Theatre Review “Escape to Margaritaville – The Jimmy Buffett Musical” @ Walt Disney Theatre – Orlando, FL

Escape to Margaritaville is a musical that was first performed in 2017 in New Orleans and premiered on Broadway in 2018. The show features music and lyrics by legendary singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett and is based on a book of the same name by Emmy Award® winner Greg Garcia (My Name is Earl, Raising Hope) and Emmy Award® nominee Mike O’Malley (Survivors Remorse, Shameless). The show features both original songs and Jimmy Buffett classics, including “Fins,” “Volcano,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, “A Pirate Looks at Forty” and many more.

The show focuses on Tully Mars, who works as a singer at run down hotel on a small island in the Caribbean called Margaritaville. He is always meeting new girls but never has any intention of keeping relationships after the tourists leave…that is until he meets Rachel. She comes onto the island with her friend for a Bachelorette party and a mind focused on her career. With the help of Tully, Rachel lands on island time and the two fall in love…but what happens after her trip comes to an end. Can the couple stay together or is it just another week long fling?

FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando Presents Escape to Margaritaville – The Jimmy Buffett Musical is playing at the Walt Disney Theatre at the Dr. Phillips Center from November 12-17, 2019. This is a show that I have been waiting to see since it first premiered in New Orleans in 2017…and I was not disappointed. I consider myself a Parrothead and I have seen Jimmy Buffett live as often as I can. There were a few of us “crazies” in the audience tonight, I caught eye of a lady dressed in a cheeseburger costume. This is not your typical play audience. The songs screams to be sang along to and the the music makes you move around in your seats. It should not be taken seriously. It is cheesy, dumb and self aware of how silly it is in certain parts. I had a lot of fun with this show and it is definitely a fun time to be had.

I want to point out that the sound at the Dr. Phillips Center was on point and the music was perfectly balanced. I remember seeing shows on the Bob Carr Theater and if you were too far back it was very hard to hear. The sets were simple but definitely delivered the vibe of Jimmy Buffett and his lifestyle. The bar set was my favorite. I loved the new originals songs as well. They blended well with the classics. If you are a Jimmy Buffett fan, this is a must see for any Parrothead. But don’t worry even if you are never heard half these songs before, like my fiance, you could still enjoy the show. My fiance is new to the music of Jimmy Buffett music and she still enjoyed the show just as much as I did. So if you can don’t miss this show. Grab a margarita and kick back and relax!

Act I
“License to Chill”
“Fins”
“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”
“Ragtop Day”
“It’s My Job”
“Why Don’t We Get Drunk”
“Three Chords”
“We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About/The Natives Are Restless”
“Son of a Son of a Sailor”
“My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don’t Love Jesus”
“Medley: Coconut Telegraph/Last Mango in Paris/Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes”
“Margaritaville”

Act II
“Volcano”
“Grapefruit—Juicy Fruit”
“He Went to Paris”
“Cheeseburger in Paradise”
“Tin Cup Chalice”
“Love and Luck”
“Come Monday”
“A Pirate Looks at Forty”
“One Particular Harbor”

Theater Review: “The Simon & Garfunkle Story”

  • THE SIMON & GARFUNKLE STORY
  • The Kauffman Center – Kansas City, Missouri
  • October 22, 2019

For the curious, the best selling album of 1967 was “More of the Monkees.” I’ve got it. In 1969 it was Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Got that one too. AND I’ve got the best selling album of 1970, as well as 1971 and 1972. That album is Simon & Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and it is one of the almost 30 songs showcased in the new show “The Simon & Garfunkle Story.”

As the show opens we meet Paul Simon (George Clements) and Art Garfunkle (Andrew Wade), two school chums who enjoy singing together. They open the show with “The Sound of Silence,” the first of their many successful hit singles. Paul and Artie take turns telling their story, going back to when they recorded the song “Hey, Schoolgirl” under the name Tom and Jerry (a bit of trivia I already knew). As the stories are told, they are highlighted with a video display of the various time and era being recalled.

Both actors were outstanding. Mr. Clements was not only in great voice, pretty much nailing Simon’s sound, he also showed himself to be an excellent guitar player. Mr. Wade appears to be channeling Art Garfunkle, seemingly being able to mimic his stances and cadence with ease. He also has the unenviable task of trying to pay tribute to one of the greatest voices in music history, a task he undertakes, and completes, perfectly.

Andrew Wade (l) and George Clements bring the music of Simon & Garfunkle to life. (photo credit: Lance Peters)

The first act concentrates on their earlier music (“I Am a Rock,” “Homeward Bound”) while the second act take the audience through their greatest period, from “The Graduate” to the end. While it was great hearing all of the songs featured (both hits and album cuts), the highlight for me was when Mr. Wade brought the house down with an amazing rendition of one of the greatest songs ever written, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The two stars are backed up by an amazing group of musicians who each contribute a highlight or two to the show.

Artie and Paul the way I remember them. (photo credit: Lance Peters)

I’ve been lucky enough to have caught Paul Simon in concert a few times. Sadly, I never got to see him live with Art Garfunkle. Until tonight.

