Theatre Review: “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” Starlight Theater – Kansas City, Missouri

CINDERELLA
July 7, 2015
Starlight Theater, Kansas City, Missouri

Our score: 4 out of 5 stars

Imagine I’m telling you this in my “old man” voice: Back in my day, theater on television was a rarity. Two things that kids looked forward to were the annual presentations of Mary Martin in “Peter Pan” and “Cinderella,” starring Lesley Ann Warren and Stuart Damon. This touring production captures the magic of my early television memories.

The story is well known. Cinderella (Paige Faure) lives with her mean step-mother (Beth Glover) and two step-sisters (Kaitlyn Davidson and Aymee Garcia). While step-mom dreams up ways of marrying her daughters off and moving up in life, Cinderella toils in the house, cooking, cleaning and making the beds. A chance meeting with Prince Topher (Andy Huntington Jones) allows her to dream of a better life When the Prince invites every eligible lady in the kingdom to the ball, in the hopes of meeting his future bride, Cinderella longs to go. But she could use a little help…

Well produced and performed, this version of “Cinderella” mixes up great songs (by the legendary Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers), a strong cast and a familiar story to make it sure to entertain everyone in the audience, both young and old. The cast is in fine voice and the choreography is sharply performed. Both leads have great range and the supporting characters, especially Cinderella’s mean relatives, prove themselves fine comediennes. And the magic isn’t reserved just for the performances. Some amazing sleight of hand occurs when Cinderella obtains her ball gown. I urge you to pay attention and if you can tell me how they do it, please drop me a line. The accompanying orchestra also helped keep the show moving, helping give a familiar story a few much needed high notes.

“Cinderella” continues at Starlight through Sunday, July 12, 2015.

Concert Review: The Rolling Stones @ Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

The Rolling Stones
June 27, 2015
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

They bill themselves as “The Worlds’ Greatest Rock and Roll Band,” and last Saturday night the Rolling Stones more then lived up to that title as they entertained more than 50,000 people at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on their 15-city “Zip Code” tour.

Opening the show with “Start Me Up,” the band instantly brought the crowd to their feet. Not sure if it was for the song itself of the fact that every Chief kick-off begins with that song during football season. The next two hours were filled with hit after hit. In fact, with the exception of the song “Doom and Gloom,” from the new 50th Anniversary Compilation Album entitled “GRRR!,” the band played nothing but hits.

As in other cities on the tour, the Stones took on-line requests for this show, with the winning song being “Street Fighting Man.” Lead singer Mick Jagger was in great voice. I’ve seen every US tour since the 1981 “Tatoo You” tour, and Jagger sounded as strong on Saturday as he did three decades ago. Musically the band was as tight as ever, with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood trading guitar licks, while Wood chain-smoked the entire show. Richards was also in top form vocally, taking the lead on “Before They Make Me Run” and “Happy.” Drummer Charlie Watts kept the beat going and bassist Daryl Jones, who has been playing with the band since Bill Wyman retired in 1993, laid down great line after line.

See the photo below? I’ve always said that if I was abducted by aliens and they asked me what rock and roll was that I would just show them this photo. If they don’t understand it from then they never will!

SET LIST: Start Me Up, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It), Tumbling Dice, Doom and Gloom, Beast of Burden, Kansas City, Bitch, Wild Horses, Street Fighting Man, Honky Tonk Woman, Before They Make Me Run, Happy, Midnight Rambler, Miss You, Gimme Shelter, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Sympathy for the Devil, Brown Sugar. ENCORE: You Can’t Always Get What You Want, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.

Theatre Review “Million Dollar Quartet” Kansas City, Missouri

“Million Dollar Quartet”
Starlight Theater
Kansas City, Missouri
May 22, 2015

Our score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

On December 4, 1956 the stars aligned as they never would again. That day, Carl Perkins and his band walked into Sun Records, located at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, with the intent on recording a new hit. Carl’s choice of song was a rocking version of a song called “Matchbox.” Sun’s owner, Sam Phillips, had his latest act, a young boy named Jerry Lee Lewis, sit in to play piano during the session. Later that day, Johnny Cash rolled in to see Perkins (though in his autobiography Cash maintains that he was the first one there that day). Even later, the studio is graced by Elvis Presley and his current girl. As the musicians relaxed they began what turned into a (46) song jam session. Rumor is that Phillips called a friend at the newspaper, who came by and captured a legendary photo of the session. The next day that photo appeared in the paper, dubbing the boys the “Million Dollar Quartet.”

