Tuesday, December 25, 2012

CCP Winter Cabaret 2012

On the very night the world was supposed to end (12/22/12, for those of you living under a rock), I attended my first cabaret at Cumberland County Playhouse. From what I’ve gathered, CCP has started doing a late night cabaret a couple of times a year. I’ve managed to miss every one so far.

This winter I was determined to make it, and make it I did. After the Friday evening showing of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (which I also attended), the Winter Cabaret took place in the lobby of Cumberland County Playhouse. With desserts available and cabaret style seating, it was cozy and candle lit.

Emcee Weslie Webster started off the night doing a duet with Lauren Marshall of the SNL parody “Santa’s My Boyfriend,” setting the mood and bringing smiles to every face. Performance after performance, CCP actors came out and delivered their best. Every single performance was outstanding.

Carly Hueston Amburn and Anna Baker did a lovely version of “Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles, while Leila Nelson tackled “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables with wonderful results. Anna Baker added a dash of jazz with a fabulous version of “When Sunny Gets Blue” and the trio of Austin Price, John Dobbratz & Douglas Waterbury-Tieman threw in some country with a version of the Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried.”

Music Direction Ron Murphy played a festive panio solo called “Skating.” This was one of my personal favorites of the night. It made me feel like I needed to be bundled up outside in the snow (though Tennessee is noticeably absent of snow most Decembers).

There were three other performances that really stood out in my mind as being highlights. First was an appropriately picked version of R.E.M.’s “End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” that went straight into a rousing cover of FUN’s “Some Nights” that was performed by the Golden Smoke Boys, made of up of Austin Price, Daniel Black, Douglas Waterbury-Tieman, Colin Cahill and John Dobbratz. This definitely got the most audience participation. At least out of the group of people that I was sitting with. We couldn’t help but sing along.

Perhaps the most clever and funny performance of the night was from Chris Rayis and Douglas Waterbury-Tieman. Both extremely talented musicians, they took comedy and a love of theatre to a whole new level of geek-dom. And it was fabulous. They performed a selection of Christmas tunes to different musical theatre themes. Honestly, I hope someone got it on film and plans on posting it to youtube. It was quite the performance.

“O Holy Night” set to the tune of “Oklahoma” with a little South Pacific thrown in. “Deck the Halls” set to some Jerry Herman selections (I believe I heard some Hello, Dolly! and perhaps some La Cage Aux Folles and maybe some Mame, but don’t quote me on that). “Up On the Rooftop” was done with a Fiddler On the Roof twist while Frosty the Snowman was crafted around some Sweeny Todd. “We Three Kings” and “Star of Wonder” were give some Andrew Loyd Webber love by crafting around some songs from Phantom of the Opera. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” was most cleverly set to “Defying Gravity” from the ever popular Wicked.  “You’d Better Watch Out” was infused with Jason Robert Brown, starting with The Last Five Years and I picked up some 13 at the end. The last song of their creative endeavor was the classic Christmas tear-jerker “The Christmas Shoes” only it was the tune and the story was all Les Misérables, giving it a hilarious turn that had everyone laughing. 

I will be honest, my absolute favorite of the entire night was the finale. “O Holy Night” was performed by Michael Ruff with the rest of the CCP company helping him out. It was beautiful. I may be slightly partial, as “O Holy Night” is my favorite Christmas song ever, but I think they did a truly beautiful job. It was a perfect close to the evening.

I can’t help but hope that Cumberland County Playhouse continues to have these cabaret performances. It was a change for me. A little musical theatre, a little Christmas music, a little popular music, yet it blended well, it moved along seamlessly, and was one of the most fun times I’ve had at CCP in a long time. You can bet I’ll do everything in my power to get to the next CCP cabaret. There’s nowhere I’d have rather spent the evening of the end of the world.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Last night I got to go see a production of the Kander & Ebb musical Cabaret at the Backdoor Playhouse at Tennessee TechnologicalUniversity. This production was directed by student Adam Combs, and was their student directed production for the season. Mendy Richards was music director and choreography was done by Jennifer Dotson-Creter. This was the second night of their run, and I was lucky enough to get to see the show on the house, as my friend was the stage manager of the production.
As a pretty well-known movie, starring Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli, most people are familiar with the title song “Cabaret” and other songs like “The Money Song” and “Willkommen.” Cabaret is certainly not your average, feel good, feel good musical. Taking place in 1930 Germany as the Nazi party began its rise to power, there is a nearly constant feeling of darkness hanging over the show.
At the beginning of the show, the rousing opening number “Willkommen” from the Emcee, played by Anthony Herd, sets the mood for the entire show. Herd attacks the role of Emcee with hilarity, giving Emcee a sort of cartoonish and dream-like feeling. This gives the audience a false sense of what this show is actually going to be, but it works well when the show takes a shocking and serious turn later.
We then see starving American author Cliff Bradshaw, played by Joshua Spivey, making his way to Germany looking for inspiration for his book. He’s already been to several other European countries and is on the move again. In Berlin, Cliff thinks he’s found what he needs. Fun, friends, and the Kit Kat Club.
Cliff takes up residence in the boarding house of Fraulein Schneider, played by Mary Pashley. We’re introduced to Sally Bowles with her Kit Kat Club number, “Don’t Tell Mamma”, which perfectly tells the story of Sally’s carefree and flighty take on life very much reflects the feeling of the Kit Kat Club. She has friends of all kinds and seems to know everyone and very quickly worms her way into Cliff’s graces and his room.
While giving English lessons to supplement his income, Cliff becomes friends with Ernst Ludwig, played by Brent Fleshman. Fleshman’s Ernst is suave and smooth. He’s friends with nearly everyone, including Sally. But even from the beginning, you can tell there’s something more underneath. It’s obvious that he’s dealing in some less than legal projects, and we don’t find out until later in the show just what those dealings are.
We also meet an amazing ensemble of characters at the boarding house, including Fraulein Schneider’s beau, fruit market owner Herr Schultz, played by Lynn England. England and Pashley give an interesting touch to the roles of Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. They play and adorable couple, with Herr Schultz ready to go all into a relationship, and longtime bachelorette Fraulein Schneider with some reservations. Their duet “Married” is both funny and sweetly adorable.
When the show takes a serious turn, tackling the ideals of the Nazi party, Emcee gives a creepy rendition of “Tomorrow Belongs To Me.” After that number, the mood of the show goes from flighty and dream-like, to depressing and serious. We being to see the relationship between Sally and Cliff disintegrate. Sally reveals she is pregnant and is looking for a way out of the pregnancy and the relationship. Cliff sees the state of Germany changing and wants to take Sally back to American where they can settle down and start a family.
We also see the relationship between Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz begin changing when it’s revealed that Herr Schultz is a Jew, making both he and Fraulein Schneider targets for the Nazis. Mary Pashley gives a touching performance of “What Would You Do?” when Fraulein Schneider is exploring the possibilities of continuing her relationship with Herr Schultz.
One of the last numbers in the show is “Cabaret.” Sally Bowles has ended her relationship with Cliff and you see both her heartbreak and her inability to change herself and face reality. She instead desperately clings to her flighty personality and outlook on life, in spite of all that’s happening around her and to her. 
One of my favorite lines in the whole show was one of Cliff’s. He’s describing Berlin when he says, “It’s so tacky and terrible & everybody’s having a great time.” I couldn’t help but feel like it’s a great description of the show itself. While it wasn’t terrible at ALL, the show itself is slightly tacky (the book itself), and you can’t help but have a great time while you’re there. The range of emotion in the show is wide, bringing in some depressingly serious topics that transcend the time period itself.
I must say that Cabaret is a HUGE production and the Backdoor Playhouse is not a huge venue. This could have been a complete staging disaster. It could have been, but it wasn’t. There was some very creative set design, including a raised area that was almost at the ceiling that served as Cliff’s room at the boarding house. That being said, there were a lot of scene changes, and because there were so many set pieces to be moved, and so many people to do it, sometimes the scene changes were distracting. Too many people, moving too many things and taking too much time.
Overall, this show is well worth your time and money to see. Ladies, I can even bet you can convince your significant other to go. Just tell him there are a bunch of girls running around on stage in their skivvies. ;) I know the elderly gentleman that sat next to me with his wife enjoyed the show…if his whistling at the girls on stage was any indicator anyway.
Cabaret plays at the Backdoor Playhouse at Tennessee Technological University thru November 17th. Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 senior citizens and $5 for non-Tech students. Tech students get in free with their ID. You can call their box office at (931)372-6595 or visit their website for more information.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Golden Goodbye

