

Dear Evan Hansen, is truly a work of art, but one that takes a lot out of you emotionally. My second time seeing the show was for my friend, Katie’s birthday and both of us were wiping away tears when the curtain call happened. It’s one that I could see over and over, but it would exhaust me. Perhaps when the cast changes over, I’ll make my way back, but for now, I’m easily satisfied with my two experiences.

 

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

Anybody Have a Map?

Waving Through a Window

For Forever

Sincerely, Me

Requiem

If I Could Tell Her

Disappear

You Will Be Found

 

Act Two:

 

Sincerely, Me (Reprise)

To Break in a Glove

Only Us

Good for You

You Will Be Found (Reprise)

Words Fail

So Big/So Small

Finale

 

"Falsettos" - 10.26.16

Show/Venue: Falsettos at the Walter Kerr Theatre

Date: Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 @ 2pm

Starring: Christian Borle, Stephanie J. Block, Andrew Rannells, Tracie Thoms, Betsy Wolfe, Brandon Uranowitz, Anthony Rosenthal

Website: http://www.lct.org/shows/falsettos/

 

Many of my friends would say that I’m a “Broadway Fanatic,” but even I had to admit that I didn’t know what the big deal was about Falsettos. Even my friend, Katie in Kansas City, knew about the show and was sad that she wouldn’t make it to NYC to see it. Mostly, I was eager to get another opportunity to see Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells, Tracie Thoms and Betsy Wolfe. It turns out the show is the combination of two Off-Broadway shows: Act One – March of the Falsettos and Act Two– Falsettoland from the 90’s.fo

Upon entering the theater, a large gray foam block is center stage; it looks to be made up of many various shapes, which will soon reveal themselves throughout the show. The story takes place in the late 70’s and early 80’s with the onset of the AIDS epidemic. The show started with the four main male characters singing “Four Jews in a Room Bitching,” waxing poetic about their lives and challenges. In the next scene, Marvin (Christian Borle, Something Rotten!, Peter and the Starcatcher, SMASH), comes forward to explain that he has left his wife, Trina, (Stephanie J. Block, Anything Goes, The Mystery of Edwin Drood) and son, Jason (Anthony Rosenthal, in his Broadway Debut) for his lover, Whizzer (Andrew Rannells, Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Marvin explains that they are still “A Tight Knit Family,” despite him now having a boyfriend. How this family’s relationship is built and challenged will make up the bulk of the story for the show.

Trying to cope with this news, Trina goes to see a therapist, Mendel (Brandon Uranowitz, An American In Paris), who is also Marvin’s therapist. It’s here that the actors take apart the blocks on stage to create the therapy chair and couch. Mendel becomes infatuated with Trina at first sight and tries to control his feelings while listening to her talk about Marvin (“Love Is Blind”).

In the next scene, Marvin and Whizzer are debating what really lead them towards each other and the blocks become their new home and furniture. The guys don’t have much in common; they are almost opposites in every way, but they do love fighting and they are infatuated with each other (“Thrill of First Love”).

Bringing together the last two scenes, “Marvin at the Psychiatrist (A Three Part Mini-Opera)” begins. Mendel is speaking with Marvin asking him about his relationship with Trina, but really wanting to know more about Marvin’s ex-wife for his own pursuits. Marvin then tries to connect with Jason, since he wants to still be involved in his son’s life.

Back at their old home, Trina is trying to make dinner. In a brilliant number, showcasing her vocal and comedic timing, Stephanie J. Block brings down the house to “I’m Breaking Down” as she laments how Marvin has left her for another man. Trina circles the kitchen counter, tossing various ingredients, and almost laughing at her own situation, while trying to understand where her life could have gone wrong.

Following her breakdown, and in her next therapy session, Trina has a lapse in judgment and invites Mendel to her house for dinner (“Please, Come to Our House”). Over dinner, Mendel starts to analyze Jason and how he’s coping with his father’s new life. Over many more dinners, Mendel begins to fall for Trina even more, which leads to “A Marriage Proposal.” When Marvin hears the news, he is shocked, not only will he lose his ex-wife, but he’s also going to lose his therapist (“A Tight Knit Family [reprise]”). As Trina has a moment to think about her situation (“Trina’s Song”), the men enter wearing black outfits with neon black light accents and sing in their high registers, their falsettos, to match Jason’s pitch (“March of the Falsettos”).

Back at Marvin and Whizzer’s home, they play a game of chess (“The Chess Game”), which leads to a fight and the eventual break up of their relationship. In contrast to the end of their relationship, Mendel moves in with Trina and Jason (“Making a Home”).

Whizzer begins to pack up his things, in preparation for leaving Marvin, through which he realizes that he may not have ever really loved Marvin at all (“The Games I Play”). As their relationship ends, Marvin loses his cool (“Marvin Goes Crazy”) and confronts Trina about their life together, engaging in a fight and Marvin slaps her. Struck by his own actions, Marvin thinks about his past with Trina (“I Never Wanted to Love You”), which is then echoed by Trina, Whizzer and Mendel.

As Act One ends, Marvin tries to mend his relationship with Jason and show him that he will always be there for him.

During intermission, I was anxiously awaiting the appearance of Tracie & Betsy. Since the show was made up of two original pieces, their characters do not show up until Act Two. As Marvin comes back on stage to set the tone; we learn that it’s 1981 and the “tight knit family” has a new pair of lesbian neighbors: Dr. Charlotte (Tracie Thoms, RENT, Stick Fly) and Cordelia (Betsy Wolfe, Bullets Over Broadway, They Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Last Five Years), a caterer.

Marvin is trying to resolve his problems, although he still longs to have Whizzer back in his life. He has worked things out with Trina and they are planning for Jason’s quickly approaching Bar Mitzvah (“The Year of the Child”). The entire group gathers to watch Jason’s Little League game, but Jason can’t seem to concentrate on the ball or the game. Jason’s mind is too preoccupied with which girls he wants to or should invite to his Bar Mitzvah (“Miracle of Judaism”). Marvin, Trina, Charlotte and Cordelia lament being at the game (“The Baseball Game”) and how Jason can’t seem to hit the ball. Just then, Whizzer shows up, having been invited by Jason, throwing Marvin a curveball as he’s almost forgotten how handsome Whizzer is. Then Jason hits the ball and everyone rejoices, but Jason forgets to run the bases, so they all yell at him.

In “A Day in Falsettoland,” Mendel is at work, complaining about his yuppie patients, Trina is exercising to try and forget that Marvin and Whizzer are back together. At the neighbor’s house, Cordelia is cooking up something for Jason’s Bar Mitzvah, making Charlotte try the dish and she tries to choke it down. At the gym, Marvin and Whizzer play a game of racquetball, which Whizzer wins easily. Yes, they have issues, but overall, life is good for everyone.

As the date of Jason’s Bar Mitzvah approaches, Marvin and Trina argue about all the details. Jason can’t take his parents endless stream of disagreements and just wants to cancel the whole event. Sensing an opportunity to bond with Jason, Mendel steps in and tells him that “Everyone Hates His Parents” and that things will work out.

Back at their home, Marvin gazes at Whizzer while he’s sleeping and realizes that he really does love him. Their time apart taught him how much he needed him in his life (“What More Can I Say?”). Across town, Dr. Charlotte is telling Cordelia that something strange is happening in the city; young gay men are getting sick at an alarming rate and no one can figure out what is going on (“Something Bad is Happening”). In the next scene, Marvin and Whizzer are playing another game of racquetball and surprisingly, Marvin is winning; then Whizzer collapses.

Trina puts aside all her differences with Marvin and goes to visit Whizzer at the hospital. She’s shocked to see how frail he looks (“Holding to the Ground”), but she wants to be strong for Jason and Marvin. As the family and friend gather in the hospital room, they realize how thankful they are for moments like this (“Days Like This I Almost Believe in God”). Everyone is tip-toeing around the situation and how poor Whizzer looks, until Jason announces that Whizzer looks “awful!”

On the side, Marvin and Trina speak with Jason and tell him that he can call off his Bar Mitzvah (“Cancelling the Bar Mitzvah”) if he wants to. Jason finally realizes how sick Whizzer must be and that he might not ever get well. After Trina, Mendel and Jason leave, the remaining couples think about their lives (“Unlikely Lovers”).

Jason begins to ask God for another miracle to help Whizzer get well (“Another Miracle of Judaism”). As Whizzer contemplates his own mortality he comes to terms with his sickness (“You Gotta Die Sometime”). Just as he finishes his lament, everyone bursts into his hospital room; Jason has decided to have his Bar Mitzvah ceremony in Whizzer’s hopsital room (“Jason’s Bar Mitzvah”)!

After the ceremony, Whizzer becomes overwhelmed and is taken from the room. Only Marvin is left and he thinks about what his life would have been like without Whizzer in it (“What Would I Do?”). Whizzer reappears in his costume from the beginning of the show and the audience realizes that he has passed away. The family gathers on the stage one more time as Mendel thanks everyone for joining them in “Falsettoland.”

This show touched me more than I thought it would. Something about the chemistry between this small cast; especially that of Christian Borle and Andrew Rannells tugged at my heart strings. Some of the songs were a little odd, but all together the show was fascinating. I was lucky enough to see the show the day before Opening Night and got my Playbill signed by Tracie, Stephanie and Brandon.

I also walked away thinking about the costuming, which was brilliant! The wink to cheesy 80’s workout gear (Trina and Mendel have wonderful neon leotards and track suits) and the perfect fit of Whizzer’s tight pants. I also loved watching the actors transform the blocks on stage to the various settings: the family’s home, the hospital, Mendel’s office, etc. At one point, they even make various doorways and rooftops for the actors to walk through and a living room set with a fake television set.

I’m very glad I got the chance to see this show and that PBS has filmed it in part with Lincoln Center Theatre for a later airing. Although the story does not seem that unique today, I read that when it first premiered in the 90’s, there was a bit of controversy addressing the gay couple and the AIDS crisis. Luckily, shows like RENT have helped open the door for more productions that can address all different story lines.

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

Four Jews in a Room Bitching

A Tight Knit Family

Love Is Blind

Thrill of First Love

Marvin at the Psychiatrist (A Three Part Mini-Opera)

Everyone Tells Jason to See A Psychiatrist

This Had Better Come to a Stop

I’m Breaking Down

Please, Come to Our House

Jason’s Therapy

A Marriage Proposal

A Tight Knit Family (Reprise)

Trina’s Song

March of the Falsettos

Trina’s Song (Reprise)

The Chess Game

Making a Home

The Games I Play

Marvin Goes Crazy

I Never Wanted to Love You

Father to Son

 

Act Two:

Welcome to Falsettoland

The Year of the Child

Miracle of Judaism

The Baseball Game

A Day in Falsettoland

Everyone Hates His Parents

What More Can I Say?

Something Bad Is Happening

Holding to the Ground

Days Like This I Almost Believe in God

Cancelling the Bar Mitzvah

Unlikely Lovers

Another Miracle of Judaism

You Gotta Die Sometime

Jason’s Bar Mitzvah

What Would I Do?

 

 

"Cats" - 09.27.16

Show/Venue: Cats at the Neil Simon Theatre

Date: Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 @ 7pm

Starring: Tyler Hanes, Aaron J. Albano, Leona Lewis, Eloise Kropp, Ricky Ubeda, Jess LeProtto, Daniel Gaymon

Website: http://www.catsthemusical.com

 

The first time I saw Cats was in a touring production that came through The Lied Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. I enjoyed the show, but was a little ambivalent about seeing the show on Broadway. Well, once I saw the enthusiasm that my friend, Zach, had about wanting to see the show; I knew I had to go with him. I knew that the creative team was keeping true to the original 80’s hit, but I was interested to see how much they would keep the same. (I vividly remember an episode of Reading Rainbow where Levar Burton visited the set of the show and even got to put on the legendary cat makeup, wig and ears!)

We got some Mezzanine seats and arrived at the theatre to see it had been transformed into the junkyard so familiar with any fan of the show. The audience was full of Asian tourists for some reason and we settled in for the Jellicle Ball.

It was hard to determine the various actors and actresses under so much makeup, but I was thankful for the format of the show; since each song is an introduction to each of the characters. Right away Zach spotted Aaron J. Albano and I found Eloise Kropp. I kept searching for some of my other favorite dancers: Ricky Ubeda and Jess LeProtto of So You Think You Can Dance fame and Daniel Gaymon from Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound Dance Troupe.

There’s not much plot to describe besides the naming and introduction of the cats. I really liked watching Eloise Kropp (Dames at Sea) show off her astonishing tap dance skills as Jennyanydots in “The Old Gumbie Cat” and she even got a sparkling jacket, which I don’t remember from the original production. However, my favorite number in Act One was “The Rum Tum Tugger,” which really gave Tyler Hanes a chance to show off and play to the crowd. In a thoughtful update, he jumps into the Orchestra seating and takes a selfie with an audience member, which is then posted onto Instagram.

“Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer” was another fun number featuring Jess LeProtto (On the Town, Newsies) and Shonica Gooden (Hamilton, Bring It On), who got to play this pair of mischievous cats with a playful attitude and penchant for stealing. Mostly, it was a chance to show off their superior dance skills in a nicely choreographed duet.

I was also anxious to see and hear Leona Lewis as Grizabella. (Especially after the much-heated debate between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Nicole Scherzinger, when she decided to be a judge on the UK version of The X-Factor instead of joining the Broadway show.) I can say one thing, Leona Lewis has a beautiful voice, but acting is not her strong suit. The grit of Grizabella was missing. Even throughout her performance of “Memory,” I didn’t feel sorry for Griz; which is the point of the song.

I left my seat for intermission and was surprised to see audience members on the stage when I returned to my seat. In another update to the show, audience members could come up on stage and take a photo with Old Deuteronomy (Quentin Earl Darrington, Ragtime); selfie sticks non-withstanding.

Again, I can’t remember much of the beginning of Act Two, but I loved it when Ricky Ubeda (On the Town, Shaping Sound) finally got to shine in “Magical Mister Mistoffelees!” Taking a cue from the Rockettes, Mistoffelees enters in a black blazer that lights up with rainbow LED lights throughout his performance. (Ok, how do I get one of those for Pride weekend?) The number, updated by Andy Blankenbuehler, gave Ricky the chance to shine and really show off his technique.

Another notable number was when Daniel Gaymon came out as Macavity (“Macavity, The Mystery Cat”) and showed of his long lines and leaps. I got to see him last year as a part of Shaping Sound and was surprised to see him in the show. I don’t know why, but it amuses me when so many former dancers show up on Broadway with impressive vocal abilities; guess I should misjudge their triple threat abilities.

Overall, the costuming was kept the same: leotards with legwarmers and dance-belt like tails. It felt very 80’s, but I was still entertained. Would I go back again? That’s yet to be determined, but if you haven’t seen this show, it’s worth going to. You might be confused by the plot or lack thereof, (I heard a woman in line for the bathroom say “Is there a plot? Is it just a bunch of cats?” which I had to chuckle at), but at least you’ll be amused.

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats

The Name of Cats

Invitation to the Jellicle Ball

The Old Gumbie Cat

The Rum Tum Tugger

Entry of Grizabella

Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town

Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer

Old Deuteronomy

Song of the Jellicles and the Jellicle Ball

Memory

 

Act Two:

Introduction to Act II/The Moments of Happiness

Gus the Theatre Cat

The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles

Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat

Macavity, The Mystery Cat

Magical Mister Mistoffelees

Memory

Journey to the Heaviside Layer

The Ad-dressing of Cats

Finale

 

 

Fifth Harmony - 08.02.16

Show/Venue: The 727 Tour at the Ford Amphitheatre at Coney Island

Date: Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016 @ 7pm

Starring: Fifth Harmony, Jojo

Website: http://www.fifthharmony.com

Ever since I watched Camilla, Normani, Lauren, Ally Brooke and Dinah Jane come together as Fifth Harmony on the US Version of The X-Factor, I was hooked. As my roommate at the time can attest to, I listened to Reflection all the time, with several songs on repeat. Through the hooks of “Worth It” and “BO$$” and the samples from some of my favorite 90’s artists, I couldn’t get enough of this girl group. When 7/27 got delayed, I was a bit disappointed, but “Work From Home” was that ear worm, always stuck in my head when heading into work (Rihanna, who?)!

I decided it was worth the one hour and some change trek to Coney Island to see the girls perform, plus Jojo was the opening act! The newly refurbished Ford Amphitheatre is right on the Coney Island Boardwalk and next to the ocean. I was worried about getting sunburnt in the heat, but luckily the venue is covered and the breeze from the ocean keeps everything nice and cool.

My usual concert routine involves scoping out food options, merchandise and then finding my seat. Since I went to this show alone, I figured I could take my time getting settled. I thought there was only one merchandise stand near the entrance, but someone on the staff pulled those of us in the back of the line to another booth on the other side. The bonus? A shorter line and some of the Fifth Harmony parents were out on that side, taking photos with fans (a.k.a. Harmonizers).

Jojo opened the show, and most of this crowd was too young to remember her teenage hit, “Leave (Get Out)” but I remember it fondly. She came out in a sheer black maxi dress with a blue & green sequined varsity jacket, that I immediately coveted, and helped wind the crowd up. Followed by “Too Little, Too Late” and a few other of her older hits, she then went into some new songs, as she was finally released from her old contract and can finally put out new music! She ended her set with “Fuck Apologies,” her new single, and it’s damn catchy.

Finally, the girls came out in black bodysuits and knee-high black boots to “That’s My Girl,” and the crowd went wild. I immediately wanted to be friends with the teenage boy a few rows infront of me who was dancing and singing along to every lyric. (I love that this song was later used in a USA Gymnastics video during the Olympics, showing the girls training at camp.) Followed by “Miss Movin’ On” and “Sledgehammer,” I was impressed with how fast the words came back to me, as I was singing along, but had not listened to either of these albums in some time. The girls did a great job of dancing and really belting live during “Reflection,” although it always feels awkward to me when Lauren is dressed up too sexy. I just remember her being a bit nerdy on The X-Factor, but she manages to pull it off.

In the next set, “This Is How We Roll,” “Scared of Happy,” “Write On Me” and “I Lied,” the girls took the opportunity to focus less on dancing and more on vocals. For one of my favorites from 7/27, “Write On Me,” they sat down on the bleachers and sang. I love the lyrics in this song and all the clever ways various versions of writing are alluded to in it. There were a couple times when Camilla seemed to be disconnected from the rest of the group, physically and mentally. She recovered later, but I bet this is what sparks rumors that she’s leaving the group.

For the next costume and set change, the girls put on bright red bodysuits and brought out red metal chairs to match. I didn’t know “Big Bad Wolf,” but lots of the other fans did! That led right into “BO$$” and got the crowd moving before “Not That Kinda Girl” and “All In My Head (Flex)”. I put up a short video of the chorus dance sequence from “Not That Kinda Girl” and it quickly had over 3,000 views on Instagram. I tried to capture a moment where they did almost a tribute to New Kids on the Block with their pendulum dance from “The Right Stuff.”

