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

Win Passes to the Kansas City Screening of “Hustlers”

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at STX Entertainment to give (50) readers and a guest the chance to be among the first in Kansas City to see the new film “Hustlers.” The film, which stars Jennifer Lopez, will be screened on Wednesday, September 11th at the Cinemark Theatre in Merriam, Kansas. The show begins at 7:00.

To attend, all you have to do is click HERE. The first (50) to do so will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening. This is a first come/first serve giveaway. When the allotted number of passes have been claimed, the giveaway has ended. Good Luck!

“Hustlers” opens nationwide on Friday, September 13th!

 

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Kansas City Concert Review: “Weird Al” Yankovic – STRINGS ATTACHED

  • “Weird Al” Yankovic – Strings Attached Tour
  • August 31, 2019
  • Starlight Theater, Kansas City, Missouri

PHOTOS BY DAN LYBARGER

FINALLY!!

Like many other people, I have a musical bucket list. This is a list of people or groups I MUST see before I die. Over the past few years I’ve been able to cross a few of them off my list. Van Morrison? Check. Tom Petty? Check – and rest in peace. Santana? Check. But tonight I finally crossed of one that has been on my list for almost 40 years when I took in the amazing “Weird Al” Yankovic!

It was September 14, 1980. Two days before my 20th birthday. That night, while listening to Dr. Demento’s radio show, he had a guest in studio that wanted to play a song of his. The guest was “Weird Al” and the song was Another One Rides the Bus, a clever parody of Queen’s current hit Another One Bites the Dust. Something about Al – his personality oozed through my radio – instantly endeared him to me, and I listened regularly, hoping to catch one of Al’s new ditties.

On November 24, 1991 I had planned on seeing him when he came to Baltimore. He had made an appearance at a local record store – wow, I just dated myself – and very graciously signed two of my album. For some reason, if memory serves me, the show was cancelled or moved to another date. The only thing I can remember from that date is that this was the day Freddie Mercury and KISS drummer Eric Carr died. Almost three decades later, I finally fulfilled my plan.

The name of the tour – “Strings Attached” – is to inform you that not only is Al traveling with his band, but he’s bringing a 41-piece orchestra with him. Led by conductor Eric Roth, the orchestra began the night with some classic movie themes, beginning with John Williams’ “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” As I listened in rapt attention, I couldn’t help but notice one of the violinists having the time of his life playing the music. While many of the orchestra members sat still and stiff, he would move his head to the music and it was obvious that he was that rare person who really loves his job! After a few more themes, finishing with The Throne Room and End Title music from “Star Wars,” there was a 20 minute break before Al and his band joined the orchestra on stage.

I love this guy!!

Dressed in his customary loud Hawaiian shirt, the show began with a quick medley of I Lost on Jeopardy, I Love Rocky Road and Like a Surgeon. He then went into a photo-filled version of The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota. As the show progressed, Al would often play along with the band and the audience. During one break, as the band played a chair was brought out for him to sit in. His brow was then mopped and a glass of wine brought to him. A touching version of You Don’t Love Me Anymore was prefaced by him thanking the Martin Guitar Company for replacing the guitar that was inadvertently broken during their last gig. When the song was over the guitar, which Al never played, was shattered in anger ala Pete Townsend.

As the night progressed, the band also got into the act, sporting everything from Viking Helmets to an impressive collection of “Star Wars” outfits. In between the audience was treated to several videos. One was a compilation of many of the television programs and films Yankovic has appeared in or been mentioned on, including “Family Guy,” “The Simpsons,” 30 Rock” and “The Naked Gun.” Their was also a faux trailer for a film called “WEIRD,” which featured Aaron Paul as “Weird Al.” He also did a nice walk through the audience and had a member of the audience electrify the show with a rousing Oboe solo!

Bass player Steve Jay kept the beat all night.

One thing that I really noticed is that Al Yankovic, weird or not, has an amazing voice. There were a couple of times when he held prolonged notes that made me think if the funny song thing didn’t work out he’d be fronting a metal band somewhere.

The show ended in an amazing “Star Wars” style, with Al and the band dressed as everyone from Darth Vader to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Unfortunately we were only allowed to take photos during the first three songs of the evening so we can’t share the images with you. Just use your imagination.

When the show was over I headed to my car, humming Another One Rides the Bus, smiling and thinking to myself one thing. FINALLY!!

SET LIST: The Orchestra – Main titles from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Mission: Impossible” and “Superman: the Movie.” The Throne Room/End Title from “Star Wars.”

“Weird Al” with Orchestra – I Lost on Jeopardy/I Love Rocky Road/Like a Surgeon (Medley), The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, Word Crimes, Jurassic Park, Don’t Download this Song, Weasel Stomping Day, You Don’t Love Me Anymore, Harvey the Wonder Hamster, Jackson Park Express, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Dare to Be Stupid, White and Nerdy, Amish Paradise. ENCORE: The Saga Continues, Yoda.

Win Passes to the Kansas City Screening of “Brittany Runs a Marathon”

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at Amazon Studios to give (25) readers the chance to be among the first in Kansas City to see the new film “Brittany Runs a Marathon.”

