Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chasse, Step, Chasse and Turn!

Photo courtesy of The Ordway
for Performing Arts Center 
On October 10th 2012, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts I was invited once again to participate in "Blogger Night" for the opening night of the touring broadway production "Billy Elliot: The Musical." This 10 time Tony Award winning musical, including Best Musical, features the story of a young boy who finds himself thrust into the world of ballet dancing accidentally during the day of his first boxing lesson. What makes the story extremely interesting is the historical events taking place at this time involving the UK Coal Miners strike which was a backdrop for the setting of the musical. "Billy Elliot: The Musical" was an energized musical with a sub-par score, brilliant choreography and real authenticity through out the show.

The music was catchy however I was expecting more to be honest. With a young actor as the lead of the show I was excepting some nice tenor falsetto solo's to be hundred percent honest. There was really only notable song that I feel stood out in my mind which was "Electricity" towards the end of the show, however I was mesmerized more by his impecable dancing. The more notable song (Shine) was right in the beginning for me which was sung by Mrs. Wilkinson (played by Janet Dickinson) as she teaches the very first ballet class Billy attends. Her voice and accent were perfect not to mention her comedic delivery. Her comedic relief through out the show was spot on 100% of the time. I would honestly say that Mrs. Wilkinson was by far the best singer the entire show had, however Billy Elliot's dancing stole the cake for that category. One small detail that I eventually got used to was the authenticity of their accents. Their cockney British accents were so thick it was hard to understand some of the dialogue as well as songs at times, however it was a minor issue that I got used to after the third or fourth song.

Photo courtesy of
The Ordway for the Performing Arts Center
The dancing was by far breathtaking. The range and diverse forms of dancing had me absolutely captivated. It was nice to see a switch of pace when it comes to the choreography. I am so used to seeing musicals with grapevines and jazz hands it was interesting to see a musical production that involved classically trained dancing including ballet as well as tap. The ballet was superb but what I enjoyed the most about it is how you saw it evolve through the show. You see Billy's skills in his dancing grow more and more through out the show as you see his skills improving. The ballet scene where Billy dances classical ballet with an older version of himself to "Swan Lake" was by far one of the most amazing things I've seen in quite some time. It was truly magical.

Overall I thought the show was very well done. The choreography really brought it up to standards that many may have. As I said earlier, the music (by Elton John) was sub-par but it got the job done. I enjoyed the show very much and I am seriously considering putting my children in dance after seeing how amazing it can be. Does this mean I get to be on the new Bravo show "Dance Dads" or not?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rouge your knees, roll your stockings down with a night in Chicago!

The cast of "Chicago" begins yet another national tour around the country. This tour was by far one of the fiercest things I've seen on a stage. The leading ladies were eye catching, showing a lot of leg, however that didn't keep the audience away from listening how amazing the voices were. The cast included Terra MacLeod as Velma Kelly (who has a long running resume with Chicago, starring in the Broadway & West End Companies to the French Premiere), Tracy Shayne as Roxie Hart (who joins straight from the current Broadway production) and even the award-winning actor John O'Hurley as Billy Flynn. These three leading personalities skill in singing, dancing and acting proved this show to be the perfect triple threat musical, some performing better than others.

John O'Hurley as the silver
tongued lawyer Billy Flynn
One of the first things I noticed and that all I could think of through the night was how after the Overture, the beginning couple of notes for "All that Jazz" began to play, I was amazed and stunned when Velma Kelly (MacLeod) emerged from a rising platform. She looked stunning as I began to clap for her....only to realize no one else was. However later in the show when John O'Hurley simply walked on stage the audience went nuts for him. I understand he is a star however this is a topic that has always gotten to me. The way people will be interested in a musical for one night just to see a big named star who to be honest didn't do as well as I'd hoped. He was absolutely nothing compared to the combined power of MacLeod and Shayne. I thought his dance moves were very...simple for someone who made it to the last round of "Dancing With the Stars."