The show ended on a high note with “Worth It” and “Work From Home.” They brought out all the stops and any nervousness from Camilla was completely gone by the encores. Assuming that they don’t break up, I would easily go to another Fifth Harmony show! Even going by myself, I had a great time! Everyone’s dancing was on point and I was really impressed with their live performance. This just proves that we need more girl groups around again!

 

Musical Numbers:

1.       That’s My Girl

2.       Miss Movin’ On

3.       Sledgehammer

4.       Reflection

5.       This Is How We Roll

6.       Scared of Happy

7.       Write on Me

8.       I Lied

9.       No Way

10.   We Know

11.   Dope

12.   Squeeze

13.   Big Bad Wolf

14.   BO$$

15.   Not That Kinda Girl

16.   All In My Head (Flex)

17.   Brave, Honest, Beautiful (Acoustic Version)

18.   Gonna Get Better

19.   Voicemail

20.   Worth It

21.   Work From Home

"American Psycho" - 05.31.16

Show/Venue: American Psycho at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

Date: Tuesday, May 31st, 2016 @ 7pm

Starring: Benjamin Walker, Jennifer Damiano, Alice Ripley, Theo Stockman, Heléne Yorke

Website: http://americanpsychothemusical.com/

 

I know very little about American Psycho the movie or the book, in fact, I had to read the summary on Wikipedia before going to see this show, just so I would get the gist of the plot. However, I did know that I with a stellar cast and Duncan Sheik behind the music, I was in for a great night! Yes, I decided to go only after the show announced that they would be closing in the first week of June.

As I took my seat in the Mezzanine, I noticed a lot of empty seats, but the set was amazing. A very clean, white room in perspective; so the back of the room faded into the back of the stage, the audience was set to be introduced to Patrick Bateman (Benjamin Walker, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson) and his “ripped body.” Mr. Bateman appears in only tiny white briefs and explains his morning routine (“Opening [Morning Routine]”). Through some tongue-in-cheek dialogue, Patrick describes some high end items that would have been the top of the line in the 1980’s, including his Sony Walkman.

As Patrick heads into work, the sides of the set revolve into his office at Pierce & Pierce banking (“Selling Out”). He is greeted by his secretary, Jean (Jennifer Damiano, Next to Normal), and she performs “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, a cover of the Tears for Fears song. Patrick wants to know more about the big Fisher account, which all of Patrick’s co-workers have been talking about. Jean has no information on the account, but reminds Patrick about his lunch date with his co-workers, Timothy Price (Theo Stockman, American Idiot), Craig McDermott (Alex Michael Stoll, If/Then, West Side Story), Luis Carruthers (Jordan Dean, Mamma Mia!) and David Van Patten (Dave Thomas Brown, Bridges of Madison County 1st Nat’l Tour and Patrick Bateman understudy).

As the men talk about their tailored suits and the next hot restaurant to dine at, Paul Owen (Drew Moerlein in his Broadway debut) appears and lets is be known that he has landed the Fisher account and a reservation at the hottest restaurant in NYC, Dorsia. In an attempt to save face, Patrick and his co-workers flaunt their business cards, only to again, be one-upped by Paul (“Cards”). In some of the most brilliant staging and choreography, the men jump onto LED lit tables and streams of air pumped onto the stage makes it appear as if their business cards are levitating & spinning. The song cleverly brings together the status symbols on their business cards; card stock, color and font. (I even noticed that the Stage Door to the Schoenfeld was done over to look like Patrick Bateman’s business card.)

Then as if to add insult to injury, Paul mistakes Patrick for another banker, Marcus Halberstam and mocks Patrick Bateman. To prove a point, Patrick then invites Paul to his upcoming birthday party, being thrown by Patrick’s girlfriend, Evelyn Williams (Heléne Yorke, Bullets Over Broadway) and her best friend, Courtney Lawrence (Morgan Weed in her Broadway debut); who also happens to be Luis’ girlfriend. As Evelyn laments about her odd numbered dinner party, Courtney and their girlfriends wax on about what to wear to the party and name drop several designers, including Manolo Blahnik, Isaac Mizrahi and Bill Blass (“You Are What You Wear”).  However, to appease Evelyn, Patrick invites Jean to the party, so there will be an even number of guests.

Evelyn is annoyed as Patrick & Tim arrive fashionably late to the party. The guests are dull by Patrick’s standards and he ends his birthday party by stabbing his birthday cake with a giant knife. After the party, Patrick & Tim head out to Tunnel to indulge in coke & women (“True Faith”/”Killing Time”). As Patrick leaves the club, he realizes how empty his own life is and promises to never go out to the clubs again. The cast then performs a haunting version of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”) while Patrick offers a homeless man money, before making fun of him and stabbing him to death.

Later on at the gym, the guys objectify their female instructor, while complimenting each other on their own physical appearances (“Hardbody”). After the gym, we learn that Patrick is having an affair with Courtney; but she wants to end their “friends with benefits” situation as she feels guilty for Evelyn and Luis. Angry at Courtney, Patrick goes back to the gym, where he encounters Luis and tries to strangle him. Luis thinks that Patrick has developed feelings for him and comes onto him, as Patrick leaves the gym, extremely put off by Luis’ actions.

Patrick and Evelyn are attending a Broadway performance of Les Miserables, where during the show’s intermission Evelyn brings up the idea of marriage (“If We Get Married”). Patrick can’t imagine getting married and after the show heads out to the Meatpacking District, where he picks up two hookers and decides to tell them that his name is Paul Owen. A threesome ensues, BDSM and all (“Not a Common Man”), as Patrick starts to give into his own dark thoughts.

Flash forward to Christmas Eve at Pierce & Pierce, as Patrick is telling Jean about Les Miserables and discussing their plans for the holidays. After work, Patrick heads to Evelyn’s over the top Christmas party with his mother (Alice Ripley, Next to Normal, Side Show), whom Evelyn is sure hates her. At the party, Patrick goes on a drug & alcohol in order to be numb to the whole situation (“Mistletoe Alert”). It’s then that Paul Owen arrives at the party and Patrick begins to fill with rage, as Paul has everything he wants. He invites Paul over to his apartment, as Paul still thinks he is Marcus, and they dance to “Hip to Be Square.” Patrick slips something into Paul’s drink and Patrick begins a speech about Huey Lewis & the News, he then proceeds to murder Paul with an ax. (If you’re anything like me and nervous at the thought of blood, the murder scene is done in such a creative way, as a film comes down over the stage and as Patrick hacks away at Paul, splatters of red appear on the film. During intermission, you can watch the crew clean up the blood and restore Patrick’s apartment to the blindingly white room it once was.)

Coming up on Act II, Patrick takes Paul’s body to another building that he owns & disposes of it. Then he enters Paul’s apartment and sets up a voicemail, stating that Paul is traveling to London for a few weeks to work on the Fisher account (“Clean”). As the months go on, Patrick goes a rampage, killing many others (“Killing Spree”). (During this performance, the cast appears in various white outfits as Patrick goes about murdering everyone around him. Patrick tries to admit his murders to his friends, but they just think he’s joking.)

After not having seen her son in months, Mrs. Bateman shows up at Pierce & Pierce, wanting to have lunch with Patrick. As Patrick desperately tries to have Jean cancel the luncheon, Jean offers to come along to lunch, as it might do Patrick some good to actually speak with his mother. During their lunch, Mrs. Bateman tells Jean all sorts of cute stories about Patrick when he was younger (“Nice Thought”) and Jean’s crush on Patrick only deepens.

Back at Pierce & Pierce, a detective, Donald Kimball (Keith Randolph Smith, Fences), is in Patrick’s office, wanting to know anything about Paul Owen’s recent disappearance. Thinking that Kimball is onto him, Patrick avoids most of the questions and feigns concern for the well-being of Paul. As his anxiety grows, Patrick begs Evelyn to take a break from the city, so they plan an escape to the Hamptons. However, away from the city, Patrick’s paranoia only worsens, as Evelyn thrives in the Hamptons culture (“At the End of an Island”). It’s then that Patrick finally decides to marry Evelyn, just as soon as they can get back to NYC. Once he’s back in the city, Patrick continues his killing spree, inviting the prostitutes from months ago to Paul’s apartment, where he murders both of them (“I Am Back”) and begins to accept his own demons.

While shopping at Barneys, Patrick runs into Luis and remembering their encounter at the gym, Luis tries to convince Patrick that they should leave their girlfriends and run away together. As Patrick feels his control on his own life slipping away, he asks Jean out to dinner, where she picks Dorsia and it only reminds Patrick that he can’t seem to get a table there, but Paul could. As she gets ready for her dinner date, Jean thinks about what it is that makes her adore Patrick so much (“A Girl Before”). After dinner, Jean and Patrick hang out at his apartment and talk about her ambitions. Patrick intends to kill Jean that night, but she tells him that she has feeling for him and he shouts at her until she leaves. Left alone with his increasingly dangerous thoughts, Patrick calls Detective Kimball and confesses to murdering Paul and numbers others (“Clean Requiem”).

Evelyn has arranged to have her & Patrick’s engagement party at Tunnel and the stage lights up in amazing neon colors and the cast emerges in spectacular 80’s club outfits (“Don’t You Want Me”, a brilliant cover of The Human League’s song). While grabbing a drink at the bar, Patrick notices Detective Kimball and inquires if he received his voicemail. The detective thinks it was all a brilliant joke and laughs off Patrick’s confession. Kimball states that Paul is alive and well, he even met with him in London. Doubting his own memory, Patrick goes to Paul’s apartment expecting it to be full of his murder victims, but finds it untouched and immaculate. Patrick realizes that he will never aspire to the level of Paul and accepts his fate, marrying Evelyn (“This Is Not an Exit”).

If I had even a small regret about not seeing Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, it multiplied after seeing Benjamin Walker’s performance as Patrick Bateman. Compelling and sexy, it was easy to empathize with this character, even if he is a psychopath! I guess that will be one of the next cast albums on my Amazon Wish List this Christmas.

Another bonus to seeing American Psycho was the reunion of Jenn Damiano & Alice Ripley, who famously played mother & daughter in Next to Normal, which was one of the first Broadway shows I saw after moving to NYC. Alice Ripley didn’t really get a chance to shine, as she played several roles (Svetlana, Mrs. Bateman, Mrs. Wolfe). However, she did get some pretty big applause in her first scene where she enters as Svetlana, going to dry clean the blood out of one of Patrick’s shirts. Jenn showed maturity from her previous Tony award nominated role in Next to Normal, and vulnerability as Jean. I was excited to get to chat with her in person, as she happened to be shopping in my store, shortly after I saw the show.

The other standouts for me were Theo Stockman, who I loved in American Idiot, and was deliciously snarky and slimy as Timothy Price. Then there was Jason Hite in his Broadway Debut, as Patrick’s brother, Sean, but I first developed a Broadway crush on him, when I saw him in the New World Stage’s production of Bare, where he played Jason.

I’m a little disappointed that there won’t be a cast album for the American production, but the London recording is still great! It even has a cut track, “Oh Sri Lanka,” and the original song order from that production. What really motivated me to finally write up this review was attending the 54 Below showcase of “American Psycho Sings Duncan Sheik,” where some of the cast members performed numbers from this show, Spring Awakening and other Duncan Sheik songs. Even if Benjamin Walker wasn’t at this showcase, Dave Thomas Brown, who understudied the role, got a chance to be Patrick and really got the chance to show off his skills. But the highlight of the night for me was the boys singing “Cards,” closely followed by Alice Ripley performing “Barely Breathing,” the song that all non-theatre lovers should know Duncan from.

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

Opening (Morning Routine)

Selling Out

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Cards

You Are What You Wear

True Faith

Killing Time

In the Air Tonight

Hardbody

You Are What You Wear (Reprise)

If We Get Married

Not a Common Man

Mistletoe Alert

Hip to Be Square

 

Act Two:

Killing Spree

Nice Thought

At the End of an Island

I Am Back

You Are What You Wear (Reprise)

A Girl Before

Clean Requiem

Don’t You Want Me

This Is Not an End

 

"Waitress" - 05.10.16

Show/Venue: Waitress at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre

Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2016 @ 7:30pm

Starring: Jessie Mueller, Keala Settle, Kimiko Glenn, Nick Codero, Drew Gehling, Christopher Fitzgerald

Website: http://waitressthemusical.com

 

I remember watching the movie “Waitress,” starring Keri Russell years ago and could vaguely remember the plot; girl in small town, abusive husband, gets pregnant, but bakes amazing pies. Somehow, I kept thinking about the Sarah Michelle Gellar movie, “Simply Irresistible,” but cheesy this show was not. At BroadwayCon in January, I was lucky enough to get a seat at the panel for Waitress with Diane Paulus - Director, Sara Bareilles – Composer/Lyricist and Jessie Nelson – Writer, as they discussed how the musical came to be with Blake Ross, the Editor in Chief of Playbill Magazine. What an experience to be around a group of talented women making this story come to life on the Broadway stage! The audience was even treated to a performance of “She Used To Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles, that didn’t leave a dry eye in the house!

I was fortunate enough to get tickets to see Waitress shortly after their Opening Night and before the Tony Awards. So, I wrangled up my friend, Meghan from work and we caught a Tuesday night show. There was an air of excitement outside of the theatre, as many theatre & Sara Bareilles fans were lining up to go inside. Once we walked into the lobby, we were greeted with the sweet smells of pie, which was baking in an oven just inside the theater. After a quick stop to the merchandise booth, where I got a Waitress pie pin, Meghan and I found our seats and quickly got to Snapchatting our experience; mostly to use the Waitress geofilter.

The show opened with a little song from Sara, reminding the audience to turn off their cell phones, then the stage came alive and Jessie Mueller (Tony Winner for Beautiful, Nice Work If You Can Get It) entered as Jenna. If you’ve listened to Sara’s version of the songs, then Jessie’s voice comes as a pleasant variation on “What’s Inside.” That familiar “sugar, butter, flour” floats through the air with a slight Southern drawl and sets up the story inside Joe’s Diner for the story that will unfold over the next two plus hours.

As the chords to “Opening Up” play, we’re introduced to all the characters in Joe’s Diner; Cal (Eric Anderson, Kinky Boots, Rocky, The Last Ship), Jenna’s boss, Becky (the brilliant Keala Settle, Les Miserables, Hands on a Hardbody, Priscilla Queen of the Desert), and Dawn (Kimiko Glenn, who you might know from Orange Is The New Black, where she plays Brook Soso, and in her Broadway debut), as her two fellow waitresses. Together, they introduce Jenna’s new pie of the day and the girls get the diner open and ready for customers. While lamenting over the same daily routines, they prep pies and setup the tables, while the ensemble dances around them, all through some amazing prop work; fake pies and all.

Towards the end of the number, Jenna is unable to focus on her customers – including the diner’s cantankerous owner Joe (Dakin Matthews, The Audience, Rocky), because she’s nauseous. As she runs to the bathroom, Becky and Dawn come to her rescue and persuade her to take a pregnancy test, but to focus on “The Negative.” In a matter of minutes, Jenna finds out that she is pregnant as Cal bellows for his employees to get back to work. As soon as Jenna gets back into the diner, her abusive and abrasive husband, Earl (Nick Codero, Bullets Over Broadway, Brooklynite) comes barging in. After causing a ruckus, Earl leaves and Jenna finds solace in crafting and creating her pies; while trying to figure out what to do with her life (“What Baking Can Do”). This number was originally a song called “Door Number Three” from Sara’s album and the original production in Boston, but the familiar melodies have been kept for this number and we see Jenna use her passion for baking and memories of her mother to make her miserable life just a bit better, funny how creating something can help.

In a sort of day dream, Jenna then imagines herself being surrounded by other pregnant women while she waits at the OB-GYN office and they welcome her to “Club Knocked Up.” Inside the doctor’s office, Jenna is waiting to confirm her pregnancy with her doctor’s favorite pie, when a new, handsome, young male doctor enters. She’s confused, as this was not who she was expecting to see in her vulnerable state. He introduces himself as Dr. Pomatter (Drew Gehling, Jersey Boys) and that he’s the new doctor in town. Flustered and attracted to the new doctor, Jenna leaves abruptly and abandons the pie, even though Dr. Pomatter doesn’t eat sugar. However, after Jenna leaves his office he can’t resist the smell and the impression she’s left on him; he takes a big bite of the pie and is smitten.

Back at the diner, Becky and Dawn give Jenna a baby book, so she can write down all the memories she’s going to make with her baby. Jenna still isn’t sure how she feels about becoming a mother and instead, redirects their conversation to Dawn’s challenges entering the world of online dating. It’s here that Kimiko gets the chance to shine in “When He Sees Me,” as she expresses her fears of the dating world and what she could run into. During this number, she floats through all the tables of customers expressing her fears; such as how he eats Oreos or if he could be colorblind. This number featured some more great work by the ensemble as they play off of and react to Dawn’s ridiculous excuses to why she can’t date or fall for a guy.

After work, Jenna is waiting for the bus when Dr. Pomatter shows up. It’s here that he confesses that he ate the pie she left at the office and they chat. They may have very different lives, but there’s something brewing between them, as they wait on the bus stop bench.

Finally at home, Jenna is fearful of Earl, who has been drinking alone at home and has been fired from his job. Jenna says something that aggravates him and as he raises his hand to her, when she finally blurts out that she’s pregnant and his demeanor changes instantly. Earl takes this opportunity to remind Jenna of how in love they were when they were younger and sings to her (“You Will Still Be Mine”).

Another day at the diner, but this day Dawn has finally received a message on her dating profile! She doesn’t know what to do, as no guy has ever paid attention to her in this way. She asks Jenna to make her a special pie to bring with her on her date. As Jenna is baking she begins to day dream and wonder what her life would be like away from Earl with her baby (“A Soft Place to Land”). She remembers that Joe told her about a pie baking contest in a town not that far away and imagines what she could do if she won the prize money.

Jenna is woken up from her day dream, as Ogie (Christopher Fitzgerald, Tony Nominated for this role, Wicked OBC), Dawn’s love interest enters and declares his love for her. In the brilliant “Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me” Ogie shows Dawn just how right they are for each other and how he will never leave her side and be everything to her. Each of them have their own quirks, among them Civil War reenactment, but they really are a great fit for each other.

Inspired by Dawn & Ogie’s love, Jenna goes to meet Dr. Pomatter. Their attraction is undeniable and even though they know what they’re doing is wrong (“Bad Idea”), they toy with each other’s feelings and kiss in the end of Act One.

