Not long from now, I will be going on holiday in London. While there, of course, I will enjoy as much of the West End theatre scene as I can.
Here’s what’s on my itinerary:
Not long from now, I will be going on holiday in London. While there, of course, I will enjoy as much of the West End theatre scene as I can.
Here’s what’s on my itinerary:
Aaron Walpole, Andy Mientus, Ben Gunderson, Betsy Morgan, Broadway, Caissie Levy, Cameron Mackintosh, Claude-Michel Schonberg, erin clemons, Jason Forbach, John Brink, John Rapson, keala settle, Les Miserables, Max Quinlan, Nathaniel Hackman, Rachel Rincione, Ramin Karimloo, Samantha Hill, Weston Wells Olson, Will Swenson
Since several people have been asking me about the first preview of Les Miserables, I thought I would try to put into words last night’s experience. To say I was eagerly anticipating this moment doesn’t really cover it. I first saw Les Mis 21 years ago, and I’ve been a devoted fan since I was five. Despite having seen the show 59 times over more than 20 years, last night, my 60th, was the first time I had the good fortune of seeing Les Mis on Broadway.
After getting to the theatre extremely early to take in every moment of the experience, I ended up being the first patron in the Imperial to see the new production. Once many of the seats were filled, I noticed a few familiar faces in the back, including Cameron Mackintosh and Claude-Michel Schonberg. Thankfully, they were very generous with the show’s fans, and I, like so many others, cherished the opportunity to meet the men behind my favorite musical. Another incredible surprise: a front row seat. I thought I was second row, but some adjustments to the theatre’s layout worked to my benefit last night.
As the “Prologue” began, the crowd roared with applause. This was a frequent occurrence all evening, particularly after key songs, cast entrances, and set reveals. Every person in the theatre last night was thrilled to be there. I’ve never been a part of such an energetic, attentive, and encouraging audience.
As for the cast, Ramin Karimloo didn’t miss a beat. Having seen him several times before, including as Jean Valjean in Toronto, I knew what he could do. With each performance, his take on the character grows. I am convinced he’ll be a contender for the Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award, and he already has my vote (not that it counts!). Interestingly, four years ago I saw him in Love Never Dies, and while he was superb, only two people, including myself, waited for him at the stage door. Let’s just say that will not be the case on Broadway. Even if you don’t know who he is now, you won’t forget him after hearing his beautiful renditions of “What Have I Done”, “Who Am I”, and “Bring Him Home”.
Some people were surprised to learn Will Swenson would be Javert on Broadway, but I was not one of them. I was convinced he was an excellent choice, and he proved himself to be more than worthy last night. This may not be the “Stars” you’re used to, but the show has been thriving for nearly three decades, and his fresh take on the character is enticing. I was lucky to be almost in the action for many of Jean Valjean’s and Javert’s interactions, and his expressions were brilliant. This is a great role for Swenson, who is better known for more contemporary musicals. I wouldn’t be surprised if he scores a Tony nomination.
Then, there’s Caissie Levy as Fantine. What a voice she has! Her facial expressions throughout her short performance were touching. Moreover, Levy and Samantha Hill (Cosette) may be the closest to looking like a real Mother-Daughter duo that I’ve ever seen. I recall thinking that she may just be able to snag Best Supporting Actress in a Musical.
Additionally, I was thrilled to see Andy Mientus as Marius. For such a talented performer, it’s about time he graces The Great White Way. While I think he has room to grow in this role, I thoroughly enjoyed his performance. Marius is an incredibly important character to me. There is a very detailed chapter in the book regarding this character, and I feel like Mientus captured what Hugo envisioned. His performance conveyed Marius’s struggle between the love of his life and his loyalty to his friends. Moreover, his performance developed as the show went on, and I imagine he will win over more than Cosette’s and Eponine’s heart as the run progresses. There was one key change I noticed to his character, in terms of direction, and I loved it. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it, but I suspect other fans will notice the change as long as it’s kept in the show.
As for the rest of the cast, I am impressed. Having seen many of them before on tour or in Toronto, I knew I would be. I went in with high expectations and was not disappointed. Samantha Hill’s Cosette was lovely, and Keala Settle’s Madame Thenardier was the perfect mixture of a villain and comedian. The children were well suited for their roles and certainly charmed the audience. I was particularly pleased to see Betsy Morgan in the show again, and I loved that she played the Factory Girl taunting Fantine after a well-received run as Fantine on tour. Other familiar faces from the recent national tour include Jason Forbach, John Rapson, Nathaniel Hackman, Max Quinlan, Erin Clemons, and Aaron Walpole along with swings Ben Gunderson, Rachel Rincione, John Brink, and Weston Wells Olson. If you have an understudy, don’t fret because the supporting cast and swings are more than qualified to fill the big shoes of the leads.
