Monday, May 30, 2011

REVIEW: The Land of Eternal Bliss by Whoop

Ronac Art Center, Friday March 25

One has to admit that the line between street art and fine art is so blur these days that one can’t even find where it was the last time one saw it. The last time I searched the net regarding a fine artist (I have bought several pieces of his works in a gallery), I found out that he has started designing limited edition toys! Meanwhile, in a casual evening in Manila (one of my 2 days 2 nights trips), I went to a designer toyshop and suddenly found myself in a gallery in preparation for a solo exhibition of a street artist named Whoop.

Though the name sounds like what one will say when a mistake was made, the paintings and the toys were definitely not. Whoop (real name is Omar-Sam Ramos) was there working when I was shown around. What really took me off guard though was the toy, Mr. Brain Freeze. It doesn’t fit the usual mold of a designer toy (a very good sign), this has no legs, no eyes, no hands, no mouth, just a mass of melting scoops of ice cream topped with a scoop of brain and a cherry-skull… the brain is bigger than the skull and the scoops of ice cream were also bigger than the brain. It was surreal and almost indicating the intense pain of a brain freeze. Interestingly, Mr. Brain Freeze made his appearance in several of Whoop’s paintings.

When asked about Mr. Brain Freeze, Whoop kindly explained, “when I was very young, my family was economically sound. Then one day, fortune changed and we have to live in a squatter area. One afternoon, there was an ice cream vendor passing by. While my playmates were able to buy ice cream, I can’t and that was when it really struck me how poor my family was. To cope with the situation, I made believe that the ice cream tasted horrible and was poisonous.”

Digging deep into his childhood memories and injecting it with the awareness and understanding of an adult has infused the character/icon/symbol of Mr. Brain Freeze with a combination of repulsive symbols with pastel delectability. For Whoop, his childhood experience seems to be a rich source of meanings and imageries.

His paintings show bursts of microcosm and macrocosm of imaginary characters that reminds me of amoeba, protozoans, giant bees and Audrey (from Little Shop of Horror). All seemed to try to introduce the viewer to the world that he has created except one painting distinctively framed in bright red. Apparently, this painting entitled, “Castle of Illusion and the Chamber of Pain”, is HIS painting for the “year”. Though one can have a glimpse of why it is some sort of a diary/record of his life, only Whoop can fully decipher it. On the surface, one can see the (year of the) tiger walking out, while the rabbit is already presiding, or even the Manila bus hostage crisis played out with toy soldiers.
While it was not difficult to be attracted to the candy colors of the works, Whoop’s paintings also beg to remind the viewers to look beyond and revisit old memories and find new appeasements; The Land of Eternal Bliss.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

REVIEW: A Wedding by the Para/Site Art Space

Para/Site Art Space + Lin Heung Kui Restaurant, Thursday May 26

Last night, I attended a wedding banquet. It was no ordinary wedding though; or rather normal wedding. A Wedding, on the surface was a way to raise fund for the independent art space Para/Site. It came up in a conversation between Zhang Wei (director of Vitamin Creative Space) and Lee Kit (THE Hong Kong artist). Apparently, Lee Kit mentioned to Zhang Wei that wedding practices in Hong Kong can actually be quite profitable for a wedding couple. So with that notion, we have A Wedding. Invitations were send out to artists and even curators to provide wedding gifts; and the gifts became an exhibition itself at the Para/Site Artspace.

A Wedding, at a deeper level, was more profound than I expected. I do understand that a wedding can be quite a special moment in ones life (I am single by the way); however in this case, the life that we are looking at is the future of arts in Hong Kong. The artists, suddenly, have to dig deep and think about their works in relation to the future. The work, in its totality, was unified, interconnected and immensely thoughtful. While having a conversation with Lee Kit, he mentioned that his artist-friends chastised him for providing the seed of the idea, as it has created more work for them. What was not said however, was that the thought of not providing a gift didn’t even occur. Lee Kit’s friend simply assumed that they have to because with friends, one never says no, especially to their wedding! The gifts were the usual mix of “Para/Site Arts” of videos, sculptures, paintings, photographs, etc. Some were better thought out than the others, and some were more relevant than the others. But as gifts go, it is the thought that counts. Going to the exhibit also gave me a chance to meet the new executive director/curator of the space, Mr. Cosmin Costinas, who has just arrived in Hong Kong.

The banquet was held in Lin Heung Kui (brilliant idea! The place shouts Hong Kong). It took me a while to figure out why the organizers gave me an empty red pocket before I realize that it was meant for me to also give a “wedding gift”. After handing over my gift to the organizers, I turned around and there stood Zhang Wei, beautiful, smiling and most friendly. After offering my sincere congratulations to her “wedding”, she was kind enough to talk me through the whole concept. What came across my mind during this conversation was how clear and cohesive her idea and thoughts were in contrast to a lot of the overworked writings done by some curators. Was it the difference between the oral and written format? Or was it just her? When I shyly asked to have a photograph with her (my only photograph that evening), she kindly assured me that it is a "common practice".

The rest of the evening went on like a typical wedding banquet; there were performances (the Para/Site board members provided Karaoke moments), an auction, poetry readings (the highlight for me) and the usual loud and I-don’t-care-what-is-happening-on-stage moments. The Wedding also provided a lovely souvenir of Lin Heung pastries and a limited edition photograph print by William Lim. When I assumed that all the gifts will be auctioned off (separately) to raise funds, perhaps in Para/Site annual fund-raising party, Tim Li, chairman of the Para/Site board, said that they might actually try to sell all the gifts in one lot. BRAVO! And I think that should be the case! The gifts should stay together and be presented in the context of how it was created. I can already see the gifts in an exhibition with footages of the wedding banquet!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

REVIEW: Hello Dolly! (Raleigh, North Carolina)

Raleigh Memorial Auditorium (Raleigh, North Carolina), Saturday May 7

This is my last show in USA, and I am glad that I am done reviewing all the 14 performances in my recent trip. I have never been to Raleigh, North Carolina. In fact, I have never heard of this place until I was looking for a flight back to New York. I was in New York first, and then I traveled south to Philadelphia, then on to Washington DC and Virginia. It seems to make sense to travel further south and find a flight back to New York and then to Hong Kong. Surprisingly, Raleigh was the only city that has a flight (I can only fly American Airline as I was using a redemption ticket) to New York that fitted my schedule!

I was kind of looking forward to the North Carolina Theatre’s Hello Dolly! as it was advertised to feature Cybill Shepherd. Yes, I am of that age to have enjoyed her performances in Moonlighting. Apparently, Cybill injured her leg (off-stage) with only a week’s rehearsal left before the opening; but the show must goes on and in came Jacquelyn Piro Donovan. And indeed the show went on.

Despite never having played the part before, Donovan did a fine job. And because I saw her in the opening night, I can only assume that after a few more performances and without the technical problems (mostly sounds), she would be a fabulous Dolly. Donovan’s Dolly was more like Mama Rose in Gypsy, a bigger and brassier character; and also with a bit more heart, an interesting and equally valid (if not a bit more modern) proposition.

Stephen Godwin’s stuffy half-a-million Harace Vandergelder was neither forgettable nor memorable. Matt Loehr as Corbelius and Gail Bennett as Irene gave a wonderful performance that was both silly and romantic while Jeremy Morse as Barnaby and Halle Morse as Minnie were comically perky and perfect. Complementing the performers was the borrowed atmospheric sets from Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and the equally gorgeous period costumes from Costume World Theatrical.

