Saturday, January 26, 2013

REVIEW: Happy 25th Birthday PHANTOM!

So today marks a major milestone in Broadway history. It is the 25th anniversary of the opening of Andrew Lloyd Webber's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. While tonight's performance, in honor of the birthday, is "invite only," I was luckily able to see the show last night (obviously with the same cast as tonight's celebration will have).

I had never seen PHANTOM live before, but have had heavy exposure. I knew every word to the cast recording, had seen the movie with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum, and had seen the filmed live version of the London 25th anniversary (w/Sierra Boggess who is Christine on Broadway now).

Seeing it live was an experience unlike any other PHANTOM experience I have had. From the opening chords of the overture through curtain call I was engaged in the magic that was happening on stage, proving how this show survived 25 years on Broadway.

First, I need to start with the performances (because that's the first thing I pay attention to at any show). Sierra Boggess IS Christine. While I've heard her sing Christine before, seeing her play the role was amazing. I wish Tony Awards were given out for replacements still because less than a week into her run with the show, she was flawless. Hugh Panaro as the Phantom was unique. Vocally he sounded phenomenal and he acted the part extremely well, but it was a very different Phantom than I have ever been exposed to. It was not the dark, ominous, deep (vocally) Phantom, but rather a more insecure, almost clown-like (in the classical sense) representation of the Phantom. It was by no means bad, it was just unexpected.

In terms of the supporting roles, I didn't love Kyle Barisch's Raoul. Again, it was vocally flawless (as was everything in this production), but it didn't have that certain spark that I feel the character needs. Based on his representation (SPOILER ALERT) I don't get why Christine chose him over the Phantom. Ellen Harvey (who I have seen in 3 different shows this year, check out my rave for her in INTO THE WOODS here) was phenomenal as Madame Giry. She was in a role in which she could shine as an actress. She fits exactly what Giry needs to be, a strong actress who can play strict well with a gorgeous voice. And lastly, Kara Klein, who plays Meg, was exactly what I always find Meg to be, bland, boring, and annoying. Except that's not the actress' fault, it's just how the character is written.

Now, technically this show is gorgeous. I won't give much away, but the sets and costumes were phenomenal, its hard to think they've looked this good for 25 years. Also, the lighting was great, with some really good aesthetic choices, but not at all over the top.

After seeing this performance, I understand how it has lasted so long and why it is one of the world's favorite musicals, and I look forward to seeing the show again at its 50th anniversary performance.

Here's a video of Sierra singing her opening aria, "Think of Me."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Magneto & Professor X to Bring WAITING FOR GODOT to Broadway

Magneto & Professor X, sorry. I mean Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart will star in  WAITING FOR GODOT on Broadway this fall. They will perform it in repertory with NO MAN'S LAND at a theatre to be announced.

I think they will be great, especially because their performance was critically acclaimed in London. It is interesting for two plays to be done in rep on Broadway. I've never heard of that being done, and am curious to see how it will play out.

I love Beckett's play and think they are both brilliant actors who will do great work.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Not Everything Should Be a Movie: Jekyll & Hyde Version

With the uber successful film adaptation of LES MISERABLES keeping everyone's attention on the musical theatre world, it is no surprise that in its wake many movie musical adaptations have been announced. Matt Stone & Trey Parker, creators of South Park, announced this month that they are starting a film production company (mostly to create a BOOK OF MORMON movie adaptation). And just today, it was announced that the rights have been purchased to turn JEKYLL & HYDE into a movie.

Frank Wildhorn's musical, which had a lot of success on Broadway when it first debuted, is on a national tour with American Idol's Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox, and will return to Broadway this spring. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the musical, especially with stunt casting like this, and it made me think: What's better? Hollywood making more movie musicals, even if they aren't the best, or focusing on big hits and strong musicals? (Also, bets that Hugh Jackman plays Jekyll/Hyde and Anne Hathaway has the female lead?)

Les Mis was so successful because it is a great musical (one of the world's most popular) done with an all-star cast by an amazing director and creative team. Can the same be said of a movie musical of JEKYLL & HYDE? A mediocre musical, with decent but not great brand recognition, and so far no known casting of creative team. I don't think so.

As a huge fan of musical theatre, I'm glad to see Hollywood embracing it, but I think there need to be limits because I don't want to see everything made into a movie. What's going to be next? A movie adaptation of LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

SMASH Season 2 First Impressions

Keeping with tradition, SMASH released its first hour of the season online prior to its official air date on February 5th. Well, I watched it and can definitely say that this season is shaping up to be a lot stronger than the first season.

It started with a new number from the now Broadway-bound Bombshell. The song, "Cut, Print...Moving On," is your typical Bombshell number with fun music and great dancing. It's not the best we've seen, but definitely a strong start to the season.

The drama of this first hour definitely started to tie up some loose ends from last season, so I'm not going to judge the drama too hard. Last season needed to be let go, and this hour successfully did that by dealing with Michael Swift (Will Chase) and Frank (Brian d'Arcy James).

The third, and best part of the episode was definitely the new characters. Jennifer Hudson, Jeremy Jordan, and Andy Mientus were amazing. It was fun hearing new, super talented voices, and new writers (Joe Iconis). The highlight, by far, was Jordan's closing song: "Broadway Here I Come."

I am so excited for the rest of the season and can't wait for more. If you missed it, check it out here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rachel Potter Releases Broadway Star-Studded Music Video

Rachel Potter (Evita) has released a new music video for her original song "Live The Dream" featuring some major Broadway stars. The music video features Ricky Martin, Max Von Essen, Orfeh, Constantine Maroulis, and Michael Cerveris.

It's great! Check it out below!!

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Smash's BOMBSHELL Gets "Original Cast Recording"

SMASH's show within a show BOMBSHELL will get an "Original Cast Recording" on February 12th featuring music from both seasons. While it will feature the original vocalists of the previously recorded tracks (meaning no single Marilyn), it will feature all of the show's music, in order of performance.

I think this is a really awesome idea and will give us fans an idea of what the actual show BOMBSHELL would feel like. I still would love to see it on Broadway, even though I know that will never happen.

The recording will be released as a 22-track CD, with a bonus CD through Target. It will feature the cast of SMASH as well as guest stars Uma Thurman, Bernadette Peters, and Nick Jonas. The bonus CD will feature covers of BOMBSHELL songs by Jane Krakowski and Christine Ebersole.

The tracklisting is:

01) “LET ME BE YOUR STAR” (Extended Intro) - Katharine McPhee & Megan Hilty
02) “AT YOUR FEET” - Bernadette Peters with Sophia Caruso and Ensemble
03) “SMASH!” - Megan Hilty & Katharine McPhee and Ensemble
04) “NEVER GIVE ALL THE HEART” - Katharine McPhee
05) “THE 20th CENTURY FOX MAMBO” - Katharine McPhee and Ensemble
06) “THE NATIONAL PASTIME” - Megan Hilty and Ensemble
07) “HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT” - Megan Hilty & Will Chase and Ensemble
08) “I NEVER MET A WOLF WHO DIDN’T LOVE TO HOWL” - Megan Hilty with Debra Messing, Nick Jonas, Christian Borle, Will Chase, Jaime Cepero, Phillip Spaeth and Ensemble
09) “MR. & MRS. SMITH” - Megan Hilty & Will Chase
10) “DON’T SAY YES UNTIL I FINISH TALKING” - Christian Borle and Ensemble
11) “ON LEXINGTON & 52nd STREET” - Will Chase and Ensemble
12) “CUT, PRINT…MOVING ON” - Katharine McPhee and Ensemble

13) “PUBLIC RELATIONS” - Katharine McPhee with Christian Borle and Ensemble
14) “DIG DEEP” - Megan Hilty with Henry Stram, Phillip Spaeth, Wesley Taylor and Ensemble
17) “LET’S BE BAD” - Megan Hilty and Ensemble
18) “THE RIGHT REGRETS" - Debra Messing with Christian Borle
19) “(LET’S START) TOMORROW TONIGHT” - Leslie Odom, Jr. with Christian Borle, Wesley Taylor, Savannah Wise and Ensemble
20) “OUR LITTLE SECRET” - Julian Ovenden & Katharine McPhee
21) “HANG THE MOON” - Bernadette Peters with Megan Hilty
22) “DON’T FORGET ME” - Katharine McPhee
01) AN INTERVIEW WITH THE SONGWRITERS- Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman
02) "SMASH!" Jane Krakowski
04) "SECOND HAND WHITE BABY GRAND"- Christine Ebersole

I can't wait. SMASH debuts on NBC on February 5th!


I just saw Roundabout Theatre Company's production of THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD. And the first thing I will say is that this was the most fun night of theatre I have ever had. I've had minimal knowledge of this show, so going into it, I was pleasantly surprised.

What was interesting for me, which I don't think I have ever experienced, is that the weakest point of the evening was the music. It was hard to hear, even though it was well sung by this all-star cast, and it wasn't as good or necessary as the book. The scenes were wonderfully acted and had stellar jokes and comedic moments.

The evening follows a performance at the Royal Music Hall of a performance of the Mystery of Edwin Drood, so every actor played a character and a character within the show within a show. In my performance, Rosa Bud (Betsy Wolfe) was voted as the murderer, Bazzard (Peter Benson) was voted as Dick Datchery, and Helena and Neville Landless (Jessie Mueller and Andy Karl) were voted as the lovers (which proved particularly comedic). I absolutely loved Rosa's confession, because Wolfe is such a phenomenal vocalist and actor, so am glad I saw her as the murderer.

Overall the actors were all spot on with their comedic timing and their performances in general. No single actor stood out as amazing or the opposite because everyone was so strong. Obviously Chita Rivera, Will Chase, and Stephanie J. Block were as strong as one would expect, but some of the younger and lesser known actors: Wolfe, Mueller, Karl, Robert Creighton (as Durdles) really shone.

I highly recommend this show and think people should see it before it closes on March 10th (assuming no further extension is announced). It was a great night out and such a fun night of theatre. I have a feeling this show will be well represented come Tony-time in June.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

REVIEW: BARE at New World Stages

Yesterday I saw BARE at New World Stages Off-Broadway. As someone who was relatively familiar with the old, pop-opera version of the show, I really enjoyed this new, updated version. Now BARE is a book musical that features some of the strongest songs from the original, as well as some great new ones.

The first thing you notice when you walk in is the set, a very geometric set with a lot of crosses, setting up the religious themes, as well as a set decorated in Instagram pictures. I thought the overall design and functionality of the set was really great and worked well to make the different locations throughout the show, but thought that the Instagram-clad decoration was a little campy for my taste.

Now to the performance itself. Overall, I thought that the direction was really good, and Stafford Arima really drew out some great non-scripted moments. My main problem was that the choreography was a little strange. It was very modern, something I'd expect to see at a dance show, but really took you out of the world of the show because it was so unnatural.

At the performance I saw, Taylor Trensch, who plays Peter, was out and his understudy Alex Wyse was on. All I can say is thank God, because Wyse was phenomenal and had a great voice. You couldn't even tell he didn't perform as Peter every night. The other male lead, Jason, the closeted jock, was performed extremely authentically by Jason Hite. He was one of, if not the strongest vocalist and actor in the cast. He was one of the few that I didn't feel over-stereotyped their character. Barrett Wilbert Weed as the outcast Nadia was also extremely strong and had the best voice in the cast of any of the female actresses.

The rest of the cast was good, not outstanding, but definitely not bad. I think they all looked young, which really helped set the scene that they are in high school and didn't seem to far removed so that they couldn't act their characters authentically.

I really hope that this show stays strong, gets a cast recording, and that the word gets out there. It's a very strong piece of theatre that deserves to be seen.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


The movie adaptation of LES MISÉRABLES was definitely the most anticipated film of the year for musical theatre lovers. At least it was for me. The show, the all-star cast, and most importantly, the live singing. I don't think there is an article or interview about the movie that doesn't breach the subject of this brand new way of performing on film. Oh wait. It's called live theatre. Regardless, I thought that the movie, although it had its faults, was one of the best movie musicals I have ever seen (and I've already seen it twice).

The casting was mixed as one would expect of a movie musical. You need to mix talent with names that will draw an audience. Overall they did a decent job of this. Hugh Jackman didn't wow me at first, but after my second viewing, I thought he did a phenomenal job as Valjean. The vocals were spotty at times, and his take on "Bring Him Home" was different because he "belted" most of it. Anne Hathaway was far and away the standout as Fantine. I have never liked the character on stage, but Hathaway really made me feel for and pity the character. Eddie Redmayne, as the male love interest Marius, started off lackluster, but I ended up loving him. He had a really good, unique voice and if Oscars were given for single performances, his "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" would give Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream" a run for its money. I'd be remiss not to mention Russell Crowe. As Javert, all I will say is that it was poor casting. Enough has been said otherwise. Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen were good as the Thenardiers. That said, neither of them gave a performance we haven't seen before. It was very much Mrs. Lovett and Pirelli as the Thenardiers. I had hoped to be wowed, but I wasn't. I loved Aaron Tveit and Samantha Barks. You could tell they came from a musical theatre background. I hope this helps to kickstart their careers for more than just the Broadway/West End community. I also fell in love with Daniel Huttlestone and Isabelle Allen as Gavroche and Young Cosette. They both are stars.

I thought Tom Hooper did a great job with how he edited and filmed the movie. The fact that all the songs were one take, sung live, really made it feel like a piece of live theatre, just presented in a different medium. I think that he made the story more clear than I have ever seen done with the show. By moving around some of the songs, I really got a clearer picture of how the story all tied together.

Was this the best sung Les Misérables ever? No. But was it one of the best ADAPTATIONS of it? Yes. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and think it will completely change how movie musicals are presented in the future.

Agree/Disagree? Sound off in the comments!