Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Luke's Reviews: Zombie Prom

I know this post is coming really late (I saw the show almost a month ago). I lost my program and couldn't finish the post as soon as I would've liked to, but my wonderful sister was kind enough to give me hers, so here is my belated blog post.

Before I talk about the production I actually saw, I'd like to take a moment and discuss the journey that Zombie Prom has taken me on.  I first discovered the show via my Jimmy Award craze.  NHSMTA posted a "best of video"(skip to 3:05) of the Rising Star Awards (New Jersey) and on it was this AMAZING kid singing "Blast From the Past" in what has to be the coolest zombie costume I've ever seen.  I was hooked by this kids voice so I went out in search of the show.  I found out that it was an Off-Broadway show that didn't do too well, but was liked enough to be made into a low budget short film a few years later.  Since then it has apparently been fairly popular among highschools and community theater groups around the world.  With a rep like that you'd expect that it would be easy to find videos and information on it.  Not so.  I searched to the ends of the internet but I couldn't find as much as a plot synopsis on this cult classic (albeit a tiny cult).  Last year, it looked as if my vain search would finally come to a close when I learned that a highschool a few hours (and by a few, I mean...like...five) from my house.   I talked it up a lot and got a whole group of friends to go and finally "the show that didn't exist".  Unfortunately, a spontaneous virus struck our little carpool and the theatrical field trip was cancelled.  I began to think that Thespis didn't want me to see the show at all!  Then, finally, fate smiled on me when I learned that Lassiter Highschool (which is only 15 minutes from my house) had chosen it for their winter musical.  I WAS SO EXCITED!!  I called up my friends (a few of which were in that original group) and we decided we were going to set out one Friday night to see the show....the only issue being, the show wasn't playing on Friday night, a little detail we didn't realize until we went to the school and were greeted by a rather confused and irritated janitor.  So I called up my friends to inform them that our excursion was once again postponed 'till a later date.  Then, finally, the next weekend, the day had finally arrived and I finally managed to see a production of:

The Show:
As it happens, Zombie Prom is really less about zombies than it is about Highschool.  The story follows a  high-school senior at Enrico Fermi High (anyone catch the reference?) named Toffee (all the girl students in the show are named after sweets) who is the stereotypical perky, poodle skirt clad preppy girl.  She unexpectedly falls for the town rebel, and when her family doesn't allow them to be together, (this is when things get just a tad unrealistic) he jumps into the vat of nuclear waste from the Power plant right next to the school.  But they story doesn't end there, because Toffee still needs a date to her senior prom.  Since she doesn't want to take anyone but her late boyfriend, he up and comes back from the dead (saved by the power of love) to take her.  The resurrected rebel now has to win back Toffee, stand up for zombie rights, and convince the principal of the school to allow him to attend his senior prom.  As you can expect, the show plays on overly campy stereotypes and is at it's best when the cheesiness scale explodes.  It's a nice, lighthearted, wonderfully ridiculous story about forbidden teenage love...and zombies.

The Production:
  • THE SET -- Actually, the set was one of the coolest parts of the show.  It consisted of two revolving staircases that also became a Nuclear power plant when the time came.  I'm a huge fan of levels and think they should be incorporated in every show possible.  I don't know that they utilized them as much as they could've, but I am glad they were there.
  • THE COSTUMES -- While the Zombie costume for Jonny wasn't as cool as the kid on the video, it was pretty well done and definitely very zombie-esc.  Apart from that the costumes were pretty standard, filled with Poodle Skirts and leather jackets.  However, in the midst of the slew of poodle skirt-clad young ladies, there were a few actresses who had other clothes from the same period.  This lack of conformity didn't take away, but it did get me curious as to how it came about.
  • CHOREOGRAPHY -- I'm not going to lie...it was pretty corny.  What it had going for it was the show is pretty corny, but still.  The best songs were the ones that didn't try to hard and maybe only had a few people on stage.  The bigger numbers (Johnny Don't Go comes to mind) were just way too forced and didn't make sense.
  • EVERYTHING ELSE -- The blocking of the show was pretty good, and the actual quality of the theater (stage, seating, sound, etc.) was actually really impressive.  It's a nice little place to do a show, not the best highschool stage I've seen, but certainly not the worst.  I also need to take this time to give a shout out to the coolest "bonus" of the show, which was what they did right after curtain call.  In what I expect to be the kids idea, the entire cast performed the line dance to Michael Jackson's THRILLER in it's full zombie awesomeness!  It was an excellent touch and the perfect way to end the show!!!
The Cast:

  • Cayla F. (Ms. Strict) -- Cayla probably had the most demanding role of the show, and really did a superb job.  Although she didn't quite have the vocal range to cover the entire role (I imagine few do, it's pretty broad), and this sometimes allowed her confidence to waver, when she was in her comfortable range she really shone.  Her acting was right on the mark and her character very believable.  She certainly carried several of the scenes she was in and was brilliantly casted.
  • Belle A. (Toffee) -- Belle was without a doubt the stand out performer of the show.  Her singing was excellent, her acting right on key, and her general energy and stage presence made her a theatrical force to be reckoned with.  Practically all of the shows strongest moments involved her and I was always excited to see her on stage.  Her bio indicated that she intended to graduate this year and pursue theater and I couldn't be happier for her, she definitely has some real talent and I can't wait for her to share it with the world.
  • Maxwell C. (Jonny Warner) -- Max (can I call you Max?) struggled a bit at the beginning of the show.  However, once he was fully zombie-a-fied and had gotten past his first major rock ballad (Blast From the Past) he really began to shine.  The love duet between him and Toffee (A Voice From the Ocean) was one of the best moments in the show and that was where you could really see his vocal chops flourish.  Although his diction was a little bit iffy on some of the faster songs (and he's got some doozies!) his performance was all together solid and he definitely deserved the role that he got.
  • Elliot B. (Eddie Flagrante) -- I had the pleasure of seeing Elliot perform in Act III's production of RENT: School Edition .  He did an excellent job in both shows, but I felt like his performance in this show was just a bit....small.  I mean, he wasn't bad, but he didn't open his mouth much when he sang, he tended to race through his lines, and his physical movements were not quite big enough.  Too be fair, the role he got was a tricky one (I'm not sure I could've done it justice) and he certainly did have his moments, but over all I just wish he would've let himself go more and played up the sleaze and smarm of the character a little more.
Supporting Cast:
  • Toffee's Posse --
    • Kelly L. and Bailey J. (Candy & Sandy) --I'm putting Kelly and Bailey together here because they are actually the same role.  Although in the original production the role of Sandy isn't supposed to exist, the director did a brilliant thing in splitting the role of Candy  (one of "Toffee's posse") into two twins who finished each other's sentences.  I can just about say that they were my favorite parts of the show because they were so in sync with each other and brought such a strong energy to the stage.  The best song of the show (Easy to Say) was sung by Toffee and her female chorus, including these two brilliant actresses.  All in all, they made most of my favorite moments of the show.  Congratulations ladies!
    • Hannah M. (Romona) -- Romona is one of the more "scandalous" roles in the show (at least as scandalous as a cheesy musical about highschool zombies in the 50's can be) and she did an excellent job.  She added a gritty aspect to the show that was definitely needed.
    • Elizabeth E. and Hannah M. (Coco & Ginger) -- Unfortunately one of the drawbacks of waiting this long to blog is it becomes harder to match names with faces.  I remember the two actresses who played Coco and Ginger, but I don't remember which name goes to which face. I do remember they both did a great job, and deserved to be congratulated.  I especially want to congratulate whichever one was the Alto of the group.  With this one exception (either Coco or Ginger), Toffee's squad was entirely comprised of soprano's and so this lone alto had her work cut out for her, but her voice was strong and she really played an important role in fleshing out many of their songs together and deserves to be commended.
  • Jonny's Boys --
    • Drew M. (Jake) -- I suppose Jake could be considered the leader of the gang (until Jonny shows up) and with that role comes (or should come) a confidence and swagger that just consumes the stage.  Drew seemed a bit reserved and uncomfortable (not uncommon for male highschool actors) which took away from that affect a bit.  However, there were moments in the show where he displayed the gravitas the role called for and at those times I was able to thoroughly enjoy his performance.
    • Stephen S. (Josh) -- My best description of this young man is SHOW STEALER!  With this I include the positive and negative implications.  When he was on stage, Stephen made sure that all eyes were on him.  Stephen was certainly hilarious and had a great sense of physical comedy that kept the audience in stitches the entire show (the ending prom scene was particularly side-splitting).  However as the show progressed, Stephen's scenery-chewing became a bit of a nuisance (like a joke you've heard too many times) and distracted from the story.  All in all he was still one of the funnest characters to watch, but it might have been good if the director had reigned him in on some of the more serious scenes.
    • Daniel H. (Joey) -- ...ok, I don't know exactly what to do with this guy.  He was.....welll....how shall I put this.  He vaguely reminded me of Roger Dupree [The Producers] at times .  Whether this was a character choice or just Daniel's personality I don't know, but it actually did a lot to define his character.
  • THE REST OF THE ENSEMBLE -- Everyone else did a pretty good job, they fell into a lot of traps of highschool theater (not singing loud enough, hugging the curtain, mumbling lines, etc.) but they did make for some really funny background moments (the "fierce" newspaper man and the boy dancing with a balloon come to mind).  All in all I wouldn't call the Ensemble great, but I suppose they weren't that bad compared to highschool standards.
As always, I had a fabulous night seeing Zombie Prom because of the delightful company I kept, and the fact that IT'S A MUSICAL!   Although it wasn't the best highschool production I've seen this year (sorry, Pebblebrook can't be beat), it was refreshing to see raw young talent simply doing a fun show and having fun with it.  I think I'll try to visit Lassiter Highschool shows more often (if they fix their scheduling issues) and I would suggest that my readers do the same if they get a chance.  Thank you for reading what very well might be my last blog post of the year (I might be persuaded to do a Christmas post...we'll see).  In case this is my last post of the year I want to thank you all for reading and hope you continue to do so.  Until next time...So long.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Once

