Saturday, March 31, 2012

JKTS Interactive: HOT/HOTTER: Round 10: Young and Brooding


As we enter Week 10 of selecting the Sexy 16, we look to two of Broadway's up and coming young talents.  Both of these uniquely handsome guys has already had a career that shows their versatility.  Both seem equally at home in musicals and plays, comedies and dramas.

Andrew Durand first burst onto the scene in Spring Awakening, went on to co-star in Yank, and currently stars in War Horse.
Michael Esper is probably best know for playing Will in American Idiot, most recently co-starred in Assistance, and is currently Broadway-bound in The Lyons.

REMEMBER: You are rating BOTH guys on their cuteness, not your favorite performance!  Give the higher score to the guy you think is HOTTEST.  If you think they are equally cute, give them both the same score.  But be sure to give BOTH of them a score!

To get you started, here are a couple pictures of each guy, followed by the survey.  Then there are some more photos to help you make your final decision!  No matter what, GIVE A SCORE to BOTH GUYS!

                         ANDREW DURAND                          MICHAEL ESPER


                      ANDREW DURAND                          MICHAEL ESPER


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Friday, March 30, 2012

Broadway Bares XXII: Happy Endings (Preview)



The end of March is one of my favorite times on the theatre calendar.  Sure, a bunch of new shows are opening in a flurry to get in by the end of the season.  But this time of year always marks the announcement of my favorite annual charity, Broadway Bares.  Well, like clockwork, on the last Thursday of March, the Powers That Be announced information for edition 22!

Timely as they always are, the latest version will capitalize on the current craze for all things "fairy tales."  No, I'm not talking about a dirty version of Into the Woods - I'll leave that to the show in Central Park this summer.  No, I'm talking about Broadway Bares XXII: Happy Endings.  Fairy tales will take on a whole new meaning after the best of Broadway's dancers get done with them!  (Click on the photos to, uh, enlarge them.)

The first posters: 
Colt Prates as Prince Charming
Katie Webber as Rapunzel

This year's show will play Roseland on Sunday, June 17 at 9:30 and midnight.  Founder Jerry Mitchell will executive produce and Lee Wilkins will direct.

  • For tickets and much more information go to Broadway Cares HERE and/or Broadway Bares HERE.  (Neither site may be work safe or appropriate for minors.)

Here are some other shots taken at the photo shoot:

Nick Kenkel and Adam Perry curling up with a good book!

Robb Sherman enjoying the, um, stacks...

Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Here's a teaser for the show announcement:

Take a look behind the scenes of that photo shoot!

More "Happy Endings" to come!

And coming June 2nd, Broadway Bares: Beach Burlesque!  A Broadway Cares/Bares fundraiser on Fire Island.  For more information see the above websites.

Here's a bonus update: Broadway Bares 19.0 poster boy Tommy Berklund!

(Photos for Broadway Bares by Andrew Eccles.  Tommy Berklund photo by Kevin McDermott)

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

CASTING: Nice Work If You Can Get It



  • Click HERE to go to the official show website for Nice Work If You Can Get It.
  • Click HERE for a ticket discount for Nice Work If You Can Get It.

With all the new shows coming in at once, and a few shows hogging up all of the publicity, one show is flying relatively low under the radar.  But I suspect all of that will change tonight, when Nice Work If You Can Get It begins previews.  On paper this one looks like it can't miss.  A Gershwin score loaded with classic toe-tappers and ballads.  A book by Tony winner Joe Di Pietro (Memphis).  Direction and choreography by 3 time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall (Anything Goes).  And the cast ain't bad, either.  And they, if anything, have me excited for this production.

Among the 10 principals, they have collected an Oscar, 3 Tony awards, 8 Tony nominations and 2 Theatre World Awards.  The marquee names are thrilling.  The character roles are being played by a relative who's who of current Broadway regulars, and the ensemble features dancers who have been in all of the biggest shows for the past several years.

Leading the company, of course, are Matthew Broderick (The Producers, Brighton Beach Memoirs, How to Succeed (95)) and Kelli O'Hara (South Pacific, The Pajama Game, Light in the Piazza).  Estelle Parsons (August:Osage County, Good People) and Judy Kaye (The Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia!) offer major support, as well.

