Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Broadway Buzz: Great Broadway Reads

Some of the best known shows in Broadway history started as great books, and this winter you can read Broadway favorites from the comfort of your favorite living room chair. Sadly there isn’t enough time to read them all, but a few must-read classics are definitely making my reading list this winter.
“Les Misérables” Based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, Les Misérables features the popular song “I Dreamed a Dream.” It appeared on “Glee” last season, shined in the limelight during Susan Boyle’s 2009 audition and has been covered by others like Neil Diamond and Aretha Franklin. Did you know the song was from the Broadway musical Les Misérables? Set in nineteenth-century France, the story follows characters, such as Jean Valjean, Fantine and Cosette, as they struggle for redemption and revolution. The musical premiered on Broadway in March 1987 and had a successful stay until May 2003. The show is currently touring a brand new 25th anniversary production, with new staging and reimagined scenery based on paintings by Victor Hugo himself.
“Dracula” Before “Twilight,” “True Blood” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” a different vampire was taking our breath away. The 1897 novel by Bram Stoker took its first bite into Broadway in 1927 and has seen many different stages and screens since 1897. Dracula is currently casting its shadow off-Broadway with Italian Michel Altieri debuting as Dracula, opposite Sweeney Todd star George Hearn as vampire-hunter Van Helsing. Who would have guessed that the over 100 year old novel would fit so well into today’s pop culture? It’s really a story to sink your teeth into.
“Little Women” The Fox Cities P.A.C. hosted Louisa May Alcott’s classic story Little Women in February 2006, a show that first premiered on Broadway in 1912! The timeless stories of sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March are entertaining, endearing and opened my eyes to how life could be like with three sisters. Think you already know this one by heart? Take the Sparknotes quiz and see how well your memory serves you. Maybe you’ll need to dust off your copy for a little winter reading.
I won’t have enough snowy days to read all of the literature that inspired Broadway shows, which ones will you add to your list?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Hours at the Fox Cities P.A.C.

Ticket Office: 
December 23: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
December 24 – 26: Closed
December 27 – 30: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
December 31: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
January 1 – 2: Closed

Administrative Office:
December 23 – 24: Closed
December 31: Closed

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cirque Dreams Illumination: Wow!

A few years ago I was given the opportunity to go down to Milwaukee to see another Cirque production and turned it down. I now realize what a mistake that was. The performance of Cirque Dreams Illumination at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center was outstanding! The amount of talent and choreography involved was awe-inspiring and kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire performance.

I caught myself with my mouth wide-open and hands over my eyes constantly throughout the show. I was in awe, and many times fear, of what the performers were able to do. The creativity of the setting of scenes and characters flowed flawlessly together. The occasional bit of humor was a great touch to the performance as it let me take a deep breath after witnessing a daring stunt.

My favorite parts of the show included the Sailor’s balancing act and the four gymnasts’ amazing show of flexibility and strength. Balancing on numerous stacked chairs while being upside down on one hand was incredible. I thought over and over that he was going to fall but obviously, he never did. The gymnasts’ performance was indescribable. I can’t even imagine how they learned to balance 10 feet in the air, with their head while holding another person on their feet! It just amazes me.

Cirque Dreams Illumination is definitely a must-see. This jaw-dropping performance will keep anyone entertained and can really change your perception of what humans are capable of.

Rankin File: ** Cirque Dreams Illumination

The Fox Cities P.A.C. featured Cirque Dreams Illumination this weekend with the billing that the ordinary would be transformed into the extraordinary. There is nothing ordinary about the skill of the company’s participants including a wirewalker, magician, cube aerialists chair climber, people hanging by their feet, a strap flyer, hand balancers, dancers, vaudevillian, all accompanied by a saxophonist and singer.

The performances; “Drenched” (the bathtub scene) with the strap flyer & dancer as well as the performance “Daily Trash & Grind” with shredded waist paper clothed hand balancers, delivered the promise of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Although all the performances were extraordinary in skill the premise of transforming everyday life into something extraordinary didn’t really come across in most other cases. This was after all the kind of entertainment that has been around for hundreds of years and whose emphasis was on the skill of the performers and not the atmosphere in which it is performed. The entire show with the exception of the vignette that included people in the audience was accompanied by music that was in the vain that could best be described as a cross between hip hop, burlesque and the stuff that would accompany the dish twirlers during the Ed Sullivan show 50 years ago, and always a bit too loud.

