Monday, May 23, 2011

Luke's Reviews: 12 Angry Jurors

So one of the reasons I made this was to review/promote shows that are playing in the local area.  This is my first attempt.  On Saturday, I had the pleasure of seeing Portfolio Drama Company's production of "12 Angry Jurors.

Now, I've never seen a show I didn't like, so I can't be very critical of the show.  I did quite enjoy it.

          For those of you who haven't guessed, it was basically the script of the popular play "Twelve Angry Men" with a few differences.  Because of the lack of teen-age guys willing to do comunity theater, many of the jurors were turned to women (which I think added a bit).  Another difference between the original show and Portfolio's production was the addition of three roles (another common problem for community theaters).  The roles of the Clerk, the Judge, and the Balif were all added to the show.  For the most part the balif had a minimal role (I felt kind of bad for her the entire show) and the Judge and Clerk spent the majority of the show discussing the exact same points as the jurors in parallel time.  This made it slightly confusing, but definately added another dimention to the show.  It disrupted the flow of the show a bit, which I personally didn't like, but I can see how some people may have been bored with the same twelve people in the same room talking about very similar scenes.  All in all, the concept asside, it was beautifully executed and the actors did a fantastic job with it.

          It certainly appeared to be a very difficult show to do, because practically the entire cast (except for poor Maggie Roth) was on stage for the entire show.  It's also difficult because when so many people are talking about much the same thing, cues are INCREDIBLY difficult, and add-libbing can completely ruin the show.  However, these kids pulled it off brilliantly.  Another reason this show was hard was it's stage layout.  Since the set was basically just a table with 12 chairs around it, there were always 3-4 people who's back was inevitably to the audience.  I didn't realize the importance of this until I saw the slightly awkward body movements of the actors sitting in those unfortunate positions.  However, the distraction was minimal (if I wasn't an actor myself I probably wouldn't have caught it) and it didn't really take away from the show. 

       Notes on the entire cast:  The actors did a good job with staying natural.  Getting up to drink some water, remembering to act really hot (The show takes place in the summer, so it was hot in the room), and various groans and coughs helped to add to the believability of the show. There were a few a few inevitable blunders.  A few of the students had awkward lines, or spoke to fast, or tried *too* hard to speak slowly or something like that, but for the most part the show went really well.  I couldn't catch any flubbed lines, and they all stayed in character the entire time.

     Notes on specific actors:  Although what made this show great was it's overall cast performance, there were a few actors who stood out.

  • The first of these was Andrew M. who played Juror #3.  He had one of the bigger roles and did a fantastic job with it.  I was surprised that he landed the role that he did, because in the movie (which has the same script) the role was a gruff violent type man. However, Andrew was a tall skinny guy with kind of a high...almost whiny voice.  However, it worked masterfully! I honestly like that version of the character better because it shows (as the character does later in the show) that he's not really strong, just loud mouthed.  His outburst at the end of Act I was (for me) the highlight of the show.  Unfortunately, the other jurors were a bit quick to grab him (you could tell it was coming), but aside from that it was simply epic.  His consistency of character even with changing emotions made him really fun to watch.  In short, he had a captivating performance.
  • My next recognition goes to Jonathan B who played Juror #9.  I was disappointed that his role wasn't larger, because he was one of the best actors of the group.  I have actually seen him in six or seven shows now (what can I say...I'm a stalker) and he never fails to impress me.  His character (the kind old guy) was perfect.  The subtleties of his performance really made all the scenes he was in.  His slight stoop as he walked, and the way his face moved during the pauses in his lines.  He was definitely (out of the cast) the most in tune with his character.  My "research" has shown him to be a fantastic actor in both comedic and (in my opinion even more so in) dramatic roles.  Congratulations Jonathan, that was superb!
  • Other actors did a fantastic job, but just couldn't be seen as much.  Robert B. (#10) did an excellent job in his role. The scene in Act II where the rest of the Jury steps away was fantastic, he didn't have many lines, but he did an excellent job with those he did.  Sarah Pamplin (#8) also did a fantastic job.  She was a bit understated at times, but when she had a good monologue (she got a few) she really shone.  I have also seen her in a few shows, and I have learned that she has quite a range she can play. This wasn't the best role of hers (only because "Sorry...Wrong Number" was breathtaking) but she was fantastic.  Unfortunately there are other roles that I'd like to recognize...but I can't remember their juror numbers :P  one of them (I think five) who played the business woman in the glasses is one that stood out as a talented young lady.  She did excellent.
On the whole, what made the show great was the stellar ensemble, the show isn't made for one person to shine but for a strong group of actors to play off of each other and that was done very well.  Congratulations Portfolio on another fantastic show.  I can't wait to see more!