The rest of the principal cast includes: Michael McGrath (Spamalot) as Cookie McGee; Jennifer Laura Thompson (Wicked, Urinetown) as Eileen Evergreen; Terry Beaver (The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Born Yesterday) as Senator Max Evergreen; Robyn Hurder (Grease) as Jeannie Muldoon; Stanley Wayne Mathis (Wonderful Town, The Lion King) as Chief Berry; and Chris Sullivan (Lombardi, Chicago
as Duke Mahoney.

The Company

I have a feeling that the dancing will be in excellent hands, considering this ensemble: Cameron Adams, Clyde Alves, Kaitlyn Davidson, Jason DePinto, Kimberly Faure, Robert Hartwell, Stephanie Martignetti, Barrett Martin, Michael X. Martin, Vivian Nixon, Adam Perry, Jeffrey Schecter, Jennifer Smith, Joey Sorge, Samantha Sturm and Kristen Beth Williams.  Collectively, they have appeared in such dance-filled shows A Chorus Line, Chicago, Wicked, Promises, Promises, Anything Goes, How to Succeed, Movin' Out, The Music Man, The Drowsy Chaperone, La Cage aux Folles, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Memphis among many others.

Judy Kaye and the Boys in rehearsal

The design team is also top notch, with sets by Derek McLane, costumes by Martin Pakledinaz, lighting by Peter Kaczorowski, and sound by Brian Ronan.  All were involved in Ms. Marshall's Anything Goes.

With names and talent like these, Nice Work could end up being a "nice ticket if you can get it" kind of show.  Let' hope so!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

REVIEW: Next to Normal (SpeakEasy Stage Company, Boston)

Review of the Saturday, March 24 evening performance.  Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company at the Nancy and Edward Roberts Studio Theatre at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts in Boston, MA. Starring Kerry A. Dowling, Christopher Chew, Michael Tacconi, Sarah Drake, Michael Levesque and Chris Caron.  Music Direction by Nicholas James Connell.  Directed by Paul Daigneault. Adult language, situations and drug use. 2 hours 20 minutes, with one intermission.  Closes April 22, 2012.

Grade: A

The first time you see a show that you truly love, in a production other than the one that made you fall in love with it, can be a really dicey thing.  Can you look at it objectively?  Can you accept the inevitable differences?  Can you still love the show?  Well, as my regular readers know, one of my primary loves of a musical is next to normal.  I loved both casts on Broadway (and all of the understudies) and also loved the National Tour.  But now, as the show begins to take on new lives all around the country, I had to ask myself those questions before seeing my first "new" version.  And, thanks to The SpeakEasy Stage Company, my fears were not only allayed, but I found new things to love about my favorite musical!

"Just Another Day": Sarah Drake,
Christopher Chew and Kerry A. Dowling

Visually, this production bears no resemblance to the original production.  I suppose that has much to do with the fact that it is being performed in a black box space as opposed to a full proscenium space.  Don't misunderstand, the production values are top quality.  But as they say, "Necessity is the mother of invention."  Eric Levenson's scenic design, combined with Seaghan McKay's projections and Jeff Adelberg's rock and roll style lighting create a world that not only matches the themes and tone of the piece, but helps bring out symbolic details about character.  Tyler Kinney's costumes add final touches to the characters as well.  Truly, this production is of such quality that it is clear that the design team, the director and the cast have come together to create a seamless, cohesive production that makes the most of the space and the material.

On a platform made up of zigzagging ramps, topped with door-less walls that meet upstage in a skewed perspective, the set tells us wordlessly that whoever lives here is trapped and never fully in balance.  As the show progresses, the impressive projections serve many purposes.  A wall paper design tells us we are in an upper-middle class home; a series of lockers tells us we are in a school hallway; and piano keys represent a music practice room.  But other than signifying locations, they also tell of the state of Diana, the mother suffering from a multitude of mental and emotional issues: the wallpaper becomes busier and blurred during a mental episode; visits to her doctors find the walls covered with terminology and test results of studies about grief, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.  The more acute the symptoms, the more crowded the walls become.  During "My Psychopharmacologist and I," the litany of drugs Diana has (or will have) to take starts to list on the screen, followed by photos of actual Xanax and Valium and other drugs that come raining down the walls, effectively overwhelming the patient.