Cirque Dreams Illumination - A Review

Walking back to my car after the show I couldn’t help but think about how incredibly inflexible I truly am, and completely devoid of anything that even remotely resembles acrobatic ability. Good grief!

Trying to describe Cirque Dreams Illumination makes me feel like the introduction to the old Superman show… “Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! No, it’s a plane! No, it’s Superman!” Except now it’s… “Look up on the stage! It’s a concert! No, it’s PT Barnum! No, it’s Swan Lake! No, it’s Cirque Dreams Illumination!”

The talent of the Cirque Dreams Illumination performers is nothing short of amazing… and I do not use that word lightly. With a well-orchestrated mix of rock concert, ballet, and circus  (including the sideshows… the contortionists are just mind boggling), the performers run, jump, dance, tumble, climb, fly, flip, and more, across the stage in a manner that my eyes did, in fact see, but my brain tells me just isn’t possible.
The music is lively – deftly moving in and out of pop, jazz, ballroom and more. But, occasionally the music, which is quite loud, seems to drown out singer Onyie Nwachukwu – which is a shame because she has a great voice.

The costumes are vibrant and just as alive as the music. And, in some instances, are so much a part of the performance, it’s difficult to tell where they end and scenery/performer begins.
At times there seems to be almost too much going on. With several “acts” happening simultaneously, it’s occasionally difficult to know where the audience’s attention is supposed to be focused. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. All I know is I tried to keep focus on the whole stage at all times... I didn't want miss anything.

On the whole the show was, again, amazing. I can’t fathom the levels of balance, strength, and practice required to do what the cast of Cirque Dreams Illumination does. Countless times I turned to my wife just to say, “Wow.” Others sitting around me did the same thing.
I highly recommend this show to anyone: child or adult. The show is fun, whimsical, and impressive on so many levels. If you get chance, go see it. You’ll enjoy it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

This Saturday, Come Early for Cirque Dreams Illumination Activities

Appleton Papers Inc. Community Engagement Activities provide audiences and community members with an in-depth look at the performing arts. Interwoven with performances in the M&I Bank Broadway Across America – Fox Cities, Boldt Arts Alive! and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Education Series, the activities educate the beginner and engage the arts enthusiast.

On Saturday, December 18, ticket holders for the 2:00 p.m. matinee performance are invited to be part of a FREE preshow activity for the family before Cirque Dreams Illumination. Students from the Heart of the Valley Y will be showcasing their gymnastic talents and hosting fun activities for the kids starting at 1:00 p.m. in the Kimberly-Clark Theater. Plus, kids can take part in coloring activities and face painting too!

Visit foxcitiespac.com for more details about the Appleton Papers Inc. Community Engagement Activity!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Where Do They Find Cirque Stars?

Cirque Dreams Illuminationwill be raising some questions this weekend at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. You will at times be caught speechless by the extraordinary acts, but you should also expect to hear the occasional “Wow,” “Oh my gosh!” and “How do they do that?” One other question you’ll probably find yourself asking is, “Where do they find these people?” 

While the idea of running off to join the circus may be more of a casual throwback to the past for most, circus traditions live on throughout the world. Many of the performers in Cirque Dreams Illumination carry on family traditions, learning their skills from generations of circus performers. Several of the performers you’ll see have traveled from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Uzbekistan where they studied at schools like The Mongolian School of Contortion, The Russian State College for Variety Arts and the Republic College of Olympic Reserve. Curious what they study? Check out the Ecole National de Cirque in Montreal.

One of Cirque Dreams Illumination’s performers you may recognize from your living room. Robert Muraine gained national attention showing off his L.A. style popping on FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and a national IKEA ad campaign titled “What Goes Where.” Having gotten his start as a street performer, Muraine adds another unique layer to Cirque Dreams Illumination, where the artistic interpretation of the big top meets the stage. 