Aside from the North Carolina Museum of Art, Hello Dolly! was pretty much the highlight of an otherwise boring city.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

REVIEW: Liberty Smith (Washington DC)

Ford's Theatre (Washington DC), Monday May 2

Imagine Forrest Gump set in the 18th-century. While Forrest Gump was portrayed as a simpleton romping his way across the world, influencing pop culture and experiencing some of the major events in the 20th century, Liberty Smith in the musical Liberty Smith was pretty much in the same template except that this character is simple but not a simpleton and driven. He didn’t travel across the world but he experienced some of the major events in American revolutionary history. The musical was made to please and entertain; and there was no attempt for innovation and depth. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with that, the USA has a huge market for that. In fact, this story about ‘self-fulfillment shouldn’t be equated to achieving popularity’ has no better market than this reality-TV-obsessed country (though they name THE bell after him). Looking at the bus loads of kids in the theatre, Liberty Smith might just have found their target audience.

Liberty Smith’s story was set off by the mean Martha Washington, played by Lauren Williams, who wantonly promised to return Liberty’s love only when America gained independence. From there on, Liberty serendipitously met and “helped” a string of legendary figures. It was amusing at most but not amazing. For some reason, The Muppet Show came into my mind when I was watching it.

The book aside, the songs (music by Michael Weiner and lyrics by Adam Abraham) were tuneful and pleasant; and they were rigorously performed by a magnificent cast. Geoff Packard’s Liberty was charismatic and very well-sung. Playing opposite Packard is Kelly Karbacz’s Emily Andrews, a character with more depth and portrayed credibly.

What really impressed me though was the scenic (Court Watson) and costume (Wade Laboissonniere) design. While the set may look more like a ship, it didn’t take much before one start believing the actions were taking place in a pub, in the garden, in European court or in a workshop. The costumes were not only gorgeous and glorious, they were also practical.

Liberty Smith in Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC was a lovely evening of entertainment for a tourist like me… and nothing else.

Liberty Smith
Music by Michael Weiner
Lyrics by Adam Abraham
Book by Marc Madnick, Eric R. Cohen and Adam Abraham
based on an Original Story by Marc Madnick and
Eric R. Cohen
World Premiere (Opened in Ford’s Theatre on March 23 2011)

Creative Team:
Director ... Matt August
Choreography ... Denis Jones
Music Director ... Jay Crowder
Scenic Design ... Court Watson
Costume Design ... Wade Laboissonniere
Lighting Design ... Philip S. Rosenberg
Sound Design ... David Budries

Cast Includes:
Old Liberty Smith … Stephen F. Schmidt
Liberty Smith … Geoff Packard
George Washington ... Gregory Maheu
Martha Dandridge ... Lauren Williams
Emily Andrews ... Kelly Karbacz
Betsy Ross ... Donna Migliaccio
Benjamin Franklin ... Christopher Bloch
Benedict Arnold ... James Konicek
Paul Revere ... Richard Pelzman
Samuel Adams ... Matthew A. Anderson

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

REVIEW: Chagall - Paris Through the Window + Bella: The Color of Love (Philadelphia)

Philadelphia Museum of Arts and Suzanne Roberts Theatre (Philadelphia), Friday April 29

It was a Chagall Day. While I visited a special exhibition on Marc Chagall at the Philadelphia Museum of Arts in the day time, I went to see the world premiere of a cabaret performance on Marc Chagall at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre in the evening. It was not coincidental though, both were part of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) inspired by the Kimmel Center on the theme of “Paris: 1910-1920”.

Paris Through the Window, 1913 , Oil on canvas, 53 1/2 x 55 3/4 inches

The exhibition entitled Paris Though the Window: Marc Chagall and His Circle, looks into the time when Moshka Shagal arrived in Paris in 1910 from Vitensk and renamed himself Marc Chagall and when he returned to Paris (he left Paris on 1914) in 1923. The exhibition was a study of Chagall as an artist in relation to the other artists of that time such as fellow immigrants Modigliani and Soutine; and the French Robert Delaunay.

The exhibition has more than 70 paintings, sculptures and works on paper by Chagall, his immigrant artist friends and French colleagues. It was an amazing opportunity to have a visual peek into that unique bohemian atmosphere in which these artists encouraged and influenced each other. One interesting feature in this exhibit were the women, naked or clothed; model, muse or mistress.

