Monday, January 15, 2018

theatre review - GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN - Compass Players - January 12, 2018

C.D. Macaulay and Steve Murphy
Photo by John Menard
Click here for more information on this production that runs through January 28th.

"...with today's politically charged climate Gore Vidal's The Best Man feels like it could have been written as a biting satire and cautionary tale of the result of last year's election. ...Director Jeanna Michaels has assembled a very competent cast to portray the vast range of characters. ...Steve Murphy and Matthew Cary portray Russell and Cantwell, respectively, and they are both well equipped to deliver the necessary gravitas of these vastly different opponents. ...C.D. Macaulay is excellent as the former president...Compass Players' production proves that Gore Vidal's The Best Man is still fresh and, unfortunately, still relevant today. Though the fact that some of the dialogue gets laughs now...only shows how forward-thinking Vidal was in crafting this intriguing expose into the political wheeling and dealing that goes on behind closed doors and how unfortunate and disgraceful the state of politics has become.. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

theatre review - MAN OF LA MANCHA - Arizona Theatre Company - January 11, 2018

Philip Hernandez and Carlos Lopez
photo by Tim Fuller
Click here for more information on this production that runs through January 28th.

"Taking a classic musical that is beloved and cherished by many and changing its time period, style of music, and overall feel and visual theme can often prove to be an exercise in futility. Therefore, I'm happy to say that Arizona Theatre Company's production of Man of La Mancha, which adds Spanish and flamenco influenced song and dance to the score and changes the time period from the Spanish Inquisition of the late 16th century to the 1950s Franco-led regime, proves to be exceptionally vibrant and full of life. It's like a breath of fresh new air has been instilled into this 50-year-old classic musical and the end result is one of the best shows I've seen at ATC as well as one of the most exceptional productions I've witnessed since reviewing shows here in the Valley..... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

theatre review - SEE HOW THEY RUN - Hale Centre Theatre - December 30, 2017

Lindsay Hope, Vinny Chavez, Ami Porter, Jacob Goodman, and Alexis Harris
photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw
Click here for more information on this production that runs through February 10th.

"Philip King's See How They Run may not be as well known as other classic farcical comedies such as Lend Me a Tenor, but it sure amounts to one fun and funny farce. With the necessary requirements of split-second timing and performances that go far but don't go too far over the edge into caricature, farce is always hard to pull off well. Fortunately, Hale Centre Theatre's cast and creative team hit the ground running and virtually never stop in a production that features excellent physical comedy and a nonstop abundance of hijinks and hilarity....While the play takes about 15 minutes to set the scene and introduce the plot and all of the characters, and some of that is a little slow going to completely jell. Once the insanity starts, the punchlines fly and the parade of characters start to run into and out of the Vicar's house, and you truly appreciate how well crafted King's script is. He even adds a fitting coda at the end for a perfectly hilarious punch. Under Cambrian James' spotless direction...The entire cast are adept at delivering the lunacy and split-second timing the play requires, along with perfectly played facial expressions, double takes, and well delivered punchlines. ...See How They Run is a well written comedy and with a firecracker cast and polished direction. Hale's excellent production is first-rate, fresh, funny and entirely delightful.. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

theatre review - RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA - National Tour: ASU Gammage - December 19, 2017

Leslie Jackson and Tatyana Lubov
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Click here for more information on this production that runs through December 24th.

