Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Broadway Buzz - Sister Act

The last, but certainly not least, Tony® Award nominee for Best Musical is bringing disco to the Broadway stage.
Based on the 1992 film, Sister Act transforms a convent into a musical act with a Tony nominated original score by Alan Menken (Beauty and the BeastThe Little Mermaid). After witnessing a murder, Deloris Van Cartier is put into protective custody in a convent. Deloris, played by Best Actress nominee Patina Miller in her Broadway debut, is disguised as a nun and brings a little soul to the convent choir during her stay.
In an interview with Broadway.com, Patina Miller said she was inspired to become an actress by the original sister, Whoopi Goldberg. For Patina, being cast onstage in the same role must have been dream come true! Even though it’s the same role, there are a few differences between the film and stage performances. Show producer Whoopi Goldberg told Good Morning America that the stage version features a younger Deloris in a disco era, not the ‘90s like the film. Watch as Patina Miller and the cast of Sister Act spread the word in “Take Me to Heaven” on Good Morning America.
Want to join the Sister Act sisterhood? Transform yourself into a sister. I have to admit I already did.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Broadway Buzz: Catch Me If You Can

Tony® Award nominee #3 is not only a familiar title, but based on a true story.
Catch Me If You Can is based on the incredible true story of Frank William Abagnale, Jr. and his life as a con artist. He starts by forging checks and then smooth talks his way into posing as a pilot, doctor and lawyer all before he turns 21. FBI Agent Carl Hanratty is close on his trail, but who knows what will happen if the two come face to face. Frank, Jr. makes living the high life sound easy, but I wouldn’t want him defending my court case!
The story has been captured by a book, a hit DreamWorks film, and a now Broadway show. It premiered at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater in 2009, and opened on Broadway this April. There were only a few short weeks for the Tony voters to catch the show, but it seems they caught something they liked! The show is nominated for four Tony Awards, including Norbert Leo Butz’s nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for his role as Carl Hanratty.
Starring opposite of Norbert Leo Butz is up and coming Aaron Tveit, playing the tricky Frank William Abagnale, Jr. He made his Broadway debut in 2006 as Link Larkin inHairspray and also has starred on Broadway in Next to Normal and Wicked. Now he’s “Live in Living Color,” dancing, singing and conning his way across the stage.
A select few can say their life is documented by a book, movie and musical. Catch Me If You Can has been an exciting development for the actual Frank William Abagnale, Jr., and the show’s Press Rehearsal gave him the opportunity to say how excited he is that his true story has reached the Broadway stage.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"You Know Who Would Love This Show..."

How many times you seen a performance, and thought, “You know who would love this show..."

It’s a phenomenon that’s rather unique to the performing arts. From the moment theater fans “catch the bug,” there’s a drive to share that intangible excitement. You hope that the people you care about – whether it’s your husband, your parents, your best friend or the neighbors across the street – will find a show that strikes a chord within, inspiring, invigorating, and entertaining days, weeks, months and even years later.

Jersey Boys is that kind of show, and it’s playing an extended three-week Wisconsin premiere at the Fox Cities P.A.C. June 1-19. On Broadway and around the country, it’s captivating audiences, drawing people in with a true story of friendship, fame and fortune and four blue-collar kids that made music history. Broadway fans will be delighted by Jersey Boys’ stunning production values, unforgettable cast and show-stopping drama, but even theater newbies will be lured to the spotlight.

Jersey Boys is perfect for…

Music Fans 
Whether your folks cruised around listening to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons in their first car or you know their music from listening to the oldies, the true story of the group comes to life with 19 hit songs that paved the road to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Hear “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Dawn,” “My Eyes Adored You,” and more, live with Frankie Valli’s legendary falsetto.

Broadway Devotees
Jersey Boys is more than a juke box musical. Sure it includes a lot of songs you already know by heart, but it also took home four Tony Awards, including Best Musical. When you ask four men what really happened, you get four different answers, and the book, written by Marshall Brickman ad Rick Elice, lays out a compelling story of friendship, betrayal, mob ties and contracts signed with a handshake. There’s no shortage of drama in Jersey Boys.

Manly Men 
If your husband or father is more interested in “Law and Order” than “Masterpiece Theater,” Jersey Boys might just be the story to show him that Broadway is more than costumes and chorus lines. Four “tough guys” tell the story, so even a reluctant ticket holder might just catch the theater bug.

Tickets for Jersey Boys start at $61, and they’re on sale now at foxcitiespac.com! Make sure you have your seats, and share your excitement with the theater skeptics in your life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Broadway Buzz - The Scottsboro Boys

Our list of Tony® Award nominated Best Musicals continues with The Scottsboro Boys.
Set in the 1930s, The Scottsboro Boys is based on the true story of a court case where nine African American men were unjustly accused of attacking two white women on a train in Alabama. The young men, all under the age of 22, were convicted by a white jury and spent years in jail while the case was tried and retried.
Not all dramatic stories are portrayed dramatically onstage. The Tony nominated score by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb, the musical men also behind the courtroom favorite Chicago, brought a little “Razzle Dazzle” to this unfortunate courtroom case by telling the story through a minstrel show. Minstrel shows emerged in the 1830s as a popular form of entertainment and a precursor to vaudeville, consisting of skits, songs and one-act plays often with crude stereotypes and degrading caricatures of African American slaves. The musical’s minstrel form was offensive to some, and Kander responded in The New York Times that, “The minstrel show elements are, I like to think, part of the entertainment, but in a way that makes you think about how we tell stories, tell our history as Americans.”
The show’s brief run on Broadway from October 31-December 12, 2010 left a lasting impression. It received 12 Tony Award nominations this spring, including Best Musical, Best Original Score and several best actor/actress nominations.
If you loved the merry murderesses of Chicago like I did, maybe you’ll back The Scottsboro Boys as Best Musical.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jay Johnson: The Two and Only!

The audience was treated to an afternoon of  ventriloquism and history.  The history part consisted of witchcraft, sorcerers and magicians and the tricks that they would play on unsuspecting villages by throwing their voices.  We also got an understanding of how Jay became a ventriloquist and his life long dedication to the art. 

He introduced us to his entertaining "cast of characters" and YES, even Bob made an appearance.  Since it was in such a intimate setting I felt like Bob was talking directly to me and brought me back to my childhood. 

My only "thumbs down" was to the person in the theater who neglected to turn off their cell phone. During the most moving part of Jay's life story, yup you guessed it, had their phone ring with some sort of country song.  They then took their phone out and silenced the ringer.  It bother the audience and unfortunately ruined the moment for Jay.  My deepest apologies Jay for that person's rudeness but we thank you for a great show.

Thanks for supporting your Fox Cities P.A.C., and as always, I welcome your comments.

The Two and Only - A Review

Once again I went to show at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center expecting one thing and getting something else completely. And what I got was definitely much better than what I was anticipating.

What I was expecting was more of a stand-up comic style of performance. Jay Johnson’s The Two and Only, however, is much more than that. It’s a Tony-award-winning show that Johnson is currently taking on tour across America. He and his “family” came to Appleton through the Boldt Arts Alive! Series and performed in the Kimberly-Clark Theater.

As usual, there wasn’t a bad seat in the house, and the smaller theater provided for a more intimate performance. It kinda made me feel like I was hanging out at Jay’s house… that the show was just happenstance, not something planned out. The show itself helped create that atmosphere as well. Johnson worked successfully to create an off-the-cuff, casual feel.

This show wasn’t a ventriloquist standing in the middle of the stage doing standup ala Jeff Dunham and Peanut (though they’re funny and entertaining in their own right). This show was so much more. The Two and Only is about the art of ventriloquism and its history, Jay Johnson and how he got started, the puppets and their history, and of course, making people laugh.

Throughout the performance, Johnson deftly maneuvers between giving history lessons on ventriloquism, to his personal life and his love for performing, to doing comedy routines with his “dummies.” Sometimes poignant and sad, other times laugh out loud funny, Johnson keeps the show moving with a delicate balance and seamless transitions.

As much as I enjoyed the history lesson (very compelling, really) and as interesting as his life stories were (Seriously? 917 shows in one summer at the age of 17??? That’s just crazy.), where Johnson excels is, of course, with his ventriloquism and the characters he creates. In this 95 minute show, Johnson brings out ten different characters:
  • Amigo, the Snake
  • Long John LaFeat, the disembodied head
  • Spaulding, the tennis ball with eyes
  • Nethernore, the vulture (or “Bird of Death!” as Nethernore reminds the audience repeatedly, though he doesn’t hunt or kill… he waits)
  • Jackie and Gaga, the imaginary friends on the telephone
  • Squeaky, Jay’s first “real” ventriloquist dummy
  • Bob, the dummy from Jay’s time on the sitcom “Soap”
  • Arthur Drew, the dry-erase board
  • Darwin the Jazz monkey (he’s a MONKEY! He tells MONKEY JOKES!)
Each has his/her own look, personality, and voice. And that Johnson can keep them all straight is quite impressive. Plus, three of them actually sing: Nethernore about waiting for people to die so he can eat, in a takeoff of “My Way”; Arthur Drew with “I Ain’t Got Nobody (he’s just a head), and a “very sad song” by Darwin the Jazz Monkey in his native tongue (lots of “Ooo-Ooo’s and Ah-Ah’s and other monkey noises… cuz he’s a MONKEY!).

The whole show was enjoyable, but my favorites were Darwin, Arthur, and Spaulding. Darwin because he was loud and obnoxious, and it was with his character where Johnson really seems to come alive and interacts with the audience. He’s also the character that is most animated. His habit of reminding people he’s a MONKEY! and that he does MONKEY JOKES! kept me chuckling. Arthur was cool because he’s essentially just a head and he sings “I Ain’t Got Nobody” (I never said my sense of humor was anything remotely close to high-brow). And Spaulding because there’s just something inherently funny about a tennis ball with eyes and a sad mouth… that talks.

The only negative I can bring up is that occasionally the voices of the characters seemed rushed, almost slurred together and a bit difficult to understand. This only happened a few times, and it was when the dialogue was moving very quickly. Nothing that took away from the performance really, but it did make me turn to my wife and whisper, “What did he say?” Had I not been asked to write a review of the show, I probably would have never even noticed those brief moments, much less given them a second thought.