A few paintings in the exhibition were echoed in that evening's cabaret performance. Calling it cabaret is actually a bit misleading as it may imply something roughly put together for the sole purpose of entertainment. It was not, it was a serious piece of theatre art. Written by Theresa Tova and Mary Kerr with music by Matt Herskowitz, Bella: The Color of Love deals with love and art as seen through the eyes of Bella Chagall, the actress-writer-wife of Marc Chagall. It tells her experiences and feelings in meeting and falling in love with Marc in Vitensk and eventually marrying and following her husband through Russia, Paris and America.

Theresa Tova as Bella

The staging was beautifully simple and sleek with only a piano and a chair. There was a lop-sided screen in the back where relevant Chagall paintings were projected. While the staging may not be very "Chagall", the story, language, music and performances were dazzlingly shaded in Chagall colors, fantasy and folklore.

Theresa Tova playing the role of Bella, Marc and a variety of other characters was engrossing and rendered each song with commitment and earthy accessibility. While different voices and body languages were given to different characters, one does wished that Tova was a bit more consistent in some occasions and the roles were more delineated. The songs, meanwhile, were finely crafted and served the narrative very well. They were never overwrought, but instead truly served the script.

Overall, the day was absolutely gorgeous, absolutely Chagall.


Bella: The Color of Love
April 28 to May 1 2011
A presentation of The Gershman Y, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Philadelphia Theatre Company

Starring Theresa Tova
Written by Theresa Tova and Mary Kerr
Directed by Alistair Newton
Design by Mary Kerr
Musical Direction and Compositions by Matt Herskowitz

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

REVIEW: Greek Tragedy and Mythology with The Philadelphia Orchestra (Philadelphia)

Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts Verizon Hall (Philadelphia), Thursday April 28

After 10 musicals in 7 days in Broadway, I can't tell you how much I welcome to hear The Philadelphia Orchestra! This all-Stravinsky program is part of the first annual Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA). It also came amidst the announcement on April 16 2011 of the orchestra filing for Chapter 11 protection. But as the orchestra's letter also said, the music plays on and indeed it did!

Hearing The Philadelphia Orchestra under maestro Wolfgang Sawallisch in Hong Kong back in 2001 was a major turning point in my life of classical music appreciation. It was in that live concert that I experience an intensity so overwhelming that it washed over you. The free bowing produced that luxuriant sound that seemed to stay in you long after it's gone. It is therefore with high expectation I went to this concert and they didn't fail me.

The programme was inspired and showcased the best and possibilities in neo-classicism music. Apollon musagète must be one of Stravinsky's most elegant music and it showed of the orchestra's most celebrated string section to the fullest. Charles Dutoit's approach was about subtlety and lyricism, rather than overt drama. Nuances and dynamics were executed and colored with utmost care, and never rushed or harsh.

As for Oedipus Rex, restraints were dropped and focus was on the narrative. The performance didn't only showcased the innate beauty of the piece, but also Dutoit's instinctive approach to drama, he made it a theatrical event. I am a big fan of Paul Groves and he gave an engrossing and sensitive rendition of Oedipus. Petra Lang offered the perfect contrast in texture and her Jocasta was a dramatic triumph. Integral to the theatricality of the piece was the men of the Philadelphia Singers Chorale. They didn't just sing well with precision and harmony, but they also provided a potent backdrop to the story.

It was a beautiful performance in all accounts. Interestingly, the concert hall was half-filled and the audience was not as enthusiastic as I expect an American audience would. After seeing 14 performances (13 musicals and 1 orchestral concert) in this trip, every single performance received a standing ovation except this one, yet I feel this is the most deserving one... Sigh...

