DVD Review “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey’s Monster Musical”

Actors: Bret Iwan, Tony Anselmo, Russi Taylor, Tress MacNeille, Bill Farmer
Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: September 8, 2015
Run Time: 115 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

“Mickey’s Monster Musical” is the latest special released out of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”. This combined two of my daughters favorite things “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and Halloween. This DVD includes four very fun episodes that work great getting you into the Fall mood. My daughter has already been singing the songs from this special and has watched it numerous times already. I know that “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” is not in production any more, which is sad, but I hope they continue to release DVD sets like this one for a while. Hopefully they have them stored up somewhere. A must for any fan of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and Halloween.

Official Premise: Put on your favorite Halloween costume and get set for a spooktacular full-length adventure! Visit the creaky castle of kindly “Count Mickula” and help your Clubhouse pals solve a puzzling riddle: Who, or what, is making a curious clanging, banging noise? With the right Monster Mouseketools and help from YOU, this mystery will soon be history! Then, enjoy two more exciting episodes as you search for pirate treasure with Captain Mickey and don your dungarees for delightful fun down on the farm. Packed with singing, dancing, laughter and surprises, MICKEY’S MONSTER MUSICAL is a high-spirited treat that can’t be beat!

The four episodes included are the main showcase special “Mickey’s Monster Musical”. The premise for this one is that Clubhouse gang visits Count Mickula and his friends, who are full of mystery and fun spooks. Next up is “Mickey’s Pirate Adventure”, where Goofy gets a letter from his Grandpappy, Captain Goof-Beard (voiced by Dick Van Dyke) taking the gang on a fun pirate adventure. “Mickey’s Farm Fun Fair” follows the gang as they enjoy a fun farm celebration. Lastly “Minnie’s Bow-Tooons Tricky Treats” is a bonus included with Minnie and Daisy handing out sticky treats for Halloween.

Theatre Review “Once: The Musical” Tour – Kansas City, MO

Once: The Musical
June 17th, 2015
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Kansas City, Mo.

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

A few years ago I was given the chance to watch the movie “Once”. I had never heard of it and I didn’t know a single thing about it. From the first song of the movie, I was hooked and within its 85 minutes, I fell in love. Now, fast forward to the present and I, once again, had no idea that there was a stage adaptation of this movie and that it was wildly popular ever since the first curtain call on Broadway. I know that a transition from film to stage is difficult, so I quelled my expectations. Luckily they were exceeded.

Just like the movie, “Once” follows a scruffy faced street musician, who works at his dad’s shop repairing household items. The repair business is a simple side project to his passion. He performs soothing toe tapping songs and soulful songs about love loss. His name? Not necessarily given. He’s simply known as Guy, but he represents so many disenfranchised musicians hoping to make it big, his story is fairly common, so his name isn’t required.

Whilst performing, he’s approached by Girl, who, for lack of a better word, is a girl. She eagerly plays piano alongside him and they quickly connect through their tune, “Falling Slowly.” He’s obviously smitten, but she isn’t as interested. She has a kid, lives with her family, and has a husband. She also notices that all his music, which comes from the heart, is linked to a girl in his past. Girl knows that Guy can still go back to that long lost love, and she doesn’t believe he should go chasing after her.

So it comes down to if they hook up or not. And obviously I’m not going to tell you because that’s part of the charm of this production. The story mainly stays intact and hovers closely to its source material. Certain aspects are changed because you don’t have the luxury of having multiple, expansive scenes. The only problem is the characters. The characters have been tweaked a bit to be more humorous and more relatable.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a nagging aspect in the back of my mind because these are two characters that I remember fondly for the story that they tell. When some jokes are thrown in to help break up the tension between the two, it feels out of place. The other characters that provide comedic relief also provide some cheap laughs that don’t fit in with the musical as a whole.

But what makes “Once” truly outstanding is the cast and crew. This is a musical that requires our singers to play instruments, interact, and constantly be moving. The choreography to change sets within the confines of a stage while swinging instruments to and fro is perfect. So every bit of praise that I have goes to the people who helped bring “Once” to life. And despite my disappointment with their characters, I’m very pleased with how well they handled the material.

