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.

Theatre Review: Wicked @ Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Orlando FL

“Wicked” opened on Broadway in New York back in 2003 and has since com “a cultural phenomenon” according to Variety and called “the best musical of the decade” by Entertainment Weekly. “Wicked” has been performed in over 100 cities in 14 countries around the world being translated into six languages and is the winner of over 100 international major awards, including a Grammy® and three Tony® Awards. And this month it is in Orlando, FL at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts’s Walt Disney Theater from January 11 – 29, 2017.

If you have never seen or heard of “Wicked” here is a quick premise: The surprising tale of an unlikely friendship between two women in the Land of Oz, Wicked tells the untold story of the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good, long before Dorothy dropped in. Elphaba, born with emerald-green skin, is smart, fiery and misunderstood. Glinda is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. The remarkable odyssey of how these unexpected friends changed each other’s lives for good has made Wicked one of world’s most popular musicals.

This show was simply outstanding. Simply outstanding! I grew up in New York and visit the theatre district many many many times and have seen hundreds of plays. I loved the grand scale of it all. The sets, the cast, the music! It was all so amazing to me. When I moved to Florida in 2010, I thought I wasn’t going to be  able to see that scale of amazing again in the theatre…and that was true until I found the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts’s Walt Disney Theater. These people put on shows like I have never seen. “Wicked” was so just epic and breathtaking that I feel like I have to see it twice to soak in all the magic that it was!

I am sure that Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth were amazing in their original roles on Broadway. No doubt. But these two leads in Orlando were absolutely breathtaking! Their voices really pick you up and take your through this amazing story behind “The Wizard of Oz”. The talent on this production overall is just A+. With all the shows I’ve seen I have to admit this was in no question of the best in recent year! Must see this show at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts or at least during its North American tour.

Theatre Review “Slava’s Snowshow” Orlando FL, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Tuesday, February 17, 2015–Sunday, March 1, 2015
Walt Disney Theater
120 minutes (2 hours)

“Slava’s Snowshow” is like nothing I have ever seen before on the stage. I have seen a dozen of the Cirque du Soleil shows and since Slava is the original Cirque du Soleil clown, I knew sort of what to expect. Still I haven’t been to a show that literally it has almost been a week since I saw it and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. This award winning international clown show has been touring for 20 years and I hope it goes for another 20 years. Even though this is a circus show, it is really magical. The set is extremely simple yet so effective. There is so much done with so little. The colors are so vibrant and the use of music blends in so beautifully.

Since this show is called “Snowshow”, I also expected the use of snow but never like this. Watch the 30 second clip below to just get a glimpse of what you can expect. You literally have snow exploded at you like a avalanche and it is breathtaking. Before the break, there is also a part with a spider web that takes over the entire theater. Words connect explain how terrifying yet at the same time exhilarating experience it was. to top it off it end with dozens of balls flying into the audience and the kids went crazy for that!

This was the first time that I got to visit the brand new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, FL and it is a marvel it is own. The parking situation is not great at all though and the staff was also quite nasty and rude. I don’t just mean one person either, I mean every single employee that we encountered was unpleasant. Luckily it got overshadowed by this amazing show. If it comes to your city, I highly recommend.

Theater Review “Ghost: The Musical” Bob Carr Performing Arts Center – Orlando, FL

“Ghost The Musical”
Bob Carr Performing Arts Center
Orlando, FL
May 13-18, 2014

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

“Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers is probably one of my all-time favorite long songs. I remember watching the film “Ghost” as a kid (probably too young to even get the film) and I fell in love with that song. The film is such a classic and whew knew that it could ever be turned into a Broadway play. Leave it up to the amazing, Bruce Joel Rubin (original writer of “Ghost”), who gave the words to “Ghost: The Musical” and the very fresh pop/rock score delivered by Grammy winner Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) and Glenn Ballard (writer of Josh Groban’s “Believe” and Alanis Morisstette’s “You Outta Know”). The show is such an experience, that is the only way I am able describe it. It is exhilarating and also at the same time exhausting. They not only capture the essence of the original film but also improve it to make this one of the best plays that I have ever seen on the stage.

We all know the story but just in case you don’t, here is official premise: “‘Ghost: The Musical’ follows Sam and Molly, a young couple whose connection takes a shocking turn after Sam’s untimely death. Trapped between two worlds, Sam refuses to leave Molly when he learns she is in grave danger. Desperate to communicate with her, he turns to a storefront psychic who helps him protect Molly and avenge his death”. What I love the most about this play was that my wife hadn’t seen the film in years and yet she enjoyed it just as much as myself who had just watched the film again to refresh earlier this week.