Overall, the The Two and Only was an excellent show. It was fun and informative. If given the opportunity, I would definitely see it again. As with many comic performances, so many jokes happen so fast, you have a tendency to forget exactly what you were laughing at or why. But that’s not a bad thing. That just means there was a lot of material, and it was good.

The show made me laugh, it taught me about a subject I really knew nothing about, and it made me think back to the days when I was a kid and imagination, rather than technology, governed a child’s playtime. Nice work Jay.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Broadway Buzz - The Book of Mormon

Leading up to the Tony® Awards June 12, let’s take a closer look at the four nominees for Best Musical. The first nomination takes us to Africa on a mission with a performance that is currently drawing standing room only crowds.
This year’s recipient of the most Tony Award nominations is The Book of Mormon. The show received 14 nominations, just one shy of the record set by Billy Elliot the Musical in 2009. The musical is the story of two young Mormon men who travel to Uganda on their mission to spread the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Along with being nominated for Best Musical, creators Matt Parker and Trey Stone ("South Park") and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q) are also nominated for Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical.
In a recent interview with Jon Stewart from Comedy Central, Parker and Stone said The Book of Mormon was a project about seven years in the making. The interview covers when the “South Park” duo meet co-creator Robert Lopez, their childhood dreams of writing a musical and feedback they’ve received from the Mormon ticket holders.
Show stars Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad agree that once you get past the language the show is really a pro-faith story reflecting on religion in general. According to Rannells, “a lot of people were maybe initially mislead that it was going to be two hours of Mormon bashing but that’s certainly not the case at all.” Both Rannells and Gad are nominees for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical.
Say “Hello” to The Book of Mormon on Facebook for a free download of the show’s opening number!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Top Five Reasons to Become a Season Ticket Holder

It was a challenge to pick only five great reasons to become a Season Ticket Holder at the Fox Cities P.A.C., so if you have the ticket office on speed dial or you find yourself waiting in the queue for Center events, you'll want to pay close attention.   

Reason #5: Ensure your ticket! 
     We’ve all lost or forgotten a ticket, but Season Ticket Holders can request a day of show pass. 

     Reason #4: Flexibility! 
     Boldt Arts Alive! Season Tickets are custom designed by you! Select 4-5 shows for a traditional package or
     pick 6+ for additional savings. It’s easy when you pick 4 shows you know you’ll love and add just two more
     that pique your curiosity. 

     Reason #3: Early Notification!

     When shows like Yanni and The Captain’s Tour are added to the calendar, Season Ticket Holders are
     amongst the first people to know.

     Reason #2: Priority Seating! 
     Season Ticket Holders have priority access to the best seats in the house months before they go on sale to
     the public. With Broadway Season Tickets, you can even reserve the same great seats for all five shows.

     Reason #1: Best Seats + Best Prices = Season Tickets! 
Season Ticket Holders have the best seats at the best prices, months before tickets go on sale. No need
     to wait in lines, countdown to the on sale date or scramble to get tickets before the show. With a Season 
     Ticket Package, you are all set!

Whether you love the bright lights of Broadway or the charm of the Boldt Arts Alive! Series, you’ll have tickets to all of the shows you don’t want to miss with Season Tickets to the Fox Cities P.A.C. Find the package that's right for you at foxcitiespac.com!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Broadway Buzz: And The Nominations Are...

Yesterday’s Tony® Award Nominations officially kick-off the red carpet season, and Broadway is sure to be buzzing right up until June 12. Two of Broadway’s most recognizable faces, Matthew Broderick (The Odd Couple, The Producers) and Anika Noni Rose (Footloose, Caroline, Or Change), announced the nominees for the 65th Annual Tony Awards from the New York Public Library early yesterday morning. 

The Book of Mormon led the way with 14 nominations, including Best Musical, Best Direction and Best Original Score. The musical created by Matt Parker and Trey Stone (TV’s “South Park”) and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q) tells a story of two young Mormon men sent on their mission to Africa. It’s certainly raised more than one eyebrow on the Great White Way, but it has also captured a host of great reviews and continues to draw standing room only audiences, despite its unlikely subject for a Broadway musical.
The other nominees for Best Musical include Catch Me If You CanThe Scottsboro Boys and Sister Act, which were all nominated for multiple awards. Leading up to Broadway’s biggest night, you can find an in-depth look at each of these shows on the Broadway Buzz. Stay tuned!

Of course, Wisconsin’s eyes are on Lombardi, the only new fall play on Broadway to continue its run into the spring. It faced stiff competition among plays like War HorseThe Motherf**cker with the HatJerusalem andGood People, but Judith Light received a well-deserved nomination for her portrayal of a charismatic and complicated Mrs. Lombardi. It’s her first Tony nod, and her first reaction, captured by Broadwayworld.com, was to say she’s “beyond fabulous, just so excited and thrilled and still in shock!” 

Want to see the nominations for yourself? Visit TonyAwards.com for video of the event and a full list of this year’s nominees!