broadway show reviews


Top Shows of 1999
10
MARIE CHRISTINE - though its score was boring (maybe it's because MC was really an opera?!), Audra gave one helluva performance. The story remained very fateful to Medea which I liked. 

9
JOY LUCK CLUB - I hated the movie, so it was a surprise that the stage version worked for me. This time, all the stories are told, and there is less weepy "I'm a victim because of the evil man" theme. And the most memorable must be the matching colors of the mothers and daughters. I heard the Mtn View production was even better than the NY production because Theatreworks fed more money into our version. 

8
SISTERS MATSUMOTO  - Though the story of survival was nothing novel, the performances were outstanding. SJ Rep had a beautiful set complete with snowfall. 

7
ANNIE  - The revival, not the movie! Some classics just don't hold up and seem dated. This wasn't true for Annie. The Daddy Warbucks was more believable than Victor Garber.

6
CABARET - What a marvelous interpretation. It actually strengthened the book. Norbert Butz was very good. During an improvisation, he snuck behind two men seated at one of the tables and tried to get their attention. The guys were just too mesmorized with the show to notice the Emcee poking at their hair, making faces with his tongue, and thrusting his pelvis at them.

5
COMMUNICATING DOORS - It was billed as a sci-fi thriller. What it didn't say was the show ends with an educational note on war and controlling one's own life. 

4
RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN W/ SF SYMPHONY & MARIN MAZZIE - It was just a concert but I had a great seat and a great time. Marin and Jason were a lot of fun. 

3
DEATH OF A SALESMAN - Dennehy's and Franz's wonderful performances were expected, but the entire cast including Ron Eldard gave "A" performances. I've never seen a play with such a dynamic staging. I look forward to the Showtime presentation.

2
KISS ME KATE - Marin gets to be on my list twice. It was perfect in casting, set, & score. Its thin book didn't bother me at all. The 2 gangsters were also exceptional.

1
AS BEES IN HONEY DROWN  - It's the year of Alexa Vere de Vere who mesmorized me from start to finish. Produced in the small stage, the show's settings changed to a dozen ingenius places with only a few props. No morals to learn from the show other than it's a very entertaining evening.



Copacabana

Score & Lyrics: Fair
Book: Poor
Costumes: Good
Staging / Direction: Fair
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average
Performances: Fair
Overall Grade: D
Recommendation: Not Recommended

Comments:
It should be called Barry Manilow's Coma-Cabana. Though it started promising with a catchy overture, the show goes downhill from there with a silly book that feels like a segment from "Fantasy Island." 

Franc D'Ambrosio is miscast as a beau for Darcie Robert's Lola. The 2 have little chemistry. The rest of the cast underperforms, especially with bad accents (southern,Brooklyn, and Cuban mutilated here).

Each song is sung like a big Vegas number, complete with show girls in skimpy outfits. The title song itself inspires the show's plot but is never fully sung until curtain call. Even then it feels like a plop on the floor. 

The sound was horrible. The orchestra was overamplified and the actors couldn't sing over it. To compensate, they would overamp the voices. Since the actors were truly powerful singers, they would sing loud enough to cause the mikes to ring. What a show to force its audience to stick its fingers into their ears.

The 2 women who sat next to me made this comment during intermission, "I'm glad intermission is finally here. I hope it lasts the entire act 2."


The Last Night of Ballyhoo
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: Good
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average
Performances: Poor
Overall Grade: B-
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:

"The Last Night of Ballyhoo" is about the exclusion of social classes and forgetting your own roots to try to fit in. The story sets in Atlanta in the 1930's where the WASPs have their own clubs and fraternities. The southern Jewish resort to opening their own clubs like The Standard Club. However, even within the Jewish community, there is segregation between the German Jews and the Eastern European Jews ("The Other Kind.") 

The Last Night of Ballyhoo showcases a family of the German Jews who have gained financial prosperity. They live on an well-to-do Christian street where the only other Jewish family lives far down the road in the "bad side." The matrons of the house include the hen-pecking Beulah (Boo) Levy, her dim-bulbed sister Reba, and her napping brother, Adolph. Beulah's daughter, La-La, is a college drop-out and almost embarassment to the family. She is fanatic over Gone With the Wind which premieres in Atlanta as the play starts. Boo pushes Lala to find a date to the Ballyhoo, a week long social activity in Atlanta during X-mas drawing many Jewish young adults to the event. Meanwhile, returning home from Wessley is Reba's daughter, Sunny. She catches the eye of her uncle's employee, Joe Farkas, and is asked to go to the Ballyhoo with him. Joe is from Brooklyn where he has grown-up living in a Jewish neighborhood. As he later proclaims, he looks and talks Jewish. He is also "The Other Kind." The Levy family, however, is trying hard to be like their Christian counterparts. They even have a Christmas tree, although Boo scolds Lala for placing a star at the top. 

Well-to-do Peachy Weil shows up asking Lala to the Ballyhoo. Boo likes Peachy and hopes her daughter can get into their family. Peachy, however, is an immature, cocky goofball. While at Ballyhoo, he insults Joe as the Other Kind. Joe later confronts Sunny on her anti-semism. To salvage their relationship, Sunny and the rest of the Levy family participate in a Jewish ceremony.

The show was very educational to me in learning Southern discrimination in the 40's and also the conflicts between the Jews themselves. The show is strong in comedy, but its drama seems overshadowed by the laughs. At the end, I'm not sure of the somber ending.

The worst distraction throughout the entire show was the actors' accents. Only Lala was able to carry a Scarlet O'Hara southern accent. Joe Farkas' Jewish accent comes and goes. It can be understandable that the rest of the Levy clan lacks an accent because of how hard they try to assimilate. But at least get the Southern accent right. The biggest offender was Sheila O'Neill Ellis as Boo Levy. Her dialogue came at machine gun rates, and she sounded like she belonged on Jerry Springer. No offense to African-American women. 

Overall, I was disappointed with the cast. I think a top-notch cast would make this production clearly the Best Play of the Year as the award it received in 1997.


Tallulah
Score: N/A
Book: Average
Costumes: Good
Staging/Direction: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Good
Performances: GOOD

Grade: B
Recommended

Comments:
"Tallulah" is a 1-woman Sunset Blvd. Only Tallulah Bankhead had a potty mouth cursing and talking about outrageous things like her lesbian,aspirin cocaine, and naked party experiences.
 Katheleen Turner, looking Marvelous all the time in Bob Mackie's costumes, gives a wonderful performance as the aging diva.   Frustrated with her co-star, Marlon Brando because he just wouldn't die, she tries to get him ejected from the show. Later she reveals her action of jumping him one evening might have made her the talk of bad gossip. Tallulah tries to reinvent herself by announcing she's running for Congress, only her plans are askewed when the President calls to skip her party. "I am Tallulah Bankead," she exlaims, "I deserve to be treated seriously!!" Sadly, by the night's end, we learn that Tallulah's partying has left her empty of a man and career. She must resort to doing radio for NBC. 
Kathleen Turner carries this show. Unfortunately, like many 1-person shows, it gets dull after awhile. As outrageous and funny Kathleen can be, the final result is just an average 1-person show that probably can't survive without the diva, Turner, herself.


Aliens in America
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: Fair
Costumes: NA
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: Average
Lighting: Average
Performances: Average
Overall Grade: C
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:

Sandra Tsing Loh stars in this one-woman show comprised of three stories of her perspective of her family. Ms. Loh has a cheap Chinese dad who enjoys riding buses and would recommend an empty Frosted Flake box as a briefcase. Sandra's mother is a hearty German woman who loved Schnapps and singing Edelweiss. There's also Sandra's uptight and angry sister who is ticked at everything about her father. The first segment of the show is entitled "My Father's Chinese Wives." After Sandra's biological mother died, her father applied for a Chinese wife. It took 2 tries before he found one that could cope with his temperament. Story number 2, "Ethiopian Vacation," predates the prior story and shows Sandra as a little girl. Instead of the family going to Hawaii where there are happy people, Sandra's dad takes the family to Ethiopia because it's educational. Sandra's mom befriends German tourists and persuades them to ride the cheap bus with the family. Unfortunately, the bus gets stopped by terrorists, and the German tourists are kidnapped as hostages. The third story is "Musk" set with Sandra as a freshmen returning from college. She has met a stoned guy and thinks of him as her boyfriend. She attends a party with him and winds up in the hot tub of hemp with his friends. Before long, 2 sexy bombshells slip naked into the hot tub causing a self-conscious, insecure, fully-clothed Sandra to bolt. Sandra feels odd like at what she perceives of her German grandmother whose picture hangs in her parents' room. The epilogue of the show has the family taking a silly photo in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The final words are despite how dysfunctional the family was, they still loved each other as a family.

Aliens in America is supposed to be a funny show, but most of Tsing Loh's material is mildly funny. Most of the laughs come from her mugging. And she unfortunately, it only goes so far. Sometimes the audience is left awkwardly as she grimaces to try to push the audience to laugh with her. The show feels a lot like a stand-up act. Tsing Loh occasionally used tactics that Margaret Cho used like repeating over and over again an unfunny joke. 

Throughout the program and the theatre, there are articles about race in America. I thought this show would dwell on the difficulties of being a multi-racial person in the U.S. But the show is not about that. It's about Sandra's family. And though she relies on them for appearing weird, they are no worst than any other family. Her parents could have been both Caucasian or both Chinese and her story still would have remained the same. I didn't really learn much about race from this show. Obviously her theme might be that we're all the same. But there has to be more in her show to make it compelling.

The Fantasticks
Score & Lyrics: Average
Book: Good
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: Average
Lighting: Average
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: B+
Recommendation: Recommended
I was plesantly surprised with this show. The Saratoga Drama Group did a good job casting. Act 1 was cute, funny, and fairy tale-ish. Act 2 was serious and realistic. It reminded me of "Into The Woods." For being 40 years old, I thought its theme transcended time. The way the story breaks down the 4th wall also seems ahead of 1960s time.

The Woman in Black
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: Average
Costumes: Good
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Good
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: C+
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:

The show was slow to start. For the first few minutes, we have two  gentleman arguing - "You must do this show. I won't. You must. I won't." Because of that, the show lost my attention and I never cared about what happened next. I just wanted the woman in black to appear and scare the beejeepers out of the audience. It only happened once, and it was just a over-amplified woman's scream. 

I also thought it was dull that most of the story is told on-stage as a story instead of seeing the actions themselves. 

I was impressed with Keith Baxter's performance. He played several characters all convincingly. 

As for the Twilight Zone ending, I didn't really care anymore at this point. I just thought, "it's over at 90 minutes already?!"

Far East
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: Good
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Good
Sets: Average
Lighting: Average
Performances: Average
Overall Grade: B
Recommendation: Recommend
Comments:

Far East by A.R. Gurney (3/7-4/8) is about the change in 4 American lives in a 1954 U.S. Naval base in Japan. The main center of focus is Sparky Watts; his friends call him Sparky because he is a live wire.  Like the main lead in "A Few Good Men," Sparky is a fun-seeking, military protocol rebellious kind of guy. The show begins with his new assignment in Japan, but he skips the Fourth of July picnic for a date with a Japanese waitress. While his Captain expresses disapproval over Sparky's behavior (Sparky plagiarizes John Conrad to write his military serveillance report on Indochina), his wife takes a more active participation with Sparky to change his ways. He encourages him to take one of her dance classes. She doesn't understand why he must date one of them when there are plenty of attractive (white) women on the base. She assumes his lover must be a prostitute. She is flabbergasted to find out his girlfriend is a "indigineous staff" from her own dance class. To protect him, she writes to his family to tell them of what's going on. Obviously the family is extremely upset that their son is not dating one of their own kind. 

One thing good about Far East is that there are also subplots revolving around other characters. We meet Bob, one of Sparky's well-ranked officers, who has inappropriately brought a Top Secret file back to his barracks. We later discover a top secret page is missing. Bob confesses that during one of his gay encounters, he was bribed to give 
away a page of secrets in trade for pictures of him in the act. Instead of participating in Bob's deception, Sparky encourages him to turn himself in. Sparky is court martialed and discharged, but not before we get an earful of homophobia in the military courts.

The third subplot revolves around the Captain and his wife, Julie. Clearly, Julie finds Sparky attractive. And the Captain sometimes doesn't seem like he has his heart in Julie. He fondly remembers a relationship with a Filipino woman. 

By the end of the show, all the characters lives are changed as several of them must leave Japan for the U.S. 

Far East does a good job meshing Eastern and Western theatrics.  While the 4 caucasian actors do the traditional Western staging, the  peripheral staging is Japanese. We have a narrator dressed in traditional garb sitting on the side of the stage. Flanked on the opposite side is a taiko drummer. Two kurogos are the only Asian actors who interact with the main characters. The kurogos never speak; they are voiced by the narrator. Sparky's girlfriend is discussed, but we never see the two together. Occasionally, Sparky would talk to his girlfriend, and the narrator would be emoting what she must be feeling.

In addition to blending East and West styles, the show also comments on the past and future. We are reminded of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. And there is a cloud looming over Vietnam as the characters foreshadow the trouble to come 10 years later. 

Even though the show is very clear on how racist some of the characters are, we don't get a clean resolution to what we're supposed to do about it. Watching the show itself makes me feel like the racism had walked off the stage. Some audience members laughed at the 
clacking of the ki. The lady next to me thought the Taiko was too loud. None of the Asian actors in the show are in a pivotal role (narrator is exception). 

And the homophobia is definitely a weak theme. Bob did do something wrong, gay or not. He deserves to be discharged. 

Overall, the show is a good depiction of the conflicts of Americans.

The 3hree Musketeers
Score & Lyrics: Poor
Book: Poor
Costumes: Good
Staging & Direction: Fair
Sets: Fair
Lighting: Average
Performances: Average
Overall Grade: D
Recommendation: Not Recommended
Comments:

The 3hree Musketeers - it melts in your hands and leaves a guck that you can't get rid of for 3 hours.

First the good points: Good costumes. AMT was able to hire many good actors from Broadway and local (Throughly Modern Millie, Ragtime, Triumph of Love all here). The pre-show show was cliched (Cirque du Soleil could have done it better) but was mildly entertaining.

The bad points: The pre-show show was the only thing entertaining. I couldn't wait for the remaining 3 hours to be over. The talented cast flopped. Nothing interesting or inspiring about each performance.

The problem lies in the book and music. The music sounded the same for every song. Even a GAP commercial jingle can stay longer in my mind than those songs presented in 3 Musketeers. Worst of all, the music was overamplified in comparison to the voices. 

The book was a Les Miserables-wannabe. It's a French period piece with gigantic cast and complex plot. While Les Miz' turntable staging made some things understandable, Musketeer's static jungle-gym staging made the show unfocused. 

One last good word to say about the show. I liked the off-stage beheading of the villainess. You hear the thud and splash. Someone should put this show out of its misery too.

Bee
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Good/Excellent
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Average  (Can be more creative)
Sets: Fair
Lighting: Fair
Performances: Average (Ginger Eckert stands out for her funny turns)
Overall Grade: B+
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
Comments:
"Bee" opened at the Loraine Hansberry Theatre on Saturday. It's about Devon, a young, gay Korean man who is invisible (H.G. Wells invisible, not Ralph Ellison invisible) to everybody except to Gina, a 50-year old, Vegas casino-working African-American woman. Pleading for help, Gina reluctantly agrees to help Devon for a week to cure his invisibility. The 2 travel around Vegas seeking help from various lonely characters like a loquacious taxi cab driver, a boozing Physics professor, a hippie paranormal investigator, and an emotionally imbalanced priest. 

Through their adventures together, we learn about the characters' commonalities. Both were attacked by swarms of bees as kids. Both have damaged mother-son relationships. Both were in & traumatized by the L.A. riots of 1992. 

