Saturday, February 25, 2012

Broadway Spring Wish List - Anything Goes

I had originally intended to make my Spring Wish List for Broadway shows be all new shows either that have just opened or will be opening soon. But the truth is, there are several shows running on Broadway right now that I would love to see but haven't had the chance yet. 

It's one of the pitfalls of living so far away from New York. I often completely miss shows that I want to see. One in particular show that I've been trying to see for over a year now is the revival of Anything Goes. Being quite broke, it seems like I can either not afford to go, or they discounted HipTix (which is a FANTASTIC program) are sold out any time I'm planning a trip to New York. Basically, Anything Goes is a hot ticket. And I've yet to be able to fit it in.

One of the reasons I've been dying to see the show is Sutton Foster. I love her. She's an honest triple threat, she looks like a girl you were friends with in high school, and any time I've seen her interviewed she seems as sweet as can be. Another reason was the video clips I kept seeing of the title number in the show. It's truly is a show stopper, due in part to Sutton Foster who has an incredible company performing with her.

I knew she wouldn't stick around forever. A long run usually means that the leads are often replaced as they leave for other projects. However, it's official. Sutton's last day in the show is March 11th.  She's leaving to film a television show (Congrats, Sutton!). The lovely Stephanie J. Block is stepping into the role (she was in while Sutton was off filming the pilot to the above mentioned TV show). While I'd love to see Stephanie as well, I'd really really like magic to happen and be able to see Sutton before she leaves.

Truth be known, it probably won't happen. All I can say is thank goodness for youtube. And someday I WILL see Sutton Foster on stage. It's one of my goals. Sutton, you're the top.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Driving Miss Daisy

Over the weekend I did a two show day trip to Cumberland County Playhouse. My second show of the day was Driving Miss Daisy. The Academy Award winning movie from the late 80s was actually based on the play (not the other way around), and that play won a Pulitzer prize in 1988.

I've never seen the movie, though the iconic movie poster is one I feel like I've always known. What actually got my interest was the recent Broadway production of the show that starred James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave. I missed seeing the show (like I miss many Broadway shows), but I was thrilled to see it was on the season for Cumberland County Playhouse.

Driving Miss Daisy takes place in Atlanta over a span 25 years, beginning in 1948. In the very first scene Miss Daisy Werthan and her son Boolie are arguing about Miss Daisy's ability (or inability) to continue driving. After a string of accidents, Boolie feels Miss Daisy needs to have a hired driver to take her where she needs to go. Miss Daisy disagrees.

Carol Irvin & Michael Ruff
Taken from Cumberland County Playhouse's facebook page

Boolie hires a man to drive her anyway and the rest of the show focuses on the relationship between Miss Daisy and her driver, Hoke Coleburn. Hoke and Miss Daisy have an interesting relationship that progresses from Miss Daisy barely tolerating Hoke's presence and eventually ending in Miss Daisy telling Hoke that he's her best friend.

Also a glaring issue is the fact that Hoke is an uneducated black man in the South before and during the Civil Rights movement and Miss Daisy is a well-off Jewish woman who is a former educator. The beauty of these things is that while it's obvious that they understand their difference and react accordingly with the time period in which the play is set, they also overcome many boundaries in their own way and become friends.

The middle is the important part. To watch the development of both Miss Daisy and Hoke is special. Miss Daisy's transition from mere tolerance to genuine caring (though she fights not to let it show too much) for Hoke is beautiful. Carol Irvin's portrayal of Miss Daisy was heart warming. You couldn't help but love Irvin's Miss Daisy, even though Daisy can be hard to love at times. You see her struggle to accepts not only the fact that she needs Hoke, but that she wants him around.

Michael Ruff's Hoke brings laughter to the show. You see him manipulate Miss Daisy from the beginning. Not in a bad way, but in a way that keeps him in charge, for the most part, but lets Miss Daisy retain her sense of control.

Daniel Black rounds out this small but strong cast. He gives a great performance, showing Boolie's love for his mother and his compassion and caring for Hoke and what Hoke comes to mean to his mother.

This show was staged in the smaller of the two theatres at the Playhouse, the Adventure Theatre. It was a perfect fit for the intimacy of the show. A simple set also adds to the feeling of the show, forcing you to pay attention to the relationships and the interactions of the characters, rather than visual items on stage.

At the heart, Driving Miss Daisy is a love story. Not of romantic love, but the love of friends and the joy that comes from having friends. Even friends that seem like the most unlikely friends that could be. If you're looking for a show that will leave you feeling satisfaction, go see this production. You'll leave both satisfied with seeing a fabulous production, but you'll also leave with the satisfaction that there are still things in the world that can bring you happiness in the most unlikely of ways.

Driving Miss Daisy is playing at Cumberland County Playhouse through April 14th. You can get tickets by calling 931-484-5000 or by clicking HERE.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Sound of Music

I have quite the connection to some musicals. For whatever reason they stick with me. I can pin down my connection to The Sound of Music. Most of the lullabies my mom sang to me as a kid were from The Sound of Music, with a few mixed in from My Fair Lady, West Side Story, and South Pacific.

Later on in my life, The Sound of Music followed me. When I moved away from home for the first time, I bought two movies to take with me. The Sound of Music was one of them. Later, when I took my required music and art appreciation class in college I wrote my term paper on the effect of war on art & music. Naturally, The Sound of Music made it into my paper.

During my research for the paper, I discovered the book Forever Liesl: A Memoir of The Sound of Music written by Charmian Carr, who played Liesl in the movie. After sending a fan email of sorts to Ms. Carr, I got a response from her editor that they were composing a second book called Letters to Liesl and asked if they could include my email in the book. I agreed of course, and ended up with yet another connection to The Sound of Music.

The Sound of Music was one of the first shows of the year at Cumberland County Playhouse. It was, of course, at the top of my "must see" list. I was lucky enough to get to see it this past weekend when I went to Crossville and had a two-show day (more about the other show in another post!).

In case, by some miracle, you don't know the story, I'll give you a brief rundown. Maria is a postulant at Nonnberg Abbey in Austria in the 30s. World War II is happening all around them, but Austira has yet to become Nazi occupied. Quite the unlikely and troublesome girl in the abbey, the Mother Abbess sends Maria to the home of retired Naval Captain von Trapp to care for his seven children.

Maria helps to bring life, love and music to the von Trapp home and in the midst she learns about herself and that things aren't always supposed to go the way we think they should. Maria falls in love with the children, and they with her. Along the way, Maria also falls in love with the Captain.

The cast of this production is huge. I don't mean a little bit huge. According to the playbill the cast numbers 106. YIKES! Directed by Weslie Webster (quite well, I might add), this production turned out to be one of the most beautiful things I'd seen in a while. Perhaps because of my emotional attachment to the show, and perhaps because of the extremely high quality of this production, I spent much of the two and a half hours with tear in my eyes.

Lindy Pendzick & Stephen Len White
Picture taken from CCP's Facebook page.
Lindy Pendzick played the lead role of Maria. I have never seen Lindy perform anything but perfection, but her complete beauty and innocence in the role of Maria made my heart smile. Add in her lovely voice and I have to say that this may be my favorite role I've ever seen her play.

A newbie to the Playhouse, but coming in with quit the resume, Stephen Len White played the role of Captain von Trapp. I'm always curious of what to expect when there are new people on stage at CCP. Mr. White performed the role with talent, grace, and the perfect amount of emotion. His voice was haunting at times and defiantely stayed with me, even after the show was over.

Mother Abbess was played by Brenda Frye. In my opionion, the vocals required for the role of Mother Abbess are quite extensive and Brenda Frey did a fantastic job in both the vocals and the acting. I especially love the scene in which she and Maria sing "My Favorite Things" together. It shows such a human and fun side to a character that one would think should be nothing but serious.

Other notables in the cast were Jason Ross, who played the role of Max Detweiller (no surprise there, Mr. Comedy), and Lauren Marshall Murphey, who played the Baroness Schrader. Three casts of children rotate the roles of the von Trapp children and the role of Rolf, beau of the oldest von Trapp child. I was blessed to see the Red cast group and they were wonderful. Of course, the littlest von Trapp, Gretl, steals  hearts no matter who plays the role, but this child, Sasha Villaruz, was adorable AND talented. No a line was forgotten and I don't think there was a time the child spoke or sang that the entire audience didn't give a collective "Awww..."

The set was designed by Leonard Harman, with lighting by E. Tonry Lathroum. The two work well together because the mood of the scenes was nearly always set by the lighting with the set complimenting it beautifully. My most notable moment regarding this was when Captain von Trapp sang "Edelweiss" near the end of the show. At that time I felt the entire mood of the audience change and I would lay money on the fact that it had almost everything to do with the change in scenery and the lighting changes at that moment.

Overall this show is a beautiful production with some amazing talent. It's a show I think everyone should see at least once, and while I might be slightly biased due to my love of the show and of CCP, this production would be a great opportunity for anyone to experience The Sound of Music.

You can see The Sound of Music at The Cumberland County Playhouse throuch April 6th. You can get tickets by calling 931-484-5000 or by clicking HERE.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

God of Carnage

So somewhere along the way I heard it was not cool to review a show that was still in previews. But I'm giving myself a pass on this one for three reasons: 1.) I'm not a REAL critic. Just a regular person who likes to blog. 2.) I don't have anything harsh to say about this show. 3.) I waited so long to write about it that the show actually closed yesterday. But you have to cut me a little slack since I took a trip out of state, bought a house, and moved into said  house. But, I wanted to write about this show anyway because it was such an experience.

About two and a half weeks ago I was blessed to see Tennessee Repertory Theatre's production of God of Carnage. This show was recently on Broadway, and like many shows, I missed seeing it. When I found out that Tennessee Rep was doing a production, I knew I wanted to go.

When I bought tickets, I wasn't aware that they were for a preview, so I was quite surprised to find out that I was seeing the first preview of the show. I went with a couple of friends of mine who are fellow theatre lovers. It's always more fun to see a show with friends.

The story behind God of Carnage grabs the part of me that is curious to see how people react in certain situations (maybe I should have majored on psychology?). Two sets of parents meet after their sons get into a fight in the park, resulting in one child losing some teeth.

Alan Raleigh and his wife Annette Raleigh, played by David Alford and Shannon Hoppe, have been invited to the home of Michael and Veronica Novak, played by Jeff Boyet and Shelean Newman.
As the parents meet to talk things over in a "civil" manner, they all try to present their best side.
But as with any parents and their need to see the best in their children, cracks begin to show almost immediately.

From the beginning, it's obvious that both sets of parents are uncomfortable with each other and with the situation. Veronica is quite obviously trying to play champion to her son, though she tries (quite unsuccessfully) to hide that fact. Alan Raleigh, a lawyer, is quite detached with the situation at hand and quite attached to his cell phone, much to the annoyance of his wife Annette and their host Veronica.

Quickly the cracks in the "civil" meeting begin to appear, quickly followed by the cracks in the personal relations between both couples. Toss in some alcohol, lose some inhibitions, and drop some public fronts and you end up with complete and total chaos.

I don't have any desire to spoil the end of the show, should you ever get to see a production of it, but I love that this play is basically like putting a camera in a room and letting it roll. There's no real resolution and no real story arch, but I find it intriguing to see a show like this. Written by Yasmin Reza and translated by Christopher Hampton, I find the show honest and real.

This show is worth seeing, and I hear there's a movie based on it as well. While I'm so behind on the game that you can't go see the Tennessee Rep production, I have a feeling this show will become quite popular in regional and community theatre, and I would jump at the chance to see it again.