Advertisement

Coming Soon: ‘Dreamgirls’ Original London Cast Recording

Ibinabo Jack, Liisi LaFontaine and Amber Riley in 'Dreamgirls.' (Photo: DreamgirlsWestEnd.com via The Broadway Blog.)

Ibinabo Jack, Liisi LaFontaine and Amber Riley in ‘Dreamgirls.’ (Photo: DreamgirlsWestEnd.com via The Broadway Blog.)

Masterworks Broadway proudly announces the release of the highly anticipated Original London Cast Recording of Dreamgirls. The new double album will be available via online retailers and streaming services April 28 (preorder available now), with the 2-CD set following May 12.

Recorded live in its entirety at the Savoy Theatre in London’s West End, the album captures the on-stage exhilaration of the original cast, the 14-piece band and audience. Dreamgirls’ legendary score features the unforgettable songs “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” I Am Changing,” “Listen” and “One Night Only.”

The Dreamgirls Original London Cast Recording is produced by composer Henry Krieger and mixed by Andy Bradfield. The cast recording features Amber Riley as Effie White, Liisi LaFontaine as Deena Jones and Ibinabo Jack as Lorrell Robinson—making up the soulful singing trio ‘The Dreams’; Joe Aaron Reid as Curtis Taylor Jr, Adam J. Bernard as Jimmy Early, Tyrone Huntley as C.C. White, Nicholas Bailey as Marty and Lily Frazer as Michelle Morris.

The long-awaited UK premiere of Dreamgirls opened at the Savoy Theatre in December 2016 to widespread critical acclaim, 35 years after originally opening on Broadway. It is directed and choreographed by Olivier and Tony Award-winning Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Disney’s Aladdin and Something Rotten!), with set design by Tim Hatley, costume design by Gregg Barnes, lighting design by Hugh Vanstone, sound design by Richard Brooker and hair design byJosh Marquette. The musical supervisor is Nick Finlow, the orchestrator is Harold Wheeler, with additional material by Willie Reale.

Dreamgirls transports audiences to a revolutionary time in American music history. It charts the tumultuous journey of a young female singing trio from Chicago called ‘The Dreams’, as they learn the hard lesson that show business is as tough as it is fabulous.

With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, opened in 1981 and subsequently won six Tony Awards. The original cast recording won two Grammy Awards for Best Musical Theater Album and Best Vocal Performance for Jennifer Holliday’s ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.’ In 2006 it was adapted into an Oscar winning motion picture starring Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx.

Facebook Twitter Bookmark Coming Soon: ‘Dreamgirls’ Original London Cast Recording  at del.icio.us Google Bookmarks Digg Coming Soon: ‘Dreamgirls’ Original London Cast Recording Mixx Coming Soon: ‘Dreamgirls’ Original London Cast Recording Bookmark Coming Soon: ‘Dreamgirls’ Original London Cast Recording  at YahooMyWeb Bookmark using any bookmark manager! Print this article! E-mail this story to a friend!
Categories: The Buzz, VIP Access

Serving Up Theatrics: ‘Cuisine & Confessions’

by April Stamm

'Cuisine and Confessions' (Photo: Alexandre Galliez via The Broadway Blog.)

‘Cuisine and Confessions’ (Photo: Alexandre Galliez via The Broadway Blog.)

If only your dinner parties were this cool: your adorable kitchen packed with well-placed hipster kitsch and peopled with fascinatingly gorgeous, mustachioed, skinny-jeans-wearing friends from all corners of the world who all passionately chat about and love and life… oh, and did I mention all the while these fabulous friends perform death-defying feats of acrobatics, juggling and aerial work? The 7 Fingers production of Cuisine & Confessions is that dreamy dinner party. What could be even more impressive than the awe-inspiring physical talent of the performers in this production is that they’ve managed to bring personality, compassion and actual humor to this one-of-a-kind piece of theater.

Behind this production is The 7 Fingers (Les 7 Doigts), a circus/acrobatic troupe out of Montreal, Canada. Created in 2002 by seven circus artists, they have had their hands in everything from original productions, project collaborations, Broadway shows (the recent revival of Pippin) to the Olympics opening ceremonies in Sochi.

Cuisine & Confessions begins with an overture of small, musical/verbal snippets foreshadowing larger vignettes. This intro segment is cleverly titled “These are the Ingredients.” The rest of the performance plays out in a series of 15 pieces and a finale each focusing on one or two of the troupe with the rest of the accomplished performers serving as the ensemble and oft times as human set pieces to be leapt off or rolled under. Each story is told within a framework of food and memories. Many of the vignettes are based on the performers’ actual lives, dreams, fears and thoughts.

