4DX Theater Experience Review “Transformers: The Last Knight”

Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Hopkins
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release date
Running time: 149 minutes

4DX Score: 4 out of 5 stars
Film Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Recently, I have been contacted to see if I wanted to review one of this Summer’s movies the brand new 4DX Theater Experience. This is not your typical movie going experience. Here is an example of the effects that you can expect going into a 4DX screening: water, air, bubbles, fog, scents, motion seats with vibration and ticklers as well as environmental effects like rain, storming, snow, wind and lightning. This seemed like the ONLY way to see a film like “Transformers”. Currently, I believe there are only a handful of these theaters across the United States, one of them luckily being in Orlando FL at the Regal Pointe Orlando Stadium. If you are in the area or are lucky enough to have one local to you, I would highly recommend checking out this experience at least once.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” is the fifth installment in the Hasbro toy inspired franchise. Honestly, each film sort of blends together. The plots in the past films have been convoluted and confused and this film is no different. Is it entertaining…YES! Will I remember it and be able to distinguish between it and the previous four films….NOPE! Just pure popcorn Summer fun. If you dig explosions and robots, then it worth checking out then for a mindless two and half hours. But let me tell you one thing, seeing this film in 4DX definitely made it a better experience for sure and if you are thinking about seeing a 4DX film, “Transformers” is a great example to test it out with.

If you have ever visited Disney World parks and went on the attractions “Honey I Shrunk the Audience”, “Captain EO” or “Mickey’s PhilharMagic”, this 4DX Theater Experience reminded me of all of those combined together and more. I have to admit though, by the end of the two and a half hour movie of “Transformers”, I was exhausted. This is definitely not for those people that just want to kick their feet up and escape into a movie. This is a workout. You are almost constantly moving the whole time, some times subtle movement and sometimes huge motion jumps, twists and turns…I definitely saw a popcorn bag get tossed during my screening. Personally, I wouldn’t want to see every new film that comes out like this but I can definitely see it being an event to do every once in a while right the right film comes out. If you are curious though about this do not wait, definitely check it out because it is definitely an experience.

Paradiso Chapter 1 “NYC’s Most Interactive Escape Room”

In a New York Comic Con weekend filled with virtual reality experiences, nothing entertained my imagination more than Michael Counts’s escape room, PARADISO: CHAPTER 1. Billed as “part immersive theater, part escape room, part existential game,” Paradiso satisfies multiple action movie nerd fantasies in one pulse pounding hour.

The Paradiso experience begins, if you choose to provide your smartphone number, before you reach the venue with some ominous video messages ‘exposing’ the Virgil corporation who you are due to meet at your appointed time. Everyone in my party also received different clues to help us but to keep secret from each other.

In midtown we met up with our contact in a functioning karaoke bar to begin our experience. Ostensibly we are being welcomed into the offices of the Virgil Corporation who are on the lookout for genetically gifted escape artists. A wonderfully spacey secretary doled out forms and waivers in Virgil’s reception before the “normal” procedures were quickly overridden and the ‘real’ escape experience begins. Cue the Saw-ready voice changer demands from the heavens. Suddenly the office was revealed to be full of puzzles and my team sprang into action.

Chapter 1 features four more spaces after that reception office, each offering their own distinct look. For my money, the best room was a vintage library where we encountered a frantic handcuffed woman who upped the tension and hastily armed my teammate with a pistol. Other thrills included an air duct for us to feel extra John McClane-y and a massive bomb to be disarmed complete with digital countdown clock. The actors, handcuff lady included, make for an extra level of intrigue as they can help or hinder your progress and to this day none of my team can decide on if we allied ourselves correctly.

Teams who have diversified their skills roster get rewarded as the in-game puzzles range from visual clues to math and physical puzzles. If you’ve ever fantasized who would be in your Oceans-type heist amongst friends, that’s the crew to bring. And going into this Halloween weekend, Paradiso provides an excellent alternate to conventional horror houses by getting your heart-racing without scaring you silly. Ultimately my escape team was done in by some algebra in the final room–who knew that would come in handy?!–but we eagerly look forward to many more chapters to come.

