Monday, November 29, 2010

Just Released! Read the Fox Cities P.A.C.'s 2009/10 Annual Report Online

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center is proud to share its 2009/10 Annual Report to the Community. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Center is driven by its mission “to serve as a gathering place for the community to engage in educational opportunities and enhance understanding and enjoyment of life through the creation and presentation of the arts.” 

This year’s Annual Report recaps some of the 2009/10 Season highlights including the Broadway classics Fiddler on the Roof starring Theodore Bikel and RENT with Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp from the original cast, the music of Mannheim Steamroller, the Japanese Taiko drumming group Shidara and the hip-hop sensation Groovaloo, fresh from its off-Broadway engagement. The report also takes a closer look at how the Center seeks to educate the beginner and engage the arts enthusiast with Appleton Papers Inc. Community Engagement Activities.

Fun Facts About the 2009/10 Season:• The Center held 311 events at the Fox Cities P.A.C last year
• The Center presented 37 titles in the M&I Bank Broadway Across America – Fox Cities, Boldt Arts Alive! and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Education Series
• The Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Education Series welcomed 24,591 students in grades preK-12
• The Center hosted at least one Appleton Papers Inc. Community Engagement Activity with 88 percent of the titles it presented last season
• The Center’s mission was made possible with generous contributions from more than 750 business and individual Annual Partners

CLICK HERE to read the full 2009/10 Annual Report online!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful for Your Support

On the eve of Thanksgiving, the Fox Cities P.A.C. would like to say “THANK YOU” to the people of the Fox Cities and Northeast Wisconsin. As ticket buyers, Season Ticket Holders, donors, partner organizations and community members, your interest and enthusiasm for the performing arts makes the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center – Where the Arts Come Alive!

Broadway Stars Shine in the Macy's Parade

Need something to do tomorrow before you eat that entire turkey? Don’t miss the Broadway casts of MemphisElfAmerican Idiot  and Million Dollar Quartet  tomorrow when they’re featured in the 84th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Watch the parade on NBC Thanksgiving morning from 9 a.m. to noon.
Check back after Thanksgiving for December’s Broadway Buzz!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jersey Boys On Sale This Saturday!

How did four blue-collar kids become one of the greatest successes in pop music history?

“You ask four guys, you get four different answers.”
– Jersey Boys
One of the hottest shows to hit Broadway in a generation,Jersey Boys follows the rise and overwhelming success of four blue-collar boys from Newark as they become Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Whether you grew up with their music or just love a great rags-to-riches story, you’ll won’t want to miss this show. It’s just “too good to be true!”
Earlier this month, Jersey Boys celebrated its Fifth Anniversary on Broadway and released a new video with more footage from the show! CLICK HERE to see for yourself!
Tickets to the Wisconsin premiere of Jersey Boys go on sale this Saturday, November 20 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. Priority tickets will be available starting at 8:00 a.m. in person at the Center’s ticket office. Be amongst the first 100 ticket buyers, and you’ll receive a special Jersey Boys gift bag! While you wait, enjoy games with great Jersey Boys prizes, coffee and Jersey-inspired refreshments and entertainment with WYDR’s Chuck Lakefield broadcasting live from the Fox Cities P.A.C.
Can’t make it to the Appleton on Saturday? Tickets for Jersey Boys can be purchased by phone through Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787 or online at starting at 12:00 p.m. Remember, there’s an 8 ticket limit per household, and if you have a big group (20+) you can order before the onsale event by calling (920) 730-3760. Tickets for Jersey Boys start at $61.
For more information, visit!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Community Review - A Chorus Line

"I hope I get it."  That's the title of the first song in A Chorus LIne which all the wannabe chorus line members are singing.  Unfortunately, I never quite got it.  I wanted to get.  I almost got it.  Then it was gone.  I just didn't get the point.

As a preface to this review, I'm a story man.  I like drama, and interesting characters that add to the drama.  Throw in good songs and some laughs and I'm in heaven.  So liking a show like A Chorus Line that has almost no plot is fighting an uphill battle for me.  That said, there are some things about this production that are more objectively good and bad.

