Monday, April 30, 2012

Blue Man for Every Man (and Woman)

The Blue Man is every man. That’s what the Blue Man Group’s creative team says is the secret to their success and one of the main elements that makes the show so universally popular. Puck Quinn, creative director of character development and appearances, says, “The show deals with topics and issues that are common to every culture: communication, sensory overload, beating music and heavy rhythm, dancing… We have things that we want to say.” But Quinn quickly adds, “But we don’t care if you don’t want to hear it. We just want everyone to have fun.”

Blue Man Group’s run at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton October 9-14 will feature some of the most famous Blue Man elements, but for the 17 million people who have seen Blue Man Group worldwide, there’s plenty of new material on this first theatrical tour. Phil Stanton, co-founder of Blue Man with Goldman and Chris Wink says, “Some pieces have evolved a lot more for the tour,” and he adds that technology has a big role to play in the new production.

It has been said that no one knows how to make an inspired mess like Blue Man Group, and if you’re in the first few rows, be prepared to don a poncho. “It’s all about connection,” according to Goldman, and sometimes, that means with paint. “We believe that we’re all creative beings, and creativity can look a lot of different ways.” 

Would you like to see Blue Man Group? Like the Fox Cities P.A.C.’s Facebook page and check back after 11 a.m. for the Broadway-A-Day Sweepstakes and your chance to win!

Don’t Leave Your Tickets to Chance!
Secure your seats for Blue Man Group and four other Broadway shows today with Kimberly-Clark Broadway Across America – Fox Cities Season Tickets. For details, visit!

Q&A with Mark Lewis, Founder of RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles

Mark Lewis (Founder, Manager, Original Keyboardist) As the managerial and creative mind that transformed Rain from a 1970s southern California bar band doing Beatles covers into an ultra-professional group, Mark Lewis recruited the excellent musicians who would gel into Rain's long-standing line-up. He traces his love of the Fab Four to the Sunday night of February 9, 1964 when his generation was smitten by The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Originally called Reign, the band gained national fame, changed its name to Rain and cut the soundtrack to the made-for-TV movie “Birth of the Beatles,” thanks to Dick Clark. An accomplished pianist at 13, having studied since age 5, he began his career playing the Farfisa organ in teenage rock bands around his native Los Angeles. It was Mark, the original keyboard player with Rain, who worked out all of the musical parts and sounds that enabled Rain to bring many songs that The Beatles themselves never performed live, to life. 

Describe your reaction when you first saw The Beatles perform?
The first time I saw the Beatles perform was on their first performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show." I was actually watching "Walt Disney" on the living room TV when my mom came in and said I should tune into Ed Sullivan. I was taking piano lessons at the time, and I figured my mom was trying to get me to watch Liberace or something as inspiration to get me to practice more. Even though I was only 12 years old at the time I was very much into music, and I used to collect records (45’s) and listen to music all the time. I remember watching the performance, and being totally blown away. I went out and bought the "Meet The Beatles" album the next day. It was rare that I came up with enough money to actually buy an entire album. I remember being amazed at everything about the Beatles. Their look, the way they talked, and especially their sound. Upon closer examination of the album, I realized that they wrote their own music, played their own instruments, and they all sang. The girls in the audience were going nuts for them. I remember thinking, "that seems like a good job."

RAIN has been performing together longer than The Beatles did. How did RAIN first come together and how has the show evolved over the years? 
Rain, originally spelled “Reign,” was formed with the intention of becoming an original recording act. We played Beatles music for fun, and never thought of it as a tribute act. In fact, at the time, in the mid-1970s, there was no such thing as a tribute band. Like thousands of other bands, Reign wanted to write their own songs, and put out hit records, but in the meantime we needed to make a living, so we used to play in bars, and do Top 40 dance music. This was in the middle of the disco era, I might add.