Heavy on classic songs and buoyed by the energy of it’s cast, the current touring production of “Million Dollar Quartet,” which played at Starlight this weekend, is a show that will have you out of your seats and into your dancing shoes. The enthusiasm is brought on by the strong performances of the cast. As Carl Perkins, Gabe Bowling carries the bulk of the musical load, with his outstanding guitar playing and vocals. He gives Perkins a small chip on his shoulder, one brought about by Presley having sung “Blue Suede Shoes” (which Perkins wrote and which was his first big hit) on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Scott Moreau does a fine job mimicking Johnny Cash’s musical style, though his vocals seemed uneven on some spots. As Presley, young Jacob Rowley nails the King’s vocals and mannerisms perfectly. I was shocked to learn that he is only 19 years old. For someone who wasn’t born until almost two decades after Presley passed, his performance was amazing. The highlight performance, for me, Colte Julian as the precocious Jerry Lee Lewis. Playing the piano in Lewis’ patented “let it all hang out” style, Julian hit all the right notes, both musically and with a great sense of humor. In a non-musical role, Bryan Langlitz, as Sam Phillips, keeps the show moving through his narration.

Where as a lot of the music sung during the original get together was Gospel (both Presley and Cash were very spiritual and released several successful albums in their career) the show is made up of familiar songs from all of the artists. That the music is being played live (all of the performers play their own instruments) makes the show even more exciting. The backing band (stand up bass player Chuck Zayas and drummer Patrick Morrow) keep the beat moving throughout. If you’re in the mood for some good, old-fashioned rock and roll, I urge you take in the “Million Dollar Quartet.”

The show heads to Tulsa, Oklahoma for shows beginning on May 26th and then continues throughout the summer. For more information head to http://milliondollarquartetlive.com/tour-info.html

Concert Review “Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show” Kansas City, Missouri

Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Kansas City, Missouri
May 27 – June 1, 2014

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Ah, Las Vegas in the 1960s. It still had the lure of mystery and DEFINITELY wasn’t kid friendly. If you were lucky, you could head to the Sands Hotel and take in the hottest show in town featuring a quartet of entertainers whose talents could never be topped. They were known as the Rat Pack – and for a few hours in Kansas City, they were back!

We were greeted by the jovial “voice of God.” And if you’re in Las Vegas who better to portray your deity then Buddy Hackett. As the voice of the late, great comedian comes through the speakers the audience is transported back five decades. The spotlight hits center stage and there they are: Funny man Joey Bishop (Sandy Hackett), the “King of Cool,” Dean Martin (Tom Wallek), the “Candyman,” Sammy Davis, Jr. (Louie Velez) and, of course, the “Chairman of the Board,” Francis Albert Sinatra (Danny Grewen). After a group opening number, entitled “Hello Again,” the audience is treated to some great one liners courtesy of Joey/Hackett. The son of the great Buddy Hackett, the comedy genes run deep in this family. The timing is spot on as is the quick wit, evident when some “Kansas City” themed jokes appear. The rest of the first act relies on the banter between Dean and Sammy as the two trade musical numbers. The act ends with the silhouette of Sammy bathed in light.

Act two welcomes Frank back to the stage. After a great medley of some signature songs (“Come Fly With Me,” “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “Fly Me to the Moon”), Frank takes a quiet moment to think about the one that got away. This brings on an appearance by “Frank’s One Love” (Lisa Dawn Miller, like Hackett a producer of the show) Miller is the daughter of song writing legend Ron Miller, whose songs include “Touch Me in the Morning,” “I’ve Never Been to Me” and “For Once in My Life,” which Frank performs in the show. The rest of the act consists of more laughter and music.

I’m very fortunate (and old) in that I had the great opportunity to see both Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. perform before they passed away. With those memories in my head I naturally compared that experience to the one I had at this show. And I wasn’t disappointed. Grewen has that smooth, clear quality that made Sinatra extraordinary and Velez was spot-on perfect as Sammy Davis, Jr. Ms. Miller belted out her number with gusto, making herself a proud member of the group. If there was any disappointment it came courtesy of Tom Wallek’s Dean. He had the look and the mannerism’s down, but the voice just wasn’t right. During the on stage banter he sounded more like Johnny Carson then Dean Martin. A little quibble maybe, but something that someone like me, who grew up watching, and own on DVD, Martin’s classic television roasts. That being said, “Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show” is a must-see for anyone that wants to recapture those magical days of yesterday!

Concert Review: Slayer – Uptown Theater – Kansas City, Missouri

Slayer
Uptown Theater
05/13/2014
Kansas City, Missouri

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I guess you could say this is Slayer’s way of squeezing out a few pennies before the onslaught of summer tour dates and finishing up their 11th studio album. It’s understandable that a band, especially with the resources at a hand, wouldn’t mind going on a little stint across the U.S., but this is the first time since 1990 that Slayer has toured with Suicidal Tendencies (I was two when that tour tore across the states) and they have Exodus to boot on this trek. If this is what Slayer does for a “short tour”, they need to do it more.

If you’ve never been to Kansas City, then I shall fill you in on the absurd weather that we receive. During the seasonal transition months, it can be stupid muggy or ridiculously brisk. This was one of those Spring/Summer evenings that was quite chilly, so reluctant to say, a bunch of heavily pierced and leather wearing men were ready to pack in like a sardine can into the Uptown Theater and sweat it out. A line outside literally stretched a block as Exodus began it’s sound check. So it’s obvious who people were there to see.

