Showing posts with label Broadway. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Broadway. Show all posts

29 July 2018

WAITRESS Arrives in LA on Thursday!

Coming THIS WEEK to Hollywood!

Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team, this irresistible new hit features original music and lyrics by 6-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles ("Brave," "Love Song"), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) and direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland). "It's an empowering musical of the highest order!" raves the Chicago Tribune.

Inspired by Adrienne Shelly's beloved film, WAITRESS tells the story of Jenna (Desi Oakley). A waitress and expert pie maker, Jenna dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town's new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.

Dates: 2 - 26 August 2018
Tickets: $49+
Location: Hollywood Pantages, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA
Parking: See Hollywood Pantages' parking suggestions here.
Appropriate Ages: 16+ due to adult languages and thematic content
Accessible Questions: See Hollywood Pantages' accessibility page here.

And if you are looking for a Spotify playlist as you head into LA to see Desi and the cast of Waitress in August, try her "Baker's Dozen" Spotify Playlist here.

18 April 2015

Mary Poppins Flies into Thousand Oaks!

Cabrillo Music Theatre has produced a truly memorizing and practically perfect production of Disney's Mary Poppins. In town for a limited time (closing Sunday, April 26th), Cabrillo's Mary Poppins promises to be one you'll be speaking of for a long time to come!

Cabrillo Music Theatre is a local community theatre in Thousand Oaks, California, and boasts 7 Ovation Award wins! The talent and productions are always top-notch and could easily rival any equity national tour you'd see in L.A. with its incredible artistic team - including choreographer Cheryl Baxter who started her career as the assistant choreographer to the one and only Gene Kelly - and ability to draw four A.E.A. guest artists.

For this production of Mary Poppins, we are thrilled to have composer Richard Sherman's own choice for Mary Poppins - Juliana Hansen, whose vast resume includes being a finalist in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's Grease - You're the One That I Want! t.v. series, Millie in the first non-equity tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Jasmine in Aladdin at Disneyland California Adventure, and Jane Bennett opposite Laura Osnes in a world premiere of Pride and Prejudice at Eastman Opera. She is joined by equally talented Wesley Alfvin (Bert) who is no stranger to the Southern California theatre scene with a resume chalk full of work at Candlelight Pavilion, The Norris Theater and El Segundo Broadway in the Park, Michael Scott Harris (George Banks) [who nearly stole the show with his rich tenor voice] who previously toured the U.S. as Piangi in the 3NT of The Phatnom of the Opera and Ovation Award winner Michelle Lane (Winifred Banks) whose regional resume includes Side Show, She Loves Me and Chess.
They are surrounded by an equally talented and energetic ensemble and some of the cutest children as Jane and Michael Banks. On opening night, I saw Abigail May Thompson and Sheffield Hocker who brought their A game to the show. Featured cast members included Tania Pasano Storrs as the iconic Bird Woman and Karen Sonnenchein as Miss Andrews also brought their A game and were truly entertaining and memorizing but truthfully the show belonged to the four A.E.A. principles.
Now, in case you aren't as familiar with the Broadway show, Mary Poppins, as me, might I take a moment to explain. If you go to see this production expecting to see the original movie come to life, you will be disappointed. This is a regional production of the Broadway musical with a book by Julian Fellowes based on the stories by P.L. Travers.  Songs by the Sherman brothers are still there along with new songs written by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. New characters (from the Mary Poppins book series) have been added and the story has been returned to its original 1930s time. 

So go into the show with an open mind and you'll be blown away as my best friend, L, and I were. The one and only Richard Sherman was in the audience on opening night and he and the audience gave Wesley Alfvin and Juliana Hansen a hearty and deserved standing ovation. I won't spoil any of the magic of the show but will just say that the ladies sitting next to me in the audience were full of awe and admiration for the show and couldn't stop talking about it on their way out of the auditorium.
But like I said, the show is here for such a limited run that you need to run and get your tickets NOW. You won't want to miss out. Tickets are available for April 19th, 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza - Kavli Theatre. visit Cabrillo Music Theatre's website here.

13 December 2013

19 Days to London

How fast time flies! It seems like just yesterday I was writing my 76 Days until London post.

London, January 2012.

07 December 2013

The Sound of Music LIVE - To See or Not to See?

