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2011 February Bay Area Theatre Guide

And I thought January came fast. While I only saw a few shows in January, I saw some majorly epic productions.

First, I saw newly revamped version of Love Never Dies which was a train-wreck. Then I saw the over-publicized Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark and loved it. Last, I saw the touring production of Next to Normal which blew me away and tore out my heart out (again).

There’s several shows that are still running from January into February, so make sure you check out last month’s suggestions as well.

Broadway Cast Poster1. Next to Normal at Curran Theatre (SHNSF) in San Francisco – I realize that this was on my list last month, but technically this show doesn’t close until February 20th, so it’s first on my list for February as well.

I was blown away by this cast. I wrote in my review: “It’s rare to have a touring production be just as exciting as the Broadway production. I didn’t think the tour of Next to Normal could do it, but they passed expectations by a mile. Do not miss this production of Next to Normal.”

WebsiteTickets

2. Avenue Q at Orpheum Theatre (SHNSF) in San Francisco – I love this show so much. I saw the non-equity touring cast of Avenue Q at Broadway San Jose a little over a year ago and enjoyed it immensely even though theatre was way too big for the production. I have a feeling that the Orpheum Theatre will be a bit big as well, but you’ll still laugh and laugh and laugh.

Here’s an excerpt of my review: “If you’ve seen it, then beware that the intimacy of the Broadway version is all but lost in the expansiveness of the theatre and the jokes might not be as shocking (since you already know them), but you’ll still laugh. While, overall the performers are super talented, they unfortunately don’t compare to the original cast. Knowing all of this, you’ll still end up laughing and having a great night of theatre!”

I have a feeling my review will be similar. Runs February 15 – 27th, 2011.

Website | Tickets

3. Big River at Contra Costa Civic Theatre: The irrepressible Huck Finn helps his friend Jim, a slave, escape to freedom at the mouth of the Ohio River. Their hilarious, heartwarming adventures bring to life the novel’s colorful characters in a brilliant celebration of pure Americana. With a jubilant score of Cajun, country, gospel and blues, Big River is a rousing, high- spirited show that sets your hands to clapping, your feet to stomping and your heart to rise within you! Winner of seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, Score and Book, this is one the whole family will enjoy!

February 11 – March 13, 2011.

Website | Tickets

4. 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.

Norman, Sir’s devoted, fuss-budget dresser, is barely able to take care of himself but faithfully assists Sir in near feudal servitude, massaging his ego, pampering his intellect and even creating sound effects for the Shakespearean production by Sir’s struggling troupe. This touching and poignant tribute to theatre, friendship and the human spirit in the face of great strife – be it war or one’s own debilitating mortality – proves that “the show must go on.”

January 27 – February 20th, 2011.

Website | Tickets

What shows are you planning on seeing in February?

 
 

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Theatre Review: “Next to Normal” @ Curran Theatre (San Francisco), 1/26/11

Next to Normal at the Curran Theatre is an absolute triumph!

This was the sixth time I’ve seen Next to Normal. I first saw the production right after it transferred from Off-Broadway at the Booth Theatre, while it was still in previews. I didn’t know anything about the production and I was absolutely blown away by the show. Ever since then, Next to Normal has been one of my favorite musicals of this decade. Its raw, emotional story about mental illness is simply heartbreaking and hopeful all at the same time. Since that night, every time I’m in New York I try to fit Next to Normal into my schedule. I’ve seen most of the Broadway understudies (though I never did get to see Brian D’Arcy James) and most recently I saw the replacement cast featuring Marin Mazzie and her husband, Jason Danieley, respectively, as Diana and Dan Goodman. Every time I’ve loved it but I never expected that the touring production of Next to Normal would have this much emotional punch.

It ripped open my heart all over again.

Opening night in San Francisco felt like I was seeing a totally new production of Next to Normal and yet everything was the same. The lights, set, and music were all the same. There was no expense spared in regards to the technical area, but the adjusted sound design created almost a new show for me. I heard new harmonies, different characters were highlighted in group songs, and the focus just wasn’t on Diana Goodman (Alice Ripley). Asa Somers, who plays Ripley’s onstage husband, Dan, held his own remarkably against the powerhouse, Tony-winning performance by Ripley. Somers’ vocals were incredible — some of the best vocals I have ever heard on a Broadway stage and they blended perfectly with his son’s, Gabe (Curt Hansen), vocals. Case in point: “I Am the One (Reprise)” literally took my breath away. Somer’s performance added an intensity to Dan that I’ve never seen before.