“The Simon & Garfunkle Story” is currently on tour. For information on where you can catch it, click HERE.

SET LIST: The Sound of Silence, He Was My Brother, Hey, Schoolgirl, Bleecker Street, Kathy’s Song, I Am a Rock, Richard Cory,, Somewhere They Can’t Find Me, The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine, Patterns, For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, Homeward Bound, Scarborough Fair, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin Groovy), Mrs. Robinson, A Hazy Shade of Winter, Voices of Old People, Old Friends, Punky’s Dilemma, America, Fakin’ It, Cecilia, Keep the Customer Satisfied, The Only Living Boy in New York, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover/You Can Call Me Al/Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard, Late in the Evening, Baby Driver, Bye, Bye Love. ENCORE: Bridge Over Troubled Water, The Boxer.

Theater Review: “Dear Evan Hansen”

  • “Dear Evan Hansen”
  • The Music Hall – Kansas City, Missouri
  • October 15, 2019

I’m going to borrow Anna Kendrick’s introduction of “Dear Evan Hansen” at the 2017 Tony Awards to describe the show best: “A letter never meant to be read that tells a lie never meant to be told.” Exactly.

Evan Hansen (an AMAZING Stephen Christopher Anthony) is a young man about to start his senior year in high school. We meet him sitting in his room, his arm in a cast from a tree-climbing accident, working on a letter…to himself. Evan has had some issues in his life and part of his therapy is to write himself a positive letter each day. But he’s not feeling positive. Evan is shy and quiet and friendless. He lives with his hard working mother – when she’s not working she attends classes to be a paralegal – and feels all alone in the world. He writes his letter, but it’s not positive. And when it’s finally read, it changes Evan’s life in ways he never intended.

Winner of 6 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” is a show that will make you examine your life and the choices you made in it. Taking place on an almost bare stage with an abundance of video screens, “Dear Evan Hansen” shows the impact a simple misunderstanding can make in a world dominated by social media.

The cast is superb. Mr. Anthony repeatedly brought the audience to tears with his portrayal of a boy who wants desperately to be loved and accepted. The supporting cast is equally strong. As Evan’s mother, Jessica E. Sherman portrays a woman who only wants the best for her son but can’t find the way to tell him. Her love is obvious to everyone but Evan and you can feel the pain she feels by not being able to communicate with Evan. Take away the music and this show would have won a Tony for Best Play.

But the music is there and it is amazing. With so many Broadway shows using either popular tunes or adapting from films, it’s a treat to see an original show with an original idea. If you want to see Broadway at it’s best, you can’t go wrong with dropping “Dear Evan Hansen” a line!

“Dear Evan Hansen” runs in Kansas City through October 20th. For information on the show and other upcoming tour dates, click HERE.

Kansas City Theater Review: “Hello, Dolly!”

  • HELLO, DOLLY
  • Starlight Theatre – Kansas City, Missouri
  • September 26, 2019

This has been one of the best seasons I’ve ever attended at Starlight and their final production of the season was no exception.  It gave audiences a chance to revisit one of the most popular shows off all time, “Hello, Dolly.”

The show revolves around the life of Dolly Levi, played brilliantly by multiple Tony-award nominee Carolee Carmello, a widowed master-of-all-trades whose main endeavor is match making.  She is currently meddling in the relationship between Ambrose kemper (Colin LeMoine) and his beloved Ermergarde (Laura Sky Herman).  The young ladies uncle, the very rich Horace Vandelgerder (and equally excellent John Bolton) does not feel Ambrose is a suitable suitor.  But when Dolly sets her mind to things…

A fun show with some spectacular dancing, “Hello, Dolly” is just coming off a recent Broadway engagement, with the dynamic Bette Midler, that won 4 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.  The original production, which debuted 55 years ago, took home 10 Tony Awards.

The fun in the show is infectious, thanks to the amazing cast.  When I  mentioned that I was seeing this production, I was asked if Betty Buckley was playing Dolly.  She wasn’t.  And, as much as I love Betty Buckley (I saw her on Broadway in “Sunset Boulevard”) I’m so glad I was able to see Ms. Carmello in the role.  Armed with a beautiful voice and great comic timing, she had the audience in the palm of her hand from her first appearance on stage.  Mr. Bolton, who I saw on Broadway two decades ago in the musical “Titanic” has just the right amount of bluster to make Vandergelder lovable.  The chemistry between the two is very visible.  Supporting cast members, including Kansas City native Daniel Beeman (Cornelius) and Analisa Leaming (Mrs. Malloy), also give strong performances.  And the “background” performers – townspeople, etc – are among the best dance ensembles I’ve ever seen.

