Thursday, March 31, 2011

Broadway Buzz: Disney on Broadway

Beauty and the Beast was Disney’s first animated film to hit the Broadway stage in 1994. It played on Broadway for 13 years, until it closed in July 2007. The show was a great success and set a high standard for other Disney film to stage transformations. An international sensation,Beauty and the Beast has played in 21 different countries and is currently in Rome, Tokyo and now playing at the Fox Cities P.A.C.!

Beauty and the Beast 
may have paved the way, but Belle has been joined by some other Disney princesses and animated friends on Broadway. The Little Mermaid tackles living “under the sea” onstage. Ever ask yourself how can a mermaid “swim” across the Broadway stage? (psst! – roller-skates).
Broadway’s special blend of theater magic has The Lion King and Mary Poppins still drawing enthusiastic fans in on The Great White Way. Since 1997, The Lion King has had equally as difficult a task as The Little Mermaid in bringing animated characters to life. Since the animated film does not include a single human, nothing short of the best stage puppetry and creative design can transform humans into animals. Was everyone able to catch the show when it roared its way through the Fox Cities in 2007? I hope it’s in the “circle of life” for it to visit the Fox Cities again soon!
Even though “Mary Poppins” isn’t an animated film, bringing her magic to stage is also no easy task. Flying with an umbrella and tap-dancing upside-down are only a few of the tricks up the sleeves of Broadway’sMary Poppins! Get a lesson in tap on’s Ask a Star withMary Poppins’ stars Laura Michelle Kelly and Gavin Lee. I also think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Laura’s favorite Disney movie!
Keep your eyes on the horizon for the next big Disney production. Aladdin is premiering at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater this summer – maybe it’ll be Broadway’s next big Disney success! Which Disney favorite do you hope will come to the stage next?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Enchanting Night at Beauty and The Beast

Last night, at the opening of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast it was an enchanting night. At the moment we walked in we were transported into a magical world. The set was amazing. The voices and instrumentation beautiful, the acting well done. We loved the costuming. It was incredible! From the moment Emily Behny (Belle) rise into her first big number there’s no question that the production is above and beyond. An excellent clean sound and a stable mix are as necessary to the hit of a musical as the endowment of the performers.

Dane Agostinis (Beast) lives up to expectations in all matter. Logan Denninghoff (Gaston) is wonderful on all view playing the pretentious and terminally vain scoundrel of the story. Andrew Kruep (Lefou) brings humor to the role of Gaston’s frequently abused assistant.

Merritt David Janes (Lumiere) leads absolutely over a wonderfully staged “Be Our Guest” number that has dancing plates and kitchen gadgets filling the stage. Keith Kirkwood (Cogsworth), Erin Elizabeth Coors (Babette) and Sabina Petra (Mrs. Potts) join as remarkable members of the charming and enchanted castle’s staff.

A must see!

Disney's Beauty and the Beast - A Review

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was, in a word, fun.

A few other words that could be used to describe the production: amazing costumes, a set design that is nothing short of brilliant, excellent use of lighting, great acting, and lively music.

If you’ve enjoyed the Disney movie, you are familiar with the story and will recognize your favorite scenes and songs (my personal favorite being the song “Gaston” and its respective pub scene). If this musical is your introduction to Disney’s version of the story, well, you will absolutely enjoy your first taste of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Rob Roth, the director who originally brought the production to the stage where it enjoyed a 13-year run, is back for this slightly updated rendition. Featuring seven new songs, along with six classics, the musical makes me want to go back and watch the Disney movie to find the differences (it’s been a while). I recognize the biggies - "Gaston," "Be Our Guest," and "Beauty and the Beast" – and they are all sung beautifully (Belle, played by Emily Behny, has a particularly wonderful and strong voice). But for the life of me, I can’t discern exactly what is new… and that’s a credit to the production. The new material is weaved in so well and stays so true to the feel of the original, it’s difficult to tell what’s been added.

As I stated earlier, the costumes were amazing. Bringing cartoon characters like the candelabra Lumiere, Cogsworth the clock, Mrs. Potts, the goofy Lefou, and of course, the Beast, to life has a lot to do with the actors. But the human actors can take those characters only so far. The costumes do the rest. From Lumiere’s candle hands (constantly popping alive with “flames”) to the Beast’s mane and fangs, costume designer Ann Hould-Ward does an excellent job of maintaining the cartoonish fun, while allowing the actors to become the character.

