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Posts tagged ‘Choreography’

“Hello, Dolly!” Bette Midler! Wow! Wow! WOW!!!!!

Hello Dolly 2Is “Hello, Dolly!” newly revived on Broadway with the legendary Bette Midler and selling like hot cakes, one of the greatest shows ever??? PRETTY Close! It’s an instant contact high, as they used to say in the ’60s. The minute you hear the first few notes of that famous score, Jerry Herman’s best by far, you’re instantly elated.

Like your lungs are filling up with helium! Hello Dolly 1

The orchestra got applause at the first notes. The conductor got applause! The scenery got applause, when the curtain went up. The chorus, when they first entered, got applause. And Bette Midler? Well, she stopped the show cold by just dropping the newspaper that she was hiding behind, to her lap. She got an ovation! And it just didn’t stop! And I mean, the crowd was just going wild from seeing her. In person. At age 72. And “back where she belonged” on Broadway, where she’d never been before.(Lest we forget her Sue Mengers’ one-woman show a few years back.)

Well, that’s not exactly true. When I was in college, I saw her in “Fiddler on the Roof” as Tzeitel, the oldest daughter of Teyve, who gets married as the cast sings “Sunrise, Sunset.” And I remember looking at my program and trying to find “that girl. “She’s going to be famous, ” I thought. The girl who had the most infectious smile…she still does. She was “Midler from Fiddler” for three years. But Supporting no longer.Hello Dolly 5

She’s the star of stars now of “Hello, Dolly!” and she is just flat out wonderful in it! The audience was going CRA-ZEE, as I’ve said. And the whole show is just miraculously infectious like Bette’s crinkly smile. Just what is it that makes it so fabulous? It’s like bottled joy! I’m not kidding. You just can’t be in a bad mood around Bette Midler’s role of a lifetime, Dolly Levy. A matchmaker, made in heaven.

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Broadway veteran director Jerry Zaks is at the absolute zenith of his long career here and so is newcomer, choreographer Warren Carlyle. They have lovingly recreated  what must’ve been the sugary-up, rainbow feeling of the late, great Gower Champion’s two-dimensional, but fabulous dancing. And it gets better.

Another Broadway baby who has been around for quite some time, Gavin Creel completely owns the role of Chief Hay and Seed Clerk, Cornelius Hackl, who is just bursting to get a day off and go to Manhattan (“Hello, Dolly!” is set firmly in turn-of-the-last-century Yonkers.)  So he can “Put on His Sunday Clothes” and go dancing, and he “won’t come home until” he ‘”kisses a girl,” which of course, he does.

The six foot plus Creel has just been nominated for a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. As has his co-star Kate Baldwin, and Bette, too, mais oui. AND David Hyde Pierce, “Hello, Dolly!“s resident Scrooge.

Creel has been nominated for a Tony twice for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Hair“, but never won. This may be his year. And he’s an Out Gay LGBT actor, and I’m very, very proud of him. He also WON an Olivier Award in London for his role as Elder Price in “The Book of Mormon.

It certainly is Bette’s year.She, who has NEVER been nominated for a Tony, but this year, I predict she will be dodging all the awards that are going to be hurled at her. Her powerhouse Dolly Levy lives up to her legendary alter ego The Divine Miss M, make no mistake.

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Meaning that Sophie Tucker and the Mermaid-in-the-Wheelchair are never far from her Dolly, who, of course, has a wicked twinkle in her eye, 72-year-old widow though she may be.

Her conversations with her late husband Ephraim, which she delivers downstage center, are very moving indeed. She gets to exercise her dramatic chops here and grounds her Dolly in a great well of loneliness as she plaintively begs her late husband’s ghost “to let me go, Ephraim.” She wants to rejoin life “Before the Parade Passes By” and she does.Hello Dolly 11

Her irrepressible humor and warmth,  a lark and a flirtation and an active pursuing of “half-a-millionaire, Horace Vandergelder” keep her moving forward  even while she is trying to make matches for Cornelius and his fellow clerk Barnaby (a marvelously pint-sized bundle of joy, Taylor Trensch). David Hyde Pierce is masterful here. too, as Horace. Pierce mightily holds his comic own as the pinch-penny object of Dolly’s overly effusive affection.