I’ve been a longtime fan of Exodus and they didn’t disappoint. A small collective of hairy men were near the front going insane while die-hard fans rode the barrier wall up front. For three bands that highly respect each other and have a good four to five hours of play time to split amongst them, it’s a bit weird that Exodus would only be allowed a little less than half an hour. Would have loved to see them at least play one new song off their last three albums, but once “Piranha” came on, I was livid with joy that’d they play the first song I heard of theirs many, many years ago.

I don’t know a lot about Suicidal Tendencies and they’re not necessarily high on my list of go to music in the car, but I have a great amount of respect for a band that really helped mold a fluid hardcore/thrash metal sound. These guys must have gotten straight out of a time machine because their energy was through the roof. I didn’t know any of the songs right off the bat, but after the first time hearing the chorus, I couldn’t help but mouth a couple of their violent anthems. I think their youthfulness is bolstered by the new addition, Thomas Pridgen, at drummer. He hasn’t even performed on any of their albums and yet he played with such manic enthusiasm, you’d think he was fighting for a spot in their line-up. Ironically they continued the trend of not playing a single new song on the night.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Slayer, but that rush of adrenaline before they get on stage never goes away. Their stage staple is always an upside down cross and yet they find a new way to present it or light it on fire. Gary Holt, who’s replacing Jeff Hanneman, is solid and Paul Bostaph, who’s back in the band for a third time, is also good. Hanneman and Dave Lombardo will definitely be missed and it felt awkward watching a band that only performed songs featuring those two previous members. I can’t tell if it’s a tribute to their contributions or not. Give the fans what they want though, anything before 1990 is classic Slayer.

While I got to hear plenty of songs I’ve never heard before live like “Chemical Warfare”, “At Dawn They Sleep”, and “Black Magic”, I wouldn’t have been upset if they slipped in God Hates Us All or Hate Worldwide. I even heard their newest single “Implode” online and thought that was definitely something they’d shred. Nope, they stuck to their first five albums. I’m still waiting for the day I at least here one song off of Diabolus in Musica. Maybe it’s because I saw the insane energy of Suicidal Tendencies just an hour before, but the energy of Slayer just wasn’t there. The go-to band of the metal community was upstaged at their own headlining show.

Outside of a pair of gentleman, there’s not a single ounce of young blood on this tour. While it’s great to see these guys who are pushing towards their 50’s chug out some old tunes, I would have loved to see some new music. For someone my age, it’s not necessarily nostalgic to hear some of the best 80’s pit music, but I understand it’s what made you popular and it’s what people know. While Slayer is planning on putting out their new album this year, it doesn’t show a lot of promise when they don’t play the single they released before embarking on this tour (and from what I read didn’t play it at Rock on the Range). Are they simply appeasing to fans or worried that they’ve been spent the past two to three decades making garbage? Maybe I’m overthinking it…or maybe I’m worried Slayer’s about to hit a slump.

Exodus Set-List
Bonded by Blood
Piranha
War is My Shephard
Blacklist
The Toxic Waltz
Strike of the Beast

Suicidal Tendencies Set-List
You Can’t Bring Me Down
Trip at the Brain
War Inside My Head
Subliminal
Possessed to Skate
I Saw Your Mommy
Cyco Vision
Pledge Your Allegiance

Slayer Set-List:
Hell Awaits
The Antichrist
Necrophiliac
Mandatory Suicide
Captor of Sin
War Ensemble
Postmortem
Altar of Sacrifice
Jesus Saves
At Dawn They Sleep
Die by the Sword
Hallowed Point
Seasons in the Abyss
Chemical Warfare
Dead Skin Mask
Raining Blood
Black Magic
South of Heaven
Angel of Death

Theatre Review “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz” Kansas City, Missouri

WICKED: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz
October 10, 2013
Music Hall
Kansas City, Missouri

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

For those not familiar with the story, “Wicked” tells the story of the witches of Oz before they are visited by a certain little girl from Kansas. The two main characters are Glinda the Good Witch (Hayley Podschun) and Elphaba (Jennifer DiNoia) the “Wicked” Witch of the West. The story begins where the well known story of “The Wizard of Oz” ends, Dorothy has just gone back to Kansas and the Munchkins are singing and celebrating now that the Wicked Witch is finally dead. As the celebration and singing continues a question is put to Glinda as to the actual relationship she shared with Elphaba when they were growing up. We are than transported by way of Glinda’s memory to her school days and her first meeting with Elphaba.

As you can probably figure, Glinda and Elphaba were very different from the beginning. Glinda grew up in a higher class family, which made it quite simple to achieve any dream she had. She just had to ask and it was given to her. Even though Elphaba’s father is the Mayor she has a little tiny problem that keeps her from making friends… she is green! Her sole purpose in life is to take care of her beautiful and normal looking sister, Nessarose, who is confined to a wheelchair. We follow Elphaba and Glinda to “college,” where their disdain for each other grows. As time progresses we watch them deal with their differences, their disagreements, their shared following of sorcery and their shared love of the same boy, Fiyero.

