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Monthly Archives: February 2010

Listening to “Memphis” A New Broadway Musical

Last month, I gave a way a copy of Memphis – A New Broadway Musical. I thought I might revisit this since they’ve released a release date for the CD, nationwide on March 30th. If you’ve been waiting for it to show up on iTunes instead of buying the $25 version at their website or theatre, then you’ll just have to wait one more month. Not too bad. But, to hold you over, you can hear a few of the songs here on The Broadway Critic.

Be sure to tell all of us what you think in the comments!

The Memphis track listing follows:

“Underground”
“The Music Of My Soul”
“Scratch My Itch”
“Ain’t Nothin’ But A Kiss”
“Everybody Wants To Be Black On A Saturday Night”
“Make Me Stronger”
“Colored Woman”
“Someday”
“She’s My Sister”
“Radio”
“Say A Prayer”
“Crazy Little Huey”
“Big Love”
“Love Will Stand When All Else Falls”
“Stand Up”
“Change Don’t Come Easy”
“Tear Down The House”
“Memphis Lives In Me”
“Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll”
Bonus Track “The Music Of My Soul” – David Bryan

Listen to a few tracks from Memphis:

“The Music of My Soul”


“Someday”


“Radio”


“Love Will Stand When All Else Falls”


“Memphis Lives In Me”


“Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll”


 
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Posted by on 02/27/2010 in Broadway, Music

 

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Bay Area Theatre: Weekend Picks, Feb 26-28

Here are The Broadway Critic’s picks for Bay Area Theatre this weekend:

1. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Foothill Musical Theatre – It’s been getting rave reviews! Check out the review in the SJ Mercury News. I posted a preview of this last week! Check out the comments in the preview to see some of the audience’s reactions. I’m off to see it tonight and I’m very much looking forward to it! Sounds like a W-I-N-N-E-R!

Buy tickets | More info

2. Curtains at Diablo Theatre Company – I was off to see this production last night, but got stuck in an awful traffic jam and unfortunately missed it. I’ve heard wonderful things about it and my friend, Andrew Willis-Woodward is in it. It’s closing this weekend, so don’t miss it!

Buy tickets | More info

3. Chicago at Notre Dame de Namur University – First off, it’s Chicago – one of my favorite musicals of all-time. Second off, there are some big Bay Area theatre names attached this production: Greg Fritsch – Director, Dottie Lester-White – Choreographer and William Liberatore – Musical Director. It looks like they have an outstanding cast as well. I’ve never seen anything at NDNU, so I’m very excited to check this out.

Buy tickets | More info

On my Radar:

  • Rock ‘n’ Roll at San Jose Stage Company – This extraordinary theatrical event, from four-time Tony Award winner Tom Stoppard (The Coast Of Utopia), makes its South Bay debut in a uniquely intimate production at The Stage. More info
  • Ovo at Cirque du Soleil’s tent on Taylor – I called it “… a theatrical and athletic feast of epic proportions.” Read full review here.
  • Lady Be Good at Tabard Theatre Company – Lady Be Good, a Gershwin musical, opens next week, March 5th at Tabard Theatre Company. I can’t help myself from being excited about this one because I absolutely love Gershwin. More info
 

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Theatre Review: “Phantom” @ The Venetian Resort, 02/20/10

It’s called Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular for a reason. Phantom in Las Vegas is spectacular. There’s really no other way to describe it. From the gorgeous 40-million dollar theatre (specifically built for this production), to the stunning costumes, amazing special effects, falling chandelier (in four parts) and incredible set design, Phantom does not dissapoint.

When I saw Phantom of the Opera, years ago, at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, it felt long-winded, a little boring and the love story didn’t resonate at all. Now, it’s been reworked, cut to 90 minutes and it couldn’t be a more precise production. There’s nothing extra in it, no long-winded reprises of songs you can’t understand the lyrics to there’s not even any unneeded dialogue. It’s short, to the point and yet somehow the story is much clearer than the recent movie adaptation or original musical. I finally walked out the theatre understanding the love connection between Christine (Kristi Holden) and the Phantom (Anthony Crivello) and also between Christine and Raoul (Andrew Ragone). Before I never understood any of the relationships so I didn’t care. Now, I do. And that makes all of the difference.

