Monday, September 14, 2015

Spring Awakening and ASL

When I first became aware of Spring Awakening it was during the 2007 Tony Awards. I knew nothing about the show (it was before I dove head first into the world of theatre; back when I was mearly fond of theatre). I only knew that what I saw during the performance of that show was enough to intrigue me. I was hooked. I purchased the cast recording (back when there were still BMG music clubs and you could order CDs dirt cheap). I loved it even more. It was edgy. It was dark. It was the kind of thing that you didn’t really see in the theatre. I knew the Rent cast recording, but I had no experience with any other type of edgy musicals. My repertoire consisted of the classics like My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, and Oklahoma!

When I saw Next to Normal in 2009, that was the tipping point for me. The point that took me over the edge to my theatre geekiness. But Spring Awakening was like the seed that was planted two years earlier. I never saw Spring Awakening on Broadway, but when the tour came to Atlanta, I took a trip and saw it for the first time. Later, the second tour would be in Nashville. I would see it a second time. So far I haven’t been lucky enough to see any other productions, but I know that Spring Awakening touched many lives and opened up so many conversations that changed lives. It would win 8 of the Tony Awards it was nominated for. It would propel some of the actors to stardom and it would open up opportunities for so many more.

There were so many special things about Spring Awakening. The topics were taboo, but were obviously something that needed to be talked about. The theme: communication. Between adult and child. Between people in general. That’s why, when I heard that DeafWest was doing a production of Spring Awakening, it seemed so perfect. I was curious, like most, how a Deaf company could put on a musical. I knew there would have to be some hearing actors and actresses, but I wondered how the show itself would translate.

I have been intrigued for many years about ASL as a language. I took some classes in college, thinking it was ASL, but finding out later they were Signed English courses. While I’m thankful that I took them, I was disappointed that they weren’t ASL. The ABC Family television show Switched at Birth also peaked by curiosity about ASL and Deaf culture. I loved learning about Deaf culture and the story of Deaf and hearing to learn to communicate and be together as family and friends.
Deaf West’s production of Spring Awakening just began previews on Broadway. That is kind of amazing. Just knowing that this production is so very different from the original, that there is already a buzz and an acceptance of the beloved musical only 9 years after its original conception. I love the fact that this show makes Broadway not only accessible to the Deaf community, but also relatable to the Deaf community.

For anyone who’s already seen this production (in New York or in California), let me know what you thought about it. And cross your fingers that I get the chance to see it as well. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Getting the Fire Back

I miss writing for fun. This is a strange thing to say at a strange time, but I really feel like I have lost my love of sharing theatre through my blog posts. As is evident by my lack of posting. I’ve been to New York twice since I last posted about a show I saw on Broadway. The past THREE times I’ve been I’ve only written about one show. That, in and of itself, is sad for me. A show that was the BROADWAY DEBUTE for one of my favorite Idiots didn’t even get a review on my page.

Sure, I still write and review for Nashville’s page, but I feel like all the fun I used to have reading about theatre and then sharing my thoughts on what was going on in the theatrical world has just fallen away.

And the truth is: I want to get that back.

I’m not sure how it’s going to happen, but my life is changing on a regular basis now. I’m finding new things out about myself. I’ve been stressed and unstressed and destressed and totally stressed in so many ways since I made the choice to move to Nashville. I’ve moved twice. I’ve gotten pets, I’ve lost one. I’ve found new friends, I’ve been to concerts, I’ve spent time learning a city that has become one of my favorite on the planet (ranking right up there with NYC itself).

I have a list of things I want to accomplish in the next 12 months. It is not set in stone, but everything on it centers around doing new things and experiencing new things. Stepping out on a limb and taking a chance. I want my love of sharing theatre to be a part of that. While it’s not new, I feel like it needs a kick in the pants.

I can’t promise I’ll go back to regular blogging on this page….but I can’t promise that I won’t either. I have a few things floating around in my head that I hope to make it to paper (or word document) and then later onto my blog. I’m crossing my fingers and letting some things push me to get my head, and my writing, back in the game.