And then there’s Emma Hunton who plays the jaded, sarcastic daughter, Natalie. Her crystalline vocals never stopped being impressive. Her rendition of “Superboy and the Invisible Girl” was spot-on and the audience loved it. I had my doubts that anyone could top Jennifer Diamano’s Tony-nominated performance, but Hunton held her own. She added more sarcasm to her role and was more extroverted in her feelings – less emotionally manipulative and more present, overall. All of this emotion just kept growing until Natalie and her mother, Diana, finally have a heart-to-heart in the song, “Maybe (Next to Normal)”. My heart broke as they sang this song. Hunton raised the stakes in a way that created a beautiful arc to Natalie’s character.

Henry (Preston Sadleir), Natalie’s boyfriend, also rounded out the fiercely talented cast. I’ve always seen the original Henry, Adam Chanler-Berat, play the role so it was great to see a slightly different take on Henry. Sadleir did a hellavu job with the role and complemented Hunton’s intensity with his calm/easy-going personality. Just as I saw the deeper parallels to Diana and Natalie’s journey, I saw more parallels to Dan and Henry’s emotional discovery and subsequent loss. Even Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine (Jeremy Kushnier) felt more “present”. His genuine rock-star persona got a lot of laughs at the beginning of Act 1 and the audience was eating it up!

The incredibly talented director, Michael Greif, created a deeper arc with all of the characters in this production and really pushed them to find an even greater depth to the piece. No longer was Alice Ripley holding the show together by her overwhelming intensity — everyone complemented her intensity by taking an even bigger risk emotionally. At points, Ripley struggles vocally to get every note out but you don’t care because her dramatic intentions are so intensely motivated. There’s never a second on stage when you don’t believe that she’s not actually struggling with bi-polarism/schizophrenia. Her Tony-winning performance should not be missed. I can’t stress that enough.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote, “No show on Broadway right now makes as direct a grab for the heart — or wrings it as thoroughly — as “Next to Normal” does. This brave, breathtaking musical, which opened Wednesday night at the Booth Theater, focuses squarely on the pain that cripples the members of a suburban family, and never for a minute does it let you escape the anguish at the core of their lives.” It’s still true in every way. This Pulitzer Prize winning musical should be seen by everyone.

It’s rare to have a touring production be just as exciting as the Broadway production. I didn’t think the tour of Next to Normal could do it, but they passed expectations by a mile. Do not miss this production of Next to Normal.

 

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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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Top 10 Best Plays/Musicals of 2010

Disclaimer: I didn’t see every play and musical in the Bay Area or on Broadway, so unfortunately this isn’t a comprehensive list. I did see over 60 productions this year and saw a wide variety of plays and musicals at most of the Bay Area Theatre companies and several in Las Vegas, London and New York City.

There are still a few main companies that I’m missing in the Bay Area, but planning on reviewing next year (most notably, ACT in San Francisco). I’m excluding two productions that I was a part of: RENT at City Lights Theatre Company and Smokey Joe’s Cafe at Bus Barn Stage Company — they were both fantastic productions, but would be totally biased if included.

These 10 plays/musicals were my favorite productions that I saw in 2010. (You can see the list of all of the shows I saw, here.)  The Bay Area has had many success stories this past year, from Theatrework’s production of Memphis that won the Tony Award for Best Musical and Berkeley Rep transferring Green Day’s American Idiot (which also won two Tony Awards). The Bay Area Theatre community is definitely representing well but here’s a list of my favorites of 2010 that includes the Bay Area, Las Vegas, New York City and London!

Congratulations and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year! I’m hearing that some of my favorite shows are going to be produced right here in the Bay Area.

Number 10:

Rain at Broadway San Jose: Broadway San Jose has brought a lot of fun productions this year to San Jose. They started off the year with the super high-spirited shows, Avenue Q and Legally Blonde. In September, their second season started off with a bang, with the sizzling show, Burn the Floor (which I surprisingly loved). But, my favorite, so far this year, was Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles. I said in my review, “Rain: A Tribue to the Beatles does an incredible job of grabbing everyone’s attention and giving them a show that’s instantly likable at any age.”

I had more fun at this performance, (which technically seemed more like a concert than a “musical”) than I ever expected to have, plus I was able to hear some of my favorite Beatles’ songs performed live. 100% recommended.