*Note: on June 12th, be sure to tune into CBS to watch The TONY awards (Like the Oscars but for Broadway  although there are a few disappointing nominations (or lack there of), it promises to be an exciting night.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Frank Wildhorn


So recently I've taken up what some might call a new obsession.  Everyone who's even dabbled (isn't that a cool word?) in the field of musical theater has become acquainted with names such as Steven Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.  But there are lots of talented artists out there who create masterpieces and don't seem to be recognized to the same extent (I will likely bring up many of them in following posts).  The one that currently holds my obsession goes by the name of Frank Wildhorn.

My first encounter with Wildhorn came about three years ago (give or take a month) in the form of Jekyll & Hyde The Musical.

  Although a few cracks have been made about the shows casting, myself and others revere it for the masterpiece it is.  It has very little to do with the book (I personally was disappointed in the book after seeing the musical) but has a fantastic score.  With charming ballads (e.g.This is the Moment),  rousing ensemble songs (e.g.Facade), and chilling evil songs (e.g.Dangerous Game).  The role of Jekyll/Hyde quickly worked its way into my most sought after role ever and to this day it is my dream role to play one day (Although it didn't really fit a category, you need to hear Confrontation too...and the entire soundtrack, there are so many AMAZING songs!!!!!).  Of course, as I found J&H, I had never heard of Wildhorn and didn't pay much interest to the name of the composer.  However, a few years later, the name once again drew my attention.  

This time it came as a side note while watching a medley, I was captured by a few lyrics of a song called Madame Guillotine.  Research led me to my my next discovery: The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Though Jekyll & Hyde will forever be my favorite of his shows, The Scarlet Pimpernel was indeed a masterpiece.  I had recently read the book, and was pretty thrilled to see it in musical form.  Since Wildhorn (as you may be guessing if you've already listened to any of the J&H songs) has a flare for the epic, the villain (Chauvelin) gets most of the best songs.  But once again, although there are a few "duds" in my opinion, there are also plenty of good songs.  Into the Fire (the song they did at the Tony's) is a nice inspiring song.  Falcon in the Dive is one of my recent favorite angry songs, The Riddle is a fun ensemble song, and Where's the Girl is also great in a chilling sort of way.

After these two great successes, I started to look for shows specifically by Frank Wildhorn.  The first of these I found was "The Civil War".
Now, unfortunately, with this show came my first disappointment in Wildhorn.  Don't get me wrong the show is quite good, but unfortunately this time the number of "dud" songs that are inevitable in almost every show (even Phantom and Cats have them in my opinion) seemed to outweigh the good ones.  now, I haven't listened to them in quite some time, and I may have just had a bad day whilst listening to them the first time, but to me the only song that is worthy of mentioning here is By The Sword/Sons of Dixie.  Sons of Freedom (the song they did at the Tony's) was also pretty good (but I found that just recently, and it's not as good).

The next show I found specifically because I was looking for it and waiting for it.  You see, just this year Wildhorn teamed with Jack Murphy again to create Wonderland.