"My Psychopharmacologist and I": The Company

And the white panels, firmly in place, keep Diana home-bound and trapped by her own mind, as she teeters up and down those ramps and clinging to every piece of furniture with a disquieting desperation that radiates off the stage in emotional waves.  Occasionally, they open up on their own, revealing towers of rock concert style lights flashing in pulsating patterns that mirror the confusion of Diana.  Other times, Gabe, a grown vision of Diana's long-lost son, opens those panels in an effort to lure her to the other side.  And the concept is fully played out as those same walls and patterns close in tightly around the rest of the family who tries valiantly not to spiral out of control, all while trying to cope with the tragic consequences of ECT treatments, unwelcome moments of clarity, a marriage falling apart and having a child come dangerously close to repeating her mother's legacy.

Directed by Paul Daigneault, the production is as excess-free and tight as the Pulitzer Prize-winning book and score by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey.  Wisely, his direction allows the script and lyrics to do most of the work, rarely getting anywhere close to overwrought or anything less than genuine.  Daigneault has also created some amazing stage pictures that continue to haunt me days later.  One such moment is the full company number, "Make Up Your Mind/Catch Me I'm Falling," in which the doctor hypnotizes Diana, ultimately leading to the non-family characters commenting from the far sides of the stage, while the family moves into place with daughter and husband pleading for normalcy behind Diana, with the source of her troubles, Gabe, unmoving at her feet and harmonizing with his mother's pleas to catch her as she falls.  It is a tableau that wordlessly tells us where every character is at this crucial turning point.  Similarly poignant staging happens during Gabe's "I'm Alive," and "Didn't I See This Movie?"  The staging and the set design really affect the use and meaning of the enigmatic character of Gabe, clarifying who and what he is and adding a very intense immediacy and often chilling feel to several scenes.

"I Miss the Mountains": Kerry A. Dowling

The very palpable feeling that these actors and their director are a true company, a solid unit, adds a very interesting layer to this remarkable musical.  While Diana remains the centerpiece of the work, this production (and its terrific cast) relieves her of some of the burden of carrying the show by making the rest of the family as intense and complex as she is. This is in no way a slight to Kerry A. Dowling, who gives a stellar performance as Diana.  While she gives the character a lot of detail - quirky movements, desperate clinging to anything tangible, painful but loving looks to all of her family - she also very successfully modulates "the crazy," effectively letting us see the ebb and flow between manic episodes and near lucidity.  She also sings beautifully and with a wide range, going all out "rock star" as they wheel her off for shock therapy, sad resignation as she leaves her family behind, and handling the intense sing-speak required as she confronts her doctor after finding the strength to reject further treatment.

Henry, the good-hearted stoner boyfriend, is played by the charming and realistically sweet Michael Levesque.  This tall, all-American young man sings well and provides a strong anchor for his increasingly unstable girlfriend.  Aside from looking maybe a tad too old, Levesque gives a refreshing take on the part.  Less successful is Chris Caron, who plays Doctors Madden and Fine.  He is not bad - far from it - but he teeters on the brink of over doing it, affecting a voice style akin to a local news anchor rather than a firm, but reassuring medical professional.  Still, he sings well, and in later scenes, he seems to scale back the intensity.

Chris Caron and Kerry A. Dowling

Sarah Drake and Michael Levesque

Christopher Chew, as Dan, is really wonderful, walking the fine line between crumbling husband/father and weak patriarch very carefully and well.  He, like the rest of the company, sings well, and finds moments of humor naturally, and plays the more obvious moments of realization with nuance.  It is heartbreaking to watch his grasp on his family slip away, as you see in his face that he knows it can't be helped, and yet he blames himself, anyway.  His duet with Diana, "How Could I Ever Forget?," brought tears to my eyes, and sniffles could be heard throughout the theatre both then, and when he is left speechless following Diana's departure.  It is easy to see from this performance why Mr. Chew is an acclaimed member of the Boston theatre community.  The young woman playing the daughter, Natalie, has created a character unlike her Broadway counterparts.  Instead of paralleling Diana in speech, motion and craziness, Sarah Drake goes in the opposite direction, doing everything she can to NOT be like her mother, which makes her inevitable brush with similar issues all the more devastating when she realizes history could repeat itself.  Vocally, she does a fine job with "Superboy and the Invisible Girl," and dramatically, she does superior work in the book scenes she shares with Henry. (Their three "Hey" songs in act two are a study in teen relationships and still manage to be sincere and more grown up due to the circumstances.  Truly excellent, too, is their duet "Perfect for You.")