I met two of the guys when they joined a Top 40 band that I was in that used to play around the L.A./Orange County area. We went on the road together, played each other some of our original music and became friends. When we got off the road we decided to form an original band, but in the meantime we decided that if we were going to play other people’s music it would be music that we really loved, eg. The Beatles, and we found that we had a special talent at really duplicating the sound. I was really amazed how well these guys could sound like the Beatles vocally. We were approached by a booking agent that was looking for an act that could sound like the Beatles to follow up a successful Elvis imitator that he managed. He met us. Next thing you know we were playing at various nightclubs on off nights (Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday) for no guarantee, but if anyone showed up we could keep whatever money came in the door. Well guess what, when it was promoted right, people showed up, and we made some money and played music we loved. I figured this was a cool way to make some money for a few months. Here I am 35 years later. The original guys in Reign, which became Rain, eventually quit the band in order to go off and to do their original music, and never were to be heard from again. I kept Rain going. Eventually met up with guys that are currently in Rain, and who happened to be really great musicians, and had a true love for The Beatles, and here we are touring the world, and starring on Broadway. Well that's the Cliffs Notes version anyway.

How do you think The Beatles influenced popular music?
The Beatles influenced popular music on every level one can imagine. They made it cool to play your own instruments and sing. They wrote great songs with great lyrics. They all sang, and sang great. They looked different. They talked different. They said things that meant something in their lyrics. They always put out albums that sounded different from the preceding albums. They experimented with sounds, and different styles of music. They had multiple songwriters. You can go on and on with how they influenced popular music. Basically, you can say that The Beatles did things, then everybody else copied them.

Do you hear influence of classical music in The Beatles' music?
One can hear the influence of many styles of music in Beatles music, including classical music. I consider the Beatles to be the classical music of our day. Just like traditional classical music, I believe the music of The Beatles will last forever, and there will be bands doing what Rain is doing today a hundred years from now. That's how 'classical music' becomes a 'classic'.

When did you first start playing music?
I started piano lessons at five years old. My mom played piano, my father sang, my older sister took piano lessons from my aunt, who was a piano teacher. So I started at a very early age.

If you could collaborate with any musician who would it be?
Unquestionably, Paul McCartney. If for no other reason, just to meet the guy. However, I don't think he'd need to collaborate with me.

What was the best concert you ever attended (besides The Beatles)?
Jimi Hendrix at the Hollywood Bowl.

Other than Beatles tunes, what music is on your iPod?
I actually have very diversified taste. You'll find a little of everything on my iPod. Besides Beatles you'll find classical music including Beethoven, Gershwin, a lot of Elton John, Steely Dan, John Coltrane, Led Zeppelin, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Greenday, Yes, and Genesis. The thing about being a Beatles fan is that The Beatles covered a lot of different styles of music in their short history. “She Loves You, “A Hard Day's Night,” “Sgt. Pepper,” “Helter Skelter,” “Yesterday,” “Strawberry Fields,” “In My Life,” “Let It Be,” “Something,” –  you can go on and on. To love The Beatles is to love many styles of music. Because they did it all.

RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles will be playing May 18-19 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center for three performances only. For more information, visit

Credit: Interview provided by RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Show & Tell Review: West Side Story

Yesterday I had three worries: I would be confused by the Spanish dialogue and lyrics, I would be distracted with my own preconceptions from the movie, and I would be disappointed with the execution of Jerome Robbins’ fantastic choreography, also danced by prestigious ballet companies from Paris to New York.  Today I have one worry: the cast of West Side Story will be in Newark, NJ before I manage to see the show again. 

Initially produced through collaboration by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Jerome Robbins in 1957, West Side Story ran on Broadway for over 700 performances before touring the nation. The show was reintroduced on Broadway in 1980 and again in 2009, and although the production maintained the choreography, lighting, and design from the premiere, the language was tweaked to include Spanish. The final version traversing America today smoothly blends the more modern and culturally accurate dual languages with Jerome Robbins’ original choreography and Shakespeare’s iconic lovers’ tragedy: Romeo and Juliet.