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Hello, Dolly!” is a much sturdier and more delightful vehicle than I ever imagined it to be. I saw it with Ginger Rogers of all people when I was a mere child, and I don’t remember being THIS excited about it.

In the hands of all these great Broadway pros and one certified legend, the divine Bette, I just never wanted it to end. And with the way the public is storming the box-office it may never end. Ever. And I don’t want it to.

This is Broadway at its’ absolute, level best,pure old-fashioned escapism superbly done. It is at its best, its absolute, level best.

 

#Hello, Dolly! # Bette Midler # Broadway, #Musical Comedy, #Gavin Creel # David Hyde Pierce

 

 

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“Trip of Love” Dreamy, Sweet, Shimmering, Sexy Ode to the ’60s

Trip of Love 1For a dreamy, trippy, zippy, sexy time travel musical back to the ’60s, don’t miss “Trip of Love” at Stage 42. There’s no book. It’s a musical revue, a form that we don’t see very often anymore. Juke-box musicals rule the day on Broadway these days. I mean “Beautiful” is still running, and the original Tony-winning”A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” has just closed. But “Trip of Love” totally surprised me with how delightfully entertaining it was. Without any plot or dialogue, it’s just very well put together entertainment by multi-talented director. choreographer, and SET-DESIGNER James Walski. And the sets are as eye-popping as the dancing is non-stop exhilarating.

I haven’t seen this much dancing in a Broadway show, (well, it’s Off Broadway actually, but who’s quibbling. It’s on W.42nd Street in a largish Off Broadway house.) since Bob Fosse left this planet.  And a dancing show it is.”Trip of Love” is exuberantly entertaining. And the dancers fantastic.

And the men, dare I say it, are sexier in this show, than any I’ve ever seen. It’s true that most of the men are constantly losing their shirts in almost every number, but I found that refreshing, and even innovative.Trip of Love 2I was at a disadvantage in that the performance I saw the three female leads were out, but their understudies were all fine, so no wonder the men dominated the show, with or without their shirts.

Austin Miller had pants slung so low that they were in constant danger of slipping off. As did his co-stars Brendon Leffler and Joey Calveri. Backed by an incredible ensemble, who shone, and shimmied and burned down the house with their on-fire choreography by Walksi.

“Wipe-Out” was a particularly incendiary number (pictured at top), which of course, had no lyrics whatsoever, and in this case, with the dancers placed atop pillars of waves, they didn’t need them. It was that great surfing number with heavy guitar riffs.

Trip of Love 3Then Walksi would blow your mind with the ballads, particularly the beautiful “Moon River” with a giant silvery moon backing a shimmering blue river and a young dancer named Colby Q. Lindeman doing a pas-de-deux with a young ballerina from the ensemble, as Tara Palsha  (I think…so many swings were on, I’m not sure who the actress/dancer was. Lisa Finegold?) Anyway, Palsha was on a swing, singing a plaintive “Moon River” in a style that Harry Mancini could’ve arranged himself. And would’ve loved. The set was so blue that the lyrics “Huckleberry Friend” finally made sense.

And this swoon-worthy number, that literally gave me goose-bumps, ended Act I in tremendous fashion. And took me back to the days when I, as youngster, was dreaming in the Bronx, of “Crossing you in style, someday. Dream maker, you heart-breaker, where ever you’re going, I’m going your way…”

And wearing out the red vynyl 45 RPM of “Moon River,” I played it so much. The Original, with the Henry Mancini chorus and orchestra. I loved that song before Andy Williams ruined it, for my money.

But director/creator/choreographer James Walski has brought it back to its “Breakfast at Tiffany” roots. And designed that blue Moon set that I will never forget. I can’t wait to see what his next extravaganza will be!Moon River 1

And that was just Act I! And Act 2, topped it in energy, enthusiasm and sexy brightness. I can’t wait to back to see it a second, and maybe even a third time!

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And I have to say, Colby Q. Lindeman danced throughout the show, not just in the spectacularly moving “Moon River” number, and yes, he danced his way into my heart.