 

'Cuisine and Confessions' (Photo: Alexandre Galliez via The Broadway Blog.)

‘Cuisine and Confessions’ (Photo: Alexandre Galliez via The Broadway Blog.)

One particular stand out is Anna Kichtchenko’s section “The Departed,” which abstractly tells the story of lost loves and the beauties of borscht through a phenomenal aerial silks routine that is as heartwarming and emotional as it is visually stunning. Tandem hoop-diving drives the stories of Sidney Bateman and Melvin Diggs in “Leaving St. Louis.” Using spoken word recorded by the artists, they tell their individual tales of growing up in the fear and sometimes loneliness of urban St. Louis and the food and love they clung to as they leap through wooden frames.

Putting it all together, the director/choreographer/writer team of Shana Carroll and Sebastien Soldevila has accomplished more than simply staging some great circus routines. They have found a way to make the death-defying feats connectible. Some of the stories are heart-wrenching; Matias Plaul’s “Song for My Father,” a Chinese Pole routine, tells the story of his father’s capture, internment in a concentration camp and execution by the Argentine government. Some segments are quirky, funny and bawdy like Gabriela Parigi’s “One Woman’s Life Recipe,” a passionately frenetic five- minute telling of her entire life through acro-dance. Each story works together literally and structurally to give us a look into the human condition.

 

Without the original music and original arrangements of Nans Bortuzzo, Raphael Cruz, Colin Gagne, Spike Wilner, and DJ Pocket, this production would not be as successful as it is. Doing just as much towards creating a world of warmth, humor and awe as the performers do, the music in this performance is creative, poignant and full of energy. The cover of “You’re the One That I Want” (yes, the tough Sandy song from “Grease”) alone will give you chills.

Circus in is the air lately. Acrobatics, juggling and amazing feats are showing up everywhere from Broadway to your local gym. Setting aside all the hype, what makes Cuisine & Confessions truly stand out is that it emotionally connects with its audience and understands the importance of really telling a story.

Cuisine & Confessions
The 7 Fingers
NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 LaGuardia Place, NYC
Through April 16

April Stamm is a theater, food, and lifestyle journalist. She is a regular contributor to Edge Media Network and is a Chef Instructor at the International Culinary Center.

Facebook Twitter Bookmark Serving Up Theatrics: ‘Cuisine & Confessions’  at del.icio.us Google Bookmarks Digg Serving Up Theatrics: ‘Cuisine & Confessions’ Mixx Serving Up Theatrics: ‘Cuisine & Confessions’ Bookmark Serving Up Theatrics: ‘Cuisine & Confessions’  at YahooMyWeb Bookmark using any bookmark manager! Print this article! E-mail this story to a friend!

He’s Back! Brian d’Arcy James Returns to ‘Hamilton’ 4/14

Brian d'Arcy James in 'Hamilton.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Brian d’Arcy James in ‘Hamilton.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

The musical Hamilton’s very first King George III, three-time Tony nominee Brian d’Arcy James, returns to the role for a limited engagement on Broadway starting April 14. James created the role of King George when Hamilton debuted at the Public Theater in 2015.

Brian d’Arcy James was the first in a distinguished line of actors to portray George III in Hamilton in the New York production.Hamilton opened on Broadway with Jonathan Groff in the role, followed by Andrew Rannells, Rory O’Malley and Taran Killam.  Killam will play his final performance tonight.

James was awarded the 2016 SAG Award, Critics Choice Award, Gotham Award and the Independent Spirit’s Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble for his portrayal of Matt Carroll, one of the four critical members of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team opposite Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams in the 2016 Best Picture Oscar-winning film Spotlight.

James is a celebrated stage actor who has received three Tony nominations for his work on Broadway: Nick Bottom in the hit musical Something Rotten, Shrek in Shrek the Musical, and Sidney Falco in Sweet Smell of Success. Additional Broadway credits include: the role of Banquo opposite Ethan Hawke in the Lincoln Center production of Macbeth, starring alongside Laura Linney, Christina Ricci and Eric Bogosian in the hit play Time Stands Still, and starring in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal. Television fans know him most noticeably for his roles on NBC’s “Smash,” Showtime’s “The Big C,” and the award-winning HBO movie Game Change. He also appeared in the 2015 film Sisters with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. He has multiple projects in the works including Netflix’s new TV show, “13 Reasons Why,” and the feature films Felt, Molly’s Game, Song of Back and Neck, 1922 and Trouble.