From the moment the play starts, you are wowed with amazing visuals projected at the stage. You feel like you are being swept through New York City. This video presentation is used throughout the show along with amazing light, smoke and strobe light effects. There is one particular scene that really blew me away, which takes place on a subway car that left me speechless. I have seen many different plays at Bob Carr Performing Arts Center and none of them have ever been like this. I felt like I was literally sitting on Broadway watching this performance. It was so solid and well done that I haven’t stopped thinking about it since and have already looked up tickets for another showing.

Since this show is a musical, I was very interested how they were going to tell the story of “Ghost” through music. Right from the “Overture”, I fell in love with the songs (and even purchased the soundtrack). I loved the spin that they put on “Unchained Melody” and of course it is also cued through the entire show. I cannot get the track “Here Right Now” out of my head. I have had it on repeat. “More” is a tale about the life in NYC really hits home with my having lived and worked there for many years. “Are You a Believer” was a highlight of the show and literally had me rolling in my chair.

Steven Grant Douglas gave life (or after life) to the role of Sam Wheat. He was very strong and easily the best acting performance for the show. Katie Postotnik plays Molly Jenson and this girl can really sing. She nails the song “With You”. I could see her on the stages of Broadway since she really has the chops, so she takes the best singing in the show. Last but certainly not least everyone’s favorite Oda Mae Brown (who won Whoopi Goldberg an Oscar for from the film) is played by Carla R. Stewart. Let me tell you this woman had the audience in tears, laughing that is. She was the perfect comedic relief for this film and was hit for hit with each of the jokes. Put these amazing performance together with a wonderful production and you have a guaranteed hit with “Ghost: The Musical”, do not this miss on the stage!

“Ghost: The Musical” will be at Bob Carr Performing Arts Center from May 13th-18th. If you miss it in Orlando, be sure to check it out on the rest of its US National Tour below:
WORCESTER
HANOVER THEATRE
JUNE 5 – JUNE 8

HARTFORD
BUSHNELL
JUNE 10 – JUNE 15

MINNEAPOLIS
ORPHEUM THEATRE
JUNE 18 – JUNE 23

LOS ANGELES
HOLLYWOOD PANTAGES
JUNE 27 – JULY 13

COSTA MESA
SEGERSTROM CENTER
JULY 29 – AUGUST 10

LAS VEGAS
THE SMITH CENTER
AUGUST 12 – AUGUST 17

Theatre Review “Jersey Boys” Bob Carr Performing Arts Center – Orlando, FL

“Jersey Boys”
Bob Carr Performing Arts Center
Orlando, FL
April 15 – 27, 2014

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

“Jersey Boys” premiered on Broadway back in 2005 and won a Tony for Best Musical the following year. I have seen many Broadway shows growing up and living in New York but I never did see “Jersey Boys”. Luckily living in Orlando, FL now I am still able to see Broadway quality shows at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center. “Jersey Boys” is the latest show making its limited engagement during its national tour at this theatre.

I have always been a huge Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons fan and have seen them many times live over the years. I thought it was time to catch this show to see what all the fuss was about, especially being a huge fan of the music already. Well I didn’t just enjoy the play I absolutely loved it. I found myself moving my feet along with music and singing under my breath (sometimes louder)…and I wasn’t the only one.

Now obviously, I can’t compare the performances to the Broadway cast since I have never saw it but if I could I am sure that this National tour cast would really give them a very strong run. I was extremely impressed with Hayden Milanes in the role of Frankie Valli, that with an “I” not a “Y” because everyone knows “Y” is a bullshit letter. The guy has a voice of angel (sound familiar?) and really nailed this role. Nicholas Dromard was perfect as Tommy DeVito and really had the audience by the balls like woman type number 1 (or was it number 2?)

Quinn Vanantwerp was funny, charming and very charismatic. I really enjoyed his performance of Bob Gaudio. I am sure Bob himself would be impressed. Last but definitely not least Adam Zelakso playing Nick Massi was the quite one but delivered a surprising end performance and I am glad he didn’t start his own band. Adam will also be appearing in Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of this play, though in a different role, which comes in this June in theaters (and I will be first in line for this movie). I also never knew that THE Joe Pecsi was involved with crew, you learn something new everyday.