Clearly, Les Miserables is a story that has staying power. So, why does the show evolve? I’m not sure, but I trust the producers and creatives because whatever they’re doing has kept the show alive this long. Are there new lyrics? Yes, well, if you didn’t catch the recent incarnation in Toronto, yes. Is that staging different? It’s mostly what you would have seen on the recent tour, but some of the set and directions have been adapted to better fit the Imperial Theatre and cast. Is the show better than the movie? Do I have to answer this? Live theatre has no comparison to film.
The musical is epic, and its’ themes of love, hope, and redemption have connected with audiences all over the world. Last night, I saw Les Mis for the 60th time, and I suspect no performance will ever compare. Finally back on Broadway, I had the opportunity to watch the first performance of this new version with many other devoted fans and the people who made the show what it is today. Even though I already had seven more tickets to see Les Mis, both on Broadway and in the West End, I immediately bought two more tickets to this new production as soon as I got home. I doubt this show is going anywhere anytime soon, and as a “superfan”, I am grateful. The new production soars, especially with one of the strongest Jean Valjeans I have ever seen.
With the impending new year, there’s a lot of people highlighting the most memorable parts of their year. Theatrically-speaking, 2013 was an incredible year for me. After reflecting on my theatre-going in 2013, here are my top ten theatre experiences from the past year:
Can’t wait to see what 2014 bring! Happy New Year!
1st Stage, 9 Circles, American Century Theater, Arena Stage, Beauty and the Beast, Cabaret, Cinderella, DC Theatre, Dreamgirls, Flashdance, Folger Theatre, Ford's Theatre, Forum Theatre, Good People, Hairspray, Helen Hayes Awards, Henry V, Hippodrome Theatre, Hughie, Italian American Reconciliation, Keegan Theatre, McLean Community Players, Metamorphoses, Next to Normal, Olney Theatre, Our Town, R&J, Shakespeare Theatre, Signature Theatre, Spring Awakening, Strathmore, Studio Theatre, The Show-Off, theatre marketing, theatre trends, theatreWashington
Please forgive my absence so far this year. As I embarked on my new theatre adventures this year, it’s been a busy one. While it’s no longer my place to discuss my thoughts on a particular show, I would be happy to share what I’ve been seeing in the DC area:
Admidst my theatre-going, I have been immersing myself with trends in DC theatre and theatre marketing. My observations and research have revealed a few trends of interest:
My theatrical adventures have been largely focused on DC this year, and I am coming to love the DC theatre scene more and more. It’s a great city for theatre, and although many outsiders don’t consider DC a theatre town, my observations and experiences would disagree. If you haven’t heard, the Helen Hayes Awards are coming up, and I’m eager to celebrate the incredible work performed in 2012!
1st Stage, A Christmas Story, A New Life, Altar Boyz, Bare, DC, Dreamgirls, Giant, Golden Boy, Jekyll and Hyde, Kennedy Center, Les Miserables, Lincoln Center Theatre, musical, National Theatre, New York City, Play, Public Theater, Roundabout Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, theatre, Washington, White Christmas
This past month has been a busy one between a jammed-pack trip to NYC and a few incredible shows in the DC area. Here’s what made my itinerary.
In the DC area:
Each of these shows brought something different to the table and quenched my thirst to experience theatre. Theatre has the power to change lives, and it certainly has impacted mine. I’ve been presented with an incredible opportunity to have a new sort of effect on the theatre realm starting next year. While this will open new doors, in order to take advantage of this chance, I must close others, at least temporarily. Going forward, my thoughts about shows will remain private. I’ll still be sharing news, shows I’m seeing, and thoughts on theatre but not about specific productions. Additionally, I’ll be concentrating on more topical aspects of theatre, like selling tickets and developing audiences.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the song “A New Life” from Jekyll and Hyde lately. I feel like next year, I’ll have “a new start,” “a new hope,” “a new chance,” and “a new dream,” all of which could lead to “a new world” and “a new life.” I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings.
1st Stage, Altar Boyz, Arena Stage, Dreamgirls, Dying City, Into the Woods, Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, Manna Nichols, MetroStage, musical, My Fair Lady, National Tour, Nova Y. Payton, Play, Signature Theatre, Sondheim, theatre, War Horse, Wicked
Reflecting on my last month and half and what’s to come, I feel like Sondheim says it best, “There are big-tall-terrible-awesome-scary-wonderful giants in the sky!” (Into the Woods). With several opportunities and challenges ahead, this lyric comes into my mind. Sondheim’s masterful lyrics exquisitely bring to life emotions that can be difficult to adequately express. Moreover, this lyric also reminds me of the giant musicals touring and playing in regional theatres across the country right now.
Theatrically-speaking, I’ve continued to be busy and blessed. Some of the highlights of my experiences in the D.C. area include:
With any luck, I’ll be back in New York City soon for the first time since August and able to catch up on some of what’s playing on and off Broadway. With the holidays in full gear, there’s thankfully lots of theatre to see!
I first heard of Alfie Boe when the casting was announced for the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables in London. I subsequently saw Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean in the West End about a year later. When I learned Alfie Boe would be performing in the DC area this October, I was ecstatic and quickly snatched up a few tickets. Later, I learned that Alfie’s concert at the Birchmere sold out in about 7 hours. Wow!
To say I was excited for this concert would be an understatement. I had been hoping to see Alfie again and finally meet him since I saw him perform in London in September of 2011. When the concert started, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I presumed there would be more than simply musical theatre and opera songs, but I imagined he would sing some of both of those genres since that’s what he’s known for. During the first act, he did focus on musical theatre and opera. We heard “Bring Him Home,” “Being Alive,” and “Wheels of a Dream,” which are three of my favorites from his albums.
Most of the second act of the show focused on rock and roll music. Alfie encouraged audience members to dance, and as a fan sitting in the front row, I willingly obeyed. To my surprise, not many people got up to dance. During the start of the song, “Drift Away,” Alfie said, “I really hope you all will dance for this one.” Early on in the song, Alfie brought a girl on stage to dance with him. Then, Alfie started to come towards my end of the stage. Alfie’s eyes searched the crowd, and they eventually led to me! He reached out his hand, and I accepted it as I walked onto the stage with him. Quickly becoming a participant in Alfie’s show, I felt a great responsibility to honor this opportunity and make the most of it. Thus, I danced and demonstrated my enthusiasm and awe for Alfie’s performance. As Alfie neared the end of the song “Drift Away,” he suggested the audience sing along. Suddenly, Alfie turned to me and gave me an encouraging look while handing me the mike. Realizing he wanted me to sing, I obliged singing, “Give me the beat boys and free my soul. I wanna get lost in your rock ‘n’ roll and drift away.” Just like that, I had not only shared a stage with Alfie Boe, but I had sung with Alfie Boe in front of a sold-out crowd at a roughly 500-seat venue! That moment is what I will forever refer to as my professional stage debut. I never imagined I would get to share the stage with a performer of Alfie’s caliber, let alone a performer I appreciated, admired, and respected as much as Alfie. It was like my own version of a fairy-tale.
As the song came to a close, Alfie Boe acknowledged his “backup dancers” and invited us to stay on stage for his last song. I could not stop smiling as I danced with Alfie for another song. The experience was so much more than I ever expected. Having recently seen Wicked, all I could think was, “Did that really just happen?!” I had the pleasure of officially meeting Alfie after the show, and he mentioned I did a good job while onstage. I could have melted. Nearly three days later, I am still reeling and reveling in all the wonderful things that happened at Alfie’s concert, and I encourage anyone who has the chance to see Alfie Boe perform live to take advantage of it.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Adelphi Theatre, Alyssa Fox, Anthony Rapp, Apollo Victoria Theatre, Arabella, Barbican, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Billy Elliot, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Burgtheatre, Cabaret, Cambridge Theatre, Carousel, Christopher Wheeldon, Craig Mather, D.C., George Mason University Center for the Arts, Gina Beck, Harrison Dowzell, Hippodrome, Imelda Staunton, Les Miserables, London, Matilda, Menier Chocolate Factory, Michael Ball, Michael Todd Simpson, Music and the Movies II, Next Thing You Know, Oliver Savile, Palace Theatre, Parker Drown, Patti LuPone, Queen's Theatre, Rachel Tucker, Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, Sam Edgerly, Sierra Boggess, Signature Theatre, Singin' in the Rain, Sondheim, Strathmore, Studio Theatre, Sutton Foster, Sweeney Todd, Tam Matu, Victoria Palace Theatre, Vienna, Volksoper, Washington, West End, Wicked, Wiener Staatsoper, Without You
Have you heard the original cast recording of Next Thing You Know? Given how fast my life is moving right now and how much my plans, hopes, and dreams are evolving, I relate to many of the lyrics. Nonetheless, I’m having a great time as I find my way, and theatre is a big part of that. My recent theatre adventures have taken me as far as Vienna and London, but I’ll start by describing what I’ve been up to in D.C.