Facebook Twitter Bookmark He’s Back! Brian d’Arcy James Returns to ‘Hamilton’ 4/14  at del.icio.us Google Bookmarks Digg He’s Back! Brian d’Arcy James Returns to ‘Hamilton’ 4/14 Mixx He’s Back! Brian d’Arcy James Returns to ‘Hamilton’ 4/14 Bookmark He’s Back! Brian d’Arcy James Returns to ‘Hamilton’ 4/14  at YahooMyWeb Bookmark using any bookmark manager! Print this article! E-mail this story to a friend!
Categories: Show Folk, The Buzz

Here’s Looking at You, Kid: ‘CasablancaBox’

by Ryan Leeds

Gabriella Rhodeen in 'Casablanca Box.' (Photo: Benjamin Heller via The Broadway Blog.)

Gabriella Rhodeen in ‘Casablanca Box.’ (Photo: Benjamin Heller via The Broadway Blog.)

CasablancaBox, the experimental play currently playing at HERE Arts Center had the potential to become a complete disaster. To begin with, it uses sacred material (The 1942 classic film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman) as both its inspiration and focus. Using such well-known material is tricky given the fact that comparisons to original source material and actors are often made. The play is also comprised of 16 actors, each playing a variety of roles, another ambitious endeavor that is all too often butchered. Finally, it theorizes what events happened behind the scenes of the movie’s filming, leaving audiences to question what is depicted and actual fact. In spite of this, the show surprisingly works like a well-oiled machine.

The married team of Sara Farrington (Playwright) and Reid Farrington (Director) are the creative minds behind this work. Previously, they have declared their affinity for classic film through combining actual film clips with live action actors.

They’ve revisited Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. With distinctive flair, they project scenes from the actual film onto square silk screens, held by actors on both sides. In the middle of the ‘frame’ live actors are recreating the movie scene in real time. It is an effective and clever tool and is delicate trick to pull off, but thanks largely to Laura Mroczkowski’s lighting design and Reid Farrington’s set and video design, the result is theatrical magic.

Catherine Gowl and Roger Casey in 'Casablanca Box.' (Photo: Benjamin Heller via The Broadway Blog.)

Catherine Gowl and Roger Casey in ‘Casablanca Box.’ (Photo: Benjamin Heller via The Broadway Blog.)

Laura K. Nicoll’s choreography is another fascinating aspect here. Aside from farce, most plays have straightforward blocking. Nicoll has her cast moving in formations as complex as those in a Busby Berkeley film.

There are many fans of the original film, but it was vague in my own memory, so I watched it again before heading to HERE. For those who haven’t seen the original, here is thumbnail synopsis: In World War II Morocco, Casablanca city serves as a resting spot for emigrants fleeing Europe for the United States to escape Nazi Rule. However, Casablanca is a blend of Nazis and French rule and Rick (Humphrey Bogart), who owns a popular nightclub and casino finds himself into a delicate situation with Czech Nationalist Victor Laslo (Paul Henried) and his current wife, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). Rick and Ilsa had a torrid love affair in Paris and reconnect once again when Ilsa and Victor appear at the nightclub.

Sara Farrington imagines what might have taken while the camera wasn’t rolling. Two refugees voice their disgust at one another for being ‘nobodies’ in the movie. In their native countries, they were big deals but now their promises of prosperity in America have been broken. Contract wages are also a point of contention as African American actors question when they aren’t making as much as their film colleagues. Alcoholic lovers and scorned spouses saunter onto the set, and the writers of the film can’t seem to agree on how to end the film. There is no shortage of drama, whether the cameras are rolling or not.

Matt McGloin, Rob Hille and Gabriella Rhodeen in 'Casablanca Box.' (Photo: Benjamin Heller via The Broadway Blog.)

Matt McGloin, Rob Hille and Gabriella Rhodeen in ‘Casablanca Box.’ (Photo: Benjamin Heller via The Broadway Blog.)

It seems like a perfect time to discuss and celebrate this canonized film. This year marks the 75th anniversary of its theatrical release. The discussion of immigrants was resonant then and remains even stronger today.

It’s not essential to watch the original film before seeing CasablancaBox. After all, you’ll be watching clips from it anyway. Yet a refresher viewing will make this all the more enjoyable, particularly when this talented cast impersonates the film’s counterparts.

The sprawling cast is carefully orchestrated and each of them serves the material extremely well. They are truly an ensemble team, reliant on one another to make this strategic chess game work. The 90-minute intermissionless show moves at a breakneck speed.