Theatre Review “A Christmas Story, The Musical” Orlando Repertory Theatre

A Christmas Story: The Musical
November 10 – December 28, 2014
Orlando Repertory Theatre
1001 East Princeton Street
Orlando, FL

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

You know those flyers that you get in the mail and just throw away cause they are usually garage? I think I will be taking a closer look at them now. I received one a few days again and it was holiday themed, my favorite holiday, so I decided to give it a look. In there I found an advertisement for the Orlando Repertory Theatre (The REP) presenting a production of “A Christmas Story, The Musical” based on the story by Jean Shepherd with book by Joseph Robinette, and words and music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. I have seen this production before and have been dying to see it again since. Now I had the chance!

Official Premise: A Christmas Story, The Musical is the classic account of Ralphie Parker’s hilariously desperate quest to ensure that the most perfect of gifts ends up under his tree this Christmas – a Red Ryder® Carbine-Action BB Gun! All the cherished moments are here – the Old Man’s leg lamp, the tongue-on-a-flagpole, the bunny suit, the Santa slide, and all of Ralphie’s extravagant daydreams! Enjoy the perennial favorite in a new way with this Tony-nominated Best Musical.

Turning a classic movie like “A Christmas Story” into a musical was definitely a definitely task I am sure. The songs are good. I have to admit though. I have the soundtrack but it has never been a must-listen for me. “Counting Down to Christmas” is a catchy one. “What A Mother Does” is sweet and had the wife sniffing a little bit. “A Major Award” is definitely a real hoot.  The cast for this production was also good. Highlights for me were Clifford Lyons as Jean Shepherd, Candace Neal as Mrs. Shields, and my favorite Sage Starkey as The Old Man. At first I thought that Sage was too young to play the Old Man, to be honest, but once he stepped on stage, I knew he was going to nail it. Gavin would have been proud!

I thought the production itself was very well done. It really represented “A Christmas Story” very well. It also felt very festive. I have seen many plays in my time and they could have gotten away with much less here. They really had great sets and really get design for this one. I also love the range of these actors. The dialogue and songs were perfectly balanced throughout the theater. I was seeing in Row I, if I remember correct, closer to the top of the theater, centered, and we really enjoyed the entire presentation of the play. I have seen shows at Bob Carr Performing Arts Center and sat 10 rows from stage and couldn’t hear them as well as this theatre.

Prior to this, I have never visited the Orlando Repertory Theatre. Following this, this theatre is going to be in my spotlight. From the moment the wife and I stepped into this theatre, we both just looked at each other and said “Wow!” I loved the vibe of the theatre and I love how intimate it felt. I also appreciate that in addition to productions, The REP conducts community engagement initiatives and the REP Youth Academy provides classes and workshops for children, along with professional development opportunities to classroom teachers. I will be returning to this theatre in the very near future. And if you are looking for a way to get into the holiday spirit, you have your answer right here!

A Christmas Story, The Musical runs Saturdays and Sundays from November 10 – December 28, 2014 at 2pm and 5:30pm. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for students, seniors (55+), and members of the military with valid ID, and $12 for the youth (ages 3 to 17). All performances of A Christmas Story, The Musical take place at the Orlando Repertory Theatre at 1001 East Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32803. Tickets may be purchased online, over the phone, or at the Box Office. Please visit www.orlandorep.com or call 407-896-7365 for more information. Don’t miss it or you might shoot your eye out!

Enter to Win Horror Musical “Stage Fright” on Blu-ray [ENDED]

To celebrate the Blu-ray release of “Stage Fright”, Media Mikes is excited to giveaway one (1) copy of the Blu-ray to our readers. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of this prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite musical. This giveaway will remain open until July 18th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

The Stage Is Set For A Bloodbath In The Terrifying Thriller Featuring Minnie Driver And Meat Loaf, Arriving July 8 On Blu-ray™ and DVD From Magnolia Home Entertainment Under The Magnet Label

Starry-eyed teenager Camilla Swanson wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a Broadway diva, but she’s stuck working in the kitchen of a snobby performing arts camp. Determined to change her destiny, she sneaks in to audition for the summer showcase and lands a lead role in the play, but just as rehearsals begin, blood starts to spill, and Camilla soon finds herself terrified by the horror of musical theatre.

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

“Shrek The Musical” Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Giveaway [ENDED]

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED AND WINNERS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED VIA EMAIL. PLEASE CHECK BACK EACH WEEK FOR NEW GIVEAWAYS!

To celebrate the release of “Shrek The Musical” arriving on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD Oct 15th, Media Mikes would like to giveaway a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack of the show. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of these great prizes, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite character from the “Shrek” series. This giveaway will remain open until November 1st at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

Featuring a fantastic score of 17 all-new songs,Shrek The Musical was filmed on stage to capture the magic of a Broadway performance and stars an amazing celebrated cast including Brian d’Arcy James (Shrek), Sutton Foster (Fiona), Daniel Breaker (Donkey), Christopher Sieber (Lord Farquaad), and John Tartaglia (Pinocchio). The film was shot live with 10 cameras and directed by Michael Warren.

Now you can bring the magic of Broadway to your home and get the best seat in the house when the Deluxe Edition Blu-ray™ and DVD arrives on October 15th, and on Digital HD September 17th!

Pre-order Shrek The Musical today:
– Blu-ray/DVD: http://amzn.to/14WNO23
– Digital HD: http://bitly.com/stm-itunes

Blu-ray Review “Shrek the Musical”

Starring: Brian d’Arcy James, Sutton Foster, Daniel Breaker, Christopher Sieber
Director: Michael Warren
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: DreamWorks
DVD Release Date: October 15, 2013
Run Time: 120 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

I am a huge fan of “Shrek”, the first film that is. After the first film I lost interest more and more with the three following sequels. When “Shrek The Musical” came to Broadway, I never really had an interest to run out (spend $200 bucks) and see the show. Now that its been a few years since the last “Shrek” film, the Broadway show is closed and the National US Tour has ended, I figure what could it hurt to finally give this show a try. I liked the idea of being able to watch it in my own living room. Overall, if you haven’t seen the show on stage, you haven’t been missing anything special but it is definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of this franchise.

Official Premise: Featuring a fantastic score of 17 all-new songs, “Shrek the Musical” was filmed on stage to capture the magic of a Broadway performance and stars an amazing celebrated cast including Brian d’Arcy James (Shrek), Sutton Foster (Fiona), Daniel Breaker (Donkey), Christopher Sieber (Lord Farquaad), and John Tartaglia (Pinocchio). The film was shot live with 10 cameras and directed by Michael Warren

“Shrek the Musical” comes equipped as a combo pack with Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet. The Blu-ray transfer looks pretty sharp in its 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Of course, it doesn’t compare to being at the theatre itself and being immersed in the show but it does the trick.  Like the films, the show is very colorful and are presented very clearly here on this release. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 works well with the shows several numbers. The special features are not that impressive. There is a brief “From Swamp to Stage: The Making of Shrek the Musical”, which features Cameron Diaz talks about the show. Lastly there is a “Shrek the Musical Songbook with Sing-Along” with the songs split up, so you can choose your favorite.

“String Theory” An Unconventional Acoustic Musical Drama Debuts Official Trailer

“STRING THEORY” AN UNCONVENTIONAL ACOUSTIC MUSICAL DRAMA DEBUTS OFFICIAL TRAILER 

The Independent Short Film Directed By Jonathan Pezza Stars Abraham Benrubi, NBC’s “The Voice” Contestant Paulina Cerrilla, And Newcomer Thien Nguyen


LOS ANGELES, CA – The trailer for the independent short film String Theory, a heartfelt musical drama that follows the interwoven lives of three struggling musicians, has now been made public. The highly anticipated short, written and directed by Jonathan Pezza, starsAbraham Benrubi (U-Turn, ER, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose), Paulina Cerrilla (NBC’s The Voice, Season 3), newcomer Thien NguyenKee Chan(Mission: Impossible IIStar Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith), and Brad Carter (SmashedJustified).