Wondrous, Joyful, Surprising “On the Town” on Bway

On the Town 1Imagine my surprise! To be thoroughly delighted, enraptured even, by a musical I always had a “meh” attitude towards previously. I had seen “On the Town” over and over in its’ many iterations and on film, too, and it had never turned my buttons. But THIS revival of “On the Town” pressed all of them, surprisingly and with joyous delight. Quelle Surprise! And why is this “On the Town” different from all the others?

The main answer I have to deduce is to give all the credit to its’ talented Tony  nominated director John Rando. He, of “Urinetown”, has really gone over the moon and captured it with his buoyant, light-as-air, but just-right re-interpretation. Rando and choreographer Joshua Bergasse have put the sauce (as in saucy) and the sex(see above picture^) back into “On the Town” making it as fresh and redolent as a Spring daisy.

I do think that that is what has been missing from all the other “On the Towns” I’ve ever had to sit through and go “What’s the fuss?” Well, the fuss started in 1944, right smack dab in the middle of WWII, when its’ three one-day-only shore-leave sailors burst off their battleship in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and onto the streets and subways of New York singing “New York, New York! It’s a helluva town! The Bronx is Up and the Battery’s down! The people ride in a hole in the ground!”

And in 1944, there also burst on to the Broadway scene, one of the most talented quartets the Great White Way was ever going to see, composer Leonard Bernstein, choreographer Jerome Robbins, and lyricist/librettists Betty Comden and Adolph Green. And what an explosion of talent that must’ve seemed to war-weary New Yorkers, who were seeing their city celebrated in the most joyful way imaginable.

And Comden and Green were IN it, too! As the loopy anthropologist  Claire de Loone(oy) and her mug of a tar.Ozzie, here essayed marvelously by Drama Desk Nominee Elizabeth Stanley and Clyde Alves. Stanley gets to show her considerable comic vocal chops in Act I’s “Carried Away” and her dramatic vocal ease in Act II’s “Some Other Time.” This is the part Betty Comden played originally. While her counterpart cohort, goofball Ozzie, was originally Adolph Green himself.

What a show that must’ve been! In 1944. But this “On the Town” seems to be just a good if not better. And did I mention they have an UNCOVERED 28 piece orchestra? One of the biggest I’ve ever heard on Broadway and they played Berntein’s classical score magnificently, dreamily. I never wanted them to stop!

Hunky Tony Yazbeck, nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, works himself (and the audience) into a sweat with “New York, New York”,”Gabey’s Coming”, “I’m So Lucky To Be Me” as well as dancing all the  pas de deux ballet breaks (and there are many), then breaking your heart with “Lonely Town.” A star is truly born here. Gene Kelly played the part in the movie and Yazbeck obliterates his memory

His(Gaby)’s story drives the plot as he searches for his subway poster dream girl “Miss Turnstiles.” He finds his mythical  Ivy Smith, here embodied by real life Ballerina turned Broadway star Megan Fairchild  in a singing class led by the redoubtable (and hilarious).Jackie Hoffman, who is a comic drunk for the ages.

Completing the trio of star tars is the thumpingly innocent farm boy Chip, (Jay Armstrong Johnson) who with his 10-year-old, out-of-date New York visitors guide falls into the clutches of lady cab driver from Mars Hildy Esterhazy. And the hefty Hildy (Alysha Umphress) literally kid-naps (or in this case cab-naps) the virginal Chip into one of the most hysterical New York taxi-rides ever seen, aided and abetted by Beowulf Boritt’s masterful back-projections. Chip doesn’t stand a chance.as Hildy exults “Come Up to My Place” adding “I Can Cook Too” to great comic effect.

So, as a Native New Yorker myself, I was blown away and elated by this rainbow-of-a-valentine to My Fair City. SEE IT! New York, New York Is a Helluva Town!

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“Rocky: The Musical” A Knock-Out!

I ended up really liking the musicalized version of “Rocky” even though for three-fourths of it I was scratching my head, thinking “Why are these people singing?”

But then its’ climatic boxing finale is a startling smasheroo if ever there was one, which really knocked my socks off and just about everything else off, too. “Rocky” will rock your world.

In a very pallid, uneven act and a half, I really wondered how in the world “Rocky: The Musical” could have displaced “Mamma Mia” out of the gigantic Winter Garden theater, one of Broadway’s biggest musical houses that has been held captive, by captivating its’ boomer audience for lo these many moons.