Between the current FX series, Feud, and CasablancaBox, we’re able to sink our teeth into some juicy characters from the Golden Age of Hollywood. These complex figures reveal their sordid lives, their triumphs, and their vulnerabilities. Both works will provide classic film buffs with more than enough material to satisfy.

CasablancaBox
HERE Arts Center
145 6th Avenue, NYC
Through April 24

Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.

 

Facebook Twitter Bookmark Here’s Looking at You, Kid: ‘CasablancaBox’  at del.icio.us Google Bookmarks Digg Here’s Looking at You, Kid: ‘CasablancaBox’ Mixx Here’s Looking at You, Kid: ‘CasablancaBox’ Bookmark Here’s Looking at You, Kid: ‘CasablancaBox’  at YahooMyWeb Bookmark using any bookmark manager! Print this article! E-mail this story to a friend!
Categories: To See or Not To See

A Cavalcade of Stars for New York Pops’ 34th Birthday Gala

new york pops gala

On Monday, May 1, 2017, The New York Pops will celebrate its 34th birthday with a grand gala evening honoring Karen van Bergen, the CEO of Omnicom Public Relations Group, and Tony Award winners Kelli O’Hara and Bartlett Sher, whose collaborations over the last decade have won universal acclaim and whose individual careers represent pinnacles of achievement in the world of theatre. The concert will celebrate the multiyear partnership between the actress and stage director and will bring together artists from the stage and screen.

The event begins at 7:00 p.m. with a concert at Carnegie Hall, featuring a spectacular lineup of guest artists under the baton of Music Director Steven Reineke. The performance will include appearances by Broadway stars Matthew Broderick, Brian d’Arcy James, Adam Kantor, Steven Pasquale, and Chris Sullivan alongside the previously announced Danny Burstein, Ruthie Ann Miles, Laura Osnes, and Paulo Szot, as well as compositions by Jason Robert Brown and Nico Muhly. Twenty students from the orchestra’s Kids on Stage program will also perform alongside The New York Pops at the gala concert.

Following the concert, a black tie dinner dance will be held at the elegant Mandarin Oriental New York.

TICKETS
Tickets to the concert-only range from $68 to $160 and can be purchased at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, 154 West 57th Street, or can be charged to major credit cards by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800 or by visiting the Carnegie Hall website, carnegiehall.org.

Facebook Twitter Bookmark A Cavalcade of Stars for New York Pops’ 34th Birthday Gala  at del.icio.us Google Bookmarks Digg A Cavalcade of Stars for New York Pops’ 34th Birthday Gala Mixx A Cavalcade of Stars for New York Pops’ 34th Birthday Gala Bookmark A Cavalcade of Stars for New York Pops’ 34th Birthday Gala  at YahooMyWeb Bookmark using any bookmark manager! Print this article! E-mail this story to a friend!
Categories: The Buzz

Two Houses, Both Not Alike in Dignity: ‘The Profane’

By Samuel L. Leiter

'The Profane' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

‘The Profane’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Given today’s preoccupations with Islam, Zayd Dohrn couldn’t have hit upon a more succulent subject for a domestic dramedy than the one he uses in The Profane, his potentially button-pushing but ultimately unsatisfactory new play at Playwrights Horizons.

Taking his cue from works in which social, ethnic, or religious differences create conflict between the parents of conventionally mismatched lovers—think Romeo and JulietAbie’s Irish Rose, and Meet the Fockers—Dohrn focuses on a narrow demographic, Muslim immigrants. His goal is to show what might happen if a girl from a totally assimilated, liberal Muslim family were to become engaged to a boy from a conservative one.

It would be easy to imagine this situation happening within any religion whose adherents range from ultraliberal to fundamentalist. However, with today’s audiences interested in learning more about their Islamic neighbors, what could be riper for an examination of sectarian religious differences than a play about lovers from opposite sides of the Muslim spectrum?

'The Profane' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

‘The Profane’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Sorry to say, Dohrn’s play, which has some excellent scenes, sprightly humor, and lively dialogue, is superficial, formulaic, and burdened by a plot contrivance that will spin heads faster than Linda Blair’s.

In Act One we meet the Almedins at their book-lined, New York City home. Raif (Ali Reza Farahnakian) is an internationally known writer, whose novels, about the immigrant experience, are widely read in many colleges. Naja (Heather Raffo), an attractive blond in tight jeans, is a former dancer who once performed at Lincoln Center.

Raif, proud of belonging to the liberal, intellectual elite, is bitter, possibly because he’s suffering from writer’s block. Not only has he abandoned his faith, he despises those who follow its dictates as people who stone their daughters to death or behead people for their beliefs.

