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2011 January Bay Area Theatre Guide

The new year has begun! Welcome to 2011!

With all of the craziness of the holidays, I wasn’t able to get my theatre picks up for January until now. Luckily, several shows are opening in late January which gives you (and me) plenty of time to organize our theatre wish-list for January.

I spent the beginning of December seeing the touring production of Shrek (which I thought was abysmal), the puppet masterpiece, The Composer is Dead at Berkeley Rep (which didn’t have much of a plot or presence) and the new musical, Backwards in High Heels at San Jose Rep (a fun delightful show with no heart). To be honest, I was a bit let down by all three productions and it drove me to a much needed theatrical break. After all, I did see over 60 productions last year alone!

While I spent my holiday in London, I had the chance to see the newly revamped Love Never Dies. Again, I was let down by the changes that Andrew Lloyd Webber had made and was quite disappointed.

I’m off to New York City for a quick weekend, where I’m seeing Spiderman and American Idiot (with Billy Joe Armstrong). I can’t wait to report!

So here’s to a new year and a new month with hopefully a better slew of shows than this past December.

Broadway Cast Poster 1. Next to Normal at Curran Theatre (SHNSF) in San Francisco – Out of all the shows that you should buy tickets to, this is the one. I know this touring cast will be good because it has the Tony Award winner Alice Ripley is in it. I’ve seen her perform several times and her performance is incredible and not to be missed.

Next to Normal has become one of my favorite musicals of all time. I’ve seen it five times on Broadway and I’m looking forward to seeing it again in San Francisco in a new theatre, with almost a new cast.

Out of all the shows that are coming to San Francisco, I can’t stress enough that this is the show that you should buy tickets to and see! It’s absolutely a beautiful show and worthy of the Pulitzer Prize that it won! I’ll be there opening night.

Website | Tickets

2. Clybourne Park at ACT (San Francisco) – Home is where the heart—and history—is in Clybourne Park, a “buzz-saw sharp new comedy” (The Washington Post) that cleverly spins the events of A Raisin in the Sun to tell an unforgettable new story about race and real estate in America. Act I opens in 1959, as a white couple sells their home to a black family, causing uproar in their middle-class Chicago neighborhood.

Act II transports us to the same house in 2009, when the stakes are different, but the debate is strikingly familiar. Adamant provocateur Bruce Norris launches his characters into lightning-quick repartee as they scramble for control of the situation, revealing how we can—and can’t—distance ourselves from the stories that linger in our houses.

A West Coast premiere.

January 20–February 13, 2011

Website | Get Tickets

3. Grease at Broadway San Jose – Unfortunately, I will be out of town for the full week of this run, so I will not be able to see it. I’ll be honest and say that Grease isn’t my favorite musical (by any means), but I’m hoping it will be a fun production filled with upcoming Broadway talent.

If you do have a chance to see this show, let us know what you think! I’m very curious to see how it all turns out.

Hopefully, you were the winner of our ticket giveaway!

Opens January 18th – 23rd, 2011.

Website | Tickets

4. Compleat Female Stage Beauty at City Lights Theatre Company - Embracing a period of British history that’s ripe with gender & social intrigue, Kynaston, the most famous portrayer of female roles in seventeenth century London, is brought to ruin when King Charles II changes the law to allow women to act. His journey embarks down a road of revenge and self-awareness as Kynaston strives to take his place on the stage once again.

City Lights is known for stretching boundaries and I’m sure that they are at it again. It also features several great Bay Area actors!

It opens January 2oth and runs till February 20th, 2011.

Website | Get Tickets

5. Sylvia at Bus Barn Stage Company – Empty nesters Greg and Kate have moved to Manhattan where Greg finds Sylvia, a golden lab/poodle mix, in the park and brings her home. Greg is smitten by Sylvia’s unconditional love and the romantic triangle that results begins to eat a serious (and riotous) hole in Greg and Kate’s 22 year marriage.

This endearing romantic comedy about a marriage and a winsome canine is a tasty (dog) treat not to be missed.

January 27th – February 19th, 2011.

Website | Get Tickets

6. Clue at Boxcar Theatre – A play based on a movie based on a board game. The 1985 cult classic is adapted for the stage with every side splitting joke intact and even a few new ones thrown in for good measure. Peering over a life-sized board game, the audience watches from six feet in the air as six guests and a bumbling butler navigate square by tiny square searching a mansion to find out who killed Mr. Boddy.

Was it Colonel Mustard in the billiard room with the wrench or Ms. Scarlet in the lounge with the candlestick? With secret passages running underneath the seats, and multiple different endings, this completely ripped off production is the most original yet.

January 7th – February 5th, 2011

Website | Get Tickets

On My Radar:

  • The Dresser at San Jose Rep - It’s 1942 in Britain and the smell of death is in the air. The sirens howl, signaling another air raid, but inside the crumbling walls of a regional theatre in the provinces the aging actor, Sir, prepares to give his 227th performance as King Lear. Runs January 27 – February 20, 2011. Website
  • Holes at Hillbarn Theatre Company – Holes is a modern grown-up fairy tale with a charming ending that comes full circle after a variety of perambulations. Opens January 27th – February 13th, 2011. Website
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at South Bay Musical Theatre – Great show directed by Walter Mayes. Opens January 29th – February 19th, 2011. Website
 
 

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Theatre Review & Ticket Giveaway: “Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party” @ City Lights Theatre Company, 11/27/10

The “Question & Answer” Theatre Review:

1. What’s your vote – was Abraham Lincoln really gay?

You decide. It’s totally not the point.

2. Is there really a dance party going on at City Lights Theatre Company?

It’s a riot, with some dancing thrown in, but mostly a lot of great laughs and yet, there are still a ton of poignant moments. But the dancing is hysterical especially by Tina (Alika Ululani Spencer). She cracked me up every time she was on stage. Maybe City Lights will start a dance party after every show. They were playing some uber hip, top-40 songs before the show started and at intermission; it definitely made me want to dance.