Read the full review, here.

Number 9:

In the Heights at Curran Theatre (SHNSF – touring production): Out of all of the touring productions that SHNSF brought to San Francisco, In the Heights was by far the best one. There was Fiddler on the Roof, Young Frankenstein (which I missed), Beauty and the Beast, West Side StoryShrek and of course, the San Francisco cast of Wicked which sadly closed at the beginning of September. Here’s an excerpt of my review of In the Heights:

I never expected to love it as much as I do, but it’s infectious rhythms and beautiful melodies accompanied with a story that has more heart than most Broadway musicals makes for an electrifying evening of theatre. I might just have to go back and see this again. It’s that good.

I’m sad that In the Heights is closing on Broadway in January, but happy I had the experience of seeing this incredible show.

Read the full review, here.

Number 8:

Ain’t Misbehavin’ at San Jose Repertory Theatre: For my first introduction to this fantastic show, San Jose Rep’s production was Broadway-caliber. I thought the performers were incredibly talented and the overall production was one of the best shows I’ve seen at SJ Rep. I really enjoyed several productions at SJ Rep this year and Black Pearl Sings was another favorite, but Ain’t Misbehavin’ had an energy that was totally infectious.

I think the entire audience was ready to dance and clap at the end because all of us leapt to our feet during the closing song!

I couldn’t be more thrilled that this was my first introduction to Ain’t Misbehavin’! It’s a perfect treat!

Read the full review, here.

Number 7:

San Francisco SymphonyAudra McDonald & Duncan Sheik/Holly Brook: San Francisco Symphony is creative and innovative with their programming choices. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the two programs that I saw at SF Symphony this year, because they were excellent. Audra McDonald’s performance was genius (per usual). McDonald’s voice accompanied by the SF Symphony was absolutely breathtaking. This is a night I won’t soon forget. The other show I saw was Duncan Sheik’s symphonic arrangement of his newest musical, Whisper House. The beautiful arrangements added so much texture and layers to his already haunting score. I just wished it was a longer concert. (It was great to see Duncan Sheik in concert while I was visiting Glasgow.) Well done SF Symphony.

Read the full review of Audra McDonald, here.

Read the full review of Duncan Sheik/Holly Brook, here.

Number 6:

Musical Love Never Dies at Aldephi Theatre (London): With all of the negative press that has been surrounded by Love Never Dies I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed myself. I’ve never been too partial to Phantom of the Opera (though I do love the shortened Vegas production), but I was absolutely intrigued by the beautiful set, costumes and world that Andrew Lloyd Weber has created at the Aldephi Theatre. I was enraptured the entire time (and I had the worst seats ever). I’m seeing this production again on New Year’s Day and am looking forward to seeing the changes that they have made to the plot/story-line, but  the melodramatic story accompanied the music perfectly. It’s a spectacle and one that you shouldn’t miss. It was my favorite show I saw in London.

Read the full review, here.

Number 5:

Jersey Boys at The Palazzo (Las Vegas): For some reason, I avoided Jersey Boys like it was the plague. I had no interest in seeing this musical, even though it won the Tony Award for Best Musical. But on my Las Vegas Broadway Vacation, I saw The Lion King, Phantom and Jersey Boys and both the missus and I absolutely loved Jersey Boys. Here’s an excerpt from my review:

The Las Vegas production of Jersey Boys is so engaging that even someone who has never cared to acquaint themselves with the music and story of The Four Seasons (like myself) cannot escape being sucked into this world.

Read the full review, here.

Number 4:

Compulsion at Berkeley Rep: This particular play will be in New York City (with the same cast) in the Spring and you won’t want to miss this heart-breaking play. The interweaving of puppets, matched with Mandy Patinkin’s intensity makes this play one of the best things I saw this year!

Berkeley Rep is known for producing first-rate theatre, but out of everything that I saw this year at Berkeley Rep, Compulsion was the best. It’s remarkable.

Read the full review, here.

Number 3:

Tie between American Idiot and Next to Normal on Broadway: The reasons behind the tie is that I have seen both of these productions before. I saw American Idiot four times at Berkeley Rep and Next to Normal four times on Broadway (all with Alice Ripley). This was the first time I saw American Idiot on Broadway and the first time I saw Next to Normal without Alice Ripley. Out of all of the new shows I saw on Broadway that weekend, these two shows still resonated with me the most.