One of the best parts of the production is the sound design by Mick Potter. Obviously, Potter had state-of-the-art material to work with and a brand new theatre but even so, his sound design makes the show. It must have been a dream to design! No limitations. Because of that, he’s designed one of the best sounding productions I have ever seen. It’s very rare for me to walk out of a production thinking, “Damn, that sound design was fantastic.” The way the sound moves through the auditorium creates almost another sensory experience for the theatregoer. It comes at you at all angles, crescendoing and decrescendoing at all the right moments. The orchestra and voices sounded crystal clear. You almost have to see this production just for the sound design.

Now combine the sound design with an incredible set design and special effects and Phantom will blow your mind. There’s fire, fog and even nightly fireworks. The Phantom only appears in the chandelier (that cost $5 million to build), above the stage, in the box seats, through trapdoors and downstage only in his dungeon lair (surrounded by mist). He’s truly a ghost of the theatre. One of my favorite moments is when Christine and Phantom are on the boat, surrounded by fog and mist, with floating candles all around. It couldn’t be a more beautiful stage picture.

Christine Daae’s (Kristi Holden) beautiful voice soars throughout the entire production. Her voice against the Phantom and Raoul’s voice was a perfect match, especially in “All I Ask of You”. Everyone in the 40-person cast sounded amazing, especially up against the magnificent orchestra conducted by Jack Gaughan. The orchestra should be congratulated for making Andrew Lloyd Weber’s score fresh and modern (unlike the dismal movie). I absolutely think they should make a cast recording of the Las Vegas production. I would buy it in a heart beat.

Over a hundred million people have seen the stage version of Phantom of the Opera (and countless others the movie). They’ve created a smart, updated, stripped-down version that is ultimately better than the original. It’s quite hard to one-up a masterpiece, especially one as well-known as Phantom, but the Las Vegas production does that in spades.

Check out my twitter feed and learn all about my Las Vegas Broadway Weekend!

Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular

Venetian Resort – Hotel – Casino

Venetian Box office – (866) 641-SHOW (7469) or (702) 414-9000

Group Sales: For 10 or more – (702) 785-5394 or Groups@BASEentertainment.com
Tickets: Prices range from $72 – $160 + tax – VIP Experience Package is available
Website Address: www.phantomlasvegas.com or www.venetian.com

Check out Andrew Lloyd Weber’s new sequel to “Phantom of the Opera” entitled “Love Never Dies”. The Broadway Critic has a sneak peak to two of the songs.

 
 

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Broadway News Round Up #10

Each week, The Broadway Critic will be featuring the news that you don’t want to miss! A lot has happened since we posted about Masterworks releasing their full Broadway catalog and some news about the new Off-Broadway hit, Yank!

  • The most exciting news (for me, at least) is that Evita might be coming back to Broadway. I would absolutely love to see a Broadway production of Evita. It’s actually the musical that got me hooked to musicals. Playbill.com says, “The New York Post reports that plans are currently underway to remount the Michael Grandage-directed production on Broadway next year at a Nederlander theatre-to-be-announced with Roger repeating her work for New York audiences.” And word on the street is that Ricky Martin might be playing Che. I would see this in a heartbeat!
  • Other big news in the theatre world: the first preview of Love Never Dies happened this week in London. There have been strong reactions to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s sequel to Phantom of the Opera and you can read a review here. If you would like to check out a few of the songs, then go here. If all goes well, I’ll be seeing this in London before it transfers to Broadway. And of course, I’ll post a lengthy review of it.
  • My Broadway twitter friends were tweeting yesterday about casting Lady Gaga in a Broadway role. They mentioned everything from Elphaba (bad idea) to Maureen in RENT. (Not such a bad idea!) But, frankly I want to see Lady Gaga in her own Fame Monster musical. That, I think, would sell tickets.
  • Come Fly Away opens previews next week. You can get a sneak peak of what the production looks like here.
  • The 1st ever Blu-ray release of The Sound of Music, which will include bonus and interactive material, has been released. Check out this beautiful trailerThe Sound of Music will be released on Blu-ray Christmas 2010.
  • And finally, A Little Night Music is selling tickets into August, but Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury are set to leave in June. Seriously? Who’s going to see that production without the two biggest stars? I don’t think very many. Also, I’m trying to see A Little Night Music on my NYC trip at the end of March and Telecharge.com keeps telling me that Zeta-Jones is out that week. I’m devestated.