Greek Tragedy and Mythology
April 28, 29, 30 2011

The Philadelphia Orchestra
Charles Dutoit - Conductor
Paul Groves - Tenor
Petra Lang - Mezzo-soprano
Robert Gierlach - Bass-baritone
David Wilson-Johnson - Baritone
Matthew Plenk - Tenor
David Howey - Narrator
Men of the Philadelphia Singers Chorale -

Stravinsky - Apollon musagète
Stravinsky - Oedipus Rex

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REVIEW: Anything Goes (New York)

Stephen Sondheim Theatre (New York), Wednesday April 27

This is my last show in New York and it also proved to be the most eventful! I chose this show to be my last as it almost guarantees to be a good one. First of all, it is a Cole Porter musical… and one of his best! Then, you have Tony award winner Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney; and then you have the Tony and Oscar winner Joel Grey as Moonface Martin. And yes, the show was a very good one.

As for the “eventful” part of my opening line, it all came from President Obama. You see, in the same evening, US President Obama was giving a talk across the theatre at The Town Hall in 43rd Street; and that means unusual (or the usual) tight security. While there was a huge crowd wanting to get a glimpse of him, I couldn’t care less and can’t wait to be seated in the theatre. So while Obama talked about his birth certificate and the economy, I was in the theatre enjoying myself until the show finished and the audience found themselves under “theatre arrest”. In short, we can’t leave the theatre for security (not ours) reasons. After a more or less 10-minute wait, we were ushered out in single file through the alley directly to the 42nd Street.

Back to the show… This Roundabout Theatre Company presentation was a “pretty” pretty standard production. There was no attempt to rethink or to innovate, but whatever it had, it presented them all polished and shiny. This is a show that was not trying to make sense of what was happening on stage; but instead, was trying to make you forget what was happening outside the stage. Kathleen Marshall's choreography was Hollywood 1930's-inspired yet exuded freshness as if it was just invented a week ago.

The star of the evening was Sutton Foster and she did a fantastic job, performing the role with just the right brashness that made her role lovable and intimidating at the same time. As for Joel Grey, it was nice to see him still active (singing and dancing very well) at the of 79; though I did detect some timing slip when it came to follow up lines and comedic pace. Brilliant as Billy Crocker was Colin Donnell. He was handsome and can sing and dance in that old fashion charm associated with Cole Porter musicals.


Anything Goes
This production opened on Broadway on April 7 2011
Lyrics by: Cole Porter
Music by: Cole Porter
Book by: Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and Guy Bolton and P.G.Wodehouse

Creative Team:
Kathleen Marshall (Direction and Choreography)
Derek McLane (Set Design)
Martin Pakledinaz (Costume Design)
Peter Kaczorowski (Lighting Design)
Rob Fisher (Music Direction)
David Chase (Dance Arrangements)

Cast Include:
Sutton Foster (Reno Sweeney)
Joel Grey (Moonface Martin)
John McMartin (Elisha Whitney)
Jessica Walter (Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt)
Colin Donnell (Billy Crocker)
Adam Godley (Lord Evelyn Oakleigh)
Laura Osnes (Hope Harcourt)

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

REVIEW: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (New York)

Al Hirschfield Theatre (New York), Wednesday April 27

I’ll go straight to the point. Daniel Radcliffe was not bad at all! Should he win a Tony? No. Should he been nominated for a Tony? Well… maybe? The reality is that a movie star of his stature affords him a bit of leeway and at the same time a bit of pressure. We are looking at a movie star who is famous for a role (though I noticed him first in the BBC’s televised two-part adaptation of Dicken’s David Copperfield) that doesn’t require him to sing and dance; and to make this transition to a singing and dancing role on stage (not movie) does require a lot of commitment and guts. I can try to be objective and talk about pitch, tone, color, posture, alignment and placement; but the fact doesn’t change that I find his portrayal quite endearing and his commitment incredibly admirable.

Radcliffe was in good company though. John Larroquette’s J.B. Biggley was expectedly fabulous though in some moments was a bit formulaic. It was quite amusing how the show decided to play on the height differentials of him and Radcliffe. Tammy Blanchard’s Hedy La Rue and Christopher Hanke’s Bud Frump were right on with abundance of fizz.

