Theatre Review “Disney’s Aladdin” @ Dr. Phillips Center – Orlando, FL

“Disney’s Aladdin” is one of my favorite movies and it is also one of the only Disney plays that I haven’t seen on Broadway. It opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre on March 20, 2014 and since then has become the 11th highest-grossing Broadway production of all time (as of May 2019), grossing over $400 million…and still going strong. The show is currently running from January 22nd through February 9th at the Dr. Phillips Center and it is a MUST SEE for the whole family.

Official Premise: From the producer of The Lion King comes the timeless story of Aladdin, a thrilling new production filled with unforgettable beauty, magic, comedy and breathtaking spectacle. It’s an extraordinary theatrical event where one lamp and three wishes make the possibilities infinite. Aladdin features all your favorite songs from the film as well as new music written by Tony® and Academy Award® winner Alan Menken (Newsies) with lyrics penned by the legendary Howard Ashman (Beauty and the Beast), Tony Award winner Tim Rice (The Lion KingAida), and book writer Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer). Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of MormonSomething Rotten!), this “Fabulous” and “Extravagant” (The New York Times) new musical boasts an incomparable design team, with sets, costumes and lighting from Tony Award winners Bob Crowley (Mary Poppins), Gregg Barnes (Kinky Boots), and Natasha Katz (An American in Paris).

Orlando native, Michael James Scott, played the role of the Genie and easily stole the show. Michael isn’t new to playing this role after though after being apart of the original Australian Cast (2016-2017), as well as taking on the U.S. National Tour (Jan-Aug 2018), took over the West End (Aug 2018-Feb 2019), and Broadway (Feb-Sept 2019). So as far as I am concerned Michael James Scott is the Genie. I literally loved every second he was on the stage. Such energy and such love for his craft.

Speaking of returning cast Jonathan Weir, who played Jafar in the original US tour cast as well taking over the reigns on Broadway. There was no shortage of talent on this stage. Jonathan was a riot with his companion Iago, played by Reggie De Leon. Together they both commanded the stage. Jonah Ho’Okano, who plays Aladdin, is also fresh off the boat from playing the lead in the Disney Cruise Line version of “Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular”. So he is also no stranger to the character.

The costumes are outstanding. There are so many quick changes that will leave you amazed as to how it is done. The colors are just so vibrant from the costumes to the set, which are also super elaborate – especially the Cave of Wonders. I absolutely loved the Cave of Wonders set. It was stunning and so well put together. Also “Whole New World” song was super impressive with the flying carpet, which I have no idea how it was done. This was a really beautiful moment of the evening.

Since this show running for a few weeks at Dr. Phillips Center, there are still plenty of time to get great seats for upcoming shows and Media Mikes had the tips for you to experience this amazing show. There are still great seats available for the following shows on Wednesday January 29th-Friday January 31st and from February 4th through Saturday February 8th. If you can make any of those shows, I cannot recommend any more to not miss this show. I had a smile on my face from the moment it started until the moment it ended. Definitely some magic happened at Walt Disney Theater.

Kansas City Stage Review: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – the Musical

  • “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
  • The Kauffman Center – Kansas City, Missouri
  • January 21, 2020 

Oh, how sweet it is! Filled with colorful costumes, magical set designs, and wonderful songs that will put a smile on your face, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” now performing at the Kauffman Performing Arts Center in Kansas City, Missouri, is a terrific musical the whole family can enjoy. Based upon the 1964 children’s novel of the same name by British novelist Roald Dahl (1916-90), “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was first adapted for the silver screen in 1971 and then again in 2005 before premiering as a musical in 2013 in London.

 The musical version takes us to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory where, after being shut up for 40 years, the legendary chocolatier (Cody Garcia) decides to venture out into the real world to find an heir. Disguised as a chocolate shop owner, Willy ends up befriending, in a small way, a local boy named Charlie Bucket (Ryan Umbarila). Charlie lives an impoverished life just down the block with two sets of grandparents, who never leave their bed, and his widowed, overworked mother. 

