Theater Review: “Chicago” – Kansas City

CHICAGO
September 14, 2018
Starlight Theater – Kansas City, Missouri
When the Kander and Ebb musical “Chicago” opened on Broadway in 1975, it caused a sensation.  The show, directed and choreographed by the great Bob Fosse,  played for three years and earned an impressive (11) Tony Award nominations.  Sadly, it didn’t win any, running into the juggernaut that was “A Chorus Line.”
In 1996, the show was revived on Broadway and that version fared much better at the Tonys, taking home (6) of the (8) awards it was nominated for, including the award for Best Revival of a Musical.  What’s even more impressive is that, since November 14, 1996, “Chicago” has never left Broadway, earning the right to call itself the longest running American musical in theater history!    This weekend, the touring production made its way to Kansas City and, despite some technical difficulties, greatly entertained.
We meet Velma Kelly (Amra-Faye Wright) as she entertains her nightclub audience with the show’s signature number, “All That Jazz.”  We follow this with a quick peek into the bedroom of Roxie Hart (Angel Reda) to discover her in an argument with her lover.  Moments later, Roxie shoots him dead. When the police arrive, Roxie’s husband, Amos (Paul Vogt) takes the blame for the shooting, but quickly recants when he learns the truth.  Roxie is taken to jail, where she will await trial for murder.  But not before a little singing and a lot of dancing!
There are a million reasons to see this show at Starlight.  First off, it’s one of the best outdoor venues in the country.  The shows are usually excellent or, if not, entertaining.  “Chicago” boasts an amazing cast and a top-notch orchestra.  Both Ms. Wright and Ms. Reda (who is from nearby Overland Park, Kansas) are strong dancers with great vocal chops.  My quibble above regarding technical difficulties comes from the fact that, for the first hour of the show, there was an obvious problem with Ms. Wright’s body microphone.  The fact that I could hear her in my seats stems from the fact that she can belt out a song.  Once the problem was fixed both actresses were at the top of their game.
The rest of the cast is equally strong.  As publicity loving attorney Billy Flynn, Peter Lockyer is as smooth as silk.  Jennifer Fouche’ steals her scenes as Matron “Mother” Morton and Mr. Vogt puts an ache in your heart as he sings “Mr. Cellophane.”   The choreography (by the amazing Ann Reinking, and based on Fosse’s original work) is spectacular, delivering in spades the moves that are so associated with the late choreographer.
If you’re looking for some fun under the stars this weekend, I’d highly recommend a trip to “Chicago!”

Kansas City Theater Review: “Hairspray – the Musical”

“Hairspray – the Musical”

Starlight Theater – Kansas City, Missouri

July 27, 2018

 

I spent 13 years living in Baltimore.  As a movie theatre manager I was very fortunate to manage the theatre of choice of local filmmaker John Waters.  He was a frequent guest and, when I asked, would stop by the office for a few minutes after his film just to talk about what he had coming up.  Of course, I was glad to play the original film “Hairspray,” and am proud to be friends with some of the local talent used in the film.  Years later, Mr. Waters took the film to Broadway, where, 15 years ago, the musical version earned 13 Tony Award nominations, winning 8, including Best Musical.   This week, the fun and energy you can only find in Charm City is on display at the Starlight Theater as “Hairspray – the Musical” arrives.

Baltimore 1962.  Like many cities in America, civil rights are on the front burner.  We meet Tracy Turnblad (an outstanding Jessica Alcorn) as she greets the day, and the audience, with the bouncy “Good morning, Baltimore.”  Tracy is a fan of the Corny Collins afternoon dance program on television and secretly dreams to not only be a dancer on the show, but to end up in the arms of the show’s best male dancer, Link Larkin (Eric Geil).  Tracy lives at home with her parents.  Mother Edna (Brad Oscar) takes in washing and hasn’t been outside the apartment in years.  Her father, Wilbur (Bruce Roach), runs a joke shop called the Har-Har Hut.  Tracy has a friend named Penny, who encourages her to follow her dream.  And so she does.

