Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Boggess’

Review: Broadway’s ‘School of Rock’

December 6th, 2015 Comments off

by Ryan Leeds

Alex Brightman and the cast of 'School of Rock.' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Alex Brightman and the cast of ‘School of Rock.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

The kids are most definitely, all right. From this year’s bundle of cuteness in the latest revival of The King and I, to the dancing defiance that continues to play out in Matilda, it is safe to say the the future of Broadway rests in solid hands. The latest tribe of talented youth is currently taking the Winter Garden Theatre by storm in composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Glenn Slater’s musical School of Rock.

Based on the 2003 film of the same name, the tuner tells the completely unrealistic but charming tale about Dewey Finn (Alex Brightman), a washed up bum of a rock singer who shacks up in the home of his best friend/former rocker turned educator, Ned Schneebly (Spencer Moses). Facing pressure from Ned and his girlfriend, Patty De Marco (Mamie Parris), to pay the rent or move out, Dewey craftily concocts a plan when he receives a phone call from the prestigious Horace Green prep school. It turns out they are seeking a substitute teacher. With quick wit and a streak of opportunism, Finn poses as his best friend, accepts the job and arrives, hungover, to instruct the elementary tykes. He soon discovers that a streak of music mania runs through them and, instead of educating them with the intended curriculum, he throws his efforts into preparing them for a Battle of the Bands rock contest. Meanwhile, uptight principal Rosalie Mullins (Sierra Boggess) suspects that her class is not in the best hands. But, as is the case in movies and musical theater, happy endings ensue. When Mullins finally lets down her hair, love blossoms between her and Finn and conquers all.

'School of Rock' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

‘School of Rock’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

At first glance, it seemed to me an odd choice for Lloyd Webber to have been at the helm here. For so long, I’ve related him to the schmaltzy (but admittedly enjoyable) music of Evita, Cats, and Phantom of the Opera. It then occurred to me that he composed the more hard-driving Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, both of which offered more edge than the usual Broadway fare. He’s gone back to his roots with this score, even if he has consciously or sub-consciously stolen some riffs from existing artists. The students plea to their parents to be recognized, “If Only You Would Listen” is lifted directly from Lloyd Webber’s former writing partner, Tim Rice, who lyricized Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus’ “Someone Else’s Story” in Chess. Another song of defiance, “Stick It To the Man,” which in typical Lloyd Webber fashion is reprised multiple times, is a dead ringer for Pink’s “So What” (and offers the exact sentiment of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”). The rest of his score is serviceable, but not terribly memorable.

Sierra Boggess in 'School of Rock' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Sierra Boggess in ‘School of Rock’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Even more surprising is the under-utilization of Sierra Boggess, whose glorious soprano captivates audiences every time she opens her mouth. In a recent New York TimesTalk, Lloyd Webber praised her as being one of his favorite performers to interpret the role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera and its sequel. One must then inquire why he didn’t choose to give her more to do here. Aside from a cheeky rendition of Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria and an adequate ballad in Act II (“Where Did the Rock Go”) there’s not a lot for her to do but scowl and glance disapprovingly at her staff.

Brightman is a true fireball. With a strong, powerful rock voice and  limber physicality, he is bringing enough energy to power Times Square. Some may argue that he’s simply impersonating Jack Black, but so be it. Black’s enthusiastic energy was contagious in the film, and Brightman is bringing that same level of charm to the stage.

But back to those kids! Sure, we’ve seen children sing. We’ve seen them dance. We’ve seen them act, and we’ve seen them play instruments. But this cast is doing it all with more intensity than you’d expect. A recorded announcement at the top of the show informs us that, yes, they are in fact playing their own instruments. What is so impressive and commendable is the inspiration this will yield for young theatergoers. It also provides a solid case for lawmakers and educational institutions to keep music programs in schools.

School of Rock, directed by Laurence Conner,  is not  one of the best shows on the boards right now. It is extremely loud and bombastic. But through all of the clutter, a great, big heart exists. Maybe this crotchety theater reviewer prefers more peaceful fare, but younger generations crave—and deserve—role models, which School of Rock will no doubt provide.

School of Rock
Winter Garden Theatre
50th Street and Broadway
Open-ended run.

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.