Friday was the closing performance of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge at Cumberland County Playhouse. Hands down, this show has been my favorite production at CCP this season. With only a couple of shows I haven't seen, I'm guessing that it will probably hold out as my most memorable of this year.

I took my mother to see the show for the first time and it was a wonderful chance to spend some time with her.

I also took some sweet treats to the cast & crew. I occasionally get inspired to make cakes or cupcakes themed to a show that I love and this was one of those times. I tried to go with things that reminded me of the show and the set itself.

Banjos from the show poster, a mirror that Clayton admires himself in, moonshine jars from JM's still, and the shovel that started it all. Fall leaves inspired by those from the set decorated the rest of the cupcakes. I hope the cast & crew enjoyed them.

Making these has also put me in the mood to make more show themed sweet treats. Would my few readers be interested in seeing some more of my baked goods? All show themed, of course.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Broadway or Bust: Episode Three

The third and final episode of Broadway or Bust aired on Sunday night. Unfortunately my cable was out, so I ended up waiting until today when the episode was posted on the PBS website to actually see the show. Being at work all day I managed to miss most of the spoilers, but I did end up finding out one of the winners before I saw the show. Le sigh. The cost of social media.

The show started out the morning of the Jimmy Awards. All of the kids were all being shown around the theatre and ended up on the stage at the Minskoff (where the awards were held). It was pretty amazing to see all of those kids walking onto a Broadway stage for the first time. There were tears. There was a TON of giggling and smiles. Overall, it was pretty awesome to get to see their faces.

On to the quickest tech EVER. With only a few hours, they teched the entire show. I think I might have lost my mind if I were trying to work on that show. There was a funny quote from the stage manager. She said that keeping those kids where they needed to be, and keeping them focused was like “herding squirrels.” I find that hilarious because my best friend, who stage manages shows locally, has often told me that stage managing is really just herding cats. I can’t imagine that herding cats OR squirrels would be easy.

And then it was time for the show. As the curtain came up and those kids started singing their opening number I couldn’t help but tear up a little bit. Just a few lines into the number and you could see some of the kids onstage tearing up as well. At that point, a tear might have escaped my eye. Then they did a camera pan to the audience and there was a woman that I’m thinking was probably a grandparent, who was openly crying. That was it for me. I sobbed.

It’s just so refreshing to see young people loving theatre so much AND getting an amazing chance that not many young people get. For some of them, this is as close as they’ll ever get to Broadway. For whatever reason, they may pursue a different career. Or maybe they’ll try to get to Broadway and won’t make it. Not everyone does. For some of them, this may be the biggest thing they ever do. For others, it may actually be just a stepping stone to greatness.

After their group performances the judges picked their top six; three girls and three guys. There were some great moments shown by many of the kids, and it could have been argued that there should have been some different picks for the top six, but I think overall they did a good job.

In the top were
Eric Durham
Evan Greenberg

Elizabeth Romero
Drew Shafranek

Joshua Grosso

Nicolette Burton
There were three of those six that I had thought would probably be in the top. Joshua, Elizabeth and Evan. Joshua and Evan both got quite a bit of screen time in the other episodes, and Elizabeth caught my eye because she looks remarkably like a young Sutton Foster AND is extremely talented.

Each of the top six were asked to perform their solo performances. Honestly, you always remember when Evan performs. He’s just that funny. Joshua sang his song in Italian, so that was totally memorable, and seeing Elizabeth perform her song, Disneyland, was like watching a full production. She’s just that impressive with her acting skills. Nicolette, Erica, and Drew all did great as well, but my favorite three caught my attention for a reason.

When it came down to it, Joshua Grosso was awarded Best Actor and Elizabeth Romero was awarded Best Actress. I find it kind of funny that Joshua came into it as the only runner-up, there fully by default. Honestly, I’d like to have seen who beat him out, because I thought he was fantastic from the start. Both Elizabeth and Joshua were awarded $10,000 to go toward their future schooling, and I can’t help but hope to see them in the future on a Broadway stage, or on tour with a show. It would just seem fitting.

Overall I think this was a great documentary. It was inspiring, fun, happy, and left me feeling like the future of the arts could be in good hands. Some people were calling it reality TV, but I really feel like it was more of a documentary. Reality TV is often negative and so disheartening. This was NOT that. I can’t help but hope that PBS does this again next year.

As a total unrelated side note, there was a scene at the end of the episode showing a cake that was for the cast and that cake was SO AMAZING! I make cakes and cupcakes as a hobby and I love seeing a cake that is well done. I kind of wonder who made it. Any insiders know the answer?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Five Guys Named Moe

Yesterday I headed out to see a couple of shows at Cumberland County Playhouse. I’ve already seen Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge, but it was my first time seeing Five Guys Named Moe. Five Guys Named Moe, a musical based on some of Louis Jordan’s greatest hits, is interesting, to say the least.

Taken from CCP facebook page
Nomax, played by Quinn Carson, starts the show out alone and broke. His girlfriend has left him and he’s basically on a drinking binge. Honestly, I’m not sure he wasn’t drinking absinthe. Cause as Nomax is listening to the radio, the group Five Guys Named Moe come out of the radio and sing to him. Really.

Little Moe, Big Moe, Four-Eyed Moe, No Moe, and Eat Moe spend the next two hours singing a variety of songs to Nomax. Honestly, I felt like I should have had some absinthe before the show, cause I never really understood what was going on. The book…well, it wasn’t that great. There were a few times in the show when one of the Moes would ask Nomax “Do you understand what we’re saying?” Every single time, all I could think was, “Nope. No clue.”

Taken from CCP facebook page

That aside, the show was FUN. The front row of seats had been sat up in cabaret-style tables. There was plenty of audience involvement, including some people being brought on stage (I won’t ruin the surprise for you) and some singing along with the actors. The show has some amazing talent.

Quinn Carson as Nomax is hilarious. He has to be. He plays a guy who’s so drunk he’s hallucinating! :D But he’s also got that slightly innocent quality that makes you like him and know that he’s trying so hard to fit in with the Moes.

