Disney’s Smash Hits Moana and Beauty and the Beast Redefine Heroism as Part of Disney On Ice presents Dare To Dream

Moana, Maui and Friends from Disney’s Moana Take the Ice for the First Time; Tickets On Sale Now for the 2017 Dates

Disney’s Moana voyages onto the ice for the first time as Disney On Ice presents Dare To Dream, produced by Feld Entertainment Inc., brings courage and adventure to hometowns across North America. Hosts Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse bring audiences on an expedition across raging seas and snow covered mountains in this action-packed extravaganza featuring Disney’s Beauty and the BeastFrozen, Tangled and Cinderella with other beloved Disney characters to help tell these extraordinary tales. Tickets are on sale today for the 2017 tour dates.

Dare To Dream takes families on a high-sea adventure as Moana sets sail on a life-changing quest to save her island with help from the demigod Maui. With the ice floor transformed into the vast oceanic scape, Disney On Ice allows Moana’s strength and determination to take center stage. This engaging atmosphere lets audiences deepen their existing connection to their favorite wayfinder and discover one’s true identity is never out of reach.

“As parents, we strive to find role models who embolden our children to choose kindness and exhibit the values we aim to impart, and this production of Disney On Ice truly embodies this goal,” said Executive Vice President of Feld Entertainment and Producer of Disney On Ice presents Dare To Dream, Nicole Feld. “With Dare To Dream, I want to inspire the youngest members of our families with the heroic stories of their favorite Disney characters and allow them to discover the hero within themselves.”

Beautiful production numbers invite audiences into the world of Beauty and the Beast, as Belle shows what it means to be fearless. Along with her new friends in the enchanted castle, Belle is encouraged to step outside the ordinary and find joy in the bleakest situation. As she looks beyond the harsh exterior of the Beast to reach his gentle heart, fans learn there are teachable moments in everyday life.

Through the athleticism and grace of Anna and Elsa, Rapunzel and Flynn, and Cinderella, brave heroes from FrozenTangled and Cinderella ignite passions to believe. Showgoers will witness each characters’ unique qualities and talents inspiring children around the world to discover their inner hero.

“One of the most magical things about Disney On Ice is the performers’ ability to authentically showcase the best qualities of Disney characters,” said Director Patty Vincent. “At our shows, moms and dads are able to experience the magic through the eyes of their children, allowing them to reconnect with their favorite characters and once again experience the childlike wonder and hope that inspires us all.”

Visit DisneyOnIce.com for the shows and dates coming to your hometown. Stay current on the latest developments through social media, including instructions on how to access presale codes for future Disney On Ice productions:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/DisneyOnIce
Twitter: @DisneyOnIce #DisneyOnIce #DareToDream @NicoleFeld (Show Producer)
YouTube: www.youtube.com/DisneyOnIce
Instagram: @DisneyOnIce

About Feld Entertainment

Feld Entertainment is the worldwide leader in producing and presenting live touring family entertainment experiences that uplift the human spirit and bring people together. With millions of people in attendance at its shows each year. Feld Entertainment’s productions have appeared in more than 75 countries and on six continents to date and include Monster Jam®, Monster Energy Supercross, AMSOIL Arenacross, Disney On IceDisney Live! and Marvel Universe LIVE! More information about Feld Entertainment is available online at www.feldentertainment.com.

Comedian Margaret Cho Announces “Fresh Off The Bloat” Tour and New TNT Pilot “Highland”

Margaret Cho Set To Introduce Her Newest Stand-Up Comedy Material On Upcoming
“Fresh Off The Bloat Tour”

Tickets Go On Sale July 21 Via http://margaretcho.com/tour/

TNT Order New Comedic Drama “Highlands” Starring Margaret Cho To Pilot.

Five time Grammy & Emmy nominated comedian Margaret Cho has much to celebrate as she was recently named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time and is set to launch what is sure to be her sickest stand-up comedy show to date this fall. A pioneer amongst women in comedy, Margaret doesn’t take anything for granted as she continues to tackle difficult subjects with sensitivity and her razor sharp insight with her takes on addiction, abuse, activism and Asianness. It’s all about the politics of disgust and what is disgusting about politics. Aptly titled, “Fresh Off The Bloat,” Margaret says, ““Fresh Off The Bloat” is my sickest show to date. My grandmother said “You look like bloated as if you’ve been found dead in a lake after several days of searching.” Koreans are the most savage of all the Asians. My new show is all about being fresh off drugs and drinking and suicide and coming back to life – finally fished out of the river Styx. It’s meta. It’s magical. It’s me.”

The initial “Fresh Off The Bloat” tour dates go on sale Friday, July 21 here: http://margaretcho.com/tour/ – Please note that the December 6 show in Belgium will go on sale July 20. Additional dates to be announced in the coming weeks.

Margaret’s new TV project Highland has been picked up for pilot by TNT Network. Highland will chronicle what happens when two extended, dysfunctional Korean-American families who share the same patriarch must come together after tragedy strikes. As it turns out, the most reliable person in both families is the one who just got out of rehab.
“Executive producer Liz Sarnoff (Lost,Barry) and Margaret Cho’s brilliant script exposes Margaret’s warm heart and bracing humor, balancing powerful emotional truths with laugh-out-loud scenes and characters,” said Sarah Aubrey, executive vice president of original programming for TNT. “Highland continues TNT’s commitment to bringing diverse voices and worlds to television. We look forward to making a pilot with such a singular talent as Margaret Cho.”