What’s most enjoyable about “Wicked” is that the story continually works in the story of “The Wizard of Oz,” with some twists involved that make all to much sense to the story that we already know. We learn how the scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion all come to be. We learn why there must be good to match evil or, in this case, where there must be evil to match good. What we are all lead to do is to accept the thought that we must unlearn what we already know. You will never watch “The Wizard of Oz” again and feel the same way about any of the characters.

Most impressive of “Wicked” was that the story was all new to me, I went in with only expectations of being entertained and satisfied with the production I saw. What I witnessed was something entirely different. It was an emotional experience that left me drained by the end. You’re not sure if you should choose sides; is there a good and evil in this story? Is it all evil? Is it all good? Do I root for just one character or do I just trust that sometimes there can be two right sides to every story? “Wicked” is a top notch production with great music and a fantastic crew currently running in Kansas City through October 27. It’s a story that you should experience at least once. My only regret about the show is that it has taken me ten years to see it!I

The entire cast of “Wicked” in KC was amazing, with special kudos going to DiNoia and Kansas City native Podschun. Many in the cast had played the same roles on Broadway. I could tell from the beginning that this performance would be like nothing I had seen recently at the theater. “Wicked” was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning three, and boasts a Grammy winning soundtrack of such memorable tunes as the Act 1 finale “Defying Gravity.” If “Wicked” blows your way I suggest you go see it before a house drops on YOU!

There are currently two touring companies of “Wicked” making their way around the United States. This cast can next be seen in Des Moines, Indianapolis and Cleveland. For more tour information http://www.wickedthemusical.com/broadway-tickets

Concert Review: The Steel Wheels – Kansas City, Missouri

The Steel Wheels
Record Bar
September 17, 2013
Kansas City, Missouri

The Steel Wheels rolled into Kansas City last week on their way to the Winfield, Kansas Blue Grass Festival. Earlier in the year they completed a leg of their tour by biking to all of their shows, carrying their clothes and their instruments on their bicycles from show to show, often riding upwards of 80 miles and than playing!

The Steel Wheels are a 4-piece string band from Virginia. Their sound could be described as a little bluegrass, a little gospel and very soulful. Their new album, “No More Rain,” is slower with a little gospel feel which is a contrast to their live show, which featured a ton of breakdowns and was very up tempo.

With a stand up bass, fiddle, guitar, mandolin and the occasional banjo, they group has a very old time feel. Using no drums and only one microphone, many of the songs involve the group’s members gathering around the single microphone singing and breaking it down.

These guys were very impressive and extremely talented. Its bands like this that make this job so rewarding. The Steel Wheels aren’t famous; they’re not on the radio and they’re certainly not millionaires. But their music will lift your souls and make you tap your foot and try to sing along with a song you have never heard before.

The current leg of the Steel Wheels’ tour runs through December 2013. If you can catch them live you’ll be glad that you did. If you can’t, check them out on line and spread the word!

Theatre Review: “Miss Saigon” Starlight Theater – Kansas City, Missouri

Miss Saigon
Starlight Theater
Kansas City, Missouri
September 7, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

In April 1991 one of the great “spectacle” musicals opened on Broadway. The show was “Miss Saigon,” which I had the privilege to see shortly after its opening. The show was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, winning three for Lead Actor in a Musical (Jonathan Pryce), Lead Actress in a Musical (Lea Salonga) and Featured Actor in a Musical (Hinton Battle). “The Will Rogers Follies” took home the bulk of the awards that year, including Best Musical. But “Miss Saigon” had the last laugh. While “The Will Rogers Follies” ran for two years, “Miss Saigon” ran for almost ten. In fact, as I write this, it is the 12th longest running show in Broadway history. The current touring production opened this week at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City and it proved a fitting end to a successful season under the stars.

Saigon. 1975. As the war in Vietnam comes to a close we meet Chris (Charlie Brady) and John (Nkrumah Gatling) as they pay a visit to Dreamland, the local club where you can find ANYTHING you desire, courtesy of the club’s owner, who calls himself The Engineer (Orville Mendoza). The club is buzzing with the heat of a steamy night as well as the heat coming off the girls who work there. New to the club is Kim (Manna Nichols), who has just lost her family and now finds herself homeless and alone. As the girls gyrate and compete to win the nightly crown of “Miss Saigon,” Chris spots Kim from across the room. In this terrible place torn apart by war he has discovered an angel. John arranges with the Engineer that Kim and Chris spend the night together and, when morning comes, they are in love. But any plans they make for the future come to a halt when Chris, his fellow Marines and the US Ambassador evacuate Saigon.

Brilliantly staged, this production of “Miss Saigon” is equal in scope to the one I took in more than two decades ago at the Broadway Theater (that is the name of the theater…it’s actually on 53rd Street and is currently hosting the revival of “Cinderella”). I’ve always been impressed with Starlight’s ability to reproduce the scale of Broadway on their stage and they do it again with this show. The cast is well voiced and bring an emotional quality needed to the subject matter. I must give special attention to both Mendoza and Nichols who were, in my opinion, as good as their Tony Award winning predecessors. On an unseasonably hot September night their voices soared high and clear over the audience. Technically the show is also first rate, from the direction to the new choreography by Baayork Lee. Theatre fans may recognize Miss Lee as the original Connie in “A Chorus Line.” She has done an outstanding job or translating the show in her own way.