I can’t get enough of either show. I rarely see a show multiple times, and both of these shows I have now seen five times. If you haven’t seen either, than I suggest running to theatre and grabbing tickets! I’ll be seeing both of these shows in the new year – American Idiot again on Broadway with Billie Jo Armstrong as St. Jimmy and Next to Normal on tour in San Francisco with Alice Ripley.

Read the full review of American Idiot, here.

Number 2:

Broadway Cast Poster Closing night of Finian’s Rainbow at St. James Theatre: On a whim, I saw the closing night of Finian’s Rainbow. It was one of the most emotional nights of theatre I have ever witnessed. Here’s an excerpt of the review:

Song after song, scene after scene, it just kept getting better and better. It ended with a beautiful rainbow as they sung, “How are Things in Glocca Morra?” The audience leapt to their feet, tears in their eyes and gave a rousing standing ovation unlike any standing ovation I’ve ever seen in theatre. What a special show, night and cast.

It’s truly a travesty that this show closed so early, but it’s a gift that will never be forgotten. The magic of the rainbow is far but over.

Read the full review of Finian’s Rainbow, here.

Number 1:

Whisper House at Old Globe Theatre (San Diego): This is a musical that has stayed with me all year. Time after time, I’m thinking about this show, listening to the music and recounting the experience to friends and family. “Duncan Sheik and Kyle Jarrow’s new musical, Whisper House, carefully crafts a new style of story-telling that is powerful, unique and riveting.” I love that Sheik and Jarrow upset the “standard musical comedy” with a different way to present a musical. It tells me that there is a future in this craft and that people are still willing to make huge strides in storytelling in musical theatre instead of adapting movies into musicals (over and over).

I absolutely loved Whisper House and I will go and see it anywhere in the country. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Read the full review of Whisper House, here.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

 

 

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Broadway Marquees #2 – Vivian Beaumont, Belasco, Booth & Broadhurst Theatres

After this last visit to New York City a friend and I were talking about what Broadway theatres we have been to. It turns out that I’ve been to 32 out of the 40 theatres on Broadway. This Broadway Marquee series will go through each Broadway theatre (alphabetically) four at a time.

Ever since my first trip to New York City in June 2000, I have been taking pictures of various Broadway marquees. I will try to include all of the pictures I have and list the shows I’ve seen at that particular theatre.

Broadway Marquees #1 – Ambassador, American Airlines, Brooks Atkinson & Ethel Barrymore Theatres

VIVIAN BEAUMONT THEATRE – A FREE MAN OF COLOR

Unfortunately, I do not have a current picture of the “A Free Man of Color’s” marquee. (Anyone want to take one for me?)


Theatre Info:
The Vivian Beaumont differs from traditional Broadway theaters because of its amphitheater configuration and thrust stage. With 1,080 seats, it is considered a fairly large theater for dramatic plays and a medium-size theater for musicals. It is New York City’s only Broadway-class theater (thus making its productions eligible for Tony Awards) that is not located in the theater district near Times Square.

1,080 seats

List of recent notable shows: (bold are shows I’ve seen)

The Broadway Critic’s History:
My first introduction to this theatre, is when I saw A Light in the Piazza on a Saturday afternoon in May 2005. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but I had to check it out to see what all of the buzz was about. I left the theatre almost breathless — what a beautiful production. In March 2008, I took a group of 30 students to see the Tony winning revival of South Pacific. I sat on the back row, once again, breathless. It was a stunning production.

My students walked out saying, “What’s the big deal of those two falling in love?” My, what a different time we live in now! I had to explain to them that a mixed racial relationship was looked upon very negatively (and is still in some parts of the country). Being from California, my students were so surprised by this. It’s been 51 years since it was originally on Broadway and yet it’s message was still applicable today. I fell in love with a golden age musical.

If I could go back into time, I would love to have seen Parade by Jason Robert Brown. Another show that battles race and stereotypes.

This wasn’t the marquee of South Pacific, but the signage in Times Square in March 2009

BELASCO THEATRE – WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN

Photos taken October 2010

Theatre Info:
David Belasco opened the Stuyvesant in October 1907, having already bequeathed his name on his 42nd St playhouse, now the New Victory. When he relinquished the 42nd St theatre in 1910, he immediately renamed the Stuyvesant as the Belasco. He provided himself with a duplex apartment above the theatre that had the décor of a Gothic church, and housed much of his theatrical memorabilia. Following his death, the theatre was rumored to be haunted by his ghost, until it was banished by the risqué production, Oh Calcutta!. The theatre came under Shubert ownership in 1948.