Obviously, race relations between Asians and African-Americans are explored. Each blamed the other for the riots. Yet there isn't a clear solution for each groups' problems. 

Despite their surface differences, Gina and Devon have more in common than what appears. Eventually, they help each other resolve their emotional wounds. The cure for Devon's invisibility is something simple yet it required the week of trials to get to that point.

I really liked the show. It was funny and educational. The dialogue regarding the riots made me think and see it from different perspectives. Even though the acting was average, you do care for these characters. And the ending may wet your eyes slightly and this will happen before they try to manipulate your tears in a weak, slapped-on crying scene. The staging could be more creative. Butwith a funny, decent script from Prince Gomolvilas it's a story that should be heard. 

The King Stag
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Good/Excellent
Costumes: Good
Staging & Direction: Good
Sets: Average
Lighting: Good
Performances: Excellent/Good
Overall Grade: A
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
Comments:
Though Julie Taymor's show wasn't as elaborate as The Lion King, her touch was certainly present.  King Stag had characters with the long, stilt arms.  Puppets controlled by multiple people like the 2 stags, the bear, and the old man.  The old decrepit man was so interesting that at times I forgot he was a puppet.  Then there were the background light shadows of animals in the forest and the laughing Buddha face.  One of my favorites is the decapitated Tartaglia. 
The story is about King Deramo's love for Angela.  Deramo had been searching for a wife for a long time.  On this day, there was indication that he would meet his future queen.  Three women try-out for the queenship.  Smeraldina is ready to leave her current lover, the dopey Truffaldino, for her aspirations as a queen.  Clarice is forced to leave her love, Leandro, because her father, Tartaglia, has aspirations for her to be queen and for his own benefits.   Finally, there's Angela who is truly in love with the King.
As Deramo interviews each candidate, his trusty Buddha statue laughs whenever it detects dishonesty.  Both Smeraldina and Clarice are disqualified.  There is celebration when he finally weds Angela.
The upset Tartaglia vows revenge.  When Deramo confides in his prime minister a secret to leap into corpses, Tartaglia seizes the opportunity to dethrone the king.  While Deramo is inhabiting a stag's body, Tartaglia steals Deramo's body and decapitates himself to keep Deramo from going into his body.  Tartaglia returns to the town to create havoc on everybody's lives.  He even slays an elderly man. 
Deramo enters the slain old man's body and returns his castle, hoping that his dear wife Angela would recognize him.  When they meet, she finally warms-up to the fact that her husband is in a body of a decrepit man.  She loves him regardless. 
Durandarte, the magician parrot, returns to thwart Tartaglia's plans.  Tartaglia and Deramo are returned to their former bodies.  And Tartaglia dies.  The King and Queen live happily.

The Piano Lesson
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Good
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average (masks revealed)
Performances: Excellent
Overall Grade: B
Recommendation: Recommended
Comments:
I saw "The Piano Lesson" at SJ Rep this Sunday. It's another one of August Wilson's work set in the 1930's. The story revolves around various subplots and characters. But the main storyline is about how Willie Boy returns from the South to his sister's house in
Philadelphia to try to convince her to sell their piano. He wants to use the money to buy land that belonged to a recently-deceased, once-upon-a-time slaveowner. His sister refuses because the piano has a lot of family history. In the end, Willie Boy learns the importance of the piano, and his sister learns the power of the past.

The cast for The Piano Lesson was great. Kenny Leon, the show's director who replaces a lead actor who dropped out days before opening night, carried a script throughout most of the show. Despite not knowing all the lines yet, Kenny did have the character down. 

Despite a wonderful cast, beautiful set, and hilarious scenes, the show was just too long (3 hours). There were many scenes that should've been excised as it brought the action to a halt. We get a thrilling ending, but there just isn't enough resolution with Willie Boy's character who simply walks out the door with a wave.

Chess
Score & Lyrics: Fair
Book: Fair
Costumes: Average (for a concert)
Staging & Direction: Fair (for a concert)
Sets: N/A
Lighting: Average
Performances: Average (good screaming at their lungs though)
Overall Grade: C
Recommendation: Not Recommended
Comments:
I wish I could give "Chess" a better review, but I can't. I think it was a wasted opportunity of the drama behind 2 bull-headed superpowers in a stand-off (sounds like current events, doesn't it?).  The movie isn't really about chess or the competition. Its USA vs USSR theme is rather weak. Freddie, the American player, comes off looking like a jerk. Anatoly, the Russian player, comes off stiff.   The show is mainly about Florence, Freddie's aide, coming to terms with her past and current love with the "enemy." The show is also about the corruption between the second-hand men to deceptively make their own country look good. 

Using a synthesizer and drums/percussion only, the Andersson and Ulvaeus songs did not stand out for me. Most of the attention is drawn to the powerful singers, although I didn't find the songs interesting either. The show reminded me of "Rent" where the Mark-lookalike is screaming the lyrics (quite effectively). Maybe the songs deserve a second hearing.

Floyd Collins
Score & Lyrics: Poor
Book: Fair
Costumes: Fair
Staging & Direction: Poor
Sets: Average
Lighting: Good
Performances: Fair
Overall Grade: D
Recommendation: Not Recommended
Comments:

BOOK: Based on a real story from 1925, Floyd Collins crawls into an underground cavern in KY looking for an opportunity to get rich from a "cave tourist attraction." In his explorations, his leg gets trapped underneath a rock. After some struggling, more of his body is buried beneath the dirt. With only his head sticking out of a hole, Floyd fights for his survival. Floyd's brother, Homer, returns from his runaway, and tries to free Floyd. Unfortunately, he is too big to fit into the last crevice to reach Floyd. Homer calms his brother with talk, remembering the good old days and keeping him occupied with riddles. Nellie, Floyd's sister, was recently released from the mental ward. She wants to go down to help her brother, but she is prohibited by her father. Meanwhile, a local corporate fellow by the name of H.T. Carmichael, takes it upon himself to organize Floyd's rescue. Skeets Miller, a local reporter, comes to get news about the story. Skeets is his nickname because he is small like a mosquito. Because of his stature, Skeets is the ONLY person who can reach Floyd through climbing through the caverns. Skeet's interview with Homer would later hit the papers across the U.S. and eventually garnering him a Pulitzer Prize. The story generates so much attention that people from all over come to the farm land for the exhibition. The area turns into a media circus, complete with refreshment stands and souveneirs. Floyd's own dad takes advantage of the opportunity be selling gifts and collecting recyclable drink bottles. The increase of men in the cavern results in a cave-in that blocks Floyd from the outside world. How will the rescuers get to him now? Will Floyd see the light of day? Or will he be entombed in the very cave that was supposed to be his dream of success? SPOILERS AT THE END.

Despite an interesting concept of "man stuck in a cave creates media circus," the entire show doesn't go very far. Act 1 is very drawn out, while act 2 is tighter. But the only reason to keep us in our seats is to find out what happens to Floyd. And even the ending isn't gratifying. The show also lacks focus. Is the show about the relationship between Floyd and his brother or Floyd and Skeets Miller. It seems to jump around in every direction, including Floyd and Nellie. Since the story is spread out so much, there is no sympathy for any of the relationships. Most of the other characters, like Floyd's father, Lee, and Miss Jane, aren't well developed either. 

MUSIC: If you like your musicals played with a banjo and guitar, this is it. The show reminded me a lot of "Violet" with its twanginess (is that a word?). There's even a lot of yodeling if you're into that. At the end, I was hoping Floyd would yodel again so I can't get a laugh before the depressing story ended. The only song that was mildly amusing to me was "Is That Remarkable" about how the reporters would twist any rumor into a front-page headline. Still, this song never reaches the satirical depictions that were well-done in the "Chicago" revival. 

SETS: If the "Rent" set or its scaffoldings collapsed, you would have your Floyd Collins set. Besides the pile of metal rubble, there were a string of Christmas lights and a facade of a big white tent. 

PERFORMANCES: The main character does some yodeling and then gets trapped under a rock for the rest of the show. Sometimes in fantasy sequences, he would get up again. Not much acting excitement there. As for Francis Jue, I'm finding his range to be very limited. In every show, he seems to do that pained, crying look. I wanted to bust out laughing because I know it happens at every show. I have to say all the actors looked really dumpy dressed in their overalls. I do have one praise though for Jonathan Rhys Williams for playing the local bumpkin. His role is insignificant, but I'm impressed from watching him play Monty in Violet to Agis in Triumph to Rochefort in Three Musketeers to this.

OVERALL: Judging from some audience comments, this show was "horrible." If Adam Guettel is our next generation of Broadway composers, I felt scared. Let's clone Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber instead! As in the other dogs of the season, "The Three Musketeers" and "Copacabana," stay away from this show.

SPOILERS: The ending is a "Kiss of the Spiderwoman" rip-off complete with the entire cast returning in whites to sing happily with Floyd. At this point, one would wish they were all buried underneath this rubble.

FOLLIES
Score & Lyrics: Excellent
Book: Average
Costumes: Good
Staging & Direction: Average
Set: Good
Lighting: Good
Performances: Average
Grade: B-
Recommendation: Recommend

Comments:
Veteran actors are trotted out but have very little characterization or plot. Most of them are hardly even in act 2. Instead the story focuses on couples, Ben & Phyllis and Buddy & Sally. 

Blythe Danner as Phyllis is cold and tipsy; Danner delivers an okay performance but her singing voice has become raw. Gregory Harrison again plays a jerk like in Steel Pier, but this time, he feels more suitable for the role. Oddly, I felt Judith Ivey and Treat Williams were the more interesting couple. Ivey played Sally as a nervous, unconfident woman who is still longing for her "true love" with Ben; frankly, I thought her performance was the best because her character was the most sympathetically human. Williams plays a hurt Buddy, watching his wife destroy their relationship. Without Williams and Ivey, the show would have been competely empty.

As for the rest of the cast, I was surprised how octogenarian Marge Champion could still kick-up a storm in "Rain On The Roof". During "Who's That Woman," unfortunately Margo fell. I thought it was part of the act, but apparently it was not. A chorus boy helped her up and used his body to shield her from falling into the elevator shaft.

Betty Garrett did a cute rendition of Broadway Baby. The crowd loved Polly Bergen's "I'm Still Here," but I thought it lost some punch when she sang the song walking around the stage. Jane White's French accent was annoying. Carol Woods deserved more praise for doing the best number in the whole show "Who's That Woman?" 

Act 2 is less interesting as it completely focuses on the couples.   As the reunion turns into a cheesy "Follies," the young versions get a full song (w/ Matt Wall as Young Ben stealing the scene). Buddy's "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues" is the most catchy and fun.  Sally's "Losing My Mind" is dull. Phyllis' "The Story of Lucy and Jessie" is even duller, especially with Danner's voice. Ben's "Live, Laugh, Love" is okay just because we get to see the breakdown of this character.

I wish the book was better. In a rare twist, I actually liked the songs from Follies. I wouldn't mind seeing this show again, mainly because my seat was bad and there are lots of aging stars in this show that deserve their lime lights.

THE PRODUCERS
Score & Lyrics: Good
Book: Good
Costumes: Good
Staging & Direction: Good
Set: Excellent
Lighting: Average
Performances: Excellent
Grade: B+
Recommendation: Highly Recommend

The show is funny and produces a lot of grins and titters. But it is not hilarious like "Forbidden Broadway" that leaves your mouth aching by intermission. Sometimes, I felt the audience over-laughed. For example, the pigeons were cute but not deserving of guffaws. 

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are wonderful as Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom. I wasn't expecting Broderick to talk with a duck voice (more like the buck-toothed, thick glasses-wearing Professor Frink onThe Simpsons) and use physical comedy schtick (e.g. crying over his blanket), so I was impressed with his neurotic performance. 

Honorable mention also goes to Roger Bart as the flamey Carmen Ghia whose sibilant "S" lasts a full minute and to Gary Beach as the cross dressing director who later plays an effeminate, lounge-singing Hitler who pretends to be masculine and straight. 

Cady Huffman's performance was weak. She has the look and "that face." But her unconvincing Swedish accent was distracting and her comic timing needed to be developed. 

Susan Stroman deserves praise for her big, ensemble numbers. "The King of Broadway" is almost like a Russian dance with Bialystock as czar. The "Along Came Bialy" takes an innovative use of old lady walkers. And finally "Springtime For Hitler" is a satirical farce, complete with goosestepping Nazi soldiers forming an overhead swastika. 

The stage show's book differs from the film's book. No longer does Bialystock promise 100% of profits to each investor. No longer does Bialystock and Bloom hope to collect the insurance. Without these 2 premises, I'm not sure WHY Bialystock and Bloom morn that their show is a hit. 

Additionally, they don't blow-up the theater. And the ending is a typical happy Broadway ending rather than the bleak but funny ending in the film. The court scenes seem tacked-on. 

Overall the show is hilarious with Lane, Broderick, Bart, and Beach.  It'll be interesting to see if anyone can top these performances in future replacements. The show is a lot of fun, but it lacks "heart."

A CLASS ACT
Score & Lyrics: Average
Book: Excellent
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Good/Excellent
Set: Good
Lighting: Good
Performances: Excellent
Grade: B+
Recommendation: If you're ACL fan, Highly Recommeded; otherwise
Recommended

While any Joe Blow can find  The Producers  entertaining, "A Class Act" is a show for the musical intellectuals. Interesting book; songs where you really have to pay attention; a great ensemble performance; and interesting staging for an almost-bare stage makes the show a delight. 

Friends of Ed Kleban gather for a special "A Chorus Line" memorial show for Ed. Even though he's in an urn, Kleban drops by to hear his friends gush and diss him. Wondering how people can perceive him so badly, his lifelong friend, Sophie, encourages him to tell his story truthfully. We flashback to the Kleban's college years where he finally gets to leave a mental institution for his problems. He gets a job working for a record label. And on "Fridays at Four," he starts attending a musical comedy workshop where he meets his motley friends. 

Since Kleban was afraid to share his work with the class until he had perfected it, his instructor forces him to play one of his works, "Paris Through The Window." Kleban's classmates, including instructor Lehman, sense his brilliance. 

Kleban's love life consists of going from one woman to the next. His longtime friend, Sophie, refuses to marry him because he can't settle down. 

Kleban gets good work, but his insecurities and phobias make him a hell to work with. He gets fired from John Gielgud's show. 

Depressed, Kleban continues to chug along. One day he gets a call to audition for Michael Bennett's new show. Bennett is impressed with Kleban and offers a chance for him and Marvin Hamlisch to write the lyrics and score for his show, "A Chorus Line." Hamlisch and Kleban fight like cats and dogs, yet they become geniuses for producing "At The Ballet"  together.

We see more "A Chorus Line" collaboration as Kleban writes "One Fabulous Sensation." Bennett objects to the lyrics because fabulous and sensation are redundant. Kleban changes it to "One Singular Senation" but then quips "Wait until he finds out that One and Singular are redundant!" Soon, "A Chorus Line" is a hit, winning Tonys for the lyrics and composing team. 

Unfortunately, Kleban's work then dries up as he continues to get more neurotic. Kleban wants his music to be heard, not just be a lyricist. In a heated disussion, his best friend Sophie tells him his music isn't that good. Kleban refuses to speak to her again, except when he asks for her second opinion on his lung cancer. 

After Kleban dies, his friends gather at the reading of the will.  Kleban has left songs for each of his friends, including Sophie. His hope is that the songs would be performed "preferably in a large building, in a central part of town, in a dark room, as part of a play, with a lot of people paying a lot of money to hear it."

Lonny Price is excellent playing the Woody Allen-ish Lonny Price, but his singing voice is not very pleasant. The women are stand-outs in this show: Nancy Anderson is a sexy Mona, Sara Ramirez is an even sexier tough record producer, and Donna Bullock, whom I said looked like Hillary Clinton with her blond wig in Ragtime, looks like Annette Bening here with her brown wig. Instead of Randy Graff as Sophie, I got a delightful, intelligent Ann Van Cleave. David Hibbard and Jeff Blumenkrantz did wonderful caricatures of Michael Bennett and Marvin Hamlisch in act 2. 

Kleban's real songs are okay. There are lyrics that are lame like "flat foot floogies...living on spam." And then there are lyrics from "Mona" that make a sexual encounter like a driving experience a fascinating mesh. Unfortunately for Kleban, the parts of his songs are often better than the whole. 

Marguerite Derricks provided decent, fun choreography.  Derricks is famous for reproducing steps from "A Rich Man's Frug" from Fosse's Sweet Charity film in Austin Powers and the Gap khaki commercials.  For what lack of talent persuaded her to recreate those exact same steps for "A Class Act" characters in a 70's flashback?  If it worked once, she doesn't have to repeat them all the time.  

Still the show is interesting to learn about this unlikely hero. And though there is no star name (not yet), the ensemble is great. The show leaves you laughing and then crying. It deserves to be heard.

THE SEARCH FOR SIGNS OF INTELLIGENT LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Good
Costumes: N/A
Staging & Direction: Average
Set: Average/Good
Lighting: Good
Performances: Excellent
Grade: B-
Recommendation: Recommend

Soup. Art. Soup. Art. That's bag lady Trudy teaching her space alien friends the difference between a can of Campbell soup and an Andy Warhol painting of a can of Campbell soup. The aliens just can't get it. But by the end of the show, there's a light bulb that goes off. 

The show is the soup. The art is the audience feeling joy and sadness, interacting together as one. 

The best thing about Jane Wagner's show is how seemingly separate ideas and characters come together as one. Lily Tomlin plays 12 characters, men and women, poor and rich, single and divorced, gay and straight. We see each character in their own element. Yet we start to see how they are all connected. And finally, the crazy bag lady with the umbrella antenna hat has the most insights into life.   "If life is meaningless, wouldn't that be the most fascinating mystery of them all?"

Lily Tomlin is wonderful playing these characters. Her miming abilities are uncanny. I had accepted each of her characters without problem, although when she tried to play 3 at one time, it was difficult to follow. 

Unfortunately, the 20-year old play has lost its impact compared to how it must have originally played. The best reason to see this show is to see Tomlin, 62, who is so energetic and flexible that she had the audience worn-out.

CYRANO
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Average
Costumes: Fair (well made but strange choices. Looked like Black Panthers or Keanu Reeves' Matrix character)
Staging/Direction: Fair
Sets: Fair (Nice bakery but big moon was ugly. Balcony was just a big red window with big flowers)
Lighting: Average
Performances: Average (John Hansen isn't convincing as sympathetic, ugly hero; Elaine Erika Davis plays Roxane like a sorority girl; Dan Hiatt's DeGuiche is too forgiving as Roxane's jilted lover)
Grade: C-
Recommendation: Not Recommended

MAME
Score & Lyrics:  Good
Book:  Average
Costumes:  Good/Average
Staging & Direction:  Fair
Sets:  Average
Lighting:  N/A
Performances:  Fair
Grade:  D
Recommendation:  Not Recommend
I'm very disappointed in Saratoga Drama Group for producing this bad show since it has always done better than your average community theater.  The worst was the sound.  The orchestra didn't seem coordinated.  The horns overpowered the other instruments in act 1.  At certain times, the strings sounded like they were screeching. 

Then there was the amplification.  The microphones did not seem to function all the time.  Often you could hear the static if the microphones were working.   I could hardly hear most of Norma Hughes' singing.

Norma Hughes did not have the role at her grasp, especially in the beginning of the show.  Then again, maybe it was the bad microphone.  Carol Pollard was a dead ringer for Bea Arthur as Vera Charles;  who'd guess she could sing less than Arthur.  Most of the rest of the cast is uninspiring, especially the older actors who appeared lifeless in their roles (exception for Julie Masterson as Mrs. Upson).  The only actor who appeared to have an ounce of talent was Bobby Giraudo as Junior Babcock.
There was one interesting gaffe in the show.  As the scrim was going up, it caught onto one of the ensemble's dresses.  The extras had to tug on it for a few seconds before it released. 
The effect of switching Patrick Dennis from 10-year old to 19-year old was also effective (kid drops a paper, when he picks it up, it's the older actor). 

VICTOR/VICTORIA
Score & Lyrics:  Excellent
Book:  Good
Costumes:  Good
Staging & Direction:  Good
Sets:  Excellent (for those borrowed from the original show)
Lighting:  Average
Performances:  Good
Grade:  B+
Recommendation:  Recommend
Comments:
Victor/Victoria is a good quality in comparison to the original (as seen on DVD). I think they even had the original set (the 2-story hotel rooms) because the wallpaper matched. The playbill credits the original set and costume designers. Lee Roy Reams was great. Jennifer Allen was impressive in the Julie Andrews role. Riette Burdick, the ditzy Norma Cassidy was good but as great as the other ditzy blond who starred in Singing in the Rain.  This version went through some cuts though. "Paris Makes Me Horny" was cut. "Crazy World" was replaced with "Who Can I Tell."  Some dialogue was removed from "King's Dilemma." Additionally, Victoria's revelation to King Marchan that she's really a woman is cut (they just show them in bed together and he already knows).

My biggest disappointment is that the ending where Victoria and Toddy trade places for Henri Labisse's humiliating revelation is not as slight-of-hand as how the original production did it.

MASTER HAROLD...AND THE BOYS
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Good
Costumes: Average
Staging / Direction: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average
Performances: Excellent
Overall Grade: B
Recommendation: Recommended

Comments:
Excellent performances by Greg Wallace ("Willie"), Steven Anthony Jones ("Sam"), and Jonathan Sanders ("Hally").  Additionally, all three mastered South African/British accents. 
Sam & Willie are servants to Hally and his family.  They work in the family's tea room on a rainy afternoon, when Hally comes into the shop after school.  Sam is giving pointers to Willie on his ballroom dance competition.  Hally and Sam debate about "who is great?"  Their jolly conversation reminds Hally of his childish ventures into Sam's and Willie's rooms at Jubilee (the mansion?).  Hally's favorite memory is of Sam making a kite for Hally out of scraps.  Miraculously, Hally is able to get the kite to fly.   Returning to his homework, Sam inspires Hally to write an essay about the cultural event of their ballroom competition.  Sam tells of a world without collision;  Hally is more pessimistic in that he believes as soon as something good happens, there is something to disappoint.
Through a series of phone calls, we see Hally struggle with his mom over the hospital release of Hally's handicapped father.  Hally does not want his father home because he is a source of pain and embarrassment.  Sam insists Hally keep his mouth shut from disrespecting his father.  Unfortunately, Hally turns his anger on Sam, resulting in his spouting a racially oppressive joke.  To show Hally why "a nigger is unfair," Sam moons him.  As revenge, Hally spits on Sam like a common dog. 
Willie holds back Sam from beating Hally to a pulp remembering that he's just a boy.  Sam insists to Hally for a reconciliation.  Hally ignores the plea and rides home on his bike in the rain.  Sam is left in the dark alone.   Willie sacrifices his bus fare to play music from the jukebox.  He takes Sam in his arms and together they escape into their "world without collisions."
My only complaint of the story is that there was no reconciliation between Sam and Hally at the end.  Hally has no dialogue after the spitting.  This leaves the ending hanging pessimistically as if racism is the ultimate answer to Sam & Hally's loving friendship. 

THE LARAMIE PROJECT
I liked Laramie; parts of it were moving. But I was hoping for new insight. Two/thirds of the show are things we already know from the media. I thought the show was going to be about the people of Laramie. Instead, it's just a re-telling of Shepard's death. Worst of all, we don't learn more about Matthew Shepard.
Excellent cast though. 

HER LIGHTNESS
I really shouldn't be reviewing this since it's a workshop.  However, I had a great time.  Even though mid-way through the show, I realized this was a children's show, the story kept me at the edge of my seat.  I was ready to cry at the end when Will sacrificed his life for the love of Lucy.  
The show was presented like a 42nd Street Moon concert than a staged reading.  There were some recognizable faces in the ensemble, including Steve Rhyne, Martin Lewis, and Erwin Urbi.  Every actor was great, especially Annmarie Martin as the Queen and brat.  Jeffra Cook was scary looking in the ensemble with her patchwork face, but she was great when she had to do her evil turn as the Bandit Queen.
The story is about a King & Queen having a baby girl, named Lucy.  Initially, the Queen was hesitant to have a child since children can be so difficult.  However, she capitulated and granted the king his wish.  Unfortunately, during the childbirth, the queen dies.  In his moment of sorrow, the King asks an enchanted old lady to allow Lucy to live her life without pain.  When the wish was granted, Lucy floated into the air because of her lightness.  
As a child, Lucy meets Will.  Will is an angry little orphan, ready to exact revenge for his parents' murder by the Bandit Queen.  Together they work at outsmarting the other kids who tease the duo.  
Meanwhile at the Queen's grave, the enchanted old lady grants the King another wish - the return of his wife.  While waiting at the cementery, a rose sprouts up from the Queen's grave and whispers commands into the King's ears.  To try to bring his daughter down from the sky, the King first tries to find her a playmate.  He then takes her to war.  Finally, he attempts to find a story so sad that it would pierce her heart and bring her down.  
When all fail, the King anchors Lucy to a lake.  By an accident, Lucy rips the lake open allowing the water to drain away.  Lucy is devastated over her favorite thing.  In an effort to stop the leakage, Will places his body into the hole.  As the water fills back up, Will asks Lucy for some favors - a kiss, a smile.  Lucy denies him all requests.  
Ultimately, Will drowns.  Lucy is so distraught that she finally comes back to land.  She has to learn how to walk on earth.  The Queen appears as an angel.  She revives Will.  And everyone lives humanely ever after.
Despite the childish nature of the plot, there was an adult message that prevailed for me - "To be human means to suffer.  Beware of what you wish for because it might come true.  Your problems are necessary to experience happiness."  
During the entire show, I couldn't imagine how this show would work as a full production.  Would Lucy really float?  How would they do the see-saw scene?  Would expanding the material to a 2-act show water down the tight plot?  How will we see the Bandit Queen die from archers?  
Hopefully, I'll get another chance to see this show some day in all its glory.

It's A Bird, It's a Plane, It's SUPERMAN!
I was a huge fan of the Superman movies in the 80's.  I was so disappointed by this book.   I can accept a Superman parody, but how can DC Comics let their hero be characterized like this?  In act 2, Superman becomes Super-Wimp.  Additionally, the villains (Dr. Sedgwick and Max Mencken) have a bigger role in this show than Superman does.  
The only good comment I have about the show is that Kurt Kroesche really fits the role of Superman.  His body was physically fit to fill the tight blue and red suit.  His face was nicely angled.  And I'm glad his cowlick stayed for most of the show.  He played Superman with a parodied self-confidence, but he appeared to be more comfortable playing the goofy Clark Kent/Superman.

3HREE
Score & Lyrics: Average
Book: Good
Costumes: Good
Staging / Direction: Good
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average
Performances: Average
Overall Grade: B-
Recommendation: Recommended
What do you get when you create a 3-in-1 show?  You get 1/3 the emotion.  I liked parts of the show, but there wasn't a compelling reason to love the entire show.
"The Mice" had an interesting premise - Virga releases her pet mice into her friends' house, so they would call the exterminator, Allan Cedar.  When Allan kicks out the owner for several hours to do his exterminating, Virga comes over for a dalliance.  Unfortunately, Allan's wife discovers his affair and forces him to move from their home in Minnesota to California.  Up to this point, I think it's an interesting unique subject.  The locale also makes this the first Fargo: The Musical.
Unfortunately, the ending doesn't quite make sense for me as the lovers commit suicide.  Was that their only alternative?  They didn't even try escaping.  There is no emotional payoff.
I didn't enjoy a moment of "Lavendar Girl."  Maybe I was too busy watching a young couple in front of me fight with the old couple next to me over the old couple's constant noises.  I thought this storyline was cliched;  I thought it was a standard Twilight Zone episode.  I couldn't wait to see the gravestones pop up.
"The Flight of the Lawnchair Man" is the best and funniest of the three stories.  However, I also think it rides on the gimmick of airplane costumes.  The show is entertaining because we see Big Jack Preston, the proud, cocky commerical airline pilot, Blaire, his stewardess who can whip out a moist, warm towel, Lindbergh in his Spirit of St. Louis, and Amelia Earhart's glowing propellers.  The gimmick also relies of the absurdity of Jerry flying with 400 helium balloons in a Walmart lawnchair. 
The message of the story leaves me uneasy as it wants Jerry to stay true to his desires, no matter how absurd it is.  In reality, either Jerry falls to his death or dies from cold/hunger.  There isn't a realistic push for him to do this stunt.  So even though I think it's a funny show, I don't agree with the direction the message flew.

Summer of 42
Score & Lyrics: Average
Book: Average
Costumes: Average
Staging / Direction: Average
Sets: Average
Lighting: Average
Performances: Average
Overall Grade: C+
Recommendation: No Opinion

Summer of '42 is the time when teenager Hermie grows up and learns about adulthood.  While messing around on the beach with his buddies, Oscy and Benjie, Hermie's eyes are caught by the older woman, Dorothy.  Hermie finds courage in helping Dorothy with her groceries home one day.  Dorothy is terribly missing her husband gone off to the South Pacific for WWII.  She finds his companionship warm and allows him to return to her home for chores like moving boxes. 
While Hermie's friends are content at scoring with the teenage girls, Hermie comes to terms that he is in love with Dorothy.  He pays a visit one evening only to discover Dorothy received a telegram that her husband was killed.  The two dance in misery, only leading to a sexual romp.  The next day, Dorothy leaves town.  Hermie stares into the ocean, realizing what love and sex are and how he cannot really have Dorothy. 
Summer of '42 is a fine little musical that really has no spice.  The music is melodic, but the lyrics are droll and unmemorable.  The plot moves along fine, but the ending is predictable.  The ending doesn't leave you with anything profound either.  The show is like a tame "Porkys" movie. 
Dorothy is probably the best actor here, while the rest are only okay in their roles.  It's a disappointment that Ryan Driscoll as Hermie isn't better (unlike Jonathan Sanders of "Master Harold.").    It's too bad Jason Marcus, the dweeb Benjie, doesn't get more to do. 
The chorus girls, Erin Webley, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Megan Valerie Walker sing songs to reflect thoughts unable to be spoken by the characters or general reflections of the society.  However, their songs are usually too long.  The girls are given too much to do.  And frankly, the girls aren't talented enough to pull it off.
Overall, it's a quaint little show.  It'd probably work better as a drama and less over-the-top.

TEXAS
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Poor
Costumes: Average
Staging / Direction: Poor
Sets: Good
Lighting: Good
Performances: Average
Overall Grade: D
Recommendation: Not recommended
Judy Soo Hoo's Texas is not a lesson of Asian-Americans lifestyles in Texas nor is it about the prejudice encountered in Texas.  It is about Steven, a wholesome-appearing student who starts college as an architect major in a small Texas town and agrees to residency with a local Asianic family, only to discover the family is actually 2 crazy brothers living in a tiny, filthy trailer in the middle of nowhere where pit bulls emerge at midnight to rip the flesh off your feet.
Danny is the "Rain Man" character, not having all faculties in his head.  Duke is the mean motherf***** who reigns over his trailer castle, dictating rules to Danny.  Unable to leave, Steven tries to bribe Danny into drugging Duke and stealing Duke's peg leg.  The escape fails as Danny confesses what the plans are.  Duke, underneath all his gruffness, is devastated that Danny would leave him.  By the end, Danny agrees to stay as Steven drives off in the truck.  The brothers play one last game - Icky Stick Poo.  The loser of this game must say the words that men dare not say - "I love you." 
Texas is an incredibly loud piece.  The actors are screaming their lines most of the time.  Feodor Chin's and Robert Wu's acting consist of broad mannerisms that gets irritating very fast.  The show has some light comedy, but the performances don't seem to draw laughter from the audience that I saw the show with.  I think the show's message about the brothers' need to connect would be more effective with less physical action (Duke needing pony rides, Danny getting the shakes). 
While the story has us sympathetic towards Steven's entrapment in the trailer, we feel nothing for him as the story concludes.  Why exactly does he need Danny to drive the truck?  Why doesn't he club Duke with a wok and make a break for it?  What exactly has this character learned at the end?  Has this character grown?  Too many loose ends to feel sympathetic towards Steven.
As the story switches to the brothers' problems, we feel no compassion for them either.   Even though it's a nice ending, you feel cheated that this show was really about these 2 unlikable characters.
This show made Prince Gomolvilas's Bee look like a masterpiece. 

THE MOST FABULOUS STORY EVER TOLD
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Good
Costumes: Good
Staging / Direction: Average
Sets: Average
Lighting: Good
Performances: Excellent
Overall Grade: A-
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told by Paul Rudnick is a tale of two tones.  The first act is a hilarious satire take-off on the beginnings of man.  Instead of an Adam and Eve, there's an Adam & Steve along with Jane & Mabel.  The 2 gay couples are kicked out of the Garden of Eden because of Adam's thirst for knowledge of why they are here and who created them?  As time moves forward 400 years, Adam and Mabel believe the Bible holds the truth to their answers.  As the couples journey from different lifestyles:  caveman, Flintstones luxury living, the ark, and Egypt, we see a lampooning of applying gay & modern stereotypes to non-traditional stories.  For example, the women discovered the wheel, pulley, and lever while the men invent shampoon and conditioner in 1 bottle.  Mabel has feminist tendencies already, scaring away the poor animals when they are hunted.  And their rock Flintstones-like furniture makes an IKEA-sounding "simple yet elegant" home.
The biggest pay-off of Act 1 is Patrick Michael Dukeman hamming it up as a swishy Egyptian pharaoh along with his tart-talking Lisa Mallette. 
Act 2 brings us to the modern times complete with dramatic message.  There's a vague sense that these characters are now living in our troubled modern world instead of the parallel universe created in act 1.  Homosexuality is shunned as we hear from the anti-Mormon bashing.  AIDS is a reality as Steve is dying from it.  From the lesbian storyline we still Jane big as a blimp about to deliver a baby while Mabel gets a disabled, lesbian rabbi to perform a marriage ceremony for them. 
When act 2 takes all the stereotypes and applies them to a real modern world, they appear old hat instead of refreshingly new & creative.  We have the bitter, sarcastic queen in a Santa suit desecrating an African-American name and saying he provides cocaine to single Black mothers.  We have Jane hating her pregnancy and screaming how awful it is during her delivery.  Wasn't this done on an episodes of Friends when Ross' ex delivered a baby?  Not hilarious anymore.  The bashing of Mormons as gullible, cultish, and cheerful plays to a dumb caricature.   Lastly, the Judeo-Christian angle is toned down as the characters accept the futility of not ever knowing the mysteries of the universe.
Overall, Fabulous Story is an enjoyable show.  Act 1 was the funniest piece I've seen in a long time (funnier than The Producers).  Act 2 has a funny story as the Rabbi tells about how an air conditioner fell on her face after she got runned over, but other than innovative piece, it's rehashed material about gay modern life.    Grade:  A-/B+

Sweeney Todd
Score & Lyrics: Good
Book: Excellent
Costumes: Average for a concert
Staging / Direction: Good
Sets: None
Lighting: Excellent
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: A
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
I've never sat through a musical as scared as I was in Sweeney Todd.  The appearance of the razor made me want to protect my throat.
Sweeney Todd has one of the best books I've seen from Sondheim.  Although the characters are still unsympathetic because they're so evil, at least these characters are fascinating to watch.  Obviously the beggar woman really made the story come together.
As for music, I have yet to discover Sweeney Todd's genius although MANY MANY people have said it's great.  I guess I have to listen to it more carefully and study its style in comparison to bad music.  I was already familiar with The Ballad of Sweeney Todd and Not While I'm Around.   After the show, I found amusement in Pirelli's Miracle Elixir. 
The performances were good.  I think my expectations were so high that I cannot say they were amazing.  Maybe I can compliment Lupone and Hearns after seeing lesser Todd actors.  It was interesting to see Lupone in a non-diva type role.  I thought she did good, despite herself saying she had made numerous mistakes on Friday night. 
Let's see how time may change my perception on Sweeney's brilliance.  It is not on my all-time favorites list...yet.

OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Good
Costumes: Average
Staging / Direction: Good
Sets: Excellent
Lighting: Average
Performances: Excellent
Overall Grade: A
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
I saw "Over the River And Through The Woods" on Sunday. In NJ, Nick makes his weekly Sunday trip to his grandparent's home to have dinner with his maternal and paternal grandparents. One day he reveals that a job promotion would require him to move to Seattle. Upset that he will leave them, the grandparents decide to find a "reason" to get him to stay. The next time Nick comes over, they set him up with a blind date, Stacy. The evening turns into a nightmare for Nick as his grandparents embarass him in front of this lady. Nick collapses at the end of the evening. 

In act 2, Nick tries to persuade his grandparents to come to terms with his leaving. Grandpa Frank tells his story about how his father sent him to America, so his son could have a better life. Grandpa Nunzio has an important news he can reveal that can guarantee Nick would stay. Through these struggles with his grandparents, Nick ultimately learns about the importance of family - "Tengo La
Familia." 

Joe DiPietro, the author, had a good grasp of writing about people. Although these folks were Italian-American grandparents, I'm sure you can see their qualities (and flaws) in anybody's relatives. Aida is the pudgy grandmother who's always cooking and making food for everybody for any occasion. Frank is the stubborn grandfather who rants about nobody allowing him to drive even though he has almost caused near wrecks everytime. Nunzio is the grandfather who is loud (or as he calls himself, "passionate.") Emma is the meddling grandmother who wants to know if you've found the right person yet because she wants to set you up with the child of her canasta-playing partner.

Though it had a one-dimensional plot and characters and an old cliched "family" theme, the show was refreshingly hilarious leading to a tearful ending. I think the wonderful execution is made possible by the performers with their excellent comedic timing. Although I didn't like Linda Hoy and Mark Philips in The Grapes of Wrath nor Judy Berns in Moon Over Buffalo, I think they were excellent in this show. There was a good chemistry between the grandparents (Linda Hoy & George Ward and Judy Berns & Edward Sarafian). Mark Philips was wonderful playing the humiliated grandson. The set was also beautiful featuring the internal rooms and the outside of the grandparents' house. Though the set never changed, the action did move from room to room. 

Favorite scenes included the scenes where the grandparents would quiet down for Nick to speak only to go in rounds of "okay, yep, already, quiet." Another good scene is when they are playing trivial pursuit. Emma answers the question with "the guy with the ear." Her husband would bellow "no, Jimmy Stewart was in the movie with that guy with the feet. Not the guy with the face." 

The show is highly recommended if you want a good laugh at familial relationships between different generations.

AIDA
Score & Lyrics: Poor
Book: Fair
Costumes: Excellent
Staging & Direction: Good
Sets: Excellent
Lighting: Excellent 
Performances: Good 
Overall Grade: B-
Recommendation: No Opinion
Comments: 
It's the show you'd love to hate, but there are redeeming qualities about AidaAida has a beautiful set, costumes, and lighting. Act 1 feels like a Las Vegas act; bring on the fake Janet Jackson! 
Aida's biggest problem lies in its uninspiring music. If it had catchier tunes, maybe I would have liked the show better. The legend of Aida is actually decent.  Too bad act 1 never quite gets off the ground with the material. Amneris is a joke in act 1 as the superficial, bimbo Egyptian princess. We don't care enough for this character when she begins to grow in act 2 into a more serious, compassionate to-be-queen. 
I was unlucky to get standby Jason Workman as Radames. Don't get me wrong; he was fine. However, how can Patrick Cassidy be out already ONE day after opening night? 
Simone was incredible. Aida is a star-making role, and I can now understand why Heather Headley won the Tony. 
Overall, I enjoyed act 2 more than act 1. The ending which replays the beginning was an effective dramatic device. As Disney stories go, there are always happy endings. And despite the show being a mess, it'll be loved by many audience members.

ANOTHER AMERICAN ASKING & TELLING
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Fair
Costumes: Fair
Staging / Direction: Fair
Sets: Fair
Lighting: Average
Performances: Average
Overall Grade: D+
Recommendation: Not Recommended
The program for this show says this "The text of Another American: Asking and Telling is based on the transcripts of interviews conducted over a 3-year period.  The monologues are created from the interviewee's actual words."  Given that information, this one-man show is The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life + The Laramie Project - humor - heart. 
AAAT tries to present characters representing all sorts of military-related life telling their opinion on why gays should not or should be allowed in the military.  We have the mother talking about the funeral of her gay son where the only way to identify his beaten body was from tattoos.  We have the Bronx tough who equates pedophilia with homosexuality.  We have the trailer park lesbians where one of the gals talk about how she wanted to broadcast her first wonderful kiss to everybody.  We have the corporal who sees that having a gay man in his squad affected the closeted guilt of the other soldiers, leading to a lack of cohesion.  We have several characters who are told their sentence will be reduced if they can report on other gay soldiers.  One soldier gets raped by another man who a big orange dot on his chart;  he later discovers that symbol indicated he was HIV+.  
Even though Marc Wolf does a decent job switching from character to character, it's easy to lose track when he repeats a character.  His impersonations aren't distinctive enough.  Most of the distinctions are different lighting, accents, or moving to a different spot on the stage.  I think he could have been more creative with the staging and maybe even change costumes.  Better yet, have 2 people do this show.
Unlike the characterizations from The Laramie Project, most of the characters aren't interesting either.  You don't really care or get angry at anybody.  The character who comes closest to touching your heart is the mother with a murdered son. 
I think the purpose of this show is to offer an unbiased viewpoint of gays in the military from both sides.  However, most of the stronger arguments in the show are in the against category.  Even I was persuaded that having gays in the military would disturb the units;  why even bother fighting for this issue.  Most of the characters were also anti-Clinton;  there wasn't a balancing act. 
At the end, photographs of gay and lesbian soldiers are lit against the big Washington Monument-like wall in the center of the stage.  I suppose it would be a moving moment to be proud of all these American heroes.  Unfortunately, the show never builds momentum to appreciate this final dramatic device. 

AND THEN THERE'S BEA
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: N/A
Costumes: N/A
Staging / Direction: Good
Sets: Average
Lighting: Good
Performances: Excellent/Good
Overall Grade: A-
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
I've been a fan of Bea Arthur since her Maude and The Golden Girls days.  I would have traveled to any California city to see this show.  Lucky for me, she came to San Francisco.  Extra lucky for me, her show is a delight! 
For an hour and 20 minutes, the 75-year old Bea Arthur presents her show like a chat with dear old friends.  She starts the show with a recipe about preparing a lamb dinner.  This informality sets the tone for the rest of the evening.  She tells stories about her shyness and height.  She jokes about her long flowing black hair and enormous breasts when she was young.  She talked about her first audition on how she sang "Summertime" and didn't know the rest (Oh fuck it!).  She talked about her old friends and co-workers, Jerome Robbins, Mae West, Pia Zadora, Lenya Lotte, Tallulah Bankhead, Angela Lansbury, & Norman Lear.   She mentions other loved ones like Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan, and Walter Matthau. 
 When Bea isn't reminiscing, she's telling jokes.  The audience favorite was "Mother's Ingenuity" which she told during the gay-friendly part of her show.  Unlike her TV appearances, Bea also got to throw in a few cuss words - fuck, twat, son-of-a-bitch, and douche bag.
In-between jokes & stories, Bea delights us with cute songs.  Though her singing may be as delightful to listen to as Carol Channing's voice, at least Bea made it fun with interruptions and bawdy lyrics.  (Remember the antique clerk trying to sell her "chair").  It was okay to see Bea do a bit of "Bosum Buddies," but it wasn't as good as her younger version.  Her best song was obviously Mame's "The Man In The Moon."  Too bad there aren't more songs from her hit shows like Fiddler On The Roof that she could revive.  
Overall, it was a funny evening with Bea and Billy.  Who knows if this type of storytelling show will exist in the future.  Today's comedy leans toward stand-up acts like what Seinfeld does.  Catch Bea while you still can.  Hopefully, someone will give her another great role to play soon.

PACIFIC OVERTURES
Score & Lyrics: Average
Book: Average
Costumes: Excellent
Staging / Direction: Good
Sets: Excellent
Lighting: Average
Performances: Good/Very Good
Overall Grade: B
Recommendation: Recommended
Pacific Overtures is a very nice show to look at.  This is probably the most elaborate set/staging that TheatreWorks has done.  I was impressed when the American warship appeared.  The sliding screens were also a neat device.  The costumes were also very good. 
Theatreworks definitely hired a talented Asian cast.  The opener, "Nippon, The Floating Kingdom" showed the cast vocally ready to conquer Sondheim.  Mikio Hirata was fine as the Reciter in the beginning, but he started to get eclipsed by the Kabuki as the show progressed.  I had a hard time understanding him when he went into his deep voice mode.  Ev Shiro sang a pretty "There Is No Other Way," but was more comedic than vocally strong for "Welcome to Kanagawa."  Kudos to Donny Honda and David Sanchez in their cameo roles respectively as the Boy in the Tree and a British sailor.  David Lamm was also fine as the hammy "Don't touch the coat!!" Russian Admiral.  Michael Lee's Manjiro was more interesting when he was the fun-loving Americanized fisher boy than when he became the dark shogun.  Lastly, cheers to Jacqueline McSwanson as Shogun's mother for "going into the words" in Sondheim's "Chrysanthemum Tea."
As nicely done as some scenes are, the overall book fails to compel.  The information about Japanese culture before and after Perry's arrival is thin.  In fact, we learn more about various Kabuki styles - the puppetry, the suicide with red scarfs, the masks,  off-side narration while drama is on center stage, the dancing & mute dragon/demon, and Japanese operatic whine.
The show doesn't leave you feeling sympathetic that their culture was destroyed.  Nor is it comedic as the East meets the West.  "Someone in a Tree" has a fine tune, but I thought it was the most pointless song as characters talk about hearing and seeing the treaty.  Act 2 opened with a fun "Please Hello" number, although I couldn't understand what most of the admirals were saying (other than Don't Touch The Coat).  Finally the ancient story ends un-satisfyingly in a sword fight as everybody dies.   The final number is an embarrasingly choreographed number as the Japanese tout how great they are today. 
As I left the theatre, I long for the day when someone would write a hit Asian-American musical comedy.  I have my fingers crossed for Flower Drum Song.  Even Miss Saigon had more manufactured drama.  Pacific Overtures is nice eye candy.  Overall Grade: B

SAVE IT FOR THE STAGE: THE LIFE OF REILLY
Charles Nelson Reilly stars in a one-man show about his life. The 70-year old man seemed frail at my performance. Most of his scenes are done seated. There is limited movement from the podium to the theater to the couch, which he self-mocked as taking 2 years to learn from Bob Fosse.

As a comic, Reilly was snappy. This show seemed to have a lot of improvisation. Reilly reacted to the crowds' outbursts many times.

Act 1 consisted of Reilly's childhood life. Many of the stories seriously showed how dysfunctional his family were. There was also a story about the big fire in a circus tent that claimed 150+ lives.  There were several dull and dry monologues.

Act 2 has Reilly on Broadway and in Hollywood. He talks a lot about his well-known friends. The moments are lighter in act 2, so I perceived it to be more entertaining. Act 2 also reveals that the entire show is a loving tribute to his friends.

At the end of the show, I realized Reilly is more talented than the "Match Game" persona that people stereotype him in. Though he is not a big star, he must be a wonderful teacher.
Grade: B-

BY THE BOGS OF CATS
First there was Medea in New Orleans for  Marie Christine. Now there's Medea in Ireland for  By the Bogs of Cats. While I enjoyed Marie Christine for following the Greek tragedy faithfully, Marina Carr doesn't quite produce a carbon copy story in Bogs.  By The Bogs of Cats is more bloated than the original. There are several characters in this story that only make cameos in the Greek tragedy. While the CatWoman provided foreshadowing in the first act, she becomes a extraneous comic in act 2. Act 2 only brings the unnecessary Father Willow and a lady who I didn't truly understand who she was.

Cheers to SJ Rep for pulling out the stops on the set. Though the set is minimal, the company uses several devices that they hardly use: snow generator, wind machine, fog machine, a hole of dirt, an elevator trapdoor, a swing, and facades that rise and descend. The stage is also
larger because the back of the stage is farther than it is usually placed. Despite the sets, there was nothing special about Timothy Near's staging.

Most of the cast was okay, including Holly Hunter. Her twang and her Irish accent seemed to mix sometimes. Hunter goes through a lot of emotions through the show, including a puzzling passionate roll in the bog with her lover on his wedding day. Since I don't feel that the Hester Swain character was well-developed, it seems like Holly Hunter was just self-indulgent to demonstrate her range of acting in this role.
C+

36 VIEWS
I just couldn't get into 36 Views. At first I thought each numbered scene/view was a different story, but it wasn't. I didn't get the clacking or Mies (a moment of high emotion culminating in a dramatic pose) either. I think all these "special effects" distracted from the story. I couldn't sympathize with any of the characters. At least I liked Claire Tsung (the restorist). I liked the projection screen technique but wasn't thrilled with the content.
Again, it seemed to distract. I guess the ending was special with its  Twilight Zone twist. Too bad I wasn't paying any attention. C-

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
I saw a Saratoga Drama Group production of A Little Night Music.  Anita Hsiung was not there, but she is listed as the vocal director.  I don't know how much she did, but the voices sounded good. The orchestra and mikes seemed more blended this time. I'm glad they went back to a quality production, unlike their last show - Mame.  They also did more sets this time and used lighting for scrim mood.

Since I knew nothing about A Little Night Music other than "Send In The Clowns" is from this show, I was pleasantly surprised by the adult, bawdy subject. It's set in high society in the turn of the last century, but the various couples' affairs seemed like a modern daytime soap opera. For a Sondheim show, the book was stronger than usual, but alas, you still don't get too much out of it with so many characters. With a quicker pace, act 2 could've been more farcical than it was. 

Kudos to SDG for making this production the best they can. B+

Beauty Queen of Leenane
Score & Lyrics:NA
Book: Good
Costumes: Good
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Good
Performances: Average
Overall Grade: B-
Recommendation: Recommend
Comments:
In short, The Beauty Queen of Leenane reminds me of a female Norman Bates. Most of the show seems "mediocre" until we learn about the twist. That twist won me over as it creates an interesting structure - Mag is the villain in act 1 and Maureen becomes the disturbed one in act 2.
The problem with this production was the unevenness in acting. The best performance came from Michelle Morain as Maureen who plays the trapped and mentally unstable daughter. The rest of the cast were fine, but they certainly were not adept with their Irish accents. Angela Paton played nicely a wicked, unsympathetic mother, but she was practically speaking American English. Brandon Karrer as Ray was plain annoying; maybe that's the character, but his expletives of "Feck!" were just comedically amateurish.
The audience really got into this show. They hissed as Mag burnt an important letter to Maureen. These people were actually talking to the show saying things like if it was a horror movie "Don't do it, Ray!! Don't go there!" The girl next to me was so anxious that she was shaking and shrinking.


Everything's Ducky
ScoreLyrics: Fair
Book: Fair
Costumes: Excellent
StagingDirection: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: NA
Performances: Excellent
OverallGrade: B-
Recommendation: Recommend

Comments:

Everything's Ducky opens in the traditional fashion of a fairy tale, "Once Upon a time.." In the barnyard lives a variety of animals like the rooster, lamb, cow, and mule. Mrs. Mallard parades her ducklings around, but every one thinks the last one is ugly ("That's One Ugly Duck"). 

Serena, the ugly duckling, does not walk like her sisters nor quack like her sisters. She is confused by her desires to conform but also be unique ("Fit In/Stand Out"). 

The king of the animals, a mallard duck, arrives with his entourage to announce that a contest will be held to find the most suitable songbird for his son, the Prince. Prince Drake is arrogant, carefree, and thinks he is ALL THAT and more. The prince tells Serena ("I Could Be Good For You"). 

Serena wants to enter the contest, not for the sake of the prince, but to get OUT of the barnyard she thinks her true happiness must lie. 

She wanders into the forest to practice her singing only to hear yelps from a wolf trapped in a bear trap. She reluctantly frees him, and the wolf expresses his gratitude. It turns out this is a land where there is a truce between these "carnivores" and their preys. Wolf wants to repay his gratitude by inviting Serena to sing in his TV special ("A Helping Paw"). But before she can answer, Rooster Bob apprehends the wolf and takes him to trial for the murder of their neighbor's poultry from the night before. 

A surviving sheep, Mr. Baa, takes the stand to testify, only he doesn't recall if Wolf was indeed the culprit. The Hog Judge probes the Wolf for his whereabouts when Serena volunteers the information that he was with her the night before. The court is aghast at the prospect of a "interspecies relationship". Seeing there's a lack of evidence, Judge Hog releases the Wolf. The Wolf feels his life has been spared TWICE by Serena. He takes his leave.

Meanwhile, Serena discovers from Mrs. Mallard that she was adopted. Joyful that she is not related to her wicked sisters ("Glad I'm Not Related To You"), she chooses to flee the barnyard. She hitchhikes and gets picked up by two coyotes who drive her to Town. However, since she doesn't have any money to repay them, they force her to work in their nightclub, "Poultry In Motion." 

The nightclub is a seedy joint where the stage is a big pot and the audience full of lusty wolves. The turn-ons in this club include the fowls basting and weighing themselves. Serena does her dance and inquires whether she has repaid her debt to the coyotes. The other fowls explain she will never get to leave the club. Serena bursts into tears but then the club is raided by the cops. 

It turns out the seargant of the cop is the Wolf himself. It is now his turn to save Serena. He helps Serena in the city by recommending her to a modeling agency. The agency does not know what to do with such an ugly duckling. What is her "look?" ("The Look") They try flamingo and peacock which fizzle. Serena explains she has a feeling 'swan' would be her best look. She tries the runway as a swan and is an instant success ("Glide Like a Swan").

Prince Mallard arrives backstage at the modeling show and tries to woo Serena. Dazzled by her hot looks, he has forgotten he had met this ugly duckling earlier in the barnyard. Serena teases him but she's disappointed that he cannot see her for who she really is. 

Serena practices a few notes from her song for the wolf. The wolf falls to his knees in pain. He explains he has an allergy(?). Unknown to Serena, the Wolf's killer instinct was drawn out by her singing. He frees the coyotes from jail and devises a plan to eat Serena ("I Eat Meat"). 

Trying to help Serena to gain her affections, Prince Mallard gets an article written up on her in a popular magazine. Only the magazine reveals Serena's shady past and thus ending her modeling career. Serena's aunt tries to pick up Serena's heartbreak with ("You've Got the Wings To Fly").

Act 2 begins at the prince's ball ("Good Times Are Here At Last"). Each duckling takes turns with her song, until it's Serena's turn. Seeing the wolf in the audience, Serena decides not to sing to protect him from his allergies. The wolf was ready to pounce when she sung, so he is disappointed that she chooses to stay silent. He insists she sing at his TV special. The Prince remembers Serena from the Barnyard. 

Serena is dejected again that she failed to sing at the ball. The modeling agent tells Serena to always see obstacles as challenges ("Wipe the Egg Off Your Face"). Serena returns to the ball and bumps into the Prince. The duo and the Wolf stroll off thinking ("I'd Love to Sing A Love Song"). 

Wolf escort Serena to the TV studio where she is to perform her song. The show's producer gives a glimpse of what his extravaganza will be like ("Let's Play"). But Serena discovers that the Prince has been kidnapped and bound at the Studio. Wolf reveals his plan to have Serena sing on national TV to awaken all of the wolves' urges to eat fowl ("You Look Good Enough TO Eat"). If she doesn't comply, he would eat both Serena and the Prince. The Prince and Serena express their love to each other.

Then comes the big moment for Serena to sing. Serena confidently walks onto stage to sing ("Don't Start Playing My Swan Song") At the end of the song, the Wolf comes back to eat Serena only to discover she had sang a song that prompted the fowls to fly south. The wolves would not be eating the birds today. Anguished, the Wolf comes to terms that he does love Serena. 

Back at the palace, the King reveals Serena is royalty. She is crowned, and along with the adopted prince, they rejoice in their happy ending ("Everything's Ducky").


Unlike Kriegel's and Russell's "Side Show," Everything's Ducky is a wild comedy with corny jokes, double entendres, and parody. ED pokes fun at models ("What did the model do during a lightning storm? She posed because she thought her pictures were being taken."), musical theatre (Look for refences to Les Miserable, A Chorus Line, and Oklahoma), New York (Hamsung, The Sounds of Moosic, DuckNY), and popular culture (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire). ED is not even serious about itself as they do a quick costume change near the finale because they have actors playing multiple roles in the show.

ED's songs are forgettable. The opening (That's One Ugly Duck) is lively, but "Fit In/Stand Out" seems to end abruptly. "Wipe the Egg Off Your Face" is also good because Gina Ferrall gives it the Liza Minneli treatment. However, this is one show where you wish they would keep their beaks shut for the rest of the time.

Dressing the animals would be a challenge since the producers did not want another "Cats." Instead, the animals wear regular costumes that give some distinction of their animal, such as feathers, fur, striped or dotted fabrics. The cow has a belt of milk bottles as udders. The rooster wears a big read comb. The pigs are in hoopskirts. The cleverness is sometimes cryptic though if the characters make no reference to what the animal might be. I often wish I knew what animal was being represented.

The book seemed to have problems of flowing. It seems more like a big grab bag of comic scenes (Hog Court) with serious dialogue as the underlying weak link. 

The sets are impressive and has an appropriate comic feel to them. Four actors, called facilitators in the program, are used as various props such as telephone, lampstand, bonfire, and skewer. Even though they have no lines, it's a mystery why they are not invited for the curtain call. These people aren't just ordinary stagehands; they have acting jobs on their resume! How demeaning to exclude them from the curtain call.

This is the first time where every supporting player upstages the main lead. I think that's because Serena plays it straight while everyone else is hamming it up. David Burstein is a crowd-pleaser but TWO gay characters is just TOO much. 
The show's love triangle reminded me too much of "Side Show." Our heroine loves the "wrong" man. She pushes away the "truly decent" guy who really loves her.

Overall, this is a funny show bogged down by dull songs and weak transitions.

Dralion: Cirque Du Soleil
I saw Dralion last night. I was highly disappointed. It wasn't as good compared to Mystere. They seemed to be taking it conservatively on this show;  they were attached to safety wires often. While  Mystere had my palms sweating because of all the death-defying acts, Dralion emphasizes gymnastics and body contortions. The female clown copied the clown in Mystere, only not as funny.   Even the audience participation was bad because he was a plant. Grade: C

The Lady In The Van
Book: Good
Costumes: Average
StagingDirection: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Good
Performances: Good
OverallGrade: B
Recommendation: Recommend

Comments:

I had the urge to buy a ticket to this show while I was in London. So the best seat I could 
find was upper circle. To be specific, it was 2nd to the last row of the balcony. I could touch the roof..literally. Also, I had to enter through a side door because we paupers must not mingle with the rich stall owners.

I think my bad seat lessened my enjoyment of the show. I could not really tell if the acting was great. And I missed every 4th line because the voices didn't carry up that high or was drowned out by some other noise.

Still, the story is amusing and more interesting than <i>A Song At Twilight</i>. There were some interesting techniques: the major character was the playwright himself and there were 2 of him representing the physical & inner (often conflicting) sides of him.  I'm not sure if the 2 Alan Bennetts made the show unique or just awkward. 

Maggie Smith was lovable as the vagabond. Other than her waving hand movement when driving that I thought could have been more imaginative, I have no complaints about her performance. 

In ACT 2, the show becomes too self-aware, poking fun of itself. I think this weakens the drama.

Song at Twilight
Book: Average
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average
Performances: Average
Overall Grade: C
Recommendation: Not Recommended
Comments:
I was very disappointed that no stellar performances came from this show.  Vanessa Redgrave was decent as was Corin Redgrave.  
Maybe the play was to blame as it never introduces anything meaty.  Once you know the summary of the play, then that's it.  No other twists of surprises, revelations, or anything insightful about humanity.  That means there are 10 minutes of excitement towards the end of act 1 which makes this show interesting.  The resolution of the show lands with a thud.  
Although the set was nicely decorated, there were a few glitches in controlling the color of the sky out the window.  At one point, someone must have accidently knocked a switch that darkened one half of the sky.  
As for costumes, Vanessa Redgrave did not look flattering in her act 1 slinky dress.  The robe in act 2 concealed her arms and thighs and made her look better.  

Mamma Mia!
ScoreLyrics: Good
Book: Good
Costumes: Average
StagingDirection: Average
Sets: Fair
Lighting: Average
Performances: Good
Choreography:  Average
OverallGrade: B
Recommendation: Recommend
Comments:
C'mon, we all know the songs to this show even before we see it.  The gimmick was to see HOW each song was to be presented.  And I must commend Catherine Johnson for doing a good job with the book.  The dialogue and character developments did transition smoothly with the ABBA songs.  There were only a few times when she cheated by doing a song via a dream or concert. 
The plot was interesting in act 1.  Who is really the father?  Unfortunately, act 2 doesn't complete the story with depth.  We never find out.  All 3 men are happy that they may never know.  Mother is happy.  Daughter gets married and is happy.  Frankly, I don't think anyone cares.  They just want to hear the ABBA songs.  And dance.  Hence, the tacky curtain call encores as the multi-color spotlights descend and "Mamma Mia" and "Dancing Queen" are reprised to make the audience stand, dance, cheer, clap, and sing-a-long.  Guess who was the theatre snob who refused to buy into this?
The music was overamplified.  That should have been the clue that this was a rock concert masquerading as art. 
The set was unnecessarily plain.  It's been awhile since I've seen a show where stage hands come out and move the set around.  And what's up with that spiral grass thing hanging in the air?
The opening joke about the white lycra costumes was funny.  Although I think the black lycra used during the Dancing Queen reprisal is scarier.  Other than that, the costumes were dull.
The three actresses that stole the show were Siobhan McCarthy, Jenny Galloway, and (understudy) Lori Halley Fox as Donna, Rosie, and Tanya.  There wasn't enough of their story in act 2.
Overall, Mamma Mia is better than Saturday Night Fever.  You go for the nostalgia of the music because no one walks out saying they've enjoyed the book.  I'm not pleased that the show brings in rowdy, non-theatre fans.  You can tell who they are because they go to the bathroom at non-intermission times.  One 40-year-old woman sitting near me sang along with most of act 2's songs.  I am forever traumatized by her rendition of "Knowing Me, Knowing You."    Uh-Huhhhh. 

Spend Spend Spend
ScoreLyrics: Good
Book: Excellent
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Good
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average
Performances: Good
Choreography:  Good
OverallGrade: B+
Recommendation: Highly Recommend
Comments:
This may not be a A+ or even 'A' show, but at least it had an interesting book, non-ballad songs, and no hydraulics. 
I really like this show for its book.  In a time where lotteries mean choosing which start-up to work for, I thought it was interesting to find out how real-life Vic Nicholson blew her dough.  The story does not end with a great, powerful message.  It is a unique message though about how nice it was to once have everything.

I like the music for being about the story rather than a Jekyll & Hyde-ballad.  However, none of the music is memorable.  "Spend Spend Spend" is the catchiest, and I could not hum it in the morning after.  Too bad.
Barbara Dickson was overhyped.  She just stood around and narrated.  I thought Rachel Leskovac who played the young Viv did a great job. 
The set was simple, yet full.  It was dynamic and also constant.  The "village" was nicely created, but it didn't really carry much meaning.  It should have been replaced with a model of the rich surburbs in act 2, but all we get is a sign instead.  The double conveyor belts were nicely used, especially rolling out the material goods or husbands that Viv was trying to get.  The canary was cute with recorded songs coming from it, but it wasn't really necessary to have a live bird on-stage.
The choreography leaned on fair and good.  At least it was original.  The monotony of living in the suburbs with the husband mowing and the woman pushing her carriage was a nice idea.
Overall, it was a nice show that has no chance of coming to Broadway because of its English topics.  I like the book and will try not to spend, spend, spend myself.  I look forward to the cast recording because the music has been forgotten, forgotten, forgotten.

Whistle Down the Wind
ScoreLyrics: Poor
Book: Good
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average
Performances: Fair
Choreography:  Fair
OverallGrade: C+
Recommendation: Not Recommended
Comments:
I bet the movie version is good.  Too bad Andrew Lloyd Webber has muddied this musical.  I really don't care about any of the characters.  Sure, Swallow and the kids are supposed to be the heroes, but their innocence wasn't better written to convince me that they weren't just stupid for befriending a murderer. 
The songs weren't good, even "When Children Rule the World" which was used in the Olympic Games.  In fact, it just came off corny in the show.  It looks like the break-out hit of the show is "No Matter What." 
The acting had little to be desired, particularly from the kids.  The kids didn't project well and they were not compensated with overamplification (as a matter of fact, the entire show seemed to run in whisper mode).  Brat was particularly bad in hitting his notes.
The set was dazzling but unnecessary.  Did we really need a freeway to be present for the entire show?  It didn't make sense as people came out to dance on the freeway.  The train drew the usual FX-applause, but worst than the chandelier and helicopter, it served zero purpose.  The mirrors on the side produced a nice infinite set, but it was silly when people came out of a door in the mirror.  The fire scene was too reminiscent of Phantom of the Opera.  The snakes did not have to be real.  Their presence in the show was as useless as the locomotive.   Once again, we have somebody trying to dazzle us with stage props and sets instead of making the content the main attraction.
Overall, I think the book was interesting.  I need to rent the movie to see the differences.  The rest of the show is a ALW mess. 

*******************************************************************************
Ennio
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: NA
Costumes: Excellent
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: NA
Lighting: Good
Performances: Average
Overall Grade: B-
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:

Three days before show time and I was able to get 3rd row center!?! It turns out that the entire first row was free too. They didn't seat any audience members there because this 
is one of those shows better viewed from far behind.
The gimmick is Italian comic, Ennio Marchetto, for an hour impersonates celebrities using paper. The two-dimensional suits are used as masks, dresses, leisure suits, hair, beard, jewelry, animals, and monsters. 
From the costumes, Ennio also pulls out accessories like pop-up hairdos or breasts. Wearing a Godzilla suit one moment, he'll swing the costume around and become Judy Garland singing over the rainbow. The amusement is wondering what he'll become next.
At this performance, Ennio showered us with Barbra Streistand, Carol Channing, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Godzilla, The Three Tenors, The Gregorian Chant Monks, Madame Butterfly, Carmen, Elvis, Dolly Parton, ABBA, Marge Simpson, Queen Elizabeth, The Pope, The Michelin Tire mascot, Mona Lisa the portrait, Cher, Austin Powers, Doris Day, Sumo Wrestler, Venus De Milo, Gene Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Fidel Castro, and Snow White. There were many other celebrities that I did not recognize. You must be culturally knowledgable to understand all the gags in this show.

Though the costumes are creative, less can be said about Ennio's performance. You see, changing costumes cannot make a show. The entire show is back-to-back ecletic music featuring songs from show tunes to opera to gregorian chant to rock. Unlike Forbidden Broadway and Beach Blanket Babylon where the performers sing the songs themselves, Ennio only lips-sync to the music. In the meantime, he is mugging away in sophomoric gestures. For the Barbra Streistrand number, his Barbra stereotypically has the big nose and Ennio picks it wiping off the residue on his gown. For Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," he plays the song like a broken record, repeating verses over and over again. Though amusing, it isn't as funny as some of the truthful, unconscious parody we see on Forbidden Broadway.   The most tasteless act is when he strips as Madonna down to the nipples and pubic hair. 

It's a wonder why the audience jumped to their feets to give him a standing ovation. The show gave me a lot of grins and a few laugh-out-louds. I think this show is better utilized as comic relief bits in-between a real show with meat (ala Cirque du Soleil).  Without the fold-n-flip costumes, Ennio is like a teenager trying to get laughs in a talent contest.

*******************************************************************************
Minnelli on Minnelli
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: NA
Costumes: Excellent
Staging & Direction: Excellent
Sets: Excellent
Lighting: Excellent
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: A-
Recommendation: Recommend

Comments:

Call her Liza One-Note, but don't say she's not an entertainer. Liza gave a honest and energetic performance on her March 12 show at the Orpheum Theatre. She gave it her best, sweatin' through songs from her father, Vincent Minelli's, movie musicals. Though no longer as svelte as in her youth, Liza was able to dance the beautifully choreographed numbers with the chorus boys. The Band Wagon Medley with Liza and two men as Siamese triplets is my favorite action number. And when it comes to "Be A Clown," Liza was the first to joke on her weaknesses including her weight gain ("thanks for coming to see me this year. And there's more to see!"), her AA sessions ("Hi Liza May!"), and her age ("Am I hitting FIFTY? I'm beating the crap out of it! I've had knee surgery, hip replacements, & vocal surgery, and they want me to do a comeback tour!"). 
But best of all was Liza's touching tribute to her parents. Even though the audience is here to see Liza, we're reminded throughout the entire show that this is Liza's tribute to Vincent Minnelli. We stroll through his film career with movie posters of the big films. Liza tells anecdotes about how her dad including how he made the first respectable African-American film ("Cabin In The Sky") and how he was allowed by MGM to make different types of movies from drama to comedy to musicals (film clips of Madame Bovary, The Long, Long Trailer, and Gigi). Then on a huge screen ("this is my intimate Hollywood screen"), Liza shows childhood photos of herself and dad at the studios. We can't forget mother, of course. Liza sings The Trolley Song with Judy Garland's Meet Me In St. Louis playing on video screens in the background.
In-between numbers, Liza's four chorus boys dazzle us with dance and does a fine (not great) job at singing other Minnelli songs ("That's Entertainment", "Skip to My Lou").

The production was extremely well-done. This was directed by Fred Ebb of Kander & Ebb. Mirrors, lights, and dark lighting give the show a classy atmosphere. Liza gets to wear the beautiful gowns by Bob Mackie. And as she joked, "you can't see my feet. I'm wearing expensive shoes, so they must be wonderful!" 

It was a very entertaining afternoon, even though I was unfamiliar with most of the music and films. Still, Liza proved that she has personality! 

And this was also a very special performance. It was Liza's birthday on March 12 as she turned 54. Flyers were included in our programs instructing us to sing a surprise Happy Birthday.  During intermission, the conductor instructed us to pass the message to the entire audience that HB would be sung after "The Night They Invented Champagne." Liza was indeed surprised after the number when the orchestra started playing an unexpected number and the audience rose to its feet to serenade her. The first 3 rows were also given carnations to throw at curtain call (mine unfortunately snapped mid-air and fell into the orchestra pit, taking out a musician).
Liza revealed that her sister had flown in to see her show and was sitting in the front row. Alas, it was Christiane Minnelli, not Lorna.

I had a good time at the show, and it looked like Liza did too. Here's hoping she'll continue to look as beautiful and youthful as ever.

The Scarlet Pimpernel
Score & Lyrics: Poor
Book: Good
Costumes: Good
Staging & Direction: Fair
Sets: Poor
Lighting: Average 
Performances: Average 
Overall Grade: D
Recommendation: Not Recommended

Comments: I feel sorry for The Scarlet Pimpernel. The theatre was around 40% full. During curtain call, Douglas Sills thanked the audience for being small but lively. If business is bad on day #4, how will it even survive the rest of the 2 weeks in SF? 
Having never seen The Scarlet Pimpernel story in any form, the story was more interesting than as I had expected. However, it still wasn't very deep. And I don't buy the love story. How can we like Margaritte if she is suspected to be a spy since the beginning of the show? 
What made the show bearable was the campiness, especially Douglas Sill's
during such numbers as "The Creation of Man."

Wit
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: Excellent
Costumes: Good
Staging or Direction: Good
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average
Performances: Excellent
Overall Grade: A
Recommendation: Highly Recommend

Comments: For every TV actor that transitions to stage poorly, there's one like Judith Light that just wows you and wipes out her TV image. 

I liked the parellelism between Bearing's obsession for literature mirroring Dr. Posner's for cancer research. I was worried the show would be too depressingly about cancer, but it mixed in the right amounts of humor with contemplations of life & death.

Forbidden Broadway Y2K LA!
Score & Lyrics: Excellent
Book: N/A
Costumes: Excellent
Staging or Direction: Good
Sets: N/A
Lighting: Good
Performances: Excellent
Overall Grade: A
Recommendation: Highly Recommend
This show must be seen with an audience that has some theatre saavy.  Otherwise, you'll get silence at some hilarious jokes.  (Ragtime boy tells Mother of his vision "I see a bomb!  And it's going to hurt many people!  It's a performance of Aida.")   Okay, some jokes are groaners.  At my show, there was only a small section that understood all the theatre references.  Everybody else just laughed at the broad comedy and silliness.   I'm glad everybody warmed-up and had a great time, including myself.
This show is definitely retooled for Los Angeles.  Almost everything from Act 1 was a show that had played in L.A:  Chicago, Martin Guerre, Rent, Chicago, etc.  There was a jab at local theatre (Carol Channing reads off the nominees for the most pretentious show:  "Aspects of Love, Phantom of the Opera, or anything at the Mark Taper Forum") and other L.A. references (Coalhouse moans to Mother that New York didn't give Ragtime the Tony because "they hated us for playing in L.A. first!") 
The cast, minus Christine Pedi who was out at my show, are Forbidden Broadway veterans -  Susanne Blakeslee, Jason Graae, Gerry Mcintyre, and pianist, Brad Ellis.  Jason Graae was exceptional.  He was funny with a great voice, not to mention the best looking one naked;  you may remember him as Houdini from L.A.'s Ragtime.    Susanne Blakeslee was a dead-ringer for the red head celebrities like Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett.  Gina (?) also looked a lot like Liza Minnelli.  
There were a few bits that were outdated though.  "Cats" IS coming to an end.  And LA'ers don't care about getting a ticket to Rent at the Nederlander.   And who would've known that was Audra McDonald getting her 3rd Tony while Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie get snubbed?  
The show consisted of classic Forbidden Broadway like a 35-year old chain-smoking Annie, Carol Channing playing the same role over again, Les Miz cast spinning, Liza one-note, Slow Boat, Julie Andrews' vocal weaknesses, Barbra Streisand's Back To Broadway album, Aspect of Love orgy, and idiotic Miss Saigon lyrics.  
Sketches from the last 2 albums include Cats doing A Chorus Line, Ethel Merman and Phantom in "You Just Can't Sing", Rent medley, Chicago's Glossy Fosse, The Lion King medley, Andrew Lloyd Superstar, Bernadette Peters in Annie Get Your Gun, Swan Lake, Cameron Mackintosh Napoleon, Ragtime medley, and Super-Frantic-Hyper-Active-Self-Indulgent Mandy.  The cast also celebrated great Nazi musicals like Cabaret with Alan Cummings and Teri Hatcher and the Sound of Music (Find Mary Martin).  
Some new parodies that I had never heard about included Saturday Night Fever, Martin Guerre, Sarah Brightman shrilling "It's Time To Say Goodbye", and Carol Burnett drinking caffeine to come up to speed in singing Sondheim's lyrics.  
I only wish it was playing locally, so I can catch all the lyrics I had missed from laughing the first time.

The Poison Tree
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Good
Costumes: Good
Staging or Direction: Good
Sets: Excellent
Lighting: Good
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: B
Recommendation: No Opinion
When you first walk into the Mark Taper Forum, you are stunned with a nice-looking set.  Three rooms are on-stage sans walls.  All the furniture look like they came from IKEA.  The backdrop is a scenic miniature of the La Jolla hills, reminiscent of the village in Spend Spend Spend. 
Rockie and Ronald are a middle-aged couple living in San Diego in modern times.  Ronald is a judge hoping to get appointed to the Federal courts after his current case of a lady killer finishes.  Rockie is a young-looking woman trying to find some success in her poetry writing.  She joins a class held by the handsome, young St. Gerude.  St. Gerude seems to be the only one who understands Rockie.  Through the show, he attempts to seduce her but she thwarts his advances.   Rockie is hoping St. Gerude can explain her nightmares of her deceased son who died violently 2 years ago.    Through a dinner party with 3 other couples, infidelities arise, trust is questioned, lives are broken, and guilt balloons are finally burst allowing people to move onward in their lives.  
The Poison Tree is a drama, heavy with symbolism.  By the end of the play, I had a few questions like - what what this about?  I don't mean that in a negative way.  There's so much dialogue that it requires a second viewing.  Although I'm sure the audience would prefer not to sit through act 1 which was slow as the set-up for the "action" in act 2.   A show like this requires discussion to understand everything.  Tonight I realized the story might be an allegory for Adam & Eve getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden after the devil seduces Eve.  Hey, maybe it's not that big of a stretch;  tree and snake are included.   

Defiled
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Fair
Costumes: N/A
Staging or Direction: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: C
Recommendation: No Opinion
In this 2-man show, Jason Alexander plays Harry Mendelssohnm a fired, bookworm, loner who has tied bombs all around the library unless his demand - keeping the card catalog system even though the library has a computerized database - is met.   Peter Falk pays Brian Dickey, a detective who sneaks into the library to negotiate with Mendelssohm.  
The play is presented sitcom-style with jokes flying every minute.   There's no intermission.  We get a whole 1 hour and 40 minutes of suspense leading up to the "Will he blow up the library and kill himself and the detective?"  ending.  Alexander and Falk play characters not so different from George Costanza and Columbo.  I liked Falk better and thought he did a better job.  The audience agreed with a louder applause at curtain call.  Or maybe they were just saluting a veteran. 
I was afraid of Defiled's anti-technology theme, but it made some good points.  Though the computer is great in storing large quantities of information, it may not be faster than "old ways."  Most things on computers come as entertainment;  everything is presented in short soundbites.  You don't get the personal handling that a card catalog might give you in regards to leading you to a seek knowledge on your own.  Mendelssohmn is afraid that if the card catalog disappears today, what will stop the entire library from disappearing tomorrow to be replaced with a Starbucks and Home Depot? 
The show is very funny and Alexander and Falk provide good comic timing as usual.  However, by the end of the show, it never fully convinces me of anything.  Are we left with a pessimistic idea that the computer is the end of society?  Are we to believe that people who are inflexible to change will snap like a twig?  What are the solutions for dealing with the inevitable changes?   As one audience member ranted, "it's noble to want to get rid of the Starbucks, but what are we going to do afterwards?"  Unlike Jonathan Swift's "The Modest Proposal" which Mendelssom fawns over for its cleverness, "Defiled" runs like an empty-minded sitcom and deserves to be formatted.