Recent rumors of a “Miss Saigon” film are running rampant, based on a comment producer Cameron MacIntosh made regarding the success of the recent “Les Miserables.” Since that film made almost $150 million in the US alone, I’m betting that the heat will soon be on at a theatre near you!

“Miss Saigon” continues at Starlight through September 13.
Additional Dates
Hartford September 16
Detroit September 24
St. Paul October 8

Theatre Review “Footloose: The Musical” Starlight Theatre – Kansas City, Missouri

Footloose: The Musical
Starlight Theatre
Kansas City, Missouri
August 5th, 2013

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

On a muggy night in the Heartland, it seemed fitting that the production of “Footloose” would be sweat inducing and, for female attendees, steamy. As the title song belted out and a company of extras began to dance to the iconic pop-rock beat of the 80’s, my ears perked up. I’m well versed and cultured enough to know about previous generations, but I’ve never seen the movie “Footloose,” nor had I ever a care to. In that moment of cutting loose and kicking off the Sunday shoes, I found myself interested. I was ready for this glimpse into the 80’s. My expectations jumped up to the par with everyone else that night as the cast showed off their best moves during the opening number. Boy did those hopes fizzle out.

Ren McCormack (Max Clayton) and his single mom, Ethel (Paula Leggett Chase), are heading from the city lights of Chicago to the humble countryside of Beaummont. A stereotypical middle-American small country town. The kind that is drenched from hillside to hillside in golden wheat and pristine corn fields. The residents are set in their ways and are already weary and gossiping about Ren and his mom the morning they arrive at church. Despite the police and other community leaders, Reverend Shaw Moore (George Dvorsky) is the overriding moral, spiritual and political leader of this town. Years ago, a tragic accident took the life of four teens, including Shaw Moore’s son. Since then, the Reverend has imposed a strict no-dancing law in the town. As absurd as this sounds, this has actually happened in the U.S. (the town of Elmore City, Oklahoma banned dancing for over 100 years and was Dean Pitchford’s inspiration for his script for “Footloose”). For the energetic Ren, who expresses his emotions through dance, this is a nightmare. He manages, though, with the help of classmate and friend, Willard Hewitt (Matthew Dorsey Moore) and the pastor’s daughter, Ariel (Taylor Louderman).

For a musical called “Footloose”, it really seems like the big dance numbers are kept to a minimum and dancing in general through the middle part of this story is stifled. It seems like the dance choreographer is playing the part of Reverend Moore during half these songs. If there were more songs like “On Any Sunday”, “Footloose” and “Let’s Hear it for the Boy”, this would have been a grand dance and song musical on par with other greats. That doesn’t mean the other songs aren’t good. When you have Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar and Jim Steinman sharing the writing credits, you can’t go wrong with some rockin’ songs and love soaked ballads.

The show has a problem settling on a main idea. On one hand it could be a time capsule of an aging era. On another it’s the story of young vs. adult and traditional vs. new. It also tries to be a sexy, hip look at the lives of teenagers in a small town. Some of those ideas will grab hold and really stick with a viewer. But as for me, I was a bit overwhelmed by all three together and underwhelmed by each on their own. My personal preference would have been a time capsule. Every generation has the conflict of “parents just don’t understand” and very few stories actually have a whiff of creativity when it comes to exaggerated teen comedy/dramas. If these two ideas took a seat back to fun dance numbers and this musical’s catchy 80’s music, “Footloose” would have been a memorable evening at Starlight.

As I stated with Starlight’s previous iconic 80’s musical “Flashdance”, I may have been created in the 80’s, but I’m a product of the 90’s. I haven’t seen the 1984 movie, nor its 2011 remake. Some of the older people in the audience seemed to really dig it, but this is not my cup of tea. I loved the music, the dancing (when it happened) and the creative set pieces by Robert A. Kovach. My view of the 80’s is that it was the last generation with a true rebellious nature. The music struck a nerve in an era of growing morality and Reaganomics. Genres like punk rock, grunge and some sultry pop icons like Madonna festered and spoke to a confused and rambunctious generation. I wasn’t hoping for that style of music or any blatant liberal ideology. I was simply hoping for it to touch upon these ideas in a sentimental manner and sometime comical fashion.

“Footloose” will be at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City until August 11th.

Concert Review “Unity Tour 2013” with 311, Cypress Hill and G.Love & Special Sauce – Kansas City, Missouri

The Unity Tour
311
Cypress Hill
G.Love & Special Sauce
Starlight Theater
Kansas City, Missouri
July 2, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

I have seen 311 more times than I can count on my fingers (unless I had Bill Cosby’s hands) and as always the only thing I can say after seeing them is AMAZING!!