View the Paradiso trailer below, and find ticketing information at its official website.

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 “An Evening with Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield” Keswick Theater, Glenside, PA

“An Evening with Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield”
Date: Saturday, March 14th 2015
Venue: Keswick Theater, Glenside, PA

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Singer songwriters Jessica Lea Mayfield and Seth Avett made a stop in the quaint town of Glenside, PA on March 14th to perform at the intimate Keswick Theater. The duo is out on a brief 13 show tour in support of their recent release titled “Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield sing Elliot Smith”. The album a 12 song showcase of some of singer/songwriter Elliot Smith’s best works is the first collaboration between Mayfield and Avett and hopefully not the last as the magic heard on the album was flawlessly created on stage.

About 40 miles outside of Philadelphia sits the historic Keswick Theater. The theater which originally opened on Christmas Eve in 1928 was the perfect setting for the night’s performance as the vintage theater seemed a perfect host for Avett and Mayfield’s sound which was made up off the two sharing singing and guitar duties along with Paul Defiglia on stand up bass. Though small in their approach the trio’s sound instantly filled the theater and sounded as good if not better than some of the recorded studio tracks. Songs such as “Baby Britain”, “Between the Bars” and “Twilight” were definite highlights of the set as were “I Me Mine” originally by The Beatles and a great version of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”. The set also featured several songs from Mayfield and Avett’s personal catalogs along with a brand new track from Avett titled “Lines On My Face”.

The night’s performance was certainly very solid and sounded great however before you knew it, it was over. Clocking in at less than 90 minutes (which included the band leaving the stage prior to the night’s encore) there was certainly plenty of time left for more material especially since the show features no opening act. With the shows being billed as “An Evening with Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield” I guess I was expecting a little more. Don’t get me wrong 21 songs is not a short set list by any means however when most of those songs come in at 4 minutes or less and the artists(especially Avett) have a fair amount of material they could pull from to make these13 shows something really special however don’t it certainly was a bit disconcerting.

Set List:
1.) Bay Britain (Elliot Smith)
2.) A Fond Farewell (Elliot Smith)
3.) Pitseleh (Elliot Smith)
4.) Just Like a Woman (Bob Dylan)
5.) There is a Time (The Darlings)
6.) Let’s Get Lost (Elliot Smith)
7.) Ballad of Big Nothing (Elliot Smith)
8.) Rain on My Tin Roof (Seth Avett)
9.) Somebody That I Used to Know (Elliot Smith)
10.) Settin’ the Woods on Fire (Hank Williams)
11.) For Today (Jessica Mayfield)
12.) Angeles (Elliot Smith)
13.) Lines On My Face (Seth Avett)
14.) Kiss Me Again (Jessica Mayfield)
15.) Memory Lane (Elliot Smith)
16.) I Will (The Beatles)
17.) Our Hearts are Wrong (Jessica Mayfield)
18.) Between the Bars (Elliot Smith)
19.) I Me Mine (The Beatles)
20.) Miss Misery (Elliot Smith)
21.) Twilight (Elliot Smith)

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

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

Theater Review “War Horse” Kansas City, Missouri

“War Horse”
April 1, 2014
Music Hall
Kansas City, Missouri

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

It was an incredible evening in Kansas City this week when the Tony Award winning play “War Horse” rode triumphantly into the Music Hall for a one week engagement.

Based on the popular children’s book of the same name by Michael Morpurgo (adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford, the play was also the basis for the very successful Steven Spielberg-helmed film from 2011.

The play begins in August 1912 in England. A horse auction is about to commence. In a bidding war between the Narracott brothers – well-to-do Arthur (Andrew Long) and down-on-his-luck Ted (Gene Gillette). As the two go at it, they drive the price to more than three times the usual. Ted wins but he must spend the mortgage money on the creature. What’s worse, while Ted was looking for a plow horse, he has come home with a hunter. He entrusts the care of the horse to his son, Albert (Michael Wyatt Cox). Albert names the horse “Joey,” and with love and kindness, the two bond. Soon, young Joey is a majestic steed…rearing up in joy when Albert is near. It is a bond that will continue to hold, even when separated by war.