Charlie is a dreamer to the tenth degree and so, it’s only natural that he becomes enamored with the idea of getting a Wonka chocolate bar in order to get a golden ticket. The five lucky recipients of which will get to go on a tour of Willy’s factory with the chance to win a lifetime supply of chocolate. Of course, the whimsical and quirky Willy has other plans. Charlie ultimately proves himself to be a good-hearted lad, especially when compared to the other four children who reveal themselves to be brats, each meeting their own unique, laughable fate during the tour. 

The first half of the show contained a couple of heartfelt moments between Charlie and his Grandpa Joe (Steve McCoy) that pulled at the heartstrings. Umbarila had an overall nice stage presence but was overshadowed a bit by McCoy’s charismatic delivery of his comedic lines. Despite Charlie’s underdog nature, the most fascinating character remained Wonka himself. However, his portrayal during the first act was a little flat, which was accompanied by a sluggish pace even with a few entertaining dance sequences. 

The true highlight of the night’s show was the second act. It was fun, lively, colorful and thoroughly entertaining. Garcia delivered a superb performance down the stretch run with a portrayal that was reminiscent of a blend between Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp. Supported by a solid orchestral performance, the musical’s second act was punctuated by well-choreographed Oompa Loompas who generated the biggest laughs of the night. 

In the end, don’t wait for a golden ticket in a candy bar to see “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” because it will be gone before you know it. 

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” runs in Kansas City at the beautiful Kauffman Center through January 26th. For tickets in KC or for the rest of the tour, click HERE.

Romantic Rock and Vans Footwear To Host “The Art Of Shoes” At Punk Rock & Paintbrushes Holiday Art Show Saturday, December 21 In Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, CA — Romantic Rock’s highly anticipated Punk Rock & Paintbrushes Holiday Art Show makes its return to Los Angeles later this month, with a grand opening night and red carpet artist reception onSaturday, December 21 at Self Help Graphics & Art. This annual art exhibition celebrates the fine art and photography of creatives who share a passion for both music and art, and this year has partnered with Vans Footwear to give back to the community through “The Art Of Shoes.” 

“The Art Of Shoes” will feature one-of-a-kind designs painted onto Vans shoes by Punk Rock & Paintbrushes Holiday Art Show participating artists and other iconic punk rock musicians. Each pair of Vans shoes will be auctioned off, starting at $200 per pair, with all proceeds benefiting The Sidewalk Project, a Los Angeles non-profit whose initiative is to enrich the lives of the Los Angeles houseless community. “Each band and artist that is a part of this project is giving their time to support both The Sidewalk Projectand Punk Rock & Paintbrushes, and we are SO honored to have every single artist joining us,” says Emily T. Nielsen, founder of both Romantic Rock and Punk Rock & Paintbrushes. “Every artist on this project is connected to us and that is what this is about…the punk rock ART community.” 

Musicians and artists participating in “The Art Of Shoes” at the Punk Rock & Paintbrushes Holiday Art Show include: Mike Ness of Social DistortionNoodles of The OffspringPete Wentz of Fall Out BoyMatt Skiba of blink-182 and Alkaline TrioAlisonMosshart of The Kills, Dan Pawlovich of Panic! At The DiscoWarren Fitzgerald of The VandalsEric Melvin of NOFXChristianJacobs of The AquabatsJennie Cotterill of Bad Cop / Bad CopPete Dee of The AdictsMatt Hensley of Flogging MollyEric Wilson of SublimeJason Cruz of Strung OutJared Watson of DIrty HeadsJen Razavi of The BombpopsJohnny NessSoma SnakeoilSteve CaballeroChadCantColor, and Chris Shary + LoriHerbst

These wearable works of art will be available online for early bidding starting on Saturday, December 14 at www.32auctions.com/SIDEWALKOn December 21 at the 

Punk Rock & Paintbrushes Holiday Art Show opening night, the shoes will be on display with updated prices reflecting the online bids. The auction will be open for onsite live bidding until 11pm on December 21st, and again the next day from 11am to 4pmOn December 22 at 4pm the auction will close, and shoes will be awarded to the highest bidders. 