List of most notable recent shows: (bold are shows I’ve seen)

The Broadway Critic’s History:
I only visited the Belasco Theatre very recently when I saw the first (already historical) preview of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. I had the worst seats in the house. I hope to revisit this show in January to compare and contrast the differences between their first run and months later.

BOOTH THEATRE – NEXT TO NORMAL

Photo was taken October 2010

Theatre Info:
Architect Henry B. Herts designed the Booth and its companion Shubert Theatre as a back-to-back pair sharing a Venetian Renaissance-style façade. Named in honor of famed 19th-century American actor Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, the theater’s 783-seat auditorium was intended to provide an intimate setting for dramatic and comedy plays. It opened on October 16, 1913 with Arnold Bennett’s play The Great Adventure.

783 seats

List of most notable recent shows: (bold are shows I’ve seen)

The Broadway Critic’s History:
I’ve only seen the recent Tony Award winning and Pulitzer Prize winning musical Next to Normal, originally starring Tony Award winner Alice Ripley and Tony nominees J. Robert Spencer and Jennifer Damiano. I’ve seen it five times though. Once in previews back in March 2009, and then I saw it twice in July 2009, and also once in January 2010. During my last trip to New York City (at the beginning of October 2010) I saw the replacement cast perform. The new casts consists of Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley, and I was pleasantly surprised by their deeply emotional performances. Each time I’ve seen Next to Normal I’m fascinated by how powerful a show it is — it’s really become one of my favorite musicals of all time.

Photo taken April 2009

BROADHURST THEATRE – THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

Photo taken October 2010

Theatre Info:
It was designed by architect Herbert J. Krapp, a well-known theatre designer who had been working directly with the Shubert brothers; the Broadhurst opened 27 September 1917. Built back-to-back with the Plymouth, it was meant to resemble the style of the neighboring Shubert and Booth theaters designed by Henry B. Herts, using less expensive brick and terra cotta materials on the discreetly neoclassical facades. Like all of Krapp’s work during this period, it features minimal ornamentation, a single balcony, wide space, and excellent sightlines.

1186 seats

List of recent notable shows: (bold are shows I’ve seen)

The Broadway Critic’s History:

I’ve only seen plays at the Broadhurst Theatre. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen three plays here. Considering that I usually am more fond of musicals, it’s a surprise that I’ve seen three plays in one place on Broadway. It started with the London transfer of The History Boys. It was on a whim that I saw this show (basically a friend offered me tickets to come with her) and I had no idea what it was about. Boy, was I in for a ride of my life. It was a very moving production.

In October 2008, I saw Daniel Radcliffe’s Broadway debut in Equus. Again, I walked into the theatre not knowing that much about the production. I found the show a bit dull and hard to follow because of the long, drawn-out monologues. I think it only sold because, let’s face it, everyone wanted to see Harry Potter naked. The last show I saw there was the stark production of Hamlet starring Jude Law. I saw it on a Thursday afternoon preview after a long red-eye to New York City. Big mistake. I was so tired I could barely follow what was happening on stage. Three hours later, I re-emerged and had no idea what I had just seen.

This photo is from Flickr user: folkyboy

Photo taken on October 16, 2008

Photo taken on October 9th, 2009

What shows have you seen at these theatres? Tell us your favorites and your not-so-favorites!

 
 

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The October Broadway Vacation

After a long discussion with Delta, I finally secured my very inexpensive tickets from San Jose to New York City for October. I had tickets this past Spring to New York City, but an unexpected health issue arose and I wasn’t able to make it. Luckily, (or unluckily) I was hospitalized and because of that I was able to keep my unused Delta tickets without any fare change fees. I still have $200 left (maybe another quick get away this Winter when more shows have opened).

While, I’m not totally certain of my itinerary, these are the shows that I would like to see if I can score tickets to all of them.

MUST SEE:

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown @ Belasco Theatre - With the cast they announced this week – Patti LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Sherie Rene Scott – I will not miss this one. Currently, it’s only slated to run until January 23rd, 2011, so you don’t want to miss this one. Plus, I love Yazbek!