Cast of "Big Gay Abe"

3. What is this show all about anyways?

Take away the dancing and the extremely comedic script, written by Aaron Loeb, shines! The conflict is very Inherit the Wind – ish. It’s really all about what should be taught, in regards to homosexuality and sex education, in public elementary schools and higher. Where’s the line and why is it different in so many communities across America? What do you want your teachers to teach your children at school in regards to sex education and homosexuality?

The best part about Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party is that it’s never preachy, never down-your-throat and is totally free of what the right-wing deems as the “gay agenda”. It basically opens the conversation up and gets you thinking. And there, in lies, the success of the production. It makes some bold statements, but it makes you start thinking, it starts conversations and gets people interested in a subject that affects so many of our friends, families and co-workers.

4. Why would City Lights Theatre Company pick this show over the standard holiday fare?

It gives you an option to step away the craziness of the holiday season and lets you unwind and forget your troubles. Many theatres are doing a holiday show, so why not do something completely different? City Lights will find their audience! (To be fair, the whole show is centered around a third-grade teacher, Harmony Green, who “outs” our greatest president at the annual Christmas pageant and is put on trial — there’s the Christmas connection.)

With this production, City Lights takes a risk and one that I think will pay off. The production itself is extremely complex. There are three acts and each night the three acts are performed in a different order. The best part? An audience member chooses the order of the three acts by picking a character: Regina (Lani Carissa Wong), Tom (K. Michael Riley) and Jerry (Alexander Prather). Each act lets the audience see the story through their eyes.

After, the audience member picks, the show is set-up to easily accomodate all of the costumes, props, light and sound cues within seconds. Each scene has a little fun dance interlude that director, Gina Marie Hayes, kept moving at a great pace. It never felt chaotic on stage – always calm and collected. (While I wonder what was happening backstage?!) It was never a dull moment for anyone in the cast. We saw the order: Regina, Tom & then Jerry and it felt “so right” that I didn’t believe that the acts weren’t “pre-chosen” and it was all a set-up. I was assured afterward that it’s completely random each night — talk about crazy!

5. Does the cast pull it off?

Overall, the cast does a fantastic job. I can’t even imagine doing a show that’s in a different order every night — talk about being on your toes. It’s probably a lot of hard work, but a total blast to perform. The material, itself (notwithstanding all of the craziness) is also extremely difficult. It goes from comedic to serious to campy within seconds. There were some scenes that were fantastic and spot-on and others seemed a little out-of-sync. With a few shows under their belt, I can only imagine the production getting stronger with each performance. I really enjoyed Wong’s accent and character when she played Esmerelda Diaz – one of the highlights of the night. Noah Averbach-Katz played Anton Renault – a big time NYC news reporter – and the Judge. Both characters were fun to watch! Alexander Prather does a great job playing the in-the-closet son; his changing physicalities throughout the night were often priceless. One of my favorite characters was Harmony Green (Karen DeHart). What a deeply touching performance! DeHart becomes the heart of the show.

6. Is it worth seeing?

Definitely. You’ll have fun, you’ll be entertained and best of all, it will get you thinking about some very important issues in your own community and in our current legislation.

7. Where can I get tickets?

Go to City Lights Theatre Company’s website! Or, you can win tickets right here!

How to enter to win two tickets to see Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party at City Lights Theatre Company – Tickets are for December 12th at 2pm!

  • Comment, tweet or Facebook us and tell us your favorite dance song!

Winner will be chosen on Wednesday, December 8th, 2010. You’ll be contacted in whatever way you entered!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 12/01/2010 in Broadway

 

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2010 November Bay Area Theatre Guide

This past October was a big month of theatre for The Broadway Critic. I saw six shows in New York City – some great, some awful. Here’s the list with their accompanying reviews:

  1. 10/07/10 – The Scottsboro Boys @ Lyceum Theatre – 2 out of 5 stars
  2. 10/07/10 – Without You @ NYMF (featuring Anthony Rapp) – 5 out of 5 stars
  3. 10/08/10 – Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown – 1.5 out of 5 stars
  4. 10/09/10 – Next to Normal – 5 out of 5 stars (review to be written)
  5. 10/10/10 – Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson @ Bernard Jacobs Theatre – 1.5 out of 5 stars
  6. 10/10/10 – American Idiot @ St. James Theatre – 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Bay Area had some great runs as well. Most notable was the opening of Superior Donuts at Theatreworks, the West Coast premiere of The Secret Order at San Jose Rep and RAIN: A Beatles Tribute at Broadway San Jose.

November is full of fantastic theatre openings (or continuing on from October). The Broadway Critic is planning on checking out over ten shows this month.

Here is my schedule and what I recommend seeing:

Becoming Britney at Center Rep: How does a Pop sensation wind up bald and trapped in her own musical? Becoming Britney is a caustic (but loving) PG-13 fable that chronicles the rise…the dip…and the salvation of a foolhardy celebrity phenom. The hit of the New York Fringe Festival – “It’s a production that oozes sass!” – raved NYTheatre.com – the Bay Area’s own sensation, Molly Bell, brings Britney home for it’s West Coast premiere. It’s a new Musical, y’all!

Technically this opened on October 30th but I don’t want you to forget about this production once November starts because it runs till the 14th.

Read Adam Berry’s (Man 1) full interview here.

It runs October 28 – November 14, 2010.

WebsiteGet Tickets

Sunset Boulevard at Palo Alto Players: Norma Desmond is ready for her close-up on our stage in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most melodic score. Sunset Boulevard weaves a mesmerizing tale of faded glory and unfulfilled ambition when this legendary silent film star has a fateful meeting with struggling Hollywood screenwriter, Joe Gillis. The consequences are passionate, volatile and breathtakingly spectacular.