'The Profane' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

‘The Profane’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

The Almedin daughters, in their early 20s, are Aisa (Francis Benhamou, offbeat and funny), a lesbian and former dancer who tends bar, and Emina (Tala Ashe, pretty and sensitive), a college student. Emina has fallen in love with another student, Sam (Babak Tafti, good-looking and sincere), short for Basam, son of the Osman family; their intended nuptials precipitate the central crisis, apparent the minute Emina brings Sam home and introduces him to Raif, who ignores his proffered handshake.

Everything about the Almedins, including their clothing, drinking, snarky humor, colloquial expressions, and profanity, is pure sit-com American; despite Raif and Naja having immigrated when they were young adults and Raif boasting that he taught himself English, their accents are questionably red, white, and blue.

In Act Two, we meet the Osmans: Peter (Ramsey Faragallah) and Carmen (Lanna Joffey). The meeting between the families is at the Osmans new, White Plains home, a modestly attractive one that Raif, in a cheap joke at odds with what we see, snidely designates as the work of Vito Corleone’s decorator.

Peter Osman, who sells restaurant equipment, is a bearded, bearish man, gregarious to a fault in his attempt to please the Almedins; following Sam’s advice, he strives to avoid even the most innocuous religious references. Carmen, his reserved and cautious wife, dresses like a well-off suburban housewife but wears a hajib. The Osmans speak with (stagey) accents.

The contrast between the jovial, nonjudgmental Peter and the persistently edgy Raif couldn’t be sharper, reversing our expected reactions to who would be the more recalcitrant figure in the delicate dance between devotee and apostate. But Dohrn has so loaded the dice on Peter’s behalf that our discomfort with Raif’s behavior is practically forced upon us.

Peter is so reasonable it’s hard to believe he’s as pious as Raif suspects, while the liberal Raif rudely behaves like the actual fanatic. Despite his opportunities, Dohrn only rarely—as in some talk about arranged versus love marriages—suggests the kind of debate we’d really like to hear.

Worse, he concocts a melodramatically outlandish secret that’s exposed by having Naja notice a strange, hajib-wearing woman (Benhamou, in a distracting bit of doubling) in the house. This leads Raif to commit such an unforgivable act that the play loses whatever credibility it may have accumulated, while any lingering sympathy for the guy vanishes.

There are things to appreciate in The Profane, including Takeshi Kata’s substantial, well-appointed sets; Jessica Pabst’s character-defining costumes; and Matt Frey’s lighting, especially his bookcase effects. Kip Fagan’s direction is briskly paced but, with some performances merely skimming the sitcom surface and others (Faragallah, in particular) being so broad, he doesn’t resolve the uneasy tension between domestic comedy and idea-related drama.

“Disappointing” is an overused word in reviewing but when a play with such a potentially interesting subject comes up short it’s the handiest one to reach for.

The Profane
Playwrights Horizons
416 W. 42nd St., NY
Through April 30

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

 

 

 

 

 

Facebook Twitter Bookmark Two Houses, Both Not Alike in Dignity: ‘The Profane’  at del.icio.us Google Bookmarks Digg Two Houses, Both Not Alike in Dignity: ‘The Profane’ Mixx Two Houses, Both Not Alike in Dignity: ‘The Profane’ Bookmark Two Houses, Both Not Alike in Dignity: ‘The Profane’  at YahooMyWeb Bookmark using any bookmark manager! Print this article! E-mail this story to a friend!

15 Rockin’ Minutes with Sheri Sanders

by Ryan Leeds

Sheri Sanders (Photo: Dirty Sugar Photography via The Broadway Blog.)

Sheri Sanders (Photo: Dirty Sugar Photography via The Broadway Blog.)

Life is full of choices but for Sheri Sanders, there’s no reason to choose. When it comes to performing, Sanders believes that you can combine legit trained musical theater styles with rock and pop genres. After a stage career, Sanders decided to start a program called ‘Rock the Audition.’ which has expanded from a book to classroom instruction.

On April 17 at downtown’s SubCulture, Sanders will perform a one-night concert, “Sheri Sanders is Legit,” which will celebrate the launch of her new ‘Rock the Audition’ online class. Many of her students have landed Broadway and national tours and, through her endless passion and energy, she’s managed to open brand new pathways that many never knew existed.

Sanders recently took time from her frenetic schedule to have a phone conversation with the Broadway Blog where she discussed her role as a coach and educator to countless teachers and budding performers.

Sheri Sanders (Photo: Michael Buonicontro via The Broadway Blog.)

Sheri Sanders (Photo: Michael Buonicontro via The Broadway Blog.)