Terra MacLeod as Velma Kelly
with the company dancing
to "All that Jazz"
Ann Reinking, choreographer of the original New York Production, does brilliantly with sexy and seductive choreography. The use of each actor and actresses hips, shoulders and fish net stocking legs make for a very crisp and precise combination of dance moves. I've seen a lot of shows ranging from The Ordway, The Guthrie, The Orpheum and even a handful of shows in New York on Broadway and never have I seen such amazing dance moves. You know a musical is great when you can't pick out that one weak dancer and let alone some of the strongest dancers were the male actors.

I was almost a little disappointed in the set design. It was a little too simple. The used down stage as a platform for the actors to use however upstage was a giant almost sandbox looking square that was set upright where the pit orchestra actually played. Sometimes the actors would even perform conversations with the conductor for their was a staircase leading up to the middle of the square. Always a favorite for us theatre lovers, breaking the fourth wall.

This national tour of Chicago was by far one of the best productions I've seen in a long time. I still can't get the catchy tunes out of my head as well as the fabulous dance moves. This musical will have you dancing all the way home and snapping all the way to Chicago.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fela! at the Ordway

FELA! is a musical about the life and times of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Fela was a Nigerian musician (jazz, funk and african rhythm and harmonies) as well as a political activist. The musical won three tony Awards in 2010 including Best Choreography. Upon first sitting down in the theatre and looking at the stage I could tell it was going to be good. The show began with a killer opening number with the lights and the music.

Sahr Ngaujah stars in FELA! at the Ordway.
Photo courtesy of The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
The music was interesting and had a combination of drums and a wonderful saxophone player. I was intrigued by this for not many musicals I had seen had ever featured a saxophone player. The musicians clearly knew what they were doing. I could not only hear the music but feel the music for they really knew how to play.

FELA! deserved their Tony Award for best choreography as the dancing was very authentic to it's African roots. The combination of colors from the lights as well as beat of the drums flowed through the entire theatre as each dancer swayed their bodies to their own beat. I was overall impressed with this new form of dancing, to me at least, in a musical. I was so used to "jazz-hands" typed musical dancing.

As I mentioned earlier, the authenticity of the music and costumes really brought the show to life. However sometimes the show was a little too alive. Many times Fela (played by Sahr Ngaujah) would address the audience with questions and jokes that I could hardly understand. The jokes were funny but it was the fact he had such a heavy authentic accent it was hard to understand. It didn't help either when half of the audience was shouting at cheering with him at parts that weren't even after a joke or song. They were just random whoots and hollers for Fela. As an actor myself I understand the need and possibility to break the fourth wall of the theatre and engage with your audience however I felt it was too much. At one point he even had the audience stand up and clap, shout and dance with him. I felt awkward. When I see a musical I want to sit, relax and be entertained. Not performing myself. That is the actors job. As an audience member I don't want to be dancing in the aisles.

Being a performer myself I really can appreciate talent when I see it and this whole cast had it. The dancing was spectacular and was down to every beat. Sometimes I felt as if they were improving their dancing the whole time. The music was authentic and full of energy. I was just very disappointed that the jumpy, sporadic and less than stellar plot line pulled me away from the stage. At point I literally had absolutely no idea what was going on. Besides the confusing story line, I found the show to be very enjoyable with an all star cast. It just wasn't my personal cup of tea.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Adam Lambert is "Trespassing" into my ears.

Adam Lambert released his sophomore album titled "Trespassing" on May 15th, 2012. I am a very big fan of Adam Lambert. Not just his music but him as a whole. I think he is a fantastic singer and performer. I have been a fan of him since he started his career many years ago.

For those who don't remember, Adam Lambert was the runner up in the 8th season of American Idol, losing to Kris Allen. Ironically enough Adam Lambert seems to be much more successful than Kris Allen.