Sound of Music Live on NBC was quite the conversation piece on many a Facebook and Twitter feed. Even if you didn't see it yourself on Thursday night, I am sure you've heard quite a bit about Carrie Underwood's venture into the musical theatre arena. Allow me to add my two cents as a musical theatre fan and someone who has seen both the Julie Andrews' film and a professional production or two.

Let us start with Carrie Underwood's singing and acting. She is best known for her country music but was given an opportunity of the lifetime to star as Maria Rainer in the Sound of Music Live! on NBC. And she deserves props for her beautiful renditions of the music. She had great enthusiasm, sang beautifully and despite her lack of training as an actress she held her own amongst a host of Broadway legends -- in particular her acting was endearing in "My Favorite Things (Duet)" with Audra McDonald (Mother Abbess) and her confrontation scene with Stephen Moyer (Captain von Trapp).

My primary draw to see The Sound of Music Live! were Broadway legends Audra McDonald (Mother Abbess), Christiane Noll (Sister Margaretta) and Laura Benanti (Elsa Schrader) and Stephen Moyer (Captain von Trapp). And each exceeded my expectations, if that is possible.

Audra McDonald known for her Broadway performances in Carousel (revival cast), Ragtime, Porgy & Bess and TV's Annie has one of the most haunting and beautiful voices imaginable -- I could listen to her anytime. In particular, her rendition of The Glamorous Life (see below) is magical.

And her performance as the Mother Abbess was no exception. Her renditions of Climb Every Mountain in particular gave goosebumps.

Christiane Noll (Sister Margaretta) first came to my attention in Frank Wildorn's Jekyll and Hyde (1997) as love interest, Emma Carew, with her breathtaking soprano.

It was a delight having Christiane participate in the Sound of Music Live! television production. Her participation in How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? was endearing and sympathetic.

Laura Benanti (Elsa Schrader) who made her Broadway debut as the understudy for Rebecca Luker in the revival of Sound of Music and later took over the role opposite Richard Chamberlain was a most perfect counterpart to Maria in the televised production.

A 19 year old Laura Benanti (Maria Rainer)
with Richard Chamberlain (Captain von Trapp)
Laura in stunning and elegant as Elsa and her two numbers are standouts and worthy of several playbacks. 

In particular, Laura's second act No Way to Stop It with Stephen Moyer and Christian Borle was a definite favorite with great acting from Stephen and Laura and fantastic vocals. 

And now for that handsome vampire-turned-Captain, Stephen Moyer (best known for HBO's True Blood) -- he was a great surprise with a stirring rendition of Edelweiss and a strong performance in the above mentioned No Way to Stop It

And of course the orchestrations, choreography, direction, stages and costumes were spectacular as befitted the $9 million budget. I specifically wanted a copy of Liesl's second act dress (Sixteen Going on Seventeen Reprise). And special props to the adorable actress playing Gretl.

So, do I recommend seeing the tv production (on TV or DVD)? Yes!
Do I recommend the cast album? Definitely, some fabulous vocals, including from the lovely Carrie.
Let's support musical theatre!

04 December 2013

A Magical Date with The Lion King

Disney's The Lion King is back in LA for a limited engagement over the holidays!
Being an ardent Disney fan (and former employee) I just had to see this legendary show one more time (having seen it previously in LA during high school) so I grabbed my dad and caught the Tuesday, December 3rd evening performance at the Pantages Theatre.

Before the 7:30 curtain, I was ravenous and introduced my dad to one of Sunset Blvd.'s best quick service restaurants -- Tender Greens. We arrived at 5:45 and there was hardly a queue. I ordered my usual - butternut soup ($4) and a side of mac 'n cheese ($4). This is the perfect comfort food on a chilly autumn evening before catching a Broadway show at the Pantages Theatre. Dad ordered their chicken hot plate which comes with mashed potatoes and a side salad ($11). 
Butternut Soup © Joy Michelle
Considering the location, the quality of the food (freshly made and prepared to order), the options (you can't find mashed potatoes, for instance, at Panera Bread or Corner Bakery Cafe), the ambiance (very modern and hip), and service (big friendly smiles from helpful employees eager to answer any questions you might have) it is a great deal for a pre-show meal.