“Hello, Dolly” runs at Starlight through September 29.  If you don’t get to see it there, I urge you to see it when it hits your town.  For tour information, please click HERE

Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival VIP Platinum & Gold Festival Passes Are Available Now! + New Events Added

SLEEPY HOLLOW INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
OCTOBER 10-13 2019, SLEEPY HOLLOW & TARRYTOWN, NY

VIP PLATINUM & GOLD FEST PASSES AVAILABLE NOW!
at www.sleepyhollowfilmfest.com and www.tarrytownmusichall.org

NEW SHIFF EVENTS ADDED
LIVE STAGE SCRIPT READING!: “PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE” WITH DANA GOULD, BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT & SURPRISE GUESTS

EAST COAST PREMIERE OF FEATURE-LENTGH DOC “MAKING APES,”

35th ANNIVERSARY SCREENINGS OF “FRIDAY THE 13th IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER,” “NEVERENDING STORY” and more to come!

Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival, (SHIFF), is a celebration of outstanding genre cinema in the historic cradle of the American Supernatural, showcasing NEW FEATURE FILM PREMIERES, SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY SCREENINGS, LIVE ON-STAGE EVENTS, IN-PERSON GUESTS AND MORE!  For more fest info and updates visit www.sleepyhollowfilmfest.com

Full line-up and schedule will be announced soon but early VIP PLATINUM PASSES and GOLD PASSES, which include access to ALL of our Music Hall events (featuring the ones listed here and still many more to be announced), are available now.

Individual Tickets will be available in the future, but purchasing VIP PLATINUM and GOLD PASSES now is the best way to ensure you experience as much of the entire festival as possible.

VIP PLATINUM PASSES and GOLD PASSES also include free access to additional, to-be-announced films and live panel programming at our WARNER LIBRARY venue.

VIP PLATINUM PASS $375 – Limited Amount!
Includes ALL Music Hall venue events
Reserved section seating
1st Entry to all events
Attendance at Opening Night Reception
1st Free Access to Warner Library venue events
Limited Edition SHIFF Enamel Pin and T-Shirt
Official SHIFF 2019 poster
Festival Tote Bag

GOLD PASS $235 ($275 after Sept 10) 
Includes ALL Music Hall venue events
2nd Entry to all events
2nd Free Access to Warner Library venue events
Official SHIFF 2019 poster
Festival Tote Bag

CHILDREN’S PASS (Ages 13 and under) $95* 
Includes ALL Music Hall venue events (except NEVERMORE and PLAN 9)
Free Access to Warner Library programming
Official SHIFF 2019 poster
*Children with Children’s Pass must be accompanied by a VIP or GOLD pass-holding, adult guardian to all shows.

Tarrytown Music Hall SHIFF program includes these exciting events:
(NOTE: Opening and Closing Night Films and MORE – still to be announced)

SPECIAL SCREENING: D23 – The official Disney Fan Club celebrates the 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW. A rare, big-screen showing of the classic 1949 animated short, and more, with guest speakers.

LIVE STAGE EVENT! NEVERMORE: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe
Renowned actor Jeffrey Combs (RE-ANIMATOR, STAR TREK, THE FRIGHTENERS) performs his acclaimed one man show on 10/12/19. Combs’ astounding portrayal of Poe has been hailed by The L.A. Times as “A landmark performance,” and NEVERMORE has enthralled audiences across North America, with critically heralded shows in Los Angeles, Montreal, Baltimore and NY’s  Lincoln Center. Directed by Stuart Gordon and written by Dennis Paoli.

U.S. PREMIERE SCREENING: PHANTOM OF WINNIPEG
A phantastic feature-length documentary chronicling the unique 40+ year obsession the inhabitants of Winnipeg, Canada, have had with the Brian DePalma cult film PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. Wickedly entertaining and surprisingly heartfelt, this savvy doc features appearances by Winnipeg locals, original PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE stars Paul Williams and Gerrit Graham, producer Edward R. Pressman, filmmaker and pop culture guru Kevin Smith and more!  In-person Q&A with the filmmakers, producer Edward R. Pressman (PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, THE CROW, WALL STREET, AMERICAN PSYCHO) and more to be announced. 

SPECIAL SCREENING
: PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE
The original, classic 1974 Brian DePalma cult film sensation, starring William Finley, Paul Williams, Jessica Harper and Gerrit Graham, rocks the Music Hall in all its explosive, rock-infused glory. In-person Q&A with producer Edward R. Pressman, make-up artist Tom Burman, and more to be announced. 

LIVE STAGE EVENT! DANA GOULD PRESENTS “PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE”
Legendary comic Dana Gould leads a knockout comedy cast, scheduled to include Bobcat Goldthwait and other comic all-stars, and surprise guests in a rollicking, one-of-a-kind, live reading of Ed Wood’s infamous “PLAN 9” screenplay.

20TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING: TIM BURTON’S SLEEPY HOLLOW
A special screening of director Tim Burton’s wild, visually euphoric 1999 take on the immortal Washington Irving tale, starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci and Christopher Walken. In-person Q&A with guest to be announced.

EAST COAST PREMIERE SCREENING: MAKING APES: THE ARTISTS WHO CHANGED FILM 
An exciting, eye-opening feature length documentary about the Hollywood artists who created the iconic makeups seen in the original 1968 classic PLANET OF THE APES and their important impact on cinema. Features interviews with makeup artists and actors from the original film franchise, modern makeup artists and filmmakers, including Guillermo Del Toro, John Landis and Joe Dante, who were deeply influenced by the franchise. In-person Q&A with director William Conlin and original “Apes” make-up artist Tom Burman.