First off, I must comment on the energy the entire cast brought to the show.  It’s always a plus when you can sense that the cast and crew WANT to be there.  The musical numbers were infectious.  If you knew the words (guilty) you quietly sang along.  If you didn’t, you were dancing in your seats.  As Tracy, Ms. Alcorn soars.  She is the heart and spirit of the show and she shines in a role that a lesser actress could easily dilute spirit-wise.  Supporting roles played by Katie Karel (Penny), Cathy Barnett (Velma Van Tussle) and Erin Riley (Amber) stand out here, as does Regina Levert whose Motormouth Maybelle steals the scenes she is in.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t note that Kansas City audiences are having the rare treat of seeing a true Broadway legend in Brad Oscar.  Ever since Harvey Fierstein first originated the character, Edna has been played with dignity.  Mr. Oscar continues that tradition here.

“Hairspray – the Musical” plays at Starlight through August 2nd.  For tickets to those shows click HERE.

Theatre Review: “The King and I” – Kansas City

‘The King and I”

Starlight Theater – Kansas City, Missouri

June 14, 2018

 

I can imagine it’s pretty hard to write a Broadway musical.

In 1943, a couple of guys named Richard and Oscar took a popular novel and turned it into one of the most popular musicals of all time; “Oklahoma!”  They followed it up with “Carousel,” “State Fair” and ‘South Pacific.”  Four hits in a row.  What would Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Hammerstein come up with for their next show?

Our story begins with Anna Leonowens (Elena Shaddow) aboard a boat with her son, Louis (Ryan Stout).  They have traveled from England to visit the court of the King of Siam, where Anna has been employed as the new teacher for the King’s wives and children.  Both mother and son are taken by the pageantry that accompanies their journey to the palace, as well as the exuberance of the King (Jose Llana) himself.  The King wishes to have his country adapt more modernist attitudes, and he hopes this English teacher can help him change.  And help him she does.

“The King and I” is a show I’ve been dying to see performed live since I first saw the film in the early 1970s.  The closest I ever got was a touring production, starring Yul Brynner, that came through Baltimore in the mid 1980s.  Sadly, I didn’t get to see the show, but I later did eat in the same Chines restaurant made popular by the fact that, when Brynner visited for dinner, somebody stole his shoes.   And, while it would have been amazing to see Brynner in his career-defining role, this new tour is equally every bit its equal.

Elena Shaddow and Jose Llana in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I.” Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Both leads give amazing, energized performances and I would be remiss if I did not point out that Mr. Llana makes the role of the King his own.  The supporting cast is just as good and the music….well, it’s Rodgers and Hammerstein, for God’s sake!  What’s amazing is that Rodgers and Hammerstein still had “Cinderella” (a perennial favorite on television), “Flower Drum Song” and “The Sound of Music” to follow.  Filled with familiar songs like “Hello Young Lovers,” “Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance,” the show is easily one of the best productions I’ve seen at Starlight in a long time.

The show plays in Kansas City through June 17th.  For tickets to a performance, either in Kansas City or later in the tour, click HERE.

Theatre Review “RENT: 20th Anniversary Tour” Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Orlando FL

FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando presents RENT: 20th Anniversary Tour
Show dates: Tuesday–Sunday, June 5–10, 2018
Show times vary
Tickets start at $34.25

RENT is a Broadway musical that I have seen many many times since 1996. This show is special. It has always been special and it will always be special. It was a show that is ahead of it’s time and still as smart as ever. Having seen this show on Broadway numerous time and now seeing it for the first time at the Walt Disney Theatre at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and it was like I was transported to the first time I saw it over 20 years ago now! I have never been to show where the audience was literally sitting on the edge of their chairs, dancing and singing along like this! The cheers! The applause! It was literally magic! It was like seeing it for the first time again. This show is an experience! Do not miss it!

The cast of the anniversary tour really delivered for me. I had VERY high standards for these songs and the way they are sang specifically. I really love this movie. I have been listening to it for more than half my life. The cast at this theater gave it their all. They knocked it out of the park! Roger was a real highlight for me and Angel, of boy, Angel he was simply amazing! Some notes about the Walt Disney Theater that I have been noting over the last few months, sitting in Orchestra Left in Row J and around there, we had some of the performances cut off due to the angling. It wasn’t anything major but I think it could have been adjusted since orchestra right had a lot of unused space. In the beginning of the performance, there was a little bit of an issue with the music overpowering the singing but over the first song I did not notice it again.

The set this performance did remind me of RENT. It represented the show perfectly but I just miss that Broadway feeling of getting entirely new set each Act. We stay in one scene the whole performance and I was looking for something new each scene with some new objects onto the stage. But don’t let this take away from a magical evening, I can guarantee you there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater. The last thing I want to mention is that the range of age from this performance was outstanding. It ranged from early teens to senior citizens. I mean for a show to have that much range…this many years later is something special. RENT has been touring to celebrate it’s 20th anniversary for the last two years now and I don’t know when I will see it live again…and I encourage you to see this while you can!