I’m interested in the Deaf West production of Spring Awakening that just began previews. I’m curious, as is everyone who is breathing, about Hamilton. I’m intrigued by this new musical adaptation of Amelie happening in Berkeley. I’m generally behind in what’s going on in the West End, and need to get caught up on that.

Expect to hear some opinions from me soon, expect to see some show reviews (I have a trip or two planned very soon) from me that are outside of Nashville, and let’s hope I can keep up my goal of getting my fire lit again. I’m tired of writing because I sort of feel like I have to. I want to get back to writing because I want to share my thoughts and experiences with you. Let’s see what happens. Let’s see how things change in the next few months. Stick with me, and I’ll do my best to live up to my “theatre geek” title. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My Tony Awards....Awards

It's the night after the 2015 Tony Awards. I've had just over 24 hours to soak in the night and discuss the show with all my theatre loving friends. And I had an idea. I want to give out my own set of awards for the Tonys. My Tony Awards Awards.
So, onward we go......

Best Dressed Tony Winner

In my opinion, the best dressed Tony winner of the night was Annaleigh Ashford. I adored the green dress she was wearing. And her acceptance speech was amazing as well. 

Most Overdue Tony Win

Kelli O'Hara. How has this spectacular creature gone without a Tony win for so long? She had six, yes SIX Tony Nominations. And until last night was winless. Bridges of Madison County, Nice Work If You Can Get It, South Pacific, A Light in the Piazza. is it possible? Oh, yeah...and nothing beats Kelli O'Hara doing the Worm. 

Best Tony Award Acceptance Speech

I adore Ruthie Ann Miles. ADORE. She was spectacular in Here Lies Love and I have no doubts she was totally deserving of the Tony for The King and I. I know there were some stellar Tony speeches last night, but Ruthie Ann Miles' speech won by a long shot in my world. 


Best Tony Musical Performance

It would be easy to give this one out to the spectacular performance from Fun Home. The piece was amazing and Sydney Lucas is a talent that is beyond compare. 


But I'm going to give it a tie with a non-Tony nominated It Should Have Been You, and Jenny
Steinberg's show-stopping performance.

Most Robbed Tony Award

It is hard for me to judge, since I only saw one Tony nominated show this year. However, I can be biased because this is my blog. HOW THE HECK DID STEVEN BOYER NOT WIN?!?!?! Really, I'm sure that other guy was amazing and I heard wonderful things about Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. But Hand to God was possibly the most amazing play I've seen in a few years. And Steven Boyer's performance was amazing. If for no other reason than he played TWO roles to PERFECTION at the SAME TIME. 

Most Awkward Moment

This year's Tony Awards were full of awkward moments. More than usual, methinks. However, there were two that stood out to me. First: Kristin Chenoweth as E.T.
Weird. Just WEIRD. 

Second: The playing off of the Fun Home acceptance speeches for Best Musical in order to.... PLAY A JERSEY BOYS song?!?!? Let me hear the Tony speech please. Best Musical acceptance speech beats an awkward song at the end of the show. Really. 

So, what were you're Tony Awards Awards? Did you have anything that stood out in particular to you? Disagree with a choice I made? What would yours have been? 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Street Theatre Company's "Dogfight" Shares the Best and Worst of Humanity

When I first discovered Pasek & Paul’s Dogfight it was during the beginnings of the off-Broadway production. I was caught by the cast (I was a fan of Lindsay Mendez), and then, later, by the amazing music that was leaked onto the internet. When the cast recording of the off-Broadway production was released, I bought it immediately and it has been a staple in my rotation of cast recordings ever since.

Many times I wished a regional theatre or community theatre would take on the story of Eddie and Rose, but it’s a risk, and I knew it. Luckily, Street Theatre Company has never been a theatre to shy away from a challenge or an edgy piece of theatre.

Friday night, STC opened the Nashville premier of Dogfight. Set in 1963, a group of Marines has one final night before being sent to Vietnam. The three bees, also known as Boland, Bernstein, and Birdlace, participate in a cruel game called the dogfight. All the Marines put into a pot and the Marine who brings the ugliest girl to the party… wins.