“Fresh Off The Bloat” Tour Dates
9/23/2017 Chicago Theatre Chicago, IL
9/24/2017 Orpheum Theater – Stage Door Madison, WI
9/29/2017 Sands Bethlehem Events Center Bethlehem, PA
10/5/2017 The Wiltern Theater Los Angeles, CA, USA
10/12/2017 2 SHOWS, Gramercy Theatre New York, NY, USA
10/14/2017 Warner Theatre Washington, DC, USA
10/21/2017 2 SHOWS, Castro Theatre San Francisco, CA, USA
11/5/2017 The Fillmore Philadelphia, PA
11/25/2017 Queens Hall Edinburgh, UK
11/26/2017 Tivoli Theatre Dublin, Ireland
11/28/2017 St. George’s Hall Bristol, UK
11/29/2017 Glee Club Birmingham, UK
11/30/2017 The Lowry Manchester, UK
12/1/2017 Academy Sheffield, UK
12/2/2017 Brighton Concert Hall Brighton, UK
12/4/2017 De Meervaart Amsterdam, Netherlands (ON SALE 20 JULY)
12/6/2017 Zuiderpershuis Antwerp, Belgium
12/8/2017 Bremen Copenhagen, Denmark
12/10/2017 Shepherd’s Bush Empire London, UK
12/12/2017 Latter Oslo, Norway

Kansas City Theater Review: “An American in Paris”

Starlight Theater
Kansas City, Missouri
July 11, 2017

It’s one of the most beloved film musicals of all time, winner of six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and was often referred to by its star, the great Gene Kelly, as his favorite of his films. I’m talking, of course, about 1951’s “An American in Paris,” which introduced a new generation to the music of George and Ira Gershwin.

Paris. World War II has just ended and American G.I. Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox), an aspiring painter, has decided to stay in the City of Lights in hopes of gaining new inspirations to put brush to canvas. He meets fellow soldier Adam (Etai Benson), who delivers the story to the audience. He also meets Henri (Nick Spangler), an aspiring performer. The three men are anxious to remove all memories of the war and begin whatever great adventure life has planned for them. Things go well until they meet the beautiful Lise (Sara Esty), a young ballet dancer. While Adam’s relationship with LIse is professional, both Jerry and Henri fall in love with her, with complications aplenty.

First off my sincere thanks for the marvelous performance turned in by the entire cast on a night where, as the curtain rose, the temperature was near 90 degrees. Thankfully there was a nice breeze all night because the night went by swiftly. Director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has embraced the ballet aspect of the story, with much of the on-stage movement based on that form of dance. The graceful movements of those involved were perfect accompaniments with the musical score. No wonder Mr. Wheeldon was nominated for the Tony Award for both his directing and choreography, winning the award for the latter.

The four leads were in fine voice, breathing fresh life into such well known standards as “I Got Rhythm,” “The Man I Love” and “‘S Wonderful.” The costumes were bright and colorful and the set design, though a little dark, evoked Paris in the late 1940’s.

Again, the video screens were a little distracting but I will give Starlight credit for using mostly wide-shots of the stage (“Mamma Mia” utilized a lot of close-ups, meaning those watching on the screens were missing a lot of the dancing), giving the audience a complete view of the award-winning choreography.

Theater Review: “Jersey Boys” – Kansas City

Jersey Boys
Starlight Theatre, Kansas City MO
June 27, 2017

Review By: J.R. Deeter

If you are of a certain age, you certainly know the musical history of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. From the early 1960’s with breakthrough hits like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Walk Like a Man,” the hits just kept coming…..few bands consistently gave their fans hit after hit on the Billboard Pop Chart.

What most people may not have known, and do not realize, is the story of how four boys from Jersey came together, from lowly beginnings and backgrounds while dealing with constant band name changes (they finally settled on The Four Seasons, borrowed from a local bowling alley) to struggle and then soar to the highest levels of success, before falling completely apart. One member removed, one member walked away, with two left to try again….and succeed again. It really is a great American rags to riches story and two and a half hours of pure entertainment.

Starlight Theater is a beautiful outdoor venue in Kansas City and the theater can be a very enjoyable experience, when the weather is nice. For our performance it was “Oh What A Night”!

The cast did a fantastic job, both musically and in portraying their respective roles, picking up after what seemed like a few stumbled moments during the opening scenes. Aaron De Jesus shines as Frankie Castelluccio, soon to become Frankie Valli, with an “i”. His voice was the best part of the show by far leading and hitting the high falsetto notes Valli is most famous for.

Matthew Dailey as Tommy DeVito, Keith Hines as Nick Massi, and Cory Jeacoma as Bob Gaudio were also very entertaining, as each member gets to tell his version of the story. As the show moves through the hit songs and the personal experiences of the guys, you can get a feel for what it was like for them, although I do think there is just enough embellishment for entertainment value. The supporting cast held their own, the female members handling many different roles and pulling it off easily. The Jersey Boys Orchestra was top notch and the music was fresh and crisp.

Note to Starlight: While I can appreciate the offer of the large screens installed this season about mid level up on the left and right side of the stage for the benefit of the folks in the back, I did find myself drawn to keep looking away from the performance on the stage. I feel it is more appropriate for a concert event….let’s keep theater events theater.

