Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Phantom of Minneapolis (A New Production!)

It's been awhile since I've seen a production at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. I finally returned to that lovely theatre on Tuesday, December 17th and saw an absolutely stunning new production of "The Phantom of the Opera" by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I've seen this movie multiple times however never have I seen a live stage production of it. This new production by Cameron Mackintosh (following the sold-out tour in the U.K.) includes brilliant new scenic designs by Paul Brown including the show's legendary and iconic chandelier.

The set and costumes for this show were one of the best I've ever seen. Upon walking into the theatre, I was entranced by the stage. Unlike many other shows, there was a small set already constructed with the famous chandelier hanging above the pit, covered with a tarp. While the cast sang one of my favorite songs from the musical, Masquerade, the set transformed into a incredibly beautiful ballroom. There were multiple mirrors upstage of the set. These mirrors truly made this set come to life. It added depth to the scene in a sense of it made it look larger than it really was. It looked like there were a lot more actors on stage then there actually was.

One thing that performers are consistently trying to do is make the audience truly believe that what they see on stage is actually happening. We get the audience to believe they are no longer in modern time but actually in 19th century Paris. Very rarely do I see a performance where I'm so engulfed in the production that I actually forget where I am. This musical did that. I was so entranced by the actors performances, I completely cut out everything else that was going on. These actors did an unbelievable job with this music as well. I've never had the pleasure of performing Andrew Lloyd Webber myself however I've heard it's fairly difficult. There were multiple songs where actors were singing different melodies and harmonies compared to what other actors were singing. The layering of these songs is incredible and very well executed. It was stunning.

The Phantom of the Opera will be playing at the Orpheum Theatre through January 5th, 2014. Student/Educator Rush tickets are available for all performances.

Orpheum Theatre 
910 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Ticket Office: 800.982.2787
Hennepin Theatre Trust

Be sure to follow Hennepin Theatre Trust on all their social media accounts as well!
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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Toto, Ruby Slippers and a Witch at the Ordway (Oh My!)

The timeless tale of The Wizard of Oz had their opening night of their new production by Tony, Grammy and Oscar winner Andrew Lloyd Webber (Phantom of the Opera) on December 4th at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in St. Paul. This was a fun production for the family and all ages. Upon walking into the lobby of the Ordway I noticed instantly a little girl who was wearing the iconic red slippers, braided pigtails and of course the farm girl blue checkered dress. I must applaud to whoever designed the lobby of the Ordway for this production. There was a set up in the lobby of what was an upside down Christmas tree complete with decorations and a small house with the Wicked Witch of the East's recognizable stripped socks and red ruby slippers. Upon further examination of the tree, it was discovered that the tree was upside to replicate the tornado that appears in the show. How creative!

Danielle Wade as Dorothy
Photo Credit: Cylla Von Tiedemann
Now for the production itself. I thought it was enjoyable and charming. I have never been the greatest fan of the movie The Wizard of Oz however since it was a staged musical rendition, I was hoping that I would enjoy it. Webber does a fantastic job of re-imagining a story that many generations know and love while at the same time adding an almost new modern feel to it. For example one of my favorite things about the show was the amazing portrayal Jacquelyn Piro Donovan created of The Wicked Witch of the West (below). She was just as evil as the original with the same cackle of a laugh while at the same time adding an almost diva-esque quality to the character. The production has the classic songs from the original Oscar award winning movie such as "Over the Rainbow" and "The Merry Old Land of Oz." Webber does write new songs as well such as "Red Shoes Blues."

Jacquelyn Piro Donovan as
The Wicked Witch of the West
Photo Credit: Tom Donoghue   
Recently I saw a production of the restaged version of Les Misérables where they used a projection screen to add a sense of depth to the stage. This production of The Wizard of Oz used that same concept however to the point of annoyance. The projection screen I think is a really amazing technique that designers can use however at some points I felt like I was watching a movie. The screen should have been used to slightly enhance the audiences interpretation of Oz, now create it for them. At times I felt like the magic of musical theatre was nonexistent. As a co-worker of mine said "Attach those flying monkey's to some pulley's and get those pretties to fly!!"