Review: It Shoulda Been You

April 14th, 2015 Comments off
"It Shoulda Been You" (photo: Andrew Eccles via The Broadway Blog.)

“It Shoulda Been You” (photo: Andrew Eccles via The Broadway Blog.)

Marriage is a funny thing. Some last. Many don’t. And others aren’t ever meant to be. It Shoulda Been You, the new Broadway musical with book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove and music and concept by Barbara Anselmi, takes a lighthearted look at the evolving institution of marriage from just about every angle. But like most wedding gowns, some perspectives are more becoming than others.

Lisa Howard (l) and Tyne Daly (r) in "It Shoulda Been You" (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Lisa Howard (l) and Tyne Daly (r) in “It Shoulda Been You” (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Anchored by protagonist Jenny Steinberg (Lisa Howard), It Shoulda Been You follows the day’s proceedings as Jenny’s younger sister Rebecca (Sierra Boggess) prepares for her wedding to handsome fiancée Brian (David Burtka). Jenny’s parents, Judy (Tyne Daly) and Murray (Chip Zien), are none to thrilled with the prospects of a “goy” son-in-law. But Brian’s parents Georgette (Harriet Harris) and George (Michael X. Martin) aren’t exactly jumping for joy either.

Little do any of the parents realize that secret loves lie lurking around every corner, including the timely arrival of Jenny’s ex-boyfriend Marty (Josh Grisetti). By the end of Act I, an unexpected plot bomb drops that would have members of the Supreme Court in a tizzy, and the unlikely reduces to inane as the antics continue.

The production benefits by some of Broadway’s best, including a humorously deadpan performance by Tyne Daly, who spins gold from hay with her Long Island accent and cliché-but-true Jewish mother tendencies. (Trust me, I know from experience.) Equally as droll as the groom’s mother, Harris swigs gin and relishes in her Oedipal relationship with her son. Unfortunately, Burtka is like a dish of melted vanilla ice cream—there’s something sweet there, but no substance. Montego Glover and Nick Spangler are saddled with cardboard cut out characterizations of the maid of honor and best man, respectively.

Lisa Howard in "It Shoulda Been You" (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Lisa Howard in “It Shoulda Been You” (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

As the two unconventional ingénues, Howard and Boggess must drive the implausible story forward and make a valiant effort. Howard’s voice soars and it’s refreshing to see a full-figured woman take center stage in a role that addresses society’s obsession with weight and body image. Boggess has to play straight (pun intended) to most of the comedic action, and her 11 o’clock number, “What They Never Tell You,” feels like it belongs in another show.

It Shoulda Been You has the good fortune of direction by funny man David Hyde Pierce, who pulls out all of his sitcom expertise to make the most of the thin material. Unfortunately, at its core It Shoulda Been You is ridiculously unbelievable, and the major shift in action sets the show on a course from which it can never recover. Just like in a real marriage, one commits for better and for worse. Be prepared for both and you might get a good chuckle, but I’m not sure these wedding bells will ring for long.

It Shoulda Been You
Brooks Atkinson Theatre
256 West 47th Street
Open-ended run.

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at roodeloo

What a Deal! $14 Tickets to Broadway’s “It Shoulda Been You”

February 10th, 2015 Comments off

120248.ISBY.MiscArt_5x7.inddLove is in the air… and for Broadway fans it comes a lot cheaper than a ring from Tiffinay & Co. Producers of It Shoulda Been You have announced a special one-day-only offer for one-of-a-kind ticket prices. Visit the Brooks Atkinson Theatre (256 West 47th St) starting at 10 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, February 14, for the opportunity to purchase $14 tickets for the first 14 preview performances of the new musical. This special offer will end at 2:00 pm and is limited to the 114 tickets per performance.

Directed by David Hyde Pierce and featuring an original book & lyrics by Brian Hargrove and music by Barbara Anselmi, It Shoulda Been You begins previews on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre (256 West 47th St) on March 17, 2015, with an opening night date set for Tuesday, April 14, 2015.

Between the hours of 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. patrons will have the ability to purchase 1 or 2 tickets at the special $14 Valentine’s Day rate while also enjoying ‘wedding-themed’ activities, including a photo booth and complimentary lattes designed by coffee artist Michael Breach.

