Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

After Huge Broadway Success, “Once” goes to London

Who ever thought that a simple love story, that was clearly the underdog from the start, could have gained such global attention that it goes from Broadway to London, with rave reviews all the while? That’s just what happened with “Once” as it prepares to go to London’s West End for showings at the Phoenix starting just after Christmas.

When “Once” first opened off-Broadway in 2011, it received some harsh reviews, with The New York Times being especially vocal about lackluster performances, and musical sequences that just didn’t quite hit the mark. Other critics thought that the show had potential, and that it could perhaps be a Broadway hit. The next year it was moved to the Great White Way.

Immediately upon opening on Broadway, it could be seen that “Once” was going to be a smash hit. During its time there it received 11 Tony Award nominations in 2012, and won eight of them. Ben Brantley, who had written the original review of the off-Broadway show, reviewed it once again during its opening night on Broadway. During that review he was forced to admit that “what is essentially the same production feels as vital and surprising as the early spring that has crept up on Manhattan.”

“Once” will begin playing at the Phoenix in London following “Goodnight Mister Tom,” which is set to run for nine weeks throughout Christmas.

The show will be directed by John Tiffany and choreographed by Steven Hoggett, the same creative team that was behind the critically acclaimed “Black Watch.” The love story has been written by Irish playwright Enda Walsh.

Joffery Ballet’s Human Landscapes Are an Amazing Human Experience!

Chicago is a city filled with wonderful experiences.  If you live in the city, or plan to visit in the fall of 2012, then don’t miss out on an amazing event for the eyes and ears the Joffery Ballet: Human Landscapes.

This is a company that is known worldwide for its amazing visions of dance.  Human Landscapes is sure not to disappoint.  It is broken into three distinct pieces: Forgotten Land, Pretty Ballet, and The Green Table.  It is being held at the Auditorium Theatre at 50 East Congress Way in Chicago, Illinois.

Forgotten Land is choreographed by the great Jiri Kylian, with the music of Benjamin Britten.  This dance has been inspired by a painting by Edvard Munch.  This painter was most famous for the painting “The Scream”, but the dance was actually inspired by another of his works, this one of women on a beach.  It deals with themes of motion, how the waves of the beach manage to erode the shore and also renew it.  It is sure to be a fluid and enchanting treat for the eyes.

Pretty Ballet has been choreographed by James Kudelka, with music by Bohuslay Martinu.  It is set in four movements and can be hard to put into words.  It truly is something to be experienced firsthand.  Watch as moods themselves take the stage, seem the change and flow before your eyes, see the dreams, see the framework of ballet, see the very muse at the heart of it.

The Green Table is choreographed by Kurt Jooss, with the music of Fredrick Cohen.  This is a dramatic piece with an anti-war message at its heart as it shows the high price paid by all that engage in it.  This year marks the 80th anniversary of the piece, but it is timeless as the message is as true today as it was in 1932.  It is a stunning dance, and one not soon to be forgotten.

Joffery Ballet: Human Landscapes is sure to be a highlight of your fall this year.  Book your tickets early as the show is only scheduled to run until the end of October, and the best seats are sold out quickly!

“Cougars” Take Over NYC!

Step into the St. Luke’s Theatre on 46th Street, take a sip of the cool Cougartini you’ll be served, and settle in to enjoy a show unlike any other you’ve ever seen. It’s about cougars! No, not the vicious and strong jungle cat, but that’s probably not the vision that first came to your mind. Instead, it was probably a group of older women looking to chase down some younger, “innocent” men. And that’s exactly what you’ll get when you go see “Cougar the Musical.”

Here you’ll see Catherine Porter playing the part of Lily; Brenda Braxton donning the role of Clarity; and Babs Win, who plays Mary-Marie. These three women spend their days talking about how old they are (“I’d like to start a social media site called ‘Facelift Book,” says Lily at the beginning of the show. And they spend their nights running after all their “prey.” That mainly comes in the form of Danny Bernardy, who plays a multitude of young male characters including Buck, Twilight Dude, Bourbon Cowboy, and Naked Peter.

Together, this brilliant cast puts on a show that includes raunchy (and humorous) dance and singing numbers; and their one-liners play off each other beautifully. But at the bottom of it all, is a pretty serious message showing the double standard set for men and women when they date people who are much younger.

“Cougars the Musical” is playing at St. Luke’s Theatre until November 4 on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays with a Sunday matinee.

10 Huge Productions set for Broadway in Detroit

The season at Broadway in Detroit at Fisher Theatre started last week with the running of Billy Elliot the Musical, the show where Kylend Hetherington’s blowing audiences away as the title role. Billy Elliot will be playing until September 16 and while it’s a must-see for sure, it’s only one of many Broadway hits that the theater will be putting on this year.

Of the ten shows that are booked, The Book of Mormon, La Cage Aux Folles, Catch Me If You Can, Jekyll & Hyde are all new acts. They’re also all musicals, as are the returning acts. Those much-beloved favorites are Jersey Boys, The Lion King, and Mary Poppins.

Executive director of theatrical booking, Alan Lichtenstein, says draws in more crowds. He did actually try to prevent that from happening though. After trying to get War Horse to make its way to Motor City, Lichtenstein simply couldn’t fit it into the schedule. He promises that it’s the first name on next season’s schedule; and that theater-goers won’t be disappointed with the lineup. Here’s the schedule for that lineup:

* Billy Elliot the Musical (Now — September 16)
* La Cage Aux Folles (September 25 — October 7)
* Mary Poppins (October 23 — October 28)
* Jekyll & Hyde (November 27 — December 2)
* Jersey Boys (December 12 — January 6)
* The Book of Mormon (March 12 — March 24)
* Memphis — The Musical (April 9 — April 21)
* Catch Me If You Can (May 7 — May 19)

For a full listing of dates and times, you can check out the website here. Then, pick the shows that you want to see and get your tickets today!

The Price Is Right – Come See the Live Stage Show!

Do you love guessing grocery costs? Do you dream of the words “Come on down”? Does the term Plinko thrill you to your very core? Then you must be a fan of The Price Is Right! There is some good news for fans of the show that cannot make it all the way out to the studio, as there is now The Price Is Right — Live Stage Show! Even better is the fact that it may be coming to a town near you!

Just like the official show, the stag show version features audience members winning big prizes! It is all similar in format. For those attending to register or participate, you can “come on down”. Depending on where you are seeing the show, you may simply have to have the fastest fingers by punching in the correct bid on an electronic keypad during a full audience one-bid, or in more traditional fashion, it may be done by random drawing. Once chosen, the lucky audience member gets to go on stage and play some of the famous games. Often up to 50 audience members will have the chance to win. Prizes are everything from t-shirts to appliances, to good old cold hard cash. There is even a chance to win a car!

Just what games are including in the stage version of the show? There is of course the beloved Plinko, where a contestant drops a small disc from the top and watches it bounce of pegs until it arrives at the bottom where it can earn the player big cash or pocket change. Other games include the Race Game, Punch-A-Bunch, It’s In The Bag, Hole In One, Clock Game, Cliff Hanger and more. The only chance in the Liver Version to win the car comes at the final showcase, where the contestant must be within $100 dollars of the actual price in order to get the car.

Live shows are permanently held in Las Vegas, but there are also some traveling shows currently scheduled for Tallahassee, Florida, Sioux City, Iowa, Indianapolis, Indiana, Westbury, New York and several other cities. Check for tickets today. Come on down and be a part of The Price Is Right – Live Stage Show!

“Annie’s” Sandy is Saved!

There’s something truly magical happening on Broadway! This time, it’s not so much of a show per se but rather, the dog that is in it. “Annie’s” Sandy, the terrier that takes on the role of an orphan’s best friend, has now been cast. And the way it happened is enough to warm even the chilliest heart.

The dog, whose name is Sunny, was being kept in a shelter in Houston, a city in which so many stray dogs reside that they can only be kept at a shelter for 48 hours before being euthanized. Sunny had already been there for one day and was just hours away from an untimely end. Unbeknownst to anyone, at the same time William Berloni, Broadway animal trainer, was searching shelters throughout the country looking for the next perfect dog to take up the role of Sandy in Broadway’s next production of “Annie.”

Contacting his network of trainers throughout the U.S., Berloni spoke to one in Houston, who found Sunny, sent Berloni a picture and minutes later, adopted the dog for Berloni. Sunny now lives in Connecticut, on a 90-acre ranch-style estate with 22 other dogs, all being trained for the life of showbiz dogs. There’s no doubt that Sunny has a much better life now than before, but it will still take some time before the dog is ready for performances on the Great White Way.

“She came to us with no tricks, so we have to start getting her used to an audience, bright lights, an orchestra,” said Berloni. “When we learn her personality a bit more and get her working with Lilla, we’ll start putting the show together. Really the dog dictates what happens.” Lilla Crawford is the actress that will be performing the starring and title role of the production.

But Sunny isn’t the first dog that Berloni has taken from the hard life of a shelter to the fast-paced world of luxury and glittering lights; he’s done the same for the dog Bruiser from the “Legally Blonde” films, and Toto, from “The Wizard of Oz.” And he started doing so the first time he needed a Sandy for the original Broadway play of “Annie.”

“Someone told me they had cheap dogs at the pound,” Berloni said. “When I saw the conditions they were living in, I was profoundly moved. So I made a promise to myself that I would only get rescue dogs from then on.”

There’s no doubt that the story of a dog moving from a hard-knock life to one of life in the Big Apple bears a very similar resemblance to the life of the little girl in the very same production in which Sunny will be starring.

Mary Poppins – A Superfragilistic Experience

One of the most delightful children’s stories of all times was “Mary Poppins“, whose creative  and astonishing ways of looking at the world changed an ordinary home into one filled with magic and exciting adventures.  In fact, Mary Poppins was all about turning the ordinary into the extraordinary as she sweeps into the Banks’ home on an umbrella and her two small charges learn that a nanny isn’t just a nanny, a chimney sweep’s view from the rooftops is filled with enchantment, an old lady selling feed for birds is a better investment than putting your two-pence in a bank, and a spoonful of sugar helps any medicine go down.

When Walt Disney crafted the book into a movie, with fantastic musical scores, the film was an instant success and “supercalifragilisticexpealidocious” rolled off every tongue easily, and became a household word.  There’s no doubt that the skilled performances of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke added to the film’s popularity.  With Julie’s incredible voice and Van Dyke’s elastic body electrics, it’s difficult to imagine the show going on without them, but it can!

In 1993, theatrical producer, Cameron Mackintosh met the author of the book, Pamela Travers and acquired the rights to produce a stage musical of the popular book.  Collaborating with Disney Productions for the use of the songs, the new theatrical version hit the stage in 2004.  The musical became an instant international hit, receiving two Oliver Awards, and seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical and winning Best Scenic Design.

The theatrical version continues to be a sell-out, with enthusiastic crowds returning for every chance to see once more the Mary Poppins magic.  Don’t kid yourself; this is a performance for children only.  No matter what your age, you’ll fall to the charm of this one-of-a-kind classic.  Reviewers say it’s everything you would expect from a top Broadway play, and so much more.  Spend your evening in the wonderful world of Mary Poppins, where anything is possible, for after all, in her own words, she can’t just keep coming back.  She brought the magic, but some day, we’ll all have to learn her lessons and spread it.

Rock of Ages – A Broadway Rock and Roll Celebration

Broadway can be fun.  In fact, it can be smashing, get down, get gritty and knock your socks off.  They proved it with Rock of Ages, a whimsical story of a country girl taking that midnight express to L.A. with stars in her eyes and a song in her head.  Meeting up with an equally young city boy whose ambitions to rock are as great as her longings to act, wouldn’t you know it; they fall in love.

Set in the eighties with a steamy nightclub breaking the sound waves on ten different channels, the story is full of big hair, big ambitions and even bigger rock stars.  Go where rock used to be, hard, bright and burning the strings, with the music of Journey, Bon Jovi, Poison, Styx, REO and just about any other rock group to grace those hard hitting years.

Shades of the future… a pair of developers convince the mayor this rock popular Sunset Strip club is a den for sex, drugs, and of course, rock and roll, and it really needs to get closed down, so the area can clean up and move on.  In the meantime, our young heroine becomes stricken by a hotshot performer after her boyfriend tells her they’re just friends.  The steam comes to a boiling point when the city planner goes on the defense for hot shot and company, belting out, “hit me with your best shot”.

Your best shot is to see this top rated musical performance that blows the roof off with super charged electrical guitar chords bouncing off the walls and shaking you right down to your boots. Far more light hearted than most Broadway musicals, you’ll want to capture all the magic, with actors that remind you that after all they’re only acting, and mix a touch of comedy with their hard rock sounds.

Like a dizzying time machine, you’ll be catapulted back to that remarkable period when life was built on dreams, when music hit the high notes, and everything was just plain more fun.  Let your hair down, spray it purple, shake it loose and don’t be afraid to feel the music.

Is Breaking the Fourth Wall a Good Thing on Broadway?

The “fourth wall” is often a feared thing on Broadway. It’s that invisible wall separating the audience from the performers, and the spectators from the show-stoppers. It’s the one that constantly has producers and directors wondering if they should try to cross it. Doing so could mean putting on a unique experience that audience-goers will never forget. But doing so badly could also mean ruining whatever magic you’re creating on-stage. So, is breaking the fourth wall a good thing on Broadway?

It really does depend on the show, and in how it’s being done. At the beginning of every performance of Once, the underdog show that just scooped up armfuls of Tony Awards, audience members are invited onstage, to order a drink from the bar in which the play is set. It’s at this time theater-goers can also mingle with the cast of the show, asking questions and bringing accolades — and wondering if they’ll get an answer from the actor, or the character. And while this might be the only audience interaction in Once, and even it’s before the play even begins, it’s done remarkably well. It gives audience members the feeling that they’ve just attended an important cocktail party before the show, and it makes them feel included. Which is, after all, the entire point of breaking the wall in the first place.

Another show currently running on Broadway that successfully breaks the wall is One Man, Two Guvnors. In this show, the constantly hungry Francis shouts out to the audience that he wants some food, after asking one of them to help him move a heavy trunk.

But can all plays break the wall in such a brilliant way? Again, it depends. It needs to be done in a way that includes the audience respectfully. And even if some teasing banter occurs from it, included audience members need to still feel as though they’re an important part of the show because of it.  When that happens, those audience members will leave feeling as though they’ve not only just seen a great performance; but one that also shows the true art of improv, and showcases true raw talent.

Alec Baldwin Returns to Broadway!

Alec Baldwin is no stranger to Broadway and next spring he’s coming back, to appear in Lyle Kessler’s Orphans.

Set in Philadelphia, Orphans tells the story of two brothers, Treat and Philip, who are broke and orphaned and living in a shabby townhouse. Philip is the younger of the two and he’s also disabled, leaving Treat to care for him on his own. Having no money but many needs Treat turns to stealing from the rich, and even kidnapping one of them. Enter Harold, played by Alec Baldwin, the rich man that they bind, gag and kidnap in attempt to steal all his money. However, the plan takes an unexpected turn for the two brothers when Harold ends up becoming a father figure to the two broken thieves.

The play is not a new one to the stage, either. It first premiered in 1983 at The Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles and then went to off-Broadway in 1985. Alec Baldwin has not yet commented on his return to Broadway but Daniel Sullivan will be the director for this newest revival; and Baldwin has said in the past that he’s always desperately wanted to work with Sullivan on a play. Baldwin has taken the role of Stanley Kowalski in Gregory Mosher’s 1992 Streetcar Named Desire and more recently, in 2004 when he appeared in Twentieth Century.

No other cast or crew members have yet been announced; but it is known that Orphans will play at a Shubert-owned theatre.

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