"The musicals of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II include some of the most recognizable and romantic songs in the history of musical theatre. of their beloved creations, Cinderella, started out as a TV musical and..took over a half of a century to become a full-fledged Broadway musical, it is a lush and romantic show filled with many modern touches. The touring production is at ASU Gammage for a week and features a talented cast and lush production elements. It makes for one tasty holiday theatrical treat...this stage adaptation drops some of the small screen characters, adds others, and also incorporates a few songs that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote for other musicals and movies, most of which were eventually cut from those works. ...also features an updated book by Douglas Carter Beane that fleshes out the original mostly stereotypical characters...These additions help transform the show from a simple fairy tale into a richer piece full of characters that have more dimension and a story that incorporates social injustice to portray the battle of cruelty verses kindness. Beane also incorporates many bits of humor and, while not all of the jokes land, they at least make the overall show more contemporary....Tatyana Lubov projects an air of simplicity, a deep sense of caring for her fellow members of the Kingdom, and natural elegance as Cinderella with a singing voice that shines. As Prince Topher, Louis Griffin is both quirky and noble as the young man who doesn't quite know what to do with his life. Like Lubov, his vocals are lush and layered and soar on his many solos and duos. Both Lubov and Griffin have a natural ease in delivering Hammerstein's lyrics with a clear understanding of the romance they derive, and the duo create a couple you instantly root to see succeed. As the fairy godmother Marie, Leslie Jackson is equally humorous and commanding with a magnificently sung "There's Music in You....Gina Rattan's tour direction, modeled on Mark Brokaw's original direction, is quite good. However...there are a few jokes that are rushed or not delivered appropriately enough to get the laughs they should. Josh Rhodes' original choreography, staged for the tour by Lee Wilkins, is simply beautiful and delivered expertly by the large cast. Anna Louizos' set design is rich and layered with an abundance of effective elements. ...William Ivey Long's Tony winning costumes, which include several that transform before our eyes, truly spectacular. Ken Posner's lighting is rich and expressive.... Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella has a lush, romantic score as well as an updated book that adds a fresh spin on this famous fairy tale. With a cast who embody these beloved characters with ease and an abundance of magical moments that deliver both gasps and rounds of applause from the audience, the national tour of this well-known story is a beautiful and magical crowd pleaser." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

theatre review - AGNES OF GOD - Compass Players - December 8, 2017

Click here for more information on this production that runs through December 17th.

"Questions of faith, spirituality, doubt and morality plus the role of science and the power of love combine in John Pielmeier's classic drama Agnes of God. Compass Players, one of the newest theatre companies in the Valley, opens their second season with a searing production of this complex and compelling play.
Dr. Martha Livingstone, a court-appointed psychiatrist, is assigned to assess the sanity of a young nun named Agnes who lives in an isolated convent and who has been accused of murdering her newborn baby. But Agnes claims to have no memory of giving birth to the infant. And just who fathered the child? Did faith play a part in the birth and death of the child, or is Agnes a mentally unstable woman who killed her baby? Livingstone squares off with the convent's Mother Superior as secrets and the truth are revealed....With just a few pieces of furniture, character-specific costumes, and a gifted cast, director Jeanna Michaels has beautifully brought Pielmeier's work to vibrant life. ...Only the use of a couple of short video segments to portray flashback scenes is a bit of a disconnect. ...Michaels also plays Dr. Livingstone. As this strong, educated woman, Michaels is adept in showing how Livingstone struggles with her own logic and convictions and how the events of her rough and raw past have formed and influenced her to resent religion. Megan Holcomb is superb as Agnes...Holcomb's portrayal of the insecure, diminutive, terrified and haunted girl is stunning. As Mother Superior, Frances Murphy is very good in showing how this calm and composed woman is protective of Agnes and afraid that if the young woman is exposed to the real world it will tear away her innocence....While at first Agnes of God appears to be an intricate murder mystery, it is a superbly calculated and cunning raw character study of three very different women and an intense drama that portrays the views of society concerning faith and facts, as all three women question their own beliefs and who they are. With precise, confident performances, Compass Players presents a beautiful, powerful production of this provocative play that draws distinct lines between faith and reality and the presence or absence of God." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - INSPECTING CAROL - Fountain Hills Theater - December 7, 2017

Diane Senffner, Henry Male, Janine Smith, and Leslie Haddad
photo by Larry Moyse
Click here for more information on this production that runs through December 23rd.