“Mamma Mia” fans, don’t worry. It’s been re-located to the smaller Broadhurst Theater on W.44th St. But “Rocky: The Musical” is gonna to settle in for another substantial VERY long run at the Winter Garden, and is going to make oodles of money and please sportsfans and boxing devotees for years.

Whether it pleases the critics or wins any awards is besides the point with “Rocky” which garnered a surprise Best Picture Oscar back in the day. This time it’s not going to need those awards, like the Tonys,etc. to keep running.

I liked the 1970’s grainy John Alvidson-directed indie movie that made Sylvester Stallone a star. And put the phrase “Yo Adrian” into the pop culture vernacular. Philadelphia’s mean streets then became a legitimate cinematic background, competing with the New York of Sidney Lumet & Martin Scorsese, etc. as a gritty urban backdrop.

And Stallone’s final victory lap up and down the massive staircase of the Philadelphia Art Museum was against all reason, truly inspiring.

“Rocky:The Musical” tries to stay as faithful to the film as it possibly can. But it has as its’ director the current wunderkind Alex Timbers, who has always surprised with his cutting edge innovative stagings of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”, “Peter and the Starcatcher” and many, many more theatrical delights of recent years. And he was disappointing me mightily this time, until the last twenty minutes and then he, as they say, brought the ship home.

I’ve never been to a boxing match and hope never to go to one in what’s left of my lifetime. I am NOT a sports fan. But “Rocky” (and I should’ve expected this) brought the Boxing Rink to me and deposited it (almost) right into my lap. And it was sensationally staged, catching every single moment of that sports’ gory excitement and thrill, whether I wanted it to see it THAT up-close and personal or not.

One can’t help but admire the sheer vocal and physical stamina of star Andy Karl as Rocky Balboa himself. The Italian Stallion lives! In Karl’s adept, buffed to the max performance that requires him to sing his heart out for two acts, down a glass of three raw eggs, and then pull off one of the most astounding coup de theatre’s I’ve ever seen in that climatic boxing number, which you’ll never forget. And sends you out of the theater humming. Well, if not the music, the boxing.But Kudos to Karl, for performing what seems on-paper, impossible! Maxima Kudos!

Of course, such a rough. tough, no-holes barred, physical fight that pits Rocky against the world champeen Apollo Creed (Terence Archee) has to be staged and choreographed within an inch of its’ life. And Kudos to fight director/choreographer Steven Hoggett. Now HE’ll win the Tony for his frighteningly life-like recreation of that most violent of sports.

I’ve never seen anything like it on a stage. On screen, yes. There have been great boxing movies like “Raging Bull”, “Requiem for a Heavyweight”, and “Rocky” itself and its’ many, many sequels. The list goes on and on. But never onstage.

And this is what director Alex Timbers has done to beat the band. You might forget the rest of “Rocky:The Musical”. I’ve already forgotten the music by the usually dependable Broadway veterans Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Only one tune “My Nose Ain’t Broken Yet” stands out.

That comes at the beginning of the show and is reprised endlessly. Ingenue Margo Siebert makes a minimally impressive Broadway debut as Adrian, the plain pet-shop worker who is Rocky’s bizarre love interest. (She sold him his pet turtles, which he loves. Go figure.)

Played memorably by Talia Shire in all the movies and its’ sequels, in the greatest performance of her career, she grounded the borderline obnoxious character of Rocky, an aging, hard-luck amateur boxer and small-time thug.

Adrian is a famous character, as is the Italian Stallion himself, and Andy Karl, a theatrical vet, and she are a credible couple. Though their chemistry is passable. Nothing like the fireworks Shire and Stallone illicted onscreen.

Karl is NOT 29, as his character states, but he makes time stand still when he takes off his shirt and starts to box. TO THE DEATH.

Dakin Matthews has some nice moments and a nice song, too,”In The Ring”, as Rocky’s aged manager Mickey.

I can guarantee you’re gonna LOVE “Rocky:The Musical” but you won’t remember the hour and a half that precedes that unforgettable ending. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And “Rocky” finishes BIG!

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