Friday, April 26, 2013

Pippin @ The Music Box Theatre


                 Just over 40 years after its original run, Pippin makes a colorful return to Broadway for 2013, with a fresh new look. Set in a circus tent, the production takes a magical new twist to the classic musical. With illusions, tricks, stunts, and acrobatics throughout the show, it is an experience that feels both relevant and modern. This new production pays homage to its roots, with choreographer Chet Walker (a cast member  of the 1972 production) recreating Fosse's original choreography. However it still feels fresh, current, and original with the addition of circus director Gypsy Snider's phenomenal visual feats. The Players are made of equal parts dancers and acrobats, so there is always something incredible and beautiful to look at onstage. It wouldn't be Pippin without the signature "Fosse style" of dance, which now almost looks like it was made to go alongside trapeze artists and contortionists.  "The Manson Trio," one of Fosse's most well known pieces of choreography, is recreated in its entirety, but now instead using male dancers behind the Leading Player. Every single moment contains outstanding visuals, with Players performing amazing acts unlike those seen on the Broadway stage before. Trapeze work, Aerial Silks, lifts, and flips are woven into the classic choreography to create beautiful imagery for the stage.   

               Pippin's main cast, made of both Broadway Mainstays and Newcomers, are what brings the production together as a whole. Matthew James Thomas(Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) is an extremely likable Pippin. He brings a humble quirkiness to the character that makes one fall in love with him almost immediately, and  his pop-style vocals give an unique twist to Stephen Schwartz's score. He is just awkward enough that it is endearing, stumbling and stammering his way through the first act, and the audience bursts into cheers once Thomas reveals serious dance skills early in Act Two.  Although it is not a new concept, Patina Miller(Sister Act) shines as the Leader Player, a role usually portrayed by a man. She commands the stages from the moment the words "Join us" leave her lips at the top of the show. Miller's ease onstage is reminiscent of Ben Vereen's portrayal, with a graceful feminine twist as the circus' Ringmaster. She makes the perfect opposite to Thomas; the two work off of one another to create moments that are both humorous and intriguing, especially in the Act Two opener "On the Right Track." Husband-and-Wife Broadway veteran team Terrence Mann(Beauty and the Beast) and Christine d'Amboise(Carrie) portray King and Queen duo Charles and Fastrada. Mann brings wit to the usually dry role, and d'Amboise's dancing is captivating. Andrea Martin(Young Frankenstein) as Berthe is the stand out of the veteran cast; she steals the show during her song "No Time at All," bringing both some laughs as well as few surprises (which you need to see to believe!).

            What this revival achieves, and what sets it apart from most other productions, is that it has successfully made the entire show both enjoyable and entertaining. Songs that are usually not as favored by audiences, like "Extraordinary"  are now show-stoppers.  "Morning Glow," the Act One Finale, is more powerful than ever before. Each new song outdoes the last, which is no easy task. From the colorful set and costumes, to the strength of its cast, to Schwartz's classic score, Pippin is a production that is meant to be seen by all audiences, both young and old. It is a spectacle, to say the very least. Pippin is the kind of production that will make young audiences fall in love with live theatre, as well as remind seasoned theatergoers why they fell in love so long ago.

Review By: Kelcie Kosberg

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Richard III: Born With Teeth @ The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theater

               Shakespeare's plays have been done all over New York and the world for as long as anyone can remember. Tired of the same old Shakespeare productions?The 15th-century English monarch Richard III is back in vogue after the discovery of his bones in a British parking lot last year. Epic Theatre Ensemble presents Richard III: Born With Teeth, a contemporary take on William Shakespeare's Richard III, at the Pershing Square Signature Center.

              The overall cast was made up of about ten actors playing a grand total of about thirty roles. James Wallert (Othello Off-Broadway) leads the cast as the title role of Richard III, the revenge seeking and crippled villain. Wallert sends shivers down the audience's spine every time he is hatching one of his devious plans although there was no way to that he was crippled until he took off his shirt, which is the driving forces of a lot of Richard's motives. Melissa Friedman (Much Ado About Nothing Off-Broadway) as Elizabeth, overall Friedman was very boring to watch and her scenes and monologues were very daunting to sit through. Lanna Joffrey (Measure for Measure at the Public) played the haunting peanut gallery Margaret. Something that was interesting about this production is that they brought Margaret into it and made her presence more then known. In the play previous to this one Margaret dies and leaves a curse and so her constant presence and flashbacks really made the action on stage really stand out. Joffrey took the stage and made sure the audience knew she was there with stealing attention, very haunting and creepy. Carra Paterson (Wit) played the lovely Lady Anne. Paterson had the audience rooting for her during the scene when Richard is hitting on her but she also had the audience feeling bad for her when everything turns around on her.