"There are most likely hundreds, if not thousands, of productions of A Christmas Carol running in cities across the country this month. In 1991, the Seattle Repertory Theatre and their Artistic Director Daniel Sullivan created a humorous spoof of this holiday classic with Inspecting Carol. Fountain Hills Theater's production features a talented cast who throw themselves into the hijinks and tomfoolery of the zany plot, though the play itself is only mildly amusing. The plot focuses on a theatre company that is facing financial issues. Their subscription renewals are only at 50 percent, and their $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts is in jeopardy. ....When an amateur actor named mistaken for the government inspector it ratchets up the hijinks with the company members falling over themselves to impress Wayne in the hopes of securing the NEA grant.
With several repetitive moments that aren't that funny, some jokes that don't pay off, and a few characters that are only two-dimensional, the inconsistent script leaves a bit to be desired. The ending is also completely predictable. Fortunately, director Peter Hill does a fairly good job with a cast who do a good job in bringing some life to the lifeless script. The fact that most of the cast also play the same roles their characters play in Fountain Hills' production of A Christmas Carol, which runs in repertory with Inspector Carol, adds an added bit of lunacy. Janine Smith does well as Zorah, the head of the theatre company who is trying her best to hold things together. Hill is great as Larry, the egotistical actor who plays Scrooge and believes the show needs modern updates (the previous year, Larry recited his lines in Spanish to try to make the show more contemporary). Leslie Haddad is a hoot as the feisty stage manager MJ and, when it's decided to drop the British accents from the show, Diane Senffner's comic timing and the changing American accents she uses are hilarious, in her portrayal of the British actress who also serves as the show within the show's dialect coach. ...Inspecting Carol may not have the continual relevance of the classic story it spoofs, and the script isn't the greatest, but with a good cast and direction, Fountain Hills' production provides a decent amount of laughs.. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

theatre review - A CHRISTMAS CAROL - Hale Centre Theatre - December 4, 2017

Mark Kleinman
photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw
Click here for more information on this production that runs through December 23rd.

"It's never too late to change. That simple statement is the important message that runs throughout Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and a worthwhile message that all of us can learn from. Fortunately, there are some things that are already just about perfect and have no reason to change, including Hale Centre Theatre's impressive annual production of this classic tale of redemption which seems to get better each year in a production that is a feast for the eyes and ears and infused with music, humor and an abundance of heart and emotion....Ted Lehman's adaptation is a sumptuous holiday treat that is completely faithful to the novel, including using an abundance of dialogue taken directly from the book. Director David Dietlein ensures the emotional impact of the show is felt with scenes that don't rush the importance of the story. Hale pulls out all of the stops to include an abundance of set elements, fog, snow, and numerous special effects as well as sumptuous lighting from Jeff A. Davis and a nonstop parade of beautiful costumes coordinated by Mary Atkinson. ..
The Hale production is double cast and the night I attended the Green cast with Mark Kleinman as Scrooge was performing. This is Kleinman's sixth turn as the stingy, heartless and unfeeling man at Hale and he clearly excels at playing this gruff and cruel character. In his impressive portrayal, the changes the miserly man makes are beautifully displayed through Kleinman's changing body language and facial expressions. There isn't a weak link in Hale's large cast, with the majority of the ensemble playing multiple roles. Tim Paul Fiscus does a wonderful job as Cratchit. ...As Marley, the Ghost of Christmas Past, and the Ghost of Christmas Present, Matthew R. Harris, Heidi-Liz Johnson and Mark Hackmann, respectively, provide clear and effective portrayals of these very different specters, and Stephen Serna is full of life as Scrooge's carefree nephew Fred....Each year Hale presents this show, it sells out for almost all of the over 50 performances it plays, so it's easy to see why they continue to bring it back year after year. It's a testament to both the stunning achievement of Hale's production and the power of Dickens' tale. With exceptional creative elements and an incredibly talented cast, Hale's A Christmas Carol is a magical and moving holiday treat and a beautiful adaptation of this classic tale.. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

theatre review - SOMETHING ROTTEN! - National Tour: ASU Gammage, October 31, 2017

Blake Hammond and Rob McClure
Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 5th.

