Monday, December 19, 2016


Fun Home played at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis December 13th through the 18th. This 2015 Tony Award-winner for Best Musical is based off of the autobiographical best-selling graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. The musical tells the story of famed cartoonist Alison Bechdel and what growing up was like living in a funeral home (which her siblings named "The Fun Home), having a strange, often rocky, relationship with her father and realizing at a younger age she was different. The musical is narrated by Alison as an adult as she looks back at herself as a young preteen (refred to as Small Alison) and college student referred to as "Medium Alison," where she comes to grips with identifying as a lesbian.
Alison, Medium Alison and Small Alison
Pictured: Kate Shindle, Abby Corrigan, Alessandra Baldacchino
Let's start by just saying that the musical was fantastic. The story, the music, the actors, the message and themes, everything. I absolutely loved it. What made Fun Home so outstanding was how beautifully the songs and funny dialogue are weaved effortlessly into a pretty serious plot. The song "Ring of Keys," which many were introduced to at the Tony Awards where Sydney Lucas gave us all chills, a lot of LGBTQ members can relate to. The song depicts a moment in Small Alison's life when she can't quite form the words that she feels after seeing an "old school butch." It is a moment of emotional and sexual awakening for her. The song was moving and the performance was amazing. Read here how the song writers approached writing the song.

Whether you're apart of the LGBTQ community or not, everyone can relate to a lot of the themes from this musical especially the one that comes across in one of the last songs "Telephone Wire." As Medium Alison is visiting home and goes on a car ride with her father (although during the scene, the older Alison acts the scene out) she is continuously lost for words as she tries to come out to her father in person. Previously in the musical, we discover that her father is also gay and while they each know about one another, they fail to say it out loud or confront it head on. The song is relatable to everyone as many can remember having a secret you want to tell your parents but can't manage to say it. The moment when you think you're going to and then bail out by bringing up a different topic.
Alison and her father during the song "Telephon Wire"
Pictured: Kate Shindle and Robert Petkoff
Now without getting too political, let's point out the title of this specific blog post. Big capital screaming letters saying "THIS IS IMPORTANT." It is an important show for many reasons, one being the representation of the LGBTQ community. They have been underrepresented and now within the last few years have finally been included in the media and entertainment. So what makes this coming out and coming of age story different than the others? Fun Home is an important piece of musical theatre, not only because it shows the very personal and intimate struggle of realizing your sexuality but also because the leading character is a lesbian and that was a breath of fresh air. It is not about a rugged gay male or a teenage boy coming out and realizing he likes RuPaul more than monster trucks. It's about a girl. A lesbian. She isn't a supporting character either. She is the main character. Earlier I did say that the LGBTQ community is finally being represented more and more in entertainment, however I should have said the G in LGBTQ is being represented more. I thoroughly enjoyed that the story was about a young gay woman and I can't wait to see some sort of similar musical come out within the next decade about a trans* person. 

While this musical has left the Orpheum Theatre, it is still on tour. I highly recommend anyone and everyone to see it. It's also fairly short, and only runs about an hour and 45 minutes.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Hairspray LIVE: Did it fall flat?

I am not going to lie. I’ve been very unimpressed with NBC and their live musicals. When the idea first came forward. with The Sound of Music, I was excited. That was true until I heard that Carrie Underwood would lead (I only managed to watch 30 minutes of it). I was not impressed with Peter Pan and never managed to see The Wiz, despite hearing pretty decent things about it. However I felt maybe NBC had finally figured it out with Hairspray. Maybe they were ready to do it right especially with the fact that Fox had successfully taken the broadcasted live musical crown with their production of Grease. So did Hairspray stand up or fall flat?
The cast of "Hairspray LIVE"

Let’s start with the two biggest technical issues: cameras and microphones. I honestly thought Maddie Baillio (Tracy Turnblad) forgot some of her lines in the opening song “Good Morning Baltimore” because her microphone kept going out at times when I couldn’t see her face. The microphones continued to be a problem in big numbers where cheering from the audience, or the music was still being played, drowned out the actors singing or speaking. During the performance I was also extremely confused on many of the camera angles. I know nothing about producing but half of the time I was extremely confused as to why some of the angles looked like a hidden camera in a shady bootleg recording of a Broadway production.