Matthew Hydzik and Evy Ortiz, who play Tony and Maria respectively, effortlessly embodied these emotionally charged roles and beautifully performed the numerous songs that are so important to the success of the production.  Michelle Aravena radiated a perfectly cheeky wit as Anita and danced throughout the show with an equally impressionable spark. All of the classic songs from “I Feel Pretty” to “Tonight,” “America,” and “Jet Song” were presented without a hint of tiredness or cliché, providing a fresh performance for even those who have inadvertently memorized the show. The mischievous self-analysis by the Jets in “Gee, Officer Krupke” is purely hilarious and was one of my favorite numbers. Action, played by John Drake, leads the gang through euphemistically peppered possibilities of their non-traditional upbringings, and indulges the audience in a much-appreciated comedic break from the emotionally intense second act. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the soft images and lyrical dancing of “Somewhere” showcased the balletic background of many of the cast members, not to mention the power of Jerome Robbins’ incredible choreography. Set against an unadulterated white backdrop, the artistry of the voices and dancing controlled the stage sans messy mechanized machinery or elaborate distractions.
I loved the show, and as I already insinuated, all three of my worries were quickly quelled. While any and all Spanish beyond a simple “sí” seems esoteric to my decidedly non-Latin ears, the foreign dialogue and lyrics infused in the show added authenticity to the cultural struggle and didn’t detract from the storyline comprehension at all. Deliberate and well-timed mispronunciation of Spanish phrases by Tony and the Jets even provided a humorous aspect to the social division. 
My second fear of the evening, while technically obsolete as the stage version was made prior to the film adaption, was also eradicated after the first few scenes. As Maria twirled her way into “Dance at the Gym”, the image created by the lighting, costuming, set, and choreography eerily mimicked the slightly psychedelic graphic effect from the move. A minor detail, yes, but certainly worth commending in a world where each light and sound effect is agonized over and analyzed thoroughly. 
My final and most pressing fear was also entirely reversed from the very first scene. The Jets and Sharks established their territory and physical prowess with a balance of grace and athleticism only danced by those with classical training, and set a precedent for the energy and power of the rest of the show. Backed by the West Side Story Orchestra, the entire cast fulfilled Jerome Robbins’ timeless choreography and ameliorated all lingering worries from my mind. The orchestra, conducted by John O’Neil and composed of touring musicians as well as local musicians, was splendid, and contributed to the humor, drama, and tension of the show without ever uttering a single syllable.
The show is, in a word, spectacular. So take Riff’s advice, “play it cool,” and buy your gang a ticket. 

Show & Tell Review: West Side Story

Transport the classic romance and tragedy of Romeo and Juliet to 1950s New York amidst the rag-tag gangs who clashed over rights to their territory, and you find West Side Story. The association is purposeful, the original creators intended for their story to emulate Shakespeare’s beloved classic.
Last night, West Side Story made its way to the Fox Cities P.A.C. and was warmly welcomed by an eager audience. The cast was superb, the costumes and set were first-class, and the music was outstanding. The Fox Cities was privileged to be presented with an updated version of the classic musical, revived onstage in 2009. This adaptation was Arthur Laurents’ (the author of the book for the original 1957 production) attempt at making the story more modern and authentic. To do so, choreography was slightly modified and more of the script has been translated into Spanish.
The story’s tension was felt as soon as the curtain rose. The story of two conflicting gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, whose rivalry was born not just from wanting control of the same streets, but from the ignorance and racism between Puerto Ricans and Americans in New York at that time, was portrayed swiftly and effectively. The Center’s audience was immediately pulled into the clash and responded with a full range of emotions as well as enthusiastic applause.
Leonard Bernstein's and Stephen Sondheim’s original score is an absolute masterpiece.