Winner of 5 Tony Awards (and a special Tony for it’s remarkable puppetry), including Best Play, “War Horse” is a show that you will remember forever. Not only for its great cast and outstanding set design, but for the amazing work of the South African Handspring Puppet Company. What they have created is nothing short of miraculous. Life size horses gallop and play on the stage, guided not only by the puppeteers inside the creation but the one guiding the head as well, capturing the very essence of movement and grace. With the “handlers” dressed as others in the cast, they blend in so nicely that one can easily begin to believe the horses are real.

As the story progresses over six year, Joey learns to do things he wasn’t intended to and uses those skills to not only help himself but to save the lives of those around him. He is truly the star of this production and I can’t tip my hat enough to the artists that bring him, and the other horses, to life. The human actors also do a great job. As Albert, Cox displays just the right amount of wide-eyed innocence that is slowly lost as he goes off to battle in an effort to search for his friend. Both Long and Gillette portray the conflict between the two Narracott brothers sharply. Yes, there is some anger and animosity there, but underneath there is love. Others who deserve special notice include Maria Elena Ramirez as Albert’s mother, Andrew May as a German officer who soon understands the horror of war and Caden Douglas as the hard charging Captain Stewart. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the cast that brings Joey to life: Jon Hoche, Brian Robert Burns and Jessica Krueger. Bravo!

“War Horse” continues in Kansas City through April 6.
UPCOMING DATES
April 8        Orpheum Theater               Omaha, Nebraska
April 22     Capitol Theater                    Salt Lake City, Utah
April 29     Popejoy Hall                         Albequerque, New Mexico
May 6          Bass Concert Hall               Austin, Texas

Orlando Shakespeare Theater Turns up the Holiday Cheer with “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”


Theater captures the spirit of Frank Capra’s cinematic classic

Orlando, FL – Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF warms Central Florida audiences with the holiday cheer of Joe Landry’s It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Performed as a 1940s live radio broadcast and directed by Florida Rep’s founding Producing Artistic Director, Robert Cacioppo, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play begins December 4 and runs through December 29, 2013 at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Loch Haven Park. Tickets ($17-$40) may be purchased by calling the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 or online at http://orlandoshakes.org.

Inspired by Frank Capra’s beloved American film, Orlando Shakes’ It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play includes a five-member ensemble that brings to life a dozen familiar characters performed in the style of a 1940s live radio broadcast. Complete with commercial jingles and man-made sound effects, audiences will fall in love all over again with the selfless George Bailey and the gentle angel who saves his life on Christmas Eve. A holiday classic suitable for the entire family!

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is a joy for audiences young and old,” said Director Robert Cacioppo. “I am thrilled that Orlando Shakes’ Artistic Director Jim Helsinger offered me the opportunity to revisit this play with a truly wonderful cast.”

Cacioppo, who previously directed the production at Florida Rep in 2011, will be recreating his elaborate pre-show prologue in Orlando. Prior to the performance, theatergoers will take part in a holiday sing-along amongst busy telegram boys, popcorn girls, and 1940’s paparazzi. ”I urge Orlando audiences to show up early, because that’s when the fun begins!”Cacioppo said.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play features actors Brad DePlanche, David Edwards, Duke Lafoon, Suzanne O’Donnell, and Piper Rae Patterson. Secondary performers include Anachebe Asomugha, Sophie Bell, Bridgette Hoover, Chris Metz, Alexander Ross Neal, Jeffrey Todd Parrott, and Seth Wallen. The creative team includes Scenic Designer Richard Crowell, Costume Designer Mel Barger, Lighting Designer Mary Heffernan, and Sound Designer Britt Sandusky.

PERFORMANCE INFORMATION AND RELATED EVENTS

PRE-SHOW CHAT
Join us in the Patron’s Room on December 6 at 6:45 p.m. for a brief, informative discussion with the director and members of the artistic team about the creative process.