At the top of Act Two, Jenna catches Becky in the diner kitchen making out with Cal. She cannot believe her own eyes and is quick to judge and point her finger at Becky. Keala gets her chance to shine as she sings “I Didn’t Plan It” and explains to Jenna about what a hypocrite she’s being; Becky’s husband is disabled and Cal gives her something that she can’t get physically at home. Becky still loves her husband, but she still needs someone to take care of her, as she takes care of him. She even points out how Jenna is behaving with Dr. Pomatter and her own issues with Earl, as the two argue.

As Jenna falls back into Dr. Pomatter’s arms, the audience sees that each waitress is engaged in their own passionate relationship; Jenna and the doctor, Becky and Cal, and Dawn and Ogie (“Bad Idea (Reprise)”). Their relationship progresses, but Jenna knows she should try and end their affair; yet she’s drawn to Dr. Pomatter even more. She speaks to her baby, sharing her hopes, wishes and dreams for her daughter (“You Matter to Me”).

Even though Jenna’s personal life might be in turmoil, Dawn & Ogie are celebrating their love and getting married at the diner. After the sweet ceremony, Ogie finds a way to profess his love to Dawn through puns and his own oddball style, thus “I Love You Like A Table.” As her friends encourage her creativity to enter the pie contest, Joe dances with Jenna and gives her some advice (“Take It from an Old Man”).

Returning home from the celebration, Jenna finds that Earl has found that she has been hiding all her tips, in order to make it to the pie contest. Earl erupts in a rage, how could his wife be hiding money from him, when he lost his job!? In a desperate attempt to save herself and the baby, Jenna tells him that she was hiding the money to buy a new crib for the baby. Suddenly, Earl’s demeanor changes and he stumbles off to bed, leaving Jenna alone.

Lamenting over her situation and how her escape has now been thwarted, Jenna talks to her baby again (“Dear Baby”) and paces around her living room while singing about what her life used to be and wondering how she got here in life. This song, “She Used To Be Mine,” easily is the most beautiful song of the show.

Jenna is finally ready to have her baby and in the “Contraction Ballet,” the audience sees her home turn into the hospital as her friends and Dr. Pomatter gather for the arrival of her child. As the nurse hands over her daughter, Jenna decides to name her Lulu. As Jenna realizes that her life has only changed for the better (“Everything Changes”), she tells Earl that she doesn’t love him and is going to leave him. As she prepares to leave the hospital, she finds out that Joe has passed away, leaving her the diner for her own use. Jenna realizes that she may not make it to the pie contest, but she can make something wonderful out of the diner and change her life for the better.

Back at the diner, the scene changes as the waitresses and Cal start prepping the diner to open (“Opening Up (Reprise)”). The sign changes from “Joe’s Diner” to “Lulu’s Pie Diner” and a toddler Lulu (Claire & McKenna Keane) runs onto the stage and into her mother’s arms.

I was fully prepared to cry more at the show, but there were so many great visual cues, maybe I didn’t get as emotionally invested as when I was listening to Sara Bareilles at BroadwayCon. I had such a great time watching this story come to life, especially after the buzz from the original showing in Boston and the panel from BroadwayCon. I was very impressed by Kimiko Glenn’s singing and ability to go through all the emotions of Dawn in the show. I also love that she’s an Asian-American actress cast in a colorblind role! We need to see more Asians on stage as “normal” Americans!

What can I say about Jessie Mueller? I thought she was great in Nice Work If You Can Get It, where she replaced Kelli O’Hara and easily out performed Matthew Broderick, and then I fell for her again as Carole King in Beautiful. Something about the quality of her voice brought so many new colors to the role of Jenna vs. Sara on her album.

Since I saw the show just after the Tony nominations, I was really surprised that I had not been to a show with Christopher Fitzgerald in it! What a fun experience to see one of the original cast members from Wicked in his Tony nominated role! He brought just the right amount of quirk and fun to Ogie, including an impressive leap over the back of a chair and dancing on a table!

As Earl, Nick Codero, could easily be one of those actors that you dislike, which only means he’s doing his job well! Luckily, I have seen him perform in a few other shows, Bullets Over Broadway, where he was a clever gangster, and in one of my favorite Off-Broadway shows, Brooklynite, where he played yet another villain-esque character who was trying to get the secret to getting real superpowers!

As for the other cast members, Keala Settle was one of my favorite actors when I saw the unfortunate musical that was Hands on a Hardbody, a few years ago. That woman can belt! She’s a perfect fit for the role of Becky; just the right amount of sass and bravado! I wish I would have seen her as the Mistress of the House in Les Miserables last year. Overall, a great night of theatre and I can’t Waitress to go see this show again!

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

What’s Inside

Opening Up

The Negative

What Baking Can Do

Club Knocked Up

When He Sees Me

It Only Takes a Taste

You Will Still Be Mine

A Soft Place to Land

Never Ever Getting Rid of Me

Bad Idea

 

Act Two:

I Didn’t Plan It

Bad Idea (Reprise)

You Matter to Me

I Love You Like a Table

Take It From an Old Man

She Used to Be Mine

Everything Changes

Opening Up (Finale)

"Tuck Everlasting" - 05.04.16

Show/Venue: Tuck Everlasting at the Broadhurst Theatre

Date: Wednesday, May 4th, 2016 @ 2pm

Starring: Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Carolee Carmello, Robert Lenzi, Sarah Charles Lewis, Michael Park, Terrence Mann, Neil Haskell

Website: http://www.tuckeverlastingmusical.com/

Is it strange that I never read Tuck Everlasting or watched the movie before I went to see the musical? Maybe? But as an Andrew Keenan-Bolger fan, I was anxious to see it, especially after hearing so many good things about the show after it’s out of town tryout in Atlanta. AKB also mentioned at BroadwayCon that Jesse was easily one of his favorite roles that he’s played to date. However, my friends had given me some mixed reviews; saying it would “do well regionally” and that it wasn’t as grand as they had expected, but I went into the show with an open mind.

Through TodayTix, I was able to get a fourth row, center seat; which was great for all the dances and larger production numbers. Since it was a Wednesday matinee, the theatre was crowded with school children, lending to the excitement and noise level in the theatre. As the show started, the audience gets introduced to the Tuck family; Mae (Carolee Carmello, reprising her role from the Atlanta production), Angus (Michael Park, also from the original), Miles (Robert Lenzi, originating the role on Broadway) and Jesse (Andrew Keenan-Bolger, also from the original). The Tuck family found their way into the woods of Treegap, where they found a spring and drank from it. Little did they know that the spring would stop their aging process and they could never die (“Live Like This”).

Moving ahead several years, we see the Foster family; 11-year-old Winnie (Sarah Charles Lewis, in her Broadway debut), Mrs. Foster/Mother (Valerie Wright) and Nana (Pippa Pearthree), in mourning dress, after the passing of Winnie’s father and Mrs. Foster’s husband. It has been over a year since his passing and Winnie is excited to go to the fair, which is passing through Treegap and for a chance to get out of her gloomy clothing. After a short argument with her mother, Winnie laments about always being the good girl (“Good Girl Winnie Foster”) and runs into a Man in a Yellow Suit (Terrence Mann, Pippin) who works with the fair. He performs a few magic tricks, showing Winnie that he can accurately guess her age by looking into her eyes (“Join the Parade”) and tries to convince her to come to the fair. It’s then that Winnie’s demeanor changes and she follows her pet toad into the woods around her property (“Good Girl Winnie Foster (Reprise)”).

As she runs into the woods, she sees Jesse; who is back in town to reunite with his family after being apart for 10 years. Jesse fears that Winnie has seen him drink from the spring, but distracts here with a tale of imagination and tree climbing (“Top of the World”). During this scene, I was thankful for my seat as the tree reveals a sort of bridge and swing, while Jesse & Winnie climb through the branches and leaves. Shortly thereafter, Miles appears and Jesse reveals Winnie. Fearing that Winnie knows too much about the spring, Miles throws a blanket over her head and carries her back to the Tuck home.

Back at the Foster home, Constable Joe (Fred Applegate) and his apprentice, Hugo (Michael Wartella) are gathering information from Mother and Nana about Winnie’s disappearance. Hugo cannot wait to be a real detective, but seems a big nervous (“Hugo’s First Case”). Constable Joe dismisses Hugo in front of the Fosters, but soon everyone will see how observant Hugo really is.

Back at the Tuck home, Jesse & Miles bring Winnie to Mae and Angus who have to figure out how to explain their family’s secret to Winnie. Immediately, Jesse wants to have Winnie stay with them, so he can have a playmate & companion, he may be 102-years-old, but he still acts like a 17-year-old. The Tuck family explains to Winnie about the spring (“Story of the Tucks”). They also explain why they can only reunite every 10 years, so no one grow suspicious of their ability to never age. As Mae finds something for Winnie to wear, they sift through trunks in the attic and Mae finds the dress that Angus proposed to her in. In a beautiful dance number, Mae recalls how her husband used to be so in love with her and how he used to look at her with passion; certainly this isn’t the case anymore.

As Winnie is about to go to sleep, Jesse wakes her up; he wants them to have another adventure. He convinces her to sneak out of the house, so they can go to the fair. However, they get caught on their way out by Angus. He almost forbids them from going, but after hearing about the loss of Winnie’s father, he decides to let them go out and have some fun.

Jesse & Winnie arrive at the fair and have a wonderful time; playing games, eating cotton candy and running around the fairgrounds (“Join the Parade (Reprise)” and “Partner in Crime”). In the elaborate dance number, Jesse & Winnie play with the other fair workers, as Jesse begins to fall for Winnie; if only she were a bit older. As the fair winds down, the Man in the Yellow Suit reappears with the only game left; the age guessing both. Winnie begs Jesse to stay away, but Jesse just wants to play. As the Man in the Yellow Suit stares into Jesse’s eyes, he’s reminded of a story that his grandmother used to tell him; one about a family that never ages. At first he guesses Jesse is 17, but after another stare, realizes that he is indeed 102-years-old! Jesse & Winnie flee the fairgrounds and escape to the top of a silo.

As the two of them sit on the silo, Jesse proposes that Winnie should drink the water from the spring in 6 years, so then she will be 17, like him (“Seventeen”). The Man in the Yellow Suit is lurking in the shadows and hears of Jesse’s plan and learns that he has finally found the family he has been searching for. He then heads to the Foster home to tell them that he has found Winnie, but has a business deal for them.

The Man in the Yellow Suit realizes that he can trade Winnie in for ownership of the woods on the Foster’s property, the same woods that house the spring the Tuck family has been drinking from for decades. He will then bottle the water from the spring and sell it for a profit; stay young forever and be rich! (“Everything’s Golden”)

Back at the house, Jesse reveals his plan to have Winnie drink from the spring in 6 years (“Seventeen (Reprise)”) and the rest of the Tuck family agree that this is another one of Jesse’s stupid ideas. Miles appears and sees that Winnie is dressed in the clothing that used to belong to his son, Thomas. In a scene that brought tears to my eyes, Miles tells Winnie the story of Thomas and his wife. Before the Tuck family knew about the magical powers of the spring water, Miles got married and had a child. By the time the family learned that they couldn’t age, Miles’ wife was convinced that he was possessed, took Thomas and left Miles alone (“Time”).

Back at the Foster home, the Man in the Yellow Suit is convincing Mother and Nana to sign over the woods on their property to him (“Everything’s Golden (Reprise)”), when Constable Joe and Hugo appear. They know there is something suspicious about the Man in the Yellow Suit and start questioning him, with Hugo noticing all the odd details; Mother holding paperwork for a “business transaction,” that the Man cannot elaborate on. As the Man in the Yellow Suit leaves, Constable Joe and Hugo talk over the odd situation (“You Can’t Trust a Man”).

After Winnie learned about Thomas, Angus takes a moment to talk with her. Angus explains to Winnie why aging is important (“The Wheel”) and tries to convince her that she does not need to drink the spring water. Seeing Angus as a fatherly figure, she starts to think if it’s really worth spending forever with Jesse. Maybe she should experience life and grow up?

The Man in the Yellow Suit has left the Foster’s home and is on the way to the spring in the woods. It’s here that he runs into Jesse, gathering water from the spring to give to Winnie. The Man tries to stab Jesse, but realizes he cannot die. Shortly thereafter, the entire Tuck family appears and confronts the Man. The Man tries to grab the vial of water from Jesse, but he tosses it to Miles. The Man then grabs Winnie, puts a gun to her head and makes her his hostage. Mae then uses the butt of Angus’ shotgun and hits the Man over the head, knocking him unconscious and effectively, killing him. Winnie is free, but Constable Joe and Hugo arrive and see the Man in the Yellow Suit’s body. They are going to charge Mae to death by hanging; which we all know won’t work, when Winnie steps up to say she did it and acted in self-defense. Constable Joe knows he cannot charge a child and encourages the Tuck family to leave Treegap and never come back.

Hugo offers to return Winnie home, as Jesse reminds Winnie to wait 6 years for him. When Winnie returns home, she cannot decide what to do with the water from the spring. Does she want to grow up and have a rich, fulfilled life or should she stay 17 forever and be with Jesse? (“Everlasting”) Suddenly, Winnie’s toad reappears, as Hugo almost flattens him with his foot. It’s then that Winnie knows what to do; she pours the water onto her toad, giving him eternal life.

In the finale (“The Wheel (Reprise)”), we see Winnie begin to grow up; she turns 17, she starts dating Hugo, they get married, they have a child (Neil Haskell, So You Think You Can Dance, Bring It On, Hamilton), her child grows up, her Nana passes, her mother passes, Hugo passes through a gorgeous and beautiful ballet.

Overall, I had a great time at the show. I enjoyed the story, even if I was a little creeped out at 30-year-old Andrew Keenan-Bolger trying to look 17 and tell a real 11-year-old to “wait for him.” I was very touched by the finale ballet, watching Winnie be played by Sarah Charles Lewis, Deanna Doyle and Jennifer Smith (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) at various ages and by Robert Lenzi’s solo, “Time.”

It was great being so close to the stage, since I’ve been a fan of Neil Haskell since his appearance on SYTYCD and have seen him in several other Broadway shows. I was impressed watching him dance and the hard-working members of the ensemble, as they went through their multitude of costume changes. The big dance number in “Partner in Crime” was my favorite of the show; watching them leap, tap and twirl around the stage.

I even stayed around at the Stage Door to speak with AKB and Robert. I didn’t get a chance to see Carolee Carmello or Sarah Charles Lewis, but the energy at the door was great, despite the rain. I’m not sure how much longer the show will stay on Broadway, but I hope to go back at another time to see it again and I can’t wait to get a copy of the cast recording when it comes out.

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

Live Like This

Good Girl Winnie Foster

Join the Parade

Good Girl Winnie Foster (Reprise)

Top of the World

Hugo’s First Case

Story of the Tucks

My Most Beautiful Day

Join the Parade (Reprise)

Partner in Crime

Seventeen

 

Act Two:

Everything’s Golden

Seventeen (Reprise)

Time

Everything’s Golden (Reprise)

You Can’t Trust a Man

The Wheel

Story of the Man in the Yellow Suit

Everlasting

The Wheel (Reprise)

"Spring Awakening" - 09.08.15/01.16.16

Show/Venue: Spring Awakening at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre

Date: Wednesday, September 8th, 2015 @ 8pm & Saturday, January 16th, 2016 @ 2pm

Starring: Sandra Mae Frank, Austin P. McKenzie, Daniel N. Durant, Marlee Matlin (preview only), Camryn Manheim (preview only), Krysta Rodriguez, Andy Mientus, Ali Stroker, Alex Wyse

Website: http://www.springawakeningthemusical.com/

 

I first heard about Spring Awakening in was in the summer of 2007, when Tony Nominations were announced; what was this musical and why were teenagers going nuts for it? In case you haven’t heard about the show, it’s based on a German play written by Frank Wedekind in 1891. The story revolves around the sexual awakening of a group of teenagers in Germany, but the story is told through modern rock music written by Duncan Sheik (of “Barely Breathing” fame). All of this was pretty revolutionary for the time, as not many shows had dared to put modern music with a period piece storyline (i.e. Pre-Hamilton).

The workshop and the show plucked some unknown teenagers out of obscurity and made them famous in the musical theatre circles; after all, this was pre-Glee. Lea Michele, Jonathan Groff and John Gallagher Jr.,  are now household names were the three lead characters; with Gallagher Jr. taking home the Tony Award for his performance as Moritz Stiefel. I wasn’t fortunate enough to see the show in New York City, but I was super excited when the tour came to Philadelphia during my brief 10 months in the city. There, I saw the original staging from this Best Musical winner, but nothing could have prepared me for this Deaf West Theatre staging of the show.

My first experience with the Deaf West staging, in all its American Sign Language (ASL) glory, was with my best friend, Jeffrey, as we got 2-for-1 tickets during NYC GO’s Broadway Week. I gave Jeffrey a little debriefing about the story, but told him I would definitely shed a tear or two during the performance. We happened to attend a show during Previews that included closed captioning for the whole performance, which was nice, in case anyone needed a refresher on the lyrics or couldn’t understand them.

In this production, two of the three leads are played by deaf actors; Wendla Bergmann(Sandra Mae Frank) and Mortiz Stiefel (Daniel N. Durant), where Melchior Gabor is played by hearing actor, Austin P. McKenzie, who signs throughout the show. Each of the deaf actors had “voice” counterparts, who also play instruments in the band. Wendla’s voice is Katie Boeck and Moritz’s voice is Alex Boniello; who shadow their actors throughout the show and double as their character’s conscience on stage.

About five minutes before the start of the show, all of the actors appear onstage in their underwear. The audience watches them get ready for the performance and get dressed. Then, as the show begins, both Wendla’s enter the stage and Boeck passes Frank a small white cotton dress, as Frank passes Boeck her guitar through the frame of a standing mirror. As soon as the familiar notes of “Mama Who Bore Me” started I was transfixed. Wendla sings about the changes in her body, asking her mother for advice and to educate her. (In Previews, and up until the last week, Camryn Manheim played Frau Bergmann & the voice for the Adult Women, with Elizabeth Greene playing her during my second show.) Her mother is celebrating the arrival of Wendla’s sister’s baby and Wendla challenges her mother, as she is much too old to believe that children still come from the Stork. Frau Bergmann tries to tell her daughter about where babies come from, but stalls and only tells her that they come from when a woman really loves her husband, “as only she can do.” The other girls then echo Wendla’s lament in “Mama Who Bore Me (Reprise)” before the scenes shift and we see the boys in a classroom.

The boys are reciting lines in Latin, as Herr Sonnenstich (Patrick Page, also the voice for the Adult Men) quizzes them over the various phrases. It’s here that we see Moritz (Durant), napping in the back of the classroom. Of course, he is unable to recite the next line and Melchior (McKenzie) comes to his rescue. Herr Sonnenstich still ridicules Moritz in front of his classmates and even mocks his ability to speak. After class, Moritz thanks Melchior and confesses that he was up all night, haunted by a dream about a woman’s legs. He comes to Melchior for advice as to what he can to help cure him of these dreams. Melchior sings “All That’s Known” and how what he has learned in life has caused him to question history, science and his own teachers. He confesses that he’s an Athiest and doesn’t believe in God or anything. (I really loved when McKenzie would sing and sign “you watch me” at the same time, the use of ASL really punctuated the lyrics of this song.)