Most impressive to me, however, is the set design. I was curious as to how the production would be able to pull off creating a “sprawling” town, a spooky woods, and a large, empty castle all contained on the same stage. The solution is brilliant. Using a variety of small, mobile set pieces and an array of curtains, it’s very easy to forget that the whole show takes place on a 103’ x 50’ stage. The choreography is such that it works in perfect harmony with the movement of the pieces. The set design and its usage are nearly as intriguing and entertaining as the musical itself. The result is the illusion of a larger world that is easy to fall into as a viewer.

And, I think, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the mug-clinking dance during Gaston’s pub scene. As I mentioned above, this scene and song is one of my favorite parts of Disney’s story, and the addition of the mug-clinking dance only made it that much more so. Judging from the audience’s reaction, I am not the only one who enjoyed it. It seems so German, so perfect for Wisconsin. Plus, it is just downright cool. Twenty or so people, each armed with two mugs of “beer,” dance through the pub while collectively banging their mugs against those of the pub patrons next to them. Behind the back, under the legs, lying/sitting down, arm and arm. Together, in rhythm, and on cue. Truly, no one can mug-clink like the egotistical, self-centered Gaston.

But there is so much more… life-sized dancing plates, knives, salt and pepper shakers, and, one of my personal favorites, the welcome mat. Horribly painful puns between Cogsworth and Lumiere (I laughed at every one of them!). Streamers launching into the audience. The use of puppetry for the wolves. The live orchestra. The transformation of the Beast into a man. All of it is enjoyable. I could go on and on (I know, I know, too late).

Last night’s audience was made up of dozens of little boys and girls (a number of the girls showing up in their princess outfits), just as many octogenarians, and everyone between. And, as near as I could tell, age didn’t matter… they all enjoyed Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

How could they not? It was just so fun.

Beauty and the Beast: Edge of Seat Entertainment

The Center never fails to entertain, and Disney's Beauty and the Beast is no exception! From the opening sets, colorful and intriguing, to the grand finale, the show is magnificent! Everyone in the family will enjoy this much-beloved classic.

Opening night is a special event, of course, but this production is a special event on its own.
The sets are gorgeous and fascinating. The acting is top-notch with outstanding acoustics in the entire Fox Cities P.A.C. The colors and motion are riveting, moving the plot along flawlessly, while enaging the audience in the antics. The costuming is perfect, colorful, and eye-pleasing and unique.

The live orchestra is a treat! The music familiar and emotional, wafts out of the orchestra pit engulfing the listeners in nostalgia. The sound is as special as the compelling storyline. This is entertainment at its best!

Disney's Beauty and the Beast is a spellbinding production filled with talented players, an acrobatic sensation, surprising special effects involving the audience, and choreography beyond the imagination. The entire production is staged to a backdrop of double entendre and a play on words that keeps it fresh and lively.

The audience response was genuine and spontaneous throughout. There were chuckles, groans, and full out laughs as the troupe presented its original interpretation of the ageless story of the beauty and the beast. Great entertainment!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Broadway Buzz: Spring Openings on Broadway

When one show closes on Broadway, it makes room for another to open. I have to admit that some goodbyes are sad, but I am extremely excited for the fresh new arrivals. This spring there is a wide variety of plays and musicals, both new works and revivals. Join me in welcoming (and welcoming back!) the Broadway spring openings!
The Importance of Being Earnest– Opened: January 13 
Oscar Wilde’s comedic masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnestis educating audiences on class and name-dropping for its eighth Broadway revival. The original play opened in April 22, 1895 and has been charming audiences for over a century. What makes the comedy so great is actor Brian Bedford proving gender is no obstacle as he plays the imposing Lady Bracknell. Isn’t he stunning in red?
Good People – Opened: March 3 
Frances McDormand stars as Margie Walsh, an inhabitant of the poor Boston neighborhood known as Southie. She just lost her job and is trying to catch a break. This play is all about taking risks and trying to get a fresh start. Check out great opening night video and meet some of the talented cast here.
That Championship Season – Opened: March 6 
If you don’t recognize the title, you may recognize actors. The Tony® Award and Pulitzer Prize winning drama That Championship Seasonreturns to Broadway with an all-star ensemble, starring Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth, Jason Patric, Brian Cox and Keifer Sutherland. Previous high school champions reunite at their coach’s home when wisecracks and reminiscing turn to unexpected honesty that stirs up a long-buried secret that has potential to destroy the best moment of their lives.
Kathy Griffin Wants a Tony– Opened: March 11 
The title says it all! Kathy Griffin is taking her stand-up comedy show to Broadway. Dishing on pop culture and sharing her hilarious observations and run-ins with celebrities, Broadway will never be the same again. Check out what Kathy’s “reviewers” are saying.