Theatre Review “Finding Neverland” @ Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts – Orlando, FL

Finding Neverland
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
Orlando, FL
June 6th, 2017

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Finding Neverland is a story about how author and playwright J.M. Barrie overcame creative struggles when four children and their widowed mother came into his life one day in Kensington Park in London, just after the turn of the century in the early 1900’s. Jack, George, Michael, Peter, and their mother Sylvia Llewelyn Davies broke Barrie out of a creative “slump” he was in by helping him to rediscover his inner child, reminding him that sometimes you shouldn’t take life too seriously and should just have some fun.

Barrie draws his inspiration primarily through Peter, who lost his playfulness and imagination following the passing of his father. Although Jack, George, Michael and their mother tried to maintain positivity following their loss, Peter just wasn’t the same. He had seemed to “grow up” too soon. But when Barrie and the Davies’ all met that fateful day in Kensington Gardens, Barrie couldn’t help but feel like he had to somehow restore Peter to the child he was before his father’s passing. In the process of doing so, Barrie ultimately found the child that had been suppressed within himself for far too long. As a result of Barrie finding that child buried deep inside, he remembered Neverland – an imaginary place he had fashioned in his mind when he was a young boy. That imaginary place, combined with inspiration Barrie drew from his various adventures with the Davies family, is what drove Barrie to give life to the story of Peter Pan as we now know it.

Neverland itself can be summed up as a beautiful story… about how we came to know another beautiful story. There’s laughter, joy, a little bit of sadness, and a whole lot of fun. But Neverland, in its Broadway play format – now traveling North America – is truly a masterpiece of the stage. It’s not just the story that made it such an enjoyable experience – but also the fantastic cast that brings the story to life in front of a live audience.

For just a few short hours, I hung on every line and every lyric of the dialogue and song that projected towards me from the stage. I couldn’t wait for the next witty line, silly joke – or even sad twist in an overall whimsical and upbeat storyline. The four young actors that played the Davies children were wonderful. Rory Donovan, who plays the roles of both Charles Frohman, the man who backed Barrie’s plays, as well as Captain James Hook – was fantastic. His Hook was intimidating yet hilarious at the same time. The entire cast worked so well together, was so polished and really seemed like they were having the time of their lives up on the stage.

Throughout the play I didn’t look at my watch, check my phone, or even have a single thought about anything else in the world outside of that theatre – not even once. When the play broke for intermission I was annoyed; I didn’t want the fun to stop. When it finally ended, I wanted it to start from the beginning all over again. If you have a chance to catch this play while it’s on tour do yourself a favor, and anyone else who you might consider bringing along, and go buy some tickets right now. I promise you that you’ll have a blast, and for at least a few short hours you’ll forget about everything else in the world and do nothing by laugh and smile. And we could all use more of that in our lives.

Theater Review: Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” – Kansas City, MO

Starlight Theater
Kansas City, MO
June 3, 2017

Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars

Under the Sea. That is where the new production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” which made it’s debut performance this past Saturday – the show will be leaving KC to embark on an 18-city tour – intends to take theatre-goers. And it largely delivers on that promise, though not without a few questions.

If you are familiar with the animated film, and judging from a full-house which was easily 60% children, you know the story concerns young mermaid Ariel, the youngest daughter of Triton, falling in love with the very human Eric. Also along are the evil Ursula, the over-protective Sebastian and the goofy best pal Flounder. Young love, evil squids and great songs usually make for a fun night at the theater. However, there were a few things that distracted not only me during the performance but, if the fidgety children all around me were any indication, others as well. The problem with going to a show based on something familiar (book, movie, etc) is that any changes – and there are several plot/character changes here) or, in the case of a musical, new songs, have a tendency to throw viewers off, especially the little ones. If you’re hoping to see Max the dog or are hoping to see a cool shark chase on stage, you may be a little disappointed.

The production was directed by Glenn Casale, who also directed the original Broadway production. It is full of bright lights, bubbly performances and (mostly) familiar songs. Yet it didn’t really hold my full attention. I attribute this, in part, to the fact that this year Starlight has decided to utilize it’s large video screens above the stage, usually reserved for concerts, to “broadcast” the show to the audience. Meant to give the people in the rear of the theater a better, close-up view of the action on stage, if you are in the plaza seat area, watching the stage, you can’t help but have your attention drawn to the flickering images above the stage, which totally draws you out of the show. Also, for the first time in my years of attending shows here, the performance didn’t start on time. It was almost 8:30 before the curtain went up on the scheduled 8:00 show. Which means that the fidgety children were extra fidgety by the time it started. I do understand that this was, literally, the first show of this tour and that there may have been technical issues that needed to be worked out. A quick announcement to the audience would have been nice, especially with a show that runs almost two and a half hours.

Now on to the good stuff. The cast was first rate, with Diana Huey bright and energetic as Ariel. Eric Kunze was in fine voice as Prince Eric while Melvin Abston was truly the crowd favorite as Sebastian the Crab. Connor Russell earned some laughs as Flounder while Jennifer Allen oozed evil while belting out “Poor Unfortunate Souls” as Ursula. The production design was well conceived, and a scene where the creatures of the deep, including some impressive jelly fish, go by was a treat for the eyes. The one question I had, and maybe it’s because I’m an adult, was why, when everyone is in the water, why is Ariel the only one that has to move around CONSTANTLY while Flounder and other creatures just get to stay in place? Poor Ms. Huey’s arms must be dead tired after a show!

Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” runs in Kansas City through Sunday, June 11. For tickets head here.

PAW Patrol Live! Lands in Orlando June 24 & 25th

PAW Patrol is on a roll with the first-ever live tour! It’s the day of the Great Adventure Bay Race between Adventure Bay’s Mayor Goodway and Foggy Bottom’s Mayor Humdinger, but Mayor Goodway is nowhere to be found.  PAW Patrol to the rescue!   For the mission, Ryder summons Chase, Marshall, Skye, Zuma, Rubble, Rocky, and the newest pup, Everest.  Their mission is to rescue Mayor Goodway and run the race in her place.  Using each of their unique skills and teamwork, the pups make several heroic rescues on their race to the finish line.

Show date: June 24 & 25, 2017
Show time: Show times vary
Tickets start at $21.75
Walt Disney Theater

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS

A VStar Entertainment Production. Presented by Pedigree

Be a VIP – Very Important Pup!

VIP package includes:

  • Premium seat
  • Special Gift
  • Exclusive access to a Meet & Greet with Chase, Ryder and Skye after the show

Each adult & child in a group must have a VIP ticket. Pick up your VIP Packet at the VIP Check in table prior to the show. One adult may accompany up to 4 children. For any remaining questions, please contact info@vstarentertainment.com.

FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando presents “Finding Neverland” Starting June 6th

FAIRWINDS  Broadway in Orlando presents Finding Neverland

This breathtaking smash “captures the kid-at-heart” (Time Magazine). Vogue cheers, “it’s a must-see you’ll remember for years to come!” Directed by visionary Tony winner Diane Paulus, Finding Neverland tells the incredible story behind one of the world’s most beloved characters: Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys’ enchanting make-believe adventures, he sets out to write a play that will astound London theatergoers. With a little bit of pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes this monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood lasts forever.

Show dates: Tuesday-Sunday, June 6-11, 2017
Show times vary
Tickets start at $33.75
Walt Disney Theater

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide

Chris Gethard is a multi-talented comedian and actor (Don’t Think Twice, “Broad City”) who’s worked extensively in NYC’s improv scene at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater as well as having his own successful public access show, aptly titled “The Chris Gethard Show”. This weekend Gethard premiered a much more personal type of special on HBO with Chris Gethard: Career Suicide. In this touching, and darkly hilarious special, Chris uses comedy to detail his lifelong struggles with depression and anxiety including his brushes with suicide. The show held a special screening and talk-back at New York’s Tribeca Film Fest, featuring Chris, fellow comedian Pete Holmes (HBO’s “Crashing”), and moderator Ira Glass (NPR’s “This American Life”). I spoke with them on the red carpet about the development of the show and using comedy to cope with more difficult issues.

Besides hosting NPR’s “This American Life” podcast (which Gethard has appeared on), Ira Glass produced Don’t Think Twice.

Lauren Damon: Working with Chris on Don’t Think Twice, did you see the development of his show at all?

Ira Glass

Ira Glass: I mean, it’s funny, Don’t Think Twice…Chris is such an amazing actor. He’s so for-real in Don’t Think Twice, and that character does have a lot of overlap with who he is in real life. And who he is in this special. My main thing with the special is I’ve seen him develop it. I saw like a super early version in the basement in Union Hall, and then saw when it was up on stage. So I’m really curious how it translates to video.

LD: With the heavier themes, I feel like we have a need for that in comedy because things seem sort of dire in general…

Glass: It’s true…But I feel like the whole trend in comedy has been comedians getting super real about stuff that’s going on, you know. And I feel like when you look at the people…who are doing the most work right now, it’s like Louis CK and Tig Notaro and Mike Birbiglia, Aziz [Ansari]…You know that’s people talking about stuff that’s pretty real. Which I like because I like a real story. I think when somebody can tell a story that’s super funny but also is really a real thing, and emotional, it’s just like what could be more entertaining? That’s everything a person could want.

LD: That’s basically the best episodes of “This American Life”…

Glass: On a good day, yeah. On a good day. The formula on “This American Life” is we want it to be really funny, with a lot of plot at the beginning, then it will get kind of sad and sort of wistful at the end, then like throw a little music under it, you’re done!

In Don’t Think Twice, Gethard played Bill, a comedian coping with a hospitalized father on top of dealing with general anxieties of where he fits into his shifting improv group.

LD: In Don’t Think Twice, your character did a lot of the heavy emotional lifting, was your show already developing kind of around that time?

Chris Gethard: It’s funny because [Don’t Think Twice director] Mike Birbiglia was the one who kind of threw down the gauntlet and said ‘You should do a show about this side of yourself.’ I would talk about it to a degree in my work, but he was the one who was like ‘You got something here, go for it.’ So the experience of Don’t Think Twice and this show kind of went hand in hand. I was opening for Mike on the road, he developed the film on the road [and] during that process is when he really said ‘You should really go for it, I promise you, give it a shot.’ Really the first time I attempted the show was in an effort to sort of prove Birbiglia wrong and say like I don’t know if people are going to laugh at this. But I have learned never to doubt Mike. And those things really did dovetail nicely and springboard off of each other.

Chris Gethard

LD: How did Mike respond to it?