"...Something Rotten! is an incredibly hilarious, original musical set in England during the time when William Shakespeare had just become a success. It's a wild and wacky show with a tuneful score featuring several showstopping songs that humorously pay homage to the musical theatre. It also has identifiable characters and a story with a lot of sweet and heartfelt emotions. After a fairly successful Broadway run the national tour stops in Tempe for a week with a cast who deliver the humor and heart of the show in spades....the plot follows brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom (Rob McClure and Josh Grisetti, respectively), whose theatrical company has hit rough times as they can't compete with the continued success of Shakespeare (Adam Pascal)....So Nick visits a soothsayer, aptly named Nostradamus (Blake Hammond), and pays him to tell him what the next big thing in theater will be, thinking he will finally find success....features extremely clever lyrics and upbeat music ...and a fast-paced book...that manages to incorporate not only hilarious shout outs to just about every famous musical of the past 100 years but also a slightly serious focus on the role of women in England at that time....the fact that it's entirely original, with a plot that goes in surprising directions, and has a very tuneful score actually makes it that much more of a successful achievement. The three male leads, McClure, Grisetti and Pascal, all played these parts in the Broadway production as replacements, so they are finely adept in the requirements necessary to deliver well-rounded performances....Hammond is an absolute hoot as the soothsayer...His performance of "A Musical," which is both a love fest to and parody of musical theatre that any fan will truly appreciate, is exceptional. ...Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw ensures the comic moments shine but doesn't shy away from the few sweet, serious and romantic moments in the plot. His choreography provides a nonstop flow of fun and varied steps, including some incredible tap sequences that the hardworking ensemble delivers superbly....In a sea of serious original musicals and shows that are adaptations from other sources, you have to hand it to the three creators of Something Rotten! for coming up with an original comedy that is extremely hilarious but also touches upon some serious topics. While there are numerous memorable comical songs in the show, the sweet "To Thine Own Self" is a satisfying reminder to always be true to yourself and not let success go to your head. You will definitely remember the adept parody and humor, but the exceptional touring cast and succinct direction will guarantee you don't forget this very important and simple piece of advice that's the key to both personal and professional success.. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - RAGTIME - Zao Theatre - October 27, 2017

Anne-Lise Koyabe, and Ivan Thompson
photo courtesy Zao Theatre
Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 11th.

"...Ragtime is a sweeping musical set just after the turn of the 20th century with richly defined characters and a superb musical score with an abundance of soaring ballads. With a huge cast, exceptional performances, spirited and succinct direction, and a large orchestra that fills the air with beautiful music, Zao Theatre's production of this beloved show is an emotionally rich and rewarding experience....The musical features music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and a book by Terrence McNally, all of whom won Tony Awards for their efforts. This trio successfully turns Doctorow's novel into a musical that is both grand and epic but also immensely personal and intimate. ...director Mickey Bryce does an incredible job in making sure the large group all create unique characters, and he keeps the action and pace of the show moving along swiftly. ...Diana Grubb's detailed period costumes are simply stunning as is C.J. O'Hara's music direction...With great energy and a performance full of fire, Ivan Thompson is excellent as Coalhouse. ..As Mother, Lizz Reeves Fidler instills the character with a large dose of compassion and care. ...Bryan Stewart is equally impressive as Tateh. ......Anne-Lise Koyabe's forceful and assured stage presence and impassioned vocals make for an exceptional Sarah...With deep sincerity and an intense conviction, Kellen Garner's is one of the best portrayals of "Younger Brother" I've seen....Ragtime is a deeply moving musical ...It is also a very ambitious musical with multilayered stories and dozens of characters. Zao Theatre proves they are up to this challenge with their well-cast, tight, clean and focused production which is incredibly strong and which makes for a very fulfilling theatrical journey. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

theatre review - CATCH ME IF YOU CAN - Actor's Youth Theatre - June 26, 2017

Joey Grado and Liam Thibeault
photo by Lisa Webb / Southwest Shots Photography
Click here for more information on this production that runs through July 1st.