              Talk about theater on a budget and there was no way to hide it, but this team worked with what they had and it payed off. Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams did the set design, The set was a very pale grey consisting of some levels and two columns, making it easy for the locations and movement easy for the actors. Cat Tate Starmer did the very interesting light design. This contemporary interpretation relied heavily on the drastic light changes to pass time along with intense rock music from Ron Russell's intense sound design. Ron Russell also directed this interpretation and might have missed the bar ever so slightly with these design choice. Because of the fast changes and awkward movement, it made the play very hard to follow at some points.  

                So if you are looking for something new and dont want to sit through another same old long Shakespeare play check out Richard III: Born With Teeth, a contemporary take on William Shakespeare's Richard III, plays at the Pershing Square Signature Center until May 4th.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Orphans @ The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

           "Orphans" was written in 1983 by Lyle Kessler, who grew up in Philadelphia and left when he was around 20 to pursue a career in acting, then branched out to write plays and screenplays, including a film version of "Orphans." The play has been widely performed -– Philadelphia Theatre Company was an early producer, a few years after its initial staging in Los Angeles -- but it has never appeared on Broadway until now.

            Two orphaned brothers are living in a decrepit North Philadelphia row house. Treat, the eldest, supports his damaged younger sibling by petty thievery, and makes the house a virtual prison for the seemingly simple-minded Phillip. One night he kidnaps a rich older man, Harold, who turns out to have his own motives and becomes the father figure the boys have always yearned for.

            In being such a small cast, this play needs three strong actors to really get into this rather confusing and intense play. Unfortuntly when casting, they missed the mark in more than one occasion. Alec Baldwin (TV's 30 Rock) played Harold, an ex-orphan who happened to find his own way and started a good life for himself and in the end becoming very wealthy. Its clear as to why Baldwin wanted to take on this role, it because its no different or challenging from any character that anyone has ever seen him play, which resulted in an extremely boring performance and some of the worst drunk acting to ever hit stage. Ben Foster played Treat, a violent and headstrong orphan who is taking care of his little brother Philip and Harold tries to help. Foster tries really hard to be frighting and intimidating but it was hard to believe that he had any kind of murderous bone in his body.After watching Baldwins and Fosters performance together, it was clear that maybe the director and producers replaced the wrong actor. Thank God for Tom Sturridge who portrayed Philip, Treats younger brother who has special needs and doesn't ever leave the house. Sturridge's performance was fun yet had warm heart felt notes behind it, clearly you don't have to be a big name to be good.

           Pretty much the full design team from Tony Award willing play Good People comes back together to get this production of the ground, unfortunately this time it was a swing and a miss. Daniel Sullivan(Good People) directed, and man was the action uncleared and unjustified, the space was used well but only because he had Tom Sturridge's jumping around everywhere. Also he didnt even have them use the most interesting part of  Jon Lee Beatty's(Good People) set which was the up stairs bedrooms, as soon as the curtain went up the audience was wondering whats going to happen up there? Well don't get your hopes up because its nothing. Between Beatty's set and Pat Philips (Good People) light's, this production had nothing visually pleasing to look at. A shame.

           ORPHANS is playing in a limited run through June 30, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, on 45th Street near Eighth Avenue, New York City.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jeykll and Hyde @ The Marquis Theatre

Although its’ initial Broadway run in 1997 lasted three and a half years, the pop-rock adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic horror tale received reviews nothing less than mediocre. Unfortunately, this production is not much better.

The American Idol winner, Constantine Maroulis, brings star power to the lead roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and delivers a confident and sometimes passionate performance. Marouslis handles Mr. Wildhorn’s score with the intensity that builds as the show progresses to its tragic end. On the other hand, his less than perfect English accent and acting detract from his performance. The Grammy Award winning R&B artist, Deborah Cox is worthy of the standing ovations she received. Beautiful to look at as the ill-fated prostitute, Lucy, she provides the audience with some of the show’s most powerful moments. Her dark and lustrous voice enables her to provide the emotion and intensity her role requires. Teal Wicks, combines power and grace, vocally and visually to deliver a beautiful performance as the innocent fiancée of Dr. Jekyll.

Set and costume designer, Tobin Ost and light designer, Jeff Croiter provide the audience with  costumes reminiscent of the Victorian Era, and sets yet memorable are amateurish, something more like one would see at a community theater.