Mac 'N Cheese © Joy Michelle
I really think they might have one of the best mac 'n cheese offerings EVER! In my book, they are tied with TASTE's White Truffle Oil and Mushroom Mac 'n Cheese. As my dad said, it is not too cheesy or sweet. And the breadcrumbs on top are a perfect touch! Yum Yum.

So with our bellies full, we walked back up Vine St. to the Pantages and joined a very excited crowd of theatre patrons. For a Tuesday night, the house (on the orchestra floor) was probably 90% full with a mix of young and old. Children, in my opinion, bring a special kind of magic to any Disney show and last night was no exception with the little oohs and awwws.

One fun highlight is that in the main floor lobby (between the two center aisle doors) there is a display of 4 original masks from the Las Vegas production of The Lion King. The masks up close and personal are a-mazing! The detail and the artistry is mind boggling even today, 16 years after the original production made its debut. When you visit the Pantages, this is a definite must see.

Dad and yours truly with the beautiful Julie Taymor masks. © Joy Michelle
At 7:15, with only 15 minutes until curtain, my dad and I made our way to our seats in the orchestra right section on the aisle. Perfect view from our seats of the breathtaking production and the special musicians performing from the wings. You will definitely want to get their early to see the stage up close, check out the musicians' setup, and admire the Pantages' architecture and design.

Dad and yours truly in our seats © Joy Michelle
We were delighted to see the show start on time with an announcement that both Nala and Sarabi would be played by understudies. Unfortunately there were no inserts in the playbills but I am 99% sure that our Nala for the evening was performed by Themebelihle Cele (great accent and adorable interactions with Jelani Remy, as Simba).

And suddenly there was Brown Lindiwe Mkhize (Rafiki) on stage belting out the opening bars of Circle of Life and the magic begins! Actors (who double as stilt walkers, puppeteers, you name it!) start filling the auditorium as the song builds to a crescendo and you find yourself sitting up higher in your seat pinching yourself in wonderment. I had goose bumps! And based on the enthusiastic applause from the audience at every song and scene, the thrill was felt universally by the theatre goers.

No number can compete with Circle of Life but definite highlights were: They Live in You (featuring the show's best vocal performance by L. Steven Taylor), He Lives in You (featuring the strong vocals of Ms. Mkhize), and Endless Night (featuring the talented Jelani Remy).
L. Steven Taylor as Mafusa in The Lion King © Joan Marcus
As a whole, the show was spectacular from start to finish. It is truly an ensemble piece and the cast blended well together to make one magical evening from start to finish. Energy was tops, dancing was flawless, comedy was spot on with every joke earning major chuckles from the audience (including one about today's economy), and those little moments (i.e. Sarabi's mourning of Mufasa) left you choking back tears. The audience was on our feet the moment the final bar of music was played and the standing ovation was well deserved of everyone in the cast and orchestra.

I cannot recommend seeing The Lion King highly enough during its brief stay here in Los Angeles or further on when the show visits your hometown. You will be left with goosebumps, tears of joy and a belief in the magic of theatre and good music. GO, GO, GO!

The 4-1-1:
Location: The Pantages
Dates: Now through January 12th
The one disappointment:
Having been around since 1997, many people know the music and magic of The Lion King whether they've seen the show themselves or heard from friends and relatives. That said, in 2010, 9 minutes of the show was cut including an entire song, The Morning Report, that allowed for character development of Young Simba, Zazu and Mufasa, and a large portion from Scar's second act number, The Madness of King Scar, without which you were left lost and unable to identify with the "madness" per say.  I understand the need to save time but were those the right spots to cut? If it had been my first time to see The Lion King I would have been somewhat confused as to plot and character development. As it was, I felt robbed of key musical moments I loved in the original production.

But I shouldn't get started on my feelings about "cut" numbers. ;) The worst "cut" imaginable has to be Grantaire's Drink with Me from Les Miserables. I still cry hearing the new version. And not for a good reason! :)

18 October 2013

Kiss Me Kate with Davis Gaines

We all know those classic Cole Porter songs such as Another Openin', Another Show and Too Darn Hot and So In Love. Spiced up for a modern audience but still making use of all the classic songs, the result is continuous laughs and two hours of toe tapping fun.
Kiss Me Kate
Victoria Strong/Davis Gaines
(c) Cabrillo Music Theatre, 2013

Starring as the star-crossed lovers, Fred/Petruchio and Lilli/Kate, are Davis Gaines (credits including being LA's longest running Phantom of the Opera, Anthony in Sweeney Todd, and the title character in Man of La Mancha) and Victoria Strong (credits include Reprise's Carousel as Nettie Fowler). Supporting cast includes: Reba Buhr (DCA's Aladdin) as Lois/Bianca, Scott Reardon as Bill/Lucentio and standout Tom McMahon as First Man. They are supported by an energetic and well-voiced ensemble.