This has become your primary source of income. How did you transfer from being a full-time performer to being a teacher? 
I have a musical theater background and I noticed a crisis in the musical theater community so I cornered the market where pop/rock music was concerned.  I combined my legit techniques with pop music because I always understood pop music. There are actually a lot of similarities between pop and musical theater and there is so much crossover. The way shows are written today is such that pop/rock is the new legit.  I now work with both teachers and students. I work with 16 different universities and have 30 private students.

You mentioned in one of you online classes that singers need to approach auditions in the mood or state that they are in. Isn’t it a performer’s job to ‘act’ in whatever way the role calls for? Can you elaborate? 
It is contrary in theory, but what is cool is that most pop music is not exclusively from shows. So if you choose a happy party song like “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” you can use that energy for the better if you’ve had a really bad day and sing the song as though you are ready to have fun. You have to use your current emotional and mental state to change your mind or attitude.

What happens if people come to you and obviously do not have a talent for singing? 
I never audition anyone for my classes.  Sometimes people who have desk jobs and have never pursued singing as a career but who can express themselves through song are the most valuable players in the room. In terms of talent, it’s never my job to tell people whether or not they have talent. It is more important to ask them what they believe in and to pursue that. My goal is to get people as connected to their mind, body, and spirit as I can. We all just root for each other because then, everybody grows.

Rock music is more than just a style. It’s a look and an attitude. You wouldn’t give a bookish librarian a Janis Joplin song, right? Is it right to approach music that fits the singer’s natural personality or can the singer manufacture that? 
You never want to give a song from a singer like Joplin to someone with a small voice. But, you want them to listen to her music, so they can grow more emotional and wild when they sing. That librarian could become a gutsy librarian. It’s important to listen to singers who have the same quality as you, but as important to listen to other singers. That way, your voice is more textured and interesting. You want to create a palate to paint with so that your voice has more variety.

What is the biggest misconception young performers have about the theater industry right now in terms of knowledge and preparation? 
If they are not properly educated, they often think that yelling and putting riffs in a song where it doesn’t belong makes them competitive. You have to look at the show and ask what the show requires and sing something that fits the aesthetic of the show.

How are you able to actually protect your voice when you are grunting and yelling, as many performers often do? 
Very few shows call for grunting and yelling and there is a way to sing emotionally without yelling. One of the things I’m most proud of is that people trust me because I’m never going to tell anyone that they are wrong. Instead, I’ll show them what they do know and take them over to this magical place that is really cool. That way, they take the experience I’ve taught them back to musical theater and they can live comfortably in both worlds.

“Sheri Sanders is Legit!  An Evening of Legit Musical Theatre”
Subculture
45 Bleecker Street, NYC
April 17, 8 p.m.

Advance Tickets are $20, $25 at the door.
Tickets are available at bit.ly/LEGITMT  or by calling 212-533-5470.

Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

Facebook Twitter Bookmark 15 Rockin’ Minutes with Sheri Sanders  at del.icio.us Google Bookmarks Digg 15 Rockin’ Minutes with Sheri Sanders Mixx 15 Rockin’ Minutes with Sheri Sanders Bookmark 15 Rockin’ Minutes with Sheri Sanders  at YahooMyWeb Bookmark using any bookmark manager! Print this article! E-mail this story to a friend!

Listen: West of Broadway’s Premier Episode

West of Broadway

Curtain up! There’s plenty of Broadway caliber talent that’s ventured west, and that’s where Lara Scott and Will Armstrong come into play. Their new podcast, West of Broadway, is a celebration of musical theater in Los Angeles.

The duo’s first episode welcomes Broadway veteran, Laurie Wells. Have a listen! 

Facebook Twitter Bookmark Listen: West of Broadway’s Premier Episode  at del.icio.us Google Bookmarks Digg Listen: West of Broadway’s Premier Episode Mixx Listen: West of Broadway’s Premier Episode Bookmark Listen: West of Broadway’s Premier Episode  at YahooMyWeb Bookmark using any bookmark manager! Print this article! E-mail this story to a friend!

High Class Humor: ‘Present Laughter’ on Broadway

(l to r) Kristine Nielsen, Kate Burton, and Kevin Kline in 'Present Laughter.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

(l to r) Kristine Nielsen, Kate Burton, and Kevin Kline in ‘Present Laughter.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Let’s cut to the chase. Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel’s revival of Noël Coward’s Present Laughter is a brilliantly fine-tuned comedy of style and substance, and if you want to see an ensemble of actors that truly embodies the very best of Broadway, I suggest you grab a seat at the St. James Theatre while you can during the production’s limited 16-week run.