When it was first being produced Bernstein was told that West Side Story was an impossible project, that no one would be able to sing the complicated rhythms and wide ranging songs. Not only has that supposition been disproved time and again over the decades, but last night in the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center the current cast of West Side Story demonstrated just how wrong those nay-sayers were. The difficult songs were played and sung masterfully, making it appear to an unsuspecting audience as if this musical’s score were easy and not the truth behind it: that they were performing musical acrobatics.
Tony and Maria, West Side Story’s Romeo and Juliet, portrayed their love story beautifully. During the scene depicting Tony (played by Matthew Hydzik) and Maria’s (played by Evy Ortiz) first meeting, the audience was spellbound, completely drawn into the young couple’s ignited love. As they sang the duet “Tonight” on Maria’s balcony, their immediate and consuming love for each other was practically palpable. Later in the show, when the two were reunited after the Jets and Sharks ill-fated rumble, a spell-binding ballet accompanied their beautiful exchange of “Somewhere”.
Other characters drew strong reactions from the audience as well. Officer Krupke and Lieutenant Schrank (Wally Dunn and Mike Boland) played their judgmental, bigoted parts so well; the audience hated them just as much as the Jets did. Anita (played by Michelle Aravena) on the other hand, pulled on viewer’s hearts as she displayed raw and real emotions when her character was pulled between love for Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks, and a more level-headed understanding of love and life than her cohorts. Anita kept many laughing and crying right along with her through her passionate dialogue and songs telling the tumultuous tale.
Every piece of West Side Story’s presentation enhanced their telling of the romance of Tony and Maria, fixed within the drama between the Jets and the Sharks. The sets effectively created the mood of each scene. The music, both performed to and as background, drew watchers into the emotion of every character. The choreography, most of it unchanged from the original production, was masterful and exact and successfully depicted the abundance of action.
**Spoiler Alert!**
As the musical reached its climax, you could almost feel the audience collectively holding their breath. When Tony sought out Bernardo’s assistant, Chino, in the streets, believing his beloved Maria to be dead, his passionate screams were heart-wrenching. A momentary sigh of relief was felt as Tony spotted Maria, and realized her being shot by Chino was all a lie. And as they ran to each other, the audience gasped as one being when Chino fired his gun, killing Tony in cold blood.

When the musical quickly came to its close on the final scene last night, it was as if the viewers were afraid to move from their seats. The beautiful love story of Tony and Maria, surrounded by tension, and ending in heartache for so many, seemed almost more than they could bear. If you love to be drawn into a story heart and soul, if you don’t mind your laughter being followed by tears; you will love West Side Story.

Parental Note:
Parents should be forewarned that, if this musical were a movie, it would have a PG-13 rating, due to suggestive lyrics, crude gestures, sensuality, and racist slurs. It is much more risqué and provocative than the film version.

Friday, April 20, 2012

West Side Story: The Making of a Classic

It was September 26, 1957, and something great was coming that evening: a Broadway musical unlike any that had come before. “I thought West Side Story was going to be a flop,” says Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book of the new show. “I thought maybe it would run for three months. I didn’t care. It was so not what a musical should be."

That was evident to audiences from the outset. West Side Story opened not with a song, not with a book scene, but with a thrilling danced “Prologue.” But this was not dance for dancing’s sake, not a lavish, showy production number designed to get the audience into an upbeat mood. The number featured two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, conveying their hatred toward one another through movement.
The “Prologue” remains one of the most impressive, expressive starts to any musical. But it is probably impossible for modern audiences to understand just how startling and original that number, like the rest of West Side Story, was 50-plus years ago. For generations that have grown up on Company, Follies, A Chorus Line, Sweeney Todd, Dreamgirls, Rent, and Movin’ Out, there is nothing particularly surprising about a musical that tells much of its story through dance; a musical that integrates song, dance, drama and design into a seamless, cohesive whole; a musical without a conventional chorus; a musical in which two of the leading characters lie dead onstage at the end of the first act; a musical without an upbeat ending. But these were bold, revolutionary choices by Laurents, director/choreographer Jerome Robbins, composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, when West Side Story premiered.

“Steve and I have always differed about what’s special about West Side Story,” says Laurents. “He says it’s the style. I think what’s different is it’s the first musical that showed anything can be a musical. We have death, we have murder, we have attempted rape, we have bigotry. None of that was in musicals. But they’re in this musical because that’s what the story is.”