SPECIAL PRESENTATION: A SALUTE TO DARK SHADOWS – In 1970-71, Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown were original locations for the theatrical films HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, with local Lyndhurst Estate doubling as the iconic Collinwood Mansion, home of TV’s first family of Goth. Jim Pierson, longtime curator of the franchise and producer of the documentary MASTER OF DARK SHADOWS, and other guests, dig deep into the private archives of Dan Curtis Productions to present a never-before-seen look behind the “screams” of the durable movies based on the iconic TV series.

35TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING: THE NEVERENDING STORY 
A special screening of the beloved 1984 fantasy feature film directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Host Tim Greiving (NPR, THE NEW YORK TIMES), moderates a Q&A with the film’s empress herself, actress Tami Stronach.

25TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING: THE CROW 
A special screening of the acclaimed and influential 1994 gothic cult hit directed by Alex Proyas, starring Brandon Lee and Ernie Hudson, based upon the the James O’Barr comic. In-person Q&A with co-screenwriter David J. Schow and renowned producer Edward R. Pressman

MIDNIGHT MADNESS! 35TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IV – THE FINAL CHAPTER
A late-night screening of the infamous 1984 sequel within the immortal horror franchise that saw the iconic Jason Vorhees meeting his… end?  In-person Q&A with legendary FRIDAY THE 13TH composer Harry Manfredini

MORE MUSIC HALL VENUE FILMS and EVENTS to be announced! 
(All of which will be included, in addition to all currently listed above, with any VIP PLATINUM PASS and GOLD PASS purchases).

SHIFF is currently accepting film and script submissions, which can be entered via www.sleepyhollowfilmfest.com.

Visit Sleepy Hollow NY at www.visitsleepyhollow.com and follow SHIFF at @SHIFF2019 on Twitter, @sleepyhollowfilmfest on Instagram and on Facebook.

Kansas City Theater Review: “CATS”

  • CATS
  • Starlight Theater, Kansas City, Missouri
  • July 9, 2017

Back in the early 80s, when I was still trying to make a living as an actor, I spent many a day going on auditions. Any time I saw a casting call for a musical production, it always included four words: “Bring music. NO “MEMORY.” Which was kind of upsetting because, even today, I can sing the hell out of that song!

Opening on Broadway in 1981, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “CATS” won 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. And rightly so. Based on T. S. Elliot’s book “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” the show tells the story of a group of felines who meet once a year at the Jellicle Ball. One by one they tell their story, each one more fantastic then the previous.

The production at Starlight was fantastic. As the curtain rose, a bright moon hung over original production designer John Napier’s iconic junkyard set. Character after character took to the stage (and wandered among the audience), some of whom you know by name. My favorite “cat” has always been Rum Tum Tugger and, as portrayed by Mcgee Maddox, he was truly the cat of the walk. Other stand outs in the cast included Timothy Gulan, who plays three characters, including Gus the theater cat, TionGaston as Mistoffolee and Caitlin Bond as Victoria. Ms. Bond has the most stage time in the show and proves herself to be an amazing dancer. And of course, you can’t ignore Keri Rene Fuller, who has the role of Grizabella. It is she who sings “Memory” and her rendition, especially in Act II, brought tears to my eyes, rivaling previous renditions by two theater legends, Elaine Paige and Betty Buckley.

Two notes here for those seeing the show at Starlight. First, pay attention to the license plate nestled in the junkyard. The letters N A P are for set designer John Napier. The number 11A marks which show it’s from. 11A is modeled after set 11 with one big difference. It’s inflatable, making it easier for touring versions of the show to set it up. Second, this is one time where the video monitors on the top sides of the stage are useful, the close-ups provided allowing the audience to see the small and subtle facial expressions of the characters.

“CATS” was advertised as “now and forever” and, after running for 18 consecutive years (it is currently the 4th longest running show in Broadway history) that wasn’t far off. “CATS” runs at Starlight through July 14th. For tickets to this or later performances, please click HERE.

Theatre Review: “Flashdance: The Musical” @ Garden Theatre – Winter Garden, FL

“Flashdance the Musical” is a stage adaptation of the 1983 musical film “Flashdance”. The show features original music by Robbie Roth and lyrics by Roth and Robert Cary. It originally had its world premiere in 2008 as part of a ten-month UK tour, followed by a London West End run in 2010. It also had a US tour in 2012-2014, but never made it to Broadway.

“Flashdance: The Musical” premiered at the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden, FL on July 5th and will continue there until the 28th. When I attend a show, I try and stick around and listen to everyone’s comments when they leave. I love hearing everyone’s thoughts, which also helps me properly form my thoughts as a critic. Some of the comments, I heard was “felt like a high school production” and “lead girl couldn’t even dance”. I enjoyed the show for the most part but did agree with some of what I heard.