OPENING NIGHT PARTY
Directly following the show on December 6, audience members are invited to celebrate with the cast, crew, designers, and Orlando Shakes staff at the Opening Night Party. The party begins after the show (approx. 10 p.m.) and everyone is invited. No RSVP necessary.

PLAYSHOP
School-age children can participate in a fun and creative camp during select Orlando Shakespeare Theater performances. Led by Orlando Shakes Actor/Educators, theatergoers’ children ages 5 to 12 will enjoy supervised arts and crafts, play educational games, and maybe even learn a song or dance. For It’s a Wonderful Life, the service is available to all ticket buyers on Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 2 p.m. for just $15 per child. Advance registration is required. Call the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 for tickets and information.

THURSDAY TALK BACK
Stay after the performance on Thursday, December 19 for an informal Q & A with the cast and members of the design team.

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCE INFORMATION
Preview Dates: December 4 & 5 at 7:30 p.m. ($18)
Opening Date: December 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Senior Matinees: December 11 & 18 at 2 p.m. ($17)
$20 Under 30: December 13 at 7:30 p.m. ($20)

TICKET INFORMATION

DATES AND PRICES
Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. – all seats $35, $30, $20
Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. – all seats $40, $35, $30

DISCOUNTS
Group Sales: 20% off groups of 10+
Student Rush: $12 – 30 minutes prior to show w/ valid student ID
Military/Student Price: $10 off single ticket prices
Single and Season Tickets are available by calling (407) 447-1700, online at http://www.orlandoshakes.org, or in person at the Box Office located inside the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 East Rollins Street in Orlando’s Loch Haven Cultural Park.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is made possible through the generous support of Holland & Knight, LLP, Raymond James Financial, and Florida Hospital. Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF is supported by United Arts of Central Florida with funds from the United Arts collaborative campaign and by State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Florida Arts Council.

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PHOTOGRAPHY CREDIT

Publicity photos feature actors Brad DePlanche, Suzanne O’Donnell, and Piper Rae Patterson. Photos by Landon St. Gordon.

ABOUT ORLANDO SHAKESPEARE THEATER

Now celebrating its 25th Anniversary Season, Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF has grown into one of the region’s most acclaimed Equity theaters producing classic, contemporary, and children’s plays. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Jim Helsinger and Managing Director PJ Albert, Orlando Shakespeare Theater continues to provide an innovative world-class theatrical experience to its patrons, while showcasing William Shakespeare’s legacy as the cornerstone of the company. Through PlayFest and Harriett’s New Play Series, Orlando Shakespeare Theater has garnered national recognition for the development of over 100 new works within the past 10 years. Orlando Shakes also provides immersive educational programming serving Central Florida schools and the local community at large.

Twitter: @orlandoshakes or http://www.twitter.com/orlandoshakes
Instagram: @orlandoshakes or http://www.instagram.com/orlandoshakes
Facebook: “Orlando Shakes” or http://www.facebook.com/orlandoshakes

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

Blu-ray Review “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie” (Collector’s Edition)

Actors: Michael J. Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy
Directors: Jim Mallon
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Shout! Factory
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Run Time: 74 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I have been a way of Mystery Science Theater 3000 or MST3K (to hardcore fans) since it first started airing on TV. I have always admired classic 50/60’s cheesy sci-fi/horror films growing up and this was a great way to enjoy it on a new level through humor. MST3K was produced and set between seasons 6 and 7 of the show and felt like a regular episode of the show yet quite epic at the same time. Trace Beaulieu (Crow T. Robot), Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo) and Michael J. Nelson are just a riot together. If you are a fan of this type of humor also check out Michael J. Nelson and Kevin Murphy’s latest collaboration, RiffTrax, which are downloadable audio commentaries for many many great (I mean horrible films). “This Island Earth” is such a fun film, bad, but still fun. The jokes are never better and still funny after all these years. I highly recommended release for all fans of MST3K!