As soon as we heard that Once was performing on the Parade, the first thing my sister said was: "I bet they do 'The North Strand' and 'Falling Slowly'".  Of course, I said that this was ridiculous seeing as the songs don't blend together at all and it'd make no sense out of nowhere.  Needless to say, as soon as the song started I sat humbly as my sister gloated relentlessly.  However, once I looked past my shame I really enjoyed the performance.  Those are two of my favorite songs in the show, and it was nice to see the ensemble do more together in "The North Strand".  I couldn't be more happy that this show is still running on Broadway with much of the original cast and doing really well (I think it recently broke, or at least neared a record for fastest recouping).  It's really a great show with some really great stars, so I wasn't at all surprised that they had a great performance.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Newsies

So every year I find out after the fact that on CBS, they air performances from long running Broadway shows that perform outside of the parade route.  Although I didn't have time to commentate (or watch) them as they were happening, I'd still like to include them.  The first of these performances was of the cast of Newsies performing, once again, King of New York.  The cool thing about this performance is that the first time they performed it was the "pre-Broadway" version.  When they made the jump to Broadway, changes were made and the dance break was lengthened by about a minute (which is awkward if you choreographed a dance to the Parade version and then the soundtrack comes out and you realize that you have to either completely change the dance or spend hours editing the music...not that I would know).  I must say though, I really enjoyed the new and improved performance.  The broom thing was a bit lame, but I loved the spoons dance and I just love that song in general.  I must say that I am so glad Newsies has done so well on Broadway (especially because it was never meant to even go).  There really hasn't been a "dreams come true" Cinderella story like Newsies in a long time on Broadway.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parde: Bring It On

This was the performance I was most excited to see because I am a big fan of the composers/lyricists (including Amanda Green [Hands on a Hardbody], Lin Manuel Miranda [In The Heights], and Tom Kitt [Next to Normal]).  The song lived up to my expectations, but not exactly proportions.  As I expected, the material was less than brilliant (it'd be pretty hard to make a musical about cheerleaders that great), but the music was stellar and the dancing wasn't bad.  I expected one of their bigger, more cheer-ish numbers instead of the relatively tame one they chose ("I Got You").  I do think that it was definitely the best vocals of the morning, with some really beautiful harmonies and some great notes hit.  From what I've heard of the Bring It On soundtrack, that's where it's strength lies.  I mean, the solo numbers aren't bad, but it'w when they all sing together in parts (something Lin Manuel Miranda is known for) when they really shine (don't believe me?  check out "It's All Happening").  All in all it's a good performance and, while I'm a bit sad they'll be closing at the end of the year, I think they had a good run and I imagine they'll be mentioned come Tony season.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Cinderella

Even though I hate Rogers and Hammerstein, I really like Laura Osnes [Tony Nominated for Bonnie & Clyde] and Santino Fontana [Who I know from his work on the web-series "Submissions Only"].  I actually loved this performance so much that I forgot it was Rogers & Hammerstein!  This was definitely the best performance so far.  Both of the leads were excellent.  And the songs, didn't sound modern, but did sound really natural and not near as over the top as R & H's shows tend to be.  The songs they performed ("Impossible, It's Possible", and "Ten Minutes Ago I Saw You") were fun, and relatively energetic.  It was definitely a great idea to let Cinderella do two songs (one in rags and one in a gown).  If the rest of the show is on par with this performance, then it might be on it's way to my favorite Rogers & Hammerstein show (which isn't saying a lot, but it's something).  I also think it's cool that Newsies started something, so they're now doing Parade performances of shows that haven't opened yet.  I hope they do this every year, because it's really cool to see these things before the Broadway stage does.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Annie

I wasn't particularly excited about seeing Annie perform because all the show clips that I saw were kind of lack luster ("they lacked.....luster").  However, I really enjoyed this performance.  They did something really smart in choosing a song that nobody's ever heard before (I would've been a bit disappointed if they went for "Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile").  Of course, I've loved Anthony Warlow ever since his work in Jekyll & Hyde, and I thought that he was really great it this.  He actually has a pretty cool story (he lost his hair from chemo, and he's been playing "daddy Warbucks" at regional theaters ever sense).  I thought the performance was good, The children's ensemble wasn't the best I've seen, but it was strong.  It was a bit weird having Hannigan and the rest of the villains come out of nowhere, but I guess it's worth trying to get as many people as possible in the Parade performance.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Nice Work If You Can Get It

"Nice Work" did something really smart in choosing what to perform "Lady Be Good" and "S'Wonderful".  They started with something really high energy and fast, but still found a way to include their star power (Mathew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara) which was probably their main selling point for the show.  The original dance was pretty good.  It wasn't amazing, I honestly think that Pebblebrook highschool could've done the dancing, but still it was well put together and it was certainly fun to watch.  Although I'm not really a fan of the show, I thought that this performance was stronger than their TONY performance, and for that I commend them.  Mathew didn't look as comfortable with the dancing as Kelli, but aside from that their duet was really nice and touching.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Elf

So since it went so well last year, I am once again participating in a live blog.  The first show to perform this year was Elf.  Now I was surprised because Elf performed last year, but this is a completely different cast, and possibly even re-imagined version.  So in many senses, it's kind of a different show.  If nothing else, the actor who played Buddy looked....well....different than he's supposed to.  Aside from that the cast looked strong enough.  As for the performance, the cast performed "The Story of Buddy The Elf".  It wasn't as good as last year's song "Sparklejollytwinklejingley", mostly because it was just kind of low energy.  I suppose they did a good job, and I probably shouldn't expect too much from a show like Elf, but it just seemed way to cliche.  I honestly don't know why the show came back to Broadway after it's year long hiatus, and I really don't know why they asked them to perform on the Parade instead of the other huge Christmas show this year "The Christmas Story".  So if it were me I wouldn't suggested a higher energy dance number, but I am glad they did a different song than last year.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Luke's Reviews: Oliver!