Actually, both Sondheim and Laurents are correct: the show was different in both style and content. Together with Bernstein and Robbins, they pushed the boundaries of the Broadway musical, and in so doing, redefined an art form. The current production, directed and reconsidered by Laurents, provides audiences with an opportunity to discover – or rediscover – what all the excitement was about.
The seeds for West Side Story were sown in 1949 when Robbins became intrigued with the notion of updating and musicalizing Romeo and Juliet. He contacted Bernstein and Laurents, and told them of his idea for a show about a pair of star-crossed lovers doomed by the enmity between their people. The girl was to be Jewish, the boy Catholic, and the setting would be the East Side of Manhattan during Easter and Passover. Bernstein often said that the idea intrigued him; Laurents has long said that the idea did not interest him because it reminded him of Abie’s Irish Rose, a popular 1922 light comedy with a similar interfaith theme. 
Several years later, Bernstein and Laurents ran into each other at the pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel, when they noticed a newspaper headline about Los Angeles gang fights between Mexicans and what Bernstein referred to as “self-styled” Americans. Similar hostilities were being played out on the streets of New York, including the West Side of Manhattan. It occurred to them that the clash of cultures between Puerto Ricans and “white” boys would provide more substantial subject matter for a modern-day Romeo and Juliet musical than Robbins’ earlier idea. When they contacted Robbins, he eagerly agreed.
Bernstein had originally intended to write the lyrics himself, but he soon realized that it wasn’t feasible. The artistic team then contacted Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who were out in Hollywood working on a movie musical and unavailable. Sondheim, who had yet to break through on Broadway, was the next choice, but he didn’t want the job. He was trying to establish himself as a composer, and was fearful of being pigeonholed solely as a lyricist if he took West Side Story. But Oscar Hammerstein II, his mentor, convinced the reluctant Sondheim that working with three distinguished talents would be an invaluable experience.
Laurents was already a successful playwright and screenwriter, but this was his first time working on a musical. “When I was a kid, there was a stock company near where we lived in Brooklyn and my cousins and I would go on Saturday afternoons,” he says. “I remember seeing No, No, Nanette, and I thought it was so exciting. I’ve always had a love for musicals, and I wanted to do one.”
The book he wrote is among the shortest – if not the shortest – ever written for Broadway. “I wrote for radio, and when you write for radio, you really learn economy,” he says. In West Side Story, the narrative is conveyed mostly through music and movement. But Laurents’ prose is the glue that holds all the elements together and the springboard for the poetry of Robbins, Bernstein, and Sondheim.
 Given the harrowing nature of the show, its bleak depiction of urban life, it is not surprising that West Side Story was deemed a huge commercial risk. Numerous producers spurned the project until Cheryl Crawford and Roger L. Stevens got behind it. Six weeks before rehearsals were to begin, Crawford organized a backers audition to raise money for the show. “It was at an apartment on the East Side,” says Laurents. “There was no air conditioning, and you could hear the tugboats. She didn’t raise one penny.” A few days later, she pulled out. “Except for Roger, everybody thought the show was terrible. In fact, Roger had a great friend who owned a Broadway theater. And he said, ‘I’m not giving that theater to any opera.’”  In the end, Harold Prince, who had originally turned down the show, took on the project along with his partner, Robert E. Griffith, in arrangement with Stevens.
Rehearsals of West Side Story were invigorating, inspiring, and emotionally draining. Robbins was known as a perfectionist and a taskmaster, and he goaded, cajoled and browbeat the cast until he got what he was after. He wanted the actors to look like real people dancing, as opposed to dancers playing real people. He strove for a sense of naturalism, not only in the acting but in the choreography.
West Side Story was the first musical propelled by dance, by choreography that moved the plot forward and conveyed emotions that the Jets and Sharks were incapable of verbalizing. It was the first show in which every member of the chorus had a name and a clearly defined character, the first musical in which every chorus person was an individual. Robbins saw to it that each actor created a history for his or her character. He also gave the cast a great deal of material to work with. Part of the show’s authenticity stemmed from the fact that he spent time observing gang members in Spanish Harlem and Greenwich Village. He befriended some of the captains of the gangs, and some social workers. He read anything he could find about gang warfare, and posted articles on the subject all over the walls of the rehearsal studio, so that the cast would better understand what these groups were fighting about. Robbins also insisted that the actors playing the Jets and the Sharks be kept apart during rehearsals. He got the results he was after: members within a “gang” bonded with each other, and became somewhat alienated from the actors in the rival gang. Those feelings helped fuel their performances.
Robbins created a dance language unique to the show: much of the choreography is based more on street movement than on familiar dance steps, and there was a reason or emotion behind every movement, every gesture. And Laurents invented words and phrases for the gangs as a way of indicating their inarticulateness and as a substitute for four-letter words, which simply weren’t spoken onstage back then. “I don’t even think the audience is aware of it,” he says. 
The premiere of West Side Story was generally well-received, although some critics respected the show more than they enjoyed it. The original production ran for 21 months, went out on tour, then returned to Broadway for an additional seven and a half months; in all, a decent, unexceptional run. But the show has had a remarkable afterlife. The 1961 movie – which Laurents dislikes – was a critical and commercial success, the recipient of 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film also brought widespread popularity to the score: the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack was No. 1 on Billboard’s album charts for an astonishing 54 weeks.
Over the years, the show has taken on legendary status, as it has influenced generations of choreographers, directors, composers, and lyricists to dare to be different. That was a byproduct, not the intention, of Laurents, Bernstein, Sondheim and Robbins. “If you’re going to tell a story with any degree of truth, you’ve got to go where the story takes you,” says Laurents. “And this is where the story took us. We weren’t thinking about changing anything. We just wanted to be good.”