Until next week…

 
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Posted by on 02/25/2010 in Broadway, News

 

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Theatre Review: “The Lion King” @ Mandalay Bay, 02/20/10

Ever since The Lion King made it’s debut roar on Broadway in the New Amsterdam Theatre, I have heard mostly great things about the show (especially about Julie Taymor’s direction and costumes).  I’ve been avoiding it for 12 years for no particular reason other than it’s a musical based on a cartoon. I’ve always just had more important or time-sensitive shows to see when I go to New York City. The Lion King has just surpassed Beauty and the Beast and now is the 8th longest running musical on Broadway. Quite a feat! Not to mention the several US and international tours that are currently in production. Luckily, I had the chance to see The Lion King for the first time in Mandalay Bay’s beautiful, spacious state-of-the-art theatre.

What a beautiful production – from the costumes, down to the set design; it’s visually stunning! And you can’t forget the memorable songs and story. In the first number, “Circle of Life”, you’ve already seen dozens of ingenious animal costumes/puppets – all of which are incredible. I was literally inches away from the actors as they proceeded down the aisles of the theatre to the stage. The elephants, birds, antelope, cheetah and the rest of the animals all gather to see Mufasa’s new child, Simba displayed on top of Pride Rock. And so begins the circle of life…

Everyone knows the story of The Lion King since it is 19th biggest grossing movie with several Academy, Golden Globes and Grammy awards and nominations. It’s the highest grossing cartoon of the 1990′s. It’s epic in it’s own right. It’s been so long since I’ve seen the cartoon that I forgot that I had every line and lyric memorized. There are some differences in the musical version – some added scenes and songs to help create some depth to the characters (especially the older Nala and Zazu) and plot. Unlike the changes in plot in Disney’s recent The Little Mermaid musical, I liked the changes/additions in The Lion King. One of my favorite numbers of the whole production was a new song called “Shadowlands” sung by the older Nala (Kissy Simmons). In one song, you learn about Nala’s frustrations, sorrow and fears – something you miss in the cartoon.

Besides being a beautiful costume parade, the choral music – that became the underlying thematic material throughout – was beautiful. The 40-plus cast members were in perfect tight harmony the entire show. Not only did everyone look beautiful and amazing, they sounded how they looked. There were a few striking performances that stood out against the rest: Scar (Thom Sesma), Older Nala (Kissy Simmons), Young Simba (Aubrey Omari Joseph) and Rafiki (Buyi Zama). Each one of these actors took command of that giant stage and held their own. Not once did their costume consume them; it only helped them further tell their story. Sesma’s interpretation of Scar was spot-on, down to his nasty snarl. Simmons’ powerful voice gave me chills and almost got me to cry when she sang “Shadowlands”. Joseph’s buoyant energy filled the theatre with young Simba’s curiosity and courage. And Zama held the show together (just as Rafiki holds the animals of Pride Rock together) with her powerful voice, character and monkey-charm.

There were only a few disappointments. With the amount of credits that Clifton Oliver (older Simba) has, I was underwhelmed by his acting and singing. He’s played Simba in L.A., Broadway and on the 1st National tour. You would think that this guy is gonna blow you away, but he didn’t! He didn’t nail either of his songs, but especially my favorite song, “Endless Night”. It felt constricted and overworked to the point that it had no life. Because the rest of the cast was so strong and the fact he only is in the second act, it didn’t effect the overall show. Mufasa (Alton F. White) didn’t necessarily command the stage as James Earl Jones’ voice did in the cartoon. White sang “They Live in You” beautifully, but I just didn’t feel Mufasa’s mammoth presence radiate.

