Saturday, March 31, 2012

Show and Tell Review: Cabaret with Karrin Allyson

Jazz aficionados and first-timers alike will fall in love with the liquid gold that is the fingers and voice of Karrin Allyson in Cabaret with Karrin Allyson at the Fox Cities P.A.C.

The cabaret, which became a master class in jazz music and ensemble work, was a fluid piece of live art itself. Allyson and her band mates selected songs from their collection and let the music guide them to moments of improvisation.

It is her range, in musical ability and emotional exposure in every note, that inspired this listener to sit up in her chair and lean just a little closer to the stage, as if knowing Allyson’s music was about to tell a secret.

Allyson and her band (Rod Fleeman on guitar, Larry Kohut on bass and Eric Montzka on drums) invite new listeners into the jazz world with classics from the Great American Songbook and the Great American Jazz Songbook including Paul Simon and Charlie Chaplin. It’s done in a way only brilliant musicians can – by surprising you in their interpretation and arrangement of a song you’ve known your whole life and are already in love with.

Allyson brings an intimacy to her performances that make you feel as if she is in your living room taking requests at your piano.

With a voice with many facets of warmth, rasp and smoothness, Allyson’s most impressive vocal moments of the evening came with her scat performances. Also a skilled musician was Rod Fleeman on guitar who knew how to accompany and highlight Allyson and stand out as a master musician simultaneously.

If you’re a jazz fan, Cabaret with Karrin Allyson at the Fox Cities P.A.C. is a can’t miss. If you’re a jazz novice and remotely interested in music, Karrin Allyson is the perfect artist to wet your feet in the art form. She’ll make you want to dive right into scatting along with her.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Broadway Buzz: Remember Laura from Little House on the Prairie The Musical?

Kara Lindsay photographed by Jenny Anderson for
At the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, we're always interested in Broadway's up and coming stars. 

If you follow, you might recognize actress Kara Lindsay as a familiar face. That's because she starred as Laura in Little House on the Prairie The Musical just a few years ago in the Fox Cities. 

Now, Kara's taking on a new leading role in the Broadway debut of Newsies!

Read more at!
Newsies Newcomer Kara Lindsay on the Musical's Fans,
Bill Pullman and Finding Love on the Prairie

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Show & Tell Review: STOMP

If I ever find the proverbial "genie in a bottle" my first wish, without hesitation, would be to have musical talent. I admire people that have that gift, I really admire them. Suffice it to say, I completely admire and was awed by the cast of STOMP. The performers in STOMP are among some of the most gifted musicians I've ever seen; it's a different talent that someone on "American Idol" or in the New York Philharmonic, but wow, these guys rock!

If you're not familiar with STOMP, the basis for the show is rhythm. There are eight performers in the cast, and they make some incredible sounds with everyday items, things you'd never associate with music. Who would have guessed that music can be created from items like brooms, match boxes, basketballs, folding chairs, newspapers or tractor tire tubes - to name just a few. The show also incorporates some dance and an incredibly funny comedy vibe. There are no lines or speaking parts in the show but the characters still have roles. The audience was constantly laughing as the actors carried out their "dialogue" using actions, props and very powerful facial expressions.

Having seen STOMP twice before, I knew what I was in for. I also knew my boys would love it. Friday just happened to be Ethan's tenth birthday, so our entire family headed to the Fox Cities P.A.C. for some family fun. I didn't prepare them for the show or tell them much about it at all; I wanted them to experience it for themselves. As the show began, there were many questions, things like, "Mom, why is that guy sweeping?," "Is he going to say something?," "What is he doing?," and "Was that supposed to happen?" To each question I replied, "Just watch and see." As the show went on their eyes grew wider and the smiles never left their faces. They were amazed by the sounds coming from the stage. I think both of them gained a new appreciation for what music is and for where it comes from.

One thing that becomes quickly apparent to anyone watching STOMP ... music comes from the heart. It flows from people that have the gift and manifests itself in some of the most beautiful and unique ways imaginable.