I was thrilled to see Oliver! not only because I love the music and wanted to see the show for myself, but also because I had heard lots of good things about the group performing it.  This production of Oliver! was not quite what I expected, it was different from the movie, but not necessarily in the normal way, the costume choices were abnormal, and the casting/acting also surprised me.  But all in all I thoroughly enjoyed Young Actors Playhouse's production of:
The Show:
I have loved Oliver! for a long time because of it's music and it's characters.  A principle reason for this is the character of Fagin.  Fagin is one of my favorite Broadway roles of all time (7th on my list, and one of the few that I could conceivably play someday) because of his playful spirit and witty songs.  I also love the fact that he is neither a hero or a villain  just a selfish third party (which always make for the best characters).  But even aside from Fagin's appeal, the show is good because it has solid music (with tons of classics) and tells one of the most beloved stories of all time: Oliver Twist.  What I've found is that I'm not a huge fan of Charles Dickens's books, but the musical adaptations (Drood, Oliver!, Tale of Two Cities, etc.) are actually pretty darn cool.  I'm actually surprised that this is my first time seeing it performed live because it's full ensemble and propensity towards young actors makes it a favorite for highschools and community theaters everywhere.

The Production Team:
As I said, I've been wanting to see a YAP show for a long time.  Ever since I missed their production of Godspell (possibly my biggest regret of 2012....seriously).   After several missed opportunities, I finally had the pleasure of seeing one of their shows and it was...well...different than I expected.  I'm not going to say that it surpassed my expectations, because those were already unfairly high, but when I think about it it didn't disappoint me either.  Allow me to explain:

THE SOUND--One trap I always fall into is I always over estimate the theater.  The place where their shows are performed is really a nice little theater and a ton of fun to perform on (I did The Wizard of Oz there YEARS ago) but the sound quality just isn't good.  This is of no fault to the group, but the music wasn't quite right at times (from what I can tell they had some sort of mixture of a recording and live orchestra), a couple mics malfunctioned (it can happen to anyone), and for some reason I wasn't able to fully engage because of the sound.

THE SET -- The set they constructed for Oliver! was really impressive with two levels and three entrances (not including the aisles and a little hole in the wall a kid scurried into once), but underused.  Despite the impressive set they had designed, they spent the entire show in the same place.  The upper level was only used maybe three times and only once did they work in the dynamic of having both levels going on at the same time (which is a shame because it could've made for a pretty cool "Who Will Buy").  To be perfectly honest, I get the feeling that they could've achieved a similar effect with a couple of flats and perhaps a small platform in the back.

THE COSTUMES: I must say that I didn't quite understand the costumes they used, but I think I liked them.  In this show they made some really cool, modern choices such as Dodger's almost ghetto look and Sykes's leather jacket, but then reverted to classic period costumes in Nancy's dress and Fagin's trench coat. For the most part, the ensemble leaned towards the modern feel and I liked that, I think it added.  I just wish they could've been a little bit more consistent.

EVERYTHING ELSE:--Everything else was pretty standard.  There really wasn't much creativity with the lighting, but I don't think they had much to work with.  The staging wasn't bad, but I feel like they missed a few key moments.  They failed to utilize the upper level or the aisles very much at all (once again, "Who Will Buy" could've been even more awesome!) but aside from that the blocking was solid.  I liked the choreography (when it was there) and they did a good job creating a crowd atmosphere without looking chaotic (which is harder than it looks).