The 2013 Unity Tour kicked off with G.Love & Special Sauce performing their smooth mix of bluesy, hip hop, and R& B stylings. They played a great set and started the night off perfectly. It was about 80 degrees and sunny and the crowd was in it from the start. Playing “Cold Beverages” had everyone in the audience holding there beers up, resulting in more spilling going on than drinking at that time. G.Love has been a staple in my music collection since college and they did not disappoint in my first time seeing them live.

As more people started filling in the seats I began seeing and smelling many different groups forming. I could only think “what an appropriate welcoming for Cypress Hill.” If you are not familiar with the name Cypress Hill you will be familiar with their largest hit, “Insane in the Brain.” You couldn’t go anywhere in the mid to late 90’s it seemed without hearing that song or
a reference to that song. They lived up to their billing and, after all these years, they still brought a fresh set and energized performance to KC.

As good as the opening performances were I noticed I could hear the sound of people rushing into Starlight as 311 prepared to come on stage. I thought I had seen Starlight packed before.. but not like this! They must have been at capacity by this time of the night and for good reason. 311 has and always will put on one of the best live performances you will ever see! During their annual 3/11 day concerts they’ve been known to play up to 84 song over a two day period. They put together a tight play list for this concert. From the opening “Omaha Stylee” to their encore of “Creatures (For a While),” they had the crowed riled up, jumping yelling, singing. I’d bet the majority of the crowd knew every word to every song… every word.

What separates 311 from other acts I have seen is they know what the fans want to hear. They have consistently put out records since 1993. They still have current singles on the radio but they don’t push all of their new material. Their set list spawns 20 years now and they hit every album, playing not only songs considered their greatest hits but songs that only the most die hard fans would know. There isn’t a new song they are trying out. It is just straight hits: “Down,” “All Mixed Up,” “Amber,” “Don’t Tread on Me,” “Logo,” and “Behind the Gray Sky.” While they can’t play every song (remember they’ve been known to do 80-plus songs at a concert) I never thought ” aw man they didn’t play that song.” I was as pleased with this concert as the others I’d attended.

This group of acts is something you shouldn’t sit on, They are hitting tons of cities and great venues, GO AND GET YOUR TICKETS! They will sell out everywhere and you will hear your friends just rant about the concert. Especially 7/21(West Palm Beach), 7/23,(Tampa) 7/27(Houston) and 8/3 (Chula Vista) when they pickup Penny Wise and Sublime w/Rome on those dates. Extremely jealous that I will not be around those cities on those dates.

You can check out all the tour dates at http://www.311.com/shows

They will have a different set list at all the cities so if you get to see them I would love to see your comments and their set list.

311 Set list:
1. Omaha Stylee
2. Sunset In July
3. Freak Out
4. Misdirected Hostility
5. Beautiful Disaster
6. Wild Nights
7. Random
8. My Stoney Baby
9. Come Original, Loco
10. Time Bomb
11. Applied Science
12. Amber
13. All Mixed Up
14. Wake Your Mind Up
15. Taiyed Hey You
16. Beyond The Gray Sky
17. Freeze Time
18. Visit
19. Down
20. Jackpot
21. Creatures

Theatre Review “Flashdance: The Musical” Starlight Theatre – Kansas City, Missouri

Flashdance: The Musical
Starlight Theatre
Kansas City, Missouri
July 9, 2013

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I’ve never seen the 1983 film “Flashdance.” I wasn’t even sure what the story was about as I strolled to my seat to watch the musical production, appropriately titled, “Flashdance: The Musical”. The only thing I knew about the film was that it featured the song “Maniac” as well as the famous and steamy scene featuring a 20-year-old Jennifer Beals dousing herself in water. After watching “Flashdance: The Musical” I think I’ll stick with that sultry movie image and the few musical numbers from the stage show that really stuck out.

It’s not that the story is terrible. It’s that nothing feels spectacular about it. Alex Owens (Jillian Mueller) toughs it out with other men at a steel mill during the day, but at night she flashdances at Harry’s Bar. She works alongside some sassy ladies by the names of Kiki (Dequina Moore), Gloria (Kelly Felthous) and Tess (Katie Webber). One day at the steel mill she meets the boss’s grandson, Nick Hurley (Matthew Hydzik). He immediately takes a liking to her, but she’s not interested. She’s far more entranced by the Shipley Academy, where professional dancing dreams are fulfilled. The rest of the story is fairly predictable. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the theme of the plot is about pursuing your dreams and at times realizing what’s most important in your life. The problem lies in some of the unnecessary side plots. One about the strip club owner, C.C. (Christian Whelan), who’s trying to lure Harry’s women to his establishment down the street. Another about the falling out between Gloria and her boyfriend Jimmy (David R. Gordon). Of course I get the impression people aren’t there for the supposed drama unfolding on stage. I assume they’re in attendance to relive the decade that brought us new wave, hip hop and the popularization of hard rock.