Punk Rock & Paintbrushes Holiday Art Show will feature multiple original works, prints and more from select artists in the music community including Tim Armstrong, Matt Henlsey, Carla Harvey, Jim Lindberg,AlisonMosshart, Soma Snakeoil, Natalia Fabia, Johnny Ness, Sara Wright, and many others, along with music from special guest DJs including Noodles of The OffspringJonny “Two Bags” Wickersham of Social DistortionStacey Dee of Bad Cop / Bad Cop, and Joe Sib of SideOneDummy Records. The night will also boast a full cocktail bar, a coffee booth featuring Oakland Coffee, red carpet, photo booth, live body painting, and more. 

To RSVP to this all ages event, please visit: https://prpb2019.eventbrite.com The Punk Rock & Paintbrushes art exhibition will also be open on Sunday, December 22 from 11am to 5pm, and will feature musical performances from Warren Fitzgerald (of The Vandals) and friends of “The Sidewalk Project,” DJ RyToast of Tyrone’s JacketBent Duo and State To State

Sponsors for Punk Rock & Paintbrushes Holiday Art Show include: Oakland Coffee (founded by Green Day), AO Hemp (owned/founded by Nathen Maxwell of Flogging Molly), Punk Rock Bowling, The Sidewalk Project, KROQ, Vans Footwear, and Jägermeister.

IAAPA Expo 2019 Opens in Orlando, Florida

Premier Conference and Trade Show for the Global Attractions Industry Takes Place at the Orange County Convention Center Nov. 18-22

ORLANDO, Fla., US (Nov. 18, 2019) — IAAPA Expo 2019 (formerly IAAPA Attractions Expo), the global attractions industry’s premier event, opens today at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Hosted by IAAPA, the global association for the attractions industry, this year’s event features more than 1,100 exhibiting companies from around the world filling 585,000 net square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibition space. More than 38,000 global attractions industry professionals from over 100 countries are expected to attend to learn, buy, and network.
 

“We’re thrilled to bring together the global attractions community for IAAPA Expo,” said Hal McEvoy, president and CEO, IAAPA. “The attractions industry continues to thrive around the world, and the strength, growth, and passion of our dynamic industry is reflected right here. We have an outstanding line-up of special events, speakers, and educational programming along with our amazing, diverse trade show floor. It’s going to be an exciting week.”

Trade Show Floor

More than 1,100 exhibiting companies will display the latest products and services in 125 different business categories on the trade show floor, including 130 exhibits in the adjacent “Exploration Station” and outdoor displays.

Education Conference and Special Events
Throughout the week, IAAPA Expo offers more than 100 educational experiences on a wide range of topics as of the event’s robust education conference. Attendees will learn from world-renowned industry experts, make new connections, and build their international networks.
 
Special events include the sold-out GM and Owners’ Breakfast on Wednesday, Nov. 20, featuring Christine Duffy, president, Carnival Cruise Line. The sold-out IAAPA Celebrates event will take place at Universal’s Islands of Adventure on Thursday, Nov. 21.
 

Additional highlights include “Lunch and Learn: The Emergence of Authentic Reality” featuring George Walker, creative director, Universal Creative Studio; “Game Changer: Creativity is the New Attraction” featuring Vince Kadlubek, co-founder of Meow Wolf; and “Coca Cola Presents: How to Become Self Made and Have a Rich Life in Every Way” by Nely Galán, entrepreneur and author.

Participants can take part in more than 50 events highlighting member constituencies and regions, including the Opening ReceptionLatin American ReceptionAsia Pacific Breakfast, European, Middle East, Africa ReceptionWater Park SocialFamily Entertainment Centers Reception, and much more.

In addition, annual IAAPA awards will be presented throughout the week, including the IAAPA Hall of Fame Awards, IAAPA Service Awards, and IAAPA Young Professional Award. The 2019 IAAPA Brass Ring Awards ceremony, one of the global attractions industry’s most prestigious honors, will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

Press Conferences
IAAPA Expo is where news happens. Attendees will be among the first to learn the latest industry news as exhibiting companies debut and unveil new products, host live demonstrations, and announce what’s new during press conferences from the trade show floor. This year, more than 30 exhibiting companies are hosting press conferences announcing new advances in rides, technology, products, and services in the global attractions industry.