First the bad.  The orchestra was so loud that I couldn't catch half the lyrics.  Because of this, I couldn't tell half of what was going on in the first half of the show.  I'd have said first act, but for some reason there was no intermission, even though the show was over two hours.  The audience started getting very antsy towards the end.  

The first half wasn't all bad however.  A couple of very cute songs - "Sing!", and "Dance: Ten, Looks: Three" brought smiles to my face, and the actors involved in them seemed to be having fun as well.

And then of course there's the dancing.  At it's core, A Chorus Line is all about the dancing, and in that aspect this production doesn't disappoint.  My favorite moments were the on-purpose little screw-ups from those characters who do not make the final cut.  They were just obvious enough to notice, but not over the top (except in a few choice cases).  Finding them was kind of like a Where's Waldo game.

Anyway, the show kicks into high gear when most of the auditioners take a break, and the director's ex is left alone to explain why she's auditioning for a chorus role that the director believes is beneath her.  The resulting song was powerfully song and passionately danced.  It really got across the pain of a tired-of-the-game dancer who is just trying to start over.

It also sets up the big question for the end: "Why do you dance?"  Here is where I almost got it.  There was a moment of magic in the air when you realize that through all the diverse paths these actors took to get where they are, they all dance because they love it.  And then they sing a song about that... and the song made me bored.  This was about when I noticed people fidgeting.

For the right crowd, this is an enjoyable show.  It really gets at why dancers love to dance, and the dancing in the show is spectacular.  However, if you're looking for sets, costumes, or a story - splurge on some good tickets for Wicked instead.

REVIEW: A Chorus Line

If you are looking for a show that has glitzy costumes and fancy set designs this is not the show for you. It takes place on a black stage with a few mirrors used. Once you get past the lack of bling you get involved in the lives of the actors and their stories. I promise you, you will relate to at least of of the characters. I related to the one born on July 4th (like me). 

The talk about broken homes, difficult childhoods, the energy and excitement of being young, the wisdom and experience of not being young, the pursuit of your first job and the uncertaintly of your career coming to a end. They sing about the tough teenage years and add humor to the struggles we all had at that time in our lives.

They also posed the question that if you couldn't do the job that you are doing right now . . . what would you be doing? So what's your answer? It sure made me think.

I encourage your feedback and check back for my review of Wicked.  If you haven't gotten your tickets call the ticket office today.


REVIEW: A Chorus Line - Dance: 10, Song: 3

The year is 1975, and 17 dancers are competing for spots in a fictional Broadway show. Attending A Chorus Line involves watching the somewhat sadistic director, Zach, ask probing questions of these potential cast members' pasts in an effort to learn what drives them to want to dance on Broadway. Michael Bennet (whose authorship of the musical is somewhat controversial) taped a series of workshops and interviews with New York dancers to form what would eventually become the script for the Broadway show. Director and choreographer Baaylork Lee, a dancer whose story would become the basis for the character Connie, was quoted in the Post Crescent: "Michael Bennett had all these Broadway dancers talk about themselves and out of these taped sessions came the script for the play. I was playing myself on stage and so were half the other actors. This is the third generation sharing our stories and still being inspired by our experiences."

This intimate look into the pasts of these dancers is why Lee calls this musical "America's first reality show."

The first thing that needs to be understood about A Chorus Line is that it is a dancer's show. Visually, this show was a joy to watch. Every character moved with grace, power, and beauty. I imagine a major challenge that individual members of the cast faced was meeting the need to actually dance poorly or incorrectly when the script called for it. The chaotic and energetic opening of "I Hope I Get It" looked fantastic, and really showed off the abilities of the company. The upstage mirror that periodically appeared only augmented the beauty and strength of this athletic and talented group. Although my experience with dance is incredibly limited, Netanel Bellaishe, who played Larry, stood out to me as one of the best dancers I have ever seen.

