Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Bonus of Sweeney Todd

OK - I am definitely behind when it comes to my posts. There are film reviews, theatre reviews, stories to share, Golden Globe nominations... the list goes on. As usual, there is no time to write. I'm hoping that next week's vacation will afford an opportunity or two.

Among the list of backlogged reviews is my review of Sweeney Todd. Of course, I really feel the film warrants a post all its own. HOWEVER - I wanted to share this little nugget from my outing to the cinema. Prior to the Feature Presentation, they played the trailer for the film version of Mamma Mia! While I'm sure that musical theatre purists with slay me for saying so, I am looking forward to this move to the big screen more than I was to Sweeney's. That is primarily because I just loved Mamma Mia! - jukebox musical fluff that it is - and I've never had a true love of Sweeney. Of course, comparing the two is, really, just silly.

But I digress...

The trailer that I saw in the theater is certainly lots of fun but I prefer the one on the Mamma Mia! The Movie Web site because it has a couple of scene clips, in addition to the montage set against the title song. While I was skeptical when I heard Meryl Streep was playing Donna, after seeing the preview I have much higher hopes. I do like seeing her in more comical roles and that is not something that happens too often. And Colin Firth, one of my FAVORITE actors, is just an added perk!

Honestly, I just can't wait!

Friday, December 21, 2007

My Lifelong "How Many Have You Seen?"

I was born in the late 60s when bohemian artist lifestyles were abundant. As such, from very early on I was exposed to art in various forms. I was fortunate enough to be raised under the roof of a Theatre/English professor, so my proclivity lies with the dramatic and literary arts. Living in a house filled with play scripts and Broadway soundtracks, it only makes sense that theatre became a foundational part of who I am.

Over the past four decades I have had the great fortune to see many shows. So I thought I'd take the "How many have you seen?" section of the Playbill a tad further and share my personal, lifelong version. I'll also share how many times I've seen it, provide a rating and perhaps a comment or two. It is a bit of a brag board, I suppose. But also a way to share my opinion with those who find value in it.

For the time being, I will include only Broadway and West End shows, with a smattering of smaller NY/London shows. I should think this a very fine place to start. And then we'll see where it goes from there.


  • Avenue Q (1x, 3/5) Okay - this is definitely a fun and edgy show but I think I saw it to0 far into the run, so I wasn't as surprised by it.
  • Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (1x, 5/5) Snarky and irreverent with a catchy score, clever book and a sassy cast. Can't wait to see it again!
  • Dirty Dancing (1x, 2/5) UGH! I loved the movie but didn't love the musical. Probably more fun to be in than to watch. But I'm not sure.
  • Hair (2x, 5/5)
  • In The Heights (1x, 4/5)
  • La Cage Aux Folles (1x, 4.5/5)
  • Mamma Mia! (2x, 4/5) I had so much fun at this show. I love ABBA and look forward to this one being on the community theatre circuit. And in the cinema!
  • Next to Normal (2x, 5/5) A rock musical that defies all convention with a story so riveting it was honored by a Pulitzer.
  • Sondheim on Sondheim (1x, 3.5/5) The performances were enjoyable but the video content featuring Sondheim himself was better. Loved Euan Morton singing "Franklin Shepherd, Inc."
  • The Kid (4.5/5) Based on Dan Savage's book about when he and his partner adopted a baby. The cast, led by Christopher Sieber, was superb and the story equal parts amusing and touching.
  • The Lion King (1x, 5/5) I know purists aren't fans of Disney but Julie Taymor's production is visionary and magical. I'm saving the second time for the kids.
  • The Phantom of the Opera (2x, 4/5) Laugh as ye may, Andrew Lloyd Webber is still around. And this one is lush and romantic and delights old and young alike.
  • Wicked (2x, 5/5) I'm a long-time fan of Stephen Schwartz and this extravagant version of the novel of the same title doesn't disappoint.