Tuesday, Nov. 19

10:20-10:45 a.m. – Rocky Mountain Construction / Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Booth 4006

10:55-11:20 a.m. – Maurer Rides / Carnival Cruise Line, Booth 4803
11:30-11:55 a.m. – ETF Ride Systems / LEGOLAND New York, Booth 5140

12:05-12:30 p.m. – Great Coasters International, Booth 2273
12:40-1:05 p.m. – Zamperla, Booth 2024
1:15-1:40 p.m. – Triotech / Knott’s Berry Farm, Booth 1954
1:50-2:15 p.m. – Premier Rides / SeaWorld Orlando, Booth 5100
2:25-2:50 p.m. – Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), Booth 1066

3:00-3:25 p.m. – Extreme Engineering, Booth 3266

3:35-4:00 p.m. – Brogent Technologies, Booth 5710

4:10-4:35 p.m. – Alterface, Booth E7041

4:45-5:10 p.m. – Luna Park in Coney Island, Booth 2031

Wednesday, Nov. 20

10:20-10:45 a.m. – The Producers Group / Extreme Engineering, Booth 872
10:55-11:20 a.m. – Polin Waterparks, Booth 847

11:30-11:55 a.m. – Infinite Kingdoms, Booth 2261

12:05-12:30 p.m. – MajorMega / Hersheypark, Booth 4631

12:40-1:05 p.m. – Talon Simulations, Booth 2980

1:15-1:40 p.m. – Intercard, Booth 2206

1:50-2:15 p.m. – Lagotronics Projects B.V. / Ride Entertainment, Booth 5427

2:25-2:50 p.m. – Virtuix, Booth 2686
3:00-3:25 p.m. – Bay Tek Entertainment, Booth 1015

3:35-4:00 p.m. – CAVU Designwerks, Booth 584
4:10-4:35 p.m. – Falcon’s Creative Group, Booth 1373

Thursday, Nov. 21

10:20-10:45 a.m. – Simworx, Booth 3069

10:55-11:20 a.m. – WhiteWater, Booth 2254
11:30-11:55 a.m. – LAI Games, Booth 1034
12:05-12:30 p.m. – Hownd, Booth 1073

12:40-1:05 p.m. – Simtec Systems GmBH, Booth 1783

1:15-1:40 p.m. – Embed, Booth 1336

1:50-2:15 p.m. – Walltopia, Booth 1686

2:25-2:50 p.m. – SEVEN, IAAPA Central

3:00-3:25 p.m. – Valo Motions, Booth E7141
3:35-4:00 p.m. – Virtual Room USA, Booth E7401

4:10-4:35 p.m. – Rebound Unlimited, Booth 3606

4:45-5:10 p.m. – TrainerTainment, Booth 1735


Friday, Nov. 22
10:20-10:45 a.m. – Arihant Water Park Equipment, Booth 1844
10:55-11:20 a.m. – VFX, Booth 140
12:15-12:40 p.m. – Ride Engineers Switzerland, Booth 3472

About IAAPA Expo 2019
IAAPA Expo is the premier conference and trade show for the global attractions industry, including amusement and theme parks, where visitors spend $45.2 billion around the world. IAAPA Expo 2019 will draw more than 38,000 industry professionals, including more than 24,000 decisions-makers and buyers from more than 100 countries to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, Monday, Nov. 18 through Friday, Nov. 22. The 585,000-net-square-foot trade show floor will be open Tuesday, Nov. 19, through Friday, Nov. 22. Additional information is available at www.IAAPA.org/IAAPAExpo. #IAAPAExpo

About IAAPA 
IAAPA is a diverse and dynamic community of global attractions professionals. As the largest international trade association for permanently located attractions, IAAPA unifies the attractions community, connects people to learn and grow together, and strives to promote the highest professional standards for excellence and safety around the world.

Founded in 1918, IAAPA represents more than 6,000 attraction, supplier, and individual members from more than 100 countries. Members include professionals from amusement parks, theme parks, attractions, water parks, resorts, family entertainment centers, zoos, aquariums, science centers, museums, manufacturers, and suppliers.

The association’s global headquarters and North America office are located in Orlando, Florida, US. IAAPA also maintains offices in Brussels, Belgium; Hong Kong, China; Shanghai, China; Mexico City, Mexico; and Alexandria, Virginia, US. To learn more, visit www.IAAPA.org or connect through social media channels: @IAAPAHQ #IAAPA. 

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.

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