From Playbill.com: “In Madrid, the intertwining lives of a group of women with relationship issues lead to a tumultuous 48 hours of love, confusion and passion.”

The Scottsboro Boys @ Lyceum Theatre: This started Off-Broadway to great reviews. I’m really interested in seeing this one! I hope it lives up to all of the hype. I’m going to try to see the first preview.

From Playbill.com: “In rural Alabama in 1931, nine young African-American males are arrested and tried for a crime involving two white women. Performed as a minstrel show, the musical gives voice to the persistent theme of justice in America.”

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson @Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre: An emo-rock musical? Yes, please. I’m there. Yet, another brand new musical, that’s transferring from Off-Broadway that I will not miss.

From Playbill.com: “Rock star Andrew Jackson (also our seventh president) encores after busting up the Public Theater last season. Starring the charismatic Benjamin Walker.”

WANT TO SEE REALLY BAD:

Playbill Cover

A Little Night Music – Walter Kerr Theatre: So I missed the Tony Award winning actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones and the incredible Angela Lansbury, but now, I get to see Bernadette Peters and Elaine Strich. I’m also really excited to see this particular production of A Little Night Music as I’ve never seen the show before.

La Cage Aux Folles – Longacre Theatre – Everyone has been talking about this production for a long time it seems – first in London and then on Broadway. All I’ve seen is great reviews from everyone.  I’ve never seen La Cage Aux Folles so it’s the perfect time for me to check out this revival.

SUNDAY EVENING:

Next to Normal @ Booth Theatre: It’s a no brianer that I would pick this show to see on Sunday evening when the only other options are Billy Elliot and Rock of Ages. I’m very excited to see the new cast. Of course, I’ll miss Alice Ripley and the rest of the original cast but I’m also excited to see the differences the new cast brings to the show.

MONDAY EVENING:

American Idiot @ St. James Theatre: I saw this show three times in it’s own-of-town tryout at the Berkeley Rep. I absolutely loved it. It’s energy was so infectious that I had to keep coming back for more. I’m really interested in seeing all of the changes and see Stark Sands perform (whom I hear great things about)! Also, there’s no other shows on Monday night that I even remotely want to see!

DEPENDING ON SCHEDULING:

Promises, Promises @ Broadway Theatre: If for some reason I can’t get into any of the above shows, then this show is the next one I really want to see. I would love to see Sean Hayes and Kristen Chenoweth in this, but I’m not dying to see it. It’s a great alternative and if I stayed one more day (or if they had a Sunday or Monday evening show), I’d be there.

The Addams Family @ Lunt-Fontanne Theatre: I’m not really a huge Addams Family fan, so I’m not dying to see this. I think it would be kinda cool to see Nathan Lane perform, because I’ve never seen him live, but there’s too many other shows that I want to see before this one. Again, if it performed on Sunday or Monday evening, I might be there.

NOT TO MISS: (Still deciding)

I just realized that I’ll be in town during the New York Musical Theatre Festival 2010. I know, one thing for sure, that I’ll be seeing Anthony Rapp’s “Without You”. I hope to see a few others as well depending on schedules.

Without You: Anthony Rapp presents his turbulent journey through the convergence of two life-changing events: the early days of Rent – including the untimely passing of Jonathan Larson – and the illness and death of his own mother. Based on his New York Times best-selling memoir, Rapp uses a mix of original music and songs by R.E.M. and Larson in a stunning one-man show about grief, hope, and triumph.

What are your thoughts? Any shows that I’m missing? What shows would you see? Let me know what you think!

 
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Posted by on 07/29/2010 in Broadway

 

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Five Shows You Should See on Broadway – #3

I get asked this question a lot: “What shows should I see on Broadway?” I get asked from friends who are visiting New York City for the weekend, teachers who are taking their students on an extended field trip and even friends who live in the city. Now, I usually try to answer that question, keeping in mind, what my friends or students would be interested in seeing – making sure its content and style appropriate.

Back in November, I posted my top five favorite shows and since then two have closed and the other three have significant cast changes. Then back in March, I posted my new list, but that was before all of the new Broadway shows had opened and there have been several that have opened but it’s still a very similar list.

Here’s my top 5 that you should check out this summer in New York City:

1. Next to Normal at Booth Theatre – Next to Normal continues to be #1 on my list for a number of reasons, even with the new cast changes. Husband-and-wife actors Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie will join the cast of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical in July. Next to Normal is a breath of fresh air, especially when comparing it to such shows as Billy Elliot or even Disney’s Mary Poppins (which I happen to love).