The music does a fantastic job at blending different genres of 80’s music, accompanied by some entertaining dance numbers. Sadly not all songs are like this. Some are just dry ballads or poorly written songs. The musical really succeeds when background sets are constantly changing, when an ensemble of dancers and singers flow in and burst with excitement. The fun is poured on when costume changes occur. They’re quick and incredibly sexy. It’s frustrating when songs like “Steeltown Sky”, “Manhunt” and “Chameleon Girls”, are followed with numbers that trip and fall flat like “Just Out of Reach”, “Remember Me” and “Where I Belong”. It’s not that the actors in this did a poor job; many were fantastic and showed great vocal range. It’s just that the lyrics were confining and didn’t give the performers room to grow. Veteran stage actress Jo Ann Cunningham, who plays Hannah, Alex’s mentor, is given her own song, but the balance between lyrics and music seemed incredibly wobbly.

All the right pieces are here, except a good script and solid set of songs. At one point I wondered if maybe this was a movie that never really needed a stage adaptation. But maybe I’m missing something. The 80’s was when female artists like Whitney Houston and Madonna shined and really helped pave the way for other musicians. Also it was a continuing and growing age of women in the workplace. I grew up in the 90’s. I watched the birth and death of music videos on TV. Grunge, punk rock and gangsta rap became mainstream. It’s hard for me to feel nostalgic or relate to the show being put on. So if you’re a Generation X child or enjoyed the 80’s, you’ll enjoy this musical. But if you’re a product of the 90’s like me, you’ll be dreading the day when they make “Spice World: The Musical”

The show is currently running in Kansas City through July 14th. The current tour continues into next year. The next three stops are:

Chicago — August 6th-18th
Memphis — September 17th-22nd
Indianapolis — October 1st-6th

A complete list of tour dates can be found at: www.flashdancethemusical.com

Theater Review: “Mary Poppins” The Music Hall – Kansas City, Missouri

MARY POPPINS
The Music Hall
Kansas City, Missouri
April 9th, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

The wind picked up on the mid-west plains last week, and that magical, singing, cleaning nanny we all learned to love growing up was blown right into Kansas City. Mary Poppins delivered one of the most colorful and musically brilliant shows I can ever remember seeing. Led by the outstanding performances of Madeline Trumble as Mary Poppins and Con O’shea-Creal as Burt, the jack of all trades famously played by Dick Van Dyke on the big screen. This Broadway worthy performance had me captivated and taken right into early 1900’s London. Fantastic acting by all players, great use of accents when speaking and singing and phenomenal dance numbers are among the highlights of this production.

“Mary Poppins” was a film that most everyone has seen and hopefully remembers quite well. I was relieved that the play did not run word for word, scene for scene as the movie; for if it did it would have been a bit boring, as anything would be if you knew what to expect the whole time. There are some familiar songs featured in the film but not included in the production such as ” I Love to Laugh.” But the addition of some originally cut songs such as “Practically Perfect” made me completely forget all about that. You can’t top the great Dick Van Dyke’s performance in the film, but in this production Con O’shea-Creal was dead on in character. He had such a great presence on the stage that he actually stood out to me more than the title character. He had the audience laughing, clapping along and received great ovations after most of his numbers.

This play had one thing that I have never made notice of before at a live theatre event. The scene changes that happened the whole night and the colors! The brilliance of the lights and the colors made me wish I would have brought my sunglasses into the theater especially during the carnival with the ever so popular and classic song “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” The staging made me drop my jaw and say WOW!! Something I would never expect, or have experienced, at live theater. Every scene change happened flawlessly and so quick you didn’t even notice. Trust me I think that is as weird as you do reading this to make note of something like that. That was just another reason that I felt that this show was outstanding in every way. You could say it was “Practically Perfect”.

I would advise anyone that lives near a city that this show is coming too to get out and find a seat in the theatre. If you have kids great. If not, “Mary Poppins” is still a show that you will not regret seeing.

The tour continues in the following cities:
May 1 – 5 – Denver, Colorado
May 8 – 12 – San Francisco, California
May 21 – June 2 – Anchorage, Alaska

For more information on upcoming shows: http://www.marypoppins.com/

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

Theater Review "Billy Elliot: The Musical" – Music Hall, Kansas City, Missouri

Billy Elliot: The Musical
Music Hall, Kansas City, Missouri
January 22, 2013

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“I never had that much energy at that age,” is what I told myself after watching 12 year old Drew Minard steal the show as the title character in “Billy Elliot: The Musical.”

The show, based on the film of the same name, tells the story of a young man who, bored with boxing classes, finds himself drawn to ballet, an endeavor that does not go over well in his tough, English household, where it’s easier to make fun of “the bally,” as it’s called, then appreciate the beauty of the art.

As the show begins the audience is thrust into the beginning of Britain’s 1984 Coal Miner’s strike.  Billy’s father, Joe (Rich Hebert) is one of the leaders of the strike, hoping by holding out that he can better the life of his sons.  His oldest boy, Tony (Cullen Titmas) also works in the mines but doesn’t have his father’s temperament.  Joe and his sons live with Grandma (Patti Perkins), Billy’s mother having died some time ago.  They are working class, as is the majority of their small town, which makes Billy’s new found hobby even more difficult to embrace.  But, urged on by his teacher (Janet Dickinson), Billy follows her advice and, true to the song she sings to motivate him, he shines!

