Thursday, November 24, 2011

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Spiderman: Turn off the Dark

OK, so I know everyone was really excited about seeing these guys perform, me included.  And since it was the last one....I get to type longer (mwah ha ha). Honestly, I've seen them on the Tony Awards, on the tonight show twice, American Idol, and I think this was their best performance.  They had a great blend fun visuals and pretty good sound.  I liked the idea of a medley.  I was also proud of them for not using Boy Falls from the sky or Rise Above.   I was surprised, but I think it shows that they aren't cheap.  The first bit they did (Bouncing Off The Walls) they had to cut short because it's one of the biggest technical songs (from the little Youtube I've seen on it it looks pretty cool), but I still liked seeing it live.  I feel like it had more depth, so now I might like the song a bit more.  The next song they did (and reprised at the end) was one that I hadn't heard before, so that was kind of fun.  It was well performed and it's always nice to see something new.   The third song they did (A Freak Like Me Needs Company) I had seen before and it was kind of disappointing both times.  I mean, I had heard so much about Patrick Page (The Green Goblin) and I was so excited to see him perform, and he barely sung; he just kind of groaned almost.  Granted, this isn't his fault at all, but the fact that one of the highlights of the show was a guy who didn't really sing is kind of sad.  Once again, his performance is top notch, his acting and his speaking voice were both great, I just would've liked if they got a real song.  Now, something I saw that was new was the acrobatics.  I had never seen any of those flips or anything...those were really cool!  I wish they would've let Jennifer Damiano (Mary Jane) perform, but if the songs don't work out then there's nothing you can do.  All in all, I was more impressed than I thought I would be, good for you spiderman!

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Pricilla Queen of the Desert

So..................yeah.  As always, the costumes were pretty dazzling.  The show scares me, so I haven't looked into it very much, but their performances have been solid so far.  As I said, I know just enough about the plot to not want to look into too much more.  However, they made smart song choices.  They chose a song that people knew, but had never seen done quite like that.  Personally, our family played  "is that a guy?"  Because the show is famous for it's drag queens, so I'm certainly that at least a few of them who looked females were in fact men.  But, all jokes aside, it was entertaining, and as Matt did look like they were having fun, so I guess that's all you can really ask for.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

So....I was pretty sure Daniel Radcliff left this show, but either he didn't or they brought him back for this performance, regardless he did a pretty good job I suppose.  I'm getting a little tired of this song.  It's the one they chose to feature on the Tony's and twice on the Jimmy's so I was hoping for a bit more variety.  Of course, I have heard the soundtrack and I see that they don't have all to many options, but it seems like they could at least try.  The performance was well done (as would be any Broadway show), but I didn't feel compelled to watch really closely because I had seen it before.  They certainly are a strong cast, but I've seen it before......If you want to I suppose you can read my Tony award post, because it looked (at least to me) pretty much the same.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Sister Act

The next production was Sister Act's performance of Spread the Love.  It wasn't bad.  I was a bit disappointing only because I had high expectations for this show because this show was spectacular at the Tony's (you can see their video elsewhere on this blog if you missed it).  But, that being said it was still pretty good.  It just seemed kind of boring.  I'm sure the show was still great, and their performance wasn't off, I just might have chosen a different song.  I suppose they just wanted their highest dance number, but it might not have been the best choice.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Newsies

So, this is my first attempt of a live blog.  So it's very possible that these will be kind of short because I'm not going to have a whole lot of time to write each one.  So let's start things off with NEWSIES performance of King of New York.  First off just let me say that I am SO glad that this is coming to Broadway, and it's just icing on the cake that they got to perform on the Parade!  THEY WERE AMAZING (I love the song choice)!  I was a bit taken aback by them changing the reporter to a girl.  I did know that there was going to be a female reporter in the show, but I thought that that was in addition, not instead of.  But even that isn't necessarily bad, I'm excited to see how they play with that.  I loved the performance, it wasn't that much better than the movie version, but the very fact that they can recreate that on stage is still pretty awesome.  I was excited to see Ryan Breslin (brother to Abigail and Spencer Breslin) performing as Racetrack.  He did really good.  I love the great energy of the group and I hope and pray that the show will be a massive hit!  I CAN'T WAIT FOR IT TO BE FREAKISHLY SUCCESSFUL!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Luke's Reviews: RENT

On Thursday I had the pleasure of seeing a fantastic show that very rarely sees the light of day.  This is a show that is quite controversial, but speaks to so many. No, it's not actually that show, but it's the one that I'm allowed to go see on a school night, so it's just about as good.  Yes, this past week I saw Act3 Productions' fabulous performance of:
Now, this is a touchy show that tends to rub a lot of people the wrong way.  It was clear that there were many people in the audience (myself included) who felt very uncomfortable during parts of the show, but it's message is strong, and these kids did a fantastic job bringing the New York Bohemians to life.