"If you're looking for a snazzy, jazzy musical comedy, look no further than Catch Me If You Can, based on the autobiographical book and movie of the same name...While this show didn't run that long on Broadway, it has proven quite popular in regional theatres..Actor's Youth Theatre's production stars two multi-talented teens who deliver excellent portrayals of the two leads: a young con man on the run and the FBI agent trying to catch him.....The score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman has several memorable tunes, as well as many that are character specific or plot focused..The book by Terrence McNally touches on the important plot elements and turning points in Frank's life. While I like how the relationship between Frank and Carl is dramatized, the ending, showing what happened to them, feels a bit rushed and forced. There are also a few slow moments, especially the scenes with Hanratty and his fellow agents. But these are just a few quibbles in a fun and jazzy show. Director Julie Clement keeps the show moving at a quick pace..Joey Grado is Frank, and Liam Thibeault is Hanratty. They both excel in their roles, have great singing voices and charisma, and form a strong rapport with the audience. They also display a very good relationship with each other, even though one is the cat and the other the mouse...Jasmine Bassham is Brenda, the girl Frank falls in love with, and she delivers a lovely version of a beautiful ballad, "Fly, Fly Away," that perfectly captures the need to run away from something and to find oneself. ...The choreography by Corrinne Mann, Kristen Malarkey, and Marcus Ellsworth is fun, inventive, original, and somewhat period specific. However, the minimal set design and dark lighting (the use of a spotlight is good, but there are many times when the supporting cast are barely lit) don't quite evoke the idea of a 1960s variety show. ..Catch Me If You Can may not have proven popular in its initial Broadway run but it does have a catchy score, an intriguing book, and characters that actors can sink their teeth into it. With excellent performances by Joey Grado and Liam Thibeault, the Actor's Youth Theatre production is a thoroughly enjoyable theatrical endeavor." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

theatre review - THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NITE-TIME - National Tour: ASU Gammage - June 20, 2017

Adam Langdon
photo by Joan Marcus

Click here for more information on this production that runs through June 25th.

"..,the theatrical adaptation of Mark Haddon's bestselling book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time ...demonstrates the inner workings of the brain of a 15-year-old boy with issues that resemble autism through a combination of visual and aural designs and the use of imaginatively choreographed movement..,, a play unlike just about anything I've ever seen and a show not to be missed. The plot focuses on Christopher Boone and begins when his neighbor's dog is found viciously murdered. Christopher sets about trying to solve the murder of the animal while also dealing with understanding and navigating through the wide range of human emotions and family dynamics that his unique situation entails. Christopher, who always tells the truth, soon discovers that what he learns from his investigation reveals several secrets and lies that involve his family and the life he thought he knew. ..,The concise and straightforward language and the well-defined characters are delivered and portrayed exceptionally by a talented touring cast. Yet it is through the explosion of sight and sound that the book is truly brought to life by immersing the audience in non-stop visual elements that take us inside Christopher's mind. The combination of the gifted cast and the creative designs gives a unique glimpse into how a person's inability to understand human emotion might affect the people who love them.Marianne Elliott won a Tony for her direction and it's easy to see why. Elliott's ability to guide her cast—especially Adam Langdon, who is nothing short of brilliant—as Christopher, to deliver performances that are real, interesting, and full of emotion, and then surround it all with the immersive, creative and accomplished Tony and Olivier Award winning work of set designer Bunny Christie, video designer Finn Ross, and lighting designer Paule Constable, is both inspired and brilliant.... This is a truly engaging, rich and rewarding play with a thought-provoking insight into what an individual with such challenges might go through on a daily basis and what the impact on those who love them might be. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time lets you step into this world and see the beauty and wonder that lives inside.-Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

theatre review - REASONS TO BE PRETTY - Mesa Encore Theatre - June 11, 2017

Mitch Tellez and Brandi Bigley
Photo by Candy Thornton
Click here for more information on this production that runs through June 18th.