Despite its cult following, the 2012 revival of Jekyll and Hyde, hits the mark on some levels but misses on others. The tale of a young scientist trying to separate good and evil by experimenting on himself, while visually stimulating and well casted, lacks the power and thrills to be a smash. But despite its good qualities this interatation should have stayed on tour, it was in no way Broadway material.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Motown The Musical @ The Lunt-Fontanne Theater

If you are going to do the classics, you had better do them right. So when portraying the golden age of Motown, who better to bring the songs that shaped a generation to Broadway then Berry Gordy himself? For decades Gordy brought music into the world that gave its fans hope in a time when it seemed as though nothing would ever be the same. Through the blessings of a talented cast, crew, and some of the greatest inspiration in music, Gordy with the help of director Charles Randolph-Wright (Love/Life) bring the spirit of Motown back to a world that is desperate for true music. 

 As the greats come back for Motown’s 25th year anniversary the character of Berry Gordy, played by Brandon Victor Dixon (The Color Purple) takes the audience all the way back to Hitsville, U.S.A. Back when Smokey Robinson wasn’t a household name, the Temptations hadn’t recorded “My Girl” and the “No-hit” Supremes were fresh out of high school. In a truly inspirational and jaw dropping production all the classics come out to play; Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, The Temptations, The Supremes, The Marvelettes, The Jackson 5 – you name them, they were there. The audience sang along to every song, clapped every time a new character was introduced, the energy was charged, and one couldn’t help being transported back in time.   

Brandon Victor Dixon is not only a wonder to watch, but a wonder to listen to. He is the soul of the show, the peak of a talented cast and the perfect partner for Valisia LeKae (The Book of Mormon), who played Diana Ross. LeKae was charming, enticing, and embraced the soul of the great Diana quite beautifully. Charl Brown (Jersey Boys), who played a heart-warming Smokey Robinson, was incredibly funny and a true joy to watch.  Then of course the spirited Bryan Terrell Clark, who is making his Broadway debut in Motown the Musical, lent the ever radical and always changing view of the infamous Marvin Gaye. And naturally what would Motown be without the Jackson 5? Led by Raymond Luke, Jr., the group left the audience in awe with every song performed exactly as the original group had done. Luke brought the magic of the late, great King of Pop to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and that ladies and gentleman was an amazing sight.

           Go see it, and take it all in; the lights, the costumes, the set, the music. Go see how a generation was formed, and how Berry Gordy’s music changed the world. Notice how there is not one actor who does not embody their character; there is not one dull moment, not one dance step out of time, not one wrong note.
This is Motown; you are part of the family, part of the history, and part of the love.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

F#%king Up Everything @ The Elektra Theatre

           Every feel like you just cant do anything right? Kind of like nothing ever goes right for you? Kind of like you're.......Fucking up Everything? Well, David Eric Davis and Sam Forman feel like that, so much that they wrote an enitre musical about how a group of people not only fuck up their own lives but also the people around them. F#%cking Up Everything is playing at the Elektra Theatre in the middle of Time Scare.

           F#@king Up Everything is a rock musical comedy with heart. Set in today’s Brooklyn indie music scene, it is an old-fashioned boy-meets-girl love story for the 21st Century. When these hipsters aren’t true to who they are, they fuck up everything. Especially love. And no one fucks up more than children’s puppeteer Christian Mohammed Schwartzelberg when he meets singer-songwriter Juliana, the girl of his dreams.

           This cast is full of extreme and ridiculous undiscovered talent that this theater is barely able to keep together. Lisa Birnbaum plays the sex driven music producer with high standards and tight cloths. Birnbaum doesn't make her appearance until about half way through the show but when she does, she arrives with great stamina and destroys the stage with her anthem "Fuck-It List".  Dawn Cantwell (Dogfight) plays the cute, quirky, hipster-geek Ivy. Cantwell steals the audiences heart as she struggles with feelings for her best friend Jake and he actual boyfriend Tony. Katherine Cozumel plays the free-spirited, hippie Juliana. Cozumel making her New York debut and fresh out of collage holds her own with in the new high energy show, simply wonderful. Max Crumm(Grease) makes his return to the New York stage as leading man Christen the awkward puppeteer nerd. Crumm is hysterical and just the perfect about of socially awkward. Jason Gotay (Bring It On: The Musical) plays Jake, the hot bad boy and best friends with nerd boy Christen. Gotay starts off the musical with a bang singing the title song, "Fucking Up Everything", and keeps up that outrageous energy throughout the entire performance. Rounding out the cast is Douglas Widick as Tony and George Salazar (Godspell) as Drummer. Widick and Salazar provide a secret love story that takes the audience by surprise, adorable.