West Side Story will be playing April 24-29 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in downtown Appleton. Tickets are on sale now at

© 2010 West Side Story National Tour.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A “Suite” Deal at the Fox Cities P.A.C.

Prior to any given performance, there’s a private party going on at the Fox Cities P.A.C. where up to 12 guests are enjoying an all-inclusive theater experience. The Entrance 21 Luxury Suite rolls out the red carpet (literally) with private valet, gourmet refreshments and deluxe suite amenities, it’s like the Center’s very own “skybox” for the performing arts.
With only a handful of performances left in the 2011/12 Season, get a “suite” deal on the Entrance 21 Luxury Suite. Save 10% on packages for RAIN: A Tribute to The Beatles on May 18-19 and Billy Elliot the Musical June 19-24.

For availability, pricing and to find out more about this “suite” deal, please call (920) 730-3782 or email

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Broadway Buzz: New Shows Springing up on Broadway

The Fox Cities P.A.C. has been a buzz with news of the recently announced 2012/13 Season the past couple of weeks, and Broadway is a buzz with their new shows too. There are more great shows opening this month!

Opened: April 15
Ever wonder how Peter Pan became the boy who never grew up? Here’s your chance. Peter and the Starcatcher retells the story of a young orphan that ultimately becomes Peter Pan. Ever wish you didn’t have to grow up? Try your hand at being a starcatcher like Peter with a fun game.

Opening: April 18
Arriving on Broadway this spring straight from a sold-out run in London, One Man, Two Guvnors is a new comedy about Henshall, a man who agrees to work for a local gangster and a criminal in hiding. Henshall has to keep their crimes straight and make sure the “two guvnors” never meet. The show’s website describes the show as having “falling trousers, flying fish heads, star-crossed lovers, cross-dressing mobsters and a fabulous on-stage band” – sounds like a jam-packed show!

Opening: April 19
Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and London’s Olivier Award for Best Play, Clybourne Park tackles race relations in a neighborhood as two different families move into the same house 50 years apart. Click here to watch the house being built on the Broadway stage.

Opening: April 24
Nice Work If You Can Get It is a new musical based in the roaring 1920s with old musical favorites from George and Ira Gershwin. Starring Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara, I think this one is sure to be a hit. Can’t wait? Go behind the scenes with for a sneak peek

Opening: April 26
Raul Esparza stars as Jonas Nightingale, a performer and con-man who falls in love with a small-town girl. Leap of Faith features music by eight-time Oscar®-winning composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater. You can listen to a preview of the title song and “Step into the Light” before it even opens on Broadway. 