  • 110 In The Shade - 2007 Revival (1x, 5/5) Absolutely amazing! I will forevermore make a point of seeing anything Audra McDonald is in. Period. The end.
  • A Chorus Line - Original (2x, 5/5) A show that I saw in the West End when I was 10 and on Broadway when I was 17. Quintessential musical theatre.
  • A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum - 1996 Revival (2x, 3/5) I saw this with both Nathan Lane and Whoopi Goldberg as Psuedolus. I worked lights for this show in college and my husband played Hysterium in an am-dram production. Basically, I've had my fill of this play that I never really took a liking to.
  • A Streetcar Named Desire - 1992 Revival (1x, 3.5/5) The acting by Alex Baldwin, Jessica Lange and Amy Madigan was not as good as I wanted it to be.
  • A View From The Bridge - 1997 Revival (1x, 3/5) Anthony Lapaglia started the play shouting and had nowhere to go. That's what I remember the most from that one.
  • Aida (2x, 4.5/5) Elton John's music and the tragic story will always make this one a favorite.
  • Amadeus - 1999 Revival (1x, 4/5)
  • Annie (1x, 4/5) First professional production ever, in London's West End.
  • August: Osage County (2x, 5/5) Without a doubt one of the most riveting three hours I've ever spent in the theatre. A wonderful script, flawlessly performed. Don't miss it!
  • Beauty and the Beast (2x, 4/5)
  • Big River - 2003 Revival (1x, 4.5/5) This was such a beautiful and innovative production.
  • Blood Brothers (1x, 4/5) I was so pleasantly surprised by this show.
  • Cats - Original (2x, 3.5/5) I had high expectations. But it has its place in the history of musical theatre.
  • City of Angels (1x, 3/5) My date fell asleep. Technically amazing.
  • Company (1x, 3/5) Loved the instruments onstage. Made me a fan of Raul Esparza.
  • Crazy for You (2x, 4/5) Fun, fun, fun!
  • Cry Baby (1x, 2/5) I left feeling entertained but wondered if there was really a story worth telling there. The answer? Not really.
  • Cuba & His Teddy Bear (3x, 4/5) Mediocre play with A+ cast. Met Robert DeNiro after the show and subsequently discovered that he called my house looking for me.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac (1x, 4/5) Wordy (as one would expect), lavish and well-acted.
  • Damn Yankees - 1994 Revival (2x, 4/5) Victor Garber and Bebe Neuwirth were amazing, Jerry Lewis and Charlotte Damboise were not.
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1x, 4/5) Lots of fun. I love the movie/story and David Yazbek. And I finally got to see Norbert, since I missed him in Wicked.
  • Footloose (1x, 3/5) I had a good time.
  • Grease - 1994 Revival (1x, 3/5) Xena: Warrior Princess at Rizzo!
  • Godspell - Lamb's Theatre (1x, 4/5) Very authentic, hippie interpretation.
  • Grand Hotel (1x, 3/5) Ho hum... But got to hang out backstage with John Schneider, who I had a childhood crush on. 'Course didn't know it was him until after the fact. DOH!
  • Hair - 1994 West End, 2007 Delacorte (2x, 4.5/5) Love the show and loved BOTH productions. Though I've yet to see something that supercedes my personal vision
  • Hairspray (1x, 3.5/5) I didn't see this until Feb 2008, when shows tend to go into auto-pilot. I liked the play better than the movie but neither really "blew me away".
  • Hamlet - (1x, 3.5/5) The 2008 Shakespeare in the Park offering kept me engaged longer than most versions I've seen. But I'm still not a Shakespeare fan.
  • Indiscretions (1x, 2/5) Hated it. Kathleen Turney was terrible. The sets were cool and Jude Law was naked. Otherwise I would have given it only 1 star.
  • Into The Woods - OBC Concert (1x, 4/5) Glad I saw it.
  • Jelly's Last Jam (1x, 4/5) This was when I got to meet Ben Vereen, so it was pretty special.
  • Jesus Christ Superstar (1x, 3/5) Too young to appreciate it.
  • Kiss of the Spiderwoman (3x, 5/5) Chita Rivera was amazing, Maria Conchita Alonso was not. I also got to see an early Brian Stokes Mitchell in this.
  • Les Miserables (4x, 5/5) Classic.
  • M. Butterfly (1x, 3.5/5) I just remember it being long. But John Lithgow is amazing, I got to go to his dressing room and he wrote something cool on my Playbill.
  • Merrily We Roll Along (1x, 3/5) I love the score and the story and still think Merrily has potential yet to be propertly recognized. John Doyle directed this production at The Watermill with instruments. To answer your question: yes, they got in the way.
  • Miss Saigon (2x, 4/5) I rushed to see this the first time. It was worth the wait.
  • Parade - 2007 Donmar Production (1x, 4.5/5) Missed this on Broadway so I was glad to see this production in the intimate Donmar space.
  • Port Authority - 2008 Atlantic Production (1x, 5/5) Three of theatre's finest actors performing Conor McPherson's beautiful words. Bliss.
  • Peter Pan (1x, 3.5/5) On a whim. Revival is much more lively than the Mary Martin version.
  • Prelude to a Kiss - 2007 Revival (3.5/5) Didn't blow me away but it was a nice night out.
  • Ragtime (1x, 3/5) Didn't leave an impression on me.
  • Rent (3x, 5/5) One of the few plays that has moved me to tears. The immediacy of the live performance far surpasses the film.
  • Rock 'n' Roll (1x, 3.5/5) OK - my head hurt after this one. It was brilliantly acted and had some nice scenes but I didn't feel particularly engaged.
  • Spamalot (1x, 4/5) Strike me dead for saying so but I am not a Monty Python fan. HOWEVER - I thought Spamalot was quite funny and had some great performances.
  • Spring Awakening (10x, 5/5) Never before have I experienced this kind of energy and connection in a production. It is visceral, haunting and timeless and serves as a great launching pad for some of today's best young talent.
  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (1x, 4/5) William Finn's music is exquisite. And his characters deftly guide you through a very fun evening.
  • The Apple Tree - 2007 Revival (1x, 3/5) And now I'm officially bored with Kristen Chenoweth onstage.
  • The Black Suits - (1x, 4/5) My love affair with Iconis' music and the stupendously talented performers that brought Suits to life at the SPF overshadowed its minor flaws.
  • The Fantasticks - Original (3x, 5/5) Another classic. Simplicity begets elegance.
  • The Farnsworth Invention (1x, 3/5) Can't decide if it wants to be a play or a film. Lots of exposition, adequate acting and lazy writing with a big "so what?" at the end.
  • The Foreigner - 2004 Revival (1x, 4/5) Great cast! Matthew Broderick does well in those intimate spaces.
  • The Life (1x, 3/5) I vaguely remember Sam Harris in this.
  • The Odd Couple (1x, 3.5/5) They raved. Then they stopped raving. I expected mediocrity. And was pleasantly surprised.
  • The Pillowman (1x, 5/5) Amazing play. Disturbing, haunting and lyrical. Billy Crudup is a great actor.
  • The Producers (2x, 4/5) I liked it but wish I liked it more.
  • The Red Shoes (1x, 1/5) I'm guessing the book was better because the stage adaptation wasnt.
  • The Vertical Hour (2x, 3/5) It's like the play that kind of went there but not really. Julianne Moore was decent and Bill Nighy was great.
  • Secret Garden (1x, 4/5) This was a beautiful play and Daisy Eagan was delightful.
  • Some Men (1x, 4/5) Great cast but not McNally's best script. He's done poignant better.
  • Tommy (3x, 4/5) Gotta love a rock musical!
  • Will Rogers Follies (1x, 3/5) Hokey but entertaining.
  • Xanadu (1x, 3.5/5) This musical film parody is so much fun with some powerhouse performances - most notably Mary Testa and Jackie Hoffman.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Great Short Film: my name is lisa

A friend of mine forwarded this video to me. Like he did, I felt compelled to share. I'm sure that it will resonate more for some than others. Subject matter aside, it is well-acted, nicely scripted, engages you right away and has a running time of under 7 minutes!

my name is lisa

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cyrano de Bergerac: Delightful

Only a few days after seeing the unbelievable December 9th performance of SPRING AWAKENING, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner perform in CYRANO de BERGERAC at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The show was, as one would expect, wordy. And quite honestly, I expected it to be funnier. Naps were stolen on either side of me during the three-hour play but it was, as my father would say, really delightful.

Kevin Kline was impeccable. As I expected he would be. However, the Richard Rodgers is a large house and the intricate language was often lost in that vast space. In fact, a man a few rows behind us shouted out, "A little louder please!" Kevin improvised, said something about ghosts in the theatre, upped his volume and carried on. The nerve of some people! Bottom line, Kevin Kline is truly a craftsman and it was a privilege to see him perform live.

Jennifer Garner as Roxanne gave quite an enjoyable performance. There was an affectation to her voice that, honestly, I didn't care for. I would prefer to see her in a more intimate space. There is a sparkling charisma to her voice when she is just speaking, as she did during the Gypsy speech after the show. I am sure that many will beg to differ but there you go. Overall, she was charming. And she very kindly shook hands with people in the front row, so gracious.

Daniel Sunjata delivered an affable Christian. I remember him from DEVIL WEARS PRADA as the guy that makes the deal with Meryl Streep. I didn't love him, I didn't hate him.

And I didn't realize until I got to the theatre that Euan Morton was in it. I was momentarily delighted because I just finished watching my copy of SHOW BUSINESS: THE ROAD TO BROADWAY and was so moved by his segment in that film. But then it was realized that his understudy was on that night. And there you have it, life in the theatre.

If you have the opportunity to see it, I would recommend it. As long as you can endure its length and eloquence. The sets are gorgeous and the costumes are lush, very pretty to look at.

(By the way, after the curtain call, Mr. Kline auctioned off his prosthetic nose to someone in the audience for $900 to benefit BC/EFA. Before the auction began he said, "You all have been a great audience. With the exception of one. [beat] Can you hear me now?" A gentlemen to the very end, just like Cyrano.)

More theatre commentary to come, so stay tuned!