The film, produced by Paper Windows LLC, is an unconventional “acoustic” musical that follows three singer-songwriters in Los Angeles whose lives collide in a 24-hour period.  Aurora (Paulina Cerilla),  a homeless street musician whose belief in herself carries her through her troubled life, Patsy (Abraham Benrubi) a faded ex-rockstar at a crossroads in his life, and the intensely conflicted Yun (Thien Nguyen), who contends with her father (Kee Chan) over his disapproval of her life choices. All three are strangers, unknowingly connected by their love and need for music. String Theory follows each of their stories, until their lives intersect for a brief moment that changes each in a profound way.

All three actors were drawn to the piece because of the story and its musical aspect. “The script itself is written like a song and I found that to be a really unique and special way to tell the story,” says Abraham Benrubi. At the very core of String Theory lies the music, weaving and guiding the paths of the protagonists to each other and the next step of their lives. Director and writer Jonathan Pezzacomposed the four original songs featured in the film: About Home, Breathe, Ballad of a Falling Star, and the title track String Theory, all of which will be available on iTunes. “I believe that great art comes from challenging yourself to do the things that scare and intimidate you most,” states Pezza. “String Theory is not only a beautiful story about the struggle to define oneself, but the music that the film’s three characters sing and play bears forged and tempered pieces of my experiences.”

The interweaving musical storyline called for a special approach to sound recording as well. Each artist was recorded live on location singing to special click tracks that they heard through earpieces, allowing them to harmonize and perfectly sync with one another, despite being filmed and recorded at different times. “Our approach required lots of rehearsals, however the results are beautiful, honest, and in the moment recordings that heighten the emotion of the piece,” says producer Shaela Cook.

The film was funded through Kickstarter and the generous sponsorships from Imagecraft Productions and HotPixel Inc. Imagecraft providedall the production equipment for the film including: the Sony PMW-F55, lenses, video village monitors, a complete 5 ton grip and electric package, sound and communication equipment, and production support equipment. HotPixel provided DIT services and dailies and will be providing all post production services including color grading and visual effects. President of HotPixel, Art Freed and Jason Been, President of Imagecraft, both serve as Executive Producers on the project. “We chose to be a part of this project not only because of our relationship with Jonathan, but because we believe in fostering independent filmmakers with a unique and creative voice,” stated Jason Been.

For more information and for the latest news on String Theoryvisit www.StringTheoryTheMovie.net, on Twitter @StringTheoryMov or on Facebook.com/StringTheoryTheMovie

About Imagecraft Productions | www.ImagecraftProductions.com   
Imagecraft (IC) is a full service rental house providing crew and production equipment rentals to the film and television industries. We offer personal service, expert advice and maintain a full staff of production managers, crew, and equipment technicians. We strive to be best the rental house in the industry by offering state of the art production equipment, exceptional field crews, and 24/7 production support. For more information on Imagecraft visit ImagecraftProductions.com or call 818.954.0187.  IC can also be found onFacebook.com/ImagecraftTV and Twitter @ImagecraftTV.

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.

Theatre Review “The Little Mermaid: The Musical” Starlight Theater – Kansas City, MO

The Little Mermaid The Musical
Starlight Theater
Kansas City, Missouri
July 23, 2013

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Any time you’re hoping to replicate the success of a Disney production, you’re going to be automatically met with how well you stack up against the original. Even with a hazy memory of how the story to “The Little Mermaid” went, I still had a fairly good idea what to expect and I’m glad to report that not only does this Broadway-style production stays true to the 1989 classic, it is a delight to watch.

For those readers whose memory may be equally fuzzy, let me catch you up to speed. Ariel (Jessica Grove) is a mermaid and also the youngest daughter of King Triton (Edward Watts). Much to his dismay, she constantly visits the ocean’s surface and dreams of not only walking on the shore but living on dry land with the other humans. It doesn’t help when she rescues and falls in love with a Prince Eric (Nick Adams). Anymore information and I will have ruined the first half for those of you who haven’t seen the 1989 film or read the children’s story by Hans Christian Andersen.