The Cast


  • Theo B. (Oliver) -- Unlike the rest of the cast, Theo didn't have to worry about living up to the movie, for the poor kid they got to play Oliver in the movie was simply dreadful (I'm sorry, it had to be said). I definitely feel that this kid did much better, but I am beginning to realize how difficult the role is.  For one thing, Oliver has to sing some songs that are not in the range of the average adolescent boy (I've seen girls sing "Where is Love" at cabaret style performances and it honestly works better).  That being said, and this may have been a character choice, but Oliver never seemed to show much emotion.  I don't know that I saw him smile the whole show and he just seemed....to borrow a phrase from Miracle Max, "mostly dead".  His singing was fairly good, and he had a good voice for the role, but his face just didn't really show anything.
  • Anthony B. (Mr. Bumble) -- I'll give it to this guy, he did a pretty good job.  He took the role in a bit of a different direction than I was expecting (making him more of a thug than a bureaucrat) and that was a nice surprise.  His voice didn't blow me away at first (which, as I said  could be attributed to the sound quality of the theater), but he really did a nice job in "Boy For Sale" which is by no means an easy song.  I sometimes felt he could've used a little more variety of expression (he seemed vaguely angry almost all of the time).  But he is certainly a strong actor, he just made some character choices that I didn't quite follow.
  • James F. (Artful Dodger) -- I think I can go as far as to say that James was my favorite in this cast.  For one thing, his accent was spot on and never wavered.  He also really did have a good voice, great stage presence  and the kid wasn't a half bad dancer.  I honestly could've find a single thing wrong with James performance.  He had several wonderful moments (probably most notably in "I'd Do Anything"), and really carried the show in a sense.  Congratulations James, my cap is off to you (I'm just kidding...I'm not really wearing a cap).
  • Douglas B. (Fagin) -- Douglas, like most of the adults in the show, was attracted to the show because he was in it as a child (apparently as Dodger).  His passion for the role shone through in his performance, he played the part much like I would and I could tell that he has watched several other people play the role (as I have) and took bits and pieces from the best of them.  His singing wasn't spectacular and I might have chosen some different acting choices in "Reviewing the Situation" (only because I've run through that song a thousand times in my head), but aside from that every choice, and every movement was perfect.  But most importantly, I really felt his character shining through.  It was clear to me that he had a good sense of what the character was supposed to be and he pulled it off brilliantly.
  • Henley S. (Nancy) -- Henley really was excellent in this role.  For one thing, she made her long (in my opinion a bit too long) song, "As Long As He Needs Me" fully engaging and didn't lose my attention for a moment, which is quite a feat in itself.  Although her costume didn't really seem to fit the rest of the cast, her energy and her spirit fit right in.  She was really excellent in "I'd Do Anything" and seemed to have good chemistry with really everyone in the show.  She really did give a beautiful performance.
  • Jarrett H. (Bill Sykes) -- I suppose this wasn't his fault, but for some reason I just couldn't take Jarrett seriously in this role.  Perhaps it was his build (he wasn't a very big guy), perhaps it was his voice (deep and gravely it was not), or perhaps it was just because I was expecting something else, but I just wasn't intimidated at all in the way that Sykes is supposed to intimidate people.  As I said, it probably wasn't Jarrett's fault; he played ever evil cliche in the book.  Maybe that's why I didn't get it, he always had that evil scowl on his face that just seemed contrived.  To be fair, I don't know of a better way to play the role, but there should be a way without screaming every line and squinting the entire show.  I don't mean to knock the guy too much, he did have one of the toughest roles in the show, and his voice was pretty good, I just don't know that he was right for this particular part.
  • Chandler H. (Mr. Brownlow) -- Chandler had the unfortunate luck of being given a very significant role....that doesn't sing a note.  There are a few characters like this that sprinkle musical theater (The Constable from Fiddler On The Roof comes to mind) and they aren't bad characters, and they are crucial to the plot, but for those of us who learn about a musical from it's soundtrack, they aren't particularly memorable.  Chandler did well with this pure acting role, but unfortunately, he wasn't giving much to work with.  His character rarely changed expression and rarely showed an emotion other than concern.  In fact, he rarely stood up!  Now, I don't blame the blocking on the actor, he did seem to do well with what he was given, but the character just didn't leave much of an impression on me (good or bad) at all.
  • Emma L. (Charlie Bates) -- I can't tell you how impressed I am with young miss Emma.  She really embodied everything that Fagin's gang is supposed to be.  I'm glad that she was casted as Charlie because I know what it's like to be the one guy in the Ensemble who's really trying (not to demean the rest of them, they weren't bad, but they lacked Emma's enthusiasm) and I'm glad that she was rewarded for her efforts by having a stand-out role.  Charlie was a role that I didn't particularly expect to like, but ended up being one of the best in the show.  Brava Emma.
  • Matt J. (Mr. Sowerberry) -- I had the pleasure of seeing Matt in 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (as Chip Tolentino) and although he was good there, I felt that he was even better in this role (although it was somewhat smaller).  His physicality was fantastic and the confidence in which he carried himself whenever he was on stage was great.  His song (which I hadn't heard before) was hilarious (it would've been funnier if we could hear it better) and I found myself wishing his role was larger.  Congratulations Matt, you were excellent!
  • Virginia F. (Mrs. Sowerberry) -- Virginia did a good job with her role, but unfortunately she was a bit overshadowed by Matt's performance.  She was a bit reserved and quiet (especially compared to her "husband").  However, her voice was nice and, from reading her bio, I see that she was predominantly in this show to support her children and husband (who were also in the cast) and I think it was nice that the whole family decided to do the show together.
  • Gracie D. (Widow Corney) -- THIS GIRL WAS HILARIOUS   From the second she entered the stage I was laughing.  Her physicality in the way she stands, walks, and talks were so funny and so inspired.  She did have one scene in Act II that made absolutely no sense, but aside from that I really loved every scene she was in.  She really gave a great performance.
  • Caroline P. (Bet) - According to her bio this was Caroline's first real role in a musical, and I have to say, I couldn't tell.  All though I wouldn't say she "stole the show", she had a good stage presence, and looked fairly confident and in character.  Of course, her character is always on stage next to Nancy, Dodger and the like, so she was a bit overshadowed, but even through that I thought she did a very good job.
  • Daniel F. (Noah Claypole) & Amy C. (Charlotte) -- I'm putting these two together because that's how they usually appeared on stage, and their characters honestly serve the same purpose.  Nevertheless, as a pair, these two did kind of stand out.  Daniel had the accent mastered and he and Amy had a good chemistry and rhythm with each other that made their scenes really pop.  I also was really impressed with their (particularly Daniel's) physical comedy.  There was a brief scene towards the end of the show where, for no discernible reason, Daniel stumbled on stage completely drunk, with a girl on each arm, and then just walked right off.  While this snippet was completely purposeless, it looked like he was having fun with it and he did a fairly good job.
  • Townspeople -- I don't know how I feel about the townspeople ensemble.  I thought that there weren't enough of them seeing as songs like "Who Will Buy" didn't have near enough action going on stage.  But when act two began I saw how many Townsfolk there really were in "Oom Pah Pah" and the stage looked kind of cluttered.  Observances like this make me think that maybe the ensemble wasn't directed properly, but aside from that they were fairly average.  They all sang their songs and did their dances and, while they weren't without a flubbed lyric or missed dance step, they fleshed out the show pretty well.  The subsection of the Townspeople I'd like to discuss in more detail are the four who were featured in "Who Will Buy".  I will once again re-iterate: WHY WERE THEIR ONLY FOUR OF THEM!?!?!  If I'm correct that song is built to divide, if not perfectly, fairly reasonably into main vocal groups (Baritone, Alto, Messo, Soprano).  But only having one representative from each group (none of whom were miced) just sounded kind of weak and underwhelming.  Not that the singing wasn't good, there were some beautiful notes hit, but the power wasn't there.
  • Orphans -- For the orphans YAP did something that I don't agree with, but isn't uncommon.  The orphans were almost exclusively made up of very young children who were only in this one song.  Now, I'm all for giving the young ones their time in the spotlight, but not when the roles don't call for young actors.  Having Oliver be the oldest orphan is kind of backwards from the way I thought it was supposed to be.  I mean, I know directors love having little kids in their show because it pulls in grandparents, and the kids were having fun, so I'm not really upset, but it did take away from the story a bit.
  • Fagin's Gang -- I liked watching Fagin's gang because they were very symbolic of children's theater everywhere.  There were some who were really in character and completely devoted to their character, and others that were just their because their friends were.  All in all though, these kids were pretty impressive, they had to do some fairly complex choreography, and had to do a lot of "background acting" (no easy feat) and, on the whole, they did a very good job with this.
This is my first non-highschool or above show that I've seen in a long time, and so if I sound overly critical it's because perhaps I had unreal expectations.  However, I really did enjoy the show and I intend to go back to see several more of YAP's shows (they have a spectacular season coming up), and I would encourage you to do the same (Especially Legally Blonde, it's going to have some amazing choreography!).  In the mean time, stay tuned for my review of Lassiter Highschool's Zombie Prom and my live blogging on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (not necessarily in that order).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Luke's Reviews: Cabaret

I love Joel Grey, Alan Cumming, Bob Fosse, John Kander, and Fred Ebb, so by all accounts and purposes I should love Cabaret.  However, for some reason I don't.  Or at least I didn't.  But the production by Kennesaw State University that I saw a few nights ago made me see the show in an entirely new light, and breathed a life into it that I never knew it had.  Some of the content in the show was, as I expected, a bit risque for my tastes, and there was some unappreciated language.  But this is one of the few shows where I walked out thinking that every, "nasty" aspect was absolutely necessary.  The grit, the dirt, and the smut of the show was all absolutely necessary and absolutely powerful.  I always told people that Cabaret is interesting because the songs have nothing to do with the plot, I learned at this performance that that is not true at all (shame on you 1972 movie for disillusioning me so).  The songs were powerful, purposeful, and doggone catchy.  Not only that, but the performers were superb, the set was exciting, the costumes evocative, even the lighting was noticeably commendable. So I say bravo to Kennesaw State University and their mind-changing production of:

The Show
As I said before, I just didn't like Cabaret.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, the show is about life in Germany as Hitler was rising to power.  We see this troubled time through the eyes of, an American writer, a British lounge singer, a German Jew, a Nazi sympathizer, and a disturbingly perverted Emcee (among others).  This plot line is underscored by the songs sung in the Kit-Kat club, a popular haunt for those in Germany who love to party.  It was written by theater legends John Kander and Fred Ebb (Chicago, Curtains, & The Scottsboro Boys).  The original production of the show won 8 Tony Awards (including best score and best musical) and the 1998 revival won 4 more (Including best Revival and three of the four actor awards).  This revival also has the honor of being the third longest running revival in Broadway history (behind Oh! Calcutta and Chicago).  As for the cast they are mostly people who aren't too famous (with the exception of the 1972 movie in which the lead roles of Sally Bowles and Cliff Bradshaw were played by Hollywood stars Liza Minnelli and Micheal York) except for the role of the Emcee.  It seems just about everyone has played the Emcee at one time or another.  Joel Grey (Wicked, 2011 Revival of Anything Goes) who originated the role in a Tony Award winning performance, Alan Cumming (who was propelled to stardom with this role), "my buddy Raul" Esparza (Leap of Faith, Tick...Tick...Boom, 2006 Revival of Company), Adam Pascal (RENT, Aida), Norbert Leo Butz (Wicked, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Catch Me If You Can), Johnathan Price (Miss Saigon), Neil Patrick Harris (2004 Revival of Assassins, 2012 Revival of Company), John Stamos (known for his TV work on ER and Full House), and countless others have played the Emcee at one point or another.  After seeing the show I absolutely understand why, the role is so juicy and I also see why the show was such a success.

The Production Team:

  • SET DESIGN -- The set was actually really cool.  The stage was pretty much the set-up of the nightclub where most of the musical numbers took place.  There were tables on the stage (both for actors and audience members to sit in), a wooden stage (on top of the actual stage) and a spiral staircase leading to a balcony type thing where some members of the orchestra played.  But the coolest part of the set were the doors.  Behind this stage and below the scaffolding balcony, there were a series of doors that were hung from a track that they could slide on and off stage.  It's tough to describe, but it made the scene changes kind of exciting actually.  The set was really good for the cast size there was, nobody ever seemed cramped, and the staged didn't swallow up the actors when there were only a few of them on.  It was really one of the best, most inventive sets I've seen in a long time.
  • COSTUME DESIGN -- I was actually really impressed with the costumes.  The Kit-kat Girls' costumes weren't great (I wouldn't want my sister wearing one), but they weren't as bad as they really could have been.  The Emcees costume (or should I say, the 10-20 he had to wear throughout the show) was really cool and, what impressed me the most, not exactly like either of the Broadway productions.  Aside from those the costumes were mostly period, and nothing really noteworthy (except for the Gorilla suit...which was a nice touch).
  • LIGHTING DESIGN -- Usually the lighting is nothing too exciting, but in this production I really noticed it because it added to the scenes.  For one thing, the reddish tint that illuminated the stage during most of Sally's and Emcee's songs, helped to differentiate whether we were in the Kit-kat club or a small German apartment   I also loved that on the final beat of the show (If you've heard the finale you know it ends on a huge orchestration note) the entire stage was lit up as if no show was going on at all.  It was so great in showing how "the cabaret" was over and real life was going to have to start.  But by far the best lighting moment in the show was in the Act I finale.  I can't really describe it much, but the lights would flash at the audience and the entire ensemble would stomp in sync and it had this incredibly powerful, suspense-building building effect that left the entire audience enraptured.
  • EVERYTHING ELSE -- The other production elements of this show were good, but didn't necessarily stand out.  The choreography was good, but the songs and the setting don't really lend themselves to big dance numbers.  The blocking was also good, but the best blocking doesn't look like blocking at all, so it doesn't really stand out when you watch the show.  I should point out that one really good blocking choice was the curtain call.  The way it was staged, none of the actors smiled, waved, or looked at all happy to have taken part in the horror of the finale (if you've seen the finale of the show you'll know why).  It gave the audience time to reflect on the scene that just took place and was really a chilling effect.
The Cast:

  • Chase T. (Emcee) -- I loved this guy even before he opened his mouth.  The little slot in the door opened and we saw his eyes peeking out and I'm thinking "oooooooh, this could be awesome".  Then he began singing "Wilkomen" and I just wanted to stand up and applaud right there.  Every second he was on stage (whether he was in the spot light or not) made the show better.  His voice was spectacular, but it was his acting and his unbridled energy and courage on stage that was so amazing to watch.  Honestly, one of the best scenes in the entire show is when he simply sat on the darkened stage (with a spotlight around him) and listened to a little boy sing on a phonograph.  It was so beautiful, and so haunting watching his face and what this song meant to him.  Even the stark changes of his character from the absurdity of "If You Could See Her", to the passion of "I Don't Care Much", to the intensity of the "Finale" were just spellbinding.  After being blown away by his performance, I did some internet stalking (it's what I do) and found that he isn't currently a student at KSU (I think he was at one point, but I can't back that up).  He is officially a "professional actor" having done several professional shows including the National Tour of Shrek: The Musical.  But even with his success it appears he keeps coming back to KSU (which is why I think he may be an alumni) where he's played roles like Bobby Strong [Urinetown] and Edgar [Batboy].  I know that I will definitely make it to every KSU performance I can if it means I can see Chase in another show, the man is just wonderful!
  • Sarah P. (Sally Bowles) -- I had the pleasure of seeing Sarah in the Kerrigan and Lowdermilk concert I went to a few weeks ago, so I was really excited to see her in Cabaret.  Her voice was really good, her accent constant, and she played the part masterfully.  Of course her singing was spectacular (She finally made me like the song "Cabaret"), but my favorite moments were when she wasn't singing, just verbally sparing with Cliff.  She was quick with her lines and her physicality was excellent.  And I do need to mention her emotional performance of the song "Cabaret", it was so moving and one of the most powerful moments in the show.  Excellent job Sarah.
  • Russell M. (Cliff Bradshaw) -- The role of Cliff is interesting because it's one of the smallest leading men roles I've ever seen.  He only sings one song (and a reprise towards the end), but the entire plot-line of the story focuses around him.  So I can't really say much for his singing or dancing talents, but his acting was great.  He knew when to be awkward and when to explode with emotion.  The scene where he calls out Sally in the Kit-Kat club (despite having the worst language of the show) was really strong and left the audience a bit in awe.  And then there's that line.  At the end of the show he delivers this line that encompasses the entire show (unfortunately I can't find it in it's entirety on the internet and I would hate to misquote it, but if you've seen the show then you know what I'm talking about).  Anyway, he delivered this line superbly, with just the right bewildered and tired expression that left you feeling sorry for him, and the rest of Germany.
  • Barbara G. (Fraulein Schneider) -- I had seen Barbara in the Kerrigan and Lowdermilk masterclass, but I think she was much stronger here.  She has a good belting voice, and you can really see the emotion in her face.  Unfortunately, I felt like some of her songs kind of drug on.  I think this is likely the writing instead of the acting, for she did a great job, but her songs were a bit repetitive and I found myself getting a bit bored.  Her singing was great, and her plot line was one of my favorites, but I just don't have too many good things to say about her simply because of her character.
  • Terry P. (Herr Schultz) -- Terry did an excellent job in this role, but I don't know that it fit him exactly.  For one thing, his accent was the only one that I could hear slip now and then (for the most part everyone's accents were really impressive), and his voice, while spectacular, didn't really seem to fit his character.  I almost felt that he was too good a singer, or at least too polished.  Visually, he played the role great.  His walk, his face, and they way he carried himself was excellent, and I really enjoyed his performance, I just felt like he has more talent than this role allowed him to display.
  • Caleb M. (Ernst Ludwig) -- I'm going to be honest, Caleb was one of my favorites in the show.  For one thing, his accent was the best, never for a moment did it slip.  But what I liked about him was how comfortable he was, he was given a bit of an intense character that many people (myself included) would be inclined to overact.  But Caleb just kept this joyful subtlety the entire show.  None of his lines were forced and when the time came for him to be intense, it made the contrast even more affecting.
  • Avery R. (Fraulein Kost) -- For the longest time I couldn't figure out why this character was in the show at all, but now I think I understand.  Kost really encompasses where Sally is going, and where she could end up if she isn't careful.  Kost isn't a villain in the show, but a solemn reminder.  With that in mind I really enjoyed Avery's portrayal of the character.  Her singing was honestly underused.  She had a really beautiful soprano voice, which unfortunately isn't demanded very highly in this show.  But her one song (which I think was almost entirely in German, that or she has horrible diction :P) was beautifully sung.  Although she wasn't really crucial to the story, she made a possibly forgettable role stand out.  Congratulations Avery.
  • The Kit-Kat Girls don't really have much individuality or characters in the show, but they sing the songs that carry the plot.  I would like to point out that all of these girls were excellent.  I love the fact that before the show even started they were mingling (in character) with a few members of the audience as they would random patrons at their club.  During the actual performance they were solid.  I feel like the dancing was probably their most impressive feat ("Mein Herr" must have been very uncomfortable physically).  They also did really well (WAY better than I would've done) at being comfortable on stage.  I'm sure at least a few of them had to get used to the kinds of things they had to do, but they didn't look the least bit uncomfortable (the same cannot be said for the audience at certain parts).
  • The Kit-Kat Boys -- I have great respect for these guys.  I mean, guys get made fun of for being in the theater anyway, and when you're forced to roles like these it doesn't help that.  They did look a bit uncomfortable at times, but that is absolutely understandable.  I actually saw one of them walking around campus the other day and considered saying hi but figured it might be a bit embarrassing, but, in case he's reading this, "Hi Logan V.  Excellent job!"
I once had someone tell me that the first show they ever saw on Broadway was Cabaret (when she were 5!) and it was her favorite show to this day.  I thought she was insane.  I didn't see how anyone, especially a child, could appreciate, much less enjoy the grit and sleaze that I thought made up the entire show.  Now I understand.  I can't quite say that it's my favorite, but I now have a great respect for Cabaret and I would certainly see it again if another group decides to put it on.  KSU's cast was able to take a show that I actively disliked and made every line, and every lyric so new and different than I thought they were.  I've never had a single performance change my opinion of a show so much, so a massive BRAVO to KSU's company of Cabaret!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The 2012 Jimmy Awards