The highlight of the show however, was the seamless integration of the Rob Ashford’s choreography into the whole musical in style and pace. While the set design was not bad, it played on the safe side. The costume on the other hand was right on the mark with enough semblance of the period yet relevant to the current time in colors and hues.


How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Opened on Broadway on March 27 2011
Lyrics by: Frank Loesser
Music by: Frank Loesser
Book by: Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert

Creative Team:
Rob Ashford (Direction and Choreography)
Derek McLane (Set Design)
Catherine Zuber (Costume Design)
Howell Binkley (Lighting Design)
Jon Weston (Sound Design)
Doug Besterman (Orchestrations)
David Chase (Music Director and Arranger)

Cast Includes:
Daniel Radcliffe (J. Pierrepont Finch)
John Larroquette (J.B. Biggley)
Rose Hemingway (Rosemary Pilkington)
Tammy Blanchard (Hedy La Rue)
Christopher J. Hanke (Bud Frump)
Rob Bartlett (Twimble/Wally Wompe)
Mary Faber (Smitty)
Ellen Harvey (Miss Jone)

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

SATOSHI on Hong Kong Blogs Review

It came to my attention that my blog was reviewed by the Hong Kong Blogs Review website. Since the review was positive and my blog comes “highly recommended” matched with “two thumbs-up”, I would like to think that the website is reputable and credible!

(clink below link to read the review)

As much as I want to believe that I am a confident and self-assured individual and doesn’t need validation from other people, the reality is that I am more than glad to receive such an accolade. Blogging and especially writing reviews can be a very lonesome road and knowing that somebody out there is actually reading my writing AND giving feedback is a nice feeling. Like art, blogging is no blogging until it has an audience.

It was a rather odd feeling to be read a review of my blog which is primarily composed of reviews! So just to round up the cycle, here’s my review of the Hong Kong Blogs Review:

The Hong Kong Blogs Review website makes it a point to mention that it is an independent, non-profit and non-commercial website. This fact alone signals credibility; but in reality and in all honesty, credibility comes in other forms. With HKBR, I tend to concur with their opinion or at least find their suppositions or arguments convincing or compelling enough.

The HKBR is a distinctive and inimitable website not only because it reviews Hong Kong-related blogs, but also because it is a good resource for knowing more and the different facets of Hong Kong. The reviews show well-grounded and insightful opinions in relation to the actual blogs. The reviewers demonstrate great and profound understanding of the city, while shun with no holds barred on any blogger who would make remarks on the city flippantly.

Most importantly, HKBR is an engine for the betterment of blogging. It is easy to have an opinion of something and anything, but to have honest and objective opinions that actually facilitate positive actions from the community are not easy. THAT distinguishes HKBR from the rest.

I tried very hard to find something negative to say about HKBR just to prove I am not nose-browning… but at the end, I just felt silly.

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REVIEW: The Addams Family (New York)

Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (New York), Tuesday April 26

The Addams Family should be the perfect material for a fun musical comedy. At best after seeing it, it is an agreeable casual Broadway entertainment with an unfocused book, interesting set design, talented cast and second-rate music.

Let us start with the music by the talented Andrew Lippa. The songs were melodious and hummable for the wrong reason; and that is because they are mostly unoriginal and derivative. Try listening to “Let’s Not Talk About Anything Else But Love” and Chicago’s “All I Care About” by Kander and Ebb; or “Pulled” and Rent’s “La Vie Boheme” by Jonathan Larson. Okay, I have to admit that a lot of songs do sound like other songs, especially when it comes to musical, but this is a disappointment because I believe that Lippa can do way better. He missed the opportunity to craft songs that capitalizes on the different quirky characters that we are all very familiar with.

The problem of the book is not originality but instead its struggle to maintain balance. The book tries to showcase all the different characters and in the end fails to craft a tight narrative. The set however was flexible and elaborate enough to draw the audience in. Together with the puppetry and special effects, it provided good fun.