The show gets off to a slow start with a song written for the production, but kicks into gear with the song everyone should know, “Part of Your World”. Grove is definitely talented and easily hits the high notes in the song. In fact everyone in the show is well cast in their roles. Still there are some low moments. The film’s most popular song, “Under the Sea”, doesn’t feel as epic or magical as it should in my opinion. My memory may have been blurry but I distinctly remember that song. I will add, in the show’s defense, that I’m sure it’s hard to create a sea alive with song and dance on stage. You could say it’s a tad villainous, but Ursula (Liz McCartney) almost steals the show. Any time she’s on stage, her presence is definitely felt and McCartney really belts out the lyrics in grand style, especially during the songs “Daddy’s Little Angel” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls”.

Major props to the men and women behind the scenes of this production. To add to the effect that they’re underwater and swimming the cast is literally whisked into the air and across the stage. One man who certainly deserves a lot of credit is John MacInnis, who choreographed the show. One of the best instances of perfectly matched movements is during “Sweet Child” when the eels, Flotsam and Jetsam (Scott Leiendecker and Sean Patrick Doyle), move as one entity. Though “The Little Mermaid” lacks a lot of big dance numbers, one thing that really impressed me was watching the the actors constantly “swimming” in place, even when they don’t speak a single word during the scene. On the negative side, someone should send a note to the sound guy. Often times the music was much louder than the singing and I often saw parents covering their children’s ears because of how loud the volume was. I even found myself wincing at the volume a couple of times.

I haven’t seen the animated film in almost 20 years but I may have to after seeing this show. There may be a few things from the film that the production didn’t do justice, but I can guarantee there are plenty they triumphed on. The cast of “The Little Mermaid” should be proud they did the original justice while creating new memories for children of all ages.

This production runs at Starlight Theater until July 28th. For tickets visit www.kcstarlight.com

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

G.B. Hajim talks about his animated lesbian rock musical "Strange Frame"

G.B. Hajim is the co-writer, cinematographer, producer, and director the animated lesbian rock musical “Strange Frame”.  The film can only be described by seeing it. The film itself is a real trip and extremely unique. It also packs a very strong voice cast including Tim Curry, Claudia Black, Ron Glass, George Takei, Alan Tudyk and Michael Dorn…just to name a few. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with G.B. about the film, his love for science fiction and his unique animation style.

Mike Gencarelli: You acted as Co-Writer, Cinematographer, Producer, and Director on “Strange Frame”, which is such a unique film; how did this come about?
G.B. Hajim: I read a lot of science fiction and it seems like science fiction film and TV always falls short of what science fiction literature is doing. So, I am a big John Varley fan and also Neal Stephenson. It seems like most of the science fiction film or TV is a just a setting for action or battle scenes. It is not really setup to take that heady trip and imagine what is humanity going to become in the future. Right now, we are already experimenting with genetic engineering and bio-modifications. We are also at the cuff of basically beginning to be a spacefaring race. I really wanted to explore those ideas here. I am also influenced by some of my favorite science fiction like “Blade Runner”. That is the short of it. From the tone of the movie you can see that I have experimented with psychedelic drugs. So all these kind of things gelled together. Shelley Doty, who co-wrote it with me, also comes from a very similar space being a big sci-fi head. We might have crammed a little too much into the movie but we really wanted to lay out a world that was different than you have seen before.

MG: How did it end up being a lesbian rock musical?
GBH: Shelley Doty, who co-wrote it, is an African American lesbian and also a rock guitarist. She has been on the cover of Guitar Player Magazine and is a very accomplished musician. So when we sat down to write this, we thought about who would we want to write about. What is great about writing about musicians is that they are seen as the lowest end of society like playing the dingiest clubs or street corners but also seen as the rock star when they are at the highest level of society. You get this unique perspective of being able to transcend all the class barriers. Since we wanted to show so much of this new universe that we were laying out, we wanted a character that could transcend all that. It seemed like a really good fit.