All of the boys get together to sing “The Bitch of Living,” as Moritz describes his night terrors/dreams about a woman’s legs. They boys lament about what they should do about these feelings that are haunting their lives. Georg (Alex Wyse) sings about his piano teacher and her breasts, Hanschen (Andy Mientus) sings about Bobby & his desires for him, and in my favorite moment, Ali Stroker wheels across the stage as one of the boys sings about his crush on Marianna Wheelan. Melchior then echoes “you watch me” while says “in sensing God is dead,” further emphasizing his Atheism and his controversial beliefs.

In the next scene, the girls are talking about their desires of boys. The topic of conversation is about how Melchior “doesn’t believe in anything” and they sing about their crushes in “My Junk.” They have begun to realize that these crushes are a part of life and share their common feelings about the boys in their town. The boys join in, referring back to their crushes in “The Bitch of Living,” Georg sings about his piano teacher, Hanschen fantasizes with a photo, with more clever use of ASL and simulating a hand job on stage; first from himself and then from various members of the girls ensemble.

At the beginning of “Touch Me,” Melchior is speaking about his escape; how he leaves the current world behind and fantasizes about a woman. The ensemble joins in as they sing about their feelings and desires; here, Moritz is overwhelmed and can’t seem to figure out how sex works. He leaves Melchior’s house abruptly, which causes Fraulein Gabor (Marlee Matlin in previews and Alexandria Wailes in my second show) to think he’s being disturbed by the books Melchior has been sharing with him, knowing nothing about the brochure Melchior has written for Moritz.

Then while gathering flowers for her mother, Wendla, finds Melchior in the woods. They have not seen in each other in years and suddenly realize that they are attracted to each other. At first, Wendla is nervous and wants to head back home; but her hormones tell her otherwise. She stays with Melchior in the woods and they sing “The Word of Your Body” as they gaze into the night and hold hands. The passages of “oh, I’m gonna be wounded, oh, I’m gonna bruise you, oh, you’re gonna be my bruise” are even more tragic and beautiful as the actors sign these words while tenderly touching each other.

Back in the town, Moritz has snuck into the Headmaster’s office and found out that he passed his midterms! Ever the poor student, he and his friends are elated he has passed, as he does not know what his father would do to him, if he were to fail at school. Overseeing this celebration, Headmaster Knochenbruch (Patrick Page) and Fraulein Knuppeldick (Camryn Manheim/Elizabeth Greene) realize that they cannot allow Moritz to pass into the next grade. They hatch a conspiracy to ensure that he will not pass onto the next grade.

The girls are running around outside playfully, when Anna (Ali Stroker) notices that one of Martha’s (Treshelle Edmond) braids is coming undone. Martha panics and the girls tease her about how her father makes her wear her braids all the time. A light-hearted moment suddenly turns dark, as Martha reveals that her father beats her, almost nightly. She shows them her right arm, filled with welts and scars from where his belt and belt buckle have hit her. The girls rally around Martha, but also realize in this time, there’s not much they can do. They speak about their friend, Ilse, who went through a similar situation in her own family and has now been banished. In “The Dark I Know Well,” Martha and Ilse reveal how they were abused by their own family members and why they never talk about what happened. Here, Kathryn Gallagher, is the voice of Martha and also accompanies her on guitar.

After witnessing Martha’s bruises and welts, Wendla longs to feel something, anything. She corners Melchior in the woods and begs him to beat her with a switch she found in the woods. Melchior hesitates, but gives in and quickly becomes dominate over Wendla, hitting her with force and yelling demeaning things at her. Just as quickly he realizes he has gone too far and abandons Wendla in the woods, as she is keeled over, crying.   

The final exams have come and gone and Moritz realizes that his father cannot face the shame that comes with his son’s failure. In this production, Moritz’s father is played by another deaf actor, Russell Harvard, who uses his own voice to express his extreme disappointment with Durant’s Moritz. This aggressive interaction between father and son, brought tears to my eyes and in this scene, ASL was used and their words were projected onto a screen at the back of the stage. As Moritz flees, he writes to Melchior’s mother for advice and for money to flee to America. Frau Gabor lets him know that she will fully support him, but cannot give him the money. Through “And Then There Were None,” Moritz expresses his woes and we learn that he is having thoughts of suicide. Frau Gabor tries to comfort him and to offer her services to write a letter to Moritz’s parents, but it’s too late. Moritz’s has found his father’s gun and his voice counterpart has already concealed it in his jacket pocket.

In one of my favorite numbers from the original show, “The Mirror-Blue Night,” features Melchior in a hayloft; singing about the stage in life between childhood and becoming an adult. The ensemble put on gloves with light up tips, to help emphasize the ASL and also the movement of the stars in the sky. The lights dance around the stage as Melchior stands on top of several hay bales, thinking to himself when Wendla appears. Melchior is startled, but happy to see Wendla and he convinces her to stay in the hayloft with him. In a tender moment, they kiss and Wendla starts to acknowledge the sensations in her body. During “I Believe,” Melchior and Wendla make love on the hay bales as Act One comes to a close. However, Wendla still has no idea that what is happening could result in a baby.

At the top of Act Two, Melchior and Wendla, are meeting again during “The Guilty Ones.” They walk, blindfolded, across rows of chairs and meet in the middle of the stage. Here, they kiss and continue to get to know each other’s bodies. Melchior sings about his feelings towards Wendla, as he has more knowledge of his own sexuality and begins to feel a twinge of that guilt.

Having revealed his failure, Moritz has been kicked out of his home and is wandering through the woods, where he intends to use his father’s gun to kill himself (“Don’t Do Sadness”). He’s just about to pull the trigger, when Ilse (Krysta Rodriguez); who has also been kicked out of her home and is now living in an artists’ colony, surprises him. He loses the gun on the ground and Ilse tries to help him look, even though he doesn’t reveal what he is trying to find. As they talk, they reminisce about their childhood and how they used to play with Melchior and Wendla (“Blue Wind”). Ilse tries to get Mortiz to walk her home, but he refuses. After Ilse leaves him all alone, Moritz finds and raises the gun to his chin and pulls the trigger; lights come up on the stage and Ilse reappears. It’s then that she discovers Moritz’s body and Rodriguez emits a silent scream that broke my heart in both performances.

The next scene is Moritz’s funeral; some of the boys bring in the casket as family and friends come to pay their respects “Left Behind.” Watching Harvard emit silent sobs as he realizes his son is gone and he shouldn’t have come down so hard on him, also brought tears to my eyes. After the funeral, Headmaster Knochenbroch and Fraulein Knuppeldick do not want Moritz’s suicide pinned on the school and they begin to look for someone to place the blame on. Shortly thereafter that they find Melchior’s brochure and realize they have found the perfect subject. As Melchior tries to find a way out of the situation, he realizes that he’s “Totally Fucked.” The ensemble joins in on this number as the boys and girls talk about what it’s like when the adults in your life ruin everything.

In another part of the town, Hanschen is with another schoolmate, Ernst. Rather timid, Ernst is telling Hanschen that he wants to become a priest after graduation. It’s here that Mientus is at his most brilliant, as he seduces Ernst in “The Word of Your Body (Reprise)” with a sly smile and conniving glance. After several passionate kisses, Ernst realizes that maybe being a priest isn’t the best idea, as he realizes that he loves Hanschen.

Back at Wendla’s home, a doctor has been called, as Wendla has fallen ill and her mother is concerned. The doctor diagnoses her with anemia, but pulls Frau Bergmann aside to say that young Wendla is pregnant. Frau Bergmann is shocked and upset, as she cannot believe her daughter was even old enough to know what is going on. Frau Bergmann wants a confession of who the boy is who “did this to you!” and Wendla reveals that it was Melchior. Frau Bergmann slaps Wendla across the face as Frank screams “why didn’t you tell me everything!” Wendla then contemplates her situation in “Whispering” and writes Melchior a letter to inform him about their baby.

In the meantime, Melchior has been sent to a reformatory; against his mother’s wishes. Here, the boys in the reformatory taunt Melchior as the goody-goody, until they read Wendla’s letter aloud and learn of her pregnancy.

In the shadows, Frau Bergmann is meeting with a woman who will help her daughter with a “procedure,” most likely an abortion. Wendla does not know what’s going on, as she is dragged off stage by men in white suits. Her screams of “Mama” made me cry for at least the fifth time during the show.

Ilse has then delivered a letter to the girls from Melchior, intended for Wendla. In it he writes that he will meet her in the cemetery behind the church, so they can run away and be together. It’s here that we realize that Wendla did not make it out of the “procedure” alive. That night, at midnight, Melchior runs into the cemetery to meet Wendla and stumbles upon Moritz’s grave. He remembers all the good times with his friend and vows that the adults will not ruin his life, like they did his friends. While waiting, he finds a fresh grave and dusts off the dirt to read the inscription. He then reads “Wendla Bergmann” and “anemia” as her cause of death. Overcome with grief, Melchior wants to kills himself, but at this moment, the ghost of Moritz appears (“Those You’ve Known”) and encourages him to go on. He’s then followed by Wendla’s ghost who speaks the same. Melchior then resolves to carry on with his life in their memory.

As Act Two winds down, Ilse returns to sing “The Song of Purple Summer” and how the adults in the world will not keep them down. The world will continue to progress and the children will continue to ask questions and gain knowledge. The back of the stage opens up to heaven, and each character, dressed down in their underwear, walks through the arch into the trees. In a tender moment, Mientus picks up Stroker to carry her into the sunset.

I was very fortunate to see this staging of Spring Awakening twice during its limited Broadway run and I was very glad that I did. Seeing the show twice, I was able to sit in the front Mezzanine during previews and experience the show with my best friend and then see the show from the sixth row in Orchestra on my own and really get a chance to watch the actor’s expressions and signing.

I was very impressed by Austin P. McKenzie who played Melchior in a role that Jonathan Groff made so iconic. As a hearing actor, he studied American Sign Language and was able to help bridge the gap between the hearing and deaf actors during the show; very similar to how Melchior anchors the storylines together.

As Moritz and Wendla, Daniel N. Durant and Sandra Mae Frank, made me a fan immediately. Even without speaking, their faces and signing emoted all the feelings of their characters. Their voice counterparts of Alex Boniello and Katie Boeck, were just as stunning, being able to interact and perform in their roles and play the guitar. I would say that this was the only time that I found the voice counterparts for the deaf actors a bit strange; because Boeck stands just aside of Frank during the sex scene. There was something a bit awkward about that situation.

My first experience seeing Krysta Rodriguez was in SMASH and as the fierce Ana, she became one of my favorites in that series. Then, I had the opportunity to see her twice in First Date with Zachary Levi, but I was blown away by her singing and performance in this role. Having just recovered from chemo for breast cancer, her hair was kept short for the role of Ilse, which made it all the more impactful. I’ll never forget that silent scream!

SMASH was also my first experience with Andy Mientus and I was excited to finally see him in a live performance. I’m so glad that he and his partner, Michael Arden, were able to bring this story to Broadway. His portrayal of Hanschen was a bit evil, cunning and sly. Everything Hanschen is and needed to be. Of course, he’s immediately a scene stealer with his on-stage masturbation & make out scene with Ernst on the top of a piano. I also can’t forget his Instagram posts of bleaching his hair to get the almost white-blond hair that Hanschen needed to have.

I also enjoyed Alex Wyse’s performance as George. After seeing him in Bare, a few years back, I was excited to see that he was going to be in this show. He easily brought a little more camp and fun to the role,  which was played by Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect) in the Original Broadway Cast.

I walked away as a fan of many of the actors in this show and hope that this will not be the last Deaf West Theatre production that makes it to the East Coast. I learned quite a bit from the show and really appreciated the way the deaf and hearing actors were paired up. The production team also made great use of video projection when the hearing actors were speaking, but could not sign and when the deaf actors were signing, but could not speak. The text and fonts changed for each character, but the same chalkboard writing was projected onto the back of the stage, so all audience members could still understand what was going on in the performance.

Spring Awakening continues to be one of my favorite musicals and I hope that someday, it will be revived again for more generations to enjoy. For now, I can look forward to a discussion panel with some of the cast and crew at BroadwayCon at the end of January in NYC!

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

Mama Who Bore Me

Mama Who Bore Me (Reprise)

All That’s Known

The Bitch of Living

My Junk

Touch Me

The Word of Your Body

The Dark I Know Well

And Then There Were None

The Mirror-Blue Night

I Believe

 

Act Two:

The Guilty Ones

Don’t Do Sadness

Blue Wind

Left Behind

Totally Fucked

The Word of Your Body (Reprise)

Whispering

Those You’ve Known

The Song of Purple Summe

"Allegiance" - 10.17.15

Show/Venue: Allegiance at the Longacre Theatre

Date: Saturday, October 17th, 2015 @ 2pm

Starring: George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Katie Rose Clarke, Michael K. Lee

Website: http://allegiancemusical.com/

 

After months of waiting, I was finally able to see one of my Broadway crushes, Telly Leung, in Allegiance. I had been following the show’s journey from the Old World Stages to Broadway and was hoping that he would stay attached to the show when it transferred to the Great White Way. And I lucked out! I was able to get a ticket to see the show in Previews (thanks, TodayTix) and got a front-row balcony seat for the Saturday matinee.

The show tells the story of the Kimura family, who are sent to an Internment Camp during World War II in the United States, as all Japanese-Americans were required to after the Japanese Government bombed Pearl Harbor. I found this story especially poignant, since in the American educational system, we were rarely taught about the “darker” side of the American Government during the war. I only found out about the Internment Camps, as I became fascinated by the story of Sadako Sasaki and the Thousand Paper Cranes in Elementary School. I started reading everything I could find about this subject, which was hard for my small library in Lincoln, Nebraska. This was when I first learned about the stables and barracks that Japanese-Americans were kept in during World War II.

The show opens in the early 00’s, as Sam Kimura (George Takei), is remembering his life, after his sister has passed away. Through a flasthback, we see him as a young man, played by Telly Leung (Rent, Godspell), his sister, Kei, played by the brilliant Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon, the singing voice of Jasmine in Aladdin and Mulan in Mulan) and their father, Tatsuo Kimora, played by Christopheren Nomura; enjoying the summer sunshine with their friendsfamilies.

Not too long after, their whole lives change as the Japanese Government bombs Pearl Harbor and the United States Governments sends all citizens of Japanese ancestry to various camps across the Nation. The Kimura’s are then forced to sell their farmland to a white neighbor for only $2,000 and take only what they can carry to the camp. Sammy immediately wants to enlist in the military with his friends, but they are informed that they cannot, due to their Nationality. As they arrive at the camp, they realize that they will be forced to live in old horse shelters, barns and barracks; giving up their freedom to comply with the “threat” of their allegiance to Japan vs. America.

Then the Kimura family finds themselves, including their elderly grandfather, Ojii-Chan, also played by Takei, in the Wyoming countryside, feeling imprisoned in their own Country for “their own good.” Once in the camp, everyone struggles to live their day to day lives with so many restrictions. Ojii-Chan reminds them of an old Japanese phrase, “Gaman,” meaning to have “endurance with dignity;” the Japanese will not be remembered for defiance, but for their ability to cooperate and show their loyalty to America. This song becomes the saying that will help everyone get through their tough times in the camp.

As the families settle into their barracks, there’s a cute moment where Ojii-Chan wants to hang up his wind chimes. An American soldier then warns him about putting up “Jap” things in his barrack and he takes them down. Sammy hangs up an American flag to show their loyalty to America, but when the soldier leaves, Ojii-Chan hangs up the wind chimes underneath the flag, in a small act of defiance.

Feeling much like criminals, the Japanese families are provided with little food and supplies. When Ojii-Chan gets a cough, Sammy & Kei go to the camp’s nurse to try and get some medicine. They notice that the soldiers are able to get relief, but not the prisoners. As Sammy chats with the Nurse, Hannah, played by Katie Rose Clarke (Wicked), he finds an ally and she sneaks him some cough syrup for his ailing grandfather.

In the number for “Get in the Game,” (barring any High School Musical references) the families play a game of baseball to compare their experience to what happens in a good game of America’s favorite past-time. As time passes in the camp, Kei begins to reexamine her life and how she has helped to raise her brother, Sammy, and he has so much ambition, but she has no direction in her life. She meets a young man, Frankie Suzuki (Michael K. Lee), who becomes of interest to her and becomes her confidant in the camp. It’s here that Lea Salonga gets to shine in the number, “Higher,” and I could feel the goosebumps as she hit the chords that reminded me of her voice while listening to Aladdin and Mulan throughout my childhood.

Shortly thereafter, the head of the Japanese Americans Citizens League (JACL), Mike Masaoka, played by Greg Watanabe, announces that there will be a “loyalty questionnaire” given to all individuals in the camps. Most of the questions are harmless, almost like census data, but one asks each person to show their allegiance to America or Japan. Those who mark their allegiance with America are kept in the camp or released, but those who mark their allegiance to Japan are sent to a much harsher camp; which is what happens to Kei & Sammy’s father, Tatsuo. In a tender moment, Kei struggles with what to mark on her questionnaire and Ojii-Chan folds his questionnaire into a paper flower for Kei to wear.

Masaoka continues to fight for the Japanese-Americans’ right to join the military to help show their allegiance and to fight the enemy in the war. The American Government agrees that they can serve in an “Asian Only” battalion and Sammy finally gets his wish to join. Sammy sees this as an opportunity to prove that he is an American, but the JACL has other plans. While they want to show their loyalty, their men are mostly sent into a suicide mission overseas. Back in Wyoming, Frankie opposes the draft for the Japanese-Americans and suffers for his opinions.

While Sammy is overseas, Hannah follows his journey through the news and keeps an eye out for Kei and Sammy’s family, as she promised him. She wants desperately to show Mr. Kimura that his son is doing their country proud, by fighting and leading troops into battle. While Frankie is locked up in a higher security cell for expression his dissention to the war, Kei learns that she is pregnant.

The remainder of the show goes between the camp in Wyoming, Tatsuo’s prison and Sammy overseas. As the war ends with the Americans bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki with Atomic bombs, Sammy returns home. It’s here that he finds out about Frankie and Kei’s relationship and their baby. Infuriated that Kei did not tell him about anything while he was away, they argue and he leaves, separating himself from his family, until we see him again at the end of the show.