Official Synopsis: In 1996, an original rock musical by a little-known composer opened on Broadway…and forever changed the landscape of American theatre. Two decades later, Jonathan Larson’s RENT continues to speak loudly and defiantly to audiences across generations and all over the world. And now, this Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning masterpiece returns to the stage in a vibrant 20th anniversary touring production. A re-imagining of Puccini’s La Bohème, RENT follows an unforgettable year in the lives of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams without selling out. With its inspiring message of joy and hope in the face of fear, this timeless celebration of friendship and creativity reminds us to measure our lives with the only thing that truly matters—love.

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Theater Review: “On Your Feet” – Kansas City

 

“On You Feet”

May 22, 2018

Starlight Theater – Kansas City

REVIEW BY JUANITA SMITH

 

They were one of the most popular bands of the 1980s, selling over 100 million albums worldwide.   But before the Miami Sound Machine started, what was the story that brought Emilio and Gloria Estefan together?

With set pieces set in Cuba and Miami, “On Your Feet” is a highly entertaining tale about two people destined to meet and create some of the most popular music of the last century.  It is also a story of the power of love, which comes into play after tragedy strikes and music is the furthest thing.

The show rides along on the mighty shoulders (and voices) of Mauricio Martinez and Christie Prades who, as Emilio and Gloria, share the majority of the vocal duties.  Both are well cast and their chemistry is evident.

The supporting cast is equally strong.  The choreography is top notch and the direction keeps the show flowing easily.  And then there are the songs!

If you’re looking for an entertaining night at the theater, you can’t go wrong with “On Your Feet.”

The show plays in Kansas City through May 27th.  For upcoming show information and tickets, click HERE

 

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Theater Review: “The Lion King” in Kansas City

Disney’s “The Lion King”

Music Hall – Kansas City, Missouri

May 10, 2018

 

AMAZING!  That is the first word that popped into my head as “The Lion King” began.  While being mesmerized by the animated and musical Rafiki (Makelisiwe Goga), we were treated by a parade of animals down the aisle, from the rear of the theater to the stage.  Birds.  Gazelles.  Elephants.  They strode past in their proud majesty and filled the stage.  And for the next two and half hours, the excitement never died.

“Rafiki” in THE LION KING North American Tour. ©Disney. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Based on the 1994 animated film of the same name, the story of “The Lion King” is much as it was in the film.  Some of the characters are fleshed out more and there are more songs, also written by Elton John and Tim Rice.  The characters are familiar and are portrayed in an amazing way.  While the majority of the lions just wear lion heads, other characters are portrayed by actors holding/wearing puppets.  The effect is jaw-dropping.  Even the lovable duo of Timon and Pumba are portrayed this way, a way that is not distracting in the least.

The original show, which is now the third longest running show in Broadway history, was nominated for an amazing eleven Tony Awards, winning six, including Best Musical.  I’ve been attending shows, both on Broadway and off, since 1980, and I would easily put “The Lion King” in my top 10 of best shows ever.

“The Lion King” runs in Kansas City at the Music Hall through May 27th.  For ticket information, or to see where the tour is heading next, click HERE.

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S’ Wonderful News! Iconic Musical AN AMERICAN IN PARIS Comes to Movie Theaters September 2018

Tickets on sale across the U.S. from July 12, 2018

May 2018: Trafalgar Releasing has announced the North American theatrical release of the highly acclaimed musical, An American in Paris, coming to movie theaters across the USA on Thursday, September 20 and Sunday, September 23.This new rendition of An American in Paris premiered in 2014 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris to ecstatic reviews before transferring to the Palace Theatre on Broadway, where it became the most awarded musical of the 2015/16 season, including four Tony® Awards. While the U.S touring production continues to see great success with performances booking until July 2018, theater enthusiasts across North America can now experience the magic of the hit Broadway Musical performance from London’s West End in their local movie theater this fall.

With the gorgeous music and lyrics of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin (including the classic hits ‘S Wonderful and I Got Rhythm), book by Craig Lucas and direction and choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, this breathtakingly beautiful new musical is inspired by the Oscar® winning MGM film and tells the impassioned story of discovering love in the ‘City of Light’ in 1945.