Led by Kevin Kline (Tony Award winner for The Pirates of Penzance and On the Twentieth Century) as Gerry Essendine, a self-absorbed comedic stage actor preparing for a theatrical tour of Africa, the plot follows a handful of characters intertwined in Gerry’s life, including his estranged wife Liz (Kate Burton); producer Henry (Peter Francis James) and manager Morris (Reg Rogers); smart-mouthed secretary Monica (Kristine Nielsen); obsessed fan Roland (Bhavesh Patel); and several one-night trysts, including the wide-eyed 20-something Daphne (Tedra Millan) and Henry’s wife Joanna (Cobie Smulders).

Kevin Kline in 'Present Laughter.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Kevin Kline in ‘Present Laughter.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

As the action unfolds, Gerry is thrust into a cavalcade of hysteria as everyone wants a piece of the persona he has created. This juxtaposition of who Gerry really is and what he represents to his adoring fans is confusing even to him. Kline creates a character that is broadly comedic, yet with an underlying authenticity that makes you adore him in spite of his bloated ego.

Take one look at today’s headlines and you can see versions of Gerry simmering among the higher ranks of our politicians—except for one major difference: Gerry has heart and a wisp of vulnerability that makes him relatable.

Kline, who has vacillated a successful career between theater and film for nearly 40 years, has plenty of A-list talent to folly with and they rise to the occasion in nearly every instance. As his wife and manager Liz, Kate Burton if often tasked with playing the straight face to the antics surrounding her—not an easy feat—but she does it with such grace and style you wonder how Gerry could ever let her slip away. But it is Nielsen’s sharp-tongued Monica that really keeps Gerry in check along with the rest of the comings and goings. As the bumbling pair of business partners, James and Rogers jet in and out of the action with precision, and Rogers, especially, is a charm to watch with his purposefully mush-mouthed dialect and ever-present cocktail.

Cobie Smulders and Kevin Kline in 'Present Laughter.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Cobie Smulders and Kevin Kline in ‘Present Laughter.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Act II begins much like Act I, with Gerry dealing with the repercussions of a one-night-stand. But while the first tryst was with the more manageable Daphne, the second one with Joanna reverberates more deeply among his tight-knit clan. Smulders is—no pun intended—smouldering and I hope that Broadway can keep her around as her television and film career take off.

The production value is equally first-rate, with a gorgeously detailed set (David Zinn) in saturated shades of Wedgwood blue, jewel-toned costumes in exquisite cuts (Susan Hilferty), and hair design (Josh Marquette) that captures the allure of the late 30s.

Stuelpnagel (who was nominated for a Tony award last year for directing Hand to God) keeps things moving at a brisk pace and though the action-packed staging is meticulously choreographed, Present Laughter remarkably feels as though it’s unfolding for the very first time. 

Present Laughter
St. James Theatre
246 West 44th Street
Through July 2

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo

Facebook Twitter Bookmark High Class Humor: ‘Present Laughter’ on Broadway  at del.icio.us Google Bookmarks Digg High Class Humor: ‘Present Laughter’ on Broadway Mixx High Class Humor: ‘Present Laughter’ on Broadway Bookmark High Class Humor: ‘Present Laughter’ on Broadway  at YahooMyWeb Bookmark using any bookmark manager! Print this article! E-mail this story to a friend!
Categories: To See or Not To See

Bring on the Monsters: ‘The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical’

By Samuel L. Leiter

Chris McCarrell in 'The Lightning Thief.' (Photo: Jeremy Daniels via The Broadway Blog.)

Chris McCarrell in ‘The Lightning Thief.’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniels via The Broadway Blog.)

Perhaps, like me, you didn’t notice that, beneath the Harry Potter hoopla of the past two decades, a series of young adult novels about another boy with supernatural powers was gaining huge popularity. That boy, Percy Jackson, came to life in the imagination of a middle school history/English teacher named Rick Riordan, who entertained his second-grade son, afflicted—like Percy—with ADHD and dyslexia, by making up stories based on Greek mythology.

Those stories inspired a best-selling series that led not only to several sequel series but (thus far) to a pair of box-office blockbuster movies. Now, with a book by Joe Tracz and music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki, the first Percy Jackson book, The Lightning Thief, has been transformed into an energetic, generally entertaining rock musical for the seven-years-old-and-up crowd. They gave it a standing ovation when I attended.

Produced by Theatreworks, renowned for its high-quality, young-audience shows, The Lightning Thief is a fast-paced, decibel-blasting, theatrically frisky take on the original story. Unlike the visually bloated film, the show uses only seven actors, all of them adults, most playing multiple roles.

