Friday, June 15, 2012

I Missed that Line...

There are a few things in life that I love so very much. Music and theatre rate at the top. I have a terrible time working or concentrating on something if I don't have music playing somewhere around me. Due to this, it's 80% of the time at work, when I'm not working with a customer face to face (I work a desk job), I have my mp3 player on and at least one ear piece in my ear.

When I'm home, it's rare that my house is silent. Music is nearly always playing, including on the television stuff I watch.

And nearly everything in my life, and most things people say, I can relate back to a song at some point. A song or a piece of theatre anyway.

Just to give you an idea, here's a picture of me. I believe I was around 2 years old, give or take a little.

Over the years I realized I apparently missed the "talent" line when God was handing out the musical/acting talent. So I ditched the microphone, the headphones got smaller and instead just became a music and a theatre lover. I sure wish I'd gotten a dose of talent though...I'd have had a career. :) Maybe.

Monday, June 11, 2012

My 2012 Tony Awards Recap

Last night was the biggest night in professional theatre. The 2012 Tony Awards were held in New York City and broadcast on CBS. I know most people who are writing about the Tony Awards today are probably listing winners and categories and statistics and the like. But I'm not. Instead, I'm going to list my favorite moments of the Tony Awards last night, in order of appearance and with videos, so you can share the wonderfulness with me.

First up was Neil Patrick Harris' opening number as host of the awards. The title of the song was "What if Life Were Like Theatre" and includes some hilarious cameos from people like Amanda Seyfried, Patti LuPone, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Part of my love for this song is the fact that I've had a button I've carried around for the last couple of years that says "Wouldn't it be great if life were a giant musical?" and I felt like this song was that button, brought to life.

Next was the performance from the cast of Newsies. I've been dying to see this show and the dancing is so beautiful, you can't help but be in awe of the talent that graces that stage.

Probably my favorite performance of the night (Newsies was a very close second) was the cast of Once. Most people who know me know that I have an insane amount of love for this show that I've never even seen. The cast recording is oft played on my mp3 player and it is at the TOP of my "must see" list for my next trip to New York. Another great thing about this performance is that it wasn't the performance that they've been doing on their morning TV and talk show rounds. Seeing them perform "Gold" was amazing, different, and nearly had me in tears with the emotional intensity onstage.

When Clybourne Park won for Best Play, you expect the typical acceptance speeches from the people in charge. Always beautiful and heartfelt, sometimes there are things that are added that touch hearts. I won't get into the insane admiration I have for Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theaters. But I will say he is a fantastic public speaker and his part of the acceptance speech for the Best Play award will be something I remember for many, many years to come.

In case you don't want to take time to watch the full video, below is his speech:

There are those rare people who can look at the world and see things the rest of us don’t see until they show us; these are the writers. There are the special few who can take that vision and turn it back into a world; these are the directors, the designers. There are fearless beings who can live in that world and show us who we are; these are our actors. There are dedicated people who know why that world matters so very much: crew, theater staff, producers, investors, managers, marketers. And then there are the people who step forward and say, “Show me this world. Open me. Change me.” These are our audiences. And when all of these people come together and say, “Yes,” there is theater.                                                           

Audra McDonald won Best Actress in a Musical for her role in Porgy and Bess. This was her 5th Tony award, ranking her with the likes of Angela Lansbury. I have great admiration for her, but honestly, she wasn't my choice for this category. That being said, her beautiful acceptance speech was truly beautiful and memorable.

Probably the biggest tear-jerker of a speech for the night was by Steve Kazee, who won for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Guy in Once. Again, I have insane love for this musical, but it wasn't just me who felt like this was one of the best speeches of the night. Mr. Kazee had everyone in tears as he spoke of his fellow castmates and their willingness to keep him going in these months since his mother passed away from cancer (she died on Easter Sunday, shortly after Once officially opened on Broadway). I ugly cried. I won't lie.

Was this year's Tony Awards perfect? No. I don't think it ever is. But if felt more like theatre should be. People who are little known to pop culture and fans of TMZ, and more known to what I like to call "theatre purists." I enjoyed most of last night's show (though there were things I thought were ridiculous....and ridiculously horrible), but I felt like I should celebrate the beautiful and the best parts of the show.

Another year is before us. More shows will open, more shows will close, and another Broadway season begins.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Just a Few More Days: 2012 Tonys

Living in the middle of nowhere and having very little access to theatre has been the story of my life. With age (and a degree and a full-time job) I have had the chance to bring more theatre into my life, but the fact still remains that I am in the lowest paid career with a degree in the next to the lowest paid field. Money is tight, so as much as I would love to jet off to New York a couple of times a month, that's not happening any time soon. Unless someone is rich. And single. And wants to marry me. Just saying.

But even as a young person I loved my theatre. And if I knew when the Tony Awards were on (which I rarely did), I watched them. I remember seeing performances of shows that I'd never see in my life. In a city I wouldn't visit until I was nearly 18. But I was still amazed. I loved seeing the shows and hearing the songs and watching the people get their shiny awards.

The Tony Awards, along with the Kennedy Center Honors, are really the only times that I ever get to enjoy Broadway theatre at home on my television. So the Tonys, to me, are a big deal. This year I set up my laptop in my bathroom and streamed the Tony nominations while I got ready for work. Yup, I'm that dork.

The Tonys are just a few days away now. I have my Sunday evening blocked off. Sadly, as I am really the only person around here that likes theatre, there will be no Tony party. Just me, my twitter account, and my television.

The one thing that I love more than anything is the fact that there will be people, especially young people, sitting all over the country on Sunday night watching the magic of Broadway come to life. Some of them may have never been to New York. Some of them may have a dream of making it to the Great White Way. Some of them may be like me and just wish they could be there.

No matter, it's that one time of year that Broadway comes to me. There is no guessing where I will be on Sunday night at 7 EST. I'll be parked on my couch with the TV on. And hoping that somewhere along the way someone, somewhere is flipping channels and decides to stop on the awards show, just to see what it's all about.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Next to Normal

Several months ago I discovered that Boiler Room Theatre had one of my all time favorite musicals on their roster for this season. Back in 2009, shortly before the Tony Awards, I got to see a show that I knew very little about, but had heard good things. Next to Normal turned out to be one of the turning points in my love (obsession?) with theatre and Broadway in particular. Partially because I was so touched by the show, but also because it was the first time I had ever gone to stage door for autographs & pictures from the actors.
Taken from Boiler Room Theatre's Facebook pag

Since seeing Next to Normal on Broadway, I've looked forward to and simultaneously dreaded, regional and community productions of the show. The book and music is so strong, but the original Broadway cast was so amazing, I was worried that any other production I saw would be unable to live up to the Broadway version.

Boiler Room Theatre is located in Franklin, Tennessee, just south of Nashville. Nashville is quite a drive for me, but I knew the trip might just be worth it, so I called up a friend a few weeks ago and arranged a first trip to this theatre that was awarded "Best Professional Theatre" from (Nashville) in 2011.

Next to Normal is a musical that takes a look into the lives of the Goodman family and how they deal with the issues of having a family member living with bipolar disorder. Sound like it might be nuts? To a point, it is. Dan and Diana Goodman, and their teenage children Gabe and Natalie, live in the suburbs and at first glance have a pretty typical middle class life. It quickly becomes apparent that things aren't quite what they seem in this house. You are nearly immediately made aware that something isn't quite right with Diana and see that it is drastically affecting her family.

Dan Goodman, patriarch of the Goodman family, is trying desperately to keep his house in order and his family happy, but is constantly dealing with the issues that come with his wife and the effects she has on both him and the children. Dan was played with outstanding subtlety by Mike Baum. In my opinion, he outshone almost everyone on the stage because he simply fell into the role and share both the vulnerability and the strength of Dan in such a natural way. It wasn't until I had time to process it that I realized how much Mike helped to anchor the show, much in the same way that Dan anchors the Goodman household.

Diana was played with beautiful emotion, and at times with an almost childlike beauty, by Megan Murphy Chambers. The entire show is centered on the character of Diana, so taking on this role (especially after it was originated by Alice Ripley, who was nearly perfect in the role and won a Tony for said role) must be a challenge. Diana is such a complex and multi-faceted character that anyone who performs the role well is a star in their own right. Megan Murphy Chambers was more than up to the challenge. Vocally, she was made for the role. Her acting was nearly flawless, and more than a few times I found myself wanting to climb up on stage and give her a hug as I cried.

My biggest (and really only) issue with her in the role of Diana was that she just looked so darn young! It was almost a little hard to believe she was old enough to have a child that was 18 years old. That aside, Megan Murphy Chambers took a role that I was most worried about being done justice and not only put my fears to rest, she nearly blew me out of the water.

As a side note, I saw both Megan Murphy Chamber and Mike Baum in the Circle Players' production of Company earlier this year and I have to say I was more than impressed with both of them there as well.

Paige Brouillette tackled the role of teen daughter Natalie with gusto. Natalie is a girl dealing with normal teen pressures, compounded by the stress she is under from her family situation and the effect her mother's bipolar disorder has on her. Natalie is a character I always connected with deeply (though I've never quite figured out why). Paige Brouillette has a beautiful voice and managed to make Natalie's own manic personality something that I could connect with and feel empathy for.

Older brother Gabe was played by Kevin Mead. Mead both looked the part of the "golden boy" older brother and had the vocal chops to match. Gabe's relationship with his mother, his lack of relationship with his father, and the tension between he and his sister make it necessary for the person in the role to be able to handle a wide range of emotions. Mead seemingly took this on with ease.

Natalie's boyfriend Henry, played by Jordan Ravellette is your typical, lovable slacker. Ravellette was great in the role of the endearing boyfriend that turns into a huge support for Natalie. Henry really becomes the Dan to Natalie's Diana. It was quite interesting to see the parallels in the two relationships. But most of all, I don't think any straight girl or woman in the world couldn't help but think to themselves, "I wish I had a Henry."

Rounding out the cast was Ben Van Diepen, who played both of Diana's therapists. While it's not uncommon to see a person playing more than one role in a show, with such a small cast one would think that it could be distracting and slightly confusing, but Ben Van Diepen did such a fantastic job at creating two different characters that is was hardly noticeable. And while these roles are always played by the same person, it was nice to see such a line of distinction that was made between the two characters.

The set was quite different from the set that I saw on Broadway, and honestly, I expected it to be. I found that the set for the Boiler Room Theatre production reminded me of the scene from the movie The Labyrinth where there are all the stairs that lead to nowhere. It was intriguing and gave well to the mood of the show.

scene from The Labyrinth

I did feel that there were some issues with sound and lighting. With the band on stage, there were a few times here and there that the music felt too loud for the small theatre space and at times overpowered the cast, which was sad because they are all so talented. When the actors were standing at the top of level of the set, the height was so much that the light on the ceiling often cast a shadow on the faces of the actor that it was supposed to be illuminating. Again, I think this was due more to the small space than anything else.

This show was a solid production and totally worth a super late night and drive back home from Nashville. In fact, if I lived closer to Nashville, I'd probably return to see it again before it closes. If you ever thought you'd like to see Next to Normal or if you think you like a more modern musical, I urge you to check out this show.

You can see Next to Normal at Boiler Room Theatre through June 16th. You can purchase tickets by visiting their website.