Jerry Mulligan is an American GI striving to make it as a painter in a city suddenly bursting with hope and possibility. Following a chance encounter with a beautiful young dancer named Lise, the streets of Paris become the backdrop to a sensuous, modern romance of art, friendship and love in the aftermath of war…

The film stars Tony Award nominees, New York City Ballet principle dancer Robert Fairchild as Jerry Mulligan and British Royal Ballet dancer Leanne Cope as Lise Dassin, reprising their roles from the original Broadway production and a company of over 50 actors, dancers and musicians including Haydn Oakley as Henri Baurel, Zoë Rainey as Milo Davenport, David Seadon-Young as Adam Hochberg and Jane Asher as Madame Baurel.

The company also features Julian Forsyth and Ashley Andrews, Sophie Apollonia, Zoe Arshamian, Sarah Bakker, James Barton, Alicia Beck, Chrissy Brooke, James Butcher, Jonathan Caguioa, Jennifer Davison, Katie Deacon, Rebecca Fennelly, Sebastian Goffin, Alyn Hawke, Nicky Henshall, Genevieve Heron, Amy Hollins, Frankie Jenna, Justin-Lee Jones, Robin Kent, Kristen McGarrity, Julia J. Nagle, Daniela Norman, Aaron Smyth, Todd Talbot, Max Westwell, Jack Wilcox, Carrie Willis, Stuart Winter and Liam Wrate.

“An old-fashioned, big-hearted, spare-no-expense Broadway romance”
~ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
.
An American in Paris is directed and choreographed by the internationally renowned, British-born Christopher Wheeldon, recipient of the Tony® Award 2015: Best Choreographer for this production. An Artistic Associate of the Royal Ballet, Wheeldon received an OBE in the 2016 New Year’s Honours ‘for services to promoting the interests and reputation of British classical and theatrical dance worldwide’. The set and costumes are designed by the celebrated West End and Broadway designer Bob Crowley (The Audience; Mary Poppins) with projections by the prominent British designers 59 Productions (War Horse; London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony), lighting by Natasha Katz and sound by Jon Weston.The musical score is adapted, arranged and supervised by Rob Fisher with orchestrations by Christopher Austin and Bill Elliott; dance arrangements by Sam Davis; musical supervision by Todd Ellison; and musical direction by John Rigby.

Tickets for An America in Paris will be on sale starting Thursday, July 12 and can be purchased at AnAmericanInParisCinema.com.

For information regarding the National Tour please visit AnAmericanInParisBroadway.com.

Theatre Review “Waitress” @ Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts – Orlando, FL

Waitress: The Musical
Show dates: Tuesday–Sunday, March 20–25, 2018
Tickets: start at $34.25
Walt Disney Theater at @ Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
445 South Magnolia Avenue
Orlando, FL 32801

Let me just start my saying that I have never seen or even wanted to see the 2007 film, “Waitress” starring Keri Russell, which this musical version is based on. I wouldn’t have ever even seen the play if it wasn’t for a few of my friends who say the play on Broadway over the last few years and RAVED about it! Suddenly my interest was kicked off and to top it off the musical features music and orchestration by Sara Bareilles. From the opening scene of the “Waitress”, I knew I was hooked.

Here is the official premise of the show: Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna – a waitress and expert pie maker, Jenna dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.

Like I mentioned “Waitress” features original music and lyrics by 5-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles and I really enjoy the music (listening as I type as well). The songs were strong, uplifting and really beautiful. Desi Oakley, who played the lead Jenna, has an outstanding voice. She really blows you away with some of her songs. They have such range and perfectly pitched. Jeremy Morse, who played the role of Ogie, easily stole the show and was extremely funny. He has previously starred in the same role back in 2015 in the American Repertory Theater staging of “Waitress”. Also really dug that there was a live band on the stage in the background throughout most of the show, which blended in so well I forgot they were their sometimes.

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts delivered another winning show for me. Being from New York originally and missing Broadway a little, shows like this makes me miss it much less. Here is a little tip since I believe I found the perfect seats for this theatre. We were in Row Q in the Left Orchestra and we had perfect seats, it is at the divide, so no one in front of you and plenty of leg room. Definitely will look for these seats again in the future.

“Waitress” has a lot of heart. It plays to your funny bone the first Act and just kicks you in the stomach for the second Act and delivers a great finish. I believe shows like this are important because they feature strong women and have a positive message of love and the beauty of life. I have to admit one thing that after this show I REALLY wanted me some pie! So make sure to not go hungry because this show will leave your mouth watering.Now if you excuse me I am craving some pie and I need to watch the movie finally!

Theatre Review “The Lion King” @ Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts – Orlando, FL

The Lion King
Show dates: February 14–March 11, 2018
Walt Disney Theater at @ Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
445 South Magnolia Avenue
Orlando, FL 32801
Tickets: start at $35.25

I remember like it was yesterday when “The Lion King” opened up on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater in October of 1997. I saw it that year and was mesmerized by the outfits and the set, just beautiful! Years later I had a chance to see it again in Las Vegas in 2009 and again I experienced that wonderful same feeling. Last night, I experienced that same feeling again. From the moment the lights went down, I immediately got the chills! The music came on and the cast come flooded through the seating area in full costume, singing at full volume. This was magic!

The Walt Disney Theater at @ Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is a wonderful spot to enjoy theatre. Coming from Broadway, this theatre easily rivals the experience for me personally. The sound is fantastic. The seating is so comfortable much better than a ton of the old Broadway theaters, I can recall. They even utilized two of the box seating areas and had musicians playing living music throughout, which really added a nice 3D sound. I have to admit though, they seemed a little distracting during the song, “Be Prepared” since it seemed a little out of sync.

Buyi Zama has played Rafiki in the stage production of “The Lion King” since day one and it was such an amazing experience to get to see her again in this role, now for the third time. She doesn’t miss a beat and she is on point from seeing her over 20 years ago! Coming off the last ‘Gazelle’ National tour, Mark Campbell, returned a Scar and easily commanded the stage. Besides a little technical difficulty with his mask, was on par if not better than John Vickery in the Broadway production! Literally gave me chills when he spoke!

Buyi Zama as “Rafiki” in THE LION KINGNorth American Tour. ©Disney. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Having seen “The Lion King” live on Broadway and in Las Vegas, this easily one of my most enjoyable to see how it came to life. This felt like a full Broadway production. Even after the show, we got a chance to go backstage and got to view how everything is stored and all the costumes and how the set works. It was amazing. I also got some insight from Mark Campbell, who describes some difference in how the sets move in and out of place and how climbs up the set pieces during the herd sequence, so it really just showed how much goes in behind-the-scenes.

The ensemble cast should also get a shout out here because they were just amazing, when we were backstage we saw how easy of the ensemble cast has 10-15 outfit changes per show. It was simply extraordinary. “The Lion King” started its nearly one month run on February 14 and runs till March 11, 2018, so if you can catch a show I would highly recommend it. Tickets can be purchased here!

Theater Review – THE COLOR PURPLE – Kansas City

The Color Purple
The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts – Kansas City, Missouri
January 16, 2018

 

Since it’s publication in 1983, Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” has won many awards.  The Pulitzer.   A couple of Tonys.  Heck, if it wasn’t for some bizarre Steven Spielberg backlash the 1985 film version would have one a couple of Oscars.

 

The musical version of “The Color Purple” opened on Broadway in 2005, closing after running for over two years.  In 2016 the show returned to Broadway, where it won the Tony award for Best Revival of a Musical.  Now the show is on the road and it is definitely not one to miss.

 

The show begins in rural Georgia in 1909.  We meet sisters Nettie (N’jameh Camara) and Celie (Adrianna Hicks).  Nettie is smart and wants to be a teacher.  Celie has always been mistreated and is about to give birth to her second child – by her stepfather.  The baby is born and given away.  We meet Mister (an amazing Gavin Gregory), a widower looking to marry Nettie.  However, when told she is unavailable he settles for Celie, thinking of her not as a wife but as someone to raise his kids and clean his house.    Not exactly a honeymoon.

 

Powerfully told, “The Color Purple” is fairly faithful to the book and film many people will be familiar with.  Many of the familiar characters are here:  Sofia (Carrie Compere), Harpo (J. Daughtry), Squeak (Erica Durham) and, of course, the amazing Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart).  The story is presented on a minimalistic stage, which consists mostly of a set of risers and a set of wooden chairs.  But the show moves smoothly (though a little slow in the first act) and the cast is amazing.  Both Ms. Hicks and Ms. Stewart have the power to bring down the house with their vocals.  As Sofia, my favorite character in every incarnation of this story, Ms. Compere is both funny and heartbreaking. And I must make special mention of Mr. Gregory, who manages to make a character as dark and seemingly heartless as Mister sympathetic.

 

If you’re familiar with the story, you will genuinely enjoy this production.  If you’re not, you need to take this opportunity to make it’s acquaintance.

 

The show is playing at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City through January 21st.  For tickets and information on this show and future productions, click   HERE

Stage Review – “Les Miserables” – Kansas City

Kansas City Theater Review: “Kinky Boots”

Starlight Theater
Kansas City, Missouri
September 29, 2017

Review by: JR Deeter

The stage musical “Kinky Boots” is based on the 2005 British film of the same name. I first became aware of this inspiring story while watching the 2013 Tony awards program. I enjoyed the musical numbers like “Sex Is in the Heel,” “Not My Fathers Son,” and “Soul of a Man.” The performance this evening at Starlight really did those songs justice and really, the entire score of songs was great. Lead actors Lance Bordelon and Joseph N. Banks were perfect in there respective rolls of Charlie and Lola/Simon. The supporting cast did an exceptional job as well, especially the ensemble group known as the Angels. For the musical, written by Harvey Fierstein with music & lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, a strong message of inclusion is brought out, promoting the feeling that everyone deserves respect for who they are.

The story tells of a four-generation tradition of proprietors of a men’s shoe factory, Charlie dreams of something more…and his fiancé, Nicola, is dragging him to the big city of London to pursue that dream. The sudden death of Charlie’s father brings him back into the factory to figure out how to tell the staff, who are like family to him, that the company is bankrupt and going to have to close. On a return trip to London, he encounters what he believes to be a woman being beat up by a couple of guys. He intervenes and meets the amazing Lola, the drag queen star of the club Charlie was visiting. Over time a friendship begins to develop and soon, with encouragement from his factory workers, who do not want to see the factory close, Charlie realizes a change is necessary from the old, stodgy men’s shoes to something more….and that is to provid kinky style boots for the transvestites who perform in the club. They are in need of a better designed boot, one that can handle the weight of a man, and still look fabulous and sexy. Lola brings her ideas and a partnership is born. Everything is going great, until an episode of intolerance shows that there are still those in society who do not accept what they cannot understand, or what is different than what they believe is normal. After teaching the misguided few a valuable lesson, by means of a boxing match (yes, turns out in his younger days, Lola, or Simon was trained by his father to be a prize fighter). Lola and Charlie find themselves at odds over designs, models for an upcoming show in Milan, and just their friendship in general. Lola seeks closure from her failed relationship with her father, who has rejected her for the lifestyle she choose. All seems lost, but like most musicals, everything works out in the end. Charlie and Lola realize they need each other to accomplish their goals and even the former bully comes around and admits his misgivings. The fashion show starts out as a disaster, but Lola and her Angels arrive just in time to save the day, and all is right with their world.

A very entertaining show, with a valuable lesson and and musical numbers that are outstanding. Cyndi Lauper has created memorable songs and music that shine bright all the way through. Not bad for a first timer. In 2013 “Kinky Boots” received 13 Tony Award nominations and won six trophys, including Best Musical and, for Cyndi Lauper, Best Score.

Tagsylvania Is Back For It’s 8th Season Featuring “Motel 666”

 

For its eighth consecutive season Tag’s Summer Stage in Big Flats, NY makes a ghastly transformation as it shifts from upbeat concert venue to a dark foreboding home of the undead. Rated as one of the top 31 Must See Haunts by Haunted Attraction Magazine the sprawling facility is home to four different attractions this season. Along with long standing staples “Lectures Layer”, “Psycho Swamp” and “Jerkus Circus” is the newly constructed “Motel 666” a two story dilapidated motel which is said to be the home of long since deceased travelers who checked in but never left. Complete with its own frightfully, comedic desk clerk who welcomes visitors with open arms making the new attraction right at home with the other long standing haunts.

While taking a moment to catch your breath between scares visitors can partake in a variety of activities such as the “Escape the Precinct” escape room experience, a “Dark Shadows Maze”, the “Vortex” or meet with a Psychic or Tarot Card reader. If that still isn’t enough try your hand at a number of Carnival themed games while enjoying some of the fall themed food and beverages. Open weekends during the month of October haunt goers can visit http://tagsylvania.com/ for a complete schedule and to purchase tickets…If they dare.