Gethard: Oh he’s been so supportive and I think he was–he also, as far as these off Broadway shows that are kind of comedy but that go serious, I think he really has helped pioneer that in the past few years. So I think he was very proud and flattered. I always give him a lot of credit as far as walking in his footsteps. So I think he was very psyched that I went for it. i think he also had a little bit of glee that his instincts were correct and mine were not. So thank god for that.

Pete Holmes had his own hilarious HBO comedy special (Faces and Sounds) as well as starring in their series, “Crashing”

LD: How do you know Chris?

Pete Holmes: It’s funny, I thought more people would ask, but here we are at the end of the line and you’re only the second person to ask, so it’s still fresh! It’s still a fresh answer. I was a fan of Chris, I would see him at UCB –actually not far from here, right around the corner. And then I took improv classes at UCB and Chris was actually my level 3 teacher because I had heard that he was so wonderful. And he was. I actually think Chris likes to downplay what a wonderful improv teacher he is because obviously he loves to perform more. But it’s almost a shame that we can’t clone him, because he’s such a great improv teacher.

LD: Your stand-up is a lot more silly and irreverent in contrast to the work Chris is doing in this special and I love that there’s space for both

Holmes: That’s nice, there is space for both! And I really love this show. It’s not the sort of stand-up I do but I also on my podcast [“You Made it Weird”] love to get very deep and weird and uncomfortable so I love seeing it in the live version with the laughs.

Pete Holmes

LD: On “You Made it Weird”, have you had any especially surprising guests?

Holmes: That happens all the time actually. For example The Lucas Brothers, the twin guys from 21 Jump Street movie…I [didn’t] know them that well either and they’re kind of low energy [in the film] and then they came on and were like the most high-energy, introspective, eloquent amazing guests. And you know, I didn’t really know them that well. So one of the things that I love about the podcast is that happens over and over. Your expectations just get completely blown out of the water.

The better answer would be Aaron Rogers, the quarterback for the Greenbay Packers…I didn’t know him either, but here comes a quarterback. And J.J. Redick who’s a basketball player just did it. And whenever these athletes come on and just kill it just as hard as the comedians, it makes me happy.

LD: With Chris being your teacher and then you had an HBO special and series first, is that kind of funny to you?

Pete Holmes: [laughs] I beat my teacher! It’s so funny, Chris and I had another thing where I did a talk show for Conan–he talked to me about this on his episode of my podcast. [Chris] was like when they gave you the talk show after Conan–which lasted about a year–he was like they were talking to me about [doing it] Like we’ve been competing in ways we didn’t even know! So I’m happy that now we’ve both landed at HBO, it’s not one or the other, but we can both be here. [laughs]

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide is now available on HBO, HBO Now & HBOGo

Stage Review: “42nd Street” – Kansas City

“42nd Street”
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, MO
May 2, 2017

Our Score: 5 out of 5 Stars

In the summer of 1981, Uncle Sam decided to send me to Germany. I used a couple days before I left to visit New York City. I got there on a Sunday night and was amazed that, at three in the morning, I could get Kentucky Fried Chicken. I had planned on seeing “The Elephant Man” but sadly learned that it had actually closed the night I hit town. Wanting to say I had seen a Broadway show I remembered an article I had read on the plane about a show called “42nd Street.” I wasn’t intrigued by the plot, which is basically the story of a Broadway musical inside an actual Broadway musical, but by the story of how the show itself was a bit of theatrical folklore. It seems that the show’s director/choreographer, Gower Champion, had actually passed away just before the curtain went up on opening night. While the audience is giving the cast a rousing and much deserved standing ovation, the show’s producer comes out on stage and breaks the news. Now THAT’S theater.

“42nd Street” tells the story of director Julian Marsh (Matthew J. Taylor) preparing for his next Broadway hit. He is surrounded by many fresh-faced youngsters who want to get their big break alongside his “star,” Dorothy Brock (Kara Gibson Slocum). Also along to audition is Miss Peggy Sawyer (Clara Cox), a young lady from Allentown, Pennsylvania with stars in her eyes. Peggy is clearly talented but her exuberance becomes a pain in the rear for Brock. An accident with Brock leads to Peggy being fired. But, when Brock is injured, It’s discovered that the only way for the show to go on is to hire Peggy back. Will she go out on stage a youngster but come back as a star? What do you think?

I have many fine memories of the Broadway show, including the performances of the late and great Jerry Orbach and the amazingly talented Tammy Grimes. And while those two are revered as Broadway legends, the performances of Mr. Taylor and Ms. Slocum are equally strong. The entire cast kicks back and tap dances their butts off. This is what you might call an old fashioned musical, with classic songs and some of the greatest hoofing you will ever see on stage. So take my advice and “Come and meet those dancing feet, on the avenue I’m taking you to, 42nd Street!”

TFF 2017: Executive Producers of “The Handmaid’s Tale”

“The Handmaid’s Tale”, Hulu’s stunning adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel held its premiere screening at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival as part of their Tribeca TV series. The series follows Elisabeth Moss’s “Offred,” one of many handmaids forced to serve a man in a dystopic American society where a wave of infertility has caused women to be stripped of their rights and utilized strictly for reproduction. The series debuted its first three episodes on Hulu on April 26th, with new episodes available every Wednesday. I spoke with the executive producer and showrunner of this brutal and hopefully not too prescient series.

What kind of freedom did you find adapting this novel into a streaming series rather than a regular tv or film?