Do you have a unique talent that’s Cirque-worthy?Enter the Fox Cities P.A.C. Sideshow on Facebook! We can’t promise a career under the big top, but your talent could get you two tickets to Cirque DreamsIllumination on Saturday, December 18 at 2:00 p.m. Upload a pic of your talent to the Center's Facebook page by 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 15 for your chance to win!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Prepping for Cirque Dreams Illumination

Cirque Dreams Illumination will be making its way to the Fox Cities this week, bringing with it 26 performers and world-class athletes. In preparation, we’ll be doing some major grocery shopping because according to Neil Goldberg, the artistic director and creator of Cirque Dreams, "They eat constantly!" 

According to Goldberg, each two-hour Cirque Dreams performance requires the same stamina as an NBA basketball game or NFL football game. "On the average, a performer can lose up to five pounds per show,” said Goldberg. 

Have the performers of Cirque Dreams discovered a magical formula that we don't know about? While on tour, the cast will eat an average of four meals per day including breakfast, lunch, a preshow dinner and a postshow dinner.

So what does the grocery list look like for a week in the life of Cirque Dreams Illumination?
• 50 pounds of celery 
• 50 pounds of tomatoes 
• 50 pounds of spinach 
• 50 pounds of carrots 
• 500 heads of lettuce 
• 500 pounds of assorted fruits 
• 2,000 gallons of bottled water 
• 500 protein bars 
• 100 pounds of chicken 
• 100 pounds ground beef 
• 800 slices of bread 

Seeing as this is Wisconsin, we may try to sneak in a few cheese curds and brats for their official welcome to the Fox Cities. Are there other Wisconsin favorites we should recommend?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rankin File: *** Handel's Messiah

Occasionally we pack too much into our hectic schedules, but no schedule is too hectic for the 200-year tradition of celebrating the holiday season with Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus. No wee snowstorm would deter us. The Fox Cities P.A.C. filled fast with people dressed more for the weather than the occasion. Although from my seat it looked like a sell out, there were a few empty seats here and there, a result of the blizzard conditions outside. But inside there were nothing but smiles and laughter in anticipation of the performance.

Handel’s Messiah is an old friend for most of the audience. Many have attended the oratorio many times in their life and every time a joy. The libretto is based on the familiar New and Old Testaments of the Bible and describes the prophecy of, the sacrifice, and the promise of the Messiah. While the winds coursed their way down College Avenue, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center was warmed by the performances of Tenor Dan Dresden’s energy, contralto Lisa Drew’s velvetoss, baritone Aaron Larson’s clarity, and soprano Maria Jette’s sparkling delicacy. Austin Boncher’s Fox Cities Community Choir was the corner stone this night and each participant’s enthusiasm was apparent. All was accompanied by our community’s pride and joy, Brian Groner and the Fox Valley Symphony.

There was of course an encore in which the audience was given the chance to join in the celebration of music and sing the “Hallelujah” chorus along with the orchestra and community choir. Hearts were warmed and the ride home would be filled with the memory of the beauty of Handel’s Messiah as well as the community sprit that made it happen again here in Appleton.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Stage is Set for Handel’s Messiah

Nearly 200 people will be taking to the stage at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center tomorrow night for a community performance of Handel’s Messiah. After years of planning and months of rehearsals, the Center is honored to welcome in the season with this classic holiday performance.

Please join us in celebrating the holidays and the depth of artistic talent found right here in the Fox Cities. Seats are still available and start at only $25. Visit foxcitiespac.com for details!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Broadway Buzz: Holiday Traditions