As for the cast, the fabulous Roger Rees in the role of Gomez Addams was not as fabulous as I expected him to be. Mind you, he was not bad, but he was not spectacular. Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia Addams fared better. The surprise of the evening however were Heidi Blickenstaff as Alice Beineke, Zachary James as Lurch and Rachel Potter as Wednesday Addams. Aside from Jackie Hoffman’s Grandma and Adam Riegler’s Pugsley Addams, the whole cast was committed and provided performances that make Broadway… Broadway!


The Addams Family
Opened on Broadway on April 8 2010
Lyrics by: Andrew Lippa
Music by: Andrew Lippa
Book by: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elic

Creative Team:
Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch (Direction and Design)
Jerry Zaks (Creative Consultant)
Sergio Trujillo (Choreography)
Natasha Katz (Lighting Design)
Acme Sound Partners (Sound Design)
Basil Twist (Puppetry)
Mary-Mitchell Campbell (Music Direction)
Larry Hochman (Orchestrations)
August Eriksmoen (Dance Arrangements)
Greg Meeh (Special Effects Design)

Cast Includes:
Roger Rees (Gomez Addams)
Bebe Neuwirth (Morticia Addams)
Heidi Blickenstaff (Alice Beineke)
Adam Grupper (Mal Beineke)
Jackie Hoffman (Grandma)
Zachary James (Lurch)
Brad Oscar (Uncle Fester)
Rachel Potter (Wednesday Addams)
Adam Riegler (Pugsley Addams)
Jesse Swenson (Lucas Beineke)


Sunday, May 8, 2011

REVIEW: Rock of Ages (New York)

The Helen Hayes Theatre (New York), Monday April 25

There's not a lot of broadway shows that are open on a Monday night. Rock of Ages was opened and though not exactly my type, I went and totally regret it. Okay, first of all, I am not a big fan of loud rock music, never was and most probably never will, but willing to give it a try every now and then (that's the masochistic streak in me!)

Rock of Ages is in the line of We Will Rock You without any attempt to polish any rough corners... or surfaces. It was plain raw and cheap... and the actors know it... every now and then, glimpses of utter embarassment of what they were doing with their talents were apparent. There is a market for this type of entertainment though; and I am afraid that it is actually growing fast.

In the midst of all the mess on stage though, there were a few really impressive performers. Let us start with Mig Ayesa as the rock star Stacee Jaxx, the character was outrageous yet quite believable as Mig simply infuse the role with unflinching confidence and talent. Ericka Hunter, who was a last-minute replacement for the lead role of Sherrie was quite effective as the new girl in town.


Rock of Ages
Opened on Broadway on April 9 2009
Book by: Chris D'Arienzo

Kristin Hanggi (Direction)
Kelly Devine (Choreography)
Beowulf Boritt (Scenic Design)
Gregory Gale (Costume Design)
Jason Lyons (Lighting Design)
Peter Hylenski (Sound Design)
Zachary Borovay (Projection Design)
Ethan Popp (Music Supervision, Arrangements and Orchestrations)
David Gibbs (Original Arrangements)

Cast Includes:
Ericka Hunter (Sherrie)
Dan Momenech (Drew)
Mig Ayesa (Stacee Jaxx)
Mitchell Jarvis (Lonny)
Adam Dannheisser (Dennis)
Cody Scott Lancaster (Franz)
Michele Mais (Justice)
Josephine Rose Roberts (Regina)
Paul Schoeffler (Hertz)

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

REVIEW: The Fantasticks (New York)

The Jerry Orbach Theater (New York), Sunday April 24

The Fantasticks is the longest-running musical in the world (it claims) and for the good reasons. It has a poetic book, endearing songs, utilizes a pocket-size cast and orchestra; and at least based on this production I saw, it packs an excellent cast in a charming production, in a theater that is just the right size.

I saw this musical 15 years ago done by a community theater in Hong Kong and hated it. Since then, I never tempted to revisit it again until this trip to New York, all because that this is the only musical i haven't seen that is open on a Sunday evening in the broadway district.