Due in part to the staging that brings him more to the forefront, but even more due to his remarkably stunning performance, Michael Tacconi, as Gabe, is a revelation here.  Write down his name - this guy is going to be BIG.  His natural presence makes your eye gravitate to his every move.  His singing voice is wonderfully expressive and his belt is impressive.  To his credit, he doesn't try to replicate the performance so vividly recorded by Aaron Tveit (or Kyle Dean Massey for that matter).  Instead, he finds his own pauses, emphases and modulations.  The staging requires that his presence be more upfront if for no other reason than the unavoidable close proximity he has to the other characters.  And yet he never steals the scenes from others, and still maintains a menacing, spectral presence.  As great as his voice and acting are, though, I have to admit that it is his winning smile that makes you trust him a little more than you should, and his burning, large brown eyes trap you in their glare.  Ultimately, it is Mr. Tacconi's intensity that makes you understand why Diana can't let him go, and also why it is a matter of life and death that she must.  His is a remarkable star turn in a company full star turns.

Michael Tacconi, Kerry A. Dowling and Christopher Chew

The SpeakEasy Stage Company specializes in bringing premieres to Boston.  Seeing next to normal with an audience unaware of what they are about to see reminds me of the first time I saw the show.  This time around, it was wonderful to hear the gasps of realization, the sniffles of sad circumstances brought to life in this intimate space, and even the "ahs" that greet the moment when it becomes crystal clear what the title of the show means.  The entire experience, from the marvelous facility, to the first-rate professional production and performance, puts SpeakEasy at the top of my list of favorite regional theatres.  If you live in Boston, how lucky you are!  And if you don't, but get the chance to visit Beantown, be sure to add this venue to your must-see list, no matter what show they are presenting.  You won't be sorry.

(Photos courtesy of SpeakEasy Stage Company.  Photos by Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.)

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Broadway Box Office: Week 43: 03.19 - 03.25.12


The Broadway Box Office Top Ten 
for the 43rd week of the 2011 - 2012 season 
(March 19 - 25; 30 productions):

1. The Book of Mormon (Musical) Eugene O'Neill Theatre (1) 
2. Disney's The Lion King (Musical) Minskoff Theatre (3) 
3. Wicked (Musical) Gershwin Theatre (1)
4. Death of a Salesman (Play Revival) (8)*
5. Disney's Newsies (Musical) Nederlander Theatre (5)*
6. Evita (Musical Revival) Marquis Theatre (4) 
6. tie Jersey Boys (Musical) August Wilson Theatre (9) 
8. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (Musical) Foxwoods Theatre (6) 
9.  War Horse (Play) Vivian Beaumont Theatre (7) 
10. Rock of Ages (Musical) Helen Hayes Theatre (10)

(To find out how this is calculated, please click HERE.)
(-) - Last week's position in the Broadway Top Ten

  • Biggest Increase in Attendance: The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (+11.7%)
  • Biggest Decrease in Attendance:  Anything Goes (-9.3%)
  • Biggest Increase in Gross Receipts: Evita (+$242,950)
  • Biggest Decrease in Gross Receipts:  Wicked  (-$133,515)
  • Highest Average Paid Admission: The Book of Mormon ($169.90)
  • Lowest Average Paid Admission:   Magic/Bird ($35.10)
  • SRO Shows: The Book of Mormon, The Lion King, Newsies
  • $1M Club: The Book of Mormon, The Lion King, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Wicked, Evita


1. Death of a Salesman (Play Revival) (4)
2. Disney's Newsies (Musical) (2) 
3. Evita (Musical Revival) (1)
4. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (Musical) (3)
5. Gore Vidal's The Best Man (Play Revival) (5)

(-) - Last week's position in the Broadway Box Office


26.  Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Musical) Palace Theatre (30) 
27.  Godspell (Musical Revival) Circle in the Square Theatre (27)
28.  Sister Act (Musical) Broadway Theatre (28)
29.  End of the Rainbow (Play) Belasco Theatre (-)
30.  Magic/Bird (Play) Longacre Theatre (-) 

(-) - Last week's position in the Broadway Box Office

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