Friday, January 27, 2012

Broadway Spring Wish List - Once

There are some new shows that are coming to Broadway in the Spring. Actually, there are a lot of new shows coming to Broadway in the Spring. As much as I’d hoped to see Bonnie & Clyde in the Spring, that’s not going to happen now. But there are some shows that will be on my MUST SEE list for any trips I make to New York in the near future.

Honestly, I’ll probably never get to see most of these, but in a dream world it would happen. So dream with me people! I’ll be writing a series of posts on this. It was my intention to include all the shows in one post, but in the interest of keeping the attention of my readers, I’m going to cover one show at a time.

First up is Once: The Musical.

This show is based on the 2006 film Once, that was independently filmed and went on to become a smash hit, grossing over $20 million worldwide. It’s about a “Guy” from Dublin and a Czech immigrant, “Girl” being brought together by music.

The website for Once says “Once is the celebrated new musical based on the Academy Award®-winning film. It tells the story of an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant drawn together by their shared love of music. Over the course of one fateful week, their unexpected friendship and collaboration evolves into a powerful but complicated romance, heightened by the raw emotion of the songs they create together. Brought to the stage by an award-winning team of visionary artists and featuring an ensemble cast of gifted actor/musicians, once is a musical celebration of life and love: thrilling in its originality, daring in its honesty... and unforgettable in every way.”

This show seems to be all the buzz. It was at the New York Theatre Workshop for a pretty much sold out run. All the reviews I read were great. The people I know in New York who saw the show loved it. And it extended quickly due to great reception. Even before the show was through the time for the initial run, a Broadway transfer was officially announced.

Honestly, I know the song “Falling Slowly” but I’ve never seen the movie and know very little about it. However I am dying to see the show partly because people seem to love it so much, but also because “Girl” is played by Cristin Milioti is related to a friend of mine. I’ve never met her, but I know her family is very, very proud of her. In turn, it makes me excited and happy for her.

If you saw the off-Broadway run at NYTW, what did you think? Let me know if my instincts are correct.

Once begins previews at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre February 28th and opens March 18th.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

American Idiot - Tour

As many of you know, I am crazy obsessed with American Idiot (the musical). I saw it 6 times while it was on Broadway. I've written about it several times. The first national tour (I'm hoping it's the first of several...but who am I?) opened in December in Toronto. The first U.S. stop was in Detroit, Michigan this past week. When the tickets went on presale, months ago, my best friend and I knew we had to go.

Sure, the drive was going to be long. Sure, it was going to Detroit in the WINTER was risky. But considering the fact it was going to be nearly a year from the last time I saw the show, I knew that it was a no brainer. On that note, this is a two part post. I'm going to give a little review AND I'm going to write about my fantastic/crazy weekend.

Right before we left for our drive up to Michigan (which should have been about a 10 hour drive), we noticed snow and ice in the forecast. Intent on going, we were just hoping that it wasn't horrible. Turns out, driving through ice and snow is NOT fun. And we ended up stopping in the middle of the night (and the middle of the trip) to get a hotel room. An interstate with no lines because there's so much snow? Not a good thing to be driving in at 2:00 in the morning.

Luckily, our show wasn't until Saturday night and we were able to get an early start on Saturday morning and still made it to Detroit with several hours to spare. By the time that we made it to Detroit Opera House that night, I was about to lose my mind with excitement.

Nicci Claspell (Extraordinary Girl)
We were in the second row, but after we'd purchased tickets, I found out there were Orchestra Pit seats (which ended up being for the student rush people, I think). We were a little farther away than I thought we'd be, but the seats were still super amazing. I think the people around us might have thought we were insane with our glitter posters (more to come on that topic) and our lap full of tissues (for the tears that we knew would come).

And then it started.

The story is simple: young people who feel abandoned and ignored, stuck in suburbia are anxiously trying to get away. Johnny, Tunny, and Will are prepared to break out of their suburban lives to find themselves and to find a life different than what they know. Will, played by Jake Epstein, ends up staying in suburbia after finding out that his girlfriend Heather, played by Leslie McDonel, is pregnant.

Johnny and Tunny, played by Van Hughes and Scott Campbell, take off to the big city only to find out that it isn't exactly what they were looking for. A disillusioned Tunny joins the military, leaving Johnny to fend for himself. Johnny manages to simultaneously find a girlfriend, Whatsername, and a drug pusher, St. Jimmy. Whatsername is played by the lovely Gabrielle McClinton, and St. Jimmy is played by Joshua Kobak. While Johnny and Tunny find themselves outside of their home, Will is left with girlfriend Heather and a new baby while trying to deal with what life handed him. 
Van Hughes (Johnny)

An amazingly talented cast graces the stage for the touring cast. Several members of the cast were in the Broadway production, including Van Hughes. Hughes closed out the Broadway run as Johnny. Leslie McDonel, who plays Heather was an ensemble member on Broadway. Joshua Kobak, Krystina Alabado, Jennifer Bowles, and Omar Lopez-Cepero were all in the Broadway production at some point. Add to that some amazing talent new to the show and you have an all-star cast that puts on a fantastic production that kept me on the edge of my seat.