As I write this review I have "Trespassing" playing in the background. When I first started listening to it, the title song "Trespassing" immediately had me tapping my foot to the beat as Lambert sings with charm yet extreme sex appeal in a rather fast paced song. The background beats and lyrics compliment Lambert's voice perfectly. He has such a unique voice that pulls you into every song he sings whether it's a fast paced dance beat or a slow ballad. For those who enjoy Lambert's high range, never fear there is plenty of that! He flawlessly flips his voice into his higher range as if it was second nature to him.

What I found extremely unique about the album is Lambert's cross between pop dance beats, similar to his debut album "For Your Entertainment", and disco. Yes. Disco. Some of the songs such as "Kickin It" have slight resemblance of disco in the background to it however still with a glam spin that only Lambert can do.

Overall I really enjoyed the album. His ballads are lovely and dance songs are extremely fun as I can't wait to actually dance to them with other people. The only complaint I have is that I wish the album was longer as well as the ratio to dance songs compared to the slower ones is a little higher on the side of slow songs that I like personally. Although his voice is very melodic I prefer to be up on my feet while listening to his music. Other than that, I loved it and I hope he comes to Minneapolis for this tour!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It’s Family First and Family Last: A Night with the Addams.

Imagine a typical 1950s family living in a perfect house in a perfect neighborhood. In this house lives a perfect mother who leaves a fresh baked apple pie on the window sill to cool off while a little boy feeds the dog before going out to play. Now imagine a large mansion in the middle of Central Park with a mother who rips off the heads of roses and asks her butler to put the stems in a vase while her son is busy feeding the monster that lives under his bed. This is where I spent my Tuesday night on May 8th, 2012. Welcome to a night with The Addams Family.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel, courtesy Ordway center for the Performing Arts
The premise of the show revolves around Wednesday Addams (Cortney Wolfson) growing up and falling in love with Lucas Beineke (Brian Justin Crum). She invites him and his family dinner with her family. As the lights went low and last minute audience members found their seats I began to smile as the orchestra started the “The Addams Family” theme song. Even the audience participated with nostalgic snapping until the theme song brilliantly transitioned into the overture. I began laughing again as the disembodied hand “The Thing” appeared to pull the curtain back to reveal a very tall gate with all of the Addams behind it while smoke trailed at their feet. It was amazing and eerie all at the same time. They looked fantastic and still held the same Addams Family look with Morticia’s (Sara Gettelfinger) low cut neckline (in which her cleavage upstaged multiple moments), Grandma’s (Pippa Pearthree) crazy personality and Gomez’s (Douglas Stills) infamous thin mustache.

It wasn’t until Wednesday sang her first song “Pulled” that I realized how extremely impressive the vocals sounded. She was on perfect pitch every time she opened her mouth. With every scene she was in I seemed to find myself entirely focused on her. The dry humor, killer belts and impressive dance moves had me...that is until Alice Beineke (Crista Moore) arrived on the scene. Her obsessive rhyming and bright yellow dress made her the top scene stealer of the show. During a hilarious dinner scene, she breaks out into “Waiting” a powerhouse solo song. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Her impressive belt had me on the edge of my seat the whole rest of the show, praying she’d do it again.

Overall “The Addams Family: The Musical” was quite delightful. The costumes were wonderful, the set was spectacular and the actors were phenomenal. My expectations were far exceeded with the entire cast. The score and book do a radiant job in keeping the same ghoulish atmosphere while still maintaining a musical type feel. All families, whether you’re “living, dead or undecided” should rush to see this show no matter how far away it is!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What is a blog?

blog /blôg/ Noun: A Web site on which an individual or group of users record opinions, information, etc. on a regular basis.

This is what a blog is. This is what I'm going to do. I've always wanted to blog. I have a tumblr (which the link to is on this blog) but that's more for picture sharing and the occasional rant. However I wanted to form a civilized blog where I can share my civilized educated opinion and reviews on subjects. First review will be in early May as I will be blogging for the Ordway Theatre here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I will be attending a performance of "The Addams Family: The Musical" and I'm extremely excited.