The Wizard of Oz will be playing at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts through December 29th. Get your tickets before they fly off back to Oz!

Ordway Center for Performing Arts
345 Washington Street
Saint Paul, MN 55102

Ticket Office: 651.224.4222
Groups: 651.282.3111

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Heat is on in Saigon.

Photo Credit Miss Saigon, West End
Miss Saigon, a very controversial show, graced the Ordway Center for Performing Arts on October 8th in St. Paul, Minnesota. Miss Saigon is a modern take on the opera by Puccini, Madame Butterfly. This powerful musical is a timeless tale of love, war and suffering and will only be performed in three cities before opening in May 2014 across the pond in London. The Ordway Center for Performing Arts was it's last stop in the United States.

Photo Credit J. Urdaneta Photography
Miss Saigon is a tragic love story between a 17 year old Vietnamese woman named Kim and an American GI named Chris. It takes place during the occupation of Saigon during the Vietnam War in the 70's. Miss Saigon has had numerous amounts of criticism for some believe it is a racist show with a sexist overtone despite it's multiple Tony Award nominations and wins. In 1991 it had won three Tony Awards including Best Lead Actor, Best Lead Actress and Best Featured Actor.

I neither hated or absolutely loved Miss Saigon. It was not my favorite piece of musical literature however I really enjoyed some parts. There were a few flaws in the script that I felt didn't make sense or were just completely unrealistic. For example in the first Act I did not understand the love between Kim and Chris. They met, had sex and all of a sudden Chris is singing about his love for this young woman, whom he just met. I understand some musicals don't have enough time to set out a huge long love story. Due to them falling in love so fast, I had a hard time fighting for their relationship through out the musical. I felt no emotional appeal for the two and did not want to fight for their love.

Photo Credit J. Urdaneta Photography
As I mentioned before, there were some things I did enjoy. First off I have to give absolute praise to Manna Nichols (Kim). From her very first note, she had my attention. Her voice was one of the most pure voices I've ever heard on a stage. Her acting was superb however her singing is by far what kept me engaged. She would effortlessly hit a wide range of notes from both a high register and low register. It was beautiful

Miss Saigon was once deemed one of the most technically challenging shows of it's time. I had heard this before seeing the show and I was confused as to why. It didn't seem that technically challenging until the second act when a helicopter flew down stage almost from the depths of Vietnam itself. It was quite extraordinary and I was extremely impressed with it. Miss Saigon will be running at the Ordway until October 13th.

Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
345 Washington Street
Saint Paul, MN 55302

Ticket Office: 651.224.4222
Groups: 651.282.3111

More Artwork for download:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Miss Saigon (Q&A)

The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts will be presenting a production of Miss Saigon. This musical is based off of Puccini's popular opera "Madame Butterfly.

Image courtesy of the 
The Ordway has been organizing a new event in which the bloggers of Blogger night get to send in their questions to the staff at the Ordway. These questions then get sent to the cast of the upcoming production.

For Miss Saigon the actors Orville Mendoza, Manna Nichols and Charlie Brady were all interviewed. Charlie Brady playing the role of Chris who is an American G.I. who eventually meets and falls in love with Kim. Kim is a vietnamese girl played by Manna Nichols. Orville Mendoza is playing the part of The Engineer, a shady night club owner where Chris and Kim meet. Read below how each actor prepared for their roles.

Miss Saigon is running at the Ordway Theatre October 8th - 13th. Tickets are on sale now. Keep a look out for my actual review of the production on October 9th, the day after opening night.

Below is the link to the file. It is uploaded through sendspace. The link will download a .zip file to your computer where you can open it and find three separate documents of each interview from each actor. Enjoy!