Have you ever been waiting for a package to come? You are so excited to get it that you check the mail every day and constantly imagine how happy you'll be when it finally arrives. Of course, it seems like you've been waiting forever after only a few days. Then you realize, you have been waiting forever, or practically. What was supposed to happen in a week becomes two weeks, then a month, then two months. Eventually you tell yourself that it's not coming. Regardless of whether or not you believe it, that's what you have to tell yourself to stay sane. THEN IT COMES!!!!!!

Yeah, this has never happened to me.

But I did experience something similar with this year's Jimmy Award Videos. For those of you who don't know what the Jimmy Awards are, you can read about it in some detail in the blog I did last year or the nhsmta website, but for now let's just say that it's like the Tony Awards for Highschool. I have been avidly following the Jimmy's since they began in 2009 and I have loved watching how it has grown. As a symbol of this growth this year, PBS did a 3 episode mini-series on the journey these 60 highschoolers took entitled Broadway Or Bust (this is why they delayed posting the videos to Youtube). The kids who are chosen to participate get to train with professionals for 5 days and then get to perform on the 6th day at the Minskoff Theatre (where The Lion King usually performs). These are some of the videos from that performance and my thoughts on the contestants.

The Medleys

Frequent readers will know that the medleys are my favorite part of the Jimmy Awards. In these medleys, each actor/actress sings a clip from the show that (s)he won for. This is also my favorite way to learn about new shows. It was the Jimmy medleys that introduced me to shows like Les Miserables, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Jane Eyre, John & Jen, and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Here are the medleys of 2012:

Right off of the bat I think this is my favorite medley.  I loved the humor they threw into it (I almost died at "Phantom shadows on the floor").  This medley also had some of my favorite performers out of all of the students.  I think my favorites in this medley were Mr. Hyde [Jekyll & Hyde](I sing that song all the time, so I know how hard it is...he's better at it than I am) and Harold Hill [The Music Man].  Both of them had great stage presence and really impressive voices.  I have also been a fan of Marius [Les Miserables] and Seymour [Little Shop Of Horrors] from their regional videos, but I felt their medley performances weren't as amazing as their videos.  I also want to congratulate the Phantoms [The Phantom of the Opera], they were really great, and any higschooler who can take on a role such as The Phantom is already amazing in my book!


This was the girl Medley I was most excited about seeing because it had characters from shows that I feel are underrepresented in highschools (such as Parade), actresses who were featured in "Broadway Or Bust" (such as the girl who played Celie), and a female Jesus [Godspell] (which was intriguing to say the least).  I must say, these girls didn't disappoint.   It starts off with a couple of Belle's (probably the second most represented character at the Jimmy's, second only to Millie Dillmount) singing a song that ISN'T "Home" (I was really excited to see that).  Another thing that makes this medley unique is that it has characters that could be considered supporting actresses.  Cinderella [Into the Woods] and Lilly Craven [The Secret Garden] both come from shows who have very defined leading ladies...and these aren't them.  This entire group were all really good.  Even actresses that didn't really impress me in their regional videos  (like Maria) did a really good job.  I think my favorites were Dorothy [The Wizard of Oz], and Celie [The Color Purple].  Of course I loved all of them, but these were the two who I felt really stood out in this video.

Technically I'd have to say this is my least favorite of the guy medleys, which is a testament to how great they all are!  These guys really did a great job and you could tell that each and every one of them deserved to be here.  This was mostly the "straight man" Medley (as is evidenced by the "incredible variety" in costumes), but even so it had some great moments.  There were some actors (such as Albert [Bye Bye Birdie] and Don Lockwood [Singin' In The Rain]) who surprised me with how good they were because I wasn't too impressed with their regional videos.  I also really enjoyed the first Jimmy [Thoroughly Modern Millie] (who was a favorite since his regional video) and Cornelius Hackle [Hello Dolly!].  But even these were hard to single out because the entire cast of this Medley is just so talented   I also have to mention the transition between "Singing in the Rain" and "Put on a Happy Face"...BRILLIANT!


This is probably my favorite Medley of the girls.  I love the variety of characters (it's nice to have a few who don't just sing love songs) and all of these actresses are so talented!  The second best actress in this medley was, in my opinion, Elle Woods [Legally Blonde].  Although I'm not loving the song choice for this medley (which wasn't in her control), she did a great job performing and singing it, and I could see the rest of her range from the Broadway or Bust clips so I know she had the chops to pull off the rest of the character's songs.  My favorite girl in this medley was the phenomenal young lady playing Mrs. Lovett [Sweeney Todd].  I wish I had a video of this girl I could show to all actresses attempting this role (including Helena Bonham Carter) as the epitome of perfection.  I have literally never seen anyone come so close to Angella Lansbury's legendary performance of this role.  Even when she wasn't in the spotlight you could kind of see Mrs. Lovett peeking through the ensemble.  I give honorable mention to Polly Barker [Crazy for You] for her outstanding confidence and stage presence  and Timoune [Once On This Island], because once she found her voice she did really well.