Executive Producer Warren Littlefield

Executive Producer, Warren Littlefield: Well look, it’s not network television. Margaret Atwood’s vision, that she created in her book 32 years ago, was a dark dystopian world. And Bruce Miller adapted that and it’s a powerful, dark and very disturbing world and our partners at Hulu did not limit us in what we were able to do. In language, in action and physicality, in sexuality, in brutality. We were able to deliver the message that we wanted to deliver. I think it’s a thriller, I think it’s entertaining but it’s pretty damn powerful, so fasten your seatbelt.

Showrunner and writer, Bruce Miller: I haven’t worked in film very much at all. Almost all my work has been in tv which is much more fun because you could have stories that go on forever. But working in a streaming service, you get the great benefit of not having to have a show that’s forty-two minutes and twenty-two seconds long, but it can be longer or shorter. Which, more than you know, throws the audience off. They don’t know what’s gonna happen when you don’t know how much is left! It could end five minutes from now or fifteen minutes from now and that makes all the difference.

Were you very familiar with the novel before you worked on it?

Miller: There’s a novel?! [Laughs] Yeah I read the book when I was in college, in a ‘New Fiction’ class–which shows you how long ago I was in college. I loved it and I read it a whole bunch of times, completely on my own just as–I was interested in it. So I wasn’t thinking about it in terms of turning it into a television show. And then when I started to get more into writing tv and my career took off, I probably looked at it more in that way. But when I heard they were making a tv show, I was excited because I would get to watch it! Not because I was going to be making it. And then over the years, the show didn’t come out and there were reasons and this and that and you know, I ended up, despite my gender, getting the job. And it was wonderful after having been so familiar with the book but also having been familiar with it in a lot of different time periods. Because it kind of was perennially relevant. Every time I read it seemed like ‘wow this is just the time!’ to read it.

Especially this election year, where it seemed like assailing women’s rights was just a common trend…

Miller: It’s a hobby!

At which point when you were filming, did you realize what a hot topic you were handling?

Showrunner Bruce Miller

Miller: I wrote the first few episodes before the election season started and then we were writing all the way through the debates and the election. And then we were shooting you know, in the middle…when Trump was elected president, we were shooting then. It was interesting, we were in Canada, so we had a little bit of a different perspective…But that was all very interesting. I don’t know–I’m sure subconsciously or unconsciously it changes the way you shoot things. But we were just trying to be gutsy. You know when you’re working from a book that showed so much bravery to write in the first place, you don’t want to be the wimp that turns it into a safe tv show. You want to be as bold as Margaret Atwood was. And so it just reinforced that idea that we should continue to be bold because its an important story we’re telling. But really, in a lot of ways like I said, I’m a writer, I’m in the question business, not the answer business. I’m just trying to put interesting questions out there, that doesn’t really change. I mean I certainly saw the relevance and certainly we went from saying ‘oh my gosh’ to ‘we better not screw this up!’ But I don’t know that anybody changed their story tact. I think we just became a lot more comfortable with what we had decided to do.

Littlefield: I think like the character of Offred, who is a fighter, that was our intention. We always felt a lot of pressure to live up to Margaret’s vision because it’s such a strong vision. And I think when we woke up in November in the middle of production, we were like ‘we better not screw this up!’ like…oh my god. But I think we were kind of fueled by [saying] ‘Alright, this is what we need to do.’ And I think the audience will be as well.

Streaming shows often come with binge-viewing, how do you feel about that approach?

Littlefield: Well, I kind of love what we’re doing. Hulu is presenting on the 26th of April, the first three hours, so you engage in a big way. And then each week, they’ll roll out an additional one. And so, I think that that also is really good because you want time. You may want to watch it again and it’s best I think in smaller doses, because it’s complex. I mean the world of television allows you to do complex characters and a complex narrative and we embrace it.

Can you discuss casting Elisabeth Moss in the main role?

Miller: Elisabeth Moss is astonishing in this. I’ve been a fan of hers forever. She has just such a range of skills and I can’t imagine anybody else in this role. She was who I wanted to be in this role from the beginning. She has main circuit cable connecting her heart to her face that doesn’t have an off switch. So whatever she feels bubbles up. But it’s a really interesting role to play because she’s got all this stuff showing on her face that she doesn’t want anybody else in the room to see, but she wants you to see. The best thing about Liz is she likes to be challenged so I got to write stuff that I never would have written for anybody else because everything I wrote that was harder and harder and harder, she loved it! So we got to really push the boundaries of the skills of an actor.

Series star Elisabeth Moss was understandably pressed for time on the carpet, but offered this comment on acting out the defiance displayed by her character Offred:

Elisabeth Moss

“It was important to me, I mean that’s her whole story you know? That she’s so beaten down and torn apart, and has everything taken from her and just will not give up. And she’s so stubborn. And I think it goes up and down throughout the season, to me that defiance that I think we would all find in ourselves if we had to.”

The Handmaid’s Tale continues to add new episodes to Hulu every Wednesday and was already renewed for a second season in 2018.

Planet Comicon remains the best in the Midwest

Rough weather in the Midwest didn’t stop tens of thousands of people from packing into Bartle Hall in Kansas City over the weekend for Planet Comicon. For three days, folks braved monsoon-like rains to meet their favorite stars, socialize and geek out. Nearly every inch of the convention center was brimming with fans, excited to see, meet and hear from celebrities, creators and cosplayers.