Hairspray is a musical. Cast people who know how to sing. As a big budget musical, I understand they need to cast stars that will bring people in, but Derek Hough (Corny Collins) could not sing and was given three songs. He’s a very talented dancer but I was not impressed with his singing or even Garrett Clayton (Link Larkin) despite being very easy on the eyes. Some casting choices I just did not understand including Jennifer Hudson (Motormouth Maybelle). Now before you sharpen your pitchforks, I will say I am a fan of her singing. She’s certainly talented and don’t get me started on how she had me crying during her rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been.” However I think NBC missed an opportunity in casting a bigger girl for this role, especially because her first song is titled “Big, Blonde and Beautiful." Next to race, one of the biggest themes of this show is being an outcast, or in Tracy and Edna’s case a “big girl.”

Kristin Chenoweth as Velma Von Tussle

While some could not sing, or weren’t exactly what I was hoping casting wise, others most certainly were both including Tony-Award winner Kristin Chenoweth . We all knew she’d rock it, despite getting her bow cut off at the end (WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THIS!?). Her portrayal of Velma Von Tussle was hilarious, engaging and she made the part her own. When it came to singing I think the most underrated performance of the night was Dove Cameron who played Amber Von Tussle. For many, this was our first exposure to her and I felt like she nailed it. At times I felt she was a little too whiny to be the “mean girl” but I guess you can’t have it all, she was still fantastic.

These were some of my biggest pros and cons. I could ramble on more about how I felt Link and Tracy had no chemistry once so ever or how I thought the “behind the scenes” before commercial breaks totally broke the illusion but as I said before we can’t have it all. Overall, Hairspray was enjoyable. It had some very talented singing by some, dancing and in general it’s a musical with some catchy songs. NBC has done one thing that you cannot deny and it is that it is bringing more people into the world of live theater. With productions like these, theater is able to reach and introduce themselves to a wider national audience and I think for the theater industry that’s fantastic. I hope that with these live musicals, smaller theaters across the nation start getting more business and exposure

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Legally Blonde: Guilty or Innocent?

When I walked into the Twin Cities Community Theatre (recently renamed and originally the Coon Rapids Community Players)  production of "Legally Blond: The Musical" at the the Sabes Jewish Community Center, I'll admit I was a bit nervous. There are musicals out there that if a theatre plans to do, they better make sure they have the time, resources and cast to not only do it, but do it well. There is no way to hide inexperience singers, a bad set or just plain bad acting with a show like this. It's also based on an iconic movie, originally starring Reese Witherspoon. The musical does a fantastic job of adapting the movie to the stage with our favorite lines (What like it's hard?) and turning moments like the "bend-and-snap" into a hilarious number.

Cast and Crew (taken from TCCT Facebook)
However the two biggest things, in my opinion, you need is a phenomenal actress to play Elle Woods (Spoiler Alert: Mary Burchill played Elle and was phenomenal) and solid vocals for the entire cast especially the greek chorus girls. I will say there were many times in which the ensemble/greek chorus felt hesitant in many of the numbers in which they came in rather sheepishly and then sang louder after. However that being said they were often in tune and sounded great especially the three leading greek chorus girls Serena, Margot, and Pilar (Tynelle Marschall, Brogan Deblieck and Haley Sister) were total scene stealers. They sounded great and always brought in so much energy and kept that energy through out the entire production despite having some very intense choreography. A crowd favorite was also Paulette (Anne Brown) the crazy and hilarious hair stylist that Elle befriends. She did a great job on honoring the role of Paulette (from the movie) while at the same time making the character her own. The females, owned this show while honestly the males were a little lack luster and not very memorable compared to the force that the woman brought on stage.

Rehearsal Photo
While I was quite impressed with the vocals that these performers had, I was a little disappointed with the set. Maybe it was a directors choice however some parts just did not make sense to me. For example when Elle was in her dorm room there was a door, a bed, a rolling set piece with a vanity and chair (all with plenty of props and detail) however while she was studying for the LSAT or meeting her classmates in the courtyard at Harvard Law, there was only a bench or chair. Nothing else. It seemed strange to me that some scenes and so many pieces to show the audience where they were while others lacked really anything. I also found some tiny things in the set to be unfinished. Many times doors simply would not stay shut and opened during the middle of a scene. Another thing that I continuously would zone in on was the fact that the door in the salon was an empty door frame. There was no screen in the door, glass or even some plastic or plexiglass. I often saw actors stick their hand through it while they opened or closed the door and that really takes you out of the show and the world that the actors have created.

Overall it was an enjoyable performance. The music, book and characters are funny and charming and I look forward to seeing their next performance as the Twin Cities Community Theatre will be producing "Heathers: The Musical" February 2-12, 2017.

Twin Cities Community Theatre Website: Link
Twin Cities Community Theatre Facebook: Link
** Twin Cities Community Theatre uses Paypal if you wish to purchase tickets ahead of time.