The magnificent morphing set, designed by Richard Hudson, was incredible as it created beautiful allusions of caves, jungles, waterfalls and grasslands. I couldn’t believe how they manipulated the stage to do all of those changes in one show. At points, it was breathtaking.

Seeing my favorite childhood cartoon on stage was more memorable than I ever thought it would be. I loved it, plain and simple. The best part is that adults and children can equally love The Lion King. It’s part of why it was so successful as a cartoon and also why it won the Tony Award for Best Musical. It’s a beautiful story that’s set to great music by Elton John and Tim Rice. You add Julie Taymor’s creative vision on top of that and you’ve created an imaginative masterpiece.

Read my twitter feed and learn all about my Las Vegas Broadway Weekend.

Listen to songs from the Original Cast Recording of The Lion King:

“Shadowland”


“Endless Night”


The Lion King at Mandalay Bay

Las Vegas, Nevada

Open-ended Run

Website | Get tickets

 
 

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The Las Vegas Broadway Weekend

To the West Coast, New York City can be quite the journey! It usually takes most of the day (or night – if you take the red eye) to get there and then you have to deal with the 3-hour time difference. Though New York City is thrilling and one of my favorite cities, it can be altogether a bit exhausting.

Good thing there’s Broadway in Las Vegas! Hop on a plane and you’re there in an hour or so and you’re refreshed from the quick nap you’ve just taken. Over the last 5 or 6 years, Las Vegas has really amped up their “family-friendly” marketing and nothing is more family-friendly than the musicals, The Lion King or Phantom! Since then, Las Vegas has been host of several shows including the new Queen musical We Will Rock You, Abba’s hit-musical Mamma Mia and even the Sesame Street adult-style musical Avenue Q. Broadway is taking over Las Vegas one show at a time. (MORE PLEASE!)

Now, you’ve got to remember that it’s Las Vegas. The shows are a little shorter. (You don’t want to be spending the entire night at the theatre right?) And of course, they have a little more razzle dazzle than productions in New York City. It obviously goes a long with the overall Vegas-esque theme! But, I don’t mind. Bring it on!

Here’s a run-down of Las Vegas Theatre:

Broadway shows:

Off-Broadway type shows:

Cirque du Soleil productions:

For a full listing of everything, you can always check out Playbill.com.

This weekend, I’m going to have an epic Broadway-filled trip to Las Vegas. Instead of going to freezing New York, I decided it’s high time that I see The Lion King and Jersey Boys. I’ve never seen either of those shows on Broadway, so I’m looking forward to seeing them for the first time. Last June, I saw Phantom, The Las Vegas Spectacular and I was absolutely blown away. I can’t wait to see it again! It’s truly spectacular.

What’s your favorite part of Sin City? Though we do love the shopping, a little gambling and the rollercoasters, our favorite part is, of course, the theatre!

 
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Posted by on 02/18/2010 in Broadway, Las Vegas, Preview

 

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Theatre Review: “Wicked” @ Orpheum Theatre, 02/11/10

Three Different Perspectives on the San Francisco production of Wicked:

1. Third Time (once on Broadway, twice in San Francisco) – Written by: Spencer Williams

I had the chance to see the magical San Francisco production of Wicked for a second time this last week. Now, this is the third time I’ve seen Wicked. I saw it back on Broadway a few weeks before Idina Menzel left and when Jennifer Laura Thompson (the 2nd Glinda) was in it. (By the way, Jennifer Laura Thompson was absolutely amazing as Glinda!) Sitting in the expansive Gershwin theatre, I remember being swept away by the lights, music and incredible costumes. This was also before every tween and teenage girl became infatuated with it! I got great orchestra seats (for relatively cheap) on Christmas day and had a great experience. For whatever reason, I never saw it again (probably because after that it was ridiculously hard to get relatively cheap tickets).