Also opening this April

Opening: April 22

Opening: April 23

Opening: April 25

Opening: April 26

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Show & Tell: The Flying Karamazov Brothers

Mix a little vaudeville with some Gershwin, Marx Brothers antics, circus acts, and stand-up routine, and what do you get? 

The Flying Karamazov Brothers. Dmitri, Alexei, Pavel and Zissima. In real life, they're known as Paul Magid, Mark Ettinger, Rod Kimball and Stephen Bent. 

Having never seen - or heard of - The Flying Karamazov Brothers (nope, I didn't even see their cameo on "Seinfeld"), I had no idea what to expect from their performance at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. I knew they juggled, and that was about it. But, when they started their show with introductions, and then told the audience to stand up and, "Everybody turn around and shake the hand of the person behind you," I knew it was going to be right up my alley. (Note: If everybody turns around to shake the hand of the person behind them, nobody can actually shake hands. It still makes me chuckle.) 

After that I settled in and spent the next hour and a half laughing and turning to my wife to say, "How do they do that?" 

The show is constructed of numerous "scenes" loosely held together by the presenting of the "9 Objects of Terror" that would be juggled as the finale. (Included, among other completely unrelated items, were a meat cleaver, a flaming torch, and a fish.) Emphasized throughout the show was also the connection juggling has with music. Everything from classical piano pieces and ukulele serenades to Lady Ga Ga on the tuba were used during the show. There were also many "scenes" that reminded me of something you would have seen at Stomp!, where the Brothers made percussion "music" using bouncy balls or the bowling pins they were juggling. Many times I found myself tapping my feet along. 

Despite the fact that the show centered around juggling (not what one would necessarily consider a popular or "it" art form), The Flying Karamazov Brothers kept things relevant, up to date, and even local. Throughout the show audience members were encouraged to participate. And at one point, the audience got to bring up items to the stage for Dmitri to juggle. As voted/decided on by applause, the objects ended up being: a pound of butter, a wet bar of soap, and a violin. Dmitri was able to juggle them for 10 seconds. Pretty impressive. 

Along the way, there were drops and small gaffs, but the Brothers worked them into the show. In fact, there were times where it seemed they were intentionally trying to mess with each other with a slightly faster or exceptionally high toss. They even went so far as to explain how, when juggling as a group, they deal with a dropped bowling pin.

Ultimately, the show was a blast. The Flying Karamazov Brothers' goofy, "groan before you start laughing" humor paired nicely with their amazing juggling talent to make a fun, and visually stunning, show. The next time they come back to the Fox Cities P.A.C., I will definitely go see them. And I'll be sure to bring my kids with too.

Show & Tell Review: The Flying Karamazov Brothers

The Flying Karamazov Brothers have been around for over 30 years, and yet I have never seen them perform. It’s not to say I haven’t wanted to see them; it just never worked out. I’m positively fascinated by juggling because it’s one of those things I have always wanted to be able to do, but never have been able to master. I am intrigued by one’s ability to not only juggle, but moreover, to master the art of juggling unlike objects.

It was with this hope, of gaining insight as to how to learn to juggle, that Max, my 14-year-old son, his two friends, Paige and George, and I attended the preshow event in the Kimberly Clark Theater. Too timid to try with the juggling balls they had set to the side for practice, two talented local jugglers shared onstage their tips for learning how to juggle with the packed-in crowd whom I’m sure, like us, were hoping to find a little latent talent hidden inside ourselves. Tucking away the information for future reference should we need it, we moved on to the Thrivent Hall to watch The Flying Karamazov Brothers perform their magic.

The Flying Karamazov Brothers derive their name from the famous Dostoevsky novel, but are not Russian, are brothers only in name, and they do not fly. They are, however, an amazingly talented troupe of comedic jugglers who, with their decidedly un-glitzy stage set of packing boxes, allowed the four of us and the crowd to be positively mesmerized as they juggled practically anything and everything. From an assembled pile of possibilities donated by the audience, they juggled butter, a violin, and a bar of slippery wet soap. If we thought that was impressive, the final act of juggling the nine objects of “Terror” assembled throughout their show made us realize that their talent is in a league of its own.