Sunset Blvd is a show that’s rarely produced in the Bay Area. I’ve never seen this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical though I’m familiar with a lot of the music.

There’s only 11 performances, so make sure you secure a date to see this. It starts previews on November 5th, 2010 and runs till November 21st, 2010.

Website | Get Tickets

4 Play at San Jose Rep – Welcome to the zany world of The Flying Karamazov Brothers, where the daring and goofy take center stage. This ground-breaking blend of nouveau cirque, comedy, theatre, music, and, of course, juggling is nothing short of genius.

This exuberant and hilarious off-Broadway rave is full of fast-paced virtuosity and fun as the four brothers deliver a stupendously entertaining evening like you’ve never experienced.

Opens November 1oth and runs one week till November 14th. (Only 7 performances)

Website | Get Tickets

Cinderella at Berkeley Playhouse: I’ll be honest here, I’m not too excited to see Cinderella but I am excited to see Grammy nominated Frenchie Davis as the Fairy Godmother!

Every culture has had a Cinderella story; a story of the ultimate romantic love. The timeless fairy tale is reborn with the Rodgers & Hammerstein hallmarks of originality, charm and elegance. Originally presented on television in 1957, the show was revised in 1997, starring Whitney Houston, Whoopie Goldberg & Bernadette Peters. That new version has been adapted for the stage.

Interested yet?

Website | Get Tickets

Company at Jewel Theatre Company – Company is winner of the 1971 and 2007 Tony Award, and was dubbed “The best musical of the year!” by New York Magazine. Set in modern Manhattan, it’s a funny, sophisticated exploration of love and commitment as seen through the eyes of a charming perpetual bachelor questioning his single state and his enthusiastically married, slightly envious friends.

The cast is filled with wonderful Bay Area actors and several that are dear friends. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Diana Torres Koss, Lee Ann Payne, Mike Rhone, Sarah Griner and Matt Bariletti in this.

Company opens November 11th and closes the 21st.

Website | Get Tickets

The Story of My Life at Contra Costa Civic Theatre – Nominated for four 2009 Drama Desk Awards including Outstand- ing Musical, The Story of My Life tells the story of two childhood friends and how their friendship profoundly defined their lives. One, a best selling author; the other, his best friend for thirty years.

The Story of My Life is a soaring tribute to the power of friendship and the people who change our lives forever. CCCT is proud to bring you the Northern California premiere of this heart warming, intimate musical fresh from its Broadway premiere in 2009. It stars William Giammona (whom we saw in Hillbarn Theatre’s production of Chicago as Billy Flynn) and Paul Araquistain.

I’m very excited to see a Northern California premiere at a theatre I’ve never been to in the Bay Area.

Website | Get Tickets

Broadway By the Year at Broadway by the Bay: Featuring Broadway performers Marc Kudisch (3 time Tony nominee 9 to 5Thoroughly Modern MilleChitty Chitty Bang), Mary Testa (2 time Tony nominee 42nd StreetOn The Town), Kerry O’Malley (Broadway: White ChristmasInto the WoodsAnnie Get Your Gun), Noah Racey (Broadway: Thoroughly Modern MillieCurtainsNever Gonna Dance), Directed by Scott Coulter, Music Director Ross Patterson.

A musical and historical snapshot of the Great White Way highlighting the years of 1930 (Girl Crazy, Strike Up the Band, The New Yorkers) and 1964 (Funny Girl, Hello, Dolly!, Fiddler on the Roof). Variety hailed Broadway By the Year as “a bountiful evening of what Broadway does best!” You won’t want to miss this West Coast Premiere featuring your favorite songs from your favorite shows!

Only six performances – The Broadway Critic might be giving away tickets, so make sure you check back!

Website | Get Tickets

Coraline at SF Playhouse: Poor bored Coraline. She’s left to rattle ’round her perpetually distracted, workaholic parents’ house all by her lonesome. But late one night, her dreams of a better reality come true as she opens a big, carved, wooden door at the far end of the drawing room and passes into a perfect replica of her own world.

This is the West Coast premiere of Coraline.

Website | Get Tickets

The Color Purple at Broadway San Jose: Out of all the shows that Broadway San Jose is bringing to the Bay Area, The Color Purple is the one that I’m most excited about. I never got a chance to see it on Broadway and I’ve heard lovely things about it.

The Color Purple is a soul-stirring musical based on the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and the moving film by Steven Spielberg. It is the unforgettable and inspiring story of a woman named Celie, who finds her unique voice in the world. Nominated for eleven Tony Awards.

As always, Broadway San Jose’s shows only run for one week. Remember to get your tickets. As with Rain: A Beatles Tribute, The Broadway Critic will be giving away tickets to The Color Purple.

Website | Get Tickets

Every Christmas Story Ever Told at San Jose Stage Company: Join San Jose Stage Company for a fast-moving, irreverent comedy that takes holiday cheer to the extreme! Every Christmas Story Ever Told is a fond and furious look at the holiday classics and traditions we all remember. From Frosty to Rudolph and the Grinch to It’s A Wonderful Life, no pop culture holiday icon is spared in this whirlwind of holiday merriment.

This is back because of popular demand!

It starts previews on November 21st, opens on November 27th and runs till December 19th, 2010.

Website | Get Tickets

Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party at City Lights Theatre Company: What’s your vote? Abraham Lincoln was gay? Really?? Now that changes everything! Or does it?

This irreverent feast is perfect for anyone who thinks that we all take even the most serious issues a little too seriously. Taking its cue from Inherit the Wind – with the audience dictating how the story is told – this hilarious farce centers on a rural third-grade teacher who “outs” our greatest president at the annual Christmas pageant and is put on trial. By addressing our nation’s differences the play ultimately strives to bring red and blue together under a common banner of freedom & diversity.

It opens November 24th and runs till December 19th, 2010. South Bay Premiere.