'The Lightning Thief.' (Photo: Jeremy Daniels via The Broadway Blog.)

‘The Lightning Thief.’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniels via The Broadway Blog.)

Tracz’s by-and-large faithful book—which expresses several themes, such as that normalcy is a myth and everyone is special, and that parents can be idols with feet of clay—begins with teenager Percy (Chris McCarrell)—he’s twelve in the book—having a weird experience during a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Later, after his mother, Sally (Carrie Compere), vanishes following his victorious battle with a Minotaur (James Hayden Rodriguez), Percy and his best friend, Grover, by now revealed as a satyr, enter the strange Camp Half-Blood.

Here Percy discovers he’s actually Perseus, a demigod, half-human and half-god, the son of Poseidon. If Perseus is here, can Medusa (Jonathan Raviv, in drag) be far behind? He also encounters other demigod kids, including Annabeth (Kristen Stokes), daughter of Athena; Luke (James Hayden Rodriguez), son of Hermes; and Clarisse (Sarah Beth Pfeifer), daughter of Ares.

Percy’s in hot water because his father, brother of Zeus and Hades, violated an oath never to have any more children; moreover, Percy alone can prevent war among the gods by locating Zeus’s stolen thunderbolt. This sends Percy, Annabeth, and Grover on a nation-crossing, monster-quelling quest to retrieve the bolt from the likeliest suspect, Hades (Raviv), in whose realm Sally is a prisoner and Charon (Compere) is an overstuffed, Beyoncé-like, pop singer in a sequined minidress. And where, by the way, we glimpse Kurt Cobain (Raviv), Janis Joplin (Pfeifer), and Mozart (Rodriguez).

Percy, with his magic sword and special powers (a comic surprise unlike what the book describes), must fend off an unexpected foe before all comes to its foregone happy conclusion. (The fun fight direction is by Rob Kinter.)

Kristin Stokes, Chris McCarrell and George Salazar in 'The Lightning Thief.' (Photo: Jeremy Daniels via The Broadway Blog.)

Kristin Stokes, Chris McCarrell and George Salazar in ‘The Lightning Thief.’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniels via The Broadway Blog.)

To pack all this in, the show, directed with verve by Stephen Brackett and spiritedly choreographed by Patrick McCollum, adopts an air of deliberate, even self-deprecatory playfulness; this keeps the budget down and highlights its air of tongue-in-cheekiness. It’s the kind of thing where someone, hearing about hell’s musical stars, asks if Josh Groban is there; more such jokes would be welcome, even if they soar over most kids’ heads.

Rokicki’s conventional rock score—played on keyboards, drums/percussion, guitar, and bass—is a listenable, efficient engine for keeping the show moving but most of its songs are of the undistinguished, volume-up variety; only two even hint at standard balladry.

This is a solid ensemble, with good work from all, including the slender, tousle-haired McCarrell; the dynamic, big-voiced Compere; and the comic Salazar, who scores as both the sidekick satyr and the always-shouting Dionysus (he’s the god of drama, after all).

Sydney Maresca has crafted numerous, clever, cost-cutting designs, like, for example, that for Chiron (Raviv), the centaur. In the film, Pierce Brosnan’s lower body is digitally morphed into that of a horse. Here, the character needs only a white shirt, sports jacket, leather slacks, high shoes, a bushy tail, and some equine movements to make you see a human horse.

The same don’t-take-this-seriously approach affects the various monsters whose deliberately cheesy scariness is heightened by smoke and David Lander’s fancy lighting, much of the latter in eye-catching, rock concert mode. It works well with set designer Lee Savage’s use of metal scaffolding fronting a background of graffiti-scrawled Greek pillars; the walls and their backstage equipment are exposed, and a pair of rolling scaffold-platforms is deployed for miscellaneous purposes. Ryan Rumery’s ingenious sound effects complete the package.

Finding a show most kids would enjoy can be like catching lightning in a bottle. Bringing a kid to The Lightning Thief might be like bringing your own bottle.

The Lightning Thief
Lucille Lortel Theatre
121 Christopher St., NYC
Through May 6

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

 

 

 

Facebook Twitter Bookmark Bring on the Monsters: ‘The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical’  at del.icio.us Google Bookmarks Digg Bring on the Monsters: ‘The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical’ Mixx Bring on the Monsters: ‘The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical’ Bookmark Bring on the Monsters: ‘The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical’  at YahooMyWeb Bookmark using any bookmark manager! Print this article! E-mail this story to a friend!