Let’s get back to the music now. Oh the music…so many amazing tracks sung during this show. If you are a Frank Valli and the Four Seasons fan how can you not be screaming along from your seat to hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like A Man”, “Sherry”, “Earth Angel”, “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, “My Eyes Adored You”, “Rag Doll” and “Bye Bye Baby”, which like always hits me very hard. Such beautiful music. Such wonderful talent. This is a show that is not to be missed.

“Jersey Boys” will continue at Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre through April 27th, 2014 (click here for tickets) and see below for future dates from the National tour.

Orlando, FL
April 15 – 27, 2014

Knoxville, TN
April 29 – May 4, 2014

Cleveland, OH
May 6 – 18, 2014

Sioux Falls, SD
May 21 – 25, 2014

El Paso, TX
May 28 – June 1, 2014

Fort Worth, TX
June 3 – 15, 2014

Tucson, AZ
June 17 – 22, 2014

Costa Mesa, CA
June 24 – July 13, 2014

San Jose, CA
July 15 – 20, 2014

Tempe, AZ
July 22 – August 3, 2014

Los Angeles, CA
October 1 – 19, 2014

San Diego, CA
October 21 – 26, 2014

Sacramento, CA
November 5 – 22, 2014

Reno, NV
November 25 – 30, 2014

Theater Review "Hair" Kauffman Center For the Performing Arts – Kansas City, Missouri

Hair
Kauffman Center For the Performing Arts, Kansas City, Missouri
February 5, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Welcome to the 1960’s, the decade of free love, flower power, psychedelics, the Vietnam War, and long flowing hair! Even though it was written in 1967 and debuted on Broadway in 1968 the story and underlying symbolism of the musical “Hair” holds true even in this decade and for my own generation.

“Hair” is an ensemble/audience interaction event and an experience all in its own. Credited with being the first “Rock Opera,” “Hair” is the story of a group of young adults who are living the life of freedom, drugs, love and no responsibilities or, as they were better known at that time, hippies. Their only job is to live their life and protest the ideas of the conformist government and their conservative parents. Their retaliations range from protesting and draft card burning to something as simple as growing their hair long… the longer the better.

The main characters of the story are two young men: Claude (Noah Plomgren) and Berger (Brian Crawford Scott). They both find themselves attracted to young socialite Sheila (Mary Kate Morrissey). The struggles in conflict arises when Claude is drafted by the U.S. Army to serve his country in Vietnam. He struggles with the life he has led vs the life and path ahead of him.

The cast in this production of “Hair” was downright amazing, with every cast member in stunning form vocally. Unlike some touring productions, this cast is much more than just decent actors with good voices, Plomgren and Scott also show a fantastic gift for comedic timing as well as captivating emotion. Sheila and Woof (Jason Moody) were the two performers who really stood out to me. While many of the songs in the show are so familiar as to encourage the audience to sing along, when those two sang the audience sat silently and took their voices in.

What I enjoyed more than anything else at this performance was watching the audience. You could see the majority of the crowd were the same age as the cast during the”age of Aquarius” Being 28 I really got a kick watching the sixty-somethings with their gray hair and tied ties, now seemingly professional and clean cut, as they filled the auditorium. You could see them having literal flashbacks as the show progressed. A good laugh here at free love, a snicker there at a reference to “getting stoned” and even a whispered conversation between husband and wife during the song “Hashish” (the only lyrics being the various drugs popular in the 1960s) ending with an audible laugh. By the end of the show the audience was captivated by the story, the music and the cast. The show ends with a grand performance of “Let the Sun Shine In” with the cast inviting the audience to join in the fun and dance with them on stage.

The audience consisted of people of all ages, proving that after all these years “Hair” has stayed relevant from generation to generation…passed on from parents to their children (although as a child I never believed my parents were as cool as they said they were). This show offers an opportunity for any parent or grandparent whose kids always doubted their cool stories to introduce them to the life and times that now can only being read about in history books.

This show definitely earned 5 out 5 stars in my opinion, especially taking in the whole experience of the cast, the music, the performances, the venue and the people I shared this show with. It is an experience that I won’t forget and I’m sure in 40 more years the story of “Hair” and its ideals will still hold strong. “Hair” continues in Kansas City through Sunday, February 10. Below is a list of cities the show will visit soon.

For more information or to purchase tickets go to www.hairontour.com

February 19 – Opelika, Alabama
February 20 – Montgomery, Alabama
February 24 – Columbia, Missouri
February 26-27 – Kalamazoo, Michigan
February 28 – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
March 1 – Toledo, Ohio
March 2-3 – Detroit, Michigan