Website | Get Tickets

On My Radar:

  • A Tuna Christmas at Bus Barn Stage Company: It’s Christmas Eve in tiny Tuna Texas, and a gallery of 22 zany citizens lives’ intersect as they attempt to celebrate with their tradition Yuletide activities. Website
  • White Christmas at West Valley Light Opera: The dazzling score features well-known standards including “Blue Skies”, “Sisters”, “I Love A Piano” and the perennial favorite, “White Christmas”. An uplifting musical, enjoyable for the entire family, it arrives in time to guarantee that Saratoga will have an unusual “White Christmas” this year.  Website
  • Godspell at Sunnyvale Community Players: SCP’s production, which will include “Day by Day” and other songs by Stephen Schwartz, takes a contemporary look at the issues and questions raised by the teachings of Jesus. Whether you are a believer or not, this show will get you thinking, even as you are clapping and humming along. Website
  • Driving Miss Daisy at Tabard Theatre Company – The Tabard Theatre Company continues its 10th Anniversary Season with the South Bay premiere of Alfred Uhry’s inspiring Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Eleven performances will be presented November 12 through 27, 2010. Website
 

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Theatre Review: “Without You” @ NYMF 10/07/10

Without You, a new one-man show written by and starring Anthony Rapp, played to sold-out audiences at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. I was lucky enough to grab a ticket to a late-night performance on Thursday, October 7th, 2010. Rapp’s emotional reflection on love, loss and family was one of the bravest performances I have ever seen on a stage.

Without You is based on Rapp’s 2006 memoir that recalls the events of his life in relation to the musical RENT (he starred as Mark in the original workshop and Broadway cast), his relationship with Jonathan Larson (the writer of RENT) and his partner, as well as the death of Rapp’s mother by cancer. I read the book for the first time this past June when I was researching the role of Mark for my upcoming production of RENT at City Lights Theatre Company this past summer. The message of love and life deeply touched me. It sincerely touched on delicate subjects (sexuality, death, love) with such candor that it was almost impossible not to grieve with Rapp as you read along.

Almost a month ago, I wrote a personal account of my relationship with RENT over the last 10 years and how the show has affected my own life. Here’s a short excerpt:

In June 2000… I saw RENT… when I won the lottery and sat on the front row. In retrospect, I think that night was a turning point in my life. I fell in love with musical theatre, RENT, and Broadway on that day. I always knew I liked it before and I even thought it would be an awesome career path for me, but seeing RENT ultimately changed my life because I knew I had to work in musical theatre…

I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t ready for our show to close at the end of August. I wasn’t finished telling Larson’s story; it became too real for me at that point. The connection I had to the material and cast was fierce and over the last two months I’ve continually had to re-evaluate my priorities and focus to make sure I haven’t forgotten the lessons of living life in the moment that RENT so fearlessly screams. Being able to see Anthony Rapp perform Without You allowed me to “complete my RENT journey”. It was one of the most therapeutic theatrical experiences of my life.

From the moment Rapp walked on stage and begun his story about auditioning for Michael Grief and Jonathan Larson singing R.E.M.’s “Losing my Religion” (which he sings for the audience) I was mesmerized. He continued to relate his experiences about RENT, the death of Jonathan Larson and is extremely personal relationship with his mother with such guts that it was nearly impossible to not sit in the audience and not be engaged. He remarkably interweaved his stories with new arrangements of songs from RENT that were absolutely stunning and a few original pieces that I loved as well. By the end, the tears wouldn’t stop. Even now, a week later, the emotions are still raw and real.

Obviously, this piece was very personal to me but Rapp’s beautiful narrative about love and life is relatable to anyone and everyone. I truly hope Rapp has the opportunity to reach a greater audience with this piece and that it has life beyond the New York Musical Theatre Festival because it deserves it.

Without You is bold, brave and beautiful — a perfect night of theatre.

 

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2010 October Bay Area Theatre Guide

September started with a bang! I saw 8 shows last month all over the Bay Area ranging from San Francisco to Berkeley, down to San Jose and everywhere in between. Berkeley Rep’s Compulsion starring Mandy Patinkin was by far the best show of the month. It was a riveting new drama that shouldn’t be missed. It plays until October 31st; make sure you see it. You can read the full review here. Broadway San Jose’s sizzling hot dance show Burn the Floor was also a highlight this past month. I’m glad I didn’t miss it.

October is gearing up to be another exciting month of theatre. I have seven shows lined up in the Bay Area. I’m also taking a 6-day trip to New York City and packing in 9 shows! I’ll be reviewing them all, so make sure you come back to check the reviews out. I’m seeing three brand new shows – Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and The Scottsboro Boys. It’s going to be an epic trip.

If you can’t make it to New York, don’t worry, there are some great shows playing in the Bay Area – direct from NYC – that you won’t want to miss. Plus, The Broadway Critic is going to be giving away tickets to several shows over the next few weeks! Keep up-to-date on Facebook and Twitter!

Here is my schedule and what I recommend seeing:

Sweeney Todd at Sunnyvale Community Players: I mentioned Sweeney Todd last month, since technically it opened on September 17th. I was so busy seeing everything else, I almost forgot about it! I’m finally going to be able to check out this production on October 1st. I can’t think of a better way to start my October with the gruesome demon barber of Fleet Street.

The only time I’ve seen Sweeney Todd was at ACT, a few years back, when the John Doyle version (the actors playing instruments) was performed. I walked out of the theatre not knowing what had happened. I was confused and frankly I hated it. After seeing the movie, I finally understood what the story was and who the characters were. I’m now intrigued to see a non-instrument-toting production, so I’m hoping Sunnyvale Community Players will change my mind on this Sondheim classic.