As everyone who tackles Alice's adventurous story, he completely makes up his own plot.  I don't know why, but it seems so many writers are attracted to the whimsical nature of the story but then feel the need to rewrite the entire plot-line (but I digress).  In my opinion, this is Wildhorn's best show since Jekyll & Hyde.  Although I've only been able to hear the "concept recording", I find only two "dud" songs in the entire soundtrack (which isn't bad).  Although it's not one of those shows that completely redefines theater for years, it is a good show.  Unfortunately (like most of Wildhorn's shows) the critics don't seem to appreciate it.  Most critics nail the plot and "bland lyrics", and thus it didn't get any Tony nominations this year (drat), but I still think it's a fantastic show.  As in all of Wildhorn's shows, it has it's epic songs (e.g. Nick of Time).  However, for the first time, it was his more fun-loving and bouncy kind of songs that I enjoyed most in the soundtrack.  Songs like Keep on Dancing, and Through The Looking Glass are simply fun and addicting!  There are good ballads too (e.g. Finding Wonderland) but that wasn't were this show's strength was (in my opinion).  Of course, as in J&H, I would encourage you to listen to the entire soundtrack, because practically every song is a winner!

My final brush with Wildhorn (yet) came when I saw one of his first shows: Dracula.

This show was pretty good.  Unfortunately (because of the internet's inconsistancy) I have yet to be able to hear the entire soundtrack to the show.  But I have heard enough to know that it does have some great songs and some "duds".  Unfortunately, I'm at a relative loss as for a plot line.  Wikipedia was vaguely helpful, but there are a lot of holes to this show that I don't quite understand yet (I only found it a few weeks ago).  But, I can tell you that songs like "The Master's Song" and "Before the Summer" are kinda catchy, and are worth listening to.  This show too got negative reviews, but apparently did well in Australia :P

As for Wildhorn's other projects, there are quite a few.  Shows like "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "Victor/Victoria" I have yet to look into, but I imagine are pretty good too.  I also hear that his dark side is once again shining through and he's working on a version of "Frankenstein" (which promises to be exciting).  If you want to hear more I'd suggest going to his website

*You should probably know that I suggest you listen to the entire soundtracks for all these shows if you find the time.  You should be warned that Jekyll & Hyde has some language issues, but for the most part, his shows don't get *too* bad.  Especially J&H and Wonderland I would HIGHLY suggest you listen to the entire soundtrack as soon as possible (I've been listening to J&H as I typed this and I'm reminded of it's genius).  They actually made a movie of Jekyll & Hyde but it is relatively impossible to find.  If someone does find a copy let me know, 'CAUSE I WANT TO WATCH IT!!!!!

* Archibald the asparagus's voice* "This has been Broadway songs with Luke, tune in next time to hear Luke Say:"  "Have I ever told you about Jason Robert Brown?"

This is the Moment[Jekyll & Hyde]--
Facade[Jekyll & Hyde]--
Dangerous Game[Jekyll & Hyde]--
Confrontation[Jekyll & Hyde]--
Madame Guillotine[The Scarlet Pimpernel]--
Into The Fire[The Scarlet Pimpernel]--
Falcon in the Dive[The Scarlet Pimpernel]--
The Riddle[The Scarlet Pimpernel]--
Where's the Girl[The Scarlet Pimpernel]--
By The Sword/Sons of Dixie[The Civil War]--
Sons of Freedom [The Civil War]--
Nick of Time [Wonderland]--
Keep on Dancing [Wonderland]--
Through the Looking Glass [Wonderland]--
Finding Wonderland [Wonderland]--
The Master's Song [Dracula]--
Before the Summer Ends[Dracula]--

Saturday, May 7, 2011

This Is My Life

As I said in my "about me", this isn't necessarily going to be about my life.  The web-series "The Battery's Down" had a song entitled "this is your life" that talked about the main character's obsession with Broadway and the fact that he couldn't give it up even if he wanted to.  This is often how I feel and thereby I thought it would be a fitting title.  I will likely post a little about my life, but most of it will be centered around theater (just like my life).  I will be posting my thoughts on various Broadway shows.  I will be informing any followers I might get about upcoming shows I have friends in or I just feel like supporting.  I know a lot about theater and a friend of mine said I'd be good at writing theater reviews, so this is my giving it a shot.  It should be fun.  So I hope you find this interesting, I'll try to post something every few weeks.  I hope you enjoy :)