Like previous years, the 2017 edition of Planet Comicon featured all-stars across the entertainment spectrum. Everyone from Ron Perlman (“Sons of Anarchy” and “Hellboy) and Felicia Day (“The Guild” and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”) to Jason Aaron (Writer for “Doctor Strange and “Thor”) and Kevin Eastman (Co-creator of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”) brightened the otherwise gloomy days. Our very own Mike Smith even hosted an informative panel on “Jaws 2” and Hollywood sequels. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who was disappointed by this year’s line-up and activities.

Saturday, one of the busiest days of the three-day extravaganza, could have been disastrous if it wasn’t for the quick work and social media tools at the disposal of Planet Comicon organizers. A backdrop collapse during John Barrowman, early on in the day, could have thrown a wrench in the organizer’s plans. But a quick reshuffling, along with constant updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Planet Comicon’s new phone app, notified fans about the up-to-the-minute changes. It’s just one of many signs that Planet Comicon is always evolving to become bigger and better. It’s truly a leader of cons in the Midwest and shows the perseverance to become one of the best cons in the U.S.

MediaMikes would be remiss if we didn’t thank Planet Comicon organizers for not only their hard work, but for the opportunity for some of our readers to win three-day passes to the event. We’re already planning to attend and cover next year’s Planet Comicon.

Photo by Dan Lybarger

“Hellboy” himself, Ron Perlman Pikachu on the dance floor at an after party Felicia Day with balloon versions of the “MST3K” robots No-Face from “Spirited Away”

 

Emma Caulfield and Clare Kramer reflect on their roles on “Buffy” Batman’s true weakness Jason Isaacs talks Harry Potter and DC A near-perfect Bob and Linda Belcher The one-man show, John Barrowman No shortage of creativity Tara Reid talks about how she wound up in the “Sharknado” series Ariel delighting children Shannon Elizabeth has been busy since “American Pie” An unlikely duo, the Mad Hatter and Jack Frost

Stage Review: “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” – Kansas City

“Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”
The Music Hall, Kansas City, Missouri
March 28, 2017

Our Score: 5 out of 5 Stars

What can I tell you about Carole King that you probably don’t already know? Her 1971 album “Tapestry” has sold over 25 million copies, making it one of the most successful albums of all time. It earned four Grammy Awards, was the second highest selling album of 1971 (behind “Jesus Christ Superstar”) and spent an amazing 313 weeks on the Billboard charts, second only to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” But what was Carole King like before she became CAROLE KING?

When we meet Carole Klein (Julia Knitel) she is 16 and writing songs on the living room piano. Her mother wants her to be a teacher but she allows Carole to take her latest composition into New York City to try and sell. There she meets music publisher Don Kirshner (James Clow) who likes the song and buys it. Having skipped two grades in high school, Carole is a freshman in college and it is here that she meets Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin), who dabbles in writing song lyrics. Soon the two are a couple, both personally and professionally. They compete with fellow songwriters Cynthia Weil (Erika Olsen) and Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser). From the beginnings of rock and roll through the fabulous 60s they created some of the greatest music of all time, and “Beautiful” captures those songs perfectly.

You can have great music but if the cast is not up to snuff it doesn’t matter. If you don’t believe me, you should have been with me at a performance of “Les Miserables” where the little boy playing Gavroche was so bad that I actually applauded when he was shot. But this isn’t a problem here. Ms. Knitel is spot-on perfect as King. She plays her like the young, innocent woman she was, gradually growing more and more as her life takes various turns. Vocally she is amazing, belting out song after song with a voice that could easily hit the back row of the balcony without a microphone. Tobin and Fankhauser play Goffin and Mann with quiet vulnerabilities, especially when things do not seem to be going their way. Ms. Olsen is a firecracker on stage while James Clow does his best to keep things together, adding humor and emotion to a character many of us think we know but clearly don’t. (You can read my interview with Mr. Clow here)

Couple these performances with such classic songs as “So Far Away,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” Up on the Roof,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and over 20 more and you have a genuine toe-tapping musical that the audience can – and does – sing along to.

“Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” continues in Kansas City through April 2. For tickets go here.

Additional stops on the tour:
April 4-9 in Omaha, Nebraska
April 12-16 in Schenactady, New York
April 18-23 in Syracuse, New York
April 21-30 in Richmond, Virginia

Stage Review: “The Phantom of the Opera” – Kansas City

“The Phantom of the Opera”
The Music Hall, Kansas City, Missouri
February 10, 2017

Our score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“The Phantom of the Opera” opened on Broadway on January 26, 1988. Almost 12,100 performances later, it is still running at the Winter Garden Theater, establishing itself as the longest running show in the history of Broadway. I’ve seen the show five times on Broadway, including two weeks after it opened and was very lucky to have seen the great Michael Crawford, who originated the title role and won nearly every award for his performance twice. A “new” version of the show is now touring the country and this week it began a limited run in Kansas City.

The story is a simple one: there’s a “ghost” in the Paris opera house who has taken an interest in the latest young singer on the bill. He gives his heart and soul towards making her the best only to be thwarted by others. But not until he’s wreaked a little havoc.

Knowing that the production had been tweaked a little I went into the show with an open mind. Obviously it wouldn’t be fair to hold a touring show to the Broadway experience. Though I needn’t have worried. The production I saw was brilliantly produced and, though I had a few quibbles with some of the changes, I was thoroughly entertained.