Arcadia– Opened: March 17 
Following a sold out run in London, Arcadia is coming to Broadway to share a story that spans 200 years. From a startling theory proposed in 1809 to two academics piecing together puzzling clues in 2009, the story is full of misunderstanding and the quest for knowledge.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical– Opened: March 20 
Road trip! Dazzling costumes and dance-floor favorites help bring this funny new musical to the heart of fabulous. Based on the smash-hit movie, Priscilla is an uplifting adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus in search of love and friendship. Actor Tony Sheldon originated the role of Bernadette, a past-her-prime transsexual, nearly five years ago and is bringing his headdress and heels to Broadway this spring.
Ghetto Klown– Opens: March 22 
One man show Ghetto Klown is the next chapter in actor John Lequizamo’s popular personal and professional story. Leguizamo explains, “Ghetto Klown is all the things I say to my therapist and my manager, but would NEVER want the general public to know. It’s cheaper than a lawsuit, and I get to take a bow at the end.” 

The Book of Mormon – Opens: March 24 
Not your average trip to church, The Book of Mormon is an all new musical about a pair of mismatched Mormon boys sent on a mission. From Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of “South Park,” with collaboration from the writer of Avenue Q, this new musical is a sure bet for some laughs that the “New York Post” claims will offend everybody.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – Opens: March 27 
“Harry Potter” actor Daniel Radcliffe on the stage? I’m there! Starring as wily window washer J. Pierrepont Finch in the Broadway revival, Radcliffe uses a trusty self-help book “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” to rise the corporate ladder. This show is being added to my shows to see wish list, and maybe I should get a copy of that book too!
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo – Opens: March 31 
Robin Williams, welcome to Broadway! Making his Broadway debut, Robin Williams stars in a deeply affecting play set in present day Baghdad about the absurdities of war. Playing none other than the tiger himself, Williams encounters Americans and Iraqis searching for friendship, redemption and a toilet seat made of gold.
Check back in early April for a continued list of spring openings in Broadway Buzz!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Make The Arts A Family Event

It seems like it’s getting harder and harder to draw kids away from their video games and TV for some real quality time with the family, but the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center has some upcoming events that just might do the trick. March 29 - April 3,Disney’s Beauty and the Beast comes to life onstage, and the characters (and utensils) your kids know and love will become larger-than-life. 

This spring, things get wild when Madagascar Live! comes to the Center May 3-4. The stars of Central Park Zoo – Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the hip Hippo and three cunning penguins – step off the screen of DreamWorks’ blockbuster movie to strike out on an adventure. Tickets start at $18, so there’s room for the whole family to be a part of the fun. 

With popular stories and kid-friendly characters, these shows are a great way to introduce young people to theater. Visit to see a full events listing, and discover the shows that will inspire your kids’ imagination with the glow of the spotlight!

EVENT UPDATE:Due to unforseen circumstances, DreamWorks Theatricals and Broadway Across America have canceled all performances of Madagascar Live! This cancellation includes the engagement May 3-4, 2011 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. If you have already purchased tickets, please click here for more information on your automatic refund.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Coming Soon: Disney's Beauty and The Beast

It’s amazing how well Disney movies adapt to the stage, and Disney’sBeauty and The Beastis no exception. Not sure what to expect when some of your favorite animated characters come to life? Click below for a sneak-peek of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center’s next Broadway show!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Community Review: Acoustic Africa

Last night’s Acoustic Africa concert featured some extraordinary musicians playing instruments that we almost never see in the U.S.  One, a mbira, was like a small piano played with just the thumbs; and another, the ndjurkle, looked like a half coconut with a stick coming out of it and a guitar string.  It was all quite unusual and interesting.

Certain aspects of the evening were excellent.  The slow song where Oliver Mtukudzi played and sang with only some percussion was thrilling. Also, a recorder solo was spectacular, and the dancing throughout the night was much fun.  Most of all, when the musicians sang multi-part harmonies I got goose bumps. The show could have used much more of these beautiful harmonies.