Eddie Birdlace meets Rose at a diner where
she works with her mother. Awkward and far from your “traditional” beauty, Rose hesitates to go to a party this handsome young Marine has invited her to attend. She relents and heads out on her first date ever. While the first part of the night goes very much the way the audience could have expected; Rose turns Eddie Birdlace’s world upside down.

Audrey Johnson plays Rose. Johnson takes the awkwardness and innocence of Rose and brings the audience into her world. You laugh with her, get excited with her, get angry with her and get sad with her. An outstanding performance and a uniquely beautiful voice, Johnson was a perfect cast for the role of Rose. Johnson was the glue that kept the audience engaged, when they could have checked out because of the cruel things happening in the show.

Jens Jacobson plays Eddie Birdlace. The interesting thing about the role of Eddie is that you aren’t sure if you like him or you think he’s a terrible person. This happens throughout pretty much the entire show. While the character is ultimately redeemable, I can see how it could be a tough role to play. Jacobson does a wonderful job in making Eddie relatable, in spite of all the character shortcomings. Even though you want to smack him for some of the things he does, you also want to hug him for some of the things he does. That, my dear readers, takes talent.  

Boland, played by Taylor Kelly, hires a woman to help him win the contest, even though this breaks the crude rules of the game. Margaret French plays Marcy, the loud and rude woman for hire. Both Kelly and French embodied their roles, essentially becoming the representation of the worst parts of humanity. Boland has no remorse for his actions throughout the show. Marcy is so jaded from her life that she has no room for kindness or pity for anyone; looking out for only herself.

Rose becomes the representation of the best parts of humanity, with her genuine kindness, her hopeful outlook on life, and her ability to give second chances to those who appear to be undeserving of such.  Eddie Birdlace becomes that grey area. The place where the unredeemable becomes redeemed, the point where you see light in the darkness of one’s soul.

When you add in the history of the time period, and the eventual outcome of the Vietnam War, along with the reprehensible way that the returning Vietnam veterans were treated, it allows for the slight redemption of even those darkest characters on stage. A child of a Vietnam vet myself, I couldn’t help my heartbreak for each and every character on that stage, but especially those in the military.

The book and music by Pasek and Paul have so many touching moments and some truly elegant lyrics and harmonies. “Pretty Funny” is perhaps my favorite song in the show and Audrey Johnson brought tears to my eyes with her performance during this scene. “Some Kinda Time” showcases some amazing harmonies by the entire cast of the show and really pulls the audience in from the beginning of the show. I loved the Marcy/Rose duet, “Dogfight.” Margaret French and Audrey Johnson play perfectly off each other in this scene and their voices blend beautifully.

This show is certainly the kind of show that can touch anyone, of any age. It’s a lesson in life, what “pretty” really is, and how much a single night can change a person. When I added in my personal connection because of the Vietnam era, I feel like it was near perfection for me. Direction by Cathy Street was wonderful and the set (designed by Randall Pike) was remarkable, considering the size of the stage and the number of different locations in which the show takes place.

Honestly, I have been trying to find someone to go back and see the show with me since I saw it on opening night. With Street Theatre Company celebrating their 10th season by offering pay-what-you-can tickets, there’s no reason you shouldn’t go see this show. You can purchase tickets on their website and the show runs through June 21st at Bailey Middle School in East Nashville.    

My ticket to see Dogfight was a comp ticket because I wrote a preview piece about the show for My opinions are my own and in no way are affected by the status of my ticket. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gone Too Long

In the past year to year and a half, my life has been kind of insane. It has let to me pretty much abandoning both this blog and my other blog. I have been (and continue to be) very busy with my job, and a life that I have sought out in a new town. 

But there are things I am missing greatly, and in an effort to re-center myself and my life, I will be getting back to some basics. One of which is going to be blogging about theater I see. I plan on starting to see shows on my own dime from time to time (both in my town, regionally, and in NYC) and blogging about them here. For now, I plan to continue to see shows and review for, but I also want to beging to get back to why I starting reviewing in the first place: I love seeing theatre. 

I am going to start out by leaving this post short and sweet, and then I'm going to share my story of seeing Side Show on Broadway in early December (probably tomorrow). 

If you want to keep hearing my stories and reading what I think about theatre (of all kinds), remind me that I need to keep writing. Leave me a comment, tweet me, email me, or find my page on facebook. I need the encouragement. 

In preview for my next post, I leave you with this: 

Can you guess what it is? 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Blind Sided by Love

I’m falling in love. I’ve never really been in love before. At least not like this. I’m finding myself smiling at the strangest times of day and giggling over the craziest things. The strangest thing about the whole deal is that I feel like I’ve been blind-sided by the whole experience. They say that it usually happens that way. You like someone well enough and end up going out on a date. It’s not a terrible date, so you go out on another. The next thing you know you’re in major crush territory.

Don’t panic. There is no knew significant other in my life… at least not in the traditional sense. I feel like I’m falling in love with my new town. I’ve always liked Nashville well enough. I knew that I wanted to be in a city larger than where I grew up. I also knew that I didn’t want to move terribly far away from my family and my hometown. So I agreed to go out on a date with Nashville.

When I moved here 7 months ago, I knew that I would enjoy it. I wasn’t sure how long it would last or where it would lead me, and in many ways I’m still unsure. But the more I’m here and the more I find out about my new home, the more I love it. I find myself smiling at the Nashville skyline every single day on my commute to work. I find myself being a tourist and heading to places I’ve never been before, in spite of growing up less than three hours away from here. I find myself looking for new places to eat and new places to find theatre and music.

I’m slowly finding friends, some I’ve known online, others I work with, and some I’ve met since I moved here. I’m learning my way around town and I now can say I successfully travel without my GPS more often than with it. I am learning the little things about this place. The public transit is lacking (hey, Nashville, let’s work on this, k?), traffic during rush hour is ridiculous, but you always know you can find some good music almost anywhere you go and that people are generally kind-hearted and courteous. I’m learning the best (and cheapest) places to park downtown and how when the best times are to eat at certain restaurants. I’m finding the places that the tourists aren’t (thanks in part to many of my new friends), and enjoying every second of it.

Over the holiday weekend Nashville had a Fourth of July fireworks show (appropriately titled “Let Freedom Sing”) at Riverfront Park downtown. I decide to brave the crowds (estimated afterwards to be around 215,000) and headed with a friend to see what was named by the American Pyrotechnics Association at #2 in the nation. I’m so glad I went. It was a spectacular show, but it was also when I realized that I was falling in love with Nashville and WHY.

Despite the fact that there were over 200,000 people descending on a very small area of Nashville this may have been the most laid back and calm I’ve ever seen at a large event like this. I’ve been to a lot of things like this in several different cities. There were police everywhere on the Fourth, but no one seemed stressed. No one was in a hurry. No one was pushing or being rude or inconsiderate. Even compared to CMA Music Fest, this was a whole different creature. I chalked that up to the fact that CMA Music Fest was mostly tourists, while the Fourth of July celebration was mostly locals.

Even more shocking was how easy and calm it was to get out of downtown after the event. Again, there was no rushing, shoving, pushing, or stress. Obviously it did take a little while, with so much traffic, but it still wasn’t stressful. All in all, the experience was what sums up Nashville: laid back with plenty of the courtesy that Southerners are known for.

I can’t tell you if my major crush on Nashville will develop into full-fledged love (though I’m inclined to think that it’s already there). I don’t know if it will be a long term love, or if it may fizzle out over time. I don’t know what the future holds for me and my new beau. But I can say that I am enjoying every second of this new relationship and all the joy it is giving me along the way.