The Show:  The school edition of the show I find very tastefully done.  They keep almost all of the music with the exception of one song (which wasn't great to begin with) and they nip and tuck parts in other songs.  But the best thing about the show is the language is largely reduced.  It certainly isn't eradicated  and I would've appreciated them doing a little more, but I suppose I can't really complain too much.  It is a bit strange seeing teen-age strippers, cross dressers, homosexuals, but those who frequent highschool productions can overcome this awkwardness pretty soon, so it's less of a big deal.

The Production:  I honestly had no clue what to expect driving to the show.  When we arrived at the theater I was a bit wary because of the size of the lobby, but the posters on the walls boasting some of the impressive shows that they have done helped to put me at ease.  The program did even more to ease my qualms.  They had assembled an impressive cast including kids from Pebblebrook Highschool, Masters Academy of Fine Arts, Paideia School, North Springs Highschool, and several other institutions with impressive drama programs.  Having read the program cover to cover before we were allowed into the actual theater (over achieving homeschooler strikes again!) I was thrilled to see what the cast could deliver.  Unfortunately, my look inside the theater supported my previous doubts.  The stage was too small, there weren't enough entrances/exits, and the few set pieces they had made the stage look crowded.  I'm afraid that this was quite a hindrance to the cast during the entire show.  It couldn't be quite as big as the show called for.  My other production note is a critique of the costume designer.  The first thing one notices about the costumes is that they are a bit revealing.  A little tight here, a little low there, with a bit too much skin showing over here; all in all, it just makes the whole "highschool" thing even more uncomfortable.  Although this slightly disappointed me, I wasn't surprised.  The essence of the show often calls for that kind of costuming at least in some parts of the show (granted they used it more than I would've liked, but what are you going to do).  The thing that really disappointed me was how much they strayed from the standard.  There are many visual things about the show that are simply iconic!  Mark's scarf, Angel's "Santa" dress, Collin's trench coat, Maureen's catsuit, all of these are in every production of RENT I've ever seen pictures of.  All though they kept a few of these iconic costumes consistent, they skimped on many of them.  The biggest shock was the costume of Collins.  
Sad right?  I mean, how could you mess something like that up?  But, other than the costumes and the small stage, the production side of the show was pretty cool.  They had some neat video clips they played during the show (including live feeds from Mark's camera) and the lighting and sound board seemed to work fine.

The Ensemble:  Although the show rode on the backs of a few extremely talented leads (to be discussed later), the ensemble did their job.  They kept the energy high, and they successfully worked the little room that they had.  As a unit the cast seemed strong, and they helped to translate the power of the show.  Unfortunately, the orchestra couldn't quite live up to this power.  The small auditorium did not lend itself to the overstimulating mood of the show.  Even when the cast was belting up there with the best of them, the orchestra (a keyboard, guitar, and a drum-kit) couldn't rise to the occasion.  Although this was a bit disappointing and occasionally kept me from being completely engrossed in the show, the ensemble made it an enjoyable experience once I was.  Their big songs (particularly Seasons of Love, Rent, & Will I) were executed beautifully.

Specific Cast Members: In every show there are always a few actors who stand out.  If you have a good casting director, these actors/actresses tend to get the lead roles, but not always.  These are some of the highs and lows of RENT's casting director:

  • Marcus R. (Collins) - THIS GUY WAS THE BEST!  After reading his bio and seeing some of the things he had done (I almost saw him in a show a few years back) I was excited to see what he would bring, and he didn't dissapoint.  He was obviously strong from his first moment, but I wasn't in awe until I heard him sing Santa Fe (one of my favorite performances of the night).  I'll Cover You (reprise) was a little less powerful than the original (If you hear the song you'll realize no mere mortal can sing that song like the original guy did), but Marcus stuck to his strength and didn't leave his range, so it sounded controlled and sweet.  Although his powerhouse songs were practically flawless, I enjoyed watching him in his smaller songs even more.  Songs like La Vie Boheme and Finale A let him be a fantastic background actor.  His chemistry with the rest of the cast was heartwarming and I was just so excited every time he came on stage because I knew the show was about to be that much better.  He was definitely the most talented guy in the show and he's going on to do great things!  (good job casting director).
  • Sara G. (Mimi) - She needs to be mentioned.  I've actually seen Rent (school edition) twice, and both times the cast made my like Mimi.  I honestly don't like the character.  Her songs aren't as good as many of the other ones in the show, her costume is always among the most awkward of the cast, and I always go into the show not really expecting to like her bits of the show.  But, as it happens, she is possibly the closest thing to a female lead in the show, so every time they have someone insanely talented playing her; this case was no different.  She delivered the role with great energy and was possibly the most in tune with her character as anyone in the show.  Although I'm still not a big fan of her songs, I am a fan of Sara's performance, she was right for the role and it was done masterfully (casting director: 2 points).
  • Evan N. (Mark) - I love the character of Mark, and was pretty much just hoping that he wouldn't mess it up, and he did great!  He captured the essence of the character wonderfully, and his voice, though not amazing, certainly sufficed.  He always hit every note and nailed every line.  He also had some of the funniest body language, he was certainly able to draw a laugh from the audience on a couple of occasions.  Unfortunately, although Mark is the best character, he's not a particularly difficult one.  His songs aren't impossible to sing, so he generally doesn't blow anyone away. That's why, although no mistakes were made, he doesn't quite make the "amazing list".
  • Luna M. (Joanne) - I really liked her.  She was honestly one of the first performers to catch my eye.  I absolutely loved her (and Mark) in Tango Maureen.  That song was very possibly the best moment in the show; they delivered that so wonderfully, and found a way to make it their own.  Later in the show (in songs like La Vie Boheme & Take Me or Leave Me) she seemed to get kind of drowned out by some of the louder characters.  I was disappointed because I was hoping for more, but I suppose that's as much a staging fluke as an acting one, so it's not really all her fault.
  • Gil E. (Benny) - I liked this guy the first time I saw him.  Unfortunately, his role doesn't really showcase his talents all that much, he kind of had a very similar expression throughout the entire show.  That being said, he played this expression very well.  He didn't really capture your attention, but you felt genuinely content when the spotlight was on him and you thought to yourself "ahh, they're letting him sing...good for him, he's doing a good job".  I think that he probably should've had a bigger role, but there weren't really any in this particular show that would fit him (ok casting director...we'll call this one a draw).
  • Joe A. (Roger) - It's not really his fault.  Adam Pascal set an unbelievably high standard, and this guy just couldn't quite live up to it.  His voice was ok, but the role of Roger calls for a voice that has power.  He needs to be able to belt high notes and have emotion seep out of his body.  When I saw the show the last time with highschoolers, I felt like their Roger captured this better.  As I said, I couldn't do it either, but I felt like he just brought down some of the scenes he was in.  He was a good actor, and had good chemistry with Mimi, so if the singing wasn't too hard he did well, but his big songs (particularly One Song Glory) kind of left a lot to be desired.
  • Kristen E. (Maureen) - I suppose this is a matter of taste.  Her acting and singing were fantastic, I just didn't like her portrayal of the character.  She was far more more suggestive than I think the character called for.  It made her character seem shallow, and (as my sister said) "I kinda cringed when she came on stage".  Once again, this is not saying that she is a bad actor, just that she made (in my opinion) a bad choice.  Her Maureen wasn't as fun or deep as some of the others I've seen.  I've never been a huge fan of the character anyway, so it didn't bring down the show much, but I thought that this should be pointed out.
  • Jordan J. (Angel) - Once again, he had a pretty impossible job.  I was nervous from the very beginning, because he had an unusual body type for Angel.  He was a pretty buff guy.  All the angels I've ever seen have been toned: strong, but slender.  I think that was part of the reason he didn't really get into the character, but I think most of it is that it's just a really tough character.  You could always tell that he was a bit uncomfortable (as most people who play the role would be).  He only had one or two "moves" that he used in Today For You, so it seemed pretty repetitive.  He also kept tugging at his wig and stuff and just looked generally awkward a lot of the time.  Once again, that isn't completely his fault; he too had big shoes to follow because Wilson Heredia (the original Angel) was the sole member of the cast to win a Tony for their role.
  • There were a lot of ensemble roles that stood out too.  Katie W (Seasons of Love Soloist) was just fantastic!  Her voice was so strong, I really felt like she deserved a bigger role.  She just brought so much power to that song and to I'll Cover You (reprise).
  • Katie H. (Alexi Darling) - SHE WAS HYSTERICAL!  The role is funny anyway, but her facial expressions and singing were spot on.  She occasionally used different inflections than I would've chosen, but it didn't take away at all, she still did a superb job and I always smiled when she came on stage.
  • Evelyn I. (Mark's mom) - Another funny character.  She was a bit shaky when she did her first solo (Voicemail #1) but I think she hit her stride later on, and she quickly became one of my favorites.  She too made her role so much fun and she certainly needs to be commended.
  • Tara F. (She had several roles) - Tara was just a really good ensemble member.  She was a solo dancer in a few songs (One Song Glory, Tango Maureen etc.) and, since I know some dancers, I knew that what she was doing wasn't easy.  But even when she wasn't in the spotlight she was a great ensemble member who I looked for because I knew she would carry whatever role she had well.
Anyway, that's about it.  All in all I was impressed with the show.  As I said, I can't say I've ever seen a show I didn't like and this one was no different.  I certainly will now have ACT3 Productions on my radar, and hopefully will get to go see some more of their shows in the future.  If you want to see one of their coming shows here's a link: