Posts Tagged ‘review’

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For anyone that loves fairy tales, Disney-esque stories, or just Sondheim’s music, this is a MUST SEE!!!!

Theatre In The Mountains presents INTO THE WOODS

“Into the Woods,”  for those not familiar, is a brilliant weaving of several fairy tales into one complex narrative about what it takes to get what you want and the consequences that follow.  Act 1 is a light, positive and funny chapter, for lack of a better word, that shows the main characters struggling to make their dreams a reality.  From the childless Baker to the poverty stricken Jack, each character wishes that their situations could be fixed.  Then, thanks to some magic beans from the Witch’s garden, opportunity strikes.  Act 2 is the chapter when the lessons are learned.  The songs are a little less jovial, but much more touching and still just as clever.

In this production, director Ian Leonard, has created not just another show, but an experience that is brilliant.

The use of this space and the space around this space and the atmosphere lend themselves fully to the characters who traverse the woods in search of their wishes.  The actors stayed in character as they walked from behind the set and into the actual woods around the audience.  To watch them as they explored the woods just added that extra layer of complexity.  Not only do you get the main focal point of the story which is happening on stage, but you get some of the side story as you watch the actors that are off stage.

The usual way that the show begins is with an older gentleman, known as The Narrator.  As I said, that is the usual way. Mr. Leonard changed the dynamic of the story by placing the Narrator position in the hands of a child.  The show now becomes a product of imagination rather than a series of events, which I feel draws the audience in even more.  It also makes songs like “Witch’s Lament” and “Children Will Listen” that much more moving.  Let me tell you, there were several tears to be shed by the end.

But the good things about this show aren’t only the direction and the set, no.  They are also the actors themselves.  This is one of the strongest casts I’ve seen recently.  And that’s including the Faustus cast at the SJRep.  But “that’s another story. Never mind – Anyway,”   yes, the cast was great!  The Princes in their smug yet charming demeanor.  The feisty little granny who can skin a wolf.

But let’s break this down a little further.  Jeremy Goel, as the Narrator made it so believable that this was just him playing with his toys.  At first he was wide eyed and excited as he unpacked his backpack with the toy representation of the characters, but later realizing that even in make believe there are consequences.

Alison Koch, as Cinderella, was wonderful!  Her voice just soars in that open space and our hearts break with hers as she realizes that her Prince isn’t as charming as she had hoped.

The naive lad, Jack, played by Stefan Montana had line delivery that was perfection.  So hopeful, yet so clueless.

Shawn Bender makes you laugh, hope, cry, then hope again in his turn as the Baker.  Fantastic role for him!

Cindy Powell, as the Baker’s Wife, has one of my favorite songs in the show “Moments In The Woods.”  She added little subtleties in the delivery and facial expressions that I LOVE to see actors do especially if it hasn’t been done by other people.

Speaking of… That leads me to The Witch.  She was amazing! Kristen Hermosillo delivers in this role!  As I was saying with Ms. Powell, Ms. Hermosillo interpreted her role uniquely as well.  My favorite moment of the play, and there were a lot of them, but absolute fave is when she sings “And then bang! Crash! And the lightning flash! And – Well, that’s another story. Never mind – Anyway,” most people I’ve seen sing this song with fear about the flashes and the noise, but it looked like Ms. Hermosillo, was reveling  in it.  And then she laughed off the never mind,  get back to business – anyway.  Sheer magic!

Samantha Stidham and Elizabeth McClelland as Florinda and Lucinda were hilarious!!  They combine sass, conceit, haughty into a single diva-licious element and work that stage!

Not to be outdone, as the Stepmother, Kimberly Kay is just as haughty and sassy, but add a gallon of conniving and you have the Mutha of all divas!  Just watching her get the shoe onto her daughters’ feet is worth the price of the ticket!  Just saying!

Then, there is Brett Carlson that pulls double duty as the Wolf and the Steward. I cannot describe this in a way that doesn’t sound weird.  But here goes.  Ya know how people get sympathy pains or feel empathy for others? Well, his wolf is SO focused on the deliciousness that will be Little Red Riding Hood that my mouth started to water.  Think of it was a mind meld.  I know I am weird.  Then to see him take the Steward into what I think of as an over-exaggeration of an over-exaggeration of himself.   It was brilliant!  I hope he doesn’t get mad that I say that.

The plucky sarcasm and attitude that is Little Red Riding Hood was not lost by Lisa Meehan.  She had the audience laughing throughout the show and cheering for her after “I Know Things Now.”

I could go on with this for the entire cast, but alas the entry would be too long and I would rather you click the link below to get tickets and see for yourself this fantastic show.  It only has 3 more performances: Thursday 7/18, Friday 7/19 and Saturday 7/20 all shows begin at 7PM.  Get your tickets here: Theatre In The Mountains

Congrats to Jillian Cummings, the cast and staff of Into The Woods!! You have yourself a true gem!

As Stephen Sondheim says: “Opportunity is NOT a lengthy visitor”  Get your tickets now.  You only have 3 chances to see the show.

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And rock and roll is so much fun when you see it in the context of “Rock of Ages!”

I’ve already seen it twice, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.  Just sayin’…

The story revolves around Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) who heads to 1980’s Hollywood to make it as a singer.  Right off the bat, there’s some laughing to be done as the first verse and chorus of Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian”  plays out.  And that’s when you realize this movie while it’s intended to simply have you enjoy yourself, is really well thought out in terms of splitting the songs into believable-ish dialogue. 

Her first night there, she meets Drew (the cute as a button Diego Boneta) and quickly falls in love.  As “luck” would have it, she begins to work at The Bourbon Room, a seedy rock and roll bar on the main drag owned by Dennis and Lonny (Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand.)  The Bourbon Room is the place that gave Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) his big break and shot him into Rock God status. 

Then, enter Mayor Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who vow to rid the town of such evil music and “morals”  by shutting down The Bourbon Room.  

We watch the kids fall in and out of love.  We see the icon question the emptiness of his fame.  We follow the club owners as they realize that rock is as much a part of them as they are of each other.  

I don’t know if this movie would have worked if it was cast any other way.  Everyone sounded great.  Every time I would roll my eyes because Hough’s voice is so annoyingly mousey, she would sing out those rock high notes and it would sound fabulous.  Boneta was perfection! Of course, I was expecting MJB to be amazing and she didn’t dissapoint.   Brand, who I am not a fan of at all, was surprisingly unannoying and actually had a decent voice!  I honestly enjoyed his performance.  I was curious to see how Baldwin and Cruise would fare.  And I didn’t have high hopes for them (but only because I don’t recall either of them singing.) and I was praying they wouldn’t be as bad as Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia.  Which by the way, if I ever see him, I am gonna punch him down his face for that role.  It was awful, just awful! 

Anyway… as Dennis, owner of The Bourbon Room, Alec Baldwin is a hoot and a holler.  He reminds me of a rock and roll hippy.  He’s kinda laid back and goofy, but those eyes of his sparkle with edge.  His singing actually seems to mimic his demeanor as well.  Odd choice of words I know.   When he sings, none of the songs really give him a big belting note, so he never displays power.  He carries the tune great, but doesn’t give it any “guts” which is what I mean by laid back.  Yet the natural raspy quality of his voice gives it an edge.  

But enough about Mr. Baldwin.  What really mesmerized me in this movie was Cruise’s performance as Jaxx.  I couldn’t stop smiling with how phenomenal he is in this flick!  While he doesn’t have the best voice (it’s kind of thin when he sings the ballads) its good enough to make the songs listen-worthy, but when you see him rocking out… its frackin’ amazing.  He really truly was a rock star.  There is a scene when he’s to be interviewed for Rolling Stone by reporter Constance Sack (Malin Akerman) and where he’s woken from his nap but behind his sunglasses, his eyes are sharp as a tack.  Every movement reads as exhausted drunk middle aged man struggling to get it together, but his eyes read “I am King in my element.”  I watched closely when he sang his songs and his breathing and energy behind the words matched from soundtrack to video.  It was almost like he was actually singing on the set instead of lip syncing.  There are a few times where other characters miss a breath here or there, but not Cruise.  

While he may not be the main character of the movie, Cruise is so outstanding that you think he is.  

There are some incredible mash-ups like “We Built This City/ We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “Jukebox Hero/I Love Rock and Roll.”  For me, the highlights of the movie are Zeta-Jones’ “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (Mia Michaels’ choreography is always fabulous, but her wink to 80’s vids like “Beat It” make it funny too), Cruise’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “I Wanna Know What Love Is” with Akerman, and Blige’s “Any Way You Want It.”

While this movie may have opened with low box office numbers, don’t get the idea that it was because it was a bad movie.  This was made to cater to the theatre lovers and the people of the eighties who loved all those pop rock hair band songs.  It’s a small group of us.  However, if you like a good comedy, if you like 80’s music, if you like cheesy romantics, if you like campy, then this is a wonderful movie to see.  

In a way this movie is kind of like a time capsule.  It’s got a bunch of music from the 80’s but also some other things that aren’t so easy to find anymore.  I mean when’s the last time you saw a Tower Records?   Or records in general?  

Its too much fun to be missed.  

If you don’t have a good time, you can complain to me in the comments section.  How does that sound? Now, go get to the theater!

5 big happy actors for this film. 

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Now that a few days have passed from the high of Opening Night, I become a ball of nerves once again.  Most people think that once a show has begun performances, the hardest part of the process is over.  To me, I think that this line of thinking is a dangerous trap to fall into.  Especially when you have 4 days off in a row.  This is when complacency tends to sneak in.  Complacency because Opening Weekend went so incredibly well. So now, some people could convince themselves that it’s unnecessary to put any energy or thought into the show.  This is when you forget to think about the show, because you have new things to do and think about during the time that you would have been rehearsing.  Some people have significant others to cuddle with during the evening instead of pouring over their scripts or thinking about dance steps.  Personally, I try and figure out what I can do differently, better, but differently.  I tend to dwell on any oddity that happened to me or that I created during the show, and how I can fix it or make it work.  Because of this, I love to have brush up rehearsals so that the first show you return to is just as good as when you left the weekend before.

Well there’s another reason too.

So far this show has sold pretty well, but I really really want West Valley Light Opera to have a HIT!  A big fucking smash hit show.  Sorry for the expletive, but I feel that it was the only word that could emphasize it the way I meant it.

The super-finale is actually more fun than I thought it was going to be because of all the snow. It starts with hearing a room full of people singing a Berlin classic, and then it tears into a frolicking snowy good time and everyone looks so happy!  I love looking out into the audience and seeing the people smiling, or nodding their heads in time to the music or best of all singing along.    That happened on Sunday’s performance.  I saw a bright and cheery lady singing along with me during “Best Things Happen When Your Dancing.”  She was sitting in the third row and just looked like she was having the best time ever and that’s only the fifth song of the show, and there are nearly 20 of them!  To top that off, there was a lady in blue right in the front row that was beaming the biggest smile during “I Love a Piano” when the Duncan Sisters were singing their part.  I know that the possibility for having that hit exists with this production, but I worry that one bad performance could jeopardize that chance.

This Friday’s show isn’t selling the way I hoped that it would, but there are $20 tickets available.  Maybe that will help.  I hope that people who have come to see the show, get the word out that it is a good show.  I do have to say thanks to my BFF over at NotBlueAtAll, for the incredibly kind words and for attending Opening Night. Also, a big thanks to Ronnie Misra for all of his amazing support.

If any of you have seen the show, please leave a review, especially if you loved the show, at Artsopolis. Like Ronnie did!

I love working with this company and I worry about it sometimes.   They are one of the few companies that take chances on their casting and don’t constantly cast the same handful of people for their shows.  Another company that takes chances is Sunnyvale Community Players, and I applaud them for that.  But, they are getting back on track, so they don’t need as much help.  When I began to make the rounds in the area for auditions WVLO was one of the first to give me opportunities and to this day continues to do so.  Needless to say, I feel like I owe them in return because they have always welcomed me with open arms.  I am keeping my fingers crossed  that there are 13 more full houses for this run.  Please cross your fingers with me.

Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Justin Long and Drew Barrymore share a boat ride.

As fortune would have it, I was once again blessed by the free movie ticket gods to see a little flick called “Going The Distance” which starred Drew Barrymore and Justin Long as a couple that have to manage a long distance relationship and all the doubts and stresses that go with it.  It’s a total stereotypical romantic comedy that anyone could guess the outcome.  The film has several themes such as following dreams, things that we do for love, temptation, and selflessness.  The movie doesn’t get all bogged down by tackling these issues with any depth. The real surprise was some of the random dialogue that comes out of left field that makes you stop and say “Did s/he just say that?”  You’ll see what I mean in the first scene at the bar between the friends Garret, Dan, and Box (Long, Day, and Sudeikis).

The start of the movie takes off like a freakin Kentucky Derby.  The jokes move the pacing of the movie so it’s actually kind of fun.  The chemistry between Justin Long and his two friends works incredibly well.  Also, as if I have to mention, so does his chemistry with Drew Barrymore.  I can’t say that there was any bad acting in the movie as everyone did exactly what the script calls for.  Even though the run time was about 85 minutes, it felt like it was over two hours. That’s the only true downer.  It was a little disappointing that funnyman Jim Gaffigan didn’t have too much to do in this movie, but he did have two truly funny moments.  One, of course, was the table scene where he’s eating a sandwich.  Jeez, the audience EXPLODED with laughter so loud that the next few lines were inaudible.  In addition to the comedy talents of Gaffigan and Sudeikis, Mike Birbiglia had a small part as a quirky waiter that knew nothing about wine. But I have to say if there was a stand out performance in this movie for me it was Christina Applegate.  Man, she was a comedy beast!  She plays the germaphobic and tough loving sister, Corrine to Barrymore’s Erin.  Every time that she is on the screen you can bet that there will be a laugh! Her rant about dry humping is epically hilarious.  Yes, epically.

The soundtrack is incredible! It’s got some great music from the featured band The Boxer Rebellion as well as a few throwbacks like The Pretender’s “Don’t Get Me Wrong” and The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”

So if you are a fan of any of the actors in the movie, you’ll probably enjoy it providing that you know there isn’t anything deep about it.  It’s a nice piece that works for the purpose of escapism. If that’s what you need, this will totally fit the bill.  It was supposed to start today, but it got pushed back to Labor Day weekend.   Smart thinking as there isn’t anything coming out that weekend.