Link to the Interviews

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Les Misérable - No not based off the 2012 movie!

Les Misérable is a timeless musical (adapted from Victor Hugo's novel) takes place in 19th-century France. It revolves around the main character Valjean who has just served 19 years of prison (prisoner 24601) for stealing a loaf of bread. After being released, he breaks his parole and becomes an extremely successful mayor and businessman who eventually cares for a young orphan by the name of Cosette. However he is haunted and chased by the infamous inspector Javert.

I've seen this musical staged twice prior to seeing this performance. I had seen a high school production (Which I still thoroughly believe high schools should be banned from doing this production) as well as the last time it toured back in December of 2011. I knew what I was getting into when I saw it and I knew it would result in many tears. However what made me so happy to see it this time around was my two friends who I decided to take with me for they had never seen a production of it.

I believe each and every actor did a splendid job in this production. Peter Lockyer who played the lead role Valjean, completely nailed it. His rendition of "Bring him Home" gave me goosebumps by the end of the song. His impeccable vibrato and high register was absolutely beautiful.

Company singing "One Day More"
Photo Credit: Les Miserable Touring Website
However when it comes to lead actors and actresses I can not stop raving about the Briana Carson-Goodman who played the role of Éponine. There was something about her performance that had me truly mesmerized through the entire production. Her performance of "On My Own" had the entire audience speechless. There were true emotions behind it that had me captivated.

I really don't have many negative things to say about this production. Towards the beginning it was a bit hard to hear some of the actors to the overpowering pit orchestra. I also had a tiny critque about the actor who played Javert. At times it seemed like there was something strange happening with the back of his throat as he sang. I can't quite put my finger on it, however I didn't notice it so much after the beginning of the first act.

Les Misérable is such an amazing musical that I really do recommend anyone and everybody to see it if they get the chance. It is one of those timeless musicals that anyone interested in or an avid fan of theatre should get the chance to see it. And no, the musical is not based off of the 2012 movie. And yes this actor does do it better than Russell Crowe, and yes this musical does put the movie to shame. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at the Ordway!

        Another blogger night at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts. "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" musical is a fast paced rock and roll themed night of fun. "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" is a stage musical that includes over twenty of Buddy Holly and rock and roll's greatest hits. It is considered one of the first jukebox musicals and has been seen in over fifteen countries across the world. For those who don't know, a jukebox musical is a musical that uses previously released popular songs as its musical score (such as Mamma Mia and Rock of Ages).

Buddy Holly released over 10 hits within his first 18 months of hitting the scene. His hits included songs such as Peggy Sue, Oh Boy, That'll Be the Day and many more! The musical tells the story of how he originally started out as a country singer who wanted nothing more than to play his music, his way. It explores his meteoric climb to fame, his adventures through it and eventually his young and untimely death, the day the music died.

I enjoyed the talent of the show, not necessarily the actual production. It just wasn't my type of show. When I see a musical I am all about a stereotypical lights, costume and belting type musical (which this was not). This was more of a concert type musical (similar to Million Dollar Quartet). However I can not at all disrespect the talent of Kurt Jenkins.

The program with my free exclusive
Buddy Holly gift glasses courtesy of the Ordway
Photo Credentials: Brett Burger
In this production, there are two leading men who alternate the part of Buddy, Andy Christopher and Kurt Jenkins. I had the pleasure of seeing Kurt Jenkins who played the part to the best of his ability despite the less than stellar plot line. In the first act (which had a substantial amount more of acting than the second act) Kurt was enjoyable. Complimenting his lovely voice he played the quirky and almost dorky Buddy perfectly.

Through out the show I did complain on how hard it was hard to hear him at some points due to the loud music which out played his voice. Sometimes I felt like since the production was a concert structured show, I did not feel any connection to the songs. The songs were only being sung for the sake of being sung. There were almost no emotion  behind the pieces. To be honest the young woman who sang "Shout" I feel was one of, if not the best thing in the entire show. She had me wanting to stand up on my feet and jump around with her as she strutted across the stage of the "Apollo Theatre" in Harlem New York.