Vocally the cast is top notch.

Davis Gaines (Fred/Petruchio) has not lost any of his vocal prowess. I have had the pleasure of seeing him in a handful of LA performances, own the DVD of San Francisco's Sweeney Todd in Concert and have a copy of his album, Against the Tide, and had the pleasure of being his presenter escort at the LA Ovation Awards a few years past so I can testify he is as much a sweetheart offstage as he is a powerhouse star on stage.  His comedic numbers in Kiss Me Kate appeared effortless and his rich rendition of So In Love is destined to make many men and women melt like butter.

Victoria Strong (Lilli/Kate) has a heavenly soprano voice. Sitting towards the front of the orchestra section at the Fred Kavli Theatre, I quite a few times found myself wondering if she even needed her microphone since her voice was so powerful.  She held her own in the show and especially excelled in I Hate Men and I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple.

Reba Buhr and Scott Reardon as the supporting couple were both easy on the eyes and well voiced.  Buhr's version of Always True to You in My Fashion and Reardon's Bianca are memorable.

Of all the supporting cast, Tom McMahon (Man #1) was the ultimate scene stealer with his excellent comedic timing, fabulous one liners and second act duet, Brushing Up Your Shakespeare.

Unfortunately, anyone who's seen the 1953 film version, the 2003 Great Performance taping or a well choreographed production will find the dancing to be lacking in this production so key dance numbers such as Another Openin', Another Show and Tom, Dick or Harry and Too Darn Hot and We Sing of Love left me wanting more. Of all the dance numbers, Too Darn Hot featuring Lamont Whitaker (Paul) was the most entertaining.

Family Appropriate? I know that many of my readers are those with young families and I would caution you to not expect a PG rated family friendly show.  Remember that in 1953 when the film came out starring Howard Keel it was considered the most racy of Cole Porter's works. The show has been modernized for its current audience and adult humor is predominate throughout. I would say leave home any pre-teen children or better yet just make it a fun night out with your significant other.

* * *

Kiss Me Kate opens tonight at the Fred Kavli Theatre for only nine performances so grab your tickets now because you will not want to miss the classic show's Thousand Oaks debut, 60 years after the famous technicolor film was released.

Cabrillo Music Theatre
18-27 October 2013*
Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza
2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

Parking Structure: $8.00 per car (cash only)

*There will be a talkback after the matinee performance on 10/19 and an ASL-interpreted performance on 10/25.

Let me know if you go to see the show! I'd love to hear your thoughts too. And big thanks again to Abigail Herman (ensemble) for getting me on the list last night. You were a highlight amongst the ensemble with your featured moments.

03 October 2013

A Girls' Night Out: Dinner & A Show

Tuesday evening, I had the delight and pleasure of going out for a girls' night out with Veronica. To celebrate her birthday (a few days belated), I treated Veronica to dinner at Fabiolus Cucina, an amazing Italian restaurant tucked into Sunset Boulevard with the most charming of outdoor patios.

I had their delicious Gnocchi Radicchio e Salsiccia and Veronica had Penne alla Vodka.

To top off the perfect dinner, we indulged in some birthday Tiramisu' from our delightful waiters.

After such a heavy dinner, a walk up Argyle Avenue was just what we needed. Because we had arrived so early in Hollywood (no traffic, thank the Lord) we could take our time and enjoyed checking out the different stars along Hollywood Boulevard. There is even a Mr. Browning at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue. (Unfortunately no photo.)  The most appropriate star was right in front of the Pantages Hollywood Theatre -- that of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who penned this new production of The Wizard of Oz.
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber
View from my new season ticket seats.
Before we ventured into the theatre to our seats, we explored the beautiful staircases and mezzanine level. Such beauty. Such opulence. Such majestic grandeur.