Jen Wineman is responsible for making this ridiculous show look good. Being the Director and Choreography of this production, she would be to blame if anything went wrong or didn't look right; but she took this strange rock musical by storm and knocked it out of the park. Deb O did the set design, and she had to face a whole new string of problems, such as how to make it appear as if they were in different places in such a small theater.  O sure enough was able to pull it off by having things open and moving a car seat around for a change of scenery, without actually changing anything on stage. Joel E. Silver (Hair) did the light design, and he kept it nice and simple which let the material of this over the top musical stand out.

         So if in the city and feeling ambitious head over to the Elektra Theatre and don't miss out on the Indie Rock Musical, Located in the middle of Time Scare, NYC's year round haunted house.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Honkey @ Urban Stages

WARNING: If Easily Offended Please Keep Clear Of Urban Stage’s HONKEY!

In a matter of a hundred and five minutes Greg Kalleres manages to fit every racial slur and offensive comment into his new comedy Honkey (does the title give anything away?). Truly nothing goes unexplored and no boundary is left uncrossed as the audience is witness to a story of how to use racial profiling to sell basketball shoes. Multiple character story lines intertwine in the aftermath of a murder of a young black man that was inspired by a sneaker add put forth by Sky Shoes.

            The show surrounds around racism and the idea that everyone is a racist; if you think you are one - you are, if you think you’re not one - you are. No one is safe from this train of thought – quite literally everyone in this show is a racist. And to add to the ridiculous nature of this play, if everyone is a racist then there must be a “cure”. 

             LADIES AND GENTLEMAN – Introducing DRISCOTOL – the miracle “cure” to racism. But watch out, there are side effects.

            The show starts out with an advertisement for the new SkyMax 16 basketball shoes. A shout out goes to Catie Hevner (Triassic Parq) for the projections that provided an interesting look to the show; using a simple set and relying on these projections to really set the scenes. As we come into the shows “corporate America”, we are introduced to Thomas, played by Anthony Gaskins (A Little Journey), the designer of the shoes in the commercial. Gaskins was enjoyable to watch with a decent sense of comedic timing, yet in his portrayal of this character he would at times present a “black man voice” during which his diction became loose and any point being made was lost to the audience. We are also introduced to Davis, the CEO/former CEO of Sky Shoes, played by Phillip Callen (Hard Times: An American Musical). Davis, when faced with his own racism seems at ease with it (anything to sell a shoe), but as the play progresses Callen becomes progressively more uncomfortable with the black members of the cast. Callen’s character has his funny moments and provides a laugh in these awkward situations.

            As the play moves forward we find Peter, the writer of the SkyMax16 commercial and his fiancé Andie, played by Dave Droxler (The Man Who Laughs) and Danielle Faitelson (No Fear Shakespeare’s Richard III). Both actors add to the plays ridiculous and offensive track quite nicely. Peter, who is dealing with “white guilt”, begins to see a therapist and starts to unravel under the pressures of racism – making his path not always clear, but very funny, while Andie, whose dialogue is a times confused but provides a ditzy, naïve humor, begins to have an affair with Thomas.

            And then of course there is the therapist Emilia, played by Arie Bianca Thompson. Described as a black girl embracing her whiteness, Thompson at first seems surrounded by this world without actually being invested in it. However as the play progresses we find that she is in fact one of the biggest racists in the show. And how does she deal with this? Driscotol of course!

            Dr. Driscoll, played by Scott Barrow (33 Variations), has found the cure to racism in his magic pill Driscotol, which Thompson’s, Callen’s, and Droxler’s characters all begin taking. Probably the shining moments in this play are the hallucinations that ensue as a side-effect of this drug. In terms of Callen, Davis is subjected to judgment by Frederick Douglas, although apparently Davis feels that it is appropriate to have Mr. Douglas speak in “gangster” terms. Douglas becomes the stereotypical gangster. This interaction is extremely offensive, but that stops no one from laughing. And then of course what would a play about racism and basketball shoes be without Abraham Lincoln? Think I’m kidding, I’m not. This gloriously ridiculous show not only provides one historical figure but two. And just to add a cherry onto this sundae it appears that Mr. Kalleres decided if Fredrick Douglas was going to be a gangster, Abraham Lincoln was going to be a pervert because it’s an obvious choice.

            All in all this show was hysterical and truly enjoyable to watch. However if the point was to get across some higher purpose of equality or serious message of racism then they need to try again.