Fast forward five years. I recently (back in September) saw the San Francisco production. (I won lottery tickets for $25 bucks!) I had forgotten a lot of the storyline elements that keep Wicked fresh and funny. There is so much left out of the cast recording that I sincerely forgot several of the scenes. I remembered why I enjoyed it so much the first time. And I did get to see the fabulous Patty Duke as Madame Morrible! The standby for Glinda, Natalie Daradich, was on that night. It was only a so-so performance – most of the jokes were lost in the comedic timing but I still thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Now, only a few months later, I had the opportunity to see it again. This time, I saw both Teal Wicks (Elphaba) and Kendra Kassebaum (Glinda) but the cast had changed significantly. There is a new Boq (Etai Benshlomo), Madam Morrible (Jody Gelb), Doctor Dillamond (Paul Slade Smith) and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Tom McGowan). Quite a cast change! All of them were quite worthy of their role and did a very decent job! While I thought Nicolas Dromard’s voice (Fiyero) was perfect for the role, I had a hard time pushing aside the fact that he looks like Gaston and acts similarly.

I think my favorite performer is Elphaba’s sister, Nessarose (Dee Dee Magno Hall).  For sitting in a wheelchair for most of the show, she does an incredible job of creating quite the detailed character. When she sings, “We deserve each other”, after she just put a spell on her love, Boq, you can see her heart breaking into two.

Teal Wicks (Elphaba) has an incredible voice that is both understated and extremely powerful. Of course, “Defying Gravity” was perfect. (Dare I say, more in tune than Idina Menzel’s version?) Throughout the last five years, I’ve had several favorite songs and “No Good Deed” was never one of them. But after hearing Wicks sing “No Good Deed” this has become my favorite song! The build in this song, leads to one of the best climaxes in the show!

Kassebaum definitely went for quirky, a little odd and a bit spastic in her portrayal of Glinda and for the most part it worked quite well. It wasn’t my favorite, but I still laughed a lot. Her hair toss routine was hysterical. Vocally she got better and better throughout the production and her final number was incredibly strong. (I will say that the first number “No One Mourns the Wicked” is quite the doozy, vocally.)

I still think that one of the best parts of seeing Wicked is the costumes. Could they get more stunning? Every thing down to the shoes that they are wearing are literally fantastic. Each time I see Wicked I just can’t get enough of the costumes. They are visually stunning and sometimes overshadows the actual performer.

Overall, I still have a few issues with parts of the book and music but there’s a reason that Wicked has become a cultural phenomenon. There hasn’t been a show that has captured such a wide-ranging audience since Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables. If you haven’t seen Wicked than it’s high-time to get yourself over to the Orpheum Theatre to see the San Francisco production. It’s definitely worth the ticket.

In March, Eden Espinosa is replacing Teal Wicks as Elphaba. It’s just one more reason that you might need to revisit this production of Wicked. I just saw Eden Espinosa in her cabaret performance in San Francisco and what a voice she has! I just might make it a 4th time!

2. Second Time (once on Broadway, once in San Francisco) – Written by: Shenelle Williams

This was my first time seeing Wicked since I saw it on Broadway over five years ago.  I expected to have pretty much the same reaction to the San Francisco production as I did to the Broadway production, (though maybe a little watered down because of the familiarity with the story and music).  Wicked was pretty much that.  I enjoyed the standout musical numbers, was engaged by the solid book and was amazed at the costumes and lighting.

One thing that took me by surprise was Kendra Kassebaum’s performance as Glinda.  Not only was Glinda quirky, but also clumsy and a bit awkward.  I have to admit that I didn’t want to like her performance. But by the second act, I couldn’t get enough.  Kassebaum made the show feel fresh and new.  It was exciting to watch her successfully infuse the comedic clumsiness into songs like “Popular.”

Teal Wicks as Elphaba also experimented with the music in ways that highlighted her strengths (aka incredible voice).  Her performance was so vocally solid that I didn’t think to compare it to other performances.  And let’s be honest, after seeing Idina Menzel as Elphaba, it could have been very tempting to do so.
Ultimately, this production of Wicked was predictably delightful while adding enough interest for the returning audience.

3. First time (San Francisco) – Written by: Drew Williams

I was tired of hearing all the hoopla about the musical Wicked and when the chance came to see it for the first time in San Francisco I jumped at it.