The Full Monty
Score Lyrics: Good
Book: Excellent
Costumes: Good
Staging & Direction: Excellent
Sets: Average
Lighting: Average
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: A-
Recommendation: Highly Recommend

Comments:

So they wanna turn 1998 Academy Award Best Picture nominee, The Full Monty, into a musical, huh? Let's look at the track records here of other movie-to-stage productions: Sunset Blvd, Whistle Down the Wind, Saturday Night Fever, Footloose, High Society, and State Fair. And then there are the more successful ones like Grand Hotel, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, The Lion King, and La Cage Aux Folles. No matter what, the original is always better.
So how does The Full Monty do? Well, trouble's abrewing when you hear they've moved the setting from England to Buffalo, New York. And there are supposedly NEW characters; what could have been wrong with the originals?
Given all the odds against it, The Full Monty is a good production that matches if not improves upon the original. The strength of the entire show is Terrence McNally's adaptation. His script is funnier and more heartfelt than the original (bring out your hankies). McNally preserves the theme from the movie of 6 unemployed workers looking for a quick buck but mostly for self-acceptance. Patrick "Billy Bigelow" Wilson plays Robert Carlyle's role of the immature, good-looking, divorcee who is trying to scrape up some money for child support so he can continue to spend time with his son, Nathan. Jimmy Smagula plays Tony, the fat, baby-faced, married man who is insecure about his weight and hasn't been giving his wife too much lovin' since the lay-off. Jason Danieley (Mr. Marin Mazzie) plays Malcolm, the suicidal, dweeby, mama's boy who longs for friends and a love. 
Harold is the older, balding ex-supervisor turn semi-good dance instructor who has been lying to his wife for 6 months that he still has a job. "Horse" is the old, black guy who seems like he can fall over at any moment but comes to life when he's dancing. And rounding out the 6 is lonely Ethan who gets the stripper job for his endowment, not for his lack of brain which gets him trying to dance on a wall like what Gene Kelly had done. 
Wth an "American" setting, McNally preserves most of the movie's famous scenes - the bathroom hiding, the carbon monoxide car, the audition and practice in the warehouse, and the final club dressing room/stage scene. The famous "unemployment line" dancing scene is the only important scene missing from the film; it has been moved to the funeral instead. Not only does McNally preserve the original storylines of Jerry, Tony, and Harold, he also beefs up the parts for Horse and Malcolm. We now see Horse's anxiety of portraying himself as "Horse - the Big Black Man." And Malcolm's relationship gets earlier attention and more depth by the end of the show. The audience got squeamish as his kissing scene was about to happen, but they've scrapped it for a sweeter scene at the funeral.
In addition to the men, Harold's wife, Vicki (played by an unrecognizable Emily Skinner because she is going the Sally Struthers route) gets more spotlight as the cause of his heartbreak and also a great love of his life. The two new characters are Keno, the Chippendales stud, who gets the despise from the "unattractive" men. And then there's veteran character actress, Kathleen Freeman, who is wonderful as Jeanette, the piano player who helps the boys rehearse. She is the sassy old woman who's comic timing sparkles in almost every line she zings. 
The songs are good in that their lyrics move the story along. In response to articles that said songs need to be cut, I really feel they were all in the right place. Just when I thought a song was useless, it turns out to give the story more depth. The only problem with the music is that it's not likely to make Best of Broadway albums in the future. Still, "Big Ass Rock" and "Big Black Man" are fun. "You Rule My World" accomplishes its sentimental requirements. "Michael Jordan's Ball" gives crediblity to how the untalented guys learn to dance.
I really feel the need for improvements are minor. Malcolm's mother does not need to make an appearance. "Scrap" is not a beautiful opener. The ending club scene has the women in the aisles with the real audience which made it very hard for a row A orchestra sitter like me to see them.
Some other fun comments: During their dress rehearsal, the boys invite a group of older women to see them perform. Malcolm explains "Senior citizens are the best audience," which elicited a huge applaus from the blue-hairs. Be prepared to hear female audiences squeal, scream, and laugh because there is real male stripping here. And the sleeping bag zipper got stuck, so Nathan improvised by sleeping on top of it.
Finally, I have to drum up some suspense here. In the film, the boys agree to show it all, but they have doubts at the last second in their dressing room. Of course, the film does end with the boys giving us the full moon. The big question is how was this ending going to be handled in the stage version? Since the female actresses were in the audience, the male strippers would be facing the real audience. The ending, therefore, differs slightly from the movie. And in my opinion, it's a more satisfying ending. 
So overall, The Full Monty lives up to and even improves upon the original. It's a funny show with tender moments at the end. It'll have you rooting for the heroes. Okay, maybe some people were rooting for them to take it all off.

Gypsy
Score Lyrics: Excellent
Book: Good
Costumes: Fair
Staging Direction: Average
Sets: Fair
Lighting: Average
Performances: Fair
Overall Grade: C
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:

The biggest problem with Theatrework's "Gypsy" is casting. You would think they couldn't go any worst than Rosalind Russell/Natalie Wood/Karl Malden or Bette Middler/Cynthia Gibb/Peter Riegert. 

Meg McKay does a great job singing La Merm's songs, but she gets help from microphone amplification. Her dialogue voice is so gentle, she's more a kind grandmother than a diva-type. 

Jackson Davis sings Herbie better than Jack Klugman, but he looks extremely young in comparison to McKay. I was wondering if I were seeing Gypsy or Sunset Blvd. 

Elizabeth Ann Traub plays Louise and has a marvelous voice. She does a good job playing the demure, untalented Louise. However, the actress does not make an attitude change during her big strip numbers. From Louise to Gypsy Rose Lee, you should see a dramatic increase in confidence, slinkiness, and seductiveness. Instead, the actress seems nervous still over her stripping. Only when she's clothed in the next scene do we see Louise's confidence.

Baby Louise, Courtney Stokes, also did not get her role. She played Louise too confidently, even upstaging June.

It's only in the ensemble do we see the right spark. Gair Morris plays a good Tulsa. Too bad the choreography was so inspired for this talented actor/dancer. C. Kelly Wright is good as Miss
Cratchitt. The 3 actresses who do "You Gotta Get A Gimmick" made it a fun number.

Other nitpicks:
-Didn't like the overture when the action begins. Rose should be introduced later, not walking around during the overture.
-They had some really bad wigs for this show. I can expect June's wigs to be unrealistic, but Louise's wigs were frightful.
-I can understand trying to recreate the vaudeville atmosphere, but during non-theater scenes, the sets looks cheap.
-I don't mind politically correct casting, but at least make it consistent. The newsboys are 4 caucasian boys. During a strobe-light fast forward to show them all grown-up, 2 of the boys
become Asian and African-American!

Taming of the Shrew
Book: Average
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Fair
Sets: Fair
Lighting: Average
Performances: Average
OverallGrade: C
Recommendation: Not Recommended

Comments:

I first encountered a variation of Taming of the Shrew back in 10th grade when "Moonlighting" did an episode honoring the Bard with Cybill Shepard as Kate and Bruce Wilis as Petruchio. Twelve years later, I experienced "Kiss Me Kate" with Mazzie and Stokes-Mitchell. 

It's sad to say that the Royal Shakespearean Company's production of the source from which birthed these 2 variations felt contrived and, well, tame. Unlike A MidSummer Night's Dream which was magical, Taming of the Shrew is traditional Shakespeare bookended by a opening and closer in modern times where the drunk Christopher Sly finds Taming of the Shrew through an S&M site on the Internet. 

The weakness in this production is that Kate isn't as fierce as it could be. It seems Petruchio had her tamed "at hello." The rest of the cast gives uninspiring performances. It was surprisingly difficult to even understand what the actors were saying, especially at times when they turned their backs from the audience. Only Ryan Pope is a stand-out as the comical servant in the ensemble.

And to nitpick William S himself, you would think that since Kate gets her character in the title, the entire story would be focused on her. Instead, more of the story goes to a trio of suitors trying to outwit each other to win Bianca's love. This subplot ends with the old people-arrest-the-imposter-because-there's-twin-only-the-imposter-is-the-real-thing gag. 

Kate's final scene costume is incredibly dull red. The irony is that the red dress that Petruchio mutilates during his "taming" is much more extravagant. I can't understand why that dress wasn't used.

It was sad to see the theatre only 1/3 full. If I knew it would be this bad, I would have stayed home and watched Bruce Wilis' Petruchio sing "Good Lovin."

Shockheaded Peter
Score Lyrics: Good
Book: Good
Costumes: Excellent
Staging Direction: Average
Sets: Average
Lighting: Average
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: B-
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:

The audience found this show hilarious. I couldn't understand it. It's supposed to be moralistic about what kids shouldn't do.

I liked the moral tales, but not every one of them was well done or comprehensible. I can understand "snip snip" about ignoring your parent's rules and sucking thumbs, but what was "The Story of the Man That Went Out Shooting?" Beware of rabbits that commit suicide?
Several of the stories are cleverly done using puppets. While some stories like "Flying Robert" are just sang. I liked the visuals better.

Also, this show seemed too "alternative" for mainstream ACT. It needed to be in a smaller theatre. The cast seemed like they were ad-libbing a lot. The emcee's wig fell off several times. Then he slams the door on the woman's long fingernails. She sprays him with her tears and he whips out a mop to wipe the wet stage. 

Overall, I think the concept was wonderful. The execution was unbalanced.

Fully Committed
Score & Lyrics: N/A
Book: Average
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average 
Performances: Excellent 
Overall Grade: B-
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments: Fully Committed is an amusing look at a few hours of the day of the life of a struggling actor/reservation taker of a popular restaurant. The best thing about the show is Ethan Sandler. Within seconds into the show, he has me believing all the characters that he plays. Never have I seen a 1-man show with a stage so full of characters. It's an amazing role for an actor to do so many parts so rapidly. 

Unfortunately, despite this gimmick, there isn't much depth to the characters or story. We learn a minute detail of our struggling actor's life through his phone calls. We reach the ending anticlimatically with our "hero" getting a callback and going home to see his dad for X-mas. 

Approximately 1 hr into the show, I started looking at my watch.  Though the show gave me smiles throughout and a few laugh-out-louds, it wasn't hilarious. It was getting repetitive to see him yelling with the staff upstairs. With its lack of content, this is one of those shows that would work better as the interlude segments of a "real" show.

R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: Excellent
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Excellent
Sets: Good
Lighting: Good 
Performances: Excellent 
Overall Grade: A
Recommendation: Highly Recommend

Comments: The show starts with loud thunders echoing from the speakers. Ron Campbell enters
as Bucky. In this "lecture hall," there is a transparency projector, huge projector screen,
chalkboard, and table full of geometric objects.  The stage also contains the earthy victrola,
chair, and lamp. 
Bucky starts the show quietly sizing up his class. And then for the next 2
hours, his voice booms with great energy over everything from his life events to his science and
philosophy. 
He talks about pattern integrities ( a knot will always be a knot no matter how
many different ropes it passes through). He persuades us to see ourselves in the world as not
nations with different boundaries and governing systems, but one entity speeding through
space. A Spaceship Earth. He denounces the "flat-world thinkers" like Darwin and Marx that
promote survival of the fittest. Bucky believes that there is enough for everybody here today.
Bucky introduces the iconasphere. He explains how triangles and its derivatives are the
strongest objects. He instructs us to look at nature for answers; there is no committee decision
in nature. It happens. 
All this time, the projector screen fills with photographs and animations. There are also scenes out of the real Bucky's life.  Bucky runs around the stage and through the audience.  He draws on the crowded chalkboard.  He demos with his iconaspheres.  He sings.  He makes you sing.  He makes you stand for the eclipse.  
The show is a lecture of science and philosophy. But don't think of it as dull. Think of the best eccentric professor you've had doing it.  Think of the professor that gets you to think our of the box. 
The show is not without emotion.  We journey with Bucky through the death of his child, his feelings of failure, and the dedication of the geosic-dome to his wife. 
This is one of those shows where you walk out afterwards, trying hard to retain everything you've heard. And in our little minds, it's not possible. The show inspires you to try to see the world differently.

Master Class
"Master Class" was good but the tour version was great in comparison.  Charlotte Cornwell was good, but I had to warm-up to her. With Faye Dunaway, you know she's a diva the moment she steps out. One thing Cornwell did better than Dunaway was doing a Greek accent. 

My biggest peeve about this show is how cheap it looks compared to the tour. The tour had a beautiful stage. This show had mobile home wood. Besides Callas' costume, the rest of the cast looked like they were dressed at Target's. 

Grade: B+, Recommend

Pippin
Score & Lyrics: Fair
Book: Fair
Costumes: Poor
Staging & Direction: Poor
Sets: Poor
Lighting: Poor
Performances: Fair
Overall Grade:  F
Recommendation: Recommend

Comments:

Even Nanette Fabray's cameo couldn't save this embarassment. I am recommending this show, so people can see how lousy it is.

The Velocity of Gary (Not His Real Name)
Book: Fair
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Good
Sets: Average
Lighting: Good
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: B-
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:

An A-/B+ performance from Danny Pintauro. He did better than I had expected, although his Puerto Rican accent was often hit-and-miss. The script was little to be desired about a gay hustler's journey through adulthood.

Side Man
Book: Fair
Costumes: Good
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Good
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: B-
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:

Disappointed that this was just a plain story about the demise of relationships over the love of Jazz. Weakest link of the performances were Ebon Moss-Bachrach playing Clifford. Sheila O'Neill Ellis had the most presence as Patsy.

Call Me Madam
Score & Lyrics: Excellent
Book: Excellent
Costumes: Excellent
Staging & Direction: Excellent
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average
Performances: Excellent
Overall Grade: A
Recommendation: Highly Recommend
Comments:
Reprise's Call Me Madam was a semi-produced production. It had choreography, staging, an entire orchestra, and talented actors. I think the only thing that prevented it from being a full staging was a lack of set, although the elegant set seemed suitable.
What made this production of Call Me Madam so enjoyable over the last time I saw it at 42nd Street Moon was its great cast. Karen Morrow has a voice closer to Merman's voice than Meg McKay's voice was close to Merman's. Her Sally Adams was ballsy with a tiny amount of tenderness. Karen had a good amount of comedic timing.
Actually, many of the actors in this production had good comedic timing. I didn't realize this show was a comedy from 42nd Street Moon. This show is definitely funny.
Hugh Panaro and Melissa Dye were wonderful as the stiff assistant and pampered princess. I recognized Hugh's voice as Buddy from Side Show, but he has a great voice for this show. Also magnificient was Paul Keith as a funny Sebastian Sebastian. Michael Tucci was great as Republican Congressman Wilkins. Several times in the show, Tucci would refuse to do something with the punchline, "But I'm a REPUBLICAN!" Some idiot audience member kept hissing at this. It's just a show lady! The ensemble was great in their dancing. The only weak actor was Robert Mandan in a tiny non-singing role. Since I was in the front row, it was also easy to see Mandan had this stiff false teeth.
The best number was obviously, "You're Just in Love". The duet was off-balanced at 42nd Street Moon because McKay couldn't vocalize louder than her co-star. But in this, Karen Morrow and Hugh Panaro both sing the heck out of the song. It lead to an encore. The song reappeared at curtain call. With the cast holding cue cards, the different sides of the audience sang either Sally Adams' part or Kenneth Gibson's part. It was fun. The audience was very enthusiastic about it.
The cast deserved its standing ovation. Karen Morrow quipped "I hope you're not standing because you're tired of sitting."