I really like this medley even though it didn't have a lot of original characters.  I mean, you can close your eyes and point to a highschool and chances are they are doing Hairspray, or Les Miserables, or Pippin.  Even shows that don't get a whole lot of highschool action (such as Phantom of the Opera or Ragtime) are well known to practically everyone in the theatrical community.  This Medley also follows the times representing the shows that have suddenly risen in popularity in the past few years (such as Crazy for You and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).  However, even through it's common characters, this medley shone brightly.  I feel I ought to point out that two of the three male finalists (The young men who played Raul [The Phantom of the Opera] and William Barfee [25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee]) were singing in this medley.  But mostly, there are just no bad singers in this entire competition.  I think my favorites were probably Raul (that voice...so pure!) and Pippin [Pippin].  Close second goes to Barfee and Freddy Benson [Dirty Rotten Scoundrels], but even those are close.  All of these guys are totally awesome!


I almost wish there was a medley that I didn't like.  I feel so repetitive saying they were all amazing but it's really true.  What set this apart is that it has two of my female picks to win it all  (from their regional videos): The young women who played Lola [D*** Yankees] and Rosemary Pinkleton [How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying].  Of course they were far from the only talented young ladies apart.  I thought that Adelaide [Guys and Dolls] was pretty perfect, Gertrude [Seussical: The Musical] did an excellent job, and I really liked the first Princess Winifred [Once Upon a Mattress].  There is just no shortage of incredible talent filling this stage!  It honestly gives me hope in the future of Broadway.

And that does it for the medleys.  All of these kids were so superb I was practically besides myself.  This is the first year when I don't have a clear favorite because they were all so fantastic!  If I had to give the award to one actor and actress from these videos alone, I would probably give them to Michael Ferlita (who was the spectacular Mr. Hyde) and Brooke Tate (the hilarious Mrs. Lovett).  Of course neither of them even made the final six...so that's my theater talent scout skills for ya.  So you may be asking yourself, which six did make it?  Well, I'll show you in this next segment:

The Solos

Let's start with the young ladies:

This is Erica Durham (she was the second Aida [Aida] in Medley #4) singing "Sal Tlay Ka Siti"  from The Book of Mormon.  Although her medley didn't impress me too much, she did a good enough job in her solo.  The song choice was good for her and made me laugh once I got it (the title had to be explained to me.  For those of you out there who are as slow as me: "Salt Lake City").  I don't know that she belonged in the top three, but she didn't do particularly bad.

This is Nicolette Burton (who played Kathrine [Kiss Me Kate] in the sixth Medley) singing "Maybe I Like It This Way" from Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party.  Actually I was particularly unimpressed with her medley performance because she had such a great song but she completely sped through the funny moments and didn't play it to it's potential.  That being said, I see why the judges put her in the final three; her solo is really powerful and there is no question that she has a KILLER voice!

This is the 2012 Jimmy Award Winner for Best Actress Elizabeth Romero (who was Lola [D*** Yankees] in Medley #6) singing "Disneyland" from Smile.  I would like to start by saying: "I TOTALLY CALLED THIS ONE!!!"  As soon as I saw her video I knew Elizabeth was going to win!  Of course, I knew some background information.  Her highschool is possibly the most talented group of people on the planet outside of Broadway.  They have had at least one representative at EVERY JIMMY AWARDS EVER!  Elizabeth is the second of her school (and the first girl) to win the entire competition.  And she deserved it.  Her song choice was brilliant and did an excellent job merging her inspired acting choices with a truly impressive voice.  Brava Elizabeth!

And now for our extraordinary gentlemen:

This is Drew Shafranek (who played Harold Hill [The Music Man] in Medley #1) singing "Before The Summer Ends" from Dracula: The Musical.  Drew wins (or at least ties with Elizabeth) on the most obscure song of the finals.  Very, very few people know of Frank Wildhorn's adaptation of "Dracula", mostly because this song is one of the three good ones of the entire show.  I give props to Drew for knowing the song, and even more for singing it so well.  I mean, the emotion behind this guys voice is breathtaking, and his vocal talent is pretty mind blowing as well.  This guys charismatic medley performance coupled with this stirring solo adds up to a stellar combination.  I'm honestly a bit surprised he didn't win and I hope and expect to see him starring on Broadway before long.

This is Evan Greenburg (who portrayed William Barfee [25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee] in Medley #5) singing "Master of the House" from Les Miserables.  Evan was my favorite during "Broadway Or Bust" because, not only was he from my home state, but I also really related to him on a lot of levels.  I was really excited to see him chosen as a finalist and I think he performed his song brilliantly.  I don't think he ever really had a chance to win (I'm honestly not sure how he made it to the finals, but I'm glad he did), because, let's be honest, his voice doesn't blow you away.  However, his acting is indeed phenomenal and he took a song that we have all heard a hundred times and added his own tricks to it that made me laugh every time.  Well done Evan, well done!

This is the 2012 Jimmy Award Winner for Best Actor Joshua Grosso (who was Raul [The Phantom of the Opera] in Medley #5) singing "Il Mundo Era Vuoto" from The Light In The Piazza.  I'll be honest, I wish he would've chosen a song in English.  I mean, the singing was spectacular, but it would've been nice to understand what he was saying.  Of course, song choice aside, this kid is freaking amazing!!!!  I mean, I was honestly a bit shocked that he was so down on himself during his "Broadway or Bust" interviews because it was pretty clear from the first episode that he had a spectacular voice!  He gave a solid performance in his medley and then this, even though I couldn't understand it, was really a work of art.  Color me impressed Joshua (with your talent, not your song choice).

And.....everything else

Although I don't think they're near as interesting as the medleys or solos, I thought I should include the other recorded performances of the night.  First I will show you the opening number. This is the first thing the kids get to work on when they get to New York (I think it's good to try to make them a group before they remember that it's a competition).  What they do here is really a cool idea.  Thy make a giant mash-up of shows currently running on Broadway, including long running shows like Lion King and Wicked, and the new shows like Newsies and Evita.  They highlight a few people to sing solos and it's a really cool bonding number for them all.

The closing song is just about as cool.  This song usually includes a few more soloists than the opening and is more based off of a single song.  The songs have ranged from well known ("Good Riddance" [American Idiot] ) to obscure ("I Am My Own Invention" [Wonderland]).  If there was a moment for everyone to start crying, it would be this closing number.  It really ends the night off as it should.  This year they chose to focus it around "Here Right Now", the show stopping number from Ghost.


And thus ends my 2012 Jimmy Award Post.  I'm sorry it was so late, but as I said, it wasn't completely my fault.  If you liked what you saw here then I would encourage you to read my post on last years Jimmy's, check out the Broadway or Bust website (where you can watch the whole thing), and look at NHSMTA's Youtube channel (especially the medleys and solos over the years).  Make sure to vote in the poll and leave comments, I will read them.  Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kerrigan & Lowdermilk

Some of the greatest composers and lyricist of our time have not yet hit the great white way, but that doesn't mean they aren't spectacular.  There are so many amazing artists out there who don't actually have a Broadway show under their belts.  One such song-writing team is Brian Lowdermilk (composer) and Kait Kerrigan (lyricist).  I had the extreme pleasure of seeing them in concert the other day.  I  actually got to talk with them after the show!!!!  I was so excited!  It was my second actual encounter with someone I've stalked on Youtube (the first being Colin Hanlon when he did Wicked at the Fox).  But I digress.  They were brilliant in concert and it just reminded me how much I love their music!  So I thought I'd introduce some of the greatest songs you've never heard to those of you who haven't had the pleasure of discovering Kerrigan & Lowdermilk's brilliance.  I'll try to keep this list relatively short, but if you like what you hear in this post I'd recommend checking out their Youtube account for more.