"...Neil LaBute's Reasons to Be Pretty, which focuses on four young adults facing serious relationship issues as they deal with body politics, presents a lot of interesting topics for discussion. Mesa Encore Theatre's small, intimate black box production, while slightly unsteady at moments, is both satisfying and unpredictable, just like LaBute's play. LaBute is well known for his explosive dramatic exposes into modern romance and relationships...his works often center on the issue of beauty and the cruelty of people. Reasons to Be Pretty...keeps those two topics constantly in the forefront. ...Greg and Steph have been a couple for four years but Steph is enraged and ready to walk out because she has discovered that Greg made a lame remark to his best friend—that he only thinks Steph's looks are average. ...Over the course of the play Greg and Steph will grow and learn from this moment while another couple, Greg's best friend Kent and his beautiful wife Carly, will face tensions of their own. MET's cast features exceptional work by Brandi Bigley as Steph; she creates an incredibly well-rounded, realistic woman full of pain and vulnerability. ...As Greg, Mitch Tellez is OK, delivering a very laid-back, low-key interpretation of this young man who is incredibly well read but can barely form an intelligible sentence. Tellez's soft-spoken delivery is very subdued and at many times he appears to be disengaged from those around him....As Kent and Carly, Phillip Herrington and Jillian Walker both do very good work. Herrington creates an appropriately ugly character ...Walker delivers a stunning monologue on the many downfalls of being pretty and, like Bigley, infuses Carly with empathy. Director Layne Racowsky does well in ensuring the heavier moments of the piece are balanced with humor and that her actors deliver realistic portrayals. ...Reasons to be Pretty is a captivating study of our obsession with beauty and how our constant striving for physical perfection involves just as many shortcomings as it does positive aspects. LaBute paints a fascinating tale with interesting characters, and MET's production makes for a stirring and intriguing dialogue of what is probably his most accessible and effective play. LaBute makes us see that, while beauty may only be skin deep, there are just as many reasons for people to wish they were pretty as there are drawbacks for those who are beautiful to wish they weren't.. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

theatre review - THE WIZARD OF OZ - Valley Youth Theatre - June 9, 2017

Kendra Richards, Jared Barbee, Asher Sheppard, and Steven Enriquez
photo by Cliff Cesar
Click here for more information on this production that runs through June 25th.

"The Wizard of Oz is the classic, moving tale of a young girl's journey to find herself and it also proves to be a perfect theatrical endeavor for a youth theatre company. With a great cast and excellent creative elements, Valley Youth Theatre's sumptuous production results in a family-friendly crowd-pleasing hit....VYT's production pulls out all of the stops, with large set pieces, colorful and imaginative costumes and a cast who deliver superb performances of these iconic characters. Under Bobb Cooper's skilled direction, his teenage leads all achieve excellent performances that hint at but never truly mimic their famous film counterpoints. Kendra Richards delivers a perfect portrayal of Dorothy. From pensive and unsure to headstrong and optimistic, Richards hits all the right wide-ranging emotional notes that Dorothy experiences on her journey to Oz. ...As the three men Dorothy meets on the road to meet the Wizard, Jared Barbee, Asher Sheppard, and Steven Enriquez all deliver excellent performances. ...Alexis Harris has the right balance of menace and evil as the Wicked Witch of the West, yet includes just a hint of humor to not be too scary for any small children in the audience. As Glinda, Tiana Marks is regal and effervescent with a beautiful singing voice while Ethan Maxwell is both conniving and charming as the mysterious Wizard. Musical director Mark Fearey achieves a lovely sound from the large cast and orchestra. While the show features a slightly abridged ending that doesn't quite take us all the way back to Dorothy's Kansas bedroom, which is my only quibble, Cooper does add in a simply stunning version of "Over the Rainbow" sung by all of Dorothy's Kansas farm friends that is a showstopper in both its simplicity and its ability to be incredibly moving and filled with emotion. ..Karol Cooper's non-stop, jaw-dropping parade of imaginative, colorful and creative costumes are very impressive. ...Choreographer Nathalie Velasquez provides some fun and fancy steps that are well danced by the cast. With a highly talented cast and bright and colorful creative elements that help effectively create the fairy-tale, dreamlike world of Oz and the many colorful characters who live there, VYT's The Wizard of Oz is incredibly entertaining and a delicious treat for children of all ages. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

theatre review - DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST - Arizona Broadway Theatre - June 3, 2017