In the hilarious and heartwarming new musical It Shoulda Been You, it’s a culture clash for the ages when two families from wildly different backgrounds come together to celebrate a wedding. As if the union wasn’t complicated enough, the bride’s ex-boyfriend arrives, bringing the wedding to a screeching halt and throwing both families into hysterical chaos. Plots are hatched, promises broken, secrets exposed—and the bride’s resourceful sister is left to turn an unmitigated disaster into happily ever after. It Shoulda Been You puts a refreshingly modern spin on the traditional wedding comedy, proving that when it comes to wedding day insanity, it’s all relative.

The cast of It Shoulda Been You includes Tony Award-winner Tyne Daly, Tony Award-winner Harriet Harris, Sierra Boggess, Lisa Howard, David Burtka, Tony Award nominee Montego Glover, Chip Zien, Josh Grisetti, Adam Heller, Michael X. Martin, Anne L. Nathan, Nick Spangler, and Edward Hibbert, along with Farah Alvin, Gina Farrell, Aaron Finley, and Mitch Greenberg.

The creative team for It Shoulda Been You includes Josh Rhodes (Choreography) Anna Louizos (Set Design), William Ivey Long (Costume Design), Ken Billington (Lighting Design), and Nevin Steinberg (Sound Design), with additional lyrics by Jill Abramovitz, Carla Rose Fisher, Michael Cooper, Ernie Lijoi and Will Randall.

CD Review: Sierra Boggess Awakens at 54 Below

December 12th, 2013 Comments off

Contributor Scott Redman gives a listen to Awakening, the new live recording by Broadway’s Sierra Boggess. 

sierraSierra Boggess, best known for her portrayal of Ariel in Broadway’s The Little Mermaid, recently performed a cabaret act,  Awakening, at 54 Below in New York City. It is now available for purchase on CD and digital download. The show was stirred by the book, Inspiration: Your Ultimate Calling by Dr. Wayne Dyer who Boggess credits as changing her perspective on life. She quotes the book throughout her performance and even encourages the audience to pick up their own copy. At some points the couplets of wisdom outstay their welcome, but Ms. Boggess’ crystal sounding voice makes up for the unwanted jibber jabber.

The night starts off where all bouts of inspiration do, in confidence, with the delightful Rodgers and Hammerstein tune, “I Have Confidence.” Boggess’ set list includes everything from show arias from her favorite operas, Disney tunes and Broadway classics. Boggess graciously extends her stage time to include her father, Mike Boggess, who accompanies her on the guitar playing “Wildflowers.” It soon becomes a family affair with her sister, Summer Boggess, playing the cello on selected numbers.

Highlights of the recording include “The Ultimate Medley with Apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber,” which takes a hilarious spin on pop stars and opera singers miscast in Webber musicals. The romp shows off the range of expression and sense of humor Boggess can deliver when put to the test. Her rendition of “Think of Me” done as an impression of a pop star ala Brittney Spears is pure entertainment.

The clear-toned power of her voice is best showcased in “A Quiet Thing” from Kander & Ebb’s Flora the Red Menace. Her voice immediately places you in the scene alongside the bittersweet realization that some of life’s greatest experiences are the simplest. She uses the song to explain her emotional reaction to meeting her idol, Barbra Streisand, backstage after a concert in Brooklyn. Her rendition of the song is powerful enough to ignite a revival of the musical.

The most honest and touching part of the evening surrounds Boggess’ recollection of her grandparents. She reminisces going through a collection of old letters of correspondence between her grandfather (a World War II veteran) and her grandmother during the 1940s. This section personifies the power of love one can achieve with sacrifice and perseverance. Boggess brings the evening to a climax as she sings “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” I did not attend the live concert but can’t imagine a dry eye in the house after hearing this heartfelt story accompanied by a clenching ode to past times.

The evening twists and turns between effortless singing intertwined with Dr. Phil-like expressions that teeter between summer camp credos and vacation Bible school. It is clear that the show lacked direction and Boggess could have used an objective point of view on how to package the material. A director might also have helped shaped the songs into Ms. Boggess’ own interpretation rather than adding accents and simulated emotion. Boggess has a terrific instrument that is fragile and refined — with creative direction she will undoubtedly reappear as a leading lady of Broadway.

 Awakening is available at or for digital download on iTunes.

Take the jump for a video taste of Ms. Boggess singing “Falling in Love with Love.