From discussing with my date, we decided we agreed with some of the comments we overhead. I do not feel like the actress that played Alex Owens was the best choice. Her profile said she was dancing for 17 years but she was definitely not great in my humble opinion. The ensemble cast stole the show for me and had the best dancers by far. As far as the high school production comment, the Garden Theatre might not have scene changes like Dr. Phillips Center but it has charm and delivered a good set for “Flashdance: The Musical”.

Official Synopsis: Dance like you’ve never danced before! FLASHDANCE: THE MUSICAL tells the inspiring and unforgettable story of 18-year-old Alex, a welder by day and ‘flashdancer’ by night, who dreams of becoming a professional dancer. When a romance complicates her ambitions, she harnesses it to drive her dreams.

The show was jam packed with the classic pop hits from the movie including “Maniac,” “Gloria,” “I Love Rock & Roll” and everyone’s favorite by Irene Cara, “Flashdance…What a Feeling.” I wasn’t a huge fan of the original songs from the show but when these classics came on, I perked up and definitely wasn’t the only one. Overall, I enjoyed the show. Ensemble dancing and supporting cast definitely delivered another winner for the Garden Theatre. Look forward to their next performance.

Once again, “Flashdance: The Musical” will be playing at the Garden Theatre from July 5th-28th, 2019. Support local theatre and buy tickets here: https://www.gardentheatre.org/play/flashdance-the-musical/

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

  • BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL
  • Starlight Theater, Kansas City, Missouri
  • June 24, 2019

REVIEW BY J.R. DEETER

An amazing thing happened as I watched “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” this past Tuesday evening at Starlight.  I realized that the songs being played had been some of my favorites, starting from childhood.

  Opening at Carnegie Hall, circa 1971, King (played beautifully by Sarah Bockel) sings “So Far Away,” which takes us back to the beginning of the story of the rise of one of pop music’s icons.  It’s 1958 and 16-year old Carole has found her way to the offices of one “Donnie” Kirshner hoping to sell him a song she has written.  Kirshner likes what he hears and signs her up.  He teams her with an aspiring lyricist named Gerry Goffin and soon the hits begin to flow.  Songs like “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up on the Roof” and “The Locomotion” are soon climbing the charts.  The partnership soon becomes much more and King and Goffin marry. 

But they weren’t the only ones toiling in the Brill Building.  We also meet Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who created such hits as “Walking in the Rain,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”   Eventually, Carole and Gerry’s love fades and, when she discovers Goffin is cheating on her, King and her children leave New York for California.  She begins writing new songs, using the highs and lows of her own life as inspiration.  History is made when King, now singing her own songs, releases the album “Tapestry,” still one of the biggest selling albums of all time.  

The performances across the board were excellent, with stand-out work delivered by Dylan S. Wallach (Goffin), Alison Whitehurst as Ms. Weil and Jacob Heimer as Barry Mann.  The musical ensemble was also quite entertaining, portraying such 60’s performers and groups like The Drifters, The Shirelles, Little Eva and The Righteous Brothers.   “Beaufiul” runs at Starlight through Sunday, June 30th.  For information and tickets for these shows, or future performances, please click HERE.

Kansas City Theater Review: “HAMILTON”

“Hamilton”
Music Hall, Kansas City, Missouri
June 19, 2019

Sometimes when you get too excited about seeing a show, you leave the theater wondering what all of the hub-bub was about. I was very fortunate to see “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway right after it opened and I was blown away! On the other hand, my only memory of seeing “Starlight Express” was that I noticed (and intercepted) Andrew Lloyd Webber heading towards the men’s room and got him to autograph my Playbill. It’s been almost 4 years since HAMILTON opened on Broadway and you’ll have to have been on Mars to have not heard about it. So while I was looking forward to seeing it, I went in wondering whether or not my fondest memory would be spotting Lin-Manuel Miranda in the lobby. Happy to announce that I was NOT disappointed.

© Joan Marcus – 2018

If you’re familiar with the name Alexander Hamilton, it’s probably because he’s the face on the $10 bill. In reality, he was much more. As an orphan he traveled to the colonies and earned an education. In his adventures he meets Aaron Burr and their lives continue to intertwine literally to the end. In between he falls in love, fights for Independence and devises a treasury system that is still in use. And the stories and songs behind these achievements make learning as much fun as an old episode of “Schoolhouse Rock.”

Joseph Morales is Alexander Hamilton. © Joan Marcus – 2018

A few years ago, Jimmy Kimmel informed show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda that he was a national treasure. He may have been selling him short. HAMILTON is an amazing combination of sight and sound telling familiar stories in a new way. The cast on this tour is amazing. As Hamilton, Joseph Morales runs the emotional gambit of joy and sorrow. His Hamilton is at first naive, eager to learn but by the end jaded from all he has seen. Marcus Choi is first rate as George Washington, portrayed here not as an independent leader but one who needed help in becoming the Father of our Country. Kyle Scatliffe does double duty as both French General Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. Act 2 begins with what is essentially a rap battle between Jefferson and Hamilton and Mr. Scatliffe caps his words with, quite possibly, the first mic drop in history. But to me the standout performance belongs to Nik Walker, who portrays Aaron Burr. Always seeming to be on the wrong side of major events, Burr holds the distinction of being the only Vice-President to kill a man while in office, sadly an honor that kept him off the ticket when Jefferson ran for reelection. In fact, this show could have easily been called “Burr.” Mr. Walker gives the show an extra burst of energy whenever he is on stage and his performance of the song “The Room Where It Happened” vaulted that song to my list of all-time favorite show tunes.

Nik Walker is Aaron Burr. © Joan Marcus -2018

HAMILTON plays in Kansas City through July 7. For ticket information on this stop of the tour and later cities, click HERE.

SPAWN #297 RUSHED BACK TO PRINT IN ANTICIPATION OF UPCOMING SPAWN #300 MILESTONE ISSUE

Image Comics is pleased to announce that a second printing of Image Comics’ President Todd McFarlane’s Spawn #297 has been greenlit in order to keep up with increasing demand for the long-running series.

Momentum and frenzied buzz surrounding the classic antihero series continues to build leading into historic Spawn #300 and record-breaking Spawn #301 when Spawn becomes the longest running creator-owned comic in the world.

The road to Spawn’s record-setting 300th issue continues as Al Simmons’ war with Heaven and Hell is brought to light in issue Spawn #297. McFarlane and Jason Shawn Alexander continue their exploration of the epic Spawn saga, leading to the recording-setting 300th issue!

Spawn #297 second printing (Diamond Code APR198592) will be available on Wednesday, June 26. The final order cutoff deadline for retailers is Monday, June 3.

Spawn is currently being adapted for film—a gritty, R-rated reimagining—which will mark Image President, co-founder and Spawn creator, Todd McFarlane’s film directorial debut. McFarlane, an Emmy/Grammy-winning producer/director is also on board as screenwriter and co-producer with Blumhouse Productions. 

Spawn sold an unprecedented 1.7 million copies at the time it was released and is one of the world’s best-selling and longest-running monthly comic books, with hundreds of millions sold worldwide in more than 120 countries, and 15 different languages. 

The comic became an Emmy Award-winning animated series on HBO and a New Line Cinema feature film that grossed more than $100 million. McFarlane went on to direct and produce award-winning and critically acclaimed projects for top movie studios and record labels. 

 

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BookCon: The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3

The second season of Hulu’s hit series The Handmaid’s Tale left more than a few fans stunned when June (Elisabeth Moss) bucked her chance to escape to freedom in Canada with her baby and instead handed the infant off to Emily (Alexis Bleidel) while turning back into the world that still holds her other child hostage.

This weekend eager Handmaid’s fans finally got to see where June’s unexpected decision has lead the inhabitants of Gilead when showrunner Bruce Miller and actress Ann Dowd (“Aunt Lydia”) brought the premiere episode of the third season to New York’s BookCon.

Ann Dowd (“Aunt Lydia”) and Handmaid’s Tale showrunner, Bruce Miller

Without going into episode spoilers, I will say what I saw went a long way in explaining why June would make such a tremendous sacrifice in that finale and the acting across the board continues to be top notch. Alexis Bleidel’s Emily in particular had me moved to tears more than once. And the BookCon crowd broke out into applause at least twice.

While the terrifying Aunt Lydia did not appear in the premiere ep, the trailers showed that she will return after Emily very literally stabbed her in back last year. Dowd, who was also nefarious in last year’s horror hit Hereditary, is delightful and warm in person and said of Lydia, “she is doing quite well…she’s very concerned” She also offered some exciting tidbits into where season three might take Aunt Lydia.

Although in the last two seasons we’ve seen almost every protagonist’s backstory, Aunt Lydia has remained a mystery. Apparently that will change in season three. Of this insight, Dowd commented that while it wasn’t exactly what she thought it would be “it’s so true to what might have went wrong.” On that change she added that whatever happened, “her life leaned toward Gilead and [to being] one of the most staunch believers of that group.” And while Dowd clearly loves playing Lydia, she joked about her inner dialogue with the character: “I say I’m disappointed with her and she says to mind my business!”

Dowd complimenting a Handmaid cosplayer in attendance

The Handmaid’s Tale returns weekly to Hulu starting Wednesday June 5th.

Kansas City Theater Review: “Rock of Ages”

ROCK OF AGES
Starlight Theater - Kansas City, Missouri
May 31, 2019

My first Broadway show was “42nd Street” in 1981. Yes, I’m old. But I’m also able to tell people that I saw Jerry Orbach on Broadway. And Julie Andrews. And Chita Rivera. But enough about me. I’ve seen plenty of shows in the past three-plus decades but I have never seen anything as fun and exciting as “Rock of Ages.”

Our story begins in the small town of Paola, Kansas. Yes, it’s a real town and, yes, it’s really small. My son’s baseball team used to play there every year and I remember the big hoopla when Walmart showed up! We meet Sherrie (Katie LaMark). She’s a small town girl…living in a lonely world. And her dream is to make it to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. Despite her parent’s disapproval she heads west and ends up on the Sunset Strip. She is soon mugged and is rescued by Drew (Anthony Nuccio). Drew works at the Bourbon Club, famous for helping launch the careers of many a band. Drew gets Sherrie a job and soon….well, you’ll have to see the show.