MG: How did you end up working with an amazing voice cast including (deep breath) Tim Curry, Claudia Black, Ron Glass, Juliet Landau, Tara Strong, George Takei, Alan Tudyk and Michael Dorn…to name a few?
GBH: We were very lucky. Early on I knew that sound was going to be very important for our film, especially since it was a musical. I was reaching out to some of the best sound guys in the business. Finally, I was introduced to Gary Rizzo, who was mixing at the time a little film called “The Dark Knight Rises”. He looked at our film and wanted to be on board. To have an Academy Award Winning sound guy on board gives you a lot of cred when talking with voice and cast directors. They were very jazzed that we had Gary on board. We ended up working with Jamie Thomason and they asked who we wanted in terms of voice actors.  Shelley and I are big sci-fi fans, obviously, so we picked through our favorite people. We ended up getting mostly everyone that we wanted. So it was really awesome. They saw what we were doing with this project and how it was very unique but they also saw how we were doing it. I trained local kids here in East Hawaii, which is a super poor area. These kids have nothing to do, so I brought them on board and trained with in animation and they became the animation crew. They really resonated with our actors.

MG: Tell us how you got music in the film by Roger Waters?
GBH: I am a huge Pink Floyd fan. When I was animating this, most of the time I had live Pink Floyd music blasting. I think “The Final Cut” is such an under-rated album and “The Gunner’s Dream” is just such a beautiful song.  It was  also related to what we were talking about in the movie. So I approached Roger Waters’ management and told them about what we were doing with the kids and the movie. Roger was really stoked about it. First you have to get the rights from the artist but then you also need to go to the rights organization, Warner/Chappell Music and those guys dragged their feet. Roger gave us this track for next to nothing but they wanted tens of thousands of dollars for this. We are this little production and didn’t have that type of money. Roger’s management stepped in and hammered at these guys until they gave this to us for virtually nothing. It is a real rarity, if you look at Roger’s credits, he hasn’t done many domestic films. So it was a real honor.

MG: Tell us about the development of the unique type of animation used in this film?
GBH: I have done all kinds of animation. In school, I had experimented with all types and even helped developed some of the first CGI when I worked at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. That aspect is very technical and gets devoid of the hand of the artist and creativity gets riddled down and sterilized when you use that type of animation. It is also very time intensive and expensive. When I moved to Hawaii, I didn’t have clients that could give me a budget where I could do that kind of animation. So I developed this new style of cut-out, which is very economic and also very easy to train with. It is mostly drawn and photoshopped by hand. We break up the drawing into mini-pieces and then move those pieces in a compositing program. It is much quicker and as an artist also much more fun since you can just throw stuff in and get it to look really rich and dense quickly. It is a very different way of animating and it is also pretty unique. I think if we get a chance to do a follow-up movie we would be able to rival the big boys like Pixar or Dreamworks. We worked out the kinks in this movie and really sharpened it up. If we get to do a sequel it will be guaranteed to knock peoples socks off.

MG: I would have loved this seen this film on Blu-ray? Any plans?
GBH: When you go to a distributor, they do things a certain way. Unless we sell tens of thousands of DVD, they are not going to do a Blu-ray release. That is the reality of it. It is very hard to make an economical Blu-ray release. With that being said, I do feel though that people that encoded this DVD made it look fucking phenomenal, especially with the data rate that they were given.

MG: What do you have planned next?
GBH: You have to have a lot of irons in the fire. I just did a pitch to Comedy Central for a bunch of shorts. I can’t talk about that more since it is still in the works. I have got plans to pitch Sony also for another TV show, maybe based on “Strange Frame”. I am also developing an animated feature for younger teens called “Ali Jamal and the Rat Prince”. It is more of a fantasy project than sci-fi but it will be in the same animation style. Then I also have a few live action projects that I am also developed but which are much lower budget. I have a background in live action and since animation takes such a long time, I would like to get a few projects done with in that format as well next.

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

 

CD Review “A Christmas Story: The Musical”

Music and Lyrics: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
World Premiere Recording
Release Date: October 22, 2012
Tracks: 18
Label: Masterworks Broadway

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

What is the holidays without “A Christmas Story”?  This film has been the highlight of all of my holiday seasons since I was a young kid.  You can always tell when holidays are around when the “A Christmas Story” quotes start flowing my house.  When I heard that one of my favorite films was coming to Broadway, I was very excited and also very nervous.  Well if the songs have any bearing on the play itself, it is going to be a huge success. “A Christmas Story: The Musical” will arrive on Broadway this holiday season at The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre from November 5 – December 30, 2012. Be sure to pick up this album as well so you can sing along with the songs or enjoy then again after seeing the play.