Tony Edgerton and Jill-Christine Wiley
Photo Courtesy of Arizona Broadway Theatre
Click here for more information on this production that runs through July 2nd at ABT in Peoria, then plays at the Herberger Theater in downtown Phoenix from July 7-16.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast ran for over 13 years on Broadway, so to say it was a blockbuster show is pretty much an understatement. ...Arizona Broadway Theatre's production may not have creative elements as elaborate as what was seen on Broadway, but with a talented cast, several large set pieces, excellent costumes, and direction that is never heavy handed, it is a solid production of this family friendly show. It also successfully delivers on stage the important message of the film—that beauty is really found from within....Jill-Christine Wiley makes for a vibrant Belle. She instills the character with a keen sense of determination, but she also paints Belle as sweet, spunky, smart, and full of life. Wiley has a beautiful singing voice filled with purity and ..As the Beast, Tony Edgerton.. does exceptionally well in showing how this petulant man-child grows from a snarling animal into a person who actually has genuine feelings for the people around him. ...The changes in the Beast and his growing confidence come through very clearly even though Edgerton is buried under a fairly elaborate Beast mask and wig. Like Wiley, his voice soars to the rafters on the few songs he has, with his "If I Can't Love Her" especially moving....Ben Stasny and Zachary Spiegel make a hilarious twosome as the witty, rambunctious, fun, and slightly lusty candlestick Lumière and the tightly wound, worrisome, and overly dramatic clock Cogsworth. TJ Nelson and Christopher Michaels are equally as good as Gaston and his comical sidekick Lefou. Nelson's strong voice and lean muscular frame work perfectly for this conceited, burly man, while Michaels doesn't overplay Lefou too broadly, which is a huge plus. Gerri Weagraff's Mrs. Potts is sensible and full of charm—her performance of the title tune is a winner— and Jon Gentry is sweet and loving as Belle's father. The incredibly hard-working ensemble skillfully play an abundance of roles. Director Clayton Phillips does good work, not letting his cast stray too far from the well-known and iconic film characterizations but also adding some nice original touches that play up the comedy and fantasy elements of the show. Choreographer Kurtis W. Overby's dances provide several showstopping moments and music director Adam Berger achieves an incredibly lush and full sound from both the fairly large cast and the seven-piece orchestra. ...Paul A. Black's scenic elements and lighting designs are highly effective, with a beautiful painted show curtain that evokes a deep, dark and mysterious forest and five large set pieces, including three that move and rotate, portraying the various rooms in the Beast's castle....Disney's Beauty and the Beast is one of the most loved of the Disney animated films and the stage version is a faithful adaptation that delivers many magical and heartwarming moments. ABT's production is full of humor and heart with fantasy-filled creative elements and a lovely cast and firm direction that make the whole production feel fresh and relevant today." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Friday, June 2, 2017

theatre review - LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL - Spotlight Youth Theatre - May 28, 2017

Cate Carlino, Addison Bowman, and Sarah Pansing
photo by Joanne Wastchak
Click here for more information on this production that runs through June 11th.

".The 2007 musical Legally Blonde the Musical has become quite a staple in youth theatres and it's easy to see why. With its hilarious book and a score full of varied music and witty lyrics it provides a fun, upbeat story of empowerment and the importance of being true to yourself—qualities that prove quite powerful when performed by a group of talented teens. Spotlight Youth Theatre's current production features some of the most gifted youth performers in the Valley under the keen direction of powerhouse husband and wife duo Mark and Lynzee 4Man....As Elle, Addison Bowman is simply infectious and full of life in a vibrant performance..Her beautiful voice soars on Elle's many songs in a portrayal that truly succeeds. Sam Primack hits all the right marks as Emmett in a polished performance that features a solid singing voice and subtle acting choices ..Bowman and Primack also form a very cute and realistic couple. Lily Castle is an absolute joy as Paulette, with a stunning singing voice and fun Boston accent that add humor and a big shot of charm to everything Paulette says or sings. Jeremy Bassham provides plenty of snark and a huge ego as the slimy Professor Callahan, while Jacob Herrera gets the right balance of snobbery and uncertainty as Warner. In smaller parts, both Sarah Pansing and Jasmine Bassham are great as Warner's new girlfriend Vivienne and Brooke, an accused murderess Callahan and his students are helping to defend, respectively. Pansing's exceptional voice gets to wail on a couple of songs, and Bassham's performance of that act two opening jump rope routine is stunning. Joey J. Grado is full of heat and passion as the hunky UPS man Paulette gets tongue-tied over, and Ava Tyson, Maya Weber and Alyssa Armstrong are simply hilarious as the "Greek chorus" of Elle's sorority sisters who add moments of spark and sass to their many moments on stage. With an exceptional cast, succinct direction, and solid creative elements, Spotlight Youth Theatre's Legally Blonde the Musical is a joyous production filled with an abundance of humor but also a huge amount of heart. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)