|The Bunheads cast (from left): Bailey Buntain, Kaitlyn Jenkins, Sutton Foster, Emma Dumont and Julia Goldani Telles.|
(Photo: ABC Family/Andrew Eccles)
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
On 'Pointe': Why Amy Sherman-Palladino's BUNHEADS is Hitting All the Right Moves (& How SMASH & GLEE Can Take Their Cues From It)
Summer can't come soon enough, if you ask me!
Friday, May 17, 2013
|Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe in The Last Five Years at Second Stage Theatre.|
(Photo by Sara Krulwich)
Second Stage Theatre's The Last Five Years
jerks tears and tugs hearts of a new generation
I've always felt that, out of the four seasons, Spring was the perfect time to fall in...and out of love. As many new couples go walk hand-in-hand out on the streets of New York City, blissfully unaware of the day-to-day realities of a relationship they will soon experience, one couple is discovering just that on West 43rd street. In Jason Robert Brown's much-beloved cult favorite The Last Five Years, the exciting beginnings and tumultuous downfall of a relationship is examined with an intimacy as never before seen in a musical since perhaps its own original mounting in 2001 (which was helmed by Daisy Prince).
As a longtime theater-lover, I'd always heard of The Last Five Years -- commonly shortened to L5Y -- but never in my RENT-obsessed mind had, at the time, thought much of it. Until, that is, when my friend Michelle at the Super Awesome Broadway Ninjas blogged about it. At that point, I had been quietly working on what was then a 6-year writing project, which also dealt with the stages of a relationship told through flashbacks. When I read about L5Y's original concept and format I was naturally intrigued and immediately purchased the Original Cast Recording. I fell in love with Brown's beautiful music and story -- and the rest, as they say, is history.
For the uninitiated, L5Y is told from the perspectives of Jamie Wellerstein (previously portrayed by Norbert Leo Butz, now taken on by Adam Kantor), a novelist and Cathy Hyatt (originally Sherie Rene Scott, now Betsy Wolfe), a stage actress. Doesn't sound all that earth-shattering -- that is, until you consider the way these characters tell their story: Jamie narrates from the beginning of the relationship, while Cathy starts from the end. The show is designed as such that each song the characters sing act as interior monologue, and it is the music through which much of the action is derived. Each scene, while on different timelines, seems to flow effortlessly from one to the next, yet the contrasts in emotion that result are at once striking and powerful. All this is probably owed to the fact that this 2013 production is directed by none other than its creator, Jason Robert Brown himself.
Brown's score being the first thing I fell in love with in relation to this show, it seems only appropriate that I talk about it first. After all, when one mentions L5Y, the music is most likely the first to come to mind to anyone who has heard its score. It is probably not much of a stretch to suggest that the music could be a third character in the show. The music is the main device used in order to tell the story, and every emotion is written into each note and lyric with graceful precision, each a piece of the puzzle, having its place and purpose. This is clearly reflected in the arrangements of the score, under the careful direction of Thomas Murray.
Apart from the beautiful score, it is the performances from each actor that have certainly benefitted the most from having the show's creator at its helm. While I have never seen the original production myself, I can say for certain that we've found a perfect Jamie and Cathy this time around in Kantor and Wolfe, respectively. Kantor, who made his Broadway debut as Mark Cohen in RENT, shines as aspiring writer Jamie and fearlessly takes on Brown's score with some impressive vocal acrobatics, most notably in "A Miracle Would Happen/When You Come Home to Me." His Jamie is playful and flirtatious, while still managing to balance all of that out with unabashed romance. For her part, Wolfe -- last seen on Broadway's The Mystery of Edwin Drood -- is adorable and charming as Cathy. She presents to us a Cathy that is vibrant and strong-willed, yet insecure and vulnerable at the same time. In short, Wolfe makes her feel real, which helps us as voyeurs further relate and feel an affinity toward the characters as their relationship unfolds. Her own interpretation of the music, particularly in "A Summer in Ohio" and "Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You," complements the score in an understated way . In fact, both performers do exactly that when they finally cross paths on "The Next Ten Minutes," the scene in which their characters marry and the only one in which they meet on the same point in the timeline. Their voices softly tread through the waves of strings and piano accompaniment, just as their characters do the same when their own journey enters tempestuous waters not long after.