The remarkable difference in my opinion on the two performances can be mostly attributed to three aspects: the actors, the production and the venue. The performance in the Jerry Orbach Theater (named after THE broadway and TV star who originated the role El Gallo) was first and foremost about the excellent cast. As a company, it was very even and the lesser roles were weighted and performed magnificently. The production was simple and polished and suited the small venue to a T... any bigger venue will render the production underdesigned.

I particularly enjoyed the performances of McIntyre Dixon as Henry, Michael Nostrand as Mortimer and Edward Watts as El Gallo. Watts' El Gallo was sleek and mesmerizing. I rarely use the word 'mesmerizing' to describe a musical actor and the only other 'mesmerizing' musical actor I can think of is Craig Bierko in the Broadway revival of The Music Man in 2000. They both possess an effortless and sincere charm that made their characters believable and personable.


The Fantasticks

Lyrics by: Tom Jones
Music by: Harvey Schmidt
Book by: Tom Jones

Creative Team:
Tom Jones (Director)
Word Baker (Original Director)
Ed Wittstein (Scenic and Costume Design)
Mary Jo Dondlinger (Lighting Design)

Cast List:
Bill Bateman
Matt Dengler
MacIntyre Dixon
Matt Leisy
Michael Nostrand
Dan Sharkey
Juliette Trafton
Edward Watts

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

REVIEW: The People In the Picture (New York)

Roundabout Theater Company Studio 54 (New York), Sunday April 24

The one thing that stood out from this musical is the beautifully woven book and lyrics by Iris Rainer Dart. This musical about love and alienation between three generations of mothers and daughters is set in Nazi occupied Poland and New York in the 80's (?). The story focuses on the choices made by Raisel (played by Donna Murphy) in deciding not to move to Hollywood with her fiancé, her desperate decision to save her baby from the Nazis by giving her up to a couple and her decision to get her little girl back after the war. These decisions eventually led to nagging resentments that slowly surfaces as the mothers and daughters get older and need to make hard decisions.

The musical is a showcase piece for a powerhouse musical actress, and this was amply fulfilled by Donna Murphy. It was a wonder to see how Murphy shifted back and forth in portraying an old lady and a woman. The delineation of her portrayal was clear and even more impressive considering that the two world she was in the story were played out almost simultaneously.

Donna Murphy was not alone, however. I truly can't name a single performer, be it principal or not, who was not first rate in his/her role. In particular, Rachel Resheff's Jenny and Andie Mechanic's young Red were astounding! By the way, so far I have seen ten musicals during this trip and every single child on stage performed amazingly.

The staging reflected the title of the musical with a big picture frame hanging diagonally toward the audience, while more frames came in and out as the story unfolded. The use of dancers during scene change and in narratives were pretty standard, while the choreography was nothing special and was the weakest point of the musical.


The People in the Picture
Preview started in Broadway on April 1 2011 and opened in Broadway on April 28 2011
Lyrics by: Iris Rainer Dart
Music by: Mike Stoller and Artie Butler
Book by: Iris Rainer Dart

Creative Team:
Leonard Foglia (Direction)
Andy Blankenbuehler (Musical Staging)
Riccardo Hernandez (Set Design)
Ann Hould-Ward (Costume Design)
James F. Ingalls (Lighting Design)
Dan Moses Schreier (Sound Design)
Paul Gemignani (Musical Direction)
Michael Starobin (Orchestrations)
Elaine J. McCarthy (Projection Design)

Cast Includes:
Donna Murphy (Bubbie/Raisel)
Alexander Gemignani (Moishe Rosenwald)
Christopher Innvar (Chaim Bradovsky)
Nicole Parker (Red)
Rachel Resheff (Jenny)
Hal Robinson (Doovie Feldman)
Lewis J. Stadlen (Avram Krinsky)
Joyce Van Patten (Chayesel Fisher)
Chip Zien (Yossie Pinsker)

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