Website | Get Tickets

Reasons to be Pretty at San Jose Stage Company: First off, make sure you check back soon for a ticket giveaway to Reasons to be Pretty - should be happening in the next couple of days! A 2009 Tony Award nominee for Best Play, Neil LaBute’s bristling new comedy puts a ferocious cap on a trilogy of plays that began with The Shape of Things and Fat Pig. America’s obsession with physical beauty is confronted headlong in this brutal and exhilarating work, in which a slip of the tongue has a tsunami effect on man’s relationships, romantic and otherwise. Simultaneously sentimental and uncompromising, Reasons To Be Pretty is a gorgeous play.

It features Halsey Varady, Robert Brewer, Allison F. Rich and Will Springhorn Jr. – I can’t wait to see this! It runs till October 24th.

Website | Get Tickets

Banana Shpeel at Golden Gate Theatre (San Francisco):

THIS HAS NOW BEEN CANCELLED!

According to a few sources on Twitter it’s because the ticket sales were so poor in Toronto that they decided to cancel this particular show indefinitely.

Website

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at 42nd Street Moon: I won’t be able to make it to opening night, so I’m seeing this a little later in its run, but I wouldn’t miss seeing Meg Cavenaugh as Pseudolous and Mike Rhone as Hysterium. It looks like a stellar cast. The fast-paced, witty and irreverent musical hit is a departure for Moon (42nd Street Moon usually produces unknown or forgotten musicals) but they decided it was a must to celebrate Sondheim’s 80th birthday. I happen to agree!

It’s truly one of the funniest shows ever written. The role of Pseudolus has been played by some amazing performers– Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Nathan Lane, Whoopi Goldberg, and now, Megan Cavanagh is added to the list.

It opens October 6th and runs only three weeks till October 24th. I have a feeling that this one might sell out fast, so grab your tickets soon!

Website | Get Tickets

Rain at Broadway San Jose: The second show that Broadway San Jose is bringing to the Bay Area is called Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles. Bay Area audiences will have the unique opportunity to experience this multi-media Beatles tribute just as Broadway audiences are getting their first look (a production opens at the Neil Simon Theatre the week previous). The Denver Post calls it “the next best thing to seeing the Beatles,” Rain boasts a repertoire of nearly 200 Beatlemaniac favorites, ranging from such beloved songs as “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude” to classic hits including “Revolution” and “Come Together.”

Since I’ve never had the opportunity to hear the Beatles perform, I’m really looking forward to seeing this show! As always, the Broadway San Jose productions are only in town for one week, so you have to plan your week around it. It opens October 25th and they are out of here on Halloween.

The Broadway Critic is going to give away tickets to this show as well!

Website | Get Tickets

West Side Story at Orpheum Theatre (San Francisco): I have to say that I didn’t really like the revival of West Side Story on Broadway. I thought it was cast all wrong (except for the unbelievable Karen Olivo) and because I couldn’t understand half of the show (they sung a lot of it in Spanish) I didn’t care about anyone dying in the end. Apparently, they have changed a lot of the Spanish back to English and obviously, this is a different cast than who I saw on Broadway, so I have my hopes up again. The revival in New York City is closing January 2nd.

It’s going to be at the Orpheum Theatre from October 27 till November 28th. If you’ve never seen this classic Broadway show, then definitely buy tickets. The show is a must-see so let’s hope, that this cast lives up to West Side Story’s grandeur.

Website | Get Tickets

Becoming Britney at Center Rep: How does a Pop sensation wind up bald and trapped in her own musical? Becoming Britney is a caustic (but loving) PG-13 fable that chronicles the rise…the dip…and the salvation of a foolhardy celebrity phenom. The hit of the New York Fringe Festival – “It’s a production that oozes sass!” – raved NYTheatre.com – the Bay Area’s own sensation, Molly Bell, brings Britney home for it’s West Coast premiere. It’s a new Musical, y’all!

Join me for opening night on October 30th. I can’t wait to see Adam Barry in this!

It runs October 28 – November 14, 2010

Website | Get Tickets

On my Radar (but don’t have a date to see it yet):

  • 1st Day of School at City Lights Theatre Company : As the children head off for the first day of school, their parents decide to try a “first” of their own behind closed doors. A new ritual is added to the typical ‘first day of school’ routine, one that will bring laughter and self-discovery to the adult participants. I heard it was hysterical!  Website
  • Stompin’ at the Savoy at Tabard Theatre Company: A world premiere musical produced in collaboration with San Jose Jazz that celebrates the music of the Big Band era and evokes the floor shows of the era, including opportunity for the audience to dance. I’ll be hosting a ticket giveaway to this show! Website
  • Glory Days at Royal Underground Theatre Company: Four high school friends reunite one year after graduation to discover how dramatically their lives have grown apart. While they attempt to reconnect and understand each other’s differences, nothing can compare to the glory days of high school when life was simpler and all appeared right with the world. If you want to see one of Broadway’s biggest bombs, then check it out. I’m totally intrigued. Website

Anything I missed?

 
 

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Reflections on “RENT” – my “Without You”

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to insure that I wouldn’t forget these magical theatrical experiences I have as an audience member when I go to the theatre. It also serves as way for me to formulate my opinions and ideas on what I see. Since starting this blog, I’ve only been writing about the shows I’ve seen because I wasn’t performing in anything. Over the summer, I had the opportunity perform Mark in RENT at City Lights Theatre Company in San Jose.

Back in 1998

Ever since I was 17, when I heard the cast recording for the first time, I’ve wanted to play Mark. The role spoke to me in a way that no other role has. To this day, there still hasn’t been any roles that radiate to me as much as Mark in RENT. I became obsessed. Even though I lived on the West Coast, I was a bonafide Renthead. I listened to the cast recording almost everyday. I bought the vocal selections when they came out and sang every song over and over. I learned how to play all of the songs on the piano. I was completely obsessed. It became my dream to play the role of Mark on Broadway.

In June 2000, I had the opportunity to go and visit my brother and his family in Brooklyn and see New York City for the first time. I was awe-struck. My first Broadway show wasn’t RENT – it was Aida. But, I saw RENT the very next day when I won the lottery and sat on the front row. (That’s when my luck started with the lottery because I now rarely lose.) In retrospect, I think that night was a turning point in my life. I fell in love with musical theatre, RENT, and Broadway on that day. I always knew I liked it before and I even thought it would be an awesome career path for me, but seeing RENT ultimately changed my life because I knew I had to work in musical theatre, as cheesy and ridiculous as it sounds.

Luckily, the girl I sat next to was taping it with her tape-recorder. (Yes, I know, illegal. I don’t condone the behavior, but I was naive then.) I exchanged my info with her and she graciously sent it to me in the mail. I listened to the tapes everyday for the next two years on my way to school, at home, wherever and whenever I could. About a year later, I was cast in a musical revue that was featuring songs from new musicals (even ones that weren’t even released yet — again, illegal, but I had no idea then). I got to sing “What You Own” for three nights with a karaoke accompaniment. I was on cloud nine. If only I could have the chance to perform the whole show.

Fast forward almost 10 years

In March, I was chatting with another musical director, Gus Kambeitz, on Facebook about our upcoming gigs we had planned. He mentioned that he was musically directing RENT at City Lights Theatre Company in San Jose. I jokingly asked, “Can I come to the call-back for Mark?” He answered, “Sure, that would be great. It’s Saturday at 9am; be there.” It was Tuesday. To be honest, I was working on another show and I completely forgot about the audition till Friday night. I ran through Mark and Roger’s songs once and called it a night. I woke up and put on my “Mark outfit” (which ultimately was the same costume I wore in the show — down to the shoes) and went to the theatre. I had been preparing for this audition for over 10 years! I sang, “What You Own” and 20 minutes later I was done. No audition anxiety — just went in and sang my heart out.

Literally, an hour later, Lisa Malette, the director, called me and told me I got the role. I was flummoxed. “Are you serious?” I asked. Malette responded, “Of course! We would love to work with you.” I put down the phone and seriously did a “happy” dance for a good 20 minutes while screaming “I’m going to be in RENT!!” The missus thought I was crazy. My dream of playing Mark was coming true. It was unreal.

Rehearsals started in May. This role meant a lot more to me than anything I’ve previously performed and I was ecstatic and yet, still quite vulnerable and scared that I wouldn’t do it justice. When I walked into rehearsals the first day I knew I was in the right place. All of my anxiety went away. The cast was perfect. And to make it even better, Malette talked about how she wanted to stay true and just tell the story. She also wanted to make sure that HIV & AIDS awareness/education was a very important part of this production. Again, I knew I was in the right place at the right time. And so the journey began…

Fast forward three months

It’s over.

One of the hardest, yet most rewarding chapters of my life came to a close when we struck the set on Sunday night after our closing afternoon performance. Five weeks of performing RENT was not nearly enough. Every night when I went to the theatre, I knew I was sharing a story that focused on life, love and family/friends – things that we take for granted so often. It was finally my turn to share the story that ultimately changed my life. Luckily for me, I got to perform with a cast that was talented, amazing and literally became my extended family over the course of the three months.

Every night I looked forward to several different moments in the show. I was going to write them all down, but then realized that every time I was on stage I had an amazing moment with an actor, the music or with the Larson’s touching story. My all-time favorite moment was watching Mimi, Megan Woodruff, sing her heart out in “Another Day” opposite Roger, Brian Palac. When Woodruff sang, “…there is no future, there is no past, I live this moment as my last…” my heart would melt. I mentioned in our talk-back with the audience, that this line was my favorite moment in the show. This to me, is the sentiment of Larson’s story. You never know what can happen so live for today. It was such a blessing to be reminded to live in the now, every night. It was magical to see the audience’s emotions transform over the length of two hours. Singing, “No day but today…” over and over into the eye’s of the audience at the end of the show is something I’ll never forget.

I will miss singing “Tango Maureen” with the fierce, Nicole Julien (Joanne) and “rolling with my homies” with Adam Barry (Angel) in “Santa Fe”. I’ll never forget Matt Bariletti’s (Benny) comic mocking of Maureen, Jacqui Elliot, in “La Vie Boheme” and Jami James (Collins) heartfelt rendition of “I’ll Cover You”. I’m going to miss singing “What You Own” with the talented Brian Palac (Roger) — he inspired me every night. I also loved the moment I would connect with Shannon Stowe in “What You Own” during the third verse. I’m going to miss seeing Megan Woodruff (Mimi) and Ashley Bawdon’s smile in “Seasons of Love” every night while the talented soloists, Michelle Ianiro and Cory Jones, sang their hearts out. I waited to hear Jeanette Zelaya sing the descant in “Will I?” every night; it was beautiful and heart wrenching. Of course, I won’t ever forget performing “La Vie Boheme” next to Allie Glatt, our waiter, Ever Leon, and the rest of the cast. But most of all, I’ll miss our RENT circle when we would come together every night, right before places, to focus our energy and remind each other to tell Jonathan Larson’s story. And we did, each night.

Each of my cast mates, crew, band, director/choreographer will have a special place in my heart forever. I learned so much from them – they pushed me to be better every night, laughed with me (and at me), got upset with me, listened to me, and unraveled the many layers of my personality throughout the three months. I truly love each one of them. I wasn’t ready for this experience to be over — five weeks wasn’t nearly long enough to tell this story. It was an honor to perform each night to a sold-out house – an unexpected blessing that rarely comes in the theatre.

This post is dedicated to each of my cast mates, Jonathan Larson and every person who supported me on this journey, especially the missus. Without them, I would have never had the amazing experience that I had. Without Jonathan Larson, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Without the missus, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this. She is my inspiration, my muse, my love.

No day but today.

 

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Theatre Preview: “RENT” @ City Lights Theatre Company, Opening 7/24


Book, music, and lyrics by Jonathan Larson

Non-Profit Partner: The Health Trust

Directed by Lisa Mallette

The shockingly original and deeply moving Broadway hit at City Lights, the perfect company to bring it to life.

This fresh and daring spin on Puccini’s La Bohème follows the triumphs and tragedies of eight young Greenwich Village bohemians. Mark, Roger, Mimi, and their urban tribe of friends and lovers search for inspiration, passion, and identity in a world rife with heartache and pain. As the spectre of the AIDS virus looms and threatens to cut short their time together, this small band of artists and thinkers finds beauty in the grit and grime of Manhattan and comes to realize that there is, truly, “no day but today.”

July 22 – August 29, 2010
Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm
Sunday evenings at 7:00 pm (Aug. 1st & 8th)
Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm (Aug. 15, 22, & 29)

Tickets:
$25—$40
Students and Educators only $15!
Subject to availability, excludes Gala and Preview
Senior and Groups discounts available, wheelchair accessible

Check out the photos from the RENT

Spencer Williams as Mark

Adam Theodore Barry as Angel

The cast of RENT in “La Vie Boheme”

Matt Bariletti as Benny & Spencer Williams as Mark

Jacqui Elliot as Maureen

“Christmas Bells are Ringing”

Michelle Ianiro singing “Seasons of Love”

Adam Theodore Barry as Angel, Jami James as Tom Collins and Spencer Williams as Mark – singing “Santa Fe”

Ever Leon as the Squeegee man

Brian Palac as Roger & Megan Woodruff as Mimi

Nicole Julien as Joanne and Spencer Williams as Mark in “Tango Maureen”

Nicole Julien as Joanne & Jacqui Elliot as Maureen in “Take Me or Leave Me”

“La Vie Boheme”

“No Day But Today”

 
 

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Contest: RENT @ City Lights Theatre, 07/24/10

Do you want to win 4 tix to RENT’s Gala Opening on July 24th?

Enter the City Lights Theatre Company Sweepstakes on Facebook! Click on the link and enter for a chance to WIN!!!

Get more friends to “like” City Lights Theatre Company and have them enter the sweeps too! If they win make sure you claim one of their tix!

More info on RENT:

Book, music, and lyrics by Jonathan Larson

Non-Profit Partner: The Health Trust

Directed by Lisa Mallette

The shockingly original and deeply moving Broadway hit at City Lights, the perfect company to bring it to life.

This fresh and daring spin on Puccini’s La Bohème follows the triumphs and tragedies of eight young Greenwich Village bohemians. Mark, Roger, Mimi, and their urban tribe of friends and lovers search for inspiration, passion, and identity in a world rife with heartache and pain. As the spectre of the AIDS virus looms and threatens to cut short their time together, this small band of artists and thinkers finds beauty in the grit and grime of Manhattan and comes to realize that there is, truly, “no day but today.”

July 22 – August 29, 2010
Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm
Sunday evenings at 7:00 pm (Aug. 1st & 8th)
Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm (Aug. 15, 22, & 29)

Tickets:
$25—$40
Students and Educators only $15!
Subject to availability, and Preview
Senior and Groups discounts available, wheelchair accessible

 

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2010 Bay Area Summer Theatre Guide

The summer is quickly approaching and I wanted to feature some of the best theatre in the Bay Area during the months of June, July and August. There’s a huge variety of musicals/plays that will be playing and they are pretty evenly spread across the Bay Area from San Francisco down to San Jose. Of course, you can always go to Artsopolis.com or Theatre Bay Area for a full listing of all performing arts events in the Bay Area but here are the shows that I’m most looking forward to this summer!

JUNE

Red, White & Tuna at San Jose Stage Company – The Stage explodes with laughs this Summer in the South Bay premiere of Red, White and Tuna! The latest bombastic comedy in the Tuna trilogy will sell out, so order tickets now to what critics call “the greatest Tuna of all!” It opens this weekend and runs all the way through July 4th. Obviously, it’s a perfect choice to get you into the patriotic mood! The Broadway Critic will be giving away tickets so make sure you check back soon to win yours!

Tickets | Website

Into the Woods at Diablo Theatre Company – In this fractured fairy-tale fantasy, a baker and his wife cannot have a child unless they do the bidding of the witch next door. Good thing they’ve got neighbors like Jack (of Beanstalk fame), Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella to help them on their journey in the woods. Who doesn’t love Into the Woods?

June 4th – June 27th 2010

Tickets | Website

The Marvelous Wonderettes at San Jose Rep – LIMITED ENGAGEMENT! These girls are only in town for two weeks. Get your tickets today! Follow the Wonderettes – Betty Jean, Cindy Lou, Missy and Suzy, four girls with hopes and dreams as big as their crinoline skirts and voices to match – from their 1958 Springfield High School prom to their ten year reunion!

June 15th – June 27th 2010

Tickets | Website

Young Frankenstein at Golden Gate Theatre (San Francisco) – Based on the Oscar-nominated smash hit 1974 film, Young Frankenstein is the wickedly inspired re-imagining of the Mary Shelley classic from the comic genius of Mel Brooks. Clive Barnes of the New York Post called Young Frankenstein,“the Broadway musical at its dizziest, glitziest and funniest” while Pat Collins of MY 9 News declared Young Frankenstein “a monster hit.” You have to see this production just for the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” number; it’s spectacular.

June 30th – July 25th 2010

Tickets | Website

Other Shows Still Running in June:

  • Peter Pan at Ferry Landing (San Francisco)
  • In the Heights at Curran Theatre (San Francisco)
  • Little Shop of Horrors at Bus Barn (Los Altos)

JULY

Annie at Broadway by the Bay – This timeless Tony-winning tale of Little Orphan Annie features a cast of unforgettable characters including Miss Hannigan, Lily, Rooster, and Daddy Warbucks. Featuring one of Broadway’s most memorable scores, including“It’s the Hard-Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” “N.Y.C.”and “Tomorrow,” you can bet your bottom dollar the whole family will love this classic musical! There’s only 13 performances! It’s directed by Alex Perez and musical directed by Billy Liberatore.