STOMP is a beautiful show filled with extremely talented musicians. I have a hard time imagining the individual that would not enjoy this performance. For my boys, this was there first professional performance. They both loved STOMP, and I guarantee with an experience like this under their belts they will be long-time lovers of theater and of music!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Show & Tell Review: STOMP

My first STOMP experience, nearly ten years ago with my then 4-year-old son, will forever hold a special place in my heart. It was a pivotal experience that I can pinpoint as a singular event which has forever changed the course and direction in my child’s life. Without a doubt, from that point on, STOMP was the cornerstone which cemented Max’s love and obsession with rhythm and percussion and all that makes noise and sound. 

Now almost fifteen and a devoted percussionist, he and I attended opening night of a three day engagement at the Fox Cities P.A.C. to watch the group who jump started my son’s percussive journey. I was curious to see if STOMP could still create the same magic for him today as it did so many years ago.

STOMP debuted on the U.K. stage in 1991. It was the culmination of a ten year collaborative effort between two street performer friends. Since then, STOMP has appeared in more than three dozen countries and has been one of the most financially successful off-Broadway shows in history.

The novelty of STOMP is its ability to reappoint everyday objects like brooms, matchboxes, folding chairs, tire tubes and paint cans as instruments to create rhythmic sounds. More importantly, they demonstrate rhythm can be created not only by “drumming,” but also in motions such as sweeping, opening and closing chairs, sliding objects and clicking lighters. It expands the concept of what can become music. It was a landmark experience for us then, and has remained so ever since.

Opening with their classic broom scene, STOMP shares another important experience with us, which is a recurring theme in their pieces. Music can be started or created by one, as in
this case of a single sweeper, but it can easily be expanded to include many, thus creating a community, each with their own variation and the ability to come back to a common whole. It shares with us the value of a group experience when creating and participating in music.

And yes, STOMP still holds as much magic for Max as a teen as it did when he was a toddler. He enjoyed the old and new pieces as much now as he did then, but viewed them in a new light with his ability to recognize identifiable percussion rhythms in them. I was reminded of what a thoroughly enjoyable performance STOMP is with its choreography, comedic elements, and unrelenting infectious rhythms. In fact, as we walked into the night, I’m quite certain a few more young percussion converts awaited as they drummed on thighs, doors and light poles, and I smiled for nostalgia of my own experience as well as the thought that STOMP once again may have very well forever changed the destiny of someone else in that crowd tonight.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Help STOMP Out Hunger in the Fox Cities

Join the fight to STOMP out hunger!

STOMP is returning to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center March 23-25 and will offer a $10 discount on tickets to anyone who brings a canned food item to Festival Foods' Northland Avenue and Darboy locations to help STOMP Out Hunger. All canned goods will be donated to St. Joe's Food Program

Festival Foods will accept food donations from Saturday, March 17 through Saturday, March 24 and will provide participants with a discount voucher, while supplies last. The STOMP Out Hunger vouchers may be redeemed at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center's ticket office. The offer applies to the 9:00 p.m. performance on Saturday, March 24 and the 7:00 p.m. performance on Sunday, March 25, while supplies last. Price/seating level restrictions may apply, and this offer is not valid on previously purchased tickets. (8 ticket limit)

For more information, visit today!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Broadway Buzz: Spring 2012 on Broadway

The Fox Cities P.A.C. will be announcing their 2012/13 10th Anniversary Season next week Wednesday. This spring, Broadway has an exciting mix of new familiar titles. Hopefully these shows will launch (or relaunch) tours, and we’ll be announcing their plans to come to Appleton in the next couple years!

Opening: March 18, 2012
Once, a new musical based on the 2006 independent film, is about an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant that are joined by their love for music. Indie favorites Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová already have an Academy Award® for “Falling Slowly.” Think they can grab a Tony® too? Listen to the full cast album at

Opening: March 22
A classic Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice favorite is opening on Broadway this March. Is “What’s the Buzz?” already stuck in your head? Keep up to date with show on the Jesus Christ Superstar facebook page!
Jesus Christ Superstar

Opening: March 29
Based on the 1992 Disney film, Newsies is a new musical about a newsboys strike in New York. The show is backed by an all-star creative team consisting of Alan Menken (music), Jack Feldman (lyrics) and Harvey Fierstein (book).