Intermixed with their juggling feats they also sang, danced (ballet in tutus, nonetheless), performed taiko-like drumming on cardboard boxes, “drummed” with a juggling pin while it was in motion, and, while standing in a line, blew into their musical instrument of choice with the one next to them doing the fingering as the two end members juggled between themselves. Clearly, their talent extends well beyond just juggling.

What I love most about The Flying Karamazov Brothers is not only the humor and intense talent they possess, but the larger message they share. They describe their art as a “flirtation with failure” and demonstrate that nothing is impossible. People can work together in harmony and if one should fail, or drop something, that it’s easy enough to pick things back up, to get back in sync, and to still find the humor in the process. This morning as the four of us stood in the kitchen in our own “flirtation with failure,” we tried not to focus on the drops, but rather, in keeping with The Flying Karamazov Brothers, with a smile on our face.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Have a Laugh at the Fox Cities P.A.C.

From drama to musicals, cultural performances to choirs – there’s a lot to experience at the Fox Cities P.A.C., and this week, the focus is on making you laugh! 

Menopause The Musical
Wednesday, April 11 at 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 12 at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

If you’re “of a certain age,” Menopause The Musical has laughs you’ll think are meant just for you. Four women meet at a lingerie sale with nothing in common but a black lace bra and discover they share more than you might think – memory loss, hot flashes, night sweats, not enough sex, too much sex and more. With music from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, there’s a good chance you’ll be dancing in the aisles before the night ends!

Comedians from “Chelsea Lately”
Friday, April 13 at 8:00 p.m.

No, Chelsea Handler will not be appearing this week at the Fox Cities P.A.C., but her entourage will be here with Comedians from “Chelsea Lately” on Friday night. Josh Wolf, Brad Wollack and Jen Kirkman are hilarious in their own right, and with a chance to shine in the spotlight, you know they’ll bring their best standup.

The Flying Karamazov Brothers
Saturday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Their name is a mouthful, but their show is simply funny. Take a close look and you might recognize them from appearances on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Seinfeld,” “Ellen” and even “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” They’ve been making people laugh for decades, and the fun is just beginning with high stakes juggling, highbrow high jinks and impromptu “funny,” as they call it. With tickets starting at only $20, it’s a great show to share with friends and family. By the end, you’ll be asking yourself, “How did they do that?,” and more importantly, “Why?”

Tickets for this week’s shows are still available! Visit to learn more and make plans to have a laugh this week at the Fox Cities P.A.C.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

High Stakes Juggling with The Flying Karamazov Brothers

The Flying Karamazov Brothers are known for their juggling skills, vaudevillian genius and what they refer to as the “funny” they bring to every show. The Flying K’s are on their way to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center Saturday, April 14, and their high stakes juggling and highbrow high jinks will definitely leave the audience wondering, “How did they do that?” And more importantly, “Why?”

The New York Press promises, “many a hazardous object will be tossed, flung, spat and hurled” across the stage, but, bet you didn’t know you can get in on the action! Bring a prop from home for The Flying K’s to juggle, and put their skills to the test in a contest called “The Gamble.”
Selecting the props by audience applause, The Flying Karamazov Brothers have a tradition of picking three objects that ticket holders bring from home. They can make up to three modifications, and then, it’s crunch time. If they succeed, you owe them a standing ovation. If they fail, they’ll be dodging a pie in the face. 
Before you pack up the pooch or grandma’s china, remember a few guidelines. There’s no guarantee that anything will survive “The Gamble,” and to level the playing field, props must:
     1) Weigh more than an ounce
     2) Weigh less than 10 pounds
     3) Qualify as “no bigger than a breadbox”
     4) Not include live animals!
Like their name, The Flying Karamazov Brothers are as bewildering as they are brilliant. With tickets starting at $20, bring the whole family and get ready for a show you’ll never forget!