Tom Kitt’s beautifully crafted rock opera deals directly with heartache in a way that’s never been presented in musical theatre.  With the difficult level of the score, intensity of the acting and fiery energy that the actors bring to the show every night, I thought that it might actually get “tired” as the run went on. My friend saw it last week and said it was the best he’s ever seen it! (It was his 5th or 6th time seeing it.) You have till July 18th to see the Tony-winning performance by Alice Ripley.

It’s my all-time favorite show I’ve seen on Broadway. Don’t miss it!

WebsiteTickets

2. American Idiot at St. James Theatre – American Idiot didn’t win the Tony Award for Best Musical, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see this show! It did win the Tony Award for the lighting and set design (which were well-deserved). I saw it four times at Berkeley Rep in it’s out-of-town try-out and I can tell you it will blow your mind. It was the musical that actually inspired me to start this website.

“Finally, someone has come along and given musical theatre the electro shock therapy it has needed for so long. While Tom Kitt’s newest musical, Next to Normal, deals directly with the affects of electro shock therapy, American Idiot is electro shock therapy for the audience. It screams independence and acceptance in a way that is nothing short of brilliant.” You can read the full review here.

WebsiteBuy tickets

Playbill Cover3. A Little Night Music at Walter Kerr Theatre: I actually gave up my ticket to see this to see the closing performance of Finian’s Rainbow.(Read the full story here.) I’ve only heard fabulous things about this production and that Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones are exquisite in their roles. Zeta-Jones did just win the Tony Award for Best Actress on Sunday.

In the New York Times Catherine Zeta-Jones is said to be, “…drop-dead gorgeous in David Farley’s wasp-waisted period dresses, Ms. Zeta-Jones brings a decent voice, a supple dancer’s body and a vulpine self-possession to her first appearance on Broadway.” This is your last week to see Miss Zeta-Jones and Miss Lansbury as their final performance is on June 20th. But on July 13th, you’ll have a chance to see two other theatre legends take over the roles: Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch. I have a feeling that this is a show you won’t want to miss!

Website | Tickets

4. La Cage aux Folles at Longacre Theatre: First off, you have to congratulate La Cage aux Folles for being the first musical in history to win “Best Musical” or “Best Musical Revival” three times! Talk about a huge triumph and making musical theatre history! The Menier Chocolate Factory’s acclaimed revival hits the Broadway stage, starring Douglas Hodge (Olivier Award and Tony Award) as Albin, a drag performer with a heart of gold, and Kelsey Grammer as his partner Georges.

I haven’t seen this production yet, but from what I’ve heard, you don’t want to miss it – the Cagelles are worth the price of admission. (Did you see them on the Tony Awards? Talk about fierce!)

Website | Tickets

5. In the Heights at Richard Rodgers Theatre – In the Heights won the 2008 Tony for “Best Musical” and has been a hit on Broadway ever since. I caught the In the Heights tour in San Francisco last month and absolutely fell in love with the show all over again. (Read review, here)

I took 35 theatre/music students to this production on Broadway in March ’09 and they absolutely fell in love with it, just as I had when I saw it for the first time. The infusion of Latin/Rap/Pop music into musical theatre isn’t groundbreaking or new, but Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics are. The end of Act I, when they sing “Blackout” — fireworks literally and figuratively go off on stage. It’s electrifying!

Website | Tickets

Shows I hope to see in August:

  • Promises, PromisesI can’t resist seeing a show with Kristen Chenoweth, Sean Hayes or Katie Finneran (who won the Tony for Best Supporting Actress) all in it! If you have time for one more revival, then this one should be on your list!
  • Next to Normal: It’s one of the rare shows that’s open on a Monday night and I can’t wait to see the new replacements: Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie.
  • American Idiot: Yes, I know – with all of the shows that I haven’t seen on Broadway that are open, why see a show I’ve already seen four times! Well, I haven’t seen it on Broadway yet! And I want to see the changes and new discoveries they have made since Berkeley Rep.
  • La Cage aux Folles/A Little Night Music: It’s basically going to come down to which one will I be able to afford tickets to! I have never seen either show in any production, so I’m looking forward to seeing at least one!

It looks like, I might just have to return sometime in October to catch a few more…

 
2 Comments

Posted by on 06/15/2010 in Broadway

 

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