Drew (Anthony Nuccio) and Sherrie (Katie LaMark) share a dream of stardom.

I’ve been seeing shows at Starlight for years, and this was, by far, the BEST one I’ve ever seen there. I had only seen the film so I wasn’t prepared for my evening at the Bourbon Club. The music is all classic 80s rock and metal hits. Pretty much every band you can remember is represented. Except, ironically, Def Leppard, whose hit song gives the show it’s name. We are told by the Narrator (an amazing John-Michael Breen) that there is no Leppard in the show because the band wouldn’t license their music. Ironic, isn’t it?

The performances were also outstanding. As Sherrie and Drew, LaMark and Nuccio have a strong chemistry and an underlying sweetness that has you rooting for them. Both also have great voices. During “Oh, Sherrie” Mr. Nuccio held one note for an amazing 33 seconds, which brought the already enthusiastic audience to near euphoria. I would love to see him tackle the lead in “Jekyll and Hyde.” And extra credit to Ms. LaMark for dealing with a major technical glitch (her face mic was not working at the beginning of Act II and, with her character having to remain on stage for some time, delivered a strong performance using a hand-held microphone. Also credit to the tech crew because, in the few seconds she was able to go off-stage, the problem was corrected. Fine performances were also delivered by the supporting cast, with many in the audience falling under the spell of Sam Harvey, who plays quintessential (and problem child) front man Stacee Jaxx – which is possibly the coolest rock star name ever. And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the kick-ass band that provides the music.

John-Michael Breen

I’m saving this paragraph for the highlight of the show – John-Michael Breen. He not only narrates the show but appears as the Bourbon Club’s sound guy, Lonny. Lonny loves three things. Rock and Roll and his Fogmaster 5000 fog machine are two of them. Mr. Breen gives the show the majority of it’s laughs and both the cast and the audience feed off of his enthusiasm. I will definitely keep an eye on his career and hope to catch him on stage in the future.

As I said in the beginning, I’ve seen some great Broadway shows, from “Phantom” to “Les Miz” – from “Cats” to “Spamalot – and “Rock of Ages” has definitely jumped onto my all-time favorites list.

Curtain Call

“Rock of Ages” is only in Kansas City through Sunday, June 2nd. For information on upcoming tour dates, click HERE.

Disney On Ice presents Road Trip Adventures Takes Families on a Fun-Fueled Excursion to Iconic Disney Destinations Tickets for All-New Show Coming to Orlando On Sale May 21

Orlando, Fla. – May 15, 2019 – Disney On Ice presents Road Trip Adventures will whisk families away on an immersive getaway chock-full of magical participatory moments. Featuring new and classic tales, this a multi-generational experience visits Orlando from September 6-8, 2019 for six performances at Amway Center. Tickets go on sale May 21.

Hit the road with Mickey Mouse and his pals for a high-octane ride in Disney On Ice presents Road Trip Adventures. Exciting twists and turns await as Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and guests of all ages embark on an interactive and memory-rich adventure to iconic Disney destinations. See the world from the rooftops of London with Mary Poppins and Jack and his band of dancing lamplighters. Travel to the sun-soaked Motunui and help Moana restore the heart of Te Fiti. Set off on a safari and snap unforgettable photos of wild cheetahs and monkeys when guests traverse through the Pride Lands with Simba, Timon and Pumbaa. Discover a whole new world and be swept up in Aladdin’s princely parade filled with spectacular stunts, magical moments with Genie, and a brand-new song from Jasmine that will render the audience “Speechless.”  Mosey on over to a larger-than-life comedic carnival and team up with Woody and Bo Peep as they search for their new friend Forky.  Fans will hit a high note with Mickey and pals during the Disney edition of Road Trip Karaoke as they introduce Rapunzel, Belle, Ariel, Mulan and Tiana. Families should be prepared for a getaway jam-packed with unexpected hijinks and surprise, up-close character interaction as Disney On Ice presents Road Trip Adventures makes a pitstop right in Orlando!


For ticket information, visit DisneyOnIce.com
Orlando Show Times: Friday, September 6, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, September 7, 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, September 8, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Venue: Amway Center, 400 W. Church Street #200, Orlando, FL 32801
For group rates and information, reach out to 866-248-8740. Stay current on the latest developments through social media:Facebook:  www.facebook.com/DisneyOnIce
Twitter: @DisneyOnIce #DisneyOnIce #RoadTripAdventures
YouTube: www.youtube.com/DisneyOnIce
Instagram: @DisneyOnIce

About Feld EntertainmentFeld Entertainment® is the worldwide leader in producing and presenting live family entertainment experiences that bring people together and uplift the human spirit. Properties include Monster Jam®, Monster Energy Supercross, Disney On IceDisney Live!, Marvel Universe LIVE!, Sesame Street Live!DreamWorks Trolls The Experience and Jurassic World Live Tour (coming Fall 2019). Across the brand portfolio, Feld Entertainment has entertained millions of families in more than 75 countries and on six continents. Visit feldentertainment.com for more information.