 

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Kansas City Theater Review: “Motown the Musical”

Starlight Theater, Kansas City, MO
August 22, 2017

It is truly part of the soundtrack of my life. In fact, I would bet cash money that if you’re over the age of 16 you’ve heard the sound of Motown. From Smokey Robinson to the Four Tops. Diana Ross to the Jackson 5. Rick James to Rockwell. For almost 60 years we have grooved to the music delivered to us by the great Berry Gordy. If you’ve seen “Dreamgirls” you kind of had an idea of what went on behind the scenes. With “Motown” you know the truth.

The show opens during the famed “Motown” 25 television special, which was put together to honor the label and it’s artists but it mostly remembered for being the show where Michael Jackson introduced the Moonwalk! While current and former Motown artists (the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Junior Walker) perform for the audience, we see an assistant trying to persuade Motown founder Gordy (Chester Gregory) to attend the event. Gordy is upset, having lost many of his founding musicians to bigger record labels with bigger budgets. It wasn’t always like this, he notes.

A step back into one of the most important parts of musical history, “Motown” is an amazing homage to the music most of us grew up listening to. But it’s more then just a “greatest hits” variety show. It takes a look inside the famous walls of Hitsville U.S.A. and the struggles that were endured, both musically and personally. Among the main parts of the story line are the budding romance between the married Gordy and Diana Ross (Allison Semmes). Gordy has chosen to mentor Ross to be the best she can and this mentoring has slowly grown into love. In fighting among the groups, choices of songs and the rights of artists to do what they feel is important. Gaye fights to record an album of socially conscious songs and though Gordy resists at first, he relents and the world is given “What’s Going On,” followed by “Mercy, Mercy Me.” You needn’t wonder if the music is timeless, as both of those songs should be mandatory listening today.

As the story progresses into the 1970s, we meet the Jackson 5 (this group was easily the most anticipated of the evening, earning the loudest applause). The 70s slow down until the company faces the prospects of having to sell. But the late 70s and early 80s, with groups like the Commodores and singers like Rick James (btch) keep the company going. All in all you will hear a virtual jukebox of over 50 great songs, all performed by an amazing cast, led by Mr. Gregory, Ms. Semmes and Jarran Muse, who brings the soul and the spirit of the late Marvin Gaye to life. If you love music and the power it has over us, this is the show for you!

“Motown: The Musical” continues in Kansas City through August 27th. Here is the show’s touring schedule through the end of October:

Chicago, IL: Oct. 3 – Oct. 8, 2017 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre
Huntsville, AL: Oct. 10 – Oct. 15, 2017 at the Broadway Theatre League
Peoria, IL: Oct. 17 – Oct. 19, 2017 at the Peoria Civic Center
Lincoln, NE: Oct. 21 – Oct. 22, 2017 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts
Mason City, IA: Oct. 25 – Oct. 26, 2017 at the North Iowa Community Auditorium
Sioux Falls, SD: Oct. 27 – Oct. 29, 2017 at the Washington Pavilion

Kansas City Theater Review: “The Bodyguard – The Musical”

Starlight Theater
Kansas City, Missouri
August 8, 2017

Bang! The sound of a gunshot fills the theater while, behind the curtain, a voice cautions, “You know what I do!” Whether the other person does or doesn’t is irrelevant. With another shot, he is dead.

The above transpires in the first few minutes of “The Bodyguard: The Musical.” Based on the popular Lawrence Kasdan film, which starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, the show is hoping to recreate it’s huge London success on a tour of the states.

To those familiar with the film, you know that the story involves pop superstar and budding film star Rachel Marron (an outstanding Deborah Cox) and her hate/hate more relationship with Secret Service agent turned personal bodyguard Frank Farmer (Judson Mills), who has been hired by Rachel’s manager to look after the singer after a series of threatening notes are found. Frank is a no-nonsense kind of guy and this rubs Rachel the wrong way. Not only is she worried about her privacy but that of her young son, Fletcher. As the show progresses we are treated to some nice choreography and some amazing Whitney Houston songs. In fact, this show is so full of Houston’s hits that it should have been called “WHITNEY! – The Musical.”

The show’s plot consists of every way possible to introduce another classic Whitney Houston to the audience. The songs are classics, but the plot is a dud. It didn’t really work as a film but translated to the stage, especially in musical form, is a gamble that doesn’t quite pay off. On the plus side, both leads are committed to their roles and Ms. Cox’s voice is loud and clear. The choreography is top notch and the direction keeps the show moving. If you’re a fan of the film you may want to skip “The Bodyguard.” If you’re into the music of Whitney Houston, then by all means take it in.

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