My wife and several friends have tried to explain the story line to me, but even listening to the Original Broadway recording several times, I still didn’t understand the plot. Usually, all conversations ended something like “just go and see it already!” I must say that what made Wicked absolutely spectacular to me were the costumes. The chorus section was neither here nor there for me if it hadn’t been for the beautiful costumes. G’aaaalinda and Elphaba were both incredible and kept me laughing and crying – fully engaged the whole time. The songs are beautiful, the stage was exquisite and the costumes magical.

It was a night well worth my time and well worth the price tag. I can finally understand what my wife was trying to tell me all this time. For those that have seen Wizard of Oz, (who hasn’t?) this adds so much depth to the original storyline. Why wait? Go now!

 

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Theatre Preview: “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” @ Foothill Musical Theatre, 2/19-3/7

“Please spell excited.”

“Excited. E – X – C -I – T – E – D. Excited.”

“You are correct!”

Yes, I’m excited to see this production! I posted the full cast as well as the photos from the production a few weeks back. I’ve only seen this show once (at San Jose Rep last Summer) and I’m interested to see what Jay Manley, the director, has done! Foothill’s Lohman Theatre is definitely a more intimate space than San Jose Rep and I’m hoping that will make us feel like we are all actually in the Spelling Bee! (Even though, as an audience member, you do have a chance to be an actual speller!)

It opens this weekend (February 19th) – though you can head over there on Thursday night for “free preview night”. But make sure you get there early because I have a feeling it might fill up!

I’ll be looking out for David Cates, Kateri McRae, Kristin Walter and Walter Mayes!

Of course, if you do see it then let us all know what you think.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Foothill Musical Theatre

Directed by Jay Manley
Musical Direction by Mark Hanson
Choreography by Kateri McRae
Costume Design by Julie Engelbrecht
Set and Lighting Design by Bruce McLeod

Performance Dates and Times:
February 19 – March 7, 2010
Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm
Sunday Matinees at 2pm
Saturday Matinees, February 27 and March 6 at 2pm

Buy tickets | More info

 
 

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Listening to “Wonderland the Musical” by Frank Wildhorn

Okay, I’m gonna be truthful here: I’m not totally sold on the new Frank Wildhorn musical, Wonderland. I’m trying to put my biases aside (I don’t really like Wildhorn’s music that much) and have an open mind but some of these songs are drenched with over-the-top pastiches of musical genres from Boy Band to Latin Pop (think Ricky Martin in 1999). But, it looks like the music matches the overall sentiment because if you look at the costumes, everything looks over-the-top. So maybe when you see the show, it’s all alright and it works (maybe?).

BroadwayGirlNYC went and saw Wonderland in Houston, Texas and wrote up a detailed review.  She states, “Wonderland is the perfect antidote to the Disney musical. Young audience members will love the bold colors and the sight gags (watch as Alice rewinds time and the actors move and speak backwards!) but it won’t feel like “kids theatre” to their parents.” But then she also says that, “…the storyline is wobbly in parts… and I hear that the creatives are still experimenting with the order of the songs.” Hmm… sounds exactly what an out-of-town try-out is suppose to be.

But what is your first impression of this show? What do you think of the songs? Are you a Wildhorn fan?

And the most important question: Do you think it will be successful on Broadway?

Website | Buy Cast Album

Listen to Wonderland, the musical:

“Worst Day of My Life”


“One Knight”


“Through the Looking Glass”


“Love Begins”


“Finding Wonderland”


Poll: Do you think Wonderland should go to Broadway?


 
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Posted by on 02/15/2010 in Music

 

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Contest: Tickets to see “The Weir” @ SJ Rep, 02/13/10 3pm

I have six tickets to give away for the Saturday, 02/13/10, matinee of The Weir at San Jose Rep.

In order to get the tickets, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Comment (leave us your email) and tell me how many tickets you need
  • Make sure you are following us on Twitter or Facebook so you can get up-to-moment theatre news

That’s all. I’ll leave the tix at the box office in your name for Saturday’s performance.

Check out The Broadway Critic’s review of The Weir.

 

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