The cast was amazing. As the title character, Derrick Davis embodied the role. Playing an iconic role can sometimes make an actor “cheat” – and borrow from other performances. I can’t tell you how much of the character Moss I stole from Ed Harris when I did “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Here Mr. Davis makes the Phantom both frightening and sympathetic, a hard combination to pull off. And musically, he is in great voice. Joining him are the other main characters. As the Phantom’s love interest, Christine, Katie Travis was perfectly cast. Torn between her feelings for her benefactor and those for the man she loves (a strong Jordan Craig as Raoul), it is easy to see her emotional quandary. Both she and Mr. Craig have a strong chemistry on stage. As the Opera’s resident diva, Carlotta, Trista Moldovan hit all the right notes, both comedic and musical. You can read my interview with Ms. Moldovan here. The supporting cast is equally strong.

If you’ve seen the show on Broadway, or in other touring shows, here are a few things that I noticed in this “new” edition of the show. Firstly, the revealing of the Phantom’s face happens twice for some reason. The show does journey to the roof of the Opera house here and the changes did nothing to effect my enjoyment of the show. What did bother me was the opening of the 2nd act with the musical number “Masquerade.” In previous shows the cast came down a huge, sprawling staircase and, even though half of the “guests” were smartly disguised mannequins, the effect was breath-taking. Here it is a ballroom lined with mirrors that, I’m guessing were supposed to multiply in the viewers eyes the number of people. I was in the center of the theatre and it just looked like 24 people dancing. Also, the Phantom used to crash the party in a striking costume reminiscent of the Masque of the Red Death. Here he looks like a cross between Iron Man and Captain Marvel. Not as menacing as a giant red skeleton. Again, if you’ve never seen the show you won’t be disappointed by the changes but if you have you might.

“The Phantom of the Opera” runs in Kansas City through February 19. Other upcoming tour dates:

Feb. 22-March 5, Atlanta, GA
March 8-19, Little Rock, AR
March 23-April 1, West Palm Beach, FL
April 5-16, Birmingham, AL

Talking “The Phantom of the Opera” with Trista Moldovan

Most actors dream about the day they will finally appear on Broadway. Even if you don’t have any lines, just to be able to stand in the background for a brief moment gives you bragging rights with your friends that you appeared ON BROADWAY. Apparently nobody told Trista Moldovan that you were supposed to take it slow. The first time she hit the boards of the Great White Way she did it as Christine, the love interest of the title character in the longest running musical in Broadway history, “The Phantom of the Opera,” which just concluded it’s 12,080th consecutive performance.

Born in Cleveland, Ms. Moldovan has tackled many of the most popular roles in musical history, including Betty Haynes in “White Christmas,” Sarah Brown in “Guys and Dolls,” Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” and Carla in “Nine.” She has also flexed her dramatic and comedic charms by starring as Maggie in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and Billie Dawn in “Born Yesterday.” In November 2012 she concluded a year-long run as Christine at the Winter Garden Theater in “Phantom of the Opera.” She’s now returned to the touring company of the show as Carlotta, the prima donna of the Opera company. Recently Ms. Moldovan took some time out to talk about this next phase in her career.

Mike Smith: You literally JUST finished understudying the role of Francesca in the touring production of “The Bridges of Madison County.” Two weeks later you’re in “Phantom.” How hard is it to have to basically be able to perform two different shows at any given time?

Trista Moldovan: To go from being an understudy, where you have to be able to perform at a moments notice to this (“Phantom”), where you’re doing eight shows a week, requires using two different sets of muscles. As an understudy you have to have a peripheral process as you’re learning the role because you’re also doing an ensemble track. For “Phantom” I’m very grateful to call the role my own and to be able to really make it my own as well.

MS: You played Christine on Broadway for a year and now you’re playing Carlotta. To me that seems like it would require an almost different type of singing, to go from what people would call “Broadway” singing – really belting it out – to a more operatic style. Was that transition difficult?

TM: Oh, yes. It’s definitely a different “sing” than Christine. Christine has more of a musical theater flavor whereas Carlotta is 100% operatic. She has a much more heavier sound…a much more legit sound, of course. And I had not sung like that for years, so that was very fun and very challenging to work up my chops and to work on the material. It was an amazing challenge and it’s so much fun to be able to sing like this every night because I don’t do opera. I can’t think of another role where I’d be able to sing like this. And I love it. It’s great. It’s so much fun.

MS: You have played so many iconic roles in musical theater. Is there a role you haven’t played yet that you would love to take on?

TM: (laughs) As I’m moving into a different part of my career it’s opened up a world of character roles. More comedic roles. So now my sights are set on roles like Madame Morrible in “Wicked” and, maybe in a few years, Madame Thenardier in “Les Miz.” More of the supporting, secondary roles. A couple of years ago I never thought they would be in the realm of possibility but now I’m sort of at the beginning of that part of my career.

MS: How long will you be with “Phantom?”

TM: As of right now I’m staying until the fall then after that…I don’t know, it seems like it’s an eternity away. After that we’ll re-evaluate when the time comes. But as of right now I’ll be here until October 2017.

We talked for a few more minutes and I learned that she had met her husband, actor Stephen Tewksbury, while both were doing “Phantom.” (She was Christine, he was the Phantom’s understudy). She laughed when I told her how cool that was, because finally the Phantom got the girl! “The Phantom of the Opera” plays through February 19th at the Music Hall in Kansas City. For more information or to purchase tickets, you can go here.