Opening: April 1
Very appropriate for an election year, The Best Man is about two men’s race for the presidency. Tony Award® winning actors James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury lead an amazing cast including John Larroquette, Candice Bergen, Eric McCormack, Kerry Butler, Jefferson Mays and Michael McKean.

Opening: April 2
Based on the drama that started in London’s West End, End of the Rainbow shares the final months of Judy Garland’s legendary life. The show includes favorites like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “The Trolley Song.” If I was going to pick one to see this spring, this would be it. For now I’ll break out my copies of “Wizard of Oz” and “Meet Me in St. Louis” and wait patiently for news if it will tour.

Opening: April 5
The stars are bright on Broadway with Ricky Martin, Elena Rogers and Michael Ceveris starring in the revival of Evita. Another Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Evita is the story of first lady Eva Peron and her rise from the slums of Argentina.


Opening: April 23
Based off the 1990 film, Ghost The Musical debuts this spring. The love story between Sam and Molly is anything but traditional, as Sam is a ghost trapped between two worlds trying to save Molly from danger. Even though the story may be familiar, the show will include original songs to help bring the story a new life onstage.

Ghost The Musical

Also opening this spring

Opening: February 29
Opening: March 15
Opening: February 16
Opening: April 11

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Show & Tell Review: Mary Poppins

Wow. I am not a musical kind of guy, but this show was absolutely amazing.

My 10-year-old son Nolan and I were lucky enough to have seen Mary Poppins last night at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center as part of the Show & Tell Kid's Review, and all I can say is "wow."

If you can, go get tickets NOW to see this show. Go ahead. We'll wait for you. Go. Now.

Back? Okay, then on with the review…

I have been to numerous shows at the Fox Cities P.A.C., but I have never witnessed such a buzz around a show. I'm not talking about media buzz or what critics might be saying. I'm talking about the energy from the crowd. From the minute we entered the lobby, you could feel it. There was an excitement in the air that I have never noticed at a show before.

“There are a million more people here than I was expecting,” Nolan said as we walked through the lobby. “I have a feeling this is going to be great!”

The “buzz” continued through the entire show. I have heard people "hoot," "whoohoo," and whistle before while applauding, but never like last night. There was an overwhelming sense of appreciation and frivolity after every number. The audience clapping in rhythm during the big "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" number (which by the way, was awesome in the truest sense of the word) was a further testament. The cast goes into another chorus of the song at the end of the show and the audience actually sang along. It was refreshingly fun. And crazy. And… well, wow.

“The 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' dance and song was one of my favorites,” said Nolan. “It was super colorful. And the dance moves they did were cool.”

All the iconic images from Disney's story were there - "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (you try spelling that one!), a flying Mary Poppins, "A Spoonful of Sugar," "Chim Chim Cher-ee," the chimney sweeper dance scene, and more. Having never seen the classic movie, I was amazed at how familiar so much of the music and scenes were to me. Both myself and Nolan woke up in the morning humming songs from the show.

I did not mind the music at all. Nolan however, felt there were a lot of songs. "They could have used fewer songs, I think. When they were telling the story by singing it was sometimes confusing and hard to follow.”

The performances across the board were great. Rachel Wallace as Mary Poppins brought the character to life with the perfect bit of magic and an amazing voice. I was also very impressed with Cherish Meyers who played Jane Banks, the daughter of George and Winifred. To be so young and have such stage presence and vocal skills is really quite impressive. According to Nolan, “The whole cast was super talented. Especially the guy who tap-danced on the ceiling. What if those cables snapped?”

Having arrived twenty minutes or so before show time, Nolan and I decided to check out the orchestra pit. It was an opportunity to explain how musicals are done, where the conductor stood, and the instruments that are used. “It was really cool to see all those instruments," said Nolan. “But when the music started, it seemed like there were a million more people playing instruments than just the few down there. And when they did play it sounded like they were sitting right next to you. It didn’t sound like they were in the pit. They played nice and loud.”

Mary Poppins was excellent in all facets, but there were a few things that stood out. The "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" number was fantastic. The stage came alive with dancers and singers, and the colors were truly amazing. The chimney sweeper dance scene was equally impressive and displayed an ingeniously entertaining use of cables to perform a bit of ceiling/wall dancing magic.

