Showing posts with label musicals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label musicals. Show all posts

Monday, January 7, 2019

Kennedy Center Honors 2018 Highlights: Adam Lambert and 'Hamilton'

The Kennedy Center Honors is my favorite awards show of the year. The most extraordinary performances happen here. And this year is no exception. Cher was honored for her contribution to the musical and performance world and I was so excited to see that Adam Lambert was going to be part of that tribute. He did not disappoint with this gorgeous, heartfelt rendition of "Believe".


I do love about a good cover. You take a good song, that might have had some era appropriate bells and whistles of the time (hello auto-tune, wow I can't believe you stuck around for as long as you did!) and pull its soul right out. A talented artist can present it in a new way, and viola! 

He starts sweet and gentle, altering the melody here and there. I love the moment when he pulls his ear piece out, he's just that comfortable and confident up there. He makes Cher shed a tear! The emotion builds and he ends in a dramatic Lambert moment of holding out high note. 

The co-creators Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler, and Alex Lacamoire he creators of 'Hamilton' were also honored, and we were treated to a live performance of the The Schuyler Sisters" by original cast Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Phillipa Soo. 


While there are so many memorial tracks in 'Hamilton', there's nothing better than a female three-part harmony number that pretty reminiscent of Destiny's Child. Especially that run at the end! Work!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

‘The Scottsboro Boys’: a disturbingly entertaining depiction of race in American history

Mr. Bones (Jared Joseph, center) with Willie Roberson (Shavey Brown, left) and Haywood Patterson (Clifton Duncan).
Photo credit: Photo by Henry DiRocco.
There aren’t many ways that A.C.T.’s production of 'The Scottsboro Boys' (now extended until July 22) could make anymore of an impact. I applaud the creators of this show in that it makes you feel very strongly. Calling it provocative is an understatement.

A story about nine African-American teenaged boys who are wrongly accused of raping two young white women in 1931, every single element of 'Scottsboro' is carefully manipulated to make you reflect on your sense of what is right, what is wrong, what is comfortable, what is entertaining and what makes you squirm in your seat.

In the same way Roberto Benigni’s 'Life is Beautiful' layers the Holocaust in singing and dancing, 'Scottsboro' lays lynching, the electric chair, sending innocent children to prison and black-faced minstrelsy over tap dancing, lush vocal harmonies and humor.

READ THE REST OF MY REVIEW ON EXAMINER.COM

Friday, March 23, 2012

The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus & 'Wicked' composer Stephen Schwartz at Davies Symphony Hall

The Gay Men's Chorus fills most of Davies' Symphony Hall's Stage

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you'll know there there's nothing I love more than dozens of singing men in tuxedos. How about HUNDREDS of singing men in tuxedos? Yes please. And no, I don't care if they're all gay, they still sound and look amazing.

I'm pretty excited that I can be at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas (more posts on that to come, sorry to have slacked) and the day that I get back, I get to see the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus perform the program "Enchantingly Wicked" in Davies Hall WITH Stephen Schwartz, composer of Godspell and Wicked. Seriously, I'm pretty lucky.

The SFGMC was joined by San Jose's mixed chorus Choral Project (you can see them in the center dressed in black in the photo above), which added a some female energy to the program. A highlight was "For Good" from Wicked, a song about friendship and how good people can change your life, solos by Kristina Nakagawa and Ariel Buck.

I cried about twelve times the whole evening.

The combination of the timbre of that many male voices with the cute choreography and the uplifting and inspiring thematic material that characterizes Stephen Schwartz's work, kept my eyes damp for most of the performance.

I had never drawn the connection that the same brilliant mind created Godspell, Wicked and the song "Colors of the Rainbow" from Pocahontas. After hearing everything all together in one program, Schwartz's voice comes through loud and clear. His thematic material is positive, uplifting and the melodies are soaring, wonderfully poppy and fun to sing.

And, the dude can perform. He played several songs, just his voice and a piano. One of the cuter tunes about finding love in a big city: "Everyone wants to be in love, just not with anyone they know." How true!

The SF Gay Men's Chorus records "Testimony" at Sky Walker Ranch

And then there was world premiere of "Testimony", commissioned by the SFGMC, composed by Schwartz in collaboration with Dan Savage and the "It Gets Better Project" based on the words from LGBT video participants and their struggle in finding hope while living in fear.

OH. MY. GOD. There wasn't a dry eye in the Hall.

"You will change lives" said SFGMC Artistic Director and Conductor Timothy Seelig of the choruses performance, quoting I think Schwartz himself.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

A conversation with Wesley Taylor of the American Conservatory Theater’s “Tales of the City: A New Musical" by Armistead Maupin


"Before I was really focused on being an actor on my own terms, I wasn’t really interested in being a role model or helping other people’s lives. I was just interested in doing good art, but the older I get I realize, what’s the point of that?"

I have had the good fortune of having gone to school with some fabulously talented people. Many of these people have fabulously talented friends. And it was with pure glee that I emailed former classmate Lauren Molina whom I have written about here and here when I saw her friend and Rock of Ages co-star Wesley Taylor appear on the stage of A.C.T. a couple weeks ago.

Starring in Armistead Maupin’s staged production of Tales of the City: A New Musical" at the American Conservatory Theater has changed Wesley. He is 24 and has been out of college for three years. During that time he has worked continuously on Broadway, landing central roles in a handful of enormously successful shows including Rock of Ages and The Addams Family alongside Nathan Lane. He has also become known through his satire YouTube series Billy Green.

But it wasn’t until being cast as a Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, a young hopeless romantic gay man in San Francisco during the early 70s, that Wesley really began to feel a greater responsibility than to just the art of theater itself. Not only does he feel a connection to an older generation of men who have come to love and identify with Mouse, but also responsibility to the next generations that continue to struggle for gay rights.

Below is part of an interview I conducted with Wes yesterday about three weeks into the run. We talk about the magic of San Francisco (even today), the responsibility of playing Mouse, where the show might go from here, Armistead Maupin, Jake Shears, the process of being part of a new production, marriage equality, mustaches and on-stage nudity.

To see a shorter version of the interview, click on the examiner.com article here. I am also hoping to eventually post an audio file of the interview, so check back.

Tales of the City is now running through July 24th. Buy tickets here.

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Jamie: First things first, so I see that the ‘stache is real. You could walk down Mission Street and no one would know the difference.

Wes: I went to New York for twenty-four hours last weekend which was crazy, and for the first time I was a little embarrassed about the mustache and was noticing people looking at me funny. It’s interesting because San Francisco is so embracing of every kind of oddball. Like that’s what this city kind of stands for, it doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter what you wear. And that’s why there’s so much personality in this city. It’s really a sanctuary of people who are different. Which is really special, it makes this city so magical.

And yeah, my friends at home keep making fun of my mustache in all the pictures. But I love it. For the last three years I’ve been playing eighteen-year-old characters and I’ve been shaving my face every single day and it sort of sucks. So I’m really jazzed about the fact that I can do something different.

Best friends Mona Ramsey (Mary Birdsong) and Michael “Mouse” Tolliver (Wesley Taylor) move back in together at 28 Barbary Lane. Photo by Kevin Berne.

JF: Yeah, you look normal to me, but I live in the Mission.

WT: Exactly! When we first started the rehearsals, (director) Jason Moore wanted us to grow facial hair. And I didn’t know if Mouse should have a mustache. Marcus D'amico in the miniseries didn’t have one and I wanted him to stay twinkie and innocent. Sometimes when I grow facial hair I have the tendency to look sinister or edgy.

But Armistead said, “Mouse has a mustache. I had a mustache in the 70s, Mouse has a mustache.” And it was at that moment that I realized Mouse was Armistead. And I actually didn’t know that before. I had read the books and watched the miniseries, but it just hadn’t dawned on me that he was telling his story mostly through Michael. It was pretty surreal when I figured that out, and it was very intimidating.

I was also really intimidated when I first got the part because I didn’t know what a huge deal थे books were। But when I started telling people that I got it, every middle-aged gay man in New York freaked out. It really scared the hell out of me that so many people identified with this character. But what made me feel really comfortable was that Armistead had the final say on the casting. He gave us his blessing. JF: I love how involved he's been in making this production; I mean how often does that happen? WT: It doesn’t। I mean on the first day of rehearsal, he said that this is one of the happiest days of his life. He was so excited and such a part of it. But, still kept his distance respectfully to the writer Jeff Witty who made Armistead’s books into a musical. He couldn’t have been better to me through this whole process.

JF: Did he offer up any other words of wisdom that you can share?

WT: He told me once that there’s something about Mouse that’s hard for some people to get: which is this quirk that he is both light and dark. He said that I was really embodying that. And because as an actor you can really get neurotic about getting into a character, it was really comforting to hear from its creator that you’re on the right track.

JF: You’ve said before that playing reserved characters, like the one you played in The Addams Family, is more difficult for you than playing really crazy characters, like Franz in Rock of Ages. What was it like to play Mouse then, who is definitely on the more reserved side?

Mouse runs into the handsome Jon Fielding (Josh Breckenridge) at the roller rink. Photo by Kevin Berne.

WT: The thing I love about Michael is that he’s a little of everything. He’s very much like who I am, which can sometimes be the hardest thing to play on stage because it’s the most exposing. You can feel naked and horrified because at the end of the day it’s about telling the truth. And telling the truth can be the hardest thing in the world.

But yeah, Michael is a lot like me: we’re both from Orlando, Florida, we both have conservative parents, I grew up very religious in the Baptist world just like him, it took us both a while to come out to our parents, we’re both hopeless romantics and we both like our vices.

JF: My brother, who’s straight, said he got really emotional during Michael’s coming out scene. It’s a really amazing number.

WT: I like how simple and subtle that scene is. I kept wanting to make it more dramatic, but the director kept telling me to stop and just read the letter. Just love your mother. I was also playing the scene kind of defensive, you know, ACCEPT ME GODDAMIT! And he kept saying, no, you love your mother. You feel for her and you get it. It’s more, Thank you for making me who I am, which is more heartbreaking because it’s killing them with kindness. I feel like that song is a gift and the character has been a gift. I’ve been so lucky to stumble across it.

Mouse is shocked to learn that his parents have joined Anita Bryant’s anti-homosexual Save Our Children campaign. Photo by Kevin Berne.

JF: And I’d imagine people have been reacting very strongly to your performance?

WT: Yeah, it feels really great. I’ve never been in that position before. I mean Franz was super gay but I’ve never been in the position of having gay men telling me how I’ve helped and affected them. That’s been very special to me and it means a lot. And I didn’t care about that stuff before. I don’t want to say I was selfish, but I was really focused on being an actor on my own terms. I wasn’t really interested in being a role model or helping other people’s lives. I was just interested in doing good art, but the older I get I realize what’s the point of that ?

Like when I first moved to New York my agents told me that it’s probably better off that you don’t come out for television and film. But I think that’s changing dramatically; you know with people like Neil Patrick Harris, I mean things are changing in a great way.

JF: That couldn’t have even been that long ago, what 3, 4 years?

WT: Yeah, I got out of school three years ago. But they did say that they would be completely open to it if I wanted to.

JF: But they were just recommending…

WT: Yeah, and they’re all gay too. It’s just one of those hard decisions to make as an actor, deciding weather or not you want to sacrifice the possibility of putting you into a box as a gay guy. But I think it’s getting easier to be a gay man and being able to do it all. But I started to realize that if I wasn’t going to get cast in something because I’m gay, I don’t want to be part of that project. You start growing up and you start seeing these things. And now I’m trying to be as active as I can in the gay agenda. I mean we are so close in New York to getting marriage equality right now. This is such a big deal! It’s made me really passionate, it has to get done! So yeah, it’s affected me. I love how it’s affected other people. I love that it’s made a difference, I think this piece is really special in that way. Even though it’s dated, it takes place in the 70s, but we’re still dealing with the same issues.

Mary Ann Singleton (Betsy Wolfe) consoles Mouse, who is struggling with coming out to his parents. Photo by Kevin Berne.

JF: It’s from the 70s, but I think the San Francisco in this show is still here. Have you felt that?

WT: Yeah, you can feel it. And everywhere you go in this city is research for the show! All of these locations are all over the books and the lyrics. Even the street names, it’s everywhere. I love working on a show and being in the world of the show while you’re working on it. I’ve never had that experience before.

JF: Everyone is talking about if they’ll be able to take this show out of San Francisco and on the road. What do you think?

WT: Because of all the inside jokes? I think that the show has the heart and I think it’s good enough to be able to transfer anywhere and work. Sure, you might have to tweak some of the lines and jokes. I actually think it would go over really well in London it would be super successful. The books are huge; Armistead is very popular over there. And the Scissor Sisters are everything in the UK! They’re way more known there than they are here. The demographic in London is right up our alley. But we won’t know what’s going to happen for a while. I mean, we got extended here until July, and it might even get extended until August. We just don’t know and as an actor is a little scary. Do you look for more work? Can you rely on the show?

JF: It’s like dating two people at once, and geez! Everyone should have these problems!

WT: It’s exactly like that! It’s awful! And yet exhilarating and great.

JF: What was it like working with Jake Shears (Jason Sellards)?

WT: He sort of became my big brother while he was here. We got along really well. We partied like rockstars, The Scissor Sisters don’t fuck around! They had a concert here and the whole cast went, it was really fun. He’s never written a musical before, but he’s such a natural at it. And he was so not precious about anything. He was cutting songs left and right. He probably wrote over fifty songs for the show and there are only nineteen or twenty in it. There are so many great songs that got the chopping blog. There was a song that Mona and I sing together called “Who’s your Mama?”, and after one week of previews, it wasn’t working for them, so he wrote another one called “Everything Gets Better” in twenty-four hours and put it in. I mean, that’s previews. It’s pretty stressful.

JF: They should make a B-sides album.

WT: Yeah, like bonus tracks. There was another song called “Show Me How to Love You” and it was so gorgeous. My verse was my favorite thing that I got to sing in the show, and they cut it! People need to hear this stuff!

JF: So this was all in two months? You guys learned double the amount of material?

WT: When we started previews, the show was something like four hours long. I mean it’s three hours right now, which is also too long for a musical comedy. But they’ve taken a lot out and changed even more.

I remember the first time Mary and I sang our new song for an audience, we were shaking because there were people sitting there hearing a song you had only sung three times. It’s terrifying. I think putting up a new musical is one of the most terrifying things you could ever do.

JF: Earlier you mentioned that playing the role of Mouse is “revealing” makes you feel “naked”. You like getting naked don’t you?

WT: As soon as they made us sign that nudity clause…

JF: There was a nudity clause?

WT: There was a nudity clause that all of the men signed. There was supposed to be a lot more nudity in the show. But, I mean, obviously you have to show flesh in the show, it’s Tales of the City, it’s a big component of the show. But Jason didn’t want it to look like an excuse to please to the gay community.

JF: So all we get it is your butt.

WT: Yup, that’s it. I’ve never gotten to even take off my shirt in a show, I love it. As soon as I signed that clause I stopped eating fried food and starting hitting the gym every day and doing five hundred sit-ups. It’s a fun challenge to be working on something outside of the show, whether it is growing out a mustache or going to the gym more! It’s a cool experience to have to change something about your appearance for a show, it really makes you feel like you’re earning your paycheck.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Q&A with Kyle Jarrow, book and lyric writer of Duncan Sheik's new musical 'Whisper House'

Kyle Jarrow and Duncan Sheik teamed up to write 'Whisper House'
photo via latimes.com

One of my favorite things about Davies Symphony Hall is the variety of performers that grace its stage: like ukulele musicians and big band orchestras. But it’s a special treat when the Symphony itself invites someone extra special to be its guest.

This week, Wednesday to Saturday, The San Francisco Symphony slips something a little different between Poulenc and Gounod classics: selections from a new musical called Whisper House, composed by so-called “one hit wonder” and Grammy winning Duncan Sheik with a book written by New York City’s “hipster playwright" Kyle Jarrow.

Don’t be too surprised: Duncan Sheik went onto receiving a 2007 Tony for his masterpiece Spring Awakening and Kyle Jarrow won a prestigious 2004 Obie Award at the age of 24 for A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant. The two were introduced by a mutual friend and dove right into writing the musical Whisper House. The musical has just come off a successful six week World Premier run at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego.

Last week I was able to chat with Kyle over email and ask him some questions about working with Duncan and his experience with Whisper House...

TO READ MORE, CLICK HERE

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Being critic when you don't like a show, how to review?

If you read this blog in any sort of regular way, you've probably noticed that I gush, a lot, about the different types of music that move me. As a blogger I can write about whatever I want, even with Examiner.com. I scope out the music world and see what's worth sharing with you. I look at the calendar see what looks interesting to me.

Because I'm not being assigned stories by an editor, I usually choose to write about things I already like. Makes sense right? I'm not doing this for a ton of cash (long way off there) so of course I'm going to write about things I will be able to say nice things about. Even if there are elements I don't like, I can usually stress the parts that were good over everything else. Some have called this "sugarcoating," fine, I can live with that.

But what happens when I really can't think of anything nice to say, and I really don't recommend that people go spend their money on it. It's certainly my responsibility to say it, even if I feel bad about it. If I never wrote anything bad ever, why would anyone trust my opinions? I end up feeling bad because the artists usually give me free tickets which even after a year of writing I'm getting used to, but then I feel guilty for saying bad things. Well, this is when being a critic and journalist (a term I'm still getting used to when referring to myself) is all about. So, I say "bring it." I can take it. It's good for me!

So, I just saw this musical called Mahalia: a Gospel Musical over the weekend. It was, well, very disappointing. I mean, I LOVE gospel music. I wrote a freaking 100 page master's report on the topic. I've seen incredible musicals like Crowns and A Color Purple that blew my brain right out of my head (ew).

I would figure that if you cast a singer to portray one of the greatest voices, you would find someone who can really sing. Considering that Oakland has a large African American community, you figure it wouldn't be that hard. How many female gospel singers live a stones throw away from San Francisco?

Anyway, the singing was what I decided to focus on in my review. Other reviewers tore down the acting, the directing and the blocking (yes, it was bad, folks). But I would be very interested to see what you think of my review, even not seeing the show (don't please, save your money). Was I TOO nice? Did I say anything below the belt?

Read my review here

Thanks for reading by the way, I am so lucky to have such awesome fans.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"21 Guns" sung by the cast of American Idiot and Green Day

For those of you that are wondering about this Green Day musical I've been going on and on about, click here and listen to this track. I am so happy that the awesome vocals of Rebecca Naomi Jones, Christina Sajous and Mary Faber are featured on this track. They have such amazing voices. American Idiot translates so well to the female voice, this is one of the things about this musical that I love so much.

I can't wait to hear the entire recording of this show. The arrangements are incredible. You'll see.

Here's a silly video someone made with the audio track edited over it.

Gorgeous.

See my article on examiner.com

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Star of Wicked and Rent, Eden Espinosa shows San Francisco how it's done

Eden Espinosa At the Rrazz Room - photos by Pat Johnson

If you are ever in the market for singers who can really sing, look to musical theater. I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t know. If you are a fan of Glee or Adam Lambert, you probably know that all of these people have honed their skills and talents in the world of musical theater.

Luckily for San Francisco, we have the Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko that showcases singers; REAL singers, not the type of cookie cutter vocalists that we have become accustomed to on American Idol. Last Monday, December 7th, the Rrazz Room was graced by the presence of California native, Eden Espinosa, who has set herself apart from the pack singing the roles of Maureen in RENT and Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway, Los Angeles and San Francisco. She also starred in the Broadway production of BKLYN (see this gorgeous performance of "One Upon A Time").

On Tuesday Espinosa performed a set list inspired by friends and family, featuring everything from Garbage’s sizzling “I Would Die for You” to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” Unfortunately there was no printed set list and Espinosa didn’t identify many of the songs, so I can’t tell you what else she sang other than a tune from the film An American Tail.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE AND WATCH ESPINOSA SING "TAKE ME FOR WHAT I AM" FROM RENT


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Evolution of "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going": Jennifer Holliday, Jennifer Hudson and Amber Riley from Glee


"I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" has, since the film version of Dreamgirls become the song for divas. American Idol contestants have sung it, Bianca Ryan has sung it, even the Filipina Divas have sung it (and quite well I might add). If you’ve got a big voice, and you want to show it off, you sing this song. You CAN’T sing this song badly, if you do, everyone will notice.

Last night we had the pleasure of hearing Amber Riley sing "And I'm Telling You" on Glee. Gawd, I love her ("Bust Your Windows"? Yeah!). But before Riley and J-Hud, there was Jennifer Holliday. She is the Godmother of them all. Holliday played Effie in the Tony winning production of Dreamgirls in the early 80s.

When Holliday performs this song, it's more like watching an emotional purging. I've never seen a performance like it before, especially the one below at the Tony Awards. You can see and hear the anguish emanating from her. I really enjoy Hudson and Riley's performances of the song, but both are lacking in the way that Holliday makes you feel her pain. Both Hudson and Riley can sing, no doubt about it, but Holliday really embodies the song when she does it.

Let me also just say, if I've done the math correctly, Holliday was the YOUNGEST of the three when she performed the song: she was 21 or 22. Hudson and Riley were a couple years older.

So, without further ado, I give you Jennifer Holliday at the 1982 Tony Awards. Please skip to 3:30 unless you want to see the scene that leads up to the song. She won a Tony for this performance.





Click here to hear Jennifer Hudson and Amber Riley's performance

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Green Day and "American Idiot" Berkeley Rep Cast to Record New Version Single "21 Guns"

This is only the beginning of the staged production of American Idiot's rise in popularity.

According to cast member and star John Gallager, Jr's twitter the cast of American Idiot at the Berkeley Rep went into the studio yesterday to record "21 Guns" with Green Day. It is rumored that the production will spread onto Broadway and the big screen.

Personally I'm looking forward to the cast recording of American Idiot. The arrangements are spectacular. I saw the show opening night just over two months ago. READ MY REVIEW HERE and can't quite remember who sings "21 Guns" (it might have been one of the female characters), but the cast was terrific and it's bound to be good.

Green Day's singer and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong is producing the track, which will hit the radio at the end of November and be made available for purchase through all digital retailers. With bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool the band will also shoot a video for “21 Guns” with the American Idiot cast. The digital version of the "21 Guns" has gone platinum, selling more than one million downloads, while the video won three 2009 MTV Video Music Awards in September, including “Best Rock Video.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Touch Me" From Spring Awakening on the View


Okay, hopefully my obsession with this show is nearing an end. But I've watched this video so many times I just had to share it with you. And yes, I saw the show again in Sacramento last weekend. I wanted my parents and friend from out of town to see it.

While there are plenty of good songs in this show, for some reason this performance of "Touch Me" on The View has become my favorite.

Spring Awakening takes place in the 1890s, and while many of the buttoned-up/prude Victorian era-like themes are present in the show, the main theme, teenage sexuality, is something that is very much present today. I was 14 once, I remember thinking about it all the time. What it's like? Who will I have it with? When? Who is having sex? Is it like in the movies?

At this point in the show, Moritz, played by John Gallagher Jr. has asked his friend Melchior, played by Jonathan Groff to tell him what he knows about sex (he's not had sex yet, he just reads a lot). And they sing about it, of course, it's a musical.

This is a beautiful song and the lead characters are great, but it's the performance of the secondary characters that just stop me dead in my tracks. First you hear the sweet, sensitive, rich voice of Gideon Glick. Then a second solo by Brian Charles Johnson, with a rockish, raspy voice (now in the cast of American Idiot and whom I'm trying to get an interview with). And then, oh-my-god, Skylar Astin and his amazing solo. The hair-do might fool you, but don't let it. This kid can sing.

Anyway, enjoy. I now release my obsession, hopefully soon to move to something else worthy of my attention.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Spring Awakening" addresses teenage sexuality in a buttoned up era

What young men do with all that pent up sexual energy: JUMP!

Teenage sex, masturbation, abortion, child abuse, suicide... sounds like another night of bad television right? Wrong. Spring Awakening is a musical based on a play by the same title by Frank Wedekind that was banned in 1891 for portraying all of these situations, many of them graphically.

Western society has come a long way since the Victorian era of zipped lips (and flies) when it came to sexuality. I figure, it was hard enough being a teenager in the 1990s when we had sex ed and 90210 to teach us, what must it have been like in the1890s when kids had nothing?

Right now, Spring Awakening is playing in Sacramento at the Community Center Theater just until November 15th. In 2007, Spring Awakening received eleven Tony Award nominations, winning eight, including best musical, direction, book, score and featured actor.

READ MORE OF MY REVIEW HERE

Taylor Trensch as Moritz

Christy Altomare as Wendla and Jake Epstein as Melchior

T.R. Knight stars in "Parade": a sobering reminder of Red/Blue State politics, racism and anti-semtism. Jamie's Dad reports

T.R. Knight stars as Leo Frank in "Parade"

This blog entry was written my my Dad, Jeff. Every so often I ask him to write a review of a show he's seen in Los Angeles. Check out his review of "Howling Blues & Dity Dogs."

Who was Leo Frank? No, he was not Ann Frank’s father. And, while he was also a Jew, he was an American and not a German. And no, he did not die at the hands of the Nazis. He was lynched by Georgia whites in 1917 for a murder he may not have committed and after the Georgia Governor had reduced his sentence from death by hanging to life imprisonment.

Why are we talking about Leo Frank? It’s because the play with music Parade is currently being performed at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles . Fresh from runs in New York and London, where, respectively, it won a Tony award and was nominated for an Olivier award, an ensemble of about two dozen talented men and women deliver a powerful performance of this “musical” about a subject which, although almost 100 years old, still has relevance today in our “red state vs. blue state” reality.

Here’s a quick summary of the story...

READ MORE OF JEFF'S REVIEW HERE

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Waiting for "Rent" at the Curran Theater: starring Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal


For seven hours this past Friday I waited in line for $20 rush tickets for the musical Rent at San Francisco's Curran Theater. Yes my friends, this is the fun I have on my furlough Fridays. I am one of those crazy music theater lovers who would do such a thing.

The Curran Theater has been (I believe today is the last day of the short two week run) graciously saving the first two rows of the orchestra (rows AA and BB) for rush tickets buyers. There were only 26 seats. After those were snatched up they offered up some remaining seats for $30. We got the last $20 seat and the first two $30 seats in one of the boxes. The view was obstructed and we couldn't see anything that occurred in the back of the stage (missed all of Mimi's "Take Me Out") and anything upstage right.

HOWEVER, we were close enough to see facial expressions and to feel the full emotional force of these gorgeous songs. I cried when Angel and Collins expressed their love for each other in "I'll Cover You" and again when Angel died. Man, I love this show. Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, the originators of the characters Roger and Mark. 13 years later, they sound better than ever. In fact, Adam Pascal's voice was one of my least favorite from the original Broadway recording. His voice has filled out and improved by leaps and bounds since then.

after-Rent glow: Diane and me

I waited in line for 7 hours. My bum is still a soar from sitting on the sidewalk. I even got yelled at by a homeless guy and we had a an Anthony Rapp sighting as he walked to Starbucks across the street. I also met a lovely new friend, Sharon, who is a voice student at San Francisco State University and aspiring music theater performer. We talked shop for most of our waiting time and the day flew by. Here's a picture of her getting her program signed by Adam Pascal. Go girl!

Sharon meeting Adam Pascal, the original "Roger"

Front of line - who knows how early they got there...

More of line, I doubt many of these people got tickets. The line got even longer that afternoon.

This was a fantastic performance and it was well worth the wait. I know the original Broadway recording well, so seeing Pascall and Rapp play the parts was a huge treat.

Furlough Fridays can be fun!

Friday, October 2, 2009

“How to Survive the Apocalypse” a Burning Man Opera for Burners and Burner-curious


Much like an actual visit to Burning Man, “How to Survive the Apocalypse” is a musical production with no obvious plan: you must experience what’s in front of you as it presents itself and just go with it. There is beauty you will be transfixed by and ugliness you will want to turn your attention away from. Sometimes you might not sure what’s going on, but it’s sure fun to watch.

A Burning Man blog describes it best:
The rock opera is a little bit Hair in that it tries to capture the zeitgeist of a movement, and a little bit Rent in the joyful exuberance that sometimes comes along with incredible hardship, and maybe a little bit Jesus Christ, Superstar in the way it touches your spiritual buttons."
My favorite line: "when we stop consuming, we create."

To read more and see more photos click here

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Green Day's 'American Idiot' at the Berkeley Rep: I'd shave my head for this show


“It’s like watching someone else making out with your girlfriend” said Green Day drummer Tré Cool to the women in front of us at the bar, with his trademark bleached blonde hair spiked up about three inches. They had asked about what it was like to watch someone else play his music in the new Berkeley Rep’s production of American Idiot.

The after party of the Berkeley Repertory Theater’s 2009-2010 season was the night for punk hairdos of all types. Along with food and drinks, the Levi sponsored event included a photo station with costumes and a hair salon. Guitarist/vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong even shaved one guy’s hair to a fine looking mohawk (See photo and slideshow).

For a few minutes I was tempted to track Armstrong down and ask him to shave my head, that’s how inspired I was by this production of American Idiot, and I’ve never had punk tendencies. I'm more of a hippie if you must know. After recently seeing the Tony nominated Rock of Ages and Tony winning production of Hair (and thoroughly enjoyed both), read that article here I am convinced that American Idiot will easily slide onto Broadway and do very well there. This is not the last you’ll be hearing about this show.

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hair and Rock of Ages: broadway musicals bound by youth, integrity, and hair

Rock of Ages guitarist Joel Hoekstra is on fire


Hey ya'll, I'm back from my trip to New York City where the weather was hot, humid and nasty. I spent a lot of time in air-conditioned museums and theaters and the Daily Show (I got to ask Jon Stewart a question)!!

We had amazing seats at the musical Rock of Ages starring Lauren Molina (also a University of Michigan Music School alum, read more about her here). She got us backstage! Check out the backstage mockumentaries she's been producing and directing. They are hysterical. Here's the first one:



The length and style of one's hair is a symbol of fashion. But in recent decades it has also been a symbol of ones politics and lifestyle.

In the 60s, having long hair (usually for men) meant that you were one of those hippie freaks that protested the war in Vietnam and smoked the marijuana. But in the 80s, the “sexier Regan era,” it meant that you wore leather, drank a lot and listened to loud guitar music. And according to the musicals Hair and Rock of Ages (ROA) you also had a lot of sex. Or at least you wanted other people to think you had a lot of sex. When I saw both shows last week during my visit to the Big Apple, there was a lot of hip motion on stage. A LOT.

Click here to read the rest of my article on examiner.com

Constantine Maroulis as Drew in Rock of Ages with guitarist Joel Hoekstra

Lauren Molina (Michigan classmate and star of Rock of Ages) and I backstage


Tamar and I outside of Hair

Saturday, June 13, 2009

University of Michigan Music School alumni rockin' it in the real world of theater

I always get a wave of pride when I hear of a fellow Michigan Music School alum making music in the big bad world successfully. Being a professional musician is not easy and I know many people, including myself, who have decided that was not the route for them. So those that have taken that route get much respect from me.

My favorite success stories right now are that of Lauren Molina and Leah Dexter. Both of these fine ladies were voice students with me at the University Michigan. Molina started off an opera major and then switched over to musical theater. Between you and me, she could have been an opera singer, she has a gorgeous mezzo-soprano voice. But the girl can sing, dance and act, which makes her a prime music theater suspect. And she's been working it on Broadway.

Right now Molina is in the hit production of Rock of Ages with American Idol alum Constantine Maroulis. I randomly caught this clip of the show on the Today Show the other day. Molina plays the character Regina, you can spot her as the curly blonde with the big glasses and a long green flowy skirt.



She was recently in the Broadway production and the touring production of Sweeney Todd and originated the role of Johanna where she also played the cello. Chances are, if you caught this production while it was in town, she was in it.

Molina is also a singer/songwriter and has a CD album out called Do-Bee-Do. which is full of quirky folk/pop songs like "Marriott on Wheels" and "Rollerskate"

Check out her website, myspace, and CDbaby

Leah Dexter on the other hand has gone the opera route. Also a mezzo-soprano, she was a vocal performance undergraduate and master's student at the U of M and has since performed all over the United States and Europe. Dexter has travelled the country singing recitals of pieces by female African American composer and is currently preparing for her next project and dream role, Carmen.

Currently she is in the San Francisco production of Gershwin's Porgy & Bess. Check out my article about the San Francisco production of Porgy and Bess, Dexter helped me fill in some of the holes.

I know a bunch of other people that are working it out in the real world. This could be a fun column to do every now and then to help support my peeps.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spamalot will entertain the funny bone in Monty Python know-it-alls as well as newbies

John O'Hurley wants you to eat your Spam

Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries!

There is nothing not silly about Spamalot. It is absolute, hokey fun. Die hard Monty Python fans love it because Python-isms are scattered all over the stage and newbies will love it because Python-ism never get old. If you blink you might miss one. They come at you so fast you're bound to miss one. I missed several, but I was also sitting way up on the side of the second balcony.

Playing King Arthur, John O'Hurley is San Francisco's special Spamalot celebrity. He is best known for his portrayal of Elaine's boss, J. Peterman, on Seinfeld and was also a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. O'Hurley performed in the Las Vegas run of Spamalot for two years but is clearly still enjoying himself.

“It’s the one promise that I make in entertainment right now," O'Hurley said in an interview with The SF Examiner. "You will laugh from the moment you sit down until the moment we do our curtain calls. I regard silliness as the highest form of comedy, and this is silly at the highest level.”


This video doesn't really have anything to do with the musical directly, but it's silly. So bring it on...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Prop 8 the musical: it gets funnier the more you watch it

Dedicated to my fabulously backwards state of California...

The internet is buzzing with clip featuring Jack Black, Margaret Cho, Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph, John C. Reilly, Allison Janney, Kathy Najimy Jennifer Lewis, Neil Patrick Harris and more.

If you've already seen it, watch it again. It's faaaabulous.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die