Overall the talent of the show was good however the plot line and concert style musical was not for me. I think my generation might not be able to appreciate this production only for the fact that he wasn't in our generation. His music didn't touch us the way it touched our parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. By the ending scene (which was exactly like a concert) patrons were standing up, clapping and dancing in the aisles which was a fun site to see.

Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
345 Washington Street
Saint Paul, MN 55102
Ordway Music Theater

Tickets start at $35

Ticket Office: 651.224.3111
Groups: 651.282.3111

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's a Delightfully, Deliciously, De-lovely Filled Night at The Ordway: Anything Goes!

It was another wonderful night with the touring cast of Anything Goes by the Roundabout Theatre Company. The cast had it's opening night at the Ordway Theatre for Performing Arts in Saint Paul, Minnesota and it was spectacular.

Anything Goes, a musical written by Cole Porter in 1934, has been revivied a total of three times. The most recent revival, starring Sutton Foster, won three Tony Awards in 2011 including Best Performance  by a Leading Actress in a Musical, Best Choreography and Best Revival of a Musical. Anything Goes is a charming, witty and fun show for all ages.

Anything Goes is musical about reckless antics abroad the "S.S. American," a ship on it's way to London from New York. Reno Sweeney (Rachel York) is a swanky nightclub singer who boards the ship where she runs into her friend, and stowaway,  Billy Crocker (Josh Franklin). Billy hopes that by stowing away on the ship, he can win over the heiress Hope Harcourt (Alex Finke) who is aboard the ship with her fiance Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Edward Staudenmayer). Aboard the ship as well is Public Enemy #13 Moonface Martin (Jeff Brooks), who aids Billy in his quest for love.
Photo courtesy of
Let's start with talking about our leading lady, Rachel York. This is that awkward part of the review where I already don't know what to say. Rachel York was brilliant. She left me speechless through out the entire production. One thing I despise about theatre people is the constant need for comparison. People were comparing Rachel York to Sutton Foster the entire night. However as much as I love both of these ladies, I felt Rachel York did a spectacular job. I felt York brought a new look to Reno Sweeney which many of us haven't seen since the great Patti LuPone played the part. York brings back an air of seduction to the character with her beautiful acting and superb vocals. York's voice is raspy and sultry while at the same time reaches a new level of clarity with numbers such as the title song "Anything Goes" as well as "You're the Top" and "Blow Gabriel Blow!" It was not only a joy and a thrill but an honor to see Rachel York live in the flesh performing such a wonderfully fresh new revival of a timeless musical

Reno Sweeney (York) leads the Act I finale tap scene.
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus
I've been to many musicals in my time here in Minnesota and never have I ever seen an audience erupt in applause-mid dance. During the Act 1 Finale, Reno Sweeney leads the cast in the title song Anything Goes. The casts tap sequence was something like nothing I have ever seen. The cast flawlessly tapped their ways into the audiences heart with what looked like absolutely no effort. Upon finishing the tap sequence mid song, the audience erupted in applause as the tap dancers continued to tap even more while York began to belt out the shows title song. Never have I ever seen something that impressive on a stage. Ever. I mean how many people can tap dance their sea legs off for what seemed like 5 solid minutes of tap, and then blow the roof off the place with their powerful belt? Not many, however Rachel York sure can.

Overall the national touring cast of Anything Goes was magnificent. You know me, give me a broadway star, a tony award winning score and a couple of sailors and I'm on board. (Ha-ha). Get your tickets now before it sails away on May 12th!

Tickets Information
Anything Goes
May 7th - 12th.
Tickets starting at $26.00 (including fees)
Ticket Office: 651.224.4222
Groups: 651.282.3111