Official Premise: After six seasons of sublime, nerdy fun on television, the cult comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000 took to the big screen in 1996 for its deliriously funny takedown of the 1955 alien invasion epic This Island Earth. Evil scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester explains the premise at the start: in his quest for world domination, he devises a scheme to subject the human race to the worst movies ever made. He tests his plan on Mike Nelson, the sole human aboard an Earth-orbiting space station known as the Satellite of Love. But our hero and his two robot sidekicks turn a lemon into a much funnier lemon by showering This Island Earth with wisecracks, ridicule and general silliness. The human race may never be rid of cheesy movies, but when the critics are this nutty, who cares?

Shout! Factory released this Collector’s Edition as a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack. I have to admit, I was actually rather impressed with the 1080p transfer. We have all see MST3K and we know that the films that they critique are not the highest quality of cinema. They are usually old 50/60’s public domain films but they did a good job of cleaning this up for its high-def debut. The DTS-HD Master Audio track also works well with the film’s very fast and snappy jokes.

What I am most excited about is the fact that there are some decent special features included for this release. There is “The Making of Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie”, which gives a lot of great insight about the MST3K crew and the production. There are deleted scenes including the removed sequences from the riffed motion picture and the alternate ending. So this is a must for all fans! “Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie: The Motion Picture Odyssey” includes new interviews with cast and crew and never-before-seen behind the scenes footage. This is again a must for any fan. “This Island Earth: 2 1/2 Years In the Making” shows how much preparation it was to put this today. Lastly there is the original trailer included.

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

Theater Review “Catch Me If You Can” Starlight Theatre – Kansas City, MO

Catch Me If You Can
Starlight Theatre
Kansas City, MO

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

“Catch Me If You Can” is a true story based on Frank Abagnale Jr (Stephen Anthony), a quick talking fast learning teenager who, in the 1960’s, was an airline pilot, doctor, and a lawyer, all before the age of 21! Frank spends the majority of the story being tailed by FBI Agent Carl Hanratty (Merritt David Janes), a devoted and stubborn man who has made catching Abegnale his number one priority.

Following the divorce of his parents and the loss of his father, Frank Sr. (Dominic Fortuna), Frank Jr, decided being on his own is better than living in a broken home. He starts out by faking a Pan Am Pilots badge. He flies to over 26 different countries and helps copilot over 250 flights. He cashes his fake Pan Am checks all over the world under different aliases to stay a step ahead of the feds. This catches the attention of Agent Hanratty who is the only agent in his department who really feels this “shadow” pilot is trouble. He doesn’t realize that his cat and mouse game will one day land one of the most notable imposters of the 20th Century. While on the run from Hanratty, Frank decides to drop the pilot job and starts practicing medicine as an overnight ER physician. Here he meets Brenda Strong (Aubrey Mae Davis) who not only steals his heart but makes him think about dropping the whole charade he has been living and be an honest husband. Well that doesn’t go just as planned when, while meeting Brenda’s parents, he decides to announce that he will be practicing law thus starting another career as lawyer.

Frank will eventually be caught but the relationship that Abagnale and Hanratty have developed over the years does not let the story end with Frank’s capture. Abagnale was arguably the greatest ever at forgery and impersonation so, after a short stint in prison, he ishired on by the FBI and today is still very good friends with Agent Hanratty.

If you have read the book or seen the movie you know that “Catch Me If You Can” is nothing short of a brilliant story. Unfortunately the stage performance I witnessed was far from brilliant. I felt that Frank’s cracking voice was just unnecessary. I understand that he was a teen but short of a having a deep baritone voice the performance would have been much more believable if he (Anthony) would have just used his real voice. The jokes were corny, the songs sub par, and only a couple actors were not guilty over completely over acting.

That being said Hanratty (Janes) and Frank Sr. (Fortuna) kept me in my seat while watching this play. They give great performances and are really the only good performers I saw on stage. Both actors have experience on Broadway and it showed. Their actions matched their characters and emotions and their performances were effortless in a good way.

“Catch Me if You Can” is truly is great story and Starlight is a great venue to experience musical theater but if you would like to know the story of Frank Abagnale Jr. I would advise you rent the movie or read his book.

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