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

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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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