The touring production had changed somewhat. Obviously, there was a nearly entirely new cast. There had also been set changes. No more car hanging from the ceiling (no surprise there). No more platform rising from the stage (also, not a huge surprise). The background had been changed as well. There were no longer posters lining the walls. The walls were mostly black with some writing showing through in spots. Nothing else had really changed and what had changed wasn't an issue as far as the story was concerned.

Scott J Campbell (Tunny)
There had also been some costume changes for the characters (almost all of the ladies in the cast had at least one different outfit than from the Broadway production). The clothing all still fit with the story and the music and no one, other than a person who'd seen the show several times, would have even noticed it at all. Some minor changes in choreography and more glitter than I remember (St. Jimmy’s entrance is glitter filled and I LOVED it!) were also there.

The overall visuals and lighting of the show are still more than present. The televisions flashing in the background serve an amazing purpose of not only having some great visuals, but they represent the generation’s obsession with the media.

I feel the need to see this touring production more times. Honestly, as many as my budget will allow me. There are so many things going on at the same time during the show that it’s often difficult to see everything you’d like to see. It’s part of the reason I saw the Broadway version as many times as I did.

After the show my friend and I took off to the stage door as planned and met up with three fellow “twidiots” that we’d met online. You know a show has power when it can bring people together and forge friendships when you’ve never even met face to face. Currently, I follow five people on twitter that I have met in person who share my love for this show. Four of those five I met online before I met them in person.

Kelvin's poster

I’ve also written about the amazing actors that like to tweet fans back. Because of his super amazing twitter contact, the five “twidiots” have formed an unofficial fan club for Kelvin Moon Loh, ensemble member extraordinaire. Due to a couple of twitter conversations with Kelvin, my friend and I made a card and a poster for Kelvin. The glitter was everywhere and we had to carry them with us into the show. The poster my friend made had all of our twitter names on them, and I got everybody to sign the card I made while we were waiting for the actors to come out.

Kelvin Moon Loh with his glitter covered card!

I could go on and on about how great the actors were at stage door. They were all extremely nice and took time to talk with us (sometimes I think it must be easier to spend time at stage door on tour than it might be for them if the show is on Broadway). Because there were not throngs of screaming fans, I actually got to meet and get the autograph of Van Hughes (something that I was never able to do when I saw him on Broadway (four times!). Meeting Kelvin was amazing and he’s every bit as nice in person as he is on Twitter. I loved talking with Scott Campbell and I’m horrified that I didn’t get a picture with Jake Epstein.

The best part? I’m not sure, but I’ll venture to say that experiencing American Idiot again was the best part. I think it’s rare that a show can touch a person’s heart the way American Idiot has touched my heart. You can read my reasons why in the many other posts I’ve written.

The "Twidiots"

A close second? Meeting my Twitter friends (both fans and actors) in real life. I love that Twitter can bring people together in such an amazing way. And I love that American Idiot was the connection.

So, was the trip to Detroit in the middle of a snow storm worth it? Absolutely. No hesitation. Now to plan my next time to see Idiot on tour. Anyone need me to do odd jobs for you? I’m available for employment. Apparently I need a second job to support my American Idiot addiction.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Back in the summer I saw Company that had been filmed in concert version and shown in select movie theaters. It quickly became I favorite of mine after I ordered the book and another filmed stage version from the mid-90s. Most people would think that my love of Company would be fact that it is set in Manhattan. While that's part of it, I love that Company is a hard, REAL look at relationships, marriage, and being single in a world centered around relationships.

The Circle Players in Nashville are currently running Company at the Keeton Theatre. I'd never seen a production by the Circle Players, but I wasn't disappointed.

Robert, played by Mike Baum, is a single man turning 35 years old that is surrounded by friends who are couples. They all want to know why he's alone, but each couple has their own issues to deal with. Sarah and Harry, played by Rebekah Durham and Geoff Davin, continuously disagree on pretty much everything. When Robert asks Harry if he's sorry he got married, Harry sings the song "Sorry-Grateful" which is as every bit the contradiction that it sounds like.

Southerner Susan and husband Peter, played by real-life married couple Lynda Cameron Bayer and David Bayer, seem to be the perfect couple until the abruptly announce to Robert that they are getting a divorce. While Jenny and David, played by Lindsay Hess and Russell Qualls, offer lots of laughs as they, along with Robert, smoke some marijuana.

By far, however, the most hilarious scene of the show is with Amy and Paul in their apartment on the morning of their wedding. Paul, played by Scott Rice, is thrilled that he's marrying the love of his life Amy, played by Megan Murphy Chambers. Amy, however, is terrified. To say that cold feet have set in is a slight understatement. Amy sings "Getting Married Today" about how she's NOT getting married and all the reasons why we should go home as to not be disappointed when she doesn't get married. This song takes a true talent to pull it off. Megan Murphy Chambers was incredible. She did stressed and crazy in a hilariously convincing way. And while I don't like to compare actors, I've seen two-time Tony Award winner Katie Finneran play this role, and I think Chambers could play on the same stage, easily.

Robert's trio of girlfriends, Marta, Kathy, and April show the single side of life. Quirky Marta, played by Erica Haines, has one of my favorite monologues ever, that discusses New York and the center of the universe (14th Street, if you're interested). Kathy, played by Stacie Riggs, is a former girlfriend of Robert's, and is leaving New York to move back to her hometown. Kathy is the woman who marries because she's ready to marry, not necessarily because she's in love. And then there's ditsy flight attendant, April, played by Melodie Madden Adams. April gives "air head" a whole new meaning. Adams does a great job portraying the sweet, but simple character who ends up being a prime example of a one night stand gone wrong.

Perhaps one of the best roles of the show is that of Joanne. In this production of Company, Debbie Kraski conquered the role with grandeur. The cougar working on her third husband, Larry (played by Daron Bruce) has two of the best songs in the show. "The Little Things You Do Together" at the beginning of the show, and "The Ladies Who Lunch" toward the end. Joanne is crass, blunt, and downright lovable because of her honesty.

Overall, this show was great. I loved the set design, and the talent in the show was fantastic. I do think there were some sound issues during part of the songs, as it seemed like there were times that I couldn't make out certain characters' lines when there were several singing at the same time.

One thing that did kind of throw me off was the time frame for the show. The setting is "Now" for this show. However the original production was on Broadway in 1970. Though the book states "Now" for the setting, some of the phrasing of the characters makes you realize they aren't living in 2012, so the cell phones didn't really fit in my head. Also, the choreography of some of the dance numbers seemed more to fit in with the seventies time frame. I'm not sure that if I didn't know the show that I would have noticed those things, however, so it wasn't a huge deal.

If you have a chance to go see Company at the Keeton Theater, I'd recommend it. Tickets are reasonably priced and you get a great show. Company is running through January 22nd.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tweet Seats

A little over a month ago I blogged my horror that anyone would ever consider taking out a cell phone to text or tweet during a live performance. I've always been horrified at people who talk, sing, leave phones on to ring, and other things during a performance. It's distracting. It's rude. It often seems to happen to me. In fact, I can't remember the last performance I sat through that I didn't hear anyone talking around me.

However, after reading the initial post about tweeting during a performance, the subject of "tweet seats" was brought to my attention. From what I've read and been told, tweet seats are a type of controlled tweeting. Specific seats are set apart at performances and are typically in the rear or side of the theatre, in order to limit the distraction to the actors and the other audience members. These tickets are often at a very reduced rate, and the tweeting is usually accompanied with a specific hash tag so that they stream of tweets can be followed.

I'm sure that there could be beneficial results from allowing fans to tweet about a show while it's happening. Personally, I write blogs about the shows I see so that I can remember what I've seen and to show my personal respect to the production. I certainly hope other may look to what I write to help them decide what to see, although I encourage everyone to come to their own conclusions about any show.

As print newspapers are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and critics seem to be getting a bad name more times that I'm sure they would care to admit, I find myself looking to the average theatre-goer for advice on what to see. I find other bloggers, others who tweet, and friends who I know have seen shows to find out what they think of a show.

As easy as it would be to blame critics for a show's closing (i.e. Bonnie & Clyde), it's just as easy to see a show loved by the critics come to an early demise (Lysistrata Jones). It's unfair to say that the critics' opinions are the final say in what survives...but it's also unfair to say that they aren't what makes a show survive.

In everything, it can be too easy to make a decision based on a "professional opinion" when what I really want to know is what my peers think. I find this often in the medical aspects of my life (see my diabetes blog). Sure, I want my doctor's opinion, but when it comes down to it, I want to know what other people living with diabetes say. We read review of actual people who stayed there. We read reviews of people who have purchased products before we buy the product ourselves. Why wouldn't that apply to theatrical events as well?

I think that more and more theatres are seeing how much we depend on the opinions of our peers. And they are beginning to do things like have tweet seats and as several shows in New York have done, have blogger nights (in which tickets are free, and often there are meet & greets with actors and/or pre-show drinks).

Social media is definitely the wave of the future. As I wrote just the other day, twitter is the new fan mail...and maybe it's also the new way to get reviews on shows. I seriously doubt that critics will ever completely go away. They are paid to see the technical aspects that a casual theatre-goer will often miss. But having a nice balance of where you can get your information seems to be a positive thing.

Do I think that the idea of tweet seats could be seriously misused and abused? Yes. But I think under controlled circumstances, it could be a great marketing tool for shows and theatres that is essentially free for them and cheap for people like me.

I'm curious to participate in a tweet seat event. I probably wouldn't do it all the time, but occasionally it might be a nice way to share information on what I'm seeing that doesn't involve a full written review on my blog.

What is your opinion on tweet seats? Is this something you would participate in? Why or why not? What do you think might be something to help "control" the situation? Or some tips to make a tweet seat event a successful event? I need feedback people. I crave it. Help me out.

P.S. You can follow me on Twitter if you'd like. ;) Find me @cgtheatregeek