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Broadway Strips Down, “Seminar” Skips Town and More Theater News

May 4th, 2012 Comments off

Sure, the Tony nominations were the big theater news this week, but there were a lot of other stories to get hot about as Broadway dropped some shows — and some clothes:

Nick Kenkel for "Broadway Bares: Happy Endings". Photo by Andrew Eccles.

  • If the weather is getting warmer than you know it’s time for Broadway to bare it all. The run up to the big burlesque night of all nights, Broadway Bares, begins this Sunday at 9pm with a curtain raiser, so to speak, of Solo Strips. This one-night-only fundraiser will feature ten of the hottest men of Broadway (including Theater Buffs Nick Kenkel and Sam Cahn) shaking their money makers to make some money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
  • As sure as some producers are popping champagne on Tony nomination morning, others are dropping the axe. Without Tony love to build audience awareness both Seminar and Magic/Bird posted closing notices. While Bird never found its box office magic, Seminar completes a fairly healthy run, suffering only from a drop in sales after the loss of its original marquee star, Alan Rickman.
  • That fiery gal Rebecca is actually making it to Manderlay via Broadway as the on-again, off-again musical announced an October 20 start date for previews. Unfortunately, the presumed leading lady Sierra Boggess has moved on to another Broadway production slated for the same period, Prince of Broadway.
  • Two “hotties” making theater related news this week: two-time Tony nominee (and Sutton Foster main squeeze) Bobby Cannavale will return to Broadway in a revival of Clifford Odets’s The Big Knife and indie-film pin-up Joseph Gordon-Levitt is developing a movie remake of the classic Menken & Ashman musical Little Shop of Horrors. If you’ve seen this little number from 500 Days of Summer, you know that Gordon-Levitt has some dance moves in him…so this might not be a bad thing.
  • The anniversary of an important milestone in the history of musicals passed this week, but no one seemed to notice. Well, no one but my good friend and amazing writer at large (yes, Jason, amazing as in awe-inspiring) Jason Cochran in this insightful article about the film version of Chicago and its “justified” musical numbers. I couldn’t agree more with his analysis and have to say that the box this has created is constraining the musical imagination, even on stage.  Will the film version of Les Miserables swing the pendulum back?

A “Prince”-ly Cast, A “Mormon” Giveaway & More Theater News

March 22nd, 2012 Comments off

Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson, James Pickens, Jr, Sara Ramirez and Kevin McKiddat "Grey's Anatomy: The Songs Beneath the Show". Photo by Scott Appel.

Our casting cup runneth over this week with theater news featuring big doings from big casts:

  • The blockbuster gang at The Book of Mormon is ignoring their Momma’s advice and giving it away for free again. To celebrate the show’s first year anniversary, the show will offer its second Free Fan Performance on June 6 at 2pm. To be eligible for a seat, just sign up for one of their nightly ticket lotteries through Sunday, May 20 and hope your name is picked.
  • The gals of Steel Magnolias sure do love a makeover, so it’s no surprise that the southern fried, beauty parlor chestnut is getting remade as a Lifetime movie. The not-so-French twist this time is that it has been reset (and blowdried?) in Louisiana and features a who’s who of African-American screen stars including Queen Latifah (playing the Sally Field role), Alfre Woodard (taking over for Shirley MacLaine) and Phylicia Rashad (sitting in Olympia Dukakis’ chair).
  • The day someone performs the epic flop musical Via Galactica is the day someone will revive Carrie off-Broadway. What is that you say? Really? Well, it seems pigs are flying all over town because that infamous 70’s sci-fi tuner with a score by Galt MacDermot (Hair) is getting a concert reboot March 23-25 at the Kraine Theater in NYC. I don’t know anything about the company presenting this new Via Galactica but I do know it’s a benefit for the Embrace Kids Foundation  and features an updated script by Erik Ludwig. Tickets are $15 and can be reserved by writing
  • If you were in LA this past weekend, I hope you caught Grey’s Anatomy: The Songs Beneath the Show, a benefit for the Actors Fund featuring the cast of the hit drama showing off their pipes–instead of surgically removing someone else’s. Watch a clip of the fabulous Tony-winning Sara Ramirez after the jump and you’ll want to plead for her to come back to Broadway. Stat!

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