While the dance and choreography was great, at times the singing was quite weak. Ensemble numbers were not as well supported as one would expect from a national touring company, and a few of the solo performances were not up to par. This was not helped by the fact that sound levels were sometimes balanced poorly. The pit was often set much too high, and frequently drowned out solo performances. There were some notable exceptions to this, however. Rylyn Juliano, who played Cassie, was more than able to pull off the daunting "Music and the Mirror" number quite well. Also, Karley Willocks, who played the smaller role of Maggie, stood out to me as one of the most talented and beautiful members of the cast. She is clearly an example of the term "triple threat," and I predict that this will not be the last time I hear her name. I enjoyed the plucky and energetic Gina Duci's performance of "Nothing," although I was not blown away by "What I Did for Love" near the end. Kristine and Al were very cute together, and Bobby's character was convincing.

Although I was not blown away by this performance, I certainly did enjoy it, and believe it is worth seeing. There are some really great moments, and this is early in the tour. I believe the quality will only improve as the run continues. I recommend attending this show to watch some incredible dancers perform their craft.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Community Review: Ailey II

It is pretty shameful how little experience I have with dance.  My entire life has been filled with music, and never have I had any sort of training, formal or informal, with regard to dance.  This is how I entered the Fox Cities P.A.C. on Thursday night to see Ailey II.  Ailey II is a world-renowned dance company that was founded in 1958 by dancer, choreographer Alvin Ailey, to bring African-American cultural expression and the American modern dance tradition to the world.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  

The first segment of the performance was a piece entitled "Echoes," written in 2008.  I was immediately struck with how graceful, ethereal, and fluid the performers were.  All 12 of them danced in this intricate, powerful, and mesmerizing segment.  For a short time, I found myself trying to understand or grasp the artistic elements, but having no experience to draw from, I quickly let go and just enjoyed the stunning and inspiring movement.  It really is amazing how easy these dancers make their craft look, but the sweat pouring from all 12 faces after 25 minutes of movement spoke to the effort and power required of performers of this caliber.

A series of solo performances followed that were no less beautiful.  In fact, it was sometimes easier for my ignorant and untrained eye to watch one performer, because I actually felt I was able to focus more on the movements and expression of a single dancer.  

Although the final third of the performance was a series of short pieces set to choral gospel music, I did not enjoy them as much as the more ethereal and abstract pieces from the first part of the show.  As a vocal musician, I found my attention wandering to the choral singing.  I am quite sure that this particular reaction was most likely limited to people with my particular background, however.

In short, I could not have asked for a better introduction to the world of dance than this performance gave me.  It is hard to comprehend a more artistic, expressive, stunning, or powerful portrayal of human movement than was delivered by Ailey II.

Ailey II Striking

The experience that I live last night with Ailey ll was stunning! Using a very pleasing choreography, the dancers were shown to good effect both as a group and as individuals. The dancers were so remarkable. I was amused at their synchronize movements as well as their physical stamina.
In addition to the pop influenced pieces, there were sections that were very balletic and jazzy. The dancers transmitted to you a desire to move and energize your bodies, with their endless vigor.  Some of the dances, through the use of light, hand movements and costumes, transmitted a calm, peaceful and gracious environment. On the other hand, the colorful costumes and bright lights of Revelations with traditional spiritual songs of the American South reached out and touched the hearts of the audience. The dancers truly brought the music to life and transported you back in time, leaving the audience standing in complete ovation.

Ailey II is a wonderful vehicle for dance bringing a whole new language to life. I took my 10 year old daughter with me and she was captivated and inspired by the talents of such hard working dancers.
 We left the theater thrilled!