Veronica and I in our seats
Onwards to The Wizard of Oz:
The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland came out in 1939 and has become a classic in most households with the trademark song, Over the Rainbow. I was never a big fan of the film myself but when I heard that Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber was searching for Dorothy on the BBC's Over the Rainbow in 2010 I was quite curious and watched the show via BBC on-line and YouTube.  Just as religiously I watched the 2012 Canadian version of Over the Rainbow where Danielle Wade was named Canada's Dorothy.

Even more exciting was the news that Jacquelyn Piro Donovan was starring as Miss Gultch/The Wicked Witch of the West.  I had been following Jacqui's career ever since she was on Broadway as Fantine in Les Miserables opposite my friend, Stephanie Waters (Cosette).
Original US Tour Cast. Photo by CYLLA VON TIEDEMANN    
So humming to the tune of "If I Only Had a Brain, Heart, Nerve", Veronica and I eagerly took our seats and awaited the overture.
2010 BBC's Over the Rainbow Finale
We were pleasantly surprised to see that this performance would be ASL-Interpreted. The Pantages Theatre provides one ASL-Interpreted performance per show.  To find out dates for ASL-Interpreted performances, call their box office at 1-800-982-2787. For those who are not dependent on an ASL interpretation, note that the interpreters are stage right and not the least bit distracting.

Based on the 1939 movie, the new stage musical features all the classic songs you've known since childhood including: Over the Rainbow and If I Only Had a Brain.  New songs written by the Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice team, fresh costume and hair design, and video production techniques brings the beloved 74 year old movie musical forward with sparkle and panache.

Danielle Wade (Dorothy) was even more impressive then she had been in the 2012 Canadian t.v. series, Over the Rainbow. It seems that she has continued to grow vocally, in her walk, and performance. Her rendition of Over the Rainbow is believable, powerful and vulnerable. And her chemistry with the trio (Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion) was top marks!
Original Canadian Cast. Photo by CYLLA VON TIEDEMANN    
 In particular, the chemistry between Danielle Wade (Dorothy) and Mike Jackson (Tin Man) was sheer perfection!  Little looks they gave each other, the giving of a key Tin Man line from If I Only Had a Heart to Dorothy, and the way Tin Man twirled her towards the end of the show gave cause for many ooos and awws.

Jacquelyn Piro Donovan (The Wicked Witch of the West/Miss Gultch) does an excellent job of pulling away from the stereotypical WWW in the 1939 movie, Margaret Hamilton, and the recent Wicked metamorphosis -- Elphaba.  Her portrayal is campy, smart, modern, determined and perfected by a delightfully wicked cackle.  The new song written by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice perfectly compliments Mrs. Donovan's performance.  

Unfortunately there were quite a bit of technical glitches when it came to microphones and the performers being drowned out by the orchestra.

The one most controversial aspect of this updated production are the video screen projections.  [My first experience with video screen projections was in 2005 at Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White.] The video can be used to great benefit as a background and to create an amazingly visual tornado.  Unfortunately these same technical advantages can be the show's detriment when it is overly used as in Act II.  You be the judge when you go to see the U.S. national tour and let me know your thoughts!

Show Rating:
Acting: A
All cast members, ensemble to headliners, give 110% of themselves in their roles and nobody outshines the rest of the cast. It's a fabulous ensemble show.
Choreography: B+/A-
The show's best choreographed number is "Hail-Hail! The Witch is Dead!" and the Tin Man and Scarecrow both move well.
Costumes: B+
The munchkins' costumes were the one major let down for both Veronica and myself. Not believable.

After the show, Veronica and I headed to the Stage Door and talked with a young girl with her mum and another young woman.  Everyone unanimously commented on the beauty of the show, splendid cast, fantastic costumes and adorable Nigel who played Toto.  All the principals made a point of speaking with everyone at the banister. Veronica and I especially enjoyed conversing with Jamie McKnight (Scarecrow) and Danielle Wade (Dorothy) who made a point of taking time to talk with the little girl and pose for photos - making her night, I have no doubt!
The young girl admiring Nigel ("Toto")
Touring care package for Jacqui.
Yours truly with the beautiful and talented Jacquelyn Piro Donovan

So what are you waiting for? Grab your tickets to see The Wizard of Oz when the tour is in your neck of the woods. You won't regret it. It will make for a great family outing or date night. There are still tickets left during closing weekend here at the the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles.