John Leguizamo – a name that is known for high energy, comedy, mad acting chops, and hugely successful Broadway shows. Well, he is back again with his next solo production Ghetto Klown, currently playing the Lyceum Theatre through July 10, 2011, only! Filled with high emotion and non-stop humor, Leguizamo once again lights up the stage with a performance that is not to be missed!
In Ghetto Klown, Leguizamo “asks the audience to leave a piece of their soul in the theatre, while he leaves a piece of his soul on the stage.” This release of souls is done while the audience is taken on a very special journey into the full life of Leguizamo – from birth to the present. The audience is introduced right away to Alberto and Luz Leguizamo, his always fighting mother and father. As his life moves forward, the audience is let in on the family struggles that faced Leguizamo with each passing year. After one of his most successful shows, Sexaholix, his father and mother even go as far as threatening to sue him for using them as characters in the play. Despite all of this, Leguizamo also lets the audience in on his strong relationship with his grandfather – whose parting words on earth encouraged Leguizamo to find the love of his life, settle down, and have two wonderful children. From his early beginnings of doing standup on the Brooklyn subway to his five successful one-man-shows to his roller coaster of a film career to his struggles with life, love, and family, Leguizamo does exactly what he set out to do from moment one on the stage. He leaves a little piece of his soul on that stage, and, in return, the audience cannot help but do the same.
John Leguizamo – known for Moulin Rouge! and Ice Age, along with stints on Miami Vice and ER – is, in one word, brilliant! Ghetto Klown spins the tale of his rises and falls in the world of show business perfectly – mastering the arts of humor and grace. Leguizamo has a skill for commanding the audience’s attention, which is a strong quality considering the diversity of the crowd he faces. His audience packs in everything from the regular Broadway crowd to members of his ethnicity proud to hear stories of their culture to woman wanting a night out with strong content and humor to men who downed a beer earlier in the day and thought this sounded like a great idea. Some actors might have a hard time trying to connect to such a diverse group; however, Leguizamo makes it look so easy – “acting is simply in his blood.” Just as performing is something he needs to survive, writing is too. The story of his life is crafted so perfectly that one cannot help but get wrapped up in his life story as he becomes not only himself, but other characters as well – including his parents, mentors, and fellow actors and directors. Even with the minor rants in Spanish, that left some of the theatre wishing they paid more attention in their high school Spanish class, everyone in the audience supported Leguizamo one hundred percent. Writing and performing a one-man-show is no easy feat; however, Leguizamo has no trouble at all keeping up energy (dancing through most of the show), connecting to the audience, and, ultimately, making the whole theatre fall in love with him.
While it is billed as a one-man-show, Leguizamo has a very talented crew of people working behind him to make Ghetto Klown the success that it truly is. Director Fisher Stevens, co-founder of the theatre company Naked Angels, breathes life into this show by forming great moments of transition in the piece. Each decade of Leguizamo’s life is broken down with smooth transitions of song and dance ripped right from his heritage. Fisher gave Leguizamo the freedom to move around the space freely to create a cast of characters that came right from the life stories of Leguizamo himself. The space around Leguizamo was designed by Happy Massee, Jen Schriever, and Aaron Gonzalez for scenic, lighting, and projection design respectfully. Massee (feature film work includes Just A Kiss and Welcome to the Rileys) designed a space that looked like a photograph of Brooklyn, New York where Leguizamo grew up. Complete with apartment fire escapes, street lamps, and a billboard used for projections, this set kept it simple, but left a big impact. Schriever’s (associate design for Broadway’s Women on the Verge… and American Buffalo) light plot allowed the perfect ambiance to be set for this show – soft and dark like Leguizamo himself with crazy flashing lights every time the story would shift decades and Leguizamo would bust a move. Gonzalez (served as ASM for Broadway’s Time Stands Still) created projections that created the perfect aid for Leguizamo’s mad story skills. The projections let the audience into the crazy mind of Leguizamo – allowing all to see his family, mentors, and creative works on stage, screen, and television. All of these technical elements joined forces with Leguizamo’s writing and acting to deliver a night a grade A story telling.
Ghetto Klown brings the brilliant John Leguizamo back to Broadway to continue the tales of his life. With great humor and soul this is definitely a show to go check out! But hurry, it ends its limited run on July, 10, 2011!
Review By: Ryan Oliveti