 

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Kansas City Theater Review: “RENT”

RENT

Music Hall – Kansas City, Missouri

April 29, 2019

The Broadway (and off-Broadway) stage has often been the place where a generation can speak without rebuke.  The 1990’s saw the production of two very important shows that shed light on the, at the time, the little discussed subject of AIDS.  The first show was Tony Kushner’s epic “Angels in America.”  The other?  Jonathan Larson’s “RENT.” 

Opening off-Broadway on January 25, 1996, “RENT” tells the story of a group of struggling artists (filmmaker, musician, performance art) living in the SoHo area of New York City.  Their goal is to present their art to the world without compromising – to not “give into” the man.  This week, the 20th Anniversary Tour is in Kansas City, with moderate success.

To me, the evening, like the show, was in two acts.  The first act, in this writer’s opinion, was slow, which is a word I normally would not apply to a musical where the cast moves non-stop while performing dozens of songs.  I’m not sure if it was opening night jitters, or bus-lag, but several of the characters just didn’t seem to be “into it” during the first act.  The performances were fine…it’s just that many seemed to be a beat behind.

Musically, the show is magnificent.  I’m sure everyone has heard “Seasons of Love” at least once in their life, and this song, which opens Act II, is performed with heart to spare.  Other favorites were “Santa Fe,” “Take Me or Leave Me,” and “La Vie Boheme.”  Highlights in the cast were Lyndie Moe as Maureen and Devinre Adams as Collins, who is my favorite character in the show. 

 Sadly, Jonathan Larson never saw “RENT” performed before a live audience.  On the morning of January 25, 1996, Larson died after two different hospitals mis-diagnosed a heart condition.  With his parent’s consent, the show went on that night.  For his work, Larson posthumously won 3 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize. 

“RENT’ continues it’s run in Kansas City through Sunday, May 5th

Orlando Tickets Now On Sale for Jurassic World Live Tour

Tickets Now On Sale for Jurassic World Live Tour – an Unparalleled and Thrilling Live Arena Experience Jurassic World Comes to Orlando’s Amway Center January 17-20, 2020

ORLANDO, FL – April 2, 2019 – Tickets are now on sale for Jurassic World Live Tour, an exhilarating and unpredictable live, family entertainment experience that will bring the wonder and thrills of Jurassic World to generations of fans in the Orlando area.

With unrivaled arena production quality, Jurassic World comes to life against a backdrop of captivating scenery where dinosaurs from the iconic franchise, including fan-favorite Velociraptor Blue and a Tyrannosaurus rex more than 40 feet in length, take center stage. The production features more than 24 film-accurate, life-sized dinosaurs, each custom built with the latest technology, scientific precision and Hollywood studio quality. With scale, speed and ferocity, the animatronic and performer-operated dinosaurs deliver colossal, edge-of-your-seat, live entertainment unlike any other dinosaur experience.

Jurassic World’s unmistakable score adds to the larger-than-life, immersive journey that will captivate fans of all ages. Through a combination of projection and practical scenery, the arena will transform into the dense jungles of Isla Nublar, where real Gyrospheres roll through the valley and scientists work to unravel a corrupt plan and save an all-new dinosaur from a terrible fate. With pulse-pounding stunts and an original, authentic storyline, this show is guaranteed to make memories that will last another 65 million years.

“Working with a world-class production team and Universal filmmakers, we have extended the Jurassic World canon with a new story that can only be told through this live, arena spectacular as we bring full-scale dinosaurs to generations of fans around the globe,” said Juliette Feld Grossman, Chief Operating Officer of Feld Entertainment, the worldwide leader in live, touring family entertainment. “We have maximized the power of everything we do at Feld Entertainment, pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation to ensure audiences have an authentic, awe-inspiring experience. Fans will leave with a sense of wonder, as if they’ve boarded the boat to Isla Nublar and literally stepped into Jurassic World.”
Tickets are now on sale for the Orlando engagement at Amway Center, January 17-20, 2020. Visit jurassicworldlivetour.com for tickets and more information. Stay current on the latest developments through social media, including instructions on how to access presale codes for future Jurassic World Live Tour productions.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JurassicWorldLiveTour/

Twitter: @JWlivetour

Instagram: @jurassicworldlivetour #JurassicWorldLive


About Jurassic World: From Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Jurassic World immerses audiences of all ages in a new era of wonder and thrills where dinosaurs and humankind must learn to coexist. Jurassic World is more than a film franchise. At every turn, this $5 billion film series delivers a larger-than-life destination for exploration, discovery, and epic adventure. Dinosaurs live again and they live in Jurassic World.

About Feld Entertainment: Feld Entertainment® is the worldwide leader in producing and presenting live family entertainment experiences that bring people together and uplift the human spirit. Properties include Monster Jam®, Monster Energy Supercross, Disney On Ice, Disney Live!, Marvel Universe LIVE!, Sesame Street Live!, DreamWorks Trolls The Experience and Jurassic World Live Tour. Across the brand portfolio, Feld Entertainment has entertained millions of families in more than 75 countries and on six continents. Visit www.feldentertainment.com for more information.



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