Rankin File: ***** AILEY II

Thursday November 4th 2010 was a very special evening at the Fox Cities P.A.C.  Modern Dance performed as well as AILEY II doesn’t make its way to the Fox Valley often enough.  The audience was excited to have the chance to experience the dance and by the end of the evening they were literally rocking out of their seats and souls.
The extreme physicality of the dance was apparent by the substitutions made to the program due to injury in the company.  Football players are not the only ones sidelined with injuries.  The dances entitled Takademe and Doscongio were the dances substituted and were very well received.  I particularly enjoyed Takademe with it’s staccatos/music by Sheila Chandra.
The choreography by Thang Dao in the dance Echoes was by far my favorite. The dance was perfectly matched with the lighting and the body poetry evoked a consciousness of experience that cannot be defined.  The other dances were all excellent but Echoes was for me the most spectacular.  I believe however by the audience’s reaction the favorite might well have been the final dance of Revelations which was accompanied by traditional vocal spirituals and beautiful costumes with lighting to match.  Several curtain calls were demanded and the troupe was kind enough to give an encore even though they must have been exhausted.
Of all the forms of art human beings endeavor to create dance is the most fleeting and the most difficult to perfect.  This makes dance so very precious.  You experience dance only for the moment it is performed, and then it is gone.  You can only have a taste and then a memory. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ailey II Athletes Make Dance Look Effortless

Ailey II dancers have a reputation for physicality, but what does it really take to be onstage for two hours every night? A mixture of talent, stamina, dedication and grace for sure, and also years of training and practice.
For many Ailey II dancers, training begins at a young age. Even as high school students in The Ailey School, schedules were intensive, with students attending academic classes from 7:45 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. and classes in ballet, modern dance, West African, jazz and other techniques from 1:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Not only is that longer than a typical 40-hour work week, but that school schedule is supplemented by workshops and lectures on dance history, nutrition, anatomy, injury prevention, body conditioning, music for dancers, improvisation, career transition, college preparation and audition practice. CLICK HERE to see just one little exercise demonstrated by Ailey II dancers for DanceSpirit Magazine.
Think you could do that? I know better than to attempt a parallel arabesque, but I won’t miss the chance to see Ailey II Thursday, November 4. Visit for details!
Want to learn more? Come early for a FREE Appleton Papers Inc. Community Engagement Activity. Associate artistic director, Troy Powell will lead a preshow discussion starting at 6:45 p.m. in the Kimberly-Clark Theater.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Broadway Buzz

There are few things that I love more than Broadway shows, and I think the fall season might be one of them. Everything from crunching leaves beneath my feet to pumpkin pies to the fresh, crisp air. I keep imagining how wonderful a trip to New York would be this time of year to see a few Broadway shows and take a stroll through Central Park. Hopefully a vacation is in my future, but until then, here’s the latest from Broadway.
    • Football fans unite! Lombardi opened October 21 in New York to adorning Green Bay Packer fans and theater-goers. Check out some great video from the show and catch the review in “The Wall Street Journal.”
    • “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” Our beloved holiday classic, “Elf,” is now a Broadway musical. The show opens November 14 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Looks like Christmas came early this year.
    • Pee-wee Herman, welcome to Broadway! The Pee-wee Herman Show opens on Broadway November 11 and has been extended an additional four weeks due to overwhelming demand. I had no idea Pee-wee’s story would be so captivating!
    • Our favorite Marvel comics’ hero Spider-Man has made his way to the stage. With music and lyrics by U2’s Bono and The Edge, it is going to be a rockin’ show. Read more at the Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark official website.
    • “Jersey Boys – the film!” Graham King’s GK Films acquired the rights to the Broadway blockbusterJersey Boys. After the musical steals our hearts in June at the Fox Cities P.A.C. we can relive the moments forever on film.
    • Lea Michele as Elphaba?! There’s more talk about WICKED possibly becoming a film. One of my favorite “Glee” stars is standing out as a possible Elphaba. Move over “The Wizard of Oz,” make room for “Wicked” on my DVD shelf!
    • Check out the latest and greatest from one of my favorite leading ladies, Kristin Chenoweth. She is still headlining in Promises, Promises on Broadway but has a lot to say in her interview about her other projects. WICKED’s original Glinda sure is “Pop-u-lar!”
I keep reading about how successful Promises, Promises is on Broadway, and I can’t wait to someday see Kristin Chenoweth onstage. Which Broadway performer do you wish you could see live?
Don’t forget to keep current with your Broadway Buzz. Share any interesting news you come across until the next post!