As not to spoil some of the twists in Act Two, I won’t reveal what really led me to cry, but something about the whole Asian-American experience really pulled at my heartstrings. Growing up in the Midwest, where I was the only Asian kid in school until Middle School, really made me a bit defensive to other kids’ comments and how they would ask me things like “why are your eyes so small?” Then the fact that this part of American History was not taught to me in school, only signaled to me that my culture’s experiences in History were not important. I could empathize easily with the plight of the characters in Allegiance.

The show concludes with Sammy as an old man, played again by Takei, as he returns home to find out that his father has saved the LIFE Magazine with his portrait on the cover. It’s here that Sammy realizes his father was proud of him, after all. Even if they did not get the chance to ever express it in person.

At the end of the show, I left with another Broadway crush, Michael K. Lee, whose performance as Frankie really drew me in. Between Telly Leung’s performance, I wanted to side with him and fight for the Japanese-American’s right to fight in the war, but I also agreed with Frankie, how could someone want to support a country that imprisoned them? I also enjoyed seeing Katie Rose Clarke, who I had seen in Wicked a few years ago, and her performance role as Nurse Hannah, really showed how some people had to walk the fine line between treating the Japanese-Americans as prisoners and being regular Americans. She brought subtle emotions through in a way, so different that Glinda; where I mostly felt annoyed by her character in that show.

And of course, as a “Fansie” (fan of Newsies), I was excited to see Aaron J. Albano in the ensemble, after seeing him in Newsies, Here Lives Love and The King & I. Since he plays various roles in the ensemble, he did not have many featured roles, but got a chance to act along with Telly in several scenes.

Watching Christopheren Nomura and George Takei, was at some times like watching my Dad tell a story. As he immigrated to the United States when he was only 18-years-old, to Midwest, it was interesting to see how some of his own experiences mirrored what the Japanese-Americans had to go through; prejudice, racism, discrimination, even though he came to the U.S. almost 20 years after World War II.

Normally, I’m not one to “Stage Door” and wait for autographs, but I wanted to see Telly and of course, Lea Salonga! I was able to get signatures from both of them, Katie Rose Clarke and Christopheren Nomura, but I couldn’t catch Michael K. Lee over all the Filipino ladies shoving their way in front of me. The ladies went nuts when Lea came out, since she has been such an inspirational figure for them and recently appeared on the Philippines version of The Voice. I was able to speak to Telly for a bit, and mention that I had met him before at the Godspell Cast Album signing at Barnes & Noble a few years ago. (He thanked me for my support!)

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

San Francisco, California – 2001

Prologue

Salinas, California – 1941

Wishes on the Wind

Do Not Fight the Storm

 

Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Wyoming/Washington, DC – 1942

Gaman

What Makes a Man

I Oughta Go

Get in the Game

Should I

Allegiance

Ishi Kara Ishi

Paradise

Higher

With You

Our Time Now

 

Act Two:

Pisa, Italy/Heart Mountain/Tule Lake/Vosges Mountains, France – 1944

Resist

Allegiance (Reprise)

This Is Not Over

Higher/Resist (Reprise)

Stronger Than Before

With You (Reprise)

Heart Mountain, Wyoming/Washington, DC/San Francisco, California – 1945

Nothing in Our Way

Ietsuita

442 Victory Swing

Higher/Ishi Kara Ishi (Reprise)

How Can You Go?


San Francisco, California – 2001

What Makes a Man/Wishes on the Wind (Reprise)

"Taylor Swift: The 1989 World Tour" - 07.11.15

Show/Venue: The 1989 World Tour at MetLife Stadium

Date: Saturday, July 11th, 2015

Starring: Taylor Swift, Vance Joy, HAIM, Shawn Mendes

Website: http://www.taylorswift.com

 

I’d always been a casual Taylor Swift fan, but as her music grew progressively more pop and less country, more of my pop culture fandom developed. So, I shelled out a lot of money to get tickets to her 1989 World Tour and went along with my friend, Emily (one of the biggest Swifties that I know). We made a nice day out of it and grabbed a ZipCar, had lunch at Chili’s, stopped by Target and picked up my friends, Jonelle & Erin for the drive to New Jersey. (Yes, it’s a bit ironic as the New York State Welcome Ambassador, Tay-Tay did not have a tour date in NYC.)

 

Having only been to the old IZOD Center in East Rutherford for Watch the Throne with Jay Z and Kanye, years ago, I was not ready for the sheer size of the MetLife Stadium. We setup camp with a few of Jonelle’s friends in the parking lot for a little T. Swift tailgating before the show. (Just like the college days, we threw around a football and grilled some hot dogs & burgers.)

 

Then, Em and I went in to catch the opening acts, of which I really only knew HAIM’s music. Shawn Mendes wasn’t bad and his music was pretty catchy. The Haim sisters put on a great show, with several of their hits from their last album and their new track with Calvin Harris (Taylor’s boyfriend). I knew I must be getting old based on the crowd’s reaction to Vance Joy and I didn’t even recognize his big “hit.” Oops.

 

Finally, the lights went down & the plastic bracelets we were given upon entering the stadium started to light up; changing colors when you moved & a bit synchronized to the beats of the music. Taylor entered in an amazing, sparkly green sequined jacket, sporting her now almost-signature crop top and flippy skirt to “Welcome to New York.” Of course the crowd went wild, because even though we were in New Jersey, so many of the audience members made the trek from NYC.

 

As a dance fan, I quickly scanned her dancers to see if I recognized any of them from So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars or America’s Best Dance Crew, but didn’t. I was surprised that she only had male dancers on this tour, since it seems like most pop stars tend to have a variety for the various songs and performances. However, I really liked that she had b-boys on this tour that were able to throw some amazing tricks throughout the concert.

 

“New Romantics” was up next, and even though it was a bonus track on her album, the crowd really loved it. It had also been consistently praised by the music media as a great track, so that’s probably why she added it to the show. “Blank Space” brought out sassy Taylor with a killer black sequined jacket, as she flipped her hair and stayed everyone’s best friend by talking about her past relationships and being a women scorned. The audio team did a great job of delaying Taylor saying “Jersey” over the breakdown in the song (“Boys only want love, if it’s torture…Jersey! Don’t say I didn’t warn you…Jersey!); which was really cool and probably a chance for her to catch her breath.

 

A little remix of “I Knew You Were Trouble” was next; which kept the song a bit fresh, but made me long for the original version just a bit. Something about that dub-step beat might have mixed better with the 1989 tracks, instead of the rock version. “I Wish You Would” was up next and wasn’t one of my favorite songs until I heard her perform it live. The driving beat and drums made me really appreciate it and it somehow, creeped onto my current playlist. I guess I could say that I went through a similar experience with the next few tracks; on my playlists for July and August.

 

The crowd had already been buzzing about who Taylor’s special guest was going to be for the second night (the previous show, she had brought out The Weeknd) and some people were speculating that it might be The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. Taylor teased the crowd a little bit with “This is a person who is from Jersey. This is a person who I met when he was 15-years-old and guys, he’s definitely not 15 anymore!” I quickly figured it out and pretty much lost my shit. (In the video I have of this intro, you can hear me yell “OH MY GOD!!!”) “Give it up for Nick Jonas!” Then Nick came out and sang “Jealous” with Taylor, sporting his freshly shaved head for the second season of Kingdom, and they sounded great together! (Now, let’s be honest, I would have died more if Joe had come out, but he was probably in the crowd watching Taylor with Gigi Hadid and doesn’t have current material out to support.) They strutted down the runway, as the crowd went wild and I really enjoyed how Taylor’s voice sounded on this track with Nick. Right after Nick was done, I immediately texted all my best friends with “I HAVE NEVER SCREAMED SO LOUD IN MY LIFE!!!” Which might have been an overstatement, but it sure felt like it! This definitely beats when Joe came out to sing a Camp Rock 2 song with Demi Lovato at her show!

 

After all the Nick Jonas excitement, Taylor took it down a notch and got onto the light up runway, which then lifted and rotated over the floor audience while she sang “Clean” and “Love Story.” She was belted onto the platform, as it did rotate fairly quickly, and treated the crowd with one of Em’s favorites, “Mine” and another oldie, “Love Story.” (I kind of loved when she talked about how she wrote the song as a teenager and made it so Romeo & Juliet didn’t die, but got married. Pretty innocent and cute, which made for a great pop-country song.) Taylor really knows how to tell a great story and fill the space in between all the songs, costume changes, set changes; what a great distraction.

 

For the second night in Jersey, with “Style,” Taylor brought out some of her model friends; Karlie Kloss, Lily Aldredge, Behati Prinsloo, Gigi and a nice surprise, Uzo Aduba from Orange is the New Black, and as I know her, from Broadway’s revival of Godspell. They strutted down the runway before video footage of some of her friends talked about Taylor, interspersed with footage of her & her cats.

 

Speaking of cats, Taylor then came out in a black catsuit to rock out to a remixed version of “Bad Blood.” There was a group of girls in-front of us that had made their own band-aids with “band-aids don’t fix bullet holes” written on them, which I was a little bit jealous that I hadn’t thought of first; and they were really living for this song. The rock theme continued with an updated version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” as Taylor brought out an electric guitar and more hair flips.

 

Then going back to some slower songs, the crew brought out a really fancy piano, which Taylor described as “an alien,” and she played “Wildest Dreams” in a nude, sparkly bodysuit. This was another track that wasn’t my favorite at first, but quickly grew on me and is a great way to feel calm on a crowded L train subway ride to and from work. “Out of the Woods” featured some great video of trees and some elements from the “Style” video that seemed better suited here.

 

After a brief costume change, into a sparkly, fringed emerald crop top and pants, Taylor was back to close the show with “Shake It Off” and for everyone to dance their assess off! There was definitely a state of Taylor euphoria as we made our way back to the car, but everyone was in great spirits as various Taylor hits were being blasted from all the surrounding cars. Overall, it was a great show and I had a great time and I hardly even thought about all the money I shelled out for the tickets.

 

Musical Numbers:

1.       Welcome to NewYork

2.       New Romantics

3.       Blank Space

4.       I Knew You Were Trouble

5.       I Wish You Would

6.       How You Get the Girl

7.       I Know Places

8.       All You Had to Do Was Stay

9.       Jealous with Nick Jonas

10.   You Belong with Me

11.   Clean

12.   Love Story

13.   Style

14.   This Love

15.   Bad Blood

16.   We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

17.   Enchanted/Wildest Dreams

18.   Out of the Woods

19.   Shake It Off

"Finding Neverland" - 05.13.15

Show/Venue: Finding Neverland at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre

Date: Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 @ 2pm

Starring: Matthew Morrison, Kelsey Grammer, Laura Michelle Kelly

Website: http://www.findingneverlandthemusical.com

 

Even though Finding Neverland was almost shut out of the Tony Award nominations, I was still excited to see the show. As a big fan of So You Think You Can Dance, I couldn’t wait to see Melanie Moore, (the season 8 winner) and the choreography of Mia Michaels in this production. And as any musical theatre nerd who loved Glee, I knew it would be great to see Matthew Morrison (Mr. Schuester) in the role of J.M. Barrie.

Having never seen the movie, I had brief knowledge about the plot of the show, but knew it revolved around J.M. Barrie and how he came up with the idea for Peter Pan. Also starring Kelsey Grammer (Fraiser, Cheers, La Cage Aux Follies) as Charles Frohman, Barrie’s director and investor, the show was loaded with star power and the theatre was filled with a mix of young and old for this Wednesday matinee.

Before Barrie wrote Peter Pan, he had just opened up a new play, which critics were not enthusiastic about, but no one would tell him the truth, (“If the World Turned Upside Down”). Barrie struggled with finding inspiration and substance for a new play and his overbearing, society wife, Mary (played brilliantly by Teal Wicks), wasn’t helping his situation. Mary was stressed that so many people from London were there to see Barrie’s work and he wasn’t paying them any attention, (“All of London Is Here Tonight”).

The next day, Barrie spends some time in a local park, where he meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (the spectacular Laura Michelle Kelly), a recent widow with four young sons. Barrie is inspired by their imaginations “Believe” and their stories of pirates, (“Pirates of Kensington”) and plays with the boys, who long for some sort of male role model, since their father had passed away, (“Believe”). Barrie finds a kindred spirit in Peter, who is an aspiring writer and is so taken by the family that he invites them to his home for a fancy dinner, in celebration of his latest work. This new arrives much to Mary’s chagrin and Barrie starts to develop feelings and a much frowned upon relationship with Sylvia, (“The Dinner Party” and the very entertaining “We Own the Night”).

After the party, Mary is deeply embarrassed by Barrie’s behavior, acting like a child and letting his imagination run free in front of so many important people. Barrie retreats from his wife and continues to find more inspiration in the imaginations of the Llewelyn Davies children. It’s after the party that Sylvia’s mother warns her about how the community is viewing her relationship with Mr. Barrie and how she must take care of herself, alluding to some sort of sickness that Sylvia has been dealing with, and leaving Sylvia alone outside of her home, (“Sylvia’s Lullaby,” a stunning ballad performed by Kelly).

Barrie and Sylvia start to talk about the concept of Neverland, where you can go and never have to grow up. In the next few scenes, Barrie’s imagination runs free, [in the “Circus of Your Mind” the ensemble lights up with an intricate dance number, reminiscent of a group SYTYCD routine by Mia Michaels in Season 4 (“The Dance,” https://youtu.be/djsTqP-0CdY)] as he starts to develop more new ideas for his next work. We then see Frohman challenging Barrie to come up with a new idea and that he needs new material for the actors right away; which leads to Frohman’s transformation into Captain Hook, (“Live by the Hook”).

In the stunning Act One closer (as performed on the 2015 Tony Awards), “Stronger” showcases Morrison’s singing and performance chops, something he rarely got to do live on Glee and shows why the producers may have cast him in this role over Jeremy Jordan (who played Barrie in the out of town tryout and will always be one of my favorite Broadway crushes). Here, Barrie, with a cast of pirates, shows how this struggle has made him stronger and how he will move forward in work and life, culminating in a large production number with a plank, a bench (one of Michaels’ favorite props) and several rope ladders. I left Act One with chills and couldn’t wait to see how “Peter Pan” was going to develop in Act Two.

At the start of Act Two, Frohman’s actors are struggling to understand Barrie’s work and what this story about the boy who never grew up really has to say. Barrie and Sylvia’s relationship continues to develop, (“What You Mean to Me”), as Barrie’s home life with Mary falls apart. In the meantime, Peter is working hard to write his own play to share with Barrie, with his siblings as the actors. Following their first performance, Sylvia’s condition worsens and Barrie has a heartfelt talk with Peter, (“When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground”), and what is going on with his mother.

Finally, Barrie’s Peter Pan is ready for its opening night, but Sylvia is in no condition to attend. The actors head off to Opening Night without her and the show is a huge success. There’s even a nod to Grammer’s television days as one of the actors asks him if they “say ‘cheers!’ where [he’s] from!” At the conclusion of the performance, the cast brings the show to Sylvia’s home, so she and her children can enjoy the work that their lives and imaginations have inspired. The energy is electric as everyone is celebrating this new work, but in the next moment, Sylvia passes.

In this tender moment, Kelly becomes engulfed in glitter and disappears, just one of those special, magical theatre moments that I can’t quite figure out, but that’s the beauty of live entertainment. Then the family reassembles after Sylvia’s passing, with Sylvia’s mother, Barrie and the boys. They will co-parent the boys and help them keep their imaginations just a lively as ever.

I left the theatre feeling rejuvenated about what you can accomplish in life with just a bit of imagination and immediately wanting to see the show again. There were so many great nuances in the production that left me baffled as to how this show didn’t receive a Best Musical nomination or even a nod for Matthew Morrison, (because Ken Wantanabe in The King & I was certainly not as powerful as Morrison), but I guess that’s up to the Tony Award voters to figure out.

I enjoyed watching Melanie Moore dance in the ensemble and bring Tinkerbell back to life, as much as I loved watching her dance with Marko Germar on SYTYCD. Her ability to draw in the audience and express emotion through her movement is always so impactful. In fact, she stopped into my work the day before I saw the show and I immediately went to help her, without fan-girling too much, and to talk about what a spectacular dancer I think she is.

The ensemble of this cast is also remarkable, as they play various roles of the Barrie household’s servant/wait staff (and have some great comedic moments), pirates in the imagination of Barrie, citizens of the city during “Believe” and even the acting troupe, each of them finds a unique was to relate to the audience, even in the overwhelming space of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, which I didn’t feel from the ensemble of Motown, which I also saw there.

I was really moved by the music, written by Gary Barlow, of the British boy band, Take That, and disappointed that the Original Broadway Cast album was almost overshadowed by the concept album, where the songs from the show were “reimagined” by a bunch of pop stars. Don’t get me wrong, I love some Nick Jonas, but his version of “Believe” and Kiesza’s version of “Stronger” can’t compare to Matthew Morrison’s version of either. At least I have the newly announced OBC recording to look forward to, so I can cry my eyes out when Laura Michelle Kelly sings.

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

1.       If the World Turned Upside Down

2.       All of London Is Here Tonight

3.       The Pirates of Kensington

4.       Believe

5.       The Dinner Party

6.       We Own the Night

7.       All That Matters

8.       The Pirates of Kensington (Reprise)

9.       Sylvia’s Lullaby

10.   Neverland

11.   Circus of Your Mind

12.   Live by the Hook

13.   Stronger

Act Two:

1.       The World Is Upside Down

2.       What You Mean to Me

3.       Play

4.       We’re All Made of Stars

5.       When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground

6.       Something About This Night

7.       Neverland (Reprise)

8.       Finale

"Something Rotten!" - 05.05.15

Show/Venue: Something Rotten!: A Very New Musical at the St. James Theatre

Date: Tuesday, March 5th, 2015 @ 7pm

Starring: Brian D’Arcy James, Christian Borle, John Cariani, Heidi Blickenstaff

Website: http://www.rottenbroadway.com

 

Honestly, the advertisements for Something Rotten!, really don’t tell the viewer anything about the show and how hilarious it is! The premise is that the Bottom Brothers, Nick (Brian D’Arcy James, SMASH, Shrek, Next to Normal) and Nigel (John Cariani, Fiddler on the Roof) are writers who are tired of being constantly overshadowed by Shakespeare (Christian Borle, SMASH, Peter and the Starcatcher, Legally Blonde) during the Renaissance. Nick is the brains of their operation and Nigel is the writer/composer.

Nick expresses his distaste for Shakespeare (“God, I Hate Shakespeare”), while Nigel idolizes him and even writes his own prose. The opening number really sets up the plot for the rivalry between Nick & Shakespeare and Nick & Nigel as the Bottom Brothers try to come up with a great new play. Shortly thereafter, Nick finds out that his wife, Bea (Heidi Blickenstaff, The Addams Family, The Little Mermaid), wants to go to work and help Nick earn money for the family (“Right Hand Man”), but Nick protests his wife being “the man” and going to work for them; he should be the one supporting them.