*since I know I have several young readers of this blog, each video will come with a brief disclaimer on the content.  If you have any questions to how "bad" a song is, I'd be happy to answer.

One of the things that Kerrigan and Lowdermilk excel at is capturing the spirit of the young adult.  This is evident in several of their shows, but is most prominent in Tales From The Bad Years a song cycle about those "20-something" years.

I'm not going to lie, I LOVE THIS SONG!  This might be my favorite song that they wrote!  I'm not even in the age range their describing yet but I relate to the song so much!  Since the first time I heard it, I began just waiting for my friends to turn 20 so that I could show them this song and let them experience it's brilliance.  What makes it even better is two of my Youtube obsessions combine.  The group singing this (and one other song here) is one of my favorite highschools: the kids at Newton North (they're in Massachusetts...where I've never been and I know absolutely nobody.....is that creepy?). Enjoy!

Someone Else's Life
This is definitely one of the best male solo's that Kerrigan and Lowdermilk have written.  It honestly reminds me a lot of "Monticello" by Pasek and Paul (a group you may get to hear about in a future post).  It conveys this wonderful message about wanting to move on to do something important in life, while being hilarious in it's own way.  Steven Booth [Dogfight, Glory Days] sings this version (ironically the same guy who sung "Monticello") and he is pretty fantastic.

Not Her Way
This song is also pretty brilliant.  It has it's funny moments and has some crazy amazing vocals by the spectacular Kate Shindle [Legally Blonde, Wonderland].  It's probably my favorite female solo from this show.  I suggest this to a lot of strong belters for auditions because it's such a great powerhouse song.

For the sake of keeping this post "relatively" short, that's all the videos I'm going to post.  But I would highly suggest you listen to "The Bad Years" (completely clean), "Not A Love Story" (completely clean), and "The Thanksgiving Plan" (very brief, medium language).  The whole show is really good, but these are my favorites

I was actually introduced to this show even before I knew who Kerrigan and Lowdermilk were.  The very first winner of the Jimmy Awards, Steven Mark (who you'll see in just a minute), performed a song from this show as his solo and it was breath-taking.  Although it isn't my favorite of their shows (mostly because of how great Tales From The Bad Years is), it is the one with what is probably their best songs.  The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown is about (big surprise) a girl named Samantha Brown.  From what I can tell she's a highschool senior who decided one day that she was going to drive.  She goes on a journey of self discovery and I think has several flashbacks (most of which I think relates to her car).

I really, really love this song (It makes my top 5 female duets).  Samantha remembers the time when her best friend Kelly went on a road trip with her.  It's a fun song about living life to the fullest and throwing caution to the wind.  It also features some of the incredibly talented students from Newton North singing with voices beyond their years.

Run Away With Me
My goodness.  This is a song that will take your breath away.  This is probably Kerrigan and Lowdermilk's most popular song (for good reason).  Everybody loves this song and for that reason there are SO MANY amazing versions of this song on Youtube.  Aaron Tveit [Next To Normal, Catch Me If You Can] has a brilliant version, Josh Young [Jesus Christ Superstar (2012 Revival) had a cool take on it, and Micheal Arden [Big River (2003 Revival)] also has a really great version, which can be found on Itunes.  But the first, and very possibly my favorite, version I've heard is by Jimmy Award Winner Steven Mark.  But whichever version you hear, the song is beautiful and awfully romantic.

The Girl Who Drove Away
This is a song that I had never bothered to listen to until the concert the other night, but for me it was one of the highlights of the evening.  This is probably my favorite female solo in the show, it's a wonderful opening of the show.  Once again it shows how good Kerrigan and Lowdermilk are at connecting with this age range and tapping into that raw energy mixed with indecision.  At the concert Kait Kerrigan herself gifted us with her performance of the song, but the best one I could find on Youtube is sung with excellence by Tony Nominee Laura Osnes [Bonnie & Clyde, Cinderella (2013 Revival)].

Once again I'm not going to post anymore videos of this for sake of time.  But I encourage you to listen to Laura sing "Say The Word" (clean) and perhaps watch some of the video clips from the Goodspeed production of "Samantha Brown" (there's actually a good bit of language in some of these).

The thing I'm finding about young artists like these is they have a bounty of songs that don't necessarily belong to any one completed show.  They have a few shows in progress or songs cut from shows that don't really fit neatly into any one category.  So these are there "miscellaneous treasures" that I'm sure you'll enjoy.

My Party Dress
This song comes from an adaptation they did of the children's book series Henry And Mudge.  Those who know me know that I don't bother to read books that aren't scripts, but my sister assures me that the book was quite good.  This song is sung neither by Henry, nor Mudge, but by Henry's self-absorbed cousin who comes to visit.  The song is absolutely hilarious and it's a joy to see actresses unleash their inner 4 year old to pull the song out.  Of course, nobody plays a better little girl than the impeccably adorable Celia Keenan-Bolger [25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Peter and the Starcatcher].  Here is her hilarious interpretation of the song:

I almost feel bad for liking this song as much as I do because the content of it is....PG-13 at best.  BUT IT IS SO FUNNY!  I always kind of imagined it from Tales From The Bad Years (It certainly isn't from Henry & Mudge) but from what I decipher from the website it was written without a show in mind.  As one Youtube comment describes it: "it's like a male version of Freedom, only more comedic".  This is a song about two guys who decide to go driving down to Las Vegas and the wild things that happen to them....or do they?  Regardless of the show, this song is pretty dang hilarious!

To be perfectly honest, I might just like the people who sing this song more than the song itself.  I found the song as Kate Shindle (mentioned above) sang it and I was blown away.  More recently I found a video of Lindsey Mendez [Godspell (2011 Revival), Dogfight] singing the song and it is, again, SO EPIC!  But regardless, it's a really powerful song.    Although I might like Kate Shindle's version better, I feel like Lindsey Mendez tells the story better (I never really listened to the lyrics until I heard her sing it), so that's the one I'm posting.  But I would encourage you all to listen to Kate Shindle sing it too.


By now hopefully you are as astounded by these two young song writers as I am.  To be perfectly honest, I am excited about where theater is going and excited that new ORIGINAL works are being done (not that I don't love a good movie adaptation....but I like the freshness of a new plot).  I'm really excited about seeing them become ridiculously famous and counting myself as one of their earliest groupies (and then the autograph I got will be worth a ton!).  What I loved about the concert the most, and why I would recommend going to see them to anyone, is the chemistry between the two of them.  They just look like they have so much fun on stage and I wish I could just hang out with them all the time (they'd honestly make a fun reality show....I'd watch).  I am confident that the future of theater is safe in the hands of Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk.  And now, I'm going to leave you in the same way they end all of their concerts.  The finale song to Tales From The Bad Years is this beautiful number called "Holding On" in which they taught us (the audience) how to sing the chorus and the entire theater resounded at the end.  And yes, those three lines are still stuck in my head.