Little Moe was played by Donald Frison. Anytime I see him in a show at CCP, I am blown away by his dancing talent. This show was no different. Michael Ruff’s Eat Moe was perhaps my favorite Moe. Hilarious and always talented, Ruff kept me laughing through most of the show.

Taken from CCP facebook page
No Moe was played by Porter Anderson and Four-Eyed Moe was played by Earley Dean. Both were fantastically talented vocally and in their dancing. Horace Smith played Big Moe. I really loved his portrayal of Big Moe as kind of the father-figure of the group.

The thing about Five Guys Named Moe is that it is filled with a wonderfully talented cast. They sing. They dance. They do them both very, very well. But, if you are expecting a story, skip this show. Go into it expecting a comedy concert of sorts, and don’t try to actually figure out what’s going on. You’ll love it if you do that. And if you like some audience participation.

You can catch Five Guys Named Moe at the Cumberland County Playhouse through October 27th

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Les Misérables Preview

I am not typically a movie crier. I just rarely cry when it comes to movies or television. I never have. Even at really sad movies, like The Notebook. Never shed a tear. I'm not heartless, I promise. I feel sad. But there just usually aren't any tears. I do tend to cry at plays, musicals, live performances. Especially musicals. I've always been moved by music and any live performance just enhances so many emotions for me.
Today there was an article on BroadwayWorld that shared a youtube video with an extended preview of the new Les Misérables film that opens Christmas Day. I've never seen a staged version of Les Miz, but I have seen the 25th Anniversary Concert. I own it on DVD. And while I was curious about the new movie, I wasn't overly excited.
Would I have gone to see the movie? Yes. But after seeing the extended preview, I will more than likely be in the theatre Christmas Day. If not that day, very soon thereafter.

I was incredibly touched by the fact that the music in the film was recorded live, instead of pre-recorded and dubbed over...and auto-tuned to death, like so many films and television shows are these days. *cough*glee*cough* Truth: I cried while I watched this extended preview. Does that make me a big dork? Probably.


I am not sure what the final outcome will be for the movie. It might flop. It might be amazing. The casting might be off. Or maybe not. I'm not even sure if I'll like it. But if the preview and the trailer are any indication, I think I'll be a fan.

Do you have any opinions on this movie? Will you be sitting in a theatre on Christmas Day to watch it as well?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Broadway or Bust: Episode 2

This episode started off with the one on one coaching from mentors and the kids and progressed on to the choreography work, and then to more vocal coaching, and finally ended with performances in front of the judges (the judges’ showcase) where the judges were left to pick the top contenders.

At the beginning of the show they had Brittany had picked “And I Am Telling You” from Dreamgirls as her performance piece. I was worried about this for a couple of reasons. She’s extremely talented, but the song wasn’t really working for her. She was struggling and I couldn’t help but wonder why she picked the song. I understand that it’s a beautiful song that has been performed wonderfully by some very talented African American women….but should you pick the song to sing if you struggle with it?
Luckily, after some fantastic coaching by Telly Leung that concentrated on Brittany finding ways to sing the song HER way, without trying to be Jennifer Hudson or Jennifer Holliday, Brittany was able to dig deep and do a fantastic job on the song.

Evan, from Georgia, is a very intriguing person. He’s not the most talented vocally, but he has a charisma about him that more than makes up for it. He has a way of making everything a character. From the interview videos and the behind the scenes stuff, you can tell he is always thinking about the future and his career. It makes me wonder if he’ll make it. And if he doesn’t, will he continue to act, even if it’s not on Broadway?

Sabaa is from my home state of Tennessee. I didn’t know that until I looked her up on the PBS website. She has a beautiful voice and I loved hearing about her family. She comes from a family of people involved in law and medicine, so the arts is a departure for her. On the flip side, this girl is taking AP classes like they’re going out of style, so it has to be difficult for her to keep up with everything. She chose to sing “Light in the Piazza.” While her voice was beautiful, her coach really focused on her connecting with the audience and pulling herself out.

It was beautiful to see the final, and I think most productive, method that her coach, Schele, used. She took her right to the window and made her look outside while she was singing, all while asking her “Do you want this? Is this where you want to be?” Sabaa was so moved by this she started to cry. It struck something in her. With passion like that, aren’t you almost destined to be a star? I’d hope so. While everyone has areas they can improve, I think that motivation is a major part of getting where you want to be. Do you need talent? Yes. But you need the motivation even more. I must say, she’s one of my favorites. And that was even before I realized she was from Tennessee.

Josh from Florida. This guy didn’t win his regional competition. He was 2nd and ended up there as the winner couldn’t go. I feel badly for him because he’s feeling so much like the underdog. But in all truth, he doesn’t have to feel at all like the underdog. He has an amazing voice. He chose “II Mondo Era Vuoto” from the Light in the Piazza. Liz Callaway, his coach, was blown away and was curious to see if understood what he was singing, as the entire song is in Italian. Turns out that he speaks Italian. Wow. He caught my eye last week and I couldn’t remember his name, but he’s definitely on top of my list. He’s super talented.

Choreography time was hilarious and sad all at the same time. Many don’t have technical dance experience. Choreographer Kiesha Lalama was having a time with some of the kids. Without technical dance training AND trying to keep a bunch of teenagers focused was difficult. Definitely not a job I’d have wanted to take on. At one point I thought Kiesha’s head might explode.

Another thing was that many of the kids weren’t used to furious pacing and were overwhelmed. There were even tears from one of the girls, Hanna. But Kiesha did let her take a moment, which I thought was very kind of her. Josh from Florida said “My very first impression of Kiesha was ‘This is gonna be a long rehearsal. I’d heard rumors.’” A funny, but true observation. Kiesha is only a glimpse into what these kids will face on a regular basis if they chose to pursue theatre as a career, so it was something that I think was eye opening for a lot of the kids.

Seeing the kids go to dinner at Sardi’s was pretty amazing. I remember going there, even as an adult, and being so excited to be there. Seeing them get the chance to dress up and have a little fun and take pictures was great.

The final day was their last preparations before the judges’ showcase, which is when the judges pick their top 16. There were several standouts that I feel like we might be seeing more from. Alli from Connecticut sang “The Life of the Party” from Wild Party and while she didn’t get much camera time, I didn’t think she needed it. She was so amazing that I remembered her name, her face, and her song without any trouble. She shines. Elizabeth from California really caught my eye in this episode as well. She reminds me a little bit of Sutton Foster. Anyone else agree with me? She just seems to shine when she’s onstage and it somewhat unassuming when she’s not on stage. I love that quality. Evan made a point to sing a character piece, which helps him shine and his coach, Michael McElroy really helped him focus and slip into his character so he would stand out and make an impression.

Honestly, from the amount of camera time that Evan got, I have my suspicions on who wins this whole thing. I could go look at the website, but I don’t want to spoil it for myself. Call me crazy, but I’ll wait to watch it on TV. I look forward to watching the last episode next week.

You can watch Broadway or Bust on PBS, Sunday night at 8/7 CST and you can watch the previously aired episodes on their website.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Legally Blonde: The Musical

I have seen Legally Blonde: The Musical approximately 4,372 times as it was filmed for MTV when it was on Broadway. Okay, this may be a slight exaggeration, but we know how all things filmed for TV end up on the internet in some form or fashion, meaning I can watch it pretty much whenever I’d like. I also saw Legally Blonde: The Musical when it was on tour in Nashville. And as the original Broadway Elle, Laura Bell Bundy, was living in Nashville at the time, she stepped back into her role as Elle for the week while it was in town.

As much of a fluff piece as Legally Blonde: The Musical can be, I love the whole thing. The music is catchy and hilarious. The story is one that even a brunette can relate to. And sometimes theatre is just made to entertain. I can often be found sharing lyrics and quotes from the show with a few friends on twitter and facebook.

When I found out that The Larry Keeton Theatre was producing Legally Blonde: The Musical, I knew I’d be making a trip to Nashville to see the show. I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years (I love keeping in touch via social media) and on Friday night, I was in the audience to see the pink wonderfulness that is Elle Woods.

Based on the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde follows main character Elle Woods in her quest to win her true love. A Southern California sorority girl that measures life in fashion and fun, Elle is unprepared when her big man on campus boyfriend Warner dumps her when he heads off to Harvard Law School. Along the way Elle discovers that she’s more than a sorority girl and makes some fantastic friends along the way.

The mood is set immediately at the Keeton Theatre by the pink carpet in front of the building that leads up to the pink carpet covered stairs. Taylor Tracey’s Elle Woods is full of sass and spark, giving life to what could be a very flat character. In fact, there were some times that Tracey was channeling Laura Bell Bundy’s performance so hard that I forgot that I wasn’t watching the Broadway version. Other times, she made the character so distinctly her own that it was almost like seeing a completely different show. Together it worked well.

Darin Richardson played Warner with enough attitude and arrogance that the audience could truly dislike the character while having pity for a human that could be so shallow. Britt Byrd played Vivienne, fellow Harvard student and completion to Elle’s quest to win back Warner. Byrd gave a strong performance and was able to play to the softer side of Vivienne’s character very well.

I must give props (or in the case of the Delta Nu sisters, “snaps”), to Sims Lamason, playing Brooke Wyndham, and the ensemble cast for their fantastic jump rope scene during the “Whipped Into Shape” number. And the fact that Lamason can sing AND jump rope at the same time is amazing. I can barely jump rope without singing. Lamason’s performance of Brooke Wyndham was pretty hilarious, and also reminded me very much of the OBC performance of the same character played by Nikki Snelson. It works and was quite hilarious.

Stephen Michael Jones played Elle’s biggest support, Emmett. While he might have been a bit young to take on the role, he was by far one of the best on the stage. I suppose that in my head Emmett is slightly older. That aside, he was perfect for the role. Jones was great vocally, and was able to pull off the balance of awkwardness and strength that Emmett portrays. His diversity showed through most during his "Chip On My Shoulder" number in the first act, pulling in comedy, sarcasm, and determination.

For me, there were a couple of standouts aside from Taylor Tracey. Jaime London, who played beauty parlor owner Paulette was one. The character has always been one of my favorite in the show (if I could act/sing/dance, I’d want to take on that role SO badly), so I paid special attention to her throughout the show. London was hilarious. Period. Her take on the quirky, Ireland loving hairdresser was unique and wonderful. The other was Jennifer Tatum, who played Elle’s man-hating lesbian classmate, Enid. Tatum could blend in seamlessly onstage, but when it time for Enid to speak, I knew she was on stage.

Some of the best ensemble numbers, showcasing the talent of the entire cast, were "Positive" and "Gay or European," both of which are comically hilarious and the kinds of  songs that get stuck in your head for days. In fact, I woke up with "Positive" running through my head.

The show is directed by Kate Adams, with musical direction by Ginger Newman. This production of Legally Blonde: The Musical is great for a girls’ night out, or just for a light and fun evening with the family. You can see the show at The Larry Keeton Theatre through September 29th. You can purchase tickets HERE. My advice: don’t miss this one. It’s too much fun to let it slip by.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Different Doesn't Mean Bad...Does It?

Tomorrow night I head out to see a production of a show I’ve seen live on stage one time (on tour), and numerous times on youtube (the original Broadway production). This won’t be the first time I’ve seen a show on Broadway and then in a regional or community theatre, or a show in more than one production. It’s very strange at times. Strange because you “know” the Broadway cast. You have the cast recording. You know those voices.

When I saw Wicked the first time, it was on tour in a town close to me. I loved it! But I couldn’t help but think how weird it sounded, hearing someone other than Idina Menzel or Kristin Chenoweth singing for Elphaba and Glinda. It didn’t take anything away from my experience, but it was in the back of my head, nonetheless.

When I saw a regional production of Next to Normal, after seeing the amazing OBC in New York, I went into it knowing it would be different. I didn’t expect it to be the same as the original. And I LOVED it.

The same thing should apply to all productions, right? If you can go into it understanding that there is no WAY it can be the same as the original, and accept that it won’t be, you should be able to enjoy it for what it is. Even love it.

But that is where I stumble. I’m having trouble with the new touring cast of American Idiot. I have no doubts that they are talented. I have no doubts that they will do a good job. Goodness knows, I want as many people as possible to be able to see the show. I love the show too much to wish that it stopped after the first national tour ended. I also know that it will be very difficult for smaller regional theatres to produce this show. It’s very technical. The flying alone is more than most smaller theatres could deal with.

My love for the first national tour cast of American Idiot is more than my love for anything other theatre related thing….ever. Really. That alone has made a different cast hard to swallow. Not that I don’t have faith that they can do it. But that I was so attached, and change is hard.

Today I saw an article on Playbill that had the promotional pictures from the new cast. It was strange to me. As excited as I am that I’ll get to see the show again, and as excited as I am to see what changes have come with having a new cast, it’s weird. I look at the pictures and the “right” people aren’t in them. The costumes are different. The faces are different. I know the voices will be different.

New Idiot Tour Cast

Different doesn’t mean bad. But even the different pictures make me realize how badly I miss the first national tour cast. And wonder if I’ll be able to get past myself to be able to at least enjoy this new tour. I hope so. I really do. I was able to make the transition from Broadway cast to tour cast. But I’m almost afraid that the first national tour cast cemented themselves so deeply in my heart that I won’t be able to get past them.

But I’m trying to accept. I’ve started out following the new cast members on twitter. Then maybe I can feel a little more like I know them when I see the show on tour. Perhaps I’ll even grow to love them. But fear not, my first national tour cast. No one will ever take your place in my heart.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Broadway or Bust: Episode 1

I thought that it might be a nice little addition to my blog to give a recap and some commentary on the new PBS documentary, Broadway or Bust. Tonight was the first episode of this documentary following the 60 contestants that made it to the Jimmy Awards in 2012 in New York City. The 60 contestants were from all over the county and won their regional competitions of the National High School Musical Theater Awards.

It was interesting to watch this first episode. It was mostly introducing many of the kids. I had to laugh during a lot of it. They're so young and hilariously funny (and not in the intentional way, I believe). But like I told my mom when I was on the phone with her, if someone had followed me around with a video camera when I was in high school, I would have been mortified within a few years. I can't help but wonder if these kids will look back on this with embarrassment, whether they make it or not.

So many of the kids had never been to New York City before. I can relate. The first trip I ever made to New York was on my Senior trip when I was 17. One of the girls on the show said how much she loved New York. "New York is awesome. But it doesn't care what you think of it." I thought that statement was so profound. That is New York in a nutshell. A major part of the reason New York is so awesome, in my opinion, it because it doesn't care what you think of it. New York is New York. It doesn't try to be something it isn't. And if you don't like it, you can leave.

This show may be the most amazing thing these kids ever do. For others it might be a stepping stone to making it on Broadway (whatever that means). But either way, seeing them work harder than they have probably ever worked in their lives, with actual professionals, is pretty amazing. The choreographer, Kiesha Lalama, even made the point that some of the kids may feel like they can't handle the pressure and decide on a different career path. As harsh as that might sound, I agree. As a person with a degree that I'm NOT using, I wish someone had given me a crash course in my career path when I was still in high school. I might have picked a different one.

I look forward to getting to "know" some more of these kids. And perhaps someday, I'll get to see one of them on a Broadway stage. Broadway or Bust is on PBS on Sunday nights at 8 EST/7 CST for the next several weeks.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Steel Magnolias: Raising Money for JDRF

The following is a cross-post from my other blog for today. Because theater and diabetes meet, I wanted a cace to spread the word on both of my blogs.

Steel Magnolias. This movie and/or play is often a source of debate in the Diabetes Online Community. Some people love the show. Others hate it for its ending and somewhat inaccurate portrayal of life with Type 1 diabetes can be. I personally fall in to the “love it” camp, while my mother hangs to the other side. She’s always told me that the thought of anything happening to me, her Type 1 daughter, made the movie too difficult for her to watch.

My love of theatre has let me to a couple of different productions of the play, most notably the Broadway production from 2005 starring Delta Burke and Christine Ebersole. I was recently made aware of a staged reading of Steel Magnolias at which all proceeds would go to benefit JDRF. Like anything that involves theatre, I was intrigued. Add in the diabetes connection and I was very much interested.

After doing a little research on producer David Youse and his Four Things Productions, I found that Four Things has a pretty successful history of production to raise money for charity, including a staged reading of The Normal Heart that eventually made its way to Broadway. I decided to email the producer back and request an interview. Mr. David Youse was very much willing to help out, wanting to get word out about this production, in order to raise the most money as possible for JDRF.

First of all, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to chat with me about this production of Steel Magnolias and about the work that you are doing at Four Things Productions. Can you tell us a little bit about Four Things Productions and what you do?

Four Things Productions is committed to raising money for various non-profits by presenting theater events with wonderful actors. I try to pick one play and one charity, per year, and raise awareness and the most funds, that I can.

How do you pick the organizations that you choose to donate your proceeds to? Do you have connections to Type 1 diabetes? What brought you to JDRF?

The process can be different each time. Sometimes I think of which play to produce first, one that I think an audience would like to see. Then I find a charity that equals what the plays is about. The Normal Heart would be an AIDS related charity. Steel Magnolias-Diabetes. My mother was a Type 1 diabetic so I'm very familiar with the disease and have that personal connection to it. Playwright Robert Harling and I both decided that JDRF would be our pick, since the funds go to research. We looked at other charities, but felt that JDRF was one that we connected with, because of what they do.

Did you choose to produce Steel Magnolias first, and then pick JDRF as your organization? Or was it JDRF that came before Steel Magnolias?

After the success of The Normal Heart, I realized that the 25th Anniversary of Magnolias was coming up. Knowing the play, I knew that I wanted to present it for a diabetic cause.

You have managed to put together an amazing talented and well known cast and  two-time Tony winner Judith Ivey is directing your production. How was this group of women put together, and are you aware of any personal connections to Type 1 diabetes that might have drawn these women to the project?

Robert Harling [playwright] and I met about two years ago, first, on this project. I asked him who is dream cast would be, 25 years later. Names, names, names kept coming up. Then when you bring on board the brilliant Judith Ivey, she has her vision and the director will take the lead. The three of us come together to discuss who would be great for which role and you want to cast it with the women who you know will connect on stage. This is truly an ensemble piece so each character has to be carefully thought of. Of course I look to see if anyone is public about being a Type 1 diabetic, but what is on the internet is never the real answer. But everyone, it seems, has someone they know who suffers from diabetes.

For my readers who are not your typical “theatre people,” can you explain the difference between a staged- reading and a full production?

A staged reading is simply what is says, a reading of the play with very minimal movement. In a full production with sets, lighting, music, etc, the vision of the director will establish what they want to get across not only in the performances, but with the visual as well. In a staged reading, I believe it's a more powerful way to explore the writing and creating art for the individuals who are witnessing it. By simply reading the stage directions each audience member can create what the beauty shop looks like, what they are wearing and their mind can wonder on what they see. What is so remarkable about this process is that the person sitting next to you can have their own vision of what is happening. So, everyone can enjoy their own show, in their own minds and create for themselves what they are witnessing.

I must note that your staged reading of The Normal Heart, directed by Joel Grey, ended up making its way to New York where it was eventually produced on Broadway. Do you have any hopes of that happening with this production?

I never thought that The Normal Heart would end up making its way to Broadway. I never think that far in advance about a project. I believe that if you focus on why you're presenting the reading and who it's for, the world will take care of you. So, right now, I'm presenting The 25th Anniversary staged reading of Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias, directed by Judith Ivey, to benefit JDRF. After Los Angeles, we will be presenting it in New York on December 3rd, for JDRF, and after that, we can only see what happens.

Any last things you’d like to share with my readers?

Supporting theater, in any city, makes us more aware of others, their joys, their sorrows and it not only creates great conversation, it educates us on all of us. Support the arts when you can, and support a cause, which you are passionate about. I believe it will make us a better country. INFO AND TICKETS: www.steelmagnolias-25years.org Thank you, David Youse

Thank you again, for taking the time to answer some questions for me. I know that there are several people in our Diabetes Online Community that live in the Los Angeles area, and I hope that they get the chance to see the show. I know I would love to be there to see my support for diabetes research and my love of theatre meet on stage. Break a leg!

If you are in the Southern California area next weekend, please try to go see this production. It will be more than worth your money. The production will be at Broad Stage in Santa Monica, Califorinia, Saturday, September 9th, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.

Four Things productions can be found on facebook and the individual Twitter account for this production is located HERE. If you are in the area and get a chance to see the production, please let me know! I'd love to have you guest post about the play.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fantastic Fall? Or Faulty Fall?

I am currently flat broke. I love New York and I love to go see as many shows in the city as I can, but I’ve been so broke lately that I don’t see myself making it back for a couple of months at least. Maybe longer. Usually I feel like I’m missing so many things that I want to see. Currently, there are only two shows that I’m super excited and wish I could see. Newsies and Peter and the Starcatcher. Both are high on my “to see” list, and I’m truly sad I won’t get to see Jeremy Jordan before he leaves to film Smash full time.

I’ve been looking at the shows opening in the next few months, all the way through the end of the year. There are a quite a few. Sadly, I’m not truly excited about any of them.

Here’s a rundown of everything opening thru December…


Currently in previews; Opening September 10th

"From the slums of London to the heights of Hollywood, is the showbiz Broadway musical about the silent film legend the world couldn’t stop talking about - Charlie Chaplin. The brand new 22-person musical reveals the man behind the legend, the undeniable genius that forever changed the way America went to the movies."*

Okay, this show makes me slightly curious, just because I've always been fascinated with old movies and silent films. But I've heard nothing about it, so I'm just not sure. Nothing good, nothing bad...just nothing. So I don't know if I should be excited about it. Personally, that doesn't seem like a good thing when it comes to PR. But what do I know?

An Enemy of the People

Previews: September 4th. Opening September 27th.

"When Dr. Thomas Stockmann (Boyd Gaines) discovers toxic contamination in the water used at the local baths, he expects to be hailed as a hero. But since the baths are the town's main source of revenue, the community fights to silence him…and Dr. Stockmann learns that there are forces more powerful than truth. An incisive tale about the high price of free expression, An Enemy of the People makes a timely return to the New York stage in this bold new version by one of Britain's most exciting young writers, Rebecca Lenkiewicz."*


Previews: September 13th. Opening October 4th.

"Grace asks, 'Are we in control of our lives or is there something else at work?' With a grippingly innovative dramatic structure, Grace follows a wide-eyed young couple (Rudd & Arrington) as they start a new life in sunny, promise-filled Florida, with big plans to open a chain of Gospel motels. An agitated neighbor (Shannon) and a caustic exterminator (Asner) complete the eclectic foursome as destinies collide in this intensely entertaining and suspenseful journey to the edge of your seat."*

So, the fact that Paul Rudd and Ed Asner are in this show might actually make me want to see it. But the religious aspect of it makes me wonder if I would actually like the show. I suppose that with a name like Paul Rudd on the bill, they have a decent chance of filling seats. Still, not overly enthusiastic.

Cyrano de Bergerac

Previews: September 14th. Opening October 11th.

Roundabout bills the 1897 verse classic this way: "A enduring masterwork with some of the wittiest lines ever written for the stage, Cyrano de Bergerac is a clever and touching story about the power of love, the art of wordplay and the joy of finding what you've always wanted right under your nose. Cyrano's a nobleman with a head for poetry and a nose for miles. All of Paris adores him except for his true love Roxanne, who can't see past his all-too-prominent facial feature. Instead, she falls for a handsome young cadet named Christian. But when Christian admits he's tongue-tied with Roxanne, Cyrano gives him the romantic words guaranteed to win her heart. With Christian's looks and Cyrano's language, it's a foolproof plan! Or is it?"*

Wow. Just reading this synopsis kind of makes my head hurt. Perhaps because it's a "1897 classic"? If I lived in New York, I might see this. Roundabout has the great HipTix program, so I wouldn't have to pay much. Outside of that...probably wouldn't make a trip for it.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Preview: September 27th, Opening October 13th.

The acclaimed new production about the clash between a husband and wife, and their late-night cocktail guests, seen in 2010-11 at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago and Arena Stage in Washington, DC, comes to Broadway 50 years after its debut there.*

Sigh. Another revival. Where's the originality people? Where??


Previews: October 3rd, Opening November 8th.

The new production of the Tony Award-winning musical — about an optimistic Depression-era orphan and her billionaire adoptive daddy — is inspired by the Harold Gray comic strip "Little Orphan Annie." *

Um...the ONLY show I'm super excited about that's opening in the fall. Honestly, you can see a production of Annie on any given weekend in about a million community/regional/children's theatres across the nation. But this production has one thing that the others don't: Katie Finneran. I saw her in Promises, Promises and fell head over heels in love. I'd see almost anything that she was in. So, while Annie itself doesn't make me jump, Katie Finneran is enough reason to go see this show.

The Heiress

Previews: October 7th, Opening November 1st.

The durable 1947 play about plain Catherine Sloper and a family home with a good view of Washington Square is based on the Henry James novel "Washington Square." The play tells of Catherine being pulled between her cold father and a warm and handsome suitor who may be motivated by greed.*

1947? Another revival. Honestly, I like all kinds of shows, but I'd like to see something written in the last 20 years. Or even 30 years. Please?

Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson

Previews: October 13th, Opening November 15th.

Kathie Lee Gifford penned the show's book and lyrics, collaborating with composers David Friedman and David Pomeranz. The story of the 20th-century evangelical superstar Aimee Semple McPherson — the American religious leader who staged provocative illustrated sermons, fed the hungry and famously vanished.*

This is interesting. I know very little about it, but the synopsis catches my attention, and I'm intrigued by the Kathie Lee Gifford thing. It could be a hit...or a complete flop. I'm curious to see what people have to say about this one.

Glengarry Glen Ross

Previews: October 16th, Opening November 11th.

Al Pacino will play Shelly Levene in a new Broadway production of David Mamet's acidic comic-drama about desperate real-estate men. The show follows the cutthroat world of real estate where salesmen (in a Chicago office) are vying for the best leads to make the biggest sales.*

David Mamet and Al Pacino. Those names will probably get people in the seats. It might even get me in a seat. If I was already in New York.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Previews: October 19th, Opening November 13th.

Tony Award winner Chita Rivera will step into the world of the British Music Hall this fall for the first Broadway revival of the Tony Award-winning Rupert Holmes musical.*

With a cast that has Chita Rivera, Jessie Mueller, Will Chase & Stephanie J. Block, this show might actually do okay. While a tourist may not know all the names, anyone who follows theatre would. Again, a show that I'm not overly excited about, but the casting might make me buy a ticket.


Previews: October 30th, Opening November 18th

The musical, based on the classic Daphne du Maurier novel, "is the story of Maxim de Winter, his new wife [simply, 'I,' as in the first-person] and Mrs. Danvers, the controlling and manipulative housekeeper of Maxim's West Country estate of Manderley — where the memory of his first wife, the glamorous and mysterious Rebecca, still casts a shadow." Having premiered in Vienna in 2006, Rebecca features original book and lyrics by Michael Kunze, music by Sylvester Levay, English book adaptation by two-time Tony Award winner Christopher Hampton (Sunset Boulevard) and English lyrics by Hampton and Kunze.*

Okay, I know there are people excited about this one. Really. But I don't get it. Perhaps because I haven't read the novel? Or maybe that the story just sounds kind of boring? I'm not sure.

The Performers

Previews: October 23rd, Opening November 14th

The Performers, according to press notes, "is a romantic comedy about two high school friends — and the women in their lives — who reconnect at the Adult Film Awards in Las Vegas. When the night takes an unexpected turn and relationships are threatened, Chuck Wood (Henry Winkler), the hardest-working man in the business, steps in to lend a hand. Sex, love and Barry Manilow intersect in this comedy about the ups and downs and ins and outs of love."*

Yup, I think I might like this one. It sounds interesting. And Cheyenne Jackson is in it.

Dead Accounts

Previews: November 3rd; Opening: November 29th

Here's how the new dark comedy is billed: "Jack's unexpected return throws his family into a frenzy, and his sister Lorna needs answers. Is he coming home or running away? Where is his wife everyone hates? And how did he get all that money? Theresa Rebeck’s new comedy tackles the timely issues of corporate greed, small town values, and whether or not your family will always welcome you back… with no questions asked."*

Ms. Katie Holmes is returning to the stage after splitting with her husband. The fact that she's America's darling right now is going to sell tickets. Also in the show: Norbert Leo Butz. And it's written by Theresa Rebeck. This will make the theatre junkies happy. Personally, I'd see it just to see Katie Holmes. I lived thru Dawson's Creek the first time. I can't help myself.