As the brothers disagree on their next course of action, Nick takes matters into his own hands. He “borrows” from his family savings and visits a soothsayer to try and find out what Shakespeare’s next big hit will be. In the brilliant number, “A Musical!,” the soothsayer, who happens to be named Nostradamus (Brad Oscar, Big Fish, Spamalot), describes that the next big thing in theatre will be a musical! Nostradamus makes references towards many famous musicals through dance, lyrics and concepts; which is this wonderful crowd pleasing number in the show. Nick stands by trying to believe that people would actually want to see a show where people spontaneously burst into song and dance; who would want to see a show about singing and dancing cats?

Nick goes back to his troupe and tries to develop a musical around the plague, called “The Black Death” and has not convinced anyone that this is a concept that will help them gain popularity over Shakespeare. In the meantime, Nick finds out that Bea has been pretending to be a man to find work to provide money for their family and is pregnant. This only gives him more motivation to provide for his family and really come up with a great concept, as “The Black Death” isn’t going to work.

Nigel thinks that he & Nick should continue with their own writing and takes a moment to distance himself from his brother. At this time, he runs into Portia (Kate Reinders, Wicked, Gypsy), the daughter of a Puritan priest, Brother Jeremiah (Brooks Ashmanskas, Bullets Over Broadway), who denounces the theatre and the works of Shakespeare and the Bottom Brothers. Portia secretly finds Shakespeare dreamy and falls quickly for Nigel, as he recites his own poetry to her in the park (“I Love the Way”).

In a nod to Shakespeare in the Park, a crowd gathers to see the famous Bard in a great rock and roll influenced number, “Will Power” which plays up Shakespeare’s celebrity. Realizing that even Nigel is in awe of Shakespeare, Nick visits Nostradamus again to find out more about what Shakespeare could be up to. It’s revealed that Shakespeare’s biggest hit will be a play about…omelets. Nostradamus also has a vision that Shakespeare’s hit will be about a Danish, but leaving out the part about a Prince. Connecting Danish with the omelet theme, Nick believes he has all the information he needs and sets out to create a musical about eggs and breakfast.

What follows is the Act One Finale, an entertaining tap dance number to “This Bottoms’ Gonna Be on Top,” as Nick and Will have a face-off, full of name-dropping jabs and wonderful taps & slides. It’s here that Borle & D’Arcy James go above and beyond to one up each other and show off their killer tapping skills, which I never realized they had. (I guess that there wasn’t really a great plot line for them to show off these skills on SMASH.)

Act Two opens with a reprise of “Welcome to the Renaissance” and Shakespeare lamenting about how it’s “Hard to Be the Bard” in a hilarious song about his fame and fortune and featuring Borle in some pretty tight leather pants. Some great nods to paparazzi and the celebrity life in the 1500’s are mentioned in this number, with Will’s own back-up singers & dancers. It’s during this number that Shakespeare learns that the Bottom Brothers are coming up with a new idea for a play and that Nick has set out to “best” him. Shakespeare decides he will disguise himself as a fan, Toby Belch, and go to audition for Nick’s new play.

Across town, Nick and his troupe are working on a song, “It’s Eggs!” while everyone remains skeptical about the subject of eggs and the concept of the musical. Toby makes his appearance and the troupe gladly welcomes him into the fold. He is then shocked to find out that his next big play will be about eggs!?

In the meantime, Nigel has a secret meeting with Portia, where he shares a poem about his love for her (“We See the Light”). Through his expression, Portia realizes her love for Nigel and encourages him to keep writing and to get inspired to create something great for his next work. It’s through Nigel’s newly inspired writing that Nick and Brother Jeremiah will change their opinions of him & Portia as a couple and accept them for who they are.

Still skeptical about “Omelette: The Musical”, Nigel goes to Nick to inform him that he has been working on another play. During the brothers’ fight, Toby tries to use their arguments to his advantage and steal some of Nigel’s work (“To Thine Own Self”).

The troupe then goes onto opening night of Omelette: The Musical! There are subtle nods to Hamlet throughout; as if Shakespeare really did get some of his best work from Nigel Bottom’s writing (even “to be or not to be” is included). The troupe is struggling to make the musical seem coherent and not really ridiculous, when Shakespeare reveals himself to the crowd and they are stunned! Then Shakespeare decides to sue the Bottom Brothers and takes them to court.

During the proceedings, Nick is sentenced to be beheaded, when Bea, disguised as a lawyer comes to the defense of her husband. Bea makes a deal with Shakespeare to have her family exiled to America, where they can find many new opportunities (“Finale”) and bring the concept of musicals to the New World.

Overall, I was glad that I started off my Tony Award season with this show. The songs were very clever and there were plenty of musical references for all theatre fans to appreciate. I found myself laughing at some of the more obscure references to musicals and shows, but I think that most people will love the campiness and shtick in the show. With 10 Tony Nominations, the show is sure to clean up at the Awards on Sunday! And this Broadway fan girl hopes that Christian Borle walks away with another win, as I would gladly be one of his fans, shrieking at him in the park during “Will Power!”

033.JPG

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

1.       Welcome to the Renaissance

2.       God, I Hate Shakespeare

3.       Right Hand Man

4.       God, I Hate Shakespeare (Reprise)

5.       A Musical

6.       The Black Death

7.       I Love the Way

8.       Will Power

9.       Bottom’s Gonna Be on Top

Act Two:

1.       Welcome to the Renaissance (Reprise)

2.       Hard to Be the Bard

3.       It’s Eggs!

4.       We See the Light

5.       To Thine Own Self

6.       Right Hand Man (Reprise)

7.       Something Rotten!

8.       Make an Omelette

9.       To Thine Own Self (Reprise)

10.    Finale

"Fun Home" - 05.06.15

Show/Venue: Fun Home at Circle in the Square

Date: Wednesday, March 6th, 2015 @ 2pm

Starring: Beth Malone, Michael Cerveris, Judy Kuhn, Sydney Lucas, Emily Skeggs

Website: http://www.funhomebroadway.com

 

Sometime last year, my friend, Michelle, told me about Fun Home when it was showing at the Public Theatre. I looked up the plot online and thought “a show about a funeral home and a girl’s relationship with her late father? How could that be a decent show?” I quickly regretted my decision to not see this show and was really excited to find out that it was being developed for a Broadway run. I subsequently bought Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic and devoured the material on the L train to and from work in a span of two days.

 

With 12 Tony Award nominations, the updated musical of Fun Home, is leading the pack and almost all of the lead actors and actresses have received recognition for their work in this show. Playing at the Circle in the Square Theatre, the audience gets an amazing view of show and the setup almost encourages them to see the show a few times, as every seat offers a difference perspective of the show.

Alison is played at various ages and stages of her life, which helps to establish her relationship with her father and how her own coming out awoke her to his own inner demons as a closeted gay man. The show opens with Small Alison (Sydney Lucas) as she begs her father to come and play “airplane” with her, but he would rather go through a bunch of antiques found in a neighbor’s garage (IT ALL COMES BACK). Alison’s father, Bruce (Michael Cerveris), takes a fine attention to detail and shows his daughter the finer things in life through Irish damask linen and polished silver, while she would rather play and have some human contact with her father.

The show transitions back and forth between present day Alison (Beth Malone), who is drawing her graphic novel, while narrating the story. She takes out a similar silver kettle to help her remember her childhood and for ideas of what to illustrate in her book. Going back to Small Alison, Bruce has learned that an important guest from the local historical society will be coming to their home. The Bechdel family has been living in a house that their father has painstakingly worked to restore and preserve and has become well-known in their small community of Beech Creek, PA. Their mother, Helen (Judy Kuhn), encourages the children to help her clean up the house and do what “he wants” to make everything just so for their important guest (WELCOME TO OUR HOUSE ON MAPLE AVENUE).

Then going to Middle Alison (Emily Skeggs), who has just started college at Oberlin and is still drawing, despite her father’s wishes, we start to see how her life is developing. It’s in college that Alison begins to realize that she might be gay. She finds some books that help her understand what she’s feeling and she gets the courage to attend meetings of her school’s Gay Union. It’s here that Joan (Roberta Colindrez), spots her and they start to form a friendship.

Back to Alison’s childhood, as Small Alison and her two brothers, Christian (Oscar Williams) and John (Zell Steele Morrow), have found creative ways to play in their old home, which is also the local funeral home (i.e. “Fun Home”) and when Bruce finds them playing in a display casket, he gets upset. This doesn’t seem to rattle the children, as they jump around and play, which turns into their own song and dance number/commercial for the Bechdel Fun Home (COME TO THE FUN HOME).

We start to see some of Bruce’s indiscretions, as Helen plays the piano (HELEN’S ETUDE), Bruce invites one of his former students, Roy (Joel Perez), into another room for a drink. Bruce and Roy flirt with one another, both wanting more, but also with a twinge of knowing what they want to do is “wrong.” At college, Middle Alison expresses her feelings through letters to her parents and how things are going for her while away at college. She deliberately hides her newest revelation for the time being.

Then there’s a glimpse into Small Alison’s world as she struggles with her father’s wishes to wear a dress and how she wants to wear jeans and a t-shirt. The back and forth between the two, as Alison points out Bruce is wearing a pink shirt and it’s “a girl color” and he bullies her into not being “the only girl there not wearing a dress” (PARTY DRESS).

Back to Middle Alison as she explains to Joan how she realized that she was gay. Joan asks Alison questions about how she came out, which she does to for the first time to Joan. Joan encourages Alison to come out to her parents and she does, by writing them a letter. Alison and Joan kiss, which leads to Alison’s first lesbian experience and inspires her to “leap out of the closet” (CHANGING MY MAJOR).

Over the next few scenes, we see more of Alison’s relationship with her father. Small Alison is working on a project of all the places that her family has been. She shows her dad a drawing including their home, places that he has visited, where other family members are and a few other creative illustrations. Bruce reacts with frustration, as he wants to show her the “right” way to draw the surrounding nature scenes, including how to properly shade the drawing for depth. They get into a yelling match, as Helen tries to encourage Bruce to just let Alison be a child and draw however she wants (MAPS). Alison then sings about drawing her childhood and a map of where she grew up and how it relates to her current development of her graphic novel.

In Middle Alison’s flashback, she writes her parents another letter. She hasn’t heard from them since she came out and wonders what they are thinking about her. Which leads into Small Alison watching television, as Bruce enters and snaps off the TV show, saying she should read a book instead of wasting her time with the television. All Alison wants is to have a normal, fun family, like the one that she sees on the TV and not the one she is stuck with, as her parents are fighting, again. Then Roy, Middle Alison and Joan appear in costumes similar to the ones worn by the Osmond Family on TV and they sing just like on the show (RAINCOAT OF LOVE).

Then, Small Alison, Christian and John with their father on a trip to New York City, where he leaves in the middle of the night to “get a newspaper” and Alison realizes that he was probably out cruising in the city. How could she have been so blind to what was going on? Bruce tries to make an exit, but is caught by Small Alison and he then offers to sing to her, so she can sleep (PONY GIRL).

Middle Alison gets a letter from her father, where he first addresses his stressful time at work, with long hours at the funeral home. Alison’s coming out is almost mentioned as an afterthought, as he thinks she’s going through her “experimental” phase and alludes to his own discretions. Bruce then tells Alison that her mother is taking the news harder than expected. Alison realizes that maybe she and her father are not alike at all; he can’t seem to open up his mind to understand his gay daughter.

Next, Small Alison is at the local diner with her father, when she sees a butch female for the first time and strangely identifies with her (the brilliant, RING OF KEYS). She describes seeing this woman with her “swagger,” dressed in men’s clothing and so sure of who she is; she was everything Small Alison wanted to be and couldn’t be. Perhaps this is when she starts to realize that it’s ok to be different and not like all the other girls at school.

Finally, Middle Alison hears from her parents. Through this interaction, her mother reveals that Bruce has been having gay relationships for years. The realization that she might be more like her father than she ever thought sends Alison into a tailspin. Joan is there to support Alison, as the audience gets a snapshot into how her family’s life is imploding at home. Bruce seems to be falling apart with Alison’s revelation and things that he cannot control.

Middle Alison brings Joan back to her home to meet her parents. Joan goes off to rest in the house and Alison is left along with her mother. It’s during this time that Helen tells her daughter more about Bruce’s relationships (the beautiful, DAYS AND DAYS). Helen reveals Bruce’s relationships with a lover in Europe, underage boys; giving them alcohol, having to see a psychiatrist and avoiding jail time.

Middle Alison becomes present day Alison, as she goes for a drive with her father, where she tries to work up the courage to discuss what they now have in common (TELEPHONE WIRE). Bruce brings up the idea of going to a “seedy club,” where no doubt, he has been several times, but he’s forgotten that his daughter isn’t old enough to go. Alison tries to find the right opportunity to talk to him; to ask all the questions that she wants to, but it hangs over her like a storm cloud. Bruce goes off into his own thoughts, as he remembers a boy from college that he “messed around” with. In this moment, Alison shares her thoughts too, but he doesn’t hear them, they were just wishes and thoughts. The drive with her father is over before she gets the chance to ask and this was the last time she really interacted with her dad.

A few weeks later, Bruce is killed when he is hit by a truck near another old house that he is restoring. It is ruled as an accident, but Alison is wonders if it was a suicide. After all, she was able to live her life out and accepted, while it wasn’t something that Bruce could do (EDGES OF THE WORLD).

The story ends with Alison struggling to find the right caption for her book and what to say in the end. She remembers working with her father in the house, teaching at the high school, working in the yard, and playing “airplane.” All three Alison’s remember parts of the story (FLYING AWAY) and their relationship with Bruce.

The shows and staging at Circle in the Square are always wonderful, as the production team has to consider every aspect of the show, when played in the round. Some of the lighting cues were a nod to the basis of the story being Bechdel’s graphic novel, as squares of neon light were projected onto the stage; Bruce and Alison told their stories as if they were in panels of the novel. The orchestra is fully visible during the show and the actors enter from various walkways around the stage; even using the stairways that the audience enters through to come onto the stage. Due to this careful staging, you really feel like you are a part of the show and even watching the other audience members react, becomes a part of your experience. I noticed that after a particular scene touched me, that I was looking directly across at other audience members to see if they were having a similar reaction.

I really enjoyed Sydney Lucas’ performance as Small Alison and the scene stealing Zell Steele Morrow as her younger brother, John, during “Come to the Fun Home.” Lucas does a great job portraying young Alison’s struggle with her own sexual identity, even when she didn’t know it fully at the time. The way she talks about wanting to wear “boy shirts and pants” along with the refusal to wear her barrette and how she longs for a crewcut, all add subtle cues to her inner struggle and relationship with her father.

As Middle Alison, Emily Skeggs does a wonderful job of portraying Alison’s awkward phase and how her relationship with Joan really encouraged her to come out to her parents. Skeggs shows a more vulnerable side of Alison, how her realization that she and her father were more alike that she could ever know and the burden of thinking her own coming out story could have been the thing that ended her father’s life.

As Bruce and Helen, Michael Cerveris and Judy Kuhn, have earned well-deserved Tony Nominations for their roles. Cerveris is on point through all of the OCD-tendencies of Bruce and how his own insecurities have lead him to fight with Alison to wear a dress and to color inside the lines for her school project. Kuhn gives a wonderfully nuanced performance as Helen struggles with Alison’s homosexuality and reveals her husband’s secrets to her only daughter through a passionate and touching ballad, “Days and Days,” which only made me wish I had brought a pack of Kleenex to the show.

As present day Alison, Beth Malone, gives an astonishing performance as the story’s narrator. Malone is on stage for the entire show and gives the audience “captions” for her graphic novel, as the story flashes back to her childhood and college days, establishing the plot and diving into the father-daughter relationship thread that weaves throughout the story. Malone gets a wonderful song, “Telephone Wire,” as she remembers trying to talk about being gay with her father and it quickly became one of my favorite songs in the show. Although no resolution is reached between Alison and her father, Malone does a great job of taking the audience along on Alison’s journey.

“Fun Home” will easily be my favorite musical of the 2015-2016 Broadway Season. I can’t wait to come back and see it again and experience the show from another different perspective. It will also be interesting to see how the show evolves as the younger cast members will eventually age out of their respective roles. I’m not sure how an actress could follow Lucas’ performance, who has been in the show since the Public Theatre staging, but no matter what Lucas can know she was a part of something special and has already established a great career for herself. So, if you’re looking for a moving, beautiful and passionate show to see this season, definitely make Fun Home your first choice.

Musical Numbers:

1.       IT ALL COMES BACK (OPENING)

2.       “Sometimes my father appeared to enjoy having children…”

3.       WELCOME TO OUR HOUSE ON MAPLE AVENUE

4.       NOT TOO BAD

5.       “Just had a good talk with Dad..”

6.       COME TO THE FUN HOME

7.       HELENE’S ETUDE

8.       “Thanks for the care package…”

9.       PARTY DRESS

10.   CHANGING MY MAJOR

11.   “I leapt out of the closet…”

12.   MAPS

13.   “Read a book…”

14.   RAINCOAT OF LOVE

15.   “Clueless in New York…”

16.   PONY GIRL

17.   “A flair for the dramatic…”

18.   RING OF KEYS

19.   “Let me introduce you to my gay dad…”

20.   “Shortly after we were married…”

21.   DAYS AND DAYS

22.   “You ready to go for that drive?...”

23.   TELEPHONE WIRE

24.   “It was great to have you home…”

25.   EDGES OF THE WORLD

26.   “This is what I have of you…”

27.   FLYING AWAY (FINALE)

"The King & I" - 04.24.15

Show/Venue: The King & I at the Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center Theater

Date: Friday, April 24th, 2015 @ 8pm

Starring: Kelli O’Hara, Ken Watanabe, Ruthie Ann Miles, Ashley Park, Conrad Ricamora, Cole Horibe

Website: http://www.lct.org/shows/king-and-i/

 

Whenever my Dad comes to visit me in NYC, we go to see a Broadway show. This time I let him choose from the list of shows I had wanted to see, so he picked out The King & I. I don’t know how I had never seen this show in any earlier incarnation, so I had to look up the plot lines and history on Wikipedia. However, Dad was already familiar with the show from seeing a version on TV several years ago. For once, he was really excited about seeing the show vs. Once, where he fell asleep before Steve Kazee even started singing, and even agreed to getting a little bit dressed up to attend.

Some of the tunes were familiar (“Getting to Know You,” “Shall We Dance?”), but I had gotten to know them out of context of this show. Mostly, I was excited to see Kelli O’Hara perform in any capacity, since she is extraordinary and always a delight to watch. I was also excited to see Conrad Ricamora again & to finally see Ruthie Ann Miles in person, as I had only seen Jaygee Macapugay in Here Lies Love.