July 15th – August 1st 2010

Tickets | Website


Urinetown at Coastal Rep Theatre – This irreverent comedy pokes fun at American Musical Theatre, our cultural institutions, corporate America, and even petty small town politics. Winner of several Tony Awards, including Best Book and Best Original Score, Urinetown, the Musical is an outrageous spoof, and a hilarious tale of love, greed, corruption, and revolution in a time of drought, when even ‘restroom activities’ are controlled by the mega-corporation. Fun for the whole family. Directed by Martin Rojas-Dietrich.

July 23rd – August 21, 2010

TicketsWebsite

RENT at City Lights Theatre – This fresh and daring spin on Puccini’s La Bohème follows the triumphs and tragedies of eight young Greenwich Village bohemians. As the spectre of the AIDS virus looms and threatens to cut short their time together, this small band of artists and thinkers finds beauty in the grit and grime of Manhattan and comes to realize that there is, truly, “no day but today.” (Disclosure: I’m playing Mark in this production.)

July 24th – August 29th 2010

Tickets | Website

Anything Goes at Foothill Musical Theatre – Anything Goes spotlights Cole Porter’s deloveliest hits, including Friendship, I Get a Kick Out of You, All Through the Night, Blow Gabriel Blow, You’re the Top, It’s Delovely, and the classic title song. Award-winning director Jay Manley helms these seafaring shenanigans with musical direction by Catherine Snider and choreography by Dottie Lester-White.

July 23rd – August 15th 2010

Tickets | Website

AUGUST

Beauty and the Beast at Golden Gate Theatre (San Francisco) – Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the smash hit Broadway musical, is coming to San Francisco! Based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature film, this eye-popping spectacle has won the hearts of over 35 million people worldwide. Just so you know, this is the non-equity tour.

August 17th – August 29th 2010

Tickets | Website

Menopause, The Musical at California Theatre (San Jose) – Since March 2001, the hilarious show Menopause The Musical has entertained and inspired women from coast-to-coast and internationally. Menopause The Musical is the work of writer Jeanie Linders. This uplifting 90-minute production includes parodies from the ‘60s and ‘70s and ‘80s. It culminates with a salute to women who are experiencing The Change.

August 18th – August 22nd 2010

Tickets | Website

Dreamgirls at SHNSF (Theatre not announced yet) – Direct from Harlem’s world famous Apollo Theater in New York City, a sensational new stage production of Dreamgirls comes to San Francisco this summer! Full of onstage joy and backstage drama, Dreamgirls tells the story of an up-and-coming, 1960s singing girl group, and the triumphs and tribulations that come with fame and fortune. Do not miss this one!

August 24th – September 26th 2010

Tickets (not on sale yet) | Website

Upcoming Shows in the Fall & Beyond:

  • The Light in the Piazza – Theatreworks – August 25th – September 19th 2010
  • Smokey Joe’s Cafe – Bus Barn Theatre – September 2nd – October 2nd 2010
  • La Cage Aux Folles – Broadway by the Bay – September 16th – October 3rd 2010
  • Burn the Floor – Broadway San Jose – September 21st – September 26th 2010
  • The Music Man – South Bay Musical Theatre – September 25th – October 16th 2010

Enjoy your summer! Be sure to tell us what your favorite productions are in the comments, Facebook or Twitter!

 
 

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Theatre Review: “Dead Man Walking” @ City Lights Theatre, 1/23/10

I’ve sat on this review for over a week now. For whatever reason, I couldn’t get my head around this production. I just haven’t been able to put my finger on why. When I walked out I knew it was the best production I’ve ever seen at City Lights Theatre Company. Granted, it’s only my third, but it stood out – leaps and bounds – ahead of the other productions. Somehow, it didn’t have the impact and punch that I thought the material deserved but the direction by Amanda Folena was precise and impressive.

Dead Man Walking is presented courtesy of the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project. It’s also being co-produced by Notre Dame High School. Originally a book by Sister Helen Prejean, it was first adapted for a screenplay by Tim Robbins and then later into a play, also adapted by Tim Robbins. The play itself is an incredible learning tool for schools across the country and it requires an education component when producing Dead Man Walking. It has been performed by over 170 universities nationwide and countless public and private high schools.

This play (just as the book and movie does) questions your beliefs on capital punishment. As an audience member, you go through the emotional heartache of the victims and their family members, as well as the emotional roller coaster that death row inmate, Matthew Poncelet (Thomas Gorrebeeck), goes through as Sister Helen Prejean (Lisa Mallette) strives to help him.

Regardless of your belief, the raw emotions of the characters makes you empathetic to their situation (regardless of what it is).

The scene design and technical direction by Ron Gasparinetti was unique and kept the piece moving, though at times the set was a little too squeaky. I loved how the stage pictures utilized the same areas on stage but continually became a different place and time. There were also two multi-media screens on either side of the stage and while interesting, the images that were displayed felt emotionally manipulative. I almost wish they had decided to not use any multi-media.

Lisa Mallette and Thomas Gorrebeeck, both had incredible roles to tackle and did a great job. The formidable ensemble was also well directed into an organized, choreographed machine by Folena.

Overall, the cast should be congratulated for a job well-done. City Lights and Notre Dame High School should also be congratulated for presenting a piece of work that has such significance to our community and nation. Dead Man Walking gives capital punishment the face-time it deserves, while being emotionally connected and disconnected on both sides.

Dead Man Walking let’s you decide how you feel about capital punishment. It never forces or pushes; the story enfolds in front of you, almost without bias. You will feel something, though it might just take a week to understand and describe it.

 

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