A Christmas Story: The Musical

Previews: November 5th; Opening: November 19th

"This classic holiday tale centers on a mischievous, bespectacled boy, Ralphie, who dreams of getting a BB-gun for Christmas," according to press notes. "In the weeks before the big holiday, Ralphie, his friends and his family get into all kinds of situations— including run-ins with a bully with 'yellow eyes,' a tongue stuck to a flag pole, a bar of soap in the mouth, a garish leg lamp, a major award and a Chinese Christmas dinner."*

Hmmm… this show has been playing in Nashville every Christmas for the past few years. I’ve not seen it, but…. I’m afraid it’ll ruin one of my favorite Christmas movies. Just by the "brand name" alone, this show shouldn't have any trouble selling to the holiday tourists.

Golden Boy

Previews: November 8th; Opening: December 6th

Lincoln Center Theater presents this revival of Clifford Odets' play. According to LCT, "Golden Boy is the story of Joe Bonaparte (to be played by Seth Numrich), a young, gifted violinist who is torn between pursuing a career in music and earning big money as a prize fighter."*

Tony Shalhoub, Danny Burstein. These are the names I recognize. The storyline sounds interesting to me. Slightly Billy Elliott-esque perhaps?

Elf: The Musical

Previews: November 9th. I couldn't find an opening date.

Based on the film of the same title, the musical returns for a holiday engagement.*

Ug. The first time wasn't bad enough? I didn't see it. I didn't want to see it. I still don't.

The Anarchist

Previews: November 13th; Opening December 2th.

Set in a female penitentiary, the two-woman drama by David Mamet casts LuPone as Cathy, a longtime inmate with ties to a violent political organization, who pleads for parole from the warden, Ann, to be played by Winger.*

Debra Winger, Patti Lupone will sell these tickets. I'd see it.

My overall opinion for the fall on Broadway is that it's just kind of boring. There are very few original shows. And it seems to me that they are either selling a brand (A Christmas Story, Elf: The Musical, Annie), or they selling a person attached to said show (Pat Lupone, Paul Rudd, Katie Holmes). I still say I want something that excites me. Something that makes me say, "I HAVE to get to New York so I can see this show before it closes!" Perhaps the Spring will bring me something. Maybe.

Until then, I think I'll save my money until after the New Year and try to make a longer trip to New York. Unless the city itself calls my name too loudly and I can't stand to be away any longer.

*All the summaries were taken from Playbill.com on THIS page.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge

Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge opened at Cumberland County Playhouse Thursday night. As excited as I was about this show, it was the second time in two days that I’d seen it. I was blessed to be asked to come to the final dress/preview of the show on Wednesday night by director, John Fionte. Myself, along with two other CCP patrons, were able to sit in on Wednesday night AND tweet (and take some pictures) about what we were seeing.

This was my first “tweet event” and I was glad to be a part of it and really glad I got to see the show before it opened. If you’d like to see what was tweeted (including a tweet from one of the show’s writers), you can click HERE, or search #goldenboytweets on Twitter.

Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge is a comedy and a tragedy all at the same time. The story centers on Maggie McFarland and her life as the daughter of moonshiner JM McFarland. Taking place over two days, Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge looks at the relationship between Maggie and stranger Clayton Monroe. Set in 1930s prohibition Appalachia, this show is full of music that sounds like bluegrass in tune, but takes on an edgier feel when you listen to the lyrics of many of the songs.

Choreographer Donald Frison has given the show a feel that boarders somewhere between a standard musical and a rock musical (a la Spring Awakening) that both works for the show, but isn’t anything like you might expect. Perhaps the most visually captivating moments of the show is the opening number, “Way Out Back and Beyond,” due in major part to the choreography. Lighting, designed by Sandra “Sam” Hahn, helps to set the mood throughout the show, as well as casting a “golden” hue overall, helping the audience to understand the older time period that they are experiencing.

Anna Baker gives the role of Maggie a mixture of youthful exuberance and jaded disenchantment. Baker’s voice is beautiful and one of my favorite numbers of the show was the Act 2 opener “Grist for the Mill.” A large part of my love for that song was how wonderfully it was performed by Anna Baker.

Greg Pendzick plays Clayton Monroe, the golden boy with a dark past that turns Maggie’s world on end. Clayton Monroe changes in so many ways through the show and Greg Pendzick does a fantastic job of showing the transition of Clayton’s personality and why the character changes the way he does.

Luther Coffey, played by Austin Price, is Maggie’s “intended.” Austin Price tackles this role with massive amounts of comedy, but it seems to work for the character. There are times when the comedy would seem over the top, but you know that if Luther Coffey were a real person, he’d be acting the same exact way. His crowning moment in the show would be his “First-Class Ticket” number, as he begs Clayton to leave town.

Typical funny man, Jason Ross, tackles a whole different type of role in Golden Boy. Ross plays Leroy, a quite scary, slightly deranged law man with a hidden agenda. While there are times the character is funny, it’s not Jason Ross in his typical comedy. I loved seeing a different side of Ross, and I hope to see more of this type of role for him in the future.

Cast of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge, taken from the
CCP facebook page

Lauren Marshall played local widow Hazel Grubbs. Widow Grubbs is essentially the character that glues the show together. Looking out only for herself, Widow Grubbs plays every character in the show to get herself ahead. Lauren Marshall makes Hazel Grubbs a lovable character, when it could be easy to hate her.

Rounding out the cast are Daniel Black as JM McFarland and Douglas Waterbury-Tieman, Colin Cahill, and John Dobbratz who double as part of the orchestra and locals in the small community in West Virginia, and the final two members of the orchestra, Drew Robbins and Tony Greco.

In all honesty, I think “unexpected” may be the whole theme of this production of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge. Unexpected storyline, unexpected choreography, unexpected ending.

If you’d like to read more about the show, you can find the official press release for the show HERE. You can also read my interview with director John Fionte HERE. Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge runs through October 26th in the Adventure Theatre at Cumberland County Playhouse. If you see it, I promise you won’t be disappointed. You can get tickets on the CCP website, or by calling 931-484-5000.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge: Interview with Director John Fionte

Next Thursday night, Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge opens at Cumberland County Playhouse. This Appalachian twist on Playboy of the Western World was written by Cara Reichel and Peter Mills. Set during the Great Depression, this show is sure to please a wide variety of audiences.

This is the first production of the show outside of New York, making it special to Cumberland County Playhouse’s New Works Director, John Fionte. John was kind enough to answer a few questions about the show, despite his hectic schedule!

What brought Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge to your attention?
The Playhouse asked me to attend the National Association for Musical Theatre's Festival of New Works last October. "Golden Boy" was presented as part of the festival. Jim was aware of the show and had spoken to the authors' agent about it a couple of years before, so he asked me to pay particular attention to the show.

What was the first thing that caught your attention when you saw the show performed in New York? Peter Mills' brilliant score. The music grabbed me immediately, which surprised me since I'm not a particular fan of bluegrass. But this music is just so irresistibly good, I simply can't imagine anyone NOT liking it. And the lyrics are equally brilliant... and wickedly funny.