Written by Rodgers & Hammerstein, the show follows Anna Leonowens (Kelli O’Hara; Bridges of Madison  County, Nice Work if You Can Get It, South Pacific), a British woman who is hired by the Siamese King (Ken Watanabe, The Last Samuari) to help teach the Royal Children. She comes to Siam with her young son, Louis (Jake Lucas of Newsies fame) and with a healthy bit of fear; How will she fit in? What will the children be like? How will they adjust to Siam?

Upon arrival, Anna is unlike any woman that the King has met; she is strong-willed and spends a bit of Act One telling the King that she needs him to uphold his part of their contract. In this contract, the King promised Anna that she would have her own house, adjacent to the Palace, but he has kept her under his watchful eye in the Palace for months.

Anna is introduced to Lady Thiang (Ruthie Ann Miles), the King’s “first wife,” and they learn how to work together for the good of all the Royal Children & the King’s many wives. In “The March of the Siamese Children,” each of the Royal Children and their respective mothers are introduced to Anna and she is delighted to get to know each of them.

As a peace offering from Burma, a young man, Lun Tha (Conrad Ricamora, Here Lies Love, How to Get Away With Murder), with business in Siam, brings a young woman, Tuptim (Ashley Park, Mamma Mia!) to be one of the King’s slaves and potential wives. Sadly, Tuptim is in love with Lun Tha and must hide her true feelings  from the King. However, the King can already sense her detachment and cannot understand why a girl would not want to live in the Palace and be loved by him.

Anna starts to educate the Royal Children and the King’s many wives. She teaches them of things like the world being round and how snow and ice are formed. Tuptiim also reveals that she knows English and is writing a play based on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which further isolates her from the King. The King does not approve of how much Tuptim knows and how she is strong-willed with a mind of her own, much like Anna. As Anna continues her education of the Royal Children and their Mothers, the King starts to realize how much he does not know, as he educates his oldest son, Chualongkorn (Jon Viktor Corpuz, in his LCT/Broadway Debut). The King explains that sometimes even as the King, you cannot know everything, but it is important to never show this to your subjects.

As the political state of Siam begins to change and the King is described as a “barbarian” in the English news, Anna does her best to restore the goodwill between Siam and England. She helps arrange a visit from Sir Edward Ramsey (Edward Baker-Duly, Peter and the Starcatcher), who is also one of her old friends. During this meeting, Tuptim will present her play of “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” and then plan her escape from Siam with Lun Tha. Before the performance, the King sees Anna dancing with Sir Edward and becomes a bit jealous. He then requests that Anna dances with him like she did with Sir Edward. It’s during this dance that their love for one another begins to show.

After the performance of Tuptim’s play, the Royal Guards learn that Tuptim has escaped from their watch and they go on a hunt to find her and her lover, Lun Tha. Tuptim is found and brought to the Palace for punishment, to which Anna quickly rushes to Tuptim’s defense. After seeing the King’s display of abuse towards Tuptim, she decides that she & Louis must leave Siam, the King and his family for good. Tuptim then learns that Lun Tha has been killed and expresses that she has nothing else to live for, but the Kingdom has not heard the last from her.

Shortly thereafter, the King’s health starts to deteriorate and he calls his son to his room, as he is the next in line for the throne. As Anna and Louis are preparing to leave, she learns of his sickness and quickly leaves her departing ship to be at the King’s side. Once she is at the Palace, the King requests that Prince Chulalongkorn explain how he would rule Siam when he is King. Much to the King’s surprise, Chulalongkorn  proclaims that there will be no more bowing to the King, women will not be as subserviant and other more modern principles. Lady Thiang beams with pride at her son’s proclamations, as new politics will start in Siam. Anna takes down these notes from the Prince, as the King slowly passes.

As always, Kelli O’Hara was stellar in the role of Anna. After seeing her in The Bridges of Madison County, last year, I was very impressed with her ability to create an authentic English accent, after portraying an Irish woman in the fields of Iowa in Bridges. She fell into the role with ease and was completely believable in every moment of her performance.

After the show had started, I kept my eyes peeled for Conrad Ricamora. When I saw Here Lies Love at the Public Theatre on New Year’s Eve, he immediately became one of my Broadway crushes. (I even binge watched all the available episodes of How to Get Away With Murder, just to see him and subsequently got hooked on the show.) He gets his first song in the middle of Act One, “We Kiss in a Shadow,” with Ashley Park and the goosebumps started. The passion in his voice filled the theatre and you could feel their pain, as their forbidden love is declared in secrecy from the King and the Palace. Even though they both get their chances to shine in this duet, Ashley Park’s voice in “My Lord and Master” was crystal clear and wonderful, as she sings about the King and how she must be enslaved to him.

I was slightly disappointed in Ken Watanabe’s LCT and Broadway debut as the King. Although he wasn’t as bad as Russell Crowe in the movie version of Les Miserables, his voice was not up to the caliber I thought a Broadway actor should be; but at least he was an Asian actor in the role of the King (as many King’s in previous productions had been played by white actors). I had a hard time understanding some of his lines, which could have been to his own accent, his affected accent in his role and the fact that he does not have Broadway vocal training. His vocal performance was not quite cringe worthy, but it didn’t blow me away. He did have chemistry with Kelli O’Hara, but it was still difficult to believe his love for Anna, based on his diction and enunciation throughout his performance.

My next fangirl moment came during Tuptim’s play with Cole Horibe playing Buddha in the story. I first became a fan of Cole, because of his sister, Cara, who was in the Fanny Pak crew on America’s Best Dance Crew and then when I saw his own dancing in Season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance, where he combined his own martial arts skills with modern and hip-hop influenced dance; (you bet I voted for him every week on SYTYCD!). Then, a few years ago, I saw him in the Signature Theatre’s production of Kung Fu, where he played Bruce Lee, and although I wasn’t impressed with his faux Chinese accent, I did enjoy his performance. Here, he does not have any solos, but it was still a pleasure to watch his dancing and to see a familiar face on the stage.

I may have never seen Ruthie Ann Miles as Imelda Marcos in Here Lies Love, but I felt like I knew her from listening to her voice on the cast recording so much. As I Tweeted my excitement for the show, she replied to me and expressed that she hoped I would stop by the Stage Door after the show. I kept imagining her as Imelda, even as she was clearly Lady Thiang. Ruthie Ann was excellent in this role, showing poise and balance as the “first wife,” through keeping Tuptim and Lun Tha’s romance a secret from her husband and raising her son to be the next King of Siam.

Another bright spot was the performance of all the children and how they interacted with Kelli O’Hara. They were adorable and even made me tear up a little when they gathered around Anna to express their love and to beg her not to leave the Palace. Additionally, the vivid and extravagant costumes, especially Anna’s dresses, added so much to the production. I’m not much of a “dress girl,” but I definitely felt like putting on a ball gown after watching the way O’Hara moved around in her hoop skirts!

The movement and choreography by Christopher Gattelli in the show was superb! I may be a bit biased though, as I loved his work in Newsies and I could see his influence in some of the larger group dance numbers. My only disappointment was that there was not as much ballet in the portion of Tuptim’s play, which was an iconic dance number from some of the previous productions.

I was also impressed by the prop work, as the beginning of the show starts with Anna and Louis’ arrival on a boat that takes up the whole stage. Before the opening number, the audience is able to see the Orchestra in their pit, below the stage. As the first number starts, the boat comes out over the pit, with the stage completely covering the Orchestra and the people of Siam enter to welcome Anna. Additionally, the nuances of the King’s Palace and the moving set pieces were a joy to watch and see how each scene was changed through the use of fabric to create various natural elements.

After the show, I convinced my Dad to stand at the Stage Door with me, even though it was almost 11pm and he’d been up since 5am, traveling and exploring the city with me all day. I patiently waited at the Stage Door with some other fans and watched as the various cast members emerged. Some scuttled out quickly after the show, so I missed an opportunity to speak to Ashley Park. However, as soon as Conrad emerged, I called out his name and got an autograph and a sort of stealthy photo, as he signed another fan’s Playbill. Eventually, Ruthie Ann emerged, so as I went to say hello, Dad grabbed a photo of her signing my Playbill and she thanked me for coming as I gushed about Here Lies Love to her and thanked her for replying to my Tweet. Overall, I was happy with my experience, but I kind of wish Ken Watanabe would have been stronger in the role of the King.

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

1.       Overture

2.       I Whistle a Happy Tune

3.       My Lord and Master

4.       Hello, Young Lovers

5.       The March of Siamese Children

6.       A Puzzlement

7.       The Royal Bangkok Academy

8.       Getting to Know You

9.       We Kiss in a Shadow

10.   A Puzzlement (Reprise)

11.   Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?

12.   Something Wonderful

13.   Finale Act I

Act Two:

1.       Western People Funny

2.       I Have Dreamed

3.       Hello, Young Lovers (Reprise)

4.       The Small House of Uncle Thomas (Ballet)

5.       Song of the King

6.       Shall We Dance?

7.       I Whistle a Happy Tune (Reprise) 

"It Shoulda Been You" - 03.25.15

Show/Venue: It Shoulda Been You at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre

Date: Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 @ 2pm

Starring: Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, Lisa Howard, Sierra Boggess, David Burtka, Josh Grisetti

Website: http://www.itshouldabeenyou.com

When my co-worker, Christina, won free tickets to see It Shoulda Been You in previews, she asked if I would want to go; and with this cast and David Hyde Pierce’s Broadway Directorial Debut, how could I say no!? The show is opening tonight on Broadway, so I wanted to post my review of the preview that we saw, but without giving away any of the great surprises that the show has to offer.

A strong cast, Tyne Daly (“Cagney and Lacey,” Gypsy), Harriet Harris (“Desperate Housewives,” Cinderella, Thoroughly Modern Millie), Lisa Howard (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, 9 to 5, South Pacific), Sierra Boggess (The Phantom of the Opera, The Little Mermaid), David Burtka (Gypsy, “How I Met Your Mother” and Neil Patrick Harris’ husband) and Josh Grisetti (RENT) comprise the leads and the various members of a family being blended together. Even when I got the mailer about the show, I was intrigued by the cast and wanted to go see the show.

Performed without an intermission in previews, the show opens on Howard, who plays the Bride’s sister, Jenny (“I Never Wanted This”). She’s getting ready for Rebecca’s (Boggess) wedding to Brian (Burtka) and helping her mother (Daly) will all sorts of last minute issues. The wedding planner, Albert (hilariously played by Edward Hibbert), helps Jenny deal with her mother and her many changes in requests; do they keep the panini station or cancel it?

Rebecca and Brian enter after a morning jog and Jenny does her best to keep him from the sight of her mother. As everyone leaves to get prepared for the wedding, Rebecca and Jenny have a great sisterly moment (“Perfect”). As Rebecca leaves to go meet their mother, her Maid of Honor, Annie (Montego Glover from Memphis, The Color Purple) and her soon to be Mother-in-Law, Jenny starts to panic. In her panic, she  accidentally calls Marty Kaufman (Grisetti), who’s an old family friend, but also Rebecca’s ex. Grisetti in his Broadway debut role, answers Jenny’s call from one of the box seats in the theatre and then makes an amusing and winded entrance into the hotel/stage to try and stop Rebecca from getting married to Brian (“It Shoulda Been You”).  After this number, it seems like Marty is not the only one thinking that Rebecca should not marry Brian, as her whole family express their concerns.

Then we’re introduced to some of Brian’s family, as he has a lovely song & dance number with his father, George (Michael X. Martin from The Bridges of Madison County, Nice Work If You Can Get It), about growing up and how he should have been a more attentive parent. Any doubts I had about Burtka as a performer, were dispelled here, as he holds his own with Martin and dances his way into the audience’s heart, taps and all.

Daly gets a featured number as she sings about her family in “Nice,” which rolls into a number where Albert sings about all he has seen as an experienced wedding planner to his staff in “Albert’s Turn.” Then we finally meet Brian’s alcoholic mother, Georgette (Harris), who laments about how her efforts to discourage her son away from marriage and to turn him gay have not worked (“Where Did I Go Wrong”).

At what I would believe could be the end of Act One, Howard gets a show stopping number “Beautiful,” as she tells the story of growing up in the shadow of her more traditionally pretty sister and how no one ever calls her beautiful. Jenny shows how her mother’s overbearing personality has begun to take its toll on her emotionally, as she shows a vulnerable side, while getting ready to put on her bridesmaid’s dress.

Finally, the wedding ceremony takes place (“A Perfect Ending”) and the families head to the banquet hall for the reception. Here, the Best Man, Greg, (Nick Spangler from The Book of Mormon, Cinderella) and Annie serenade their best friends with “Love You Till the Day” which is equal parts hilarious and over the top in tribute to Rebecca & Brian.

What follows the wedding and banquet is a series of twists & surprises that really engages the audience and adds to their enjoyment of the whole show. Yes, there’s a happy ending, but not without a few shocks to each side of the Howard and Steinberg families.

Overall, I had a great time at the show. Even without a huge production, as the whole show takes place at the hotel, the small changes that are made in each scene really transport the audience to various places in the hotel; rooms, hallways, banquet halls, bathrooms, etc. The costume team has done a great job with the dresses and suits for all of the actors, which really make some of the surprises even  better.

Once the show opens, I hope to see it again and maybe in a box seat, so I can be next to Grisetti for his big entrance!

Musical Numbers:

1.       I Never Wanted This

2.       This Day (Opening)

3.       Perfect

4.       It Shoulda Been You

5.       Who

6.       Back in the Day

7.       Nice

8.       Albert’s Turn

9.       Where Did I Go Wrong

10.   Beautiful

11.   A Perfect Ending

12.   Love You Till the Day

13.   Jenny’s Blues

14.   Whatever

15.   A Little Bit Less Than

16.   What They Never Tell You

17.   Perfect/Whatever (Reprise)

18.   That’s Family

19.   Finale

"Gigi" - 03.21.15

Show/Venue: Gigi at the Neil Simon Theatre

Date: Saturday, March 21st, 2015 @ 8pm

Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Corey Cott, Victoria Clark

Website: http://www.gigionbroadway.com

 

Sometimes in the city, your plans fall through; so what’s better to do than to go see a show. Ever since seeing Corey Cott in Newsies, he quickly became one of my Broadway crushes, so I had been waiting to see him in Gigi. Additionally, my 2007-2008 self, in all my High School Musical fandom, was interested in seeing Vanessa Hudgens in her Broadway debut as Gigi. The TKTS Booth in Times Square always saves the day, when I want to see a last minute show and they didn’t disappoint this time; I got second row, center for the third preview show.

I had not seen the movie with Audrey Hepburn, so I sadly had to use Wikipedia to learn about the story of the show. The Neil Simon was a packed house, with a lot of HSM fans sitting around me, eagerly buzzing about Vanessa and their expectations for her performance.

The premise of Gigi, is about a young girl, Gigi (Vanessa Hudgens), growing up in Paris under the eye of her grandmother, Mamita (Victoria Clark). Mamita also has a friendship with the city’s most desired young man, Gaston (Corey Cott). In the opening of the show, Gaston is given advice by his own grandfather, Honore Lachaille (Howard McGillin), to love being in love and not to settle for one woman, because there is no need (“It’s a Bore).

We are then taken to Aunt Alicia (Dee Hoty)’s apartment, where Gigi is learning proper Parisian etiquette, which the young girl does not have the taste for. From Alicia, Gigi is instructed on the finer things in life, like jewelry and how to pour a proper cup of tea. Gigi’s patience wanes and she laments about her life in Paris and not understanding their customs (“The Parisians”).

The audience then sees that Gaston has fallen for Liane d’Exelmans (Steffanie Leigh), even with Gigi in tow. They arrive at Liane’s “singing lesson,” where it’s clear that something more is going on with Liane and her instructor. The newspapers are a buzz of Gaston’s relationship with Liane (“The Gossips”), which is more than he can take. Gaston decides to head out to Maxim’s, an exclusive nightclub, to help make his troubles disappear. To his surprise, Liane is already there with her singing instructor, which basically ends his relationship with Liane (“She Is Not Thinking Of Me”).

When Aunt Alicia and Mamita learn of Gaston’s new bachelorhood, they setup a plan to have him court Gigi. Alicia will continue Gigi’s etiquette lessons, while making sure that Gaston notices the changes in this young girl. In the meantime, Mamita and Honore reconnect and the audience learns of their love, from when they were young (“I Remember It Well”).

Back at Mamita’s apartment, Mamita, Gaston and Gigi have a little celebration and Gigi tries champagne for the first time. This leads in to the Act One Finale of “The Night They Invented Champagne,” which is a big dance number that was a lot of fun to watch, including the can-can influences and when all the female dancers leaped into splits right at the front of the stage!

When the show resumes in Act two, they are at the beach in Trouville, and Gigi is experiencing all the fun that Gaston’s money has to offer, while they enjoy a life of leisure (“I Never Want to Go Home Again”). Then, back in Paris, Aunt Alicia is plotting how to make sure that Gaston will fall for Gigi. She and Mamita begin to work on a new look for Gigi, which leaves Gaston stunned and he insults Gigi’s new dress, before realizing that he’s fallen for her and that’s really what threw him off his guard (“Gigi”).

Once Gaston has realized his feelings for Gigi, he creates a sort of pre-nup with Aunt Alicia and Mamita (“The Contract”), which is a funny number involving lawyers and Aunt Alicia securing a very rich fortune for young Gigi. However, this plan backfires, as Gigi does not want to be courted just like all of Gaston’s previous women. Gaston then works to win Gigi back and they figure out a way to be together (“In This Wide, Wide World”).

Overall, I was very impressed with Vanessa Hudgens acting and performance. All of the things that may have been annoying about her in High School Musical (the overacting, her giggle), those things worked well for her character in the show. She really made the transition from young Gigi to the young woman that Gaston falls for with ease.

But my hands down favorite part of the show was Corey Cott’s performance. Right before “The Night They Invented Champagne,” he broke character after breaking a champagne glass on stage, and he was still adorable! As soon as the glass broke, he looked directly into the audience and said “Previews!” Which everyone laughed about and the other actors quickly recovered and brought him a new “glass” to drink out of.

There was a couple next to me who were seeing Corey perform for the first time and when he was done singing “Gigi,” the woman kept exclaiming “his voice!” and she gave him a standing ovation during the curtain call, so I was not the only fan in the audience. It was easy to see why this show made the quick leap to the Broadway stage after just starting a run in Washington DC at the Kennedy Center. And I would easily recommend it to friends to go and see.