Unfortunately I had some trouble enjoying most of it. Almost all of the songs ran a little long, as did the show itself.  And while the featured musicians all seemed friendly and fun, I could only understand about half of what they said so I was somewhat lost.

Worst of all for me was the repeating electric (I thought this was Acoustic?!) bass parts.  About half the songs included repeating background music that was only three or four beats over and over and over and over and over again. It was somewhat hypnotic, and prevented me from enjoying the rest of the musicians.

However, this didn’t seem to bother most of the audience, who seemed to enjoy the concert. Certainly Acoustic Africa was worth going to just to experience a taste of a different culture and to see some excellent musicianship.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Community Review: Acoustic Africa Review

Acoustic Africa was an evening of exciting African music. The performers used a Njarka (traditional violin) and a Jdjurkle (monochord).  The sound was incredible, fun and unusual. The performers paid tribute to the plight of women, men "the head of the household," and even took us on a journey to the desert, which made me laugh because this was the eve of snowstorm Ethan. It was nice to feel warm, if only for a little while. 

The laughs of the evening came when the performers waged a polite battle between Zimbabwe and Mali. They brought out the differences between normal every day life, music and customs, but in the end they both "shared" their favorite song with us.

Community Review: An African Night at the Fox Cities P.A.C.

Last night was a warm night at the Fox Cities P.A.C. I asked my friend to accompany me to Acoustic Africa. I hadn’t heard from this group before, but, being a fan of African music I was enthused and decided to go with her.
The evening started well. We were warmly greeted at the door by the very efficient volunteers, given a program, and ushered to our seats. The venue was packed with a very diverse public of all ages and origins, and there was an atmosphere of excitement. 
After an introduction by a Fox Cities P.A.C. staff member, the group appeared on stage. There were many diverse instruments, but the main feature were guitars. The musicians started the performance with a lovely ballad-like song and followed that with music inspired by the traditional music of Mali in Western Africa, homeland of Habib Koité, the talented guitarist and composer, and Zimbabwe, homeland of “Tuku” Mtukudzi, whose raspy voice contributes greatly to the characteristic sound of this group. Also featured was Malian guitarist, singer and composer Afel Bocoum, who did a wonderful dance in the Tuareg style, to a song sung in Tamashek by “Tuku” and Habib. 
The other featured musicians of this band’s second edition (as Koité informed us) were Souleymane Ann, percussion and vocals; Abdoul Wahab Berthe, N’goni (plucked lute), bass and vocals; Yoro Cisse, Ndjurkle (monochord) and Njarka (small fiddle made from a gourd, with one gut string); Mamadou Kelly, guitar and vocals; and Phillip Tzikirai, Mbira (thumb piano), percussion and vocals. 
The concert, that was supposed to last 90 minutes without an intermission, and ended after 30 minutes of encore, seemed short. The music was entrancing and exciting. Every new song was received with applause and the audience clapped enthusiastically during the performance. 
It was indeed a wonderful night and the cold of the winter seemed to melt away for a while.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Just Announced! Check Out the Center's 2011/12 Season

It’s been tough keeping such a great season secret, but now the word is out!

Next season, get ready to enjoy Broadway’s newest hit Billy Elliot the Musical, the 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Misérables, a Disney favorite with Mary Poppins and a mesmerizing production of West Side Story. Plus, you can be there to relive one of the greatest recording sessions of all times as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins appear in Million Dollar Quartet.

The lights of Broadway are bright next year, but be sure to explore the Boldt Arts Alive! Series for more world-class entertainment. Share An Evening with Garrison Keillor, enjoy the holidays with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra featuring Rockapella, laugh at the high jinks of The Flying Karamazov Brothers and experience arts from around the world including Ladysmith Black Mambazo. These are just a few of the great performances you can look forward to next season. For a full listing of events, visit

Get the latest updates and behind-the-scenes information on the Center’s new Facebook page or Tweet about the shows you can’t wait to see on Twitter!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Counting Down to the 2011/12 Season Annoucement

It’s difficult to believe, but March is already here. As the Fox Cities P.A.C. moves into the second half of the 2010/11 Season, the staff is fielding the question, “What do you have up your sleeve for next season?” Fortunately for theater fans, that question is about to be answered. The Center’s counting down to the 2011/12 Season announcement, and we can’t wait to share!
What do you want to see next season at the Fox Cities P.A.C.?