What is your favorite way to spend free time around the holidays? If you’re anything like me, your favorite place is in front of the fireplace, wrapped in a blanket watching a classic holiday movie. Did you know that five of the six most popular holiday movies from moviefone.com’s 2009 list have spent time on the Broadway stage?
# 6 "Elf:" The 2003 comedy starring Will Ferrell is one of my personal favorites that I will watch year round when I’m in the mood for a little cheering up. Did you know that “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear?” Elf the musical has been spreading Christmas cheer for the past couple weeks on Broadway and will continue until January 2, 2011. Click here for a quick peek of the cheer being spread onstage!
# 5 "White Christmas:" Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye made this 1954 film a classic. What makes it even better is that Bing Crosby’s character plays a former Broadway entertainer. The musical production premiered onstage in San Francisco in 2004 and made its way to Broadway during the 2008 holiday season. Did you see White Christmas when it was at the Fox Cities P.A.C. in November 2007?
# 4 "Scrooged:" Even though “Scrooged” hasn’t made it to the Broadway stage, the theatrical classic A Christmas Carol has spent time on the Great White Way. The show had a brief run at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in December 1991. With over a hundred adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic listed on Wikipedia, it’s easy to fit at least one into your holiday season. My favorite version? Definitely “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.” It’s a cartoon musical portrayed onstage and runs less than an hour. The Fox Cities P.A.C. has been proud to host Nebraska Theatre Caravan's A Christmas Carol. What a great show to get the Fox Cities in the holiday spirit!
# 3 "Miracle on 34th Street:" For the third year running Miracle on 34th Street has returned to Broadway for the holiday season. The story’s message of hope and believing in something magical is so endearing and always makes me remember the magic of the holiday season.
# 2 "It’s a Wonderful Life:" There is no doubt that the 1946 Frank Capra film is a part of many family holiday traditions. The show was turned into a musical, A Wonderful Life, and only played on Broadway as a singular event December 12, 2005. Did you know when the film was released in 1946 it was a box office flop? Read more fun facts about the film here.
#1 "A Christmas Story:" It’s hard to skip a holiday tradition that plays 24 hours straight on television. As many times as I have seen it, it’s hard to not laugh at the pink bunny suit or cringe when Flick’s tongue gets stuck to the pole in the school yard. As the #1 holiday movie, it’s natural that “A Christmas Story” is working its way to the Broadway stage. The show premiered at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre in 2009 and will spend this holiday season at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre (home to premieres of the Broadway hits HairsprayThe Wedding SingerShrek: the Musical and more).  Break a leg A Christmas Story - maybe we'll see you in the bright lights of Broadway one of these years.
Do you have any favorite stage productions or arts events that you won’t miss during the holidays? Tell us how the arts help your holiday season come alive!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Catch a Sneak-Peek of Handel's Messiah

This week the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center will be putting the finishing touches on its first community production of Handel’s Messiah in preparation for the performance on Saturday, December 11 at 7:30 p.m. Drawing talent and enthusiasm from throughout the Fox Cities, the Center will be uniting the Fox Valley Symphony with a 150 person community chorus and four talented soloists from the Twin Cities under the artistic direction of Brian Groner. 

For months, the community chorus has been rehearsing under the guidance of Austin Boncher. On Tuesday, we snuck in with our flip cam to give you a sneak peek. Click below to watch as Handel’s Messiah comes together voice by voice.

Tickets start at just $25 and are on sale now for Handel’s MessiahClick here for more details!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Beware of Third Party Ticket Brokers!

As the calendar flips closer to 2011 and WICKED’s return engagement at the Fox Cities P.A.C. January 26 – February 20, there’s something third party ticket brokers don’t want you to know. The Fox Cities P.A.C. and Ticketmaster have the tickets you want and are the only authorized sellers for WICKED in the Fox Cities. Plus, tickets are still available for all shows! 

Top Three Reasons To Avoid Third Party Tickets
Brokers make no guarantees, and the Fox Cities P.A.C. can do nothing if your tickets are lost or stolen if you purchase them from a third party. Brokers have even been known to sell fake tickets. When you buy them through the Fox Cities P.A.C. Ticket Office or Ticketmaster, the Center has a record of your purchase. 

Brokers know when tickets are a hot commodity, and they’ll hike the price to make a profit. It’s not uncommon for brokers to charge double or even triple the face value of a ticket as the event approaches. 

What if there’s a special opportunity for WICKED ticket holders or an update regarding your ticket? If you purchase your tickets through the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center or Ticketmaster, you’ll be in the loop for any updates regarding your tickets. Keep your e-mail address and phone number up to date for the latest information!

Visit foxcitiespac.com for details, and purchase your tickets to WICKED today before you get swept up in the holidays!