Speaking of magic… another neat aspect of the show was how it presented the use of Mary Poppins' magic. Small spinning lights (reminded me of a disco ball reflection) were projected onto the area where the magic was being used. Sometimes it was something specific - like the cuckoo clock - and other times the lights enveloped the entire stage. A rather simple idea, but quite effective nonetheless. Little bits of magic to look for include Mary Poppins' slide up the staircase railing, the creation of an entire bed out of a small blanket, and the removal of a six foot tall coat rack from Mary Poppins' small travel bag. Nolan also like the travel bag magic. “It was cool to see Mary Poppins pull all those big things out of her suitcase. How’d they do that?”

Aside from signifying magic, lighting was also used to set the mood and intent of characters. Without a doubt, every time Mary Poppins steps foot on the stage, everything brightens. Colors become more vibrant and the entire stage lights up. But when the evil Mrs. Andrew arrives and starts doling out her "Brimstone And Treacle," green and yellow fill the sets to reinforce the sickening feeling her presence and "medicine" brings about. And the scenes without Mary Poppins’ were often bathed in a dull, dim light, emphasizing how unfun and unmagical things were.

I could go on about the vibrant costumes or Case Dillard’s performance as Bert or the set design, but I think I have heaped praise enough on Mary Poppins. I can only say it was enjoyable and fun in so many different ways. Instead, I’ll let Nolan finish things out…

“I really loved the first act. It was very, very colorful. The scenery and costumes were colorful too, and creative. The statues were kind of freaky though. Statues aren’t supposed to move! When they first started moving, it really freaked me out. But they were cool. The old banker guys in the second act were pretty funny. Their reactions to Mr. Banks really made me laugh.

“Some of my favorite scenes were the kite song ["Let’s Go Fly A Kite"] and the scene before they sang "A Spoonful of Sugar" when everything breaks and explodes. I really liked the part where the guy walked on the walls. That was neat.

“If an adult asked me what I thought about the play, I’d say, ‘It was a good play. You should go see it if you can. Especially if you’re an artist. An artist would probably be inspired by all the colors.’”

Nolan’s response when I asked him to sum up the play in one word: “Amazing.” Personally, I’d go with “Wow.”

Show & Tell Review: Mary Poppins “Practically Perfect in Every Way”

The second of my assignments this year as one of the Show & Tell reviewers was opening night of Mary Poppins at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on March 6, 2012. I’ve been a major fan of the remarkable nanny since I was introduced to her long ago in my childhood, and read (and reread) the books avidly as they appeared – often running through the entire set again in the long winters of Wisconsin. So I was absolutely delighted when that assignment came my way, and the actual experience definitely didn’t disappoint.

Snippets of the well-loved songs keep running through my head as I write this. Rachel Wallace brought the magical nanny to life brilliantly, and winningly. Her voice is spectacular, and mannerisms perfect for the precise but loving nanny. Case Dillard is a perfect Bert, whether as a sweep or in one of his other “identities” that we got to experience, and the dance number where he goes up the wall was spectacular!

A few other performers merit special mention too – Tonya Thompson as Mrs. Curry (a character I actually didn’t remember) brought the stage to life with brilliant colors and amazing settings. Q Smith eloquently brought the Bird Woman and the not-nice nanny, Miss Andrew, to life. I was actually startled to see her name listed as both of those characters, one extremely appealing, and the other not!

The sets were amazing. I especially liked the gigantic rendering of Mary Poppins’ parrot-head umbrella under which the action took place for quite a period of time. Very cool! My companion for the evening kept mentioning the brilliance of the flowers and the settings in general too!

As to the music, all of the very familiar (and very singable) songs were present, along with several new songs. "Practically Perfect," "Being Mrs. Banks," and "Brimstone And Treacle" especially come to mind.

And then there is the statue Adonis who comes to life, played by Ian Campayno. I can still imagine the expressions on the kids’ faces when they see him cavorting around the park.

The only teensy complaint that we had was hearing Jane and Michael, who spoke very fast and not too loudly. But in the overall spectrum of things, that is only a tiny fault. Overall the evening more than lived up to my high expectations, and I would give the performances a hearty thumbs up!

Makes me want to go back and reread the books all over again!