It wasn't just the actors' individual performances or the music that helped to reinforce the theme of a rocky relationship; Derek McLane's set designs and Jeff Croiter's lighting were minimal but effective, and did a great job at taking us along for the ride. Everything was done in such a way that felt just right for the show, not just for the purpose of mood and setting, but for the emotional undertaking that is required for a show with such heavy subject matter. One shining moment for me was the clever way "The Next Ten Minutes" was staged (which I won't get into here, but if you go see the show, you'll know what I'm talking about). Another was "The Schmuel Song," which had LCD screens help amplify the story-within-a-story.
This time around, The Last Five Years has proved that you can fall in (and out) of love again, as fans both old and new turned out to show their love for the musical. It is a beautifully rendered piece of theater, one that will without a doubt continue make audience fall in love again and again for generations to come.
The Last Five Years' final extension
runs until May 18th
For more information about this production,
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Snow hath finally fallen upon New York City, and for once, I am actually enjoying it. I didn't get a chance to truly settle into the winter last year, as my mother and I had gone back home to the Philippines for a mid-winter vacation. So now I'm all about drinking hot chocolate and almost every kind of tea imaginable (or, at least the ones available via Twinings samples) and gettin' cozy in blankets.
Oh yes, I will hibernate the heck outta winter.
Of course, aside from marathoning How I Met Your Mother and eating bon bons, there are definitely a few other things keeping me entertained during this blustery winter season. And yes, most of them are of the musical theatre variety, but you knew that already. I submit for your approval, dear readers, Exhibit A (er, the video above): former Godspell "wunderstudy" Julia Mattison's original song, "Frostbite! Awesome!", as performed at her A Violent Holiday Explosion! concert at the Laurie Beechman back in 2011. This and many of her other songs have become perennial favorites, and since then, I've become
weirdly obsessed intensely interested in her clever knack for musical comedy. (For those who don't know Ms. Mattison through Godspell, you may know her from this.)
In other related items of musical theatre goodness are some recent videos from composing duo Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk (better known as Kerrigan-Lowdermilk, natch)'s concert in Los Angeles, featuring none other than Modern Family's Sarah Hylund and Glee's Melissa Benoist, among others. I present to you, Exhibits B and C:
I mean, riiiiiight?!
Continuing on with the musical nerdiness (quite literally so), there was the Vlogbrothers' concert at Carnegie Hall! The "Evening of Awesome," as it's dubbed, was thrown all in the name of nerdfighteria, a global movement started by the Vlogbrothers (comprised of The Fault in Our Stars author John Green and his brother Hank Green) to decrease the amount of "worldsuck." With the incredible lineup, which included awesome people like Kimya Dawson and NEIL FREAKING GAIMAN!!!1!, it seems to me that they're doing a heck of a job at decreasing all the suck in the world, 'cause there's nothing sucky about it! Ladies & Germs, I give you Exhibit D:
Some other things I'm obsessing over
because pretty much all I do all day is YouTube shit: fashion blogging (and now publishing) wunderkind Tavi Gevinson being interviewed by Stephen Colbert (also, while I'm at it, watch her talk at TEDxYouth. This girl will make your mid-twenties self feel not so smart); Beyonce singing live lip-synching live-singing over her pre-recording at President Barack Obama's inauguration; She & Him doing some Video Chat Kareoke for HelloGiggles; Amy Poehler and Tina Fey hosting the Globes this year; & Adele winning a Golden Globe out of freaking nowhere and proceeding to make quite possibly the best acceptance speech at any awards show ever.
You're welcome, internet.
Friday, January 4, 2013
|The cast of The Old Man and the Old Moon, from left: Arya Shahi, Ryan Melia, Curtis Gillen, Ben Ferguson, Dan Weschler, Matt Neurnberger and Alex Falberg. |
(Photo via Broadway.com)
PigPen Theatre Company takes us to
a land of Make-Believe
Over the years, New York has seen its fair share of fairy tale- and folklore-driven theatre; from The Lion King and Wicked to the more recent Peter and the Starcatcher, there's been an emergence of innovative re-telling of classic epics in a way that is suitable for audiences of both adults and children alike. PigPen Theatre Company's The Old Man and the Old Moon is just that: a charming nostalgic gem, perfectly combining elements of puppetry and lighting, taking us on an adventure our 5 year-old selves would surely be envious of.
The Old Man and the Old Moon is an Irish folktale -- narrated by Matt Neurnberger and cast -- which tells of the eponymous Old Man (Ryan Melia), whose sole duty is to refill the moon with its light every time it "leaks" (presumably the reason why we see the moon waxing and waning). Life for the Old Man and his wife is simple, thought not without its mundanities, and it is because of this that his wife prods him to go on an adventure to a mysterious island. The Old Man hesitates and finally refuses, reluctant to leave his post at the leaky moon. Undeterred by her husband's seemingly absent sense of adventure, the Old Man's wife takes their boat in the middle of the night and sets forth for the mystical island whose haunting music beckons her from afar, like a siren. By morning, the Old Man discovers his wife missing and is now left with a choice: stay at his post and wait, in the hope that she will eventually return; or leave the moon and chase after her himself. Ultimately, he chooses the latter and what follows is a turbulent journey across seas, skies and even deserts. Along the way, we join the Old Man as he meets a gang of sailors, warmongers, ghosts and much more as he continues on his quest.
The first collaboration between the several members of the cast that make up PigPen, Old Man has its roots in the group's early days as students at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama and is their first full-length production. It perhaps because of this history with the show that its band of "lost boys" give such an energetic performance; throughout, they seemed work well as a unit onstage, as if they were very in tune with one another. Watching them play the story's array of vagabond misfits felt very much like being five and watching your friends play make-believe.
A wonderful presentation of song and story, the boys of PigPen Theatre bring us back to a simpler time when when storytelling involved nothing more than a flashlight and your imagination. The production cleverly plays with light and shadow to help tell the Old Man's story, and much of Bart Cortwright's beautiful lighting installations and fixtures help to create different worlds in a very simple and elegant way, but no less effective.
Another driving force in the show was the beautiful folk music, played by members of the cast and helps narrate the story in a more abstract manner than the dialogue itself. Much in the way troubadours of the Middle Ages were storytellers of their time, PigPen's score (some of which can be found on their album, Bremen) harkens to the Irish culture, which is ingrained with traditions of storytelling, both oral and aural. The music is at once rousing and soothing, contemplative and mysterious; it certainly helps to put you in that stories-by-the-campfire mood, which is all you need when you see this fantastic production.
The Old Man and the Old Moon is a riveting tale, bound to delight your whole family and re-kindle the child in you. The show ends its run on the 6th of this month (that's this Sunday!), so if you haven't seen it, catch it before it closes!
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Yes, after almost a year's absence on the interwebs, I'm finally getting off my lazy arse and writing again! Have ya missed me?! I hope you did.
I bet you're wondering what I've been up to since, oh I don't know, October 2011, right? Well, I pretty much spend the last few months or so turning 24, finishing off my senior year of college, getting A's and B's like a boss -- and well, graduating and stuff. Y'know, the usual. It's been quite a busy year, with a bit of travelling in-between, as well (for winter break this past January, I went back to my home country, the Philippines for a much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle). However, while it certainly hasn't been without its stresses, I did manage to see a few shows, one of which I have already reviewed below (more to come soon, I promise!).
Back in December, I rang in my 24th year by attending a reading of David Hentry Hwang's Yellow Face and Chinglish at the Drama Book Shop, where I also got to meet and chat a bit with the playwright himself! (Not too shabby, eh?) Apart from Snowball Battlefield in March, I was also able to catch a collection of skits by comedy troupe the machine collective called Public/Private: The Battle for Raoul Greenberg.
I also caught a friend performing at this very cool thing called OUR BAR, a monthly gathering at Failte Bar in downtown NYC, wherein up-and-coming playwrights are encouraged to submit short scenes to be acted out in the bar! The catch is that the scene must take place within a bar setting, but beyond that, it's no holds barred (pun fully intended). They hold open casting calls for the scenes chosen, so aspiring actors looking to hone their chops can get in on the fun, too! The scenes shown the night I attended ranged from cutesy to hilarious to just-plain-ridiculous, and the vibe between the actors and audience was interesting. I'll hopefully be doing a full write-up about OUR BAR in the near future, so stay tuned here.
In recent months -- starting with later this past summer -- I caught up with up-and-coming theatre illustrator and fellow blogger, Ran, whom I met at the Public Theater's Tweet-up event last year. In June, on Tonys day, we caught the revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, as well as the New York Theatre Workshop's production of Food & Fadwa. Most recently (as recent as last Thursday, actually), we caught a workshop of what will hopefully be an Off-Broadway musical called FICTION IN PHOTOGRAPHS by former Million Dollar Quartet understudies Randy Redd (director) and Dan Mills (composer), at New World Stages.
Meanwhile, post-grad life has been all right. I've been catching up on sleep; reading (follow me on GoodReads!); traveling and enjoying some quality family time. I'm looking into catching some more shows soon, so keep an eye out for more reviews to come!
Friday, July 20, 2012
|The company of Snowball Battlefield.|
(Press Photos by Jose Perez IV and Kevin C. Gall)
Jose Perez IV's Fight Theatre takes us
out on a Snow day
Jose Perez IV's Fight Theatre takes us
out on a Snow day
This time around, Perez and Fight Theatre want to take it with you...outside. Sounds serious, huh? Well, it sure is, 'cause the premise behind Snowball Battlefield is that of a team of covert tactical agents called the Blue Team, who are on a mission to stop rival agents -- the Red Team, naturally -- from not only getting rid of the Winter Season for good, but also making it so that the temperatures don't drop ALL YEAR 'ROUND! (While this may seem like a good thing, it may also be wise to add that the Reds want this to happen so that they can turn the world into Baggy-T-Shirt-and-Technicolor-Leggings-Wearing hipsters -- oh, the horror!)
Which is where we, the audience, come in -- literally. As this is an outdoor MP3 Experiment, those who agreed to come see the show are instructed to download 2 tracks onto their iPods, Zunes (R.I.P.) -- and any other mp3 device they may have -- prior to meeting up at the starting location on 103rd and Broadway. I have to admit, as I got off the 1 train, I almost panicked, as no one had seemed to gather together at a corner or anything just yet. I caught glimpses of people who looked like they may be part of the show walking around, but was unsure about who was who. It definitely felt like I was summoned by an omniscient agency for a top-secret meeting or hand-over of some sort!
|"BLUE TEAM, ACTIVATE!"|
As Agent 1 leads us on down 103rd, dodging bullets from (invisible) snipers and sword-weilding baddies, eventually parting ways with his teammates. I was amused at the quizzical looks a few passersby threw at us, and while following Agent 1 as he rolled, aimed, and ducked his way down to the Riverside Park entrance, I started to feel a creeping sense of anxiety. Where was the Red Team? I looked up above the buildings where Agent 1 was "aiming" his guns at, but there were no Reddies in sight. Admittedly, this frustrated me, and this led me to wonder where this performance was headed.
Jose Perez's brand of theater is part experimental performance art and part action-comedy parody. As with Fighter , the choreography seemed at one with the music, making it hard to tell if it was the music that inspired the choreography or vice versa. Either way, it made for effective spectacle, whether or not you had your iPod. An enjoyable send-up of anime, Kung-Fu and action films, Snowball Battlefield felt like going on an adventure with your friends around the city.