“A Christmas Story” is turning 30 next year and yet shows no signs of fading.  This film’s fan base only gets bigger and bigger easy year.  Masterworks Broadway is behind this release of the World Premiere Recording and they did a wonderful job of delivering the play to the homes of its fans. Of course since this is a play a needs to be expanded a bit,  it is based off the book by Joseph Robinette and the writings of radio humorist Jean Shepherd and it works really well. Since it is Broadway musical, the songs have to be amazing.  The music and lyrics are from Richard Rodgers Award-winning newcomers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and they do not let us down. The 18-tracks included are all great with each one outdoing the next.  I heard some sample of these tracks back in 2008 and they have only gotten better and better.

“A Christmas Story: The Musical” is not only fun but also extremely clever with their songs.  I can imagine the audience faces in the theaters as they jump from song to song to the next.  They are also almost guaranteed to get you into the holiday spirit.  From the moment that “Counting Down to Christmas” starts, it is a really great kick-off and puts you in the mood.  “Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun” is really funny and sharp. “A Major Award” is simply epic and leaves you laughing. Lastly one of the best track is the irresistible “Somewhere Hovering Over Indiana”. To ensure that this play was done right it is also being produced by the film’s original Ralphie, Peter Billingsley.  So get ready to hear some of the characters that you watch every year but in a completely new way through the beauty of song.  But be warned, you will find yourself singing along right away as these songs are very catchy.

Track Listings
1. Overture
2. Counting Down to Christmas
3. At Higbee’s
4. Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun
5. Counting Down to Christmas (Reprise)
6. The Genius on Cleveland Street
7. When You’re a Wimp
8. Ralphie to the Rescue
9. What A Mother Does
10. Sticky Situation
11. A Major Award
12. Act One – Finale
13. A Kid At Christmas
14. Just Like That
15. Up On Santa’s Lap
16. Before the Old Man Comes Home
17. Somewhere Hovering Over Indiana
18. A Christmas Story

CD Review “Once- The New Musical: Original Cast Recording”

Once: The New Musical
Original Cast Recording
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Label: Masterworks Broadway
Tracks: 13
Running Time: 45 minutes

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Academy Award-winning film, “Once” is one of my favorite films. The music in the film is so amazing and in fact, I have had the soundtrack on my iPhone since the film was originally released. When I heard that the film was being brought to Broadway, I was both nervous and extremely happy. Well let me tell you I was extremely satisfied with this cast recording and it only makes me want to see this play more now. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová from The Swell Season are two of my favorite artists, even with their solo albums. I am not sure how this is possible but they took one of my favorites albums ever and ACTUALLY made it better.

“When Your Mind’s Made Up” and “Falling Slowing (Reprise)” are honestly breathtaking songs on this album. Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti plus backed by the rest of the cast in parts are simply show stopping!  I get chills listening to it every time and I can put these on repeat for hours, as can the whole album. The only issue I have with the album is that I am not truly fond of the two new songs, “Abandoned in Bandon” and Czech folk song “Ej Pada Pada Rosicka”. In fact I have the album on my iPhone and have taken off those songs. I also wanted to make a note about the track “The Moon”, which is performed by Will Connolly is also a treasure. I was originally taken back since it wasn’t performed by Steve but, holy crap!, I really dig it. Great chance they took and a wonderful payoff. Overall this album will be guaranteed to make my top albums of 2012 and I look forward to seeing this show.

Let me tell you Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti are absolutely perfect on the recording. Glen Hansard’s vocal range is hard to match and Steve really nails it and improves certain areas as well. One thing I noticed from the moment this album started is that I felt like it was recording live from the stage not in a recording studio. I felt that due to that it makes you feel like you are there on stage with them. I definitely feel that this process enhances the Martin Lowe’s amazing orchestrations and really showcases the live stage production. I recommend this highly to all fans of The Swell Season and Broadway fans a like, been sure to buy this album. Also make sure you get a chance to experience this show live on stage, if it is anything like the album it is sure to be absolutely amazing.