Author’s note: I apologize that I haven’t been blogging more often, but the last year has been a year of changes and crazy for me. Perhaps I’ll be able to get back into it slowly. I can promise I’ll never abandon it completely, but I can’t promise how active I’ll be in my blogging. Either way, I’m always around. You can email me or find me on facebook or twitter. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

First Date

So, it may be five months late, but I’m finally getting around to writing about all the shows I saw when I was in New York in November. I kept meaning to do it and things just got crazy (new job, new town, new house, new life). I figured since Tony time is sneaking up on us (Tony nominations are Tuesday), I ought to write about the shows that I DID see, so I can remember WHY I think some of them need to have Tony nominations (or wins).

I spent several days in NYC back in November and was lucky enough to see several different shows. The first show I saw was the second night I was in town. Some friends and I had made plans to get together to seeFirst Date. An original musical is something I love. A comedy is even better. I’d heard things, both good and bad, about First Date, but I wanted to see it to decide for myself. One of the great things about the show was that during its run, they offered $35 seats in the balcony, making it a show that I didn’t have to do rush, lottery, or TKTS for.

My friends & I before the show!

First Date is a 90 minute musical with no intermission, set around a blind date between two New Yorkers with a somewhat jaded idea of relationships. Aaron is a workaholic who is straight laced and nervous about going on a blind date after having had a disastrous relationship in which he was left under the Chuppah, alone. Casey is a serial dater who has a history of losers in her little black book. She is essentially the total opposite of Aaron. With a book by Austin Winsberg and music & lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, First Date explores so much of what singles experience while they are in the dating scene. The bad, the good and everything in between.

Played by Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez, Aaron and Casey have a most interesting first date, including all the typical awkward moments, strange “getting to know you” moments, and the continual interruption of friends and family (whether in their imaginations or actual interruptions). Levi and Rodriguez had great chemistry and good comedic timing, playing off each other in a very natural way. Watching their interactions made me convinced that the characters had potential as a couple, if they could get past the first date mess.  

So I'm short. And Zachary Levi is VERY tall.
The small ensemble cast of only five play all the other roles in the show, including the waiter, Aaron’s dead grandmother, Casey’s sister, both Aaron & Casey’s best friends, Casey’s ex-boyfriends, and Aaron’s ex-girlfriend, along with a host of other roles. Kristoffer Cusick and Bryce Ryness make a their most notable roles as the best friends of Casey and Aaron, respectively. Kate Loprest’s most notable role is that of Aaron’s ex-girlfriend, her comedic expressions reaching even the back of the balcony. Black Hammond makes a hilarious waiter, and turns into the even more funny character of Casey’s father. Sara Chase is at her best when playing Aaron’s Grandma Ida. I laughed so hard during that little bit that I’m sure my neighbors got sick of my snorting.

In truth, there were some very creative things going on in this show. Directed by Bill Berry, I love that all the characters in the show stayed on stage through pretty much the entire show, either as patrons in the restaurant where the date was taking place, or as characters in the lives of Casey and Aaron. I liked that all the costume changes happened on stage by simply adding a hat, or a headband, or some other small piece of costuming. It made the sudden transitions of the characters happen more seamlessly.  

Krysta was super nice.
There were some strange things too. It almost seemed as though the overall feel of the show was awkward. The scenic design was great, bringing the feel of a NYC eatery, but the way that media was incorporated in was a little over the top. It was cool, for sure. David Gallo did well in both set and media, but the media design didn’t really seem a necessary part of the show. The entire thing could have happened without the strange projections of “google” (Google had eyes. It was weird.). Then again, I have a slight bias toward projections in staged productions. Sometimes they are okay… even needed. But overall, I don’t really care for them.

Truth be known, I really, really enjoyed the show. The music is catchy and the premise of the overall show is creative and something I’ve never seen before. The book is funny and clever and a week rarely goes by when I don’t listen to the cast recording two or three times. I think First Date will do fantastically in regional and community theatre. In fact, I look forward to the first local production I get the chance to see. I can’t wait to see someone else’s take on First Date.

Sadly, I can’t tell you to go see it. The show closed at the Longacre Theatre in January. But I can tell you to pick up the cast recording. You won’t be sorry.