How does it feel to have the regional premier of a new show?
I'm truly thrilled to be the first director aside from the "Golden Boy's" co-writer Cara Reichel to stage this remarkable musical. We have a long history of fostering and developing new work here at CCP, and it's always wonderful to watch an audience react to a brand-new show for the first time.

What influenced your design (costumes and sets) for the show?
Well, certainly the fact that the show is an adaptation of "Playboy of the Western World," which is a deeply Irish play. The Cumberland Plateau is a part of rural Appalachia,a region fiercely proud of its rich musical heritage... and of the Scots-Irish roots of its culture. Peter Mills' compelling score celebrates both the contemporary bluegrass musical idiom, along with that music's deep Celtic roots. And while it's not particularly present in "Playboy," Synge was part of an Irish literary tradition that was steeped in a sense of enchantment, of magical realism. I've tried to bring a sense of that to "Golden Boy." Pete and Cara have written a play that's an intricate blend of the traditional and the contemporary, so I've tried to give equal weight to both of those things in terms of the production. The choreography, staging, design aesthetic... all those choices are filtered through a contemporary eye. The look of CCP's "Golden Boy" is as similar to "Spring Awakening" or "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" as it is to "Smoke on the Mountain" or "Big River."

Do you have a favorite moment, or musical number from Golden Boy?
I love virtually every moment of the show, Cara! If I were forced to pick one, I'd have to say that there's a moment of transition in the finale that never fails to give me chills. And to describe it any more would be to completely spoil the surprise. :)

What kind of audience do you hope the show attracts?
Obviously, as the company's Marketing Director, I hope the show will appeal to the broadest audience base possible! "Golden Boy" has a lot of elements that will appeal to fans of "Smoke On The Mountain"... onstage musicians, bluegrass-influenced music, a rural, period setting. But I also think that because of its contemporary sound and humor, it will appeal to a broader audience as well. Especially a younger one.

If you had to describe the show in five words, what would they be?
Hilarious. Tuneful. Smart. Edgy. Rockin'.

Cast of CCP's Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge
Personally, I'm really excited about this show. John's enthusiasm for the show, just makes me all that much more excited. Also, as a social media type person, I'd like to let you know about some of the things that CCP has going for this particular show AND in general.

Cumberland County Playhouse can be found on Twitter HERE (@CCPlayhouse)

CCP's production of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge can be found on Twitter HERE (@CCPGoldenBoy)

The Cumberland County Playhouse blog is located HERE

CCP's production of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge has a blog located HERE

Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge opens August 23rd and runs through October 26th. Tickets are available by phone at 931-484-5000 or on the CCP website by clicking HERE.

Another little "suprise" is also available. If you have a twitter account, have a blog, or a tumblr account, you are invited to a preview of Golden Boy on Wednesday, August 22nd at 7:30. Send me a tweet, email, or comment here if you are coming, and let me know where I can "find" you online!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Once: A New Musical

Back in January I wrote about several different shows that I wanted to see in the spring. Sadly (or not, depending on how you look at it), I have not been able to get back to New York since last October. The first national tour of American Idiot kind of took over my life and sucked away all my money (not that I would have traded the experience for anything).

That being said, I've been wanting to see Once since it was off-Broadway. Since it made my Spring Wish List, I knew I had to get to New York to see it...after all, SUMMER is nearly over!

I pulled a crazy trip to New York this weekend, in which I didn't sleep in a bed for over 48 hours, got very little sleep in general, and only spent 11 hours in New York City. I missed my city. It was nice to be back. Even if it was for such a short amount of time.

This show has been so popular that it was nearly impossible to get discounts, even when it opened. After winning the 2012 Tony for Best Musical, discounts pretty much disappeared. It shows up occasionally at TKTS, but I wasn't about to risk not getting a ticket after that crazy trip, so for the first time in nearly 3 years, I paid full price for a ticket to see a show on Broadway.

Let me just say this...it's worth it. I have not seen the movie on which the musical is based, so I have nothing to compare it with, but I do believe it is one of the most beautiful pieces of theatre I've ever seen.

The show, set in Dublin, is about two characters known only as Guy and Girl. Guy is a broken-hearted Dublin native, and Girl is a Czech immigrant. Their story is as much about the love and power of music as it is about the love between the two characters themselves.
Visually, this show is stunning. The set is simple and intimate, much like the show itself. Scenic design by Bob Crowley and lighting by Natasha Katz married perfectly, helping to shift the mood and emotion throughout the show. The back wall of the set was covered in old mirrors, but instead of distracting from the action on stage, it helped enhance what was happening. One point that I remember vividly, Guy has his back to the audience watching Girl as she plays her piano. I could see him, perfectly reflected in one of the mirrors. As I watched his expression in the reflection, I couldn't help but think how perfectly it set the mood of the scene, and how beautifully it had been done.

Guy, played by Steve Kazee, is heart-broken and ready to walk away from his guitar and his music forever when Girl walks into his life. Played by Cristin Milioti, Girl is a Czech immigrant with a love for music and a broken vacuum cleaner. But most importantly, Girl recognizes the talent and soul in Guy’s music and does everything she can to keep him from walking away from his music and from giving up on love.
Kazee brings both chills and tears when he sings. I am quite positive that everyone in the theatre could feel the emotion rolling off the stage when Kazee sang. Milioti’s Girl is funny, sweet, driven, and serious. After all, as she says many times, “I’m always serious. I’m Czech.” Together, they have an on stage chemistry that reaches all the way to the back of the theatre and makes you root for the happy ending that could be.
The rest of the cast is equally as talented and amazing. Each actor has created amazingly in depth characters, while also playing instruments to give the show its music. There is no separate orchestra, only the actors themselves. One of my favorites was Paul Whitty, as music shop owner Billy. He had some of the best one liners in the show and was a constant source of entertainment while he was on stage, even though his character was very serious. Two other sources of great talent, and wise characters, were David Patrick Kelly, playing the role of Da, and Anne L. Nathan as Baruška.
This is not to leave out any of the other amazing actors in the show. Each one brought life and depth to this beautiful story. Each one brought amazing musical talent to the stage. I’d list them all, but this post might go on forever.
 I do feel the need to point out the beautiful choreography in the show. There is no dancing, so it’s actually listed as “movement” in the playbill. Each scene change, each moving of set pieces, every step during the songs were beautifully choreographed. Most notably during the song “Gold,” which closes out the first act, but in many other times during the show, you see the grace and thought out actions that are taking place on the stage. The movement was done by Steven Hoggett, who happens to be the same person who choreographed American Idiot.
I could tell you the entire storyline, but for those of you who don’t want to know all the special parts, I’ll just say this: Once took me through a spectrum of emotions, each one more powerful than the last. It made me want to pick up the fiddle I got for Christmas 3 years ago and actually learn how to play it. It made me want to love. It made me want to cry. It made me want to laugh. It DID make me feel. And isn’t that what good theatre is supposed to do?
I could go on and on about how great the show was, but instead I’ll just note that it was announced on Monday, after I had seen the show on Saturday, that Once has already recouped it’s investment. To put that into perspective for you, in 21 weeks, this show has earned back all the money that people put into it to get it going. It was also noted that Once recouped faster than any other musical in the past decade. There’s a reason for that.
Please go see this show if you get the chance. It’s worth the money. It’s worth the time. It’s worth the trip, if you must travel. You won’t get big and elaborate, but you will be moved.