The film will be screened on Wednesday, September 4 at the AMC Studio 28 Theatre in Olathe, Kansas. The show will begin at 7:00 pm

All you have to do to attend is click HERE. The first (25) readers to do so will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening. This is a first come/first serve giveaway. Once the allotted number of passes have been claimed the giveaway has ended. Good luck!

“Brittany Runs a Marathon” opens in Select Theatres on September 6th.

Win Passes to the Kansas City Screening of “Ready or Not”

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at Fox Searchlight to give (50) readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see the new film “Ready or Not.”

The film will be screened on Monday, August 19 at the Screenland Armour Theatre in North Kansas City. The show will begin at 7:00 pmIf you’d like to attend, just click HERE. The first (50) readers to do so will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening. This is a first come/first serve giveaway. Once the allotted passes have been claimed, the giveaway has ended. Good Luck!

Win Passes to the Kansas City screening of “The Art of Racing in the Rain”

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at the Walt Disney Company to give (50) readers and a guest the opportunity to attend the advance screening of the new film “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”

The screening will be held on Thursday, August 1, 2019 at the AMC Studio 28 Theatre in Olathe, Kansas. The show will begin at 7:00 pm.

All you have to do to attend is click HERE. The first (50) readers to do so will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening. This is a first come/first serve giveaway. Once the allotted passes have been claimed the giveaway has ended. Enjoy the show!!

 

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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.

Win Passes to the Kansas City Screening of “Stuber”

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at 20th Century Fox and the Walt Disney Company to give (75) readers and a guest the chance to be among the first in Kansas City to see the new comedy “Stuber.”

The film will be shown on Wednesday, July 10th at the Cinemark Theatre in Merriam, Kansas and will start at 7:00 pm.

To attend, all you have to do is click HERE. The first (75) readers to do so will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening. This is a first come/first serve giveaway. When the allotted number of passes have been claimed the giveaway has ended. Some of us at Media Mikes have already seen the film and, take it from is, it’s pretty damn funny! Good luck.

“Stuber” opens nationwide on Friday, July 12th.

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.

Win Passes to the Kansas City Screening of “Spider-man: Far From Home”

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at Columbia pictures to give (5) readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see the new film “Spider-man: Far From Home.”

The film will be shown on Wednesday, June 26th at the AMC Studio 28 Theatre in Olathe, Kansas and will begin at 7:30 pm.

All you have to do is click HERE. (5) random entries will be chosen and will receive a pass for (2) to attend the film. This contest runs through June 24, 2019. On that date, those chosen will be notified by email. Screening is overbooked to ensure a full house. Seating is not guaranteed. Good luck!

“Spider-,man: Far From Home” opens nationwide on July 2, 2019.

#SpiderManFarFromHome

 

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“Toy Story 4” Summer Road Trip Rolls into Kansas City on June 23rd

 Attention “Toy Story” fans, this announcement is for YOU!

  On Sunday, June 23rd, the “Toy Story 4” Summer Road Trip will be making a stop in the Kansas City area. A “Toy Story 4”-themed RV will roll into Kansas City, featuring photo opportunities for fans, film-themed prizes, carnival games and lots of family-friendly fun.     

Local “Toy Story” fans are invited to take part in the activities. Two film ambassadors will be on hand to share details about fan-favorite characters—Woody, Buzz, Bo Peep—as well as new characters coming to the big screen—Forky, Bunny, Ducky and Duke Caboom, among others—learn more about this all-new adventure.     

The event will be held at the AMC Town Center 20, 11701 Nall Ave. in Leawood, Kansas and will run from 10:00 am through 3:00 pm.

Win Passes to the Kansas City Screening of “Annabelle Comes Home”

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at Warner Brothers to give (20) Kansas City area readers and their guest the chance to be among the first to see the new film “Annabelle Comes Home.”

The film, starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, will screen on Wednesday, June 19th at the Cinemark Theatre in Merriam, Kansas. The screening will begin at 7:00 pm.

All you have to do is click HERE. The first (20) readers to do so will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening. This is a first come/first serve giveaway. Once the allotted passes have been claimed, the giveaway has ended. GOOD LUCK!

Win Passes to the Kansas City Screening of “Late Night”

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at Amazon Studios to give (25) readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see the new film “Late Night.”

The film, starring Emma Thompson and Mandy Kalling, will be screened on Wednesday, June 5th at the AMC Studio 28 in Olathe, Kansas and will begin at 7:30 pm.

All you have to do is click HERE. The first (25) people to do so will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening. This is a first come/first serve giveaway. When the allotted passes have been claimed, the giveaway is over. Good Luck!

“Late Night” opens nationally on Friday, June 7th!

Win Passes to the Kansas City Screening of “Shaft”

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at New Line Cinemas to give (15) readers and a guest the opportunity to be among the first to see the new film, “Shaft.”

The screening will be held on Monday, June 10th, at the Screenland Armour Theater in Kansas City, Missouri. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Regina Hall and Richard Roundtree and starts at 7:00 pm.

All you have to do is click HERE! (15) random entries will be selected and they will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening. Winners will be notified by email on June 9th. Good luck.

“Shaft” opens nationwide on Friday, June 14th.

 

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