In the D.C. area:
In Vienna, Austria:
In London, United Kingdom:
My theatrical adventures in Europe opened my eyes to performance art that I wasn’t particularly fond of before my trip to Europe. In Vienna, I was surprised by how captivated I was at the opera even though I couldn’t understand the language (there were translations thankfully). While I would choose a musical or a play over an opera if given the opportunity, the opera was a special, unforgettable experience that I would be happy to repeat. In Vienna, I also toured the Burgtheater and the Wiener Staatsoper. Both performing arts venues are incredibly ornate, and the tours were exceptional. Additionally, in London, I toured the Royal Opera House. During the tour, I had the opportunity to watch a rehearsal for a new Christopher Wheeldon ballet because the Royal Ballet rehearses and performs at the Royal Opera House. I was amazed by how extraordinary the dancing was, and I found the dancers’ beautiful and graceful moves fascinating. As I watched the Royal Ballet rehearse, I realized that the last time I had been to a ballet was the Nutcracker when I was 8. I discovered a newfound appreciation for ballet that day, and I’ll be seeing one of Wheeldon’s ballets at the Kennedy Center in January.
Most of my upcoming theatrical adventures are in the Washington, D.C. area, but I do have a few trips to New York City planned. Lookout for more theatrical commentary soon!
54 Below, Adam Pascal, Bare, Billy Elliot, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Broadway, Cinderella, Company, DC Theatre, Euan Morton, Gavin Creel, Jason Robert Brown, Lauren Kennedy, Les Miserables, Little Shop of Horrors, Matilda, My Fair Lady, Norbert Leo Butz, Ragtime, Really Really, Shakespeare's R & J, The Book of Mormon, The Last Five Years, The Music Man, The Normal Heart, War Horse, Wicked
Oh what a month! Since my last post, I visited Signature Theatre for many more cabarets, I attended Arena Stage‘s final performances of The Music Man and The Normal Heart, I experienced Studio Theatre‘s spirited and thrilling rendition of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, I finally saw Little Shop of Horrors thanks to Olney Theatre, and I had a fantastic, theatrical weekend in New York City. While in New York City, I saw my first cabaret outside of the DC area. I had the pleasure of attending Norbert Leo Butz’s Cabaret at 54 Below, featuring Lauren Kennedy, one of my favorite Broadway actresses. 54 Below has a terrific fall line up, and I enjoyed Norbert’s Cabaret so much that I will surely be back!
Now, I’m experiencing a bit of a theatre slump (I only have a few shows in the next few weeks), but it’s giving me the opportunity to plan for and get excited about the 2012-2013 season. I am looking forward to a number of shows in the DC area and in NYC.
In the DC area, I’m most excited about:
In the NYC area, I’m especially looking forward to:
It’s going to be a great season!
Alden Theatre, Bryce Pinkham, Caissie Levy, Carolyn Cole, Ghost, Kate Merryman, Kirsten Scott, Legally Blonde, Matthew Scott, McLean Community Players, Natasha Diaz, Newsies, Nick Blaemire and the Hustle, Once, Richard Fleeshman, Signature Theatre, Stephen Greogry Smith, Steve Kazee, Will Gartshore
After a whirlwind weekend in New York City, I am more than excited for the 8-show week that lies ahead. This past weekend, I saw Ghost, Newsies, and Once (all repeats for me). I thoroughly enjoyed each show, and each performance had a fantastic audience. Not surprisingly, the most overwhelming response came from Newsies. Not only did the line to get in the theatre extend two blocks, but the crowd roared at every opportunity during the show.
Last week, I also enjoyed two of Signature’s Sizzlin’ Summer Cabarets. If you’re in the DC area, you really must see some of these performances. Matthew Scott and Kirsten Scott presented an entirely musical performance depicting how they met and fell in love. The song choices were ideal, a mixture of contemporary and classic musicals with a little pop music thrown in. Will Gartshore was funny and intelligent during his cabaret, and I was pleased by his choice in guests as they really spiced up the already delightful act. This week, Signature favorites, like Natasha Diaz, Carolyn Cole, and Stephen Gregory Smith, take the stage. Also, next Monday, Signature will host Nick Blaemire and the Hustle. I hope younger audiences will come out to this show since Nick’s a twenty-something with an already stellar Broadway career. Furthermore, he’s coming with his band from New York City for a one night engagement ~ don’t miss it!
Lastly, in case you’re unaware of the DC area’s community theatre scene, I recommend you check out the McLean Community Players‘ production of Legally Blonde at Alden Theatre. It’s a fun, family-friendly show, featuring Kate Merryman, who I’ve been hoping would play Elle since I saw her as the Narrator in MCP’s production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat last year. Here’s a review of the show for more information.
July is heating up, and I recommend escaping the heat by seeing a show!