Musical Numbers:

Act One

1.       Opening

2.       It’s a Bore

3.       The Parisians

4.       A Toujours

5.       The Parisians (Reprise)

6.       The Gossips

7.       She Is Not Thinking Of Me

8.       Thank Heaven for Little Girls

9.       Paris Is Paris Again

10.   I Remember It Well

11.   The Night They Invented Champagne

Act Two

1.       I Never Want to Go Home Again

2.       Thank Heaven for Little Girls (Reprise)

3.       Gigi

4.       The Contract

5.       I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore

6.       The Letter

7.       Say a Prayer

8.       The Gossips (Reprise)

9.       In This Wide, Wide World


"Brooklynite" - 03.12.15

Show/Venue: Brooklynite at The Vineyard Theatre

Date: Thursday, March 12th, 2015 @ 8pm

Starring: Matt Doyle, Nick Cordero, Anna Harada, Nicolette Robinson

Website: http://www.vineyardtheatre.org/brooklynite/

Inspired By: http://www.superherosupplies.com/

 

I almost felt like every time I was walking through the Union Square subway station that the TMA was telling me to go see Brooklynite. I kept seeing the ads on the new interactive maps at 17th street. I know I had to get a ticket quickly, since the show had only been extended through March 29th. Little did I know how creative and brilliant this show was going to be. With a book by Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, Hedwig & the Angry Inch, American Idiot) and Peter Lerman (Modern Family), I knew that the show was going to be good.

 I found it hard to believe that I’d never seen Matt Doyle in a Broadway show until this night! (I originally started following him since he was dating Ryan Steele and I was deep in my Newsies fandom. Then I became a fan of him in his own right; through Book of Mormon and his friendship with Beth Behrs from 2 Broke Girls.) Brooklynite would be my first time seeing him live and was also another opportunity to see Ann Harada, who originated the role of Christmas Eve in Avenue Q and who is one of my Asian-American theatre role models.

Brooklynite is the story of Trey Swieskowski (Doyle), whose parents were lost in a robbery of their hardware store in Brooklyn. This is a futuristic version of Brooklyn, where after the “Gowanus Asteroid” fell it created six superheroes that protect the borough from everyday crimes. The six superheroes have various powers and have been saving Brooklyn for the past ten years. Trey longs to be a superhero, because maybe then he could have saved his parents, and wants to join the Legion of Victory. The Legion is made up of Astrolass (Nicolette Robinson, Hart of Dixie), Kid Comet (Gerard Canonico, Spring Awakening OBC, American Idiot, Bare: The Musical), El Fuego (Andrew Call, American Idiot, Rock of Ages), Blue Nixie (Grace McLean, Sleep No More), Avenging Angelo (Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway) and Captain Clear (voiced by Max Chernin).

Ann Harada plays several roles, but mainly as Professor Whitman at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, where she instruct several science students, Marcus (Max Chernin), Sunil (Nick Choski), Paula (Carla Duren, Hairspray), Herbert, (John-Michael Lyles, who looked so familiar to me and I can’t figure out why) and Mallory (Remy Zaken, Spring Awakening OBC), in hopes of winning a big science grant and gaining fame. When Trey bursts into her laboratory to try and get his proposal for Brooklynite in the running for this grant, Professor Whitman will have none of it. Determined as ever Trey finds a way to get Professor Whitman’s signature and enters the grant competition.

We learn that Astrolass is growing tired of being a superhero and when she finds about Trey’s proposal and how it will create the ability to turn himself into a superhero, she assumes a human disguise (Astrid) and a job at a research foundation to fast-track Trey’s proposal and research. Through their interaction, Astrolass/Astrid and Trey have several flirtatious interactions, as he quickly realizes her true identity, but wants to come off as a cool guy.

After Astrolass has decided to leave the Legion, the remaining members struggle to find a new leader. El Fuego & Blue Nixie try to fight off their attraction to each other; Kid Comet tries to take over the rest of the Brooklyn territory to keep all of the citizens safe, along with Captain Clear. But it’s Avenging Angelo who begins to feel left out, he has the weakest superpowers (finding empty parking spaces), and leaves the Legion to start his own new superhero group as Venge. As Act One closes, Venge has found out that Trey successfully recreated Brooklynite and enlists the students of Professor Whitman to help him steal the Brooklynite and use it to gain better superpowers.

As Act Two opens, Trey is dejected as he has lost the Brooklynite and in the process, the stone has absorbed all of Astrolass’ powers, giving her what she dreamed of, normality. Determined to regain power of the Brooklynite, Astrolass and the remaining Legion members devise a plan to try and get the stone back from Venge.

The Legion conveniently reminds Astrolass of Venge/Angelo’s crush on her and how she can use her womanly ways to try and regain the stone and learn of his plot (superhero clichés state that all good villains must divulge their plots at some points in their storyline). Venge then learns of the Legion’s plan and takes Astrolass as his prisoner and has his team of students build him an orb, which he needs so he can absorb all the powers of the Brooklynite.

Trey appears to save Astrolass with help from the Legion and comes up with a way to convince Venge to let him get into the orb together. However, when the explosion hits, the powers are dispersed to all of the students, outside of the orb, leaving Trey & Venge powerless.

In the near future, Trey turns his parents’ shop into a Superhero Supply store (The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store: http://www.superherosupplies.com/ - which inspired this show), and wins his girl. Trey is content helping supply materials to all of Brooklyn’s new superheroes and does so with Astrolass along his side.

I was awed by the number of OBC members from Spring Awakening in the show, but with their connection to Michael Mayer, I’m sure it was easy to recruit & cast them. There was an air of familiarity to me with almost the whole cast, since I saw American Idiot several times and I had the privilege of seeing Nick Codero in his Tony Nominated role in Bullets Over Broadway last year. Even the supporting players, like Carla Duren, John-Michael Lyles, Max Chernin, Remy Zaken and Nick Chokski had their great moments to shine. Each of them had a reoccurring gag or prop that helped them relate to the audience and kept the story moving (Poor Herbert!).

I also enjoyed the choreography/movement in the show and recognized some of Steven Hoggett’s work from other shows of his that I have seen, like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, The Last Ship, The Glass Menagerie, Rocky, American Idiot and Peter and the Starcatcher. There were no “big musical numbers,” but the movement was subtle and moving to perfectly fit with Lerman’s score and Mayer’s story.

I have hopes that this show will get a Broadway debut in the near future, perhaps at New World Stages? Until then, I only wish I lived closer to Seattle, since Matt Doyle will be there for the next few months performing in Jasper in Deadland, but I’m sure he’ll be back to the Great White Way soon and further cement by Broadway crush. Just another reason for me to see more shows!

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

1.       Hardware Store Math

2.       Cape Action Suite

3.       Key to the City

4.       Lab Fugue

5.       The Science of Flight

6.       Tantrum

7.       They Meet

8.       Little White Lie

9.       The Plan

10.   Hello, Brooklynite

Act Two:

1.       Brooklyn Without Superheroes

2.       Strength In Numbers

3.       Z Over X

4.       I Am Not The Hero

5.       Hey There, Venge

6.       Let’s Be A Crime-Fighting Team

7.       WWAD?

8.       Showdown

9.       The Rescue Waltz

"Britney Spears: Piece of Me" - 01.30.15

Show/Venue: Piece of Me at the Axis Theatre, Planet Hollywood

Date: Friday, January 31st, 2015

Starring: Britney Spears

Website: http://www.caesars.com/planet-hollywood/shows/britney-spears-las-vegas.html

 

After much begging to my NYC friends to come with me, I finally convinced some of my college buddies to fly to Las Vegas and meet me to see Ms. Britney Spears in the first year of her Las Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood. Naturally, I chose to go in January, so I could escape the cold of NYC and sweat it out in the desert for a bit.

 

I arrived at my hotel the afternoon of the show and met up with my friends, who were coming in from San Francisco. We dropped our things at our hotel room and immediately went in search of drinks and slot machines.

 

Then we picked up all our Britney merchandise before the show (plus, the items are cheaper in the hotel shop than in the show venue). I got a program, magnet and a tank top that says “It’s Vegas, Bitch” next to a profile photo of Britney. I was busy working on my Social Media (Twitter, Instagram) and even got a response from Hannah Spears, Britney’s dog. I was encouraged to take some photos and videos of the show to share with the world and to help build buzz about the show.

 

After getting ready in our hotel room at MGM, we made the trek over to Planet Hollywood. Other fans had already arrived early and the line ran around the bar just outside of the Axis Theatre. One we were through the security and ticketing lines, we saw several of Britney’s iconic costumes on display in large Plexiglas cases; the Ringmaster from “Circus,” the stewardess from “Toxic,” her black fringed number from “Work Bitch,” the red, leather jumpsuit from “Oops!...I Did It Again,” and my favorite, her childhood outfit from her audition on Star Search.           

 

We got some drinks and found our seats. A large video screen was acting as a countdown clock until the show was going to start. I was just as excited to see Brandon Bryant, who I watched excel on So You Think You Can Dance and Sohey Sugihara, who I loved as part of the Fanny Pak Crew on America’s Best Dance Crew, clearly Britney got some great talent to support her in all of the shows.

 

The show opened with lots of pyro and Britney descended from the rafters in a big globe-shaped cage. After all that Britney’s been through over the past few years, she looked in good shape and ready to perform. Her dancers lead her down the staircase, as they break out of some of the choreography from the video to “Work Bitch.”

 

Britney then rolled right into “Womanizer” and interacted with her dancers throughout the number. Her production team then turns on her mic, so she can talk to the crowd, before clearly going back to singing with backing tracks for the rest of the show. For “3,” the dancers bring out various metal pyramids on casters, so they can dance in them and roll Britney around the stage. The dancers jump and flip from one pyramid to another and then bring out a bar, so Britney can do some more of the choreography from the “3” video.

 

Then came Britney’s first of many costume changes and the “slow” song portion of the evening. In previous shows, Britney has always sang the slower songs live, but didn’t take that chance her. At the beginning of “Everytime,” she comes down from the rafters, attached to white angel wings, as fake snow comes out into the crowd. Britney follows this up with a slightly changed, “…Baby, One More Time,” as she changes into an all-black number and the set becomes dark, with the dancers clearly influenced by the movement in a traditional Paso Doble.

 

During her next costume change, the dancers roll out wooden panels with sections that have been broken in. I knew this could only mean that one of my favorite songs, “Me Against The Music,” was up next. I was hoping Britney would wear her fedora and tie ensemble from the video, but she came out in a black baseball cap and bodysuit. She & her dancers hit some of the familiar moves from this video, before Britney walks upstage to the fans in the pit and starts “Gimme More.”

 

The next section of the show was probably my least favorite part as Britney performs “Break The Ice,” “Piece Of Me” and “Scream & Shout.” I’m not really a fan of her song with Will.I.Am and the other songs were a bit of a throwaway. Next up was “Boys,” which is one of my favorite songs from the Britney album, and this further proved that Pharrell’s beats stand the test of time. However, at this show, they changed up the arrangement and doused everyone in black-light responsible clothing, which took away from the greatness of the original song.

 

A few lesser known hits followed with “Perfume” and “Get Naked (I Got A Plan)”, before it was finally time for “I’m A Slave 4 U!” The arrangement was changed slightly and the set shifted to bondage influenced décor. I was anxiously waiting for the dance breakdown to see Britney hit the infamous Brian Friedman/Wade Robson choreography, but she only seemed to be half into it, at least the dancers were full out!

 

Sadly, we weren’t at a show where Britney pulled a celebrity on stage during “Freakshow” to be chained up and walked on a leash. (I saw on Instagram that the following night, Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s husband, Justin Mikita, was pulled up on stage.) After that came, “Do Somethin’,” which I was never really into when it first came out, and I can't remember much about this performance.

 

The next act featured “Circus” as the dancers changed into circus-themed costumes and Britney appeared amid a ring of fire. Some of the familiar moves that I remembered from her Circus Tour in Chicago, all came back as the ring of fire rotated around Britney on her own platform.

 

Then came “I Wanna Go,” where Britney & her female dancers performed in front of mirrors. However, any time I hear this song, I can’t help but think of the Bravo TV ad for “Summer by Bravo” that aired a few years ago. (I think Andy Cohen would be proud of this pop culture Pavlov’s Dog moment.)

 

Britney then closes up with show with a string of her greatest hits, “Lucky,” “Toxic,” “Stronger” and “(You Drive Me) Crazy.” The best part of this set is when the giant tree comes onto the stage during “Toxic”, and which if you watched her MTV special, you know all the tricks that had to happen so the tree could fit onto the stage and so Britney could fly off the branches and not get hit, as the tree rotates.

 

Britney executed the jump, but just in case they production team didn’t want you to watch her being unhooked from her harness, a few of her dancers are busy doing back handsprings all the way across the stage, as she gets setup. I particularly enjoyed the costumes for this portion of the show. The dancers were wearing various pieces of graphically printed neon; tiny tanks/shirts and pants for the boys and several variations of bodysuits for the girls.

 

The closing number was “Till The World Ends,” where most of the crowd was up on their feet and dancing. It was a great way to end the show with tons of neon lights and burst of confetti.

 

Overall, I had a great time at the show and Britney kept everything moving. The show was just over an hour and a half, so there was still plenty of time to head out onto The Strip to eat, drink and gamble. I just wish that Britney had hit the dance moves a little harder. I felt like she was going through the motions, but not quite there; a solid 80%. I would recommend going, because the show is great, but you should almost go for the dancers’ performances, as they are full out the whole show!

 

Musical Numbers:

1.       Work Bitch

2.       Womanizer

3.       3

4.       Everytime

5.       …Baby, One More Time

6.       Oops!...I Did It Again

7.       Me Against The Music

8.       Gimme More

9.       Break The Ice

10.   Piece Of Me

11.   Scream & Shout

12.   Boys

13.   Perfume

14.   Get Naked (I Got A Plan)

15.   I’m A Slave 4 U

16.   Freakshow

17.   Do Somethin’

18.   Circus

19.   I Wanna Go

20.   Lucky

21.   Toxic

22.   Stronger

23.   (You Drive Me) Crazy

24.   Till The World Ends

"Cabaret" - 02.03.15

Show/Venue: Cabaret at the Kit Kat Klub at Studio 54

Date: Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 @ 7pm

Starring: Alan Cumming, Emma Stone

Website: http://www.cabaretmusical.com


I finally was able to get tickets to see Emma Stone as Sally Bowles in her Broadway debut, but it wasn’t easy. Almost every performance between when I got back to NYC post-Britney Spears to when Stone leaves was sold out. Finally, I was able to get tickets for the Tuesday night show. After I seeing Michelle Williams in the role earlier last year, I was anxious to see how Emma would compare. One thing I knew for sure, Alan Cumming would be brilliant, and he was.

For this production of Cabaret, Studio 54 has been turned into the Kit Kat Klub with tables, lights and a little bit of audience participation. Cumming is reprising his Tony-Award winning role as the Emcee and doesn’t disappoint. He’s the right amount of coy, playful and seductive as he draws the crowd into the club and introduces the girls through the opening number, “Willkommen.”

In the beginning of Act One, we are introduced to Clifford Bradshaw (Bill Heck), an American writer, traveling to Berlin to work on his novel. On the train he meets German businessman, Ernst Ludwig (Aaron Krohn), and their relationship is formed. Ludwig passes an unmarked briefcase into Cliff’s luggage as the train is inspected and then as a favor in return gives Cliff the name of a motel, where he can stay at a discounted rate.

This motel is owned and operated by Fraulein Schneider (Linda Edmond), who sings about her life’s work in “So What” and her life of spinster-dom. Through her song, we meet some of her guests and their own storylines. Ludwig helps Bradshaw settle into a room at Fraulein Schneider’s residence and then Cliff gets swayed to go out to the nearby Kit Kat Klub on his first night in Berlin.

The first time Stone appears, she’s slinking around the top of the stage near the orchestra. Her big entrance is during her performance at the Kit Kat Klub, as she sings “Don’t Tell Mama.” In this role, Sally is telling the audience how her mama thinks that she’s at a convent, and while trying to be cute and bashful, I was a little bit turned off. Stone has a great voice (as some people might remember when she was Emily Stone on the reality show, The New Partridge Familiy), with a raspy, smoky quality similar to “Bossy”-era Lindsay Lohan. However, when compared with Williams’ voice, I was more convinced of Sally’s backstory with Williams.

Stone follows up this number with “Mein Herr,” a darker number with the Kit Kat Girls. After Sally’s performances at the Kit Kat Klub, she’s informed that she is being fired by the Klub’s owner, and her boyfriend, Max. Sally then retreats to Cliff’s room at his hotel, where their relationship is established in “Perfectly Marvelous.”

What follows is a playful number with Cumming and two of the ensemble members, “Two Ladies,” even though one is clearly a man. The audience then sees more of Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz’s relationship as he brings her fruit from his fruit store and a romance begins to blossom.

Through the next few numbers, Sally reveals that she is pregnant and Cliff vows to take care of her and the child, even if it is not his own. Stone’s voice brings character to “Maybe This Time,” but I found that Williams gave a more vulnerable and empathetic performance of this number. Cliff agrees to help Ludwig transport unmarked suitcases from Paris to Berlin and will in turn, receive quite a large amount of money in the trade.

 

We then move onto an engagement party for Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, where it is revealed that Ludwig is a part of the Nazi party and he then encourages Fraulein Schneider to rethink her plans to marry Herr Schultz, as he is Jewish. Act One ends with Cumming revealing a bare ass cheek with a swastika painted on it.

Act Two begins with a Kit Kat Girls kick line and the Emcee is cleverly disguised as one of the girls. We learn early on that Fraulein Schneider has called of her wedding to Herr Schultz and begin to see the face of Berlin change, as the Nazis come to power.

The Emcee has a number, “If You Could See Her,” where he is dancing with a gorilla (Andrea Goss, who I loved in Once, and also plays Frenchie in this show) to point out how the culture has started to view Jews in Berlin at this time in history. Cliff and Sally’s relationship starts to break up, as she does not want to leave Berlin for the United States. Cliff understands the dangers of staying in Germany and wants to get Sally and their child out of the country as fast as possible. Sally then rebels by having the baby aborted and resuming her job at the Kit Kat Klub.

Overall, Cabaret is not a musical that will leave you feeling uplifted and optimistic at its end, but it did bring up some emotions and keeps the discourse of racism and intolerance going; which is very relevant into today’s society.

I’m glad that I got the chance to see Emma Stone as Sally, but I almost wish that she was more in character. Sometimes, it just seemed as if she were Olive, her character from Easy A, pretending to be British. But her name does draw in the crowds, so it was a smart move, overall by the Roundabout Theatre Company.

Musical Numbers:

Act One:

1.       Willkommen

2.       So What

3.       Don’t Tell Mama

4.       Mein Herr

5.       Perfectly Marvelous

6.       Two Ladies

7.       It Couldn’t Please Me More

8.       Tomorrow Belongs to Me

9.       Maybe This Time

10.   Money

11.   Married

12.   Tomorrow Belongs to Me (Reprise)

Act Two:

1.       Entr’Acte

2.       Kick Line

3.       Married (Reprise)

4.       If You Could See Her

5.       What Would You Do?

6.       I Don’t Care Much

7.       Cabaret

8.       Finale