Photo by Amy Boyle

Winner of 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical, “Billy Elliot” is what I would call a “solid” musical.  It has all of the great elements you want in a show:  great cast, intriguing story and a good score.   Which is kind of disappointing since the music was written by Elton John (“The Lion King”) in a collaboration with Lee Hall, author of the book and lyrics as well as the screenplay to the original film.  While a couple of numbers stand out (“Solidarity” and “Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher”) there really isn’t a song that you leave the theatre humming.  But don’t let that keep you away.  The show is entertaining and well choreographed.  Heck, the curtain call is a production number in itself.  And if you go, make sure you give a standing ovation to Master Minard (or any of the other boys, there are four in total, who are playing Billy on this tour).  He certainly earns it!

“Billy Elliot: The Musical” continues in Kansas City through January 27 and then visits the following cities:

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA                 January 29 -30

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA                   February 1-3

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA           February 5 -10

GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA                February 12 -17

NAPLES, FLORIDA                            February 19 -24

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA              February 26 – March 3

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA     March 5 – 10

PEORIA, ILLINOIS                             March 12 – 14

FOR LATER SHOWS VISIT  http://www.billyelliottour.com/us-tour-tickets

 

Concert Review: Paul McCartney: On the Run Tour – St Louis, Missouri

Paul McCartney/On the Run Tour
Date:  November 11, 2012
Venue:  Scottrade Center, St Louis, Missouri

Even at age 70 Paul McCartney can bounce around like a youngster.  Despite a trip off of a riser towards the end of the show (Macca quickly hopped up, struck a pose and began his guitar duel with Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray on the solo riffs during “The End”) McCartney and company played for a solid 3 hours, introducing some new Beatles and Wings songs to their live catalog.

After taking the summer off, St. Louis saw the beginning of the second leg of the “On the Run” tour.  The Fab Five (besides McCartney, Anderson and Ray the group included longtime members Paul “Wix” Wickens (Keyboards) and drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr.) kicked off the show with “Magical Mystery Tour.” before sliding into “Junior’s Farm.”  After a rousing “Drive My Car” – with the audience supplying the “Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep YEAHS – McCartney removed his jacket.  As the woman in the crowd began to “Woo” he smiled and informed them “That is the wardrobe change of the evening.”

With a playlist full of Beatles and Wings classics, the band managed to sneak in some lesser known songs, including “Sing the Changes” (The Firemen) and “My Valentine,” a song McCartney recently penned for his wife, Nancy.  After the first group of songs McCartney held aloft what has to be the most recognizable musical instrument in the history of rock and roll:  his Hofner 500/1 violin bass.  Later in the show McCartney strapped on his old Epiphone Casino guitar to introduce the song he wrote on it, “Paperback Writer.”  There were other song snippets played as well.  “Let Me Roll It” ended with a quick, loud snippet of “Foxy Lady,” with McCartney giving a quick shout out to the other left handed musical genius, Jimi Hendrix.  Later, during “A Day in the Life” the song evolved into an audience inducing “Give Peace a Chance.”  He also paid tribute to his former Beatles mates no longer with us.  A touching accoustic “Here Today,” a song he wrote to John Lennon, had him brushing away a tear at the end while a simple version of “Something” on a ukulele given to him by George Harrison ended as a full blown rendition.

As with everytime I’ve seen McCartney (this makes number six since the 1980s), his back up band was tight.  But even they are not above reproach.  Deducting that Rusty Anderson had made a minor mistake during his solo on “And I Love Her,” Paul admonished him and had him play just the solo over again.  And I’m pleased to say that the one song I’ve wanted to hear live and never have, “Maybe I’m Amazed,” was finally played.  I can now die happy!

The audience was packed with music fans of all ages – from senior citizens to teenagers to a young boy in his stroller whose parents were staying in the same hotel we were.  He may not remember the music he heard but years from now he can proudly tell people that he saw Paul McCartney live!

SET LIST
Magical Mystery Tour, Junior’s Farm, All My Loving, Jet, Drive My Car, Sing the Changes, The Night Before, Let Me Roll It/Foxy Lady, Paperback Writer, The Long and Winding Road, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five, Maybe I’m Amazed, I’ve Just Seen a Face, And I Love Her, My Valentine, Blackbird, Here Today, Dance Tonight, Mrs. Vandebilt, Eleanor Rigby, Something, Band on the Run, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Back in the U.S.S.R., I’ve Got a Feeling, A Day in the Life/Give Peace a Chance, Let It Be, Live and Let Die, Hey Jude.

FIRST ENCORE
Lady Madonna, Birthday, Day Tripper, Get Back

SECOND ENCORE
Yesterday, Helter Skelter, Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End 

Photo Credit: Rob Pue