Sunday, May 26, 2013

Curtains to SMASH

In just about an hour, the series finale of Smash is airing. There are a ton of things you could say about this show, but when it comes down to it, Smash was a chance for Broadway fans across the country to get to see their favorite Broadway stars on screen each week. It was a chance to let people that didn’t know much about Broadway to learn some new things and meet some new and very talented actors and actresses.

Sure, the show had its problems. The scripting wasn’t great. Honestly, it was just kind of jumpy and at times, very hard to follow. There was SO much drama going on, that it made it very hard for me to get emotionally vested in anyone. At times, I just wanted to smack them all and tell them to grow up.

The series spent so much time in the first season telling us to love Karen (played by Katharine McPhee) and to dislike Ivy (played by the lovely and talented Megan Hilty). But when it came down to it, everyone, even non-Broadway fans, could tell that Ivy was the more talented and suited for the role of Marilyn Monroe. So then, it seems, that the series picked up on it and tried to make us love Ivy and dislike Karen…but not too much. They just gave her a whole different plotline and musical.  

Throw in the rotating relationship issues between…well pretty much everyone in the show, and you just kind of had a mess. Was it a show about New York theatre? Was it a soap opera? And what was with all the fantasy sequences? It just didn’t work.

But what did work? The amazing music. There was some totally amazing songwriting going on in the show by many different New York theatre composers and songwriters. The music is something I can listen to over and over. And I continue to tune in every week (though sometimes through Hulu a day later because of the crazy moving of the air dates) because I kept hoping it would save itself. And to see all of the theatre actors and actresses, and theatre insiders, that I love so much.

I’ll miss Smash. I think it might have held on if A) The network didn’t keep moving the air dates of the show and the time slots and B) they hadn’t tried so hard.

I’m thankful we had Smash, even for the short two seasons. Because maybe it did introduce someone in middle America to Megan Hilty and Christian Borle and Leslie Odom, Jr. and Jeremy Jordan and Andy Mientus and Brian d’Arcy James and Krysta Rodriguez. And a million other actors and theatre insiders. And maybe someone will think “Maybe I might like to see a musical on Broadway. That looks like fun.” 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Eden Espinosa: Cabaret Style

Over the weekend I was able to attend the inaugural event of The Absinthe Cabaret in Franklin, Tennessee. Eden Espinosa headlined the event and I was thrilled to be there! Read about it on HERE.

9 to 5: The Musical

I recently saw 9 to 5: The Musical at The Cumberland County Playhouse. As it has been lately, my review is up on You can find it HERE
My advice, in a nutshell, is to catch this show! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later

My review for The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later at The Wesley Arena Theatre in Cookeville, TN is up on now. Go check out the review AND the show!

Cast in rehearsal. Photo credit: Kathleen Gilpatrick

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Here Lies Love

Here Lies Love, at The Public Theater, was my entire reason for heading to New York this past weekend. I didn’t really have much of an idea of what it was about, but when this Idiot loving girl found out that Kelvin Moon Loh was in the show, it had to be seen. When I started reading about it, I was intrigued. Fat Boy Slim & David Byrne for music? Standing room only? Ninety minutes of immersive theatre (that means group participation, right????)? I won’t lie. I was a little nervous. Not to mention that I knew virtually nothing about the Marcos regime in the Philippines. You can cut me some slack on that. I was barely more than a baby when the Marcos regime ended.  

Direction by Alex Timbers (who I must say also directed the other show I saw this past weekend, Peter and the Starcatcher) is brilliant. Immersive theatre is a strange creature. I’ve not ever been a fan, because I really dislike being the center of attention. But Timbers makes immersive theatre seem natural and unforced. The audience becomes a natural part of the show that you don’t even notice.

When you enter the theatre, you are entering a club. There are platforms on either end of the room, a huge turning platform in the middle of the room and other platforms around the edges. All of them move during the show, and the audience moves with them with the help of ushers (??) dressed in brightly colored jumpsuits.

Surrounding the room are also screens and projections throughout the show. Projection design was done by Peter Nigrini and I was truly a fan of this. During the show there were many of the projections on the walls that also helped tell the story. Mixed with photos and videos of the actors playing the lead roles, we also had actual footage of the real Marcos couple.

In the corner of the room, up in a platform, sits the DJ and sometimes narrator of the evening, Kelvin Moon Loh. He warns early on that you will get separated from the friends you are with. And he’s right. My friend and I got split up three different times. Toward the end of the show, I ended up on the stage (as did about a third of the audience) and my friend was not.  

Nearly completely sung through, the show takes you on a journey through the life of Imelda Marcos with song and dance. We see Imelda as a young girl at the beginning, dressed in tattered dresses and dirty shoes and dreaming of more than she has. Played by the lovely and superbly talented Ruthie Ann Miles, Imelda starts out as someone you truly relate with and want to see succeed. Miles has a way of taking you with her on her journey. She makes Imelda the kind of character you want to love, even though you know she’s very much in the wrong.

We see how Imelda’s quest for power and control leaves Estrella, the woman who helped raise her, hurt and left behind. In a way, Estrella helps represent all the people of the Philippines. Played by Melody Butiu, Estrella has the strength and determination of her people as she refuses to be paid off by an embarrassed and ashamed Imelda. Estrella refuses to hide where she came from.  

Jose Llana charms as Ferdinand Marcos. He charms Imelda and marries her after only an eleven day courtship. He charmed the people of his country, and the audience of The Public, as he campaigned for the presidency. Llana is so charming and commanding in his role that it is difficult to imagine that he could be so thoroughly evil, until we begin to see the actions of both he and Imelda as their time in power continues.

In a twist of fate that couldn’t have been better if it had been made up, Imelda’s first heartbreak, Aquino becomes the leader of the opposition. He speaks out loudly against the corruption and wrongdoings of Imelda and her husband. Eventually he is imprisoned by the Marcos regime and after a heart attack, Imelda releases him to the United States for surgery and tells him not to return. Aquino, played by Conrad Ricamora, is the voice of reason for his party and his country. In the end, he gives everything he has to see that his country wins. He returns to the Philippines and is assassinated as he leaves his plane.  

As the show winds to a close, Imelda lets her rage show during “Why Don’t You Love Me.” She sings of her anger and how much she feels she has given to her country and its people. Both she and her husband are baffled as to why they’re country is so unhappy with them. We then feel the U.S. Marines coming in to evacuate the Marcos family from the palace and out of the country. This is beautifully done with lighting and projections and even wind. As someone who has been near a helicopter as it landed, this was very realistic feeling.

The People Power Revolution, as it was known, was a relatively peaceful revolution. As the show ends, the DJ comes down to sing a beautiful song inspired from actual quotes of the people of the Philippines after the revolution. Though I’m unsure of the actual title of the song (there was no song list in the Playbill and this was the only song not on the concept album released a few years ago), I’m pretty sure it should be “God Draws Straight.” At this point in the show, I was a mess. My emotions got the best of me and I cried for the rest of the show. I cried for the characters in the show, for the people of the Philippines, for Aquino, and because I had just experienced something so wonderfully beautiful and powerful.

Here Lies Love is political without being preachy, fun without being fluff and a history lesson for anyone under the age of 35. It walks a fine line, but does it so skillfully you don’t realize, until it’s nearly over, that you’ve seen something incredibly breathtaking and special.

Bottom line: Go see this show. Tickets seem to be hard to come by, but it’s worth it. I promise. And if you’re looking for a less ramble-y and much better review of the show, go check out what my friend wrote on her blog. Or check out this tweet I got from a friend who'd seen the show before I did. 

Also, can I champion for a cast recording? Please? Pretty please? The concept album is great, but this cast is amazing and deserves to have their work captured. Plus, I want that final song! It's not on the concept album and it's too beautiful not to have. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Peter and the Starcatcher

Over the weekend I attended a play that I’ve actually wanted to see for over a year now. Peter and the Starcatcher started out at New York Theatre Workshop, transferred to Broadway (where it won five Tony Awards), and is now back off-Broadway at New World Stages.

There are so many things that I could say about this play that is called “the adult prequel to Peter Pan.” Based on a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, the play is written by Rick Elice and directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers. While not a musical, and not considered choreography, “movement” is by Steven Hoggett. I must say that the movement is beautifully choreographed. I can’t help but admire Hoggett’s work. Every piece I’ve seen has been spectacular.

Quite possibly the most noticeable thing when you see the show is the set. Scenic design was done by Donyale Werle. To put it simply, it’s magnificently simple. Everything on the stage that is part of the set, all of the props, and even the items used in the proscenium around the stage are “found” items. I was lucky enough to be in the first row, so I had a great view of the proscenium. At first glance, it’s gold and ornate. At second glance, it’s covered in things like shovels, action figures, rope, bottle caps, wine corks, and other items. They’ve been placed on the frame to make a beautiful pattern and then covered in gold.

When you look on the stage there are crates, a couple of trunks, and some very basic set pieces that appear to be nothing more than something that a group of children (though very talented, creative children) would make. The props are things you’d see in a back yard presentation of a neighborhood play. Broomsticks and toilet plungers become swords. Rope goes from showing a room’s walls to becoming the rough and tumble ocean waves.

Throughout the show you feel like you are watching a return to your childhood, which is something that Peter Pan really defines, isn’t it? Peter Pan himself stands for perpetual childhood. His Lost Boys always had found items that they used. Why would this play be any different that the childhood cartoon and book we’ve come to know and love?

In this prequel to Peter Pan, we meet young Molly and her father Lord Aster. Motherless, Molly has grown to be quite the tomboy and her father’s right hand man…in training. When Molly can’t accompany Lord Aster on his journeys, she has Mrs. Bumbrake, her nanny, to care for her. Nicole Lowrance plays Molly with childlike exuberance and joy. The kind that makes you want to be a little girl again.

Mrs. Bumbrake is played by Jon Patrick Walker. Yes. You read that correctly. Mrs. Bumbrake is played, quite hilariously, by a guy. Walker over acts every action of his character, but that’s what makes him so darn funny. I spent half the time he was on stage watching his facial expressions and actions. At times, he was a scene stealer. I loved him.

When Lord Aster is sent on a mission for the Queen, we begin to meet many of the characters that will become those we know in the classic story. Two ships, two crews, two sets of pirates. One with Lord Aster and his crew, the other with the ship that Molly has been sent on with Mrs. Bumbrake.

We also meet the pirate Black Stache. Known for his famous black “stache,” Black Stache is the resident villain that wants to find his hero. Played by Rick Holmes, Stache spends most of the play being clumsy and trying to convince people that he’s evil. More specifically, he meets Boy, and spends quite a bit of his time trying to convince Boy that he needs to be the hero to Stache’s villain.

Boy and his friends Prentiss and Ted are orphans who are sold off to pirates. Jason Ralph plays the mistrusting, withdrawn Boy well. Boy trusts no one because of his rough childhood, but most specifically, he really doesn’t trust grown-ups. We see Boy learn to trust Molly, and to a very small degree, trust others. But while Prentiss and Ted are fighting about which of them is the real leader, Boy becomes their leader.

I wish I could convey the entire story to you in this post, but it might ruin too much of the magic of the show. I will say this… There are treasure chests, secrets, switch-a-roos, cannibals, volcanos, mermaids, magic, flying cats, sinking ships, giant reptiles, sword fights, and bedtimes stories. So much happens as we see Molly teach Boy, Prentiss and Ted what it’s like to have a real childhood, and as we see Boy turn into the leader who eventually ends up with his name…. Peter Pan.

This show is truly a simple show. Simple, beautiful and powerful. Seeing Peter and the Starcatcher is like taking a journey with the actors, and the audience. A journey back to a time when things were simpler. A journey back to your childhood. You laugh. A lot. You find yourself remembering how much fun it was to put on that play with your cousins in the living room of your grandparents’ house. And if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself shedding a tear or two (or more) toward the end of the show and Molly grows up and Boy becomes Peter Pan.