The Joy of Gay Sex
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: Fair
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: Poor
Lighting: Average
Performances: Fair
Overall Grade: C-
Recommendation: No Opinion
Comments:
The best thing about the show is its self-aware campiness. Kent Masters-King is the best actress in the show, looking spectacular and never hamming it up. Her partner, Elsa Wolthausen, also does a fine job. Their story is the most interesting, but unfortunately, it doesn't progress in act 2.
The rest of the storylines are uninsightful and overly dramatic & campy.
The best goof-up from the show. The characters get into BART and get off in East Bay cities. The BART conductor must be really confused because he mumbles Daly City over the trains garbled loudspeaker system.

Sweet Charity
Score & Lyrics: Excellent
Book: Good
Costumes: Excellent
Staging & Direction: Good
Sets: Good
Lighting: Good
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: A-
Recommendation: Highly Recommend

Comments:

The Saratoga Drama Group delivers an admirable feat in "Sweet Charity." The performances were up to par in voice and acting. Special  Kudos to Geri Sauls as the New York accented, naive Charity, Keith Pennings as the comedic, claustrophobic Oscar Lindquist, Steven Carlitz 
as the European star, Vittorio Vial, Laura Sanford as his mate Ursula, and Mary Ann Kent with her fine booming voice as Helene. Also kudos to the smiling mystery man, Steven Anthony, who knew how to ham up his scenes. 

It was a surprise to see a Fosse-recreated Big Spender and Rich Man's Frug (minus The HeavyWeight number). "I'm a Brass Band" and "If My Friends Could See Me Now" were not re-created. Although good, Fosse's dances are missing here. "Rhythm of Life" could've started with a better Daddy Brubeck, but it turned into a fun number with the glow-in-the-dark tambourines and clothing. 

For a lowly budgeted show, the empty stage filled with the proper props to recreate a NY park & lake, a subway, an elevator (stuck on midfloor), and the Pompeii Club.

The 17-part orchestra must also be commended for delivering a good sound.
It's well-done community theatre like this that put the $40+ Pippin to shame

Grapes of Wrath
Book: Average
Costumes: Good
Staging/Direction: Good
Sets: Good
Lighting: Good
Performances: Average
Overall Grade: B
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:

While the staging and sets of this show were good in recreating the Joads trek from Oklahoma to California, the story leaves you with an empty feeling. Maybe the set overwhelms the performers. Linda Hoy and Mark Philips do a fine job as Ma and Tom Joad. Surprisingly, Grandpa chews his scene and becomes the audience favorite even when he returns in the ensemble. I don't remember much from the novel other than the ending. The play does an adequate job capturing the book's story, but it seems lacking (particularly in the interweaving of chapters that talk about the plight in general). I did like the folksy song interludes, but I don't think it had the same impact as in Steinbeck's novel.

Waiting For Gotto
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: Average
Costumes: Good
Staging / Direction: Good
Sets: Average
Lighting: Good
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: B-
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:

Unfunny existential hooey about the meaninglessness of life.

Singin' in the Rain
Score & Lyrics: Good
Book: Good
Costumes: Good
Staging & Direction: Fair
Sets: Excellent
Lighting: Good
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: B
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:
I've never seen the movie before, but I've definitely seen the famous Gene Kelly scene.

Unfortunately, Dirk Lumbard is no Gene Kelly. Even though his face bears some resemblance, Lumbard's tall, lanky build is a mismatch with Gene Kelly. Additionally, Lumbard lacks the charisma to make the peformance his own.

While Lumbard is the weakest cast member, the other 3 leads were very good. Melodie Wolford has a lovely voice and a beautiful innocence to play aspiring actress,  Kathy Selden. Jamie Torcellini was hilarious as Cosmo Brown. And Rachel deBenedet was even funnier with her dumb blondie, gangster-girlfriend accent. 

Despite some good performances, the show didn't move fluidly (maybe it was first preview night). Torcellini seemed like he was trying to catch-up to his steps in "Make Me Laugh" instead of making the scene into a frantic comedy.  Once again I blame the San Jose Performing Arts Center's stage for being too big.

When it came to group choreographed scenes, the choreography seemed too 2-dimensional. Obviously, there wasn't much room to work with; the "rain set" which was probably only 1/3 of the stage size. 

The rain wasn't convincing either. You can clearly figure out where the pipes were that poured the water. During act 2, one of the pipes was leaking, so it was dripping for the entire show. What a distraction!

Overall, I enjoyed the storyline. I didn't realize this would educate me in the transition between silent films and talkies (The silent film sequences were hilarious).  The show has a movie musical to it where actors would dance and sing for no apparent reason. Clearly, most of the songs don't move the plot forward. However, some of the melodies were stuck in my head afterwards. It kept reminding me music from the Will Roger Follies. 

Despite a klunky show, it was still a good show. It makes me look forward to how brilliant the film is.

Foot Notes
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: NA
Costumes: NA
Staging & Direction: Fair
Sets: Average
Lighting: Good
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: C+
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:
The 90-minute show stars Savion Glover's feet. Even though there is a 4-man band on-stage, the music takes second-stage. The tapping doesn't accompany the music; the music accompanies the tapping. 

For most of the show, Savion Glover jams with his band. Most of this seems like "improvisation." I can't tell how much of it is really scripted as The Show. Savion does an awesome job with his feet, tapping wildly on the elevated Golden Gate stage. He is even able to make music with his feet without the tap shoes by shuffling in a small plot of sand. 

However, Savion's bits seem to go on for too long. And nothing else seems to be happening above his waist. Savion spends most of the opening number with his back towards the audience as he improvises with each band member. And when he does face the audience, his head is bowed down looking at his feet. He lacks a personality to make the entire package seem fun.

This obviously differs with his other performers who each get one turn in the spotlight during the show. Dianne Walker is the graceful, female dancer. She instills humor as she holds her breasts in place during jumps. She is like a butterfly in tap shoes.   Cartier "Big Coop" Williams is the 11-year old kid with an innocent smile and a genius pair of feet. My favorite was Jimmy Slyde, the 72-year old man who knew how to perform for the audience. With his
hand at his side or a wink and a grimace, he shined with personality.  His dance was short, but the entire performance was sweet.

Savion's only moment that showed an interesting personality was when the drummer came in early for the improv and messed up Savion's concentration.

Overall, the show was very unpolished. I know the title says it's a concert, but I've seen more organized concerts. Savion's bits need to be shorter (if he'll make it up with more innovative dances). The transitions between each performer needs to be smoother. And some production value could go into the backdrop during the honoring of other black hoofers.

Thoroughly Modern Millie
Score & Lyrics: Fair
Book: Fair
Costumes: Good
Staging & Direction: Excellent
Sets: Excellent
Lighting: Good 
Performances: Good 
Overall Grade: B-
Recommendation: No Opinion
Comments: 
"Thoroughly Modern Millie" reminded me of a female version of "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying". However, this show lacked a heart. 
Though stylishly produced with a great set, staging, and choreography, the book felt antiquated and predictable. 
Sutton Foster does a wonderful job singing as Millie, but overall, we don't really get to care about her character. Or any of the characters for that fact. When the big climax occurs with everybody living happily ever after, I wondered "who cares?"

Amy's View
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: Fair
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Average
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average 
Performances: Good 
Overall Grade: C+
Recommendation: No Opinion

The Vagina Monologues
Overall Grade:  B+
Eve Ensler interviewed hundreds of woman on the female anatomy. Her show is an intertwining of "did you know?" facts and personal stories/tributes done by Ensler "in character." Ensler is fairly good playing these characters although some accents need to be refined. For a 1-person show, the 90-minute show does stay fairly interesting throughout. Just when you think the format is getting tired, she'll launch into a side-splitting reclamation of the the word, cunt, or "These are the different types of orgasmic moaning" sequence. I commend Ensler for being creative in a few areas on relating her interview material to us. 

The Late Henry Moss
Book: Fair
Costumes: Average
Staging & Direction: Fair
Sets: Average
Lighting: Fair
Performances: Fair
Overall Grade: C-
Recommendation: Not Recommended

Comments:
You'll get a few seconds to be enamored by the presence of these Hollywood stars. After that the story becomes a bore. Sean Penn was highly disappointing. I thought he was like an amateur performer walking around the stage with his arms crossed. Nolte went through the show with a raspy voice like if he had throat surgery. James Gammon was screaming at the top of his lungs in an over-the-top performance that reminded me of Chris Farley's character on Saturday Night Live; I was waiting for Gammon to say he lives "IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!" Woody Harrelson was the most credible actor in his insignificant role as taxi driver. 

The show suffers from tone problems. Act 1 is somber as Penn & Nolte discuss the mysterious circumstances to their father's death. Act 2 plays like a comedy with the Men-in-Black-like funeral attendants, Penn's insistence that Harrelson stand by the door at a precise location, Gammon's bizarre screaming that he's not dead, and Sheila Toussey's fish swallowing. Act 3 mixes humor and drama. We learn about a few surprises, but we're just waiting for this scattered drama to be over.

 Corpus Christi
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: Fair
Costumes: Fair
Staging / Direction: Fair
Sets: Average
Lighting: Average
Performances: Average
Overall Grade: C-
Recommendation: No Opinion

Comments:

Terrence McNally has written strong new stories like Master Class and Love Valour Compassion.  He has written good adaptations like Ragtime and The Full Monty. Unfortunately, Corpus Christi plays like an amateur performance piece. Who knows if the NY protests watered down the show? The show is bookended by preachy commentary like "we MUST tell this story. If you're offended, so be it. This story is to learn something new." 

Frankly, I didn't learn anything new about Christ from this story. I think "Monty Python's Life of Brian" was more inspirational.

The show is confused in setting the story in modern times Corpus Christi, TX. One moment you'll see the hick characters of Corpus Christi, and the next moment you'll feel like you're in ancient times again.

Jesus is named Joshua here but confusion arises when they occasionally refer to him as Jesus again. Teenage Joshua is portrayed as a gay man who has a fling with Judas. Judas is portrayed sinisterly throughout the entire show. It doesn't make sense why he would follow Joshua and then betray him. 

It was also difficult to take in the the serious Christ messages when the show itself is so self-aware. The show's coda breaks down the 4th wall stuffing down our throats the fact that this is a show with actors, costume changes, and props. 

Did this show deserve the protests? After all, the message of the show was Christ suffered and died for man's sins. Yet for devout Christians who are very protective of their Bible and are the only ones allowed to create slants to the stories, I can understand their anger at a Judas-kissing Christ and a brief orgy scene (Christ not involved here) in the background. Although I would think the most offensive aspect is not the gay portrayals but the portrayal of Texans as hicks. Virgin Mary wears a halter top, speaks like a empty-headed southern housewife, and has incestuous feelings for her son. Joseph is the loud-mouth lout who seems very capable of domestic violence against Mary. It's no wonder these stereotypes are toned down as the show progressed.

Triumph of Love
Score & Lyrics: Good
Book: Good
Costumes: Good
Staging / Direction: Good
Sets: Good
Lighting: NA
Performances: Excellent
Overall Grade: B+
Recommendation: Recommend

Comments:

I don't think I've ever loved a show playing at the Lucie Stern, so I was pleasantly surprised by "Triumph of Love." 

Despite a tiny stage, the show fits well. The props and few scenic changes were nice.

The female actresses were the best part of the show with Debra Wiseman (played Daisy(?) in Side Show). She was cute, funny, touching, and was able to withstand the 2 hours of song. Her sidekick, C. Kelly Wright, was shining everytime she was on-stage. I regret she wasn't on-stage more often. Livia Genise, though no Betty Buckley, played well a prudish woman blossoming into a conflicted woman with her passions.

Jonathan Ryhs William who was last in Theaterworks as Monty in Violet was very good here. Steve Patterson of 42nd Street Fame amazed me with his talent to play a completely different character although I was going to typecast him in the goofy, sidekick roles he had at 42nd Street.

Most of Triumph's music is bouncy and interesting to listen to. The show mixed its comedy and drama well, although I wished there was more comedy especially from the henchmen trio. 

The book had strengths, surprisingly. For a story written 268 years ago, it had a freshness. Directed by Robert Kelly, TheatreWorks has delivered a good, quality holiday production.

Man of La Mancha
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: NA
Costumes: Excellent
Staging / Direction: Fair
Sets: Good
Lighting: Average
Performances: Fair
Overall Grade: C+
Recommendation: Not Recommended

Comments:

There's something worst than Peter O'Toole's & Sophia Loren's version of Man of La Mancha - this show starring Jack Jones. Though the costumes and set are excellent in recreating the show, the entire show falls flat from Jack's bad performance.

The only redeeming actress is _____ as Aldonza/Dulcinea. 

It was awkward to watch as lines fell flat into the deeply-pitted Flint Center orchestra pit. And the revelation scene blinded the audience as real mirrors shining light beamed into the audience. I felt like Perry Mason in the climax of "Rear Window." 

But Jack Jones was the worst. He played Quixote...well, so slowly. His lines and delivery were all delivered slowly, like if he had all the time in the world. It was incredibly annoying. And his "interpretation" of The Impossible Dream was to read the first 8 lines. Many people knew of Jack Jones when before they entered the auditorium. I read over his bio and couldn't pick out a single thing I've seen. After seeing him in this show, I can see why he's not popular.

Penn & Teller
Score & Lyrics: NA
Book: NA
Costumes: NA
Staging / Direction: NA
Sets: NA
Lighting: NA
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: B
Recommendation: Recommend

Comments:

Penn & Teller are not magicians. If they were, you would be disappointed with the foo-foo acts they did (vanishing scarf, scarf that rejuvenates itself). Instead, Penn & Teller are entertainers. They are a comedy team ala old comedy teams. It's no surprise Penn is a big, overbearing lout like Oliver Hardy and Moe Howard while Teller is quiet & sly ala Stan Laurel & Harpo Marx. 

The 2 enter the stage as oversized balloon replicas. They prance around and the balloons then reveal the unexpected. The funniest bit was the bit to make a chump out of an audience member. One woman was brought up to the stage to have knives thrown at her. They put a blindfold on her because she was so frightened, and obviously knives weren't hurled at her. They then entered a rouge to make her think she knew what the secret was. They asked her to throw knives at Penn, and once again with a blindfold, make a fool out of her.

The Penn-in-a-barrel routine started as a funny narration between the inanimate barrel and the target easel. Later on, it would be the intermission ploy to get audience members to pay $.25 to view Penn inside the barrel as Rubber Man. Maybe I should've been that sucker born every minute?

One magic trick did flop as numbers didn't add up. The smoking Teller was also a bit I've seen before. 

The bunny in the chipper routine was overhyped by the audience members behind me. Being in the front row audience, I could distinguish a fake rabbit.

It was also interesting that we got to hear Teller's voice in non-Teller characterizations. He spoke as Houdini and as MOFO, the psychic monkey. 

Luckily, the finale was magical as the two shot each other and caught the other's bullet in their mouths. The show leaves your breathless, not because of they mystifying magic acts but from laughing so hard.

I Married An Angel
Score & Lyrics: Average
Book: Good
Costumes: NA
Staging / Direction: Fair
Sets: NA
Lighting: NA
Performances: Good
Overall Grade: B-
Recommendation: Not Recommended

Comments:

Though its title score caught my fancy after the show, the rest of the production was uninspiring. The concert aspect of 42nd Street Moon is wearing thin. It is really a half-produced show. It has costume and even a prop or two. There's some direction, but overall, it's not always there. The book kept me interested throughout the entire show, but the songs did not. The voices were great, but again, the half-produced acting never helped the show gel.

Enter the Guardsman
Score & Lyrics: Good
Book: Good
Costumes: Excellent
Staging / Direction: Excellent
Sets: Excellent
Lighting: Good
Performances: Excellent
Overall Grade: A-
Recommendation: Highly Recommend

Comments:

I had no idea what "Enter the Guardsman" was about. I was pleasantly surprised to find it a cross between Kiss Me Kate and the episode of I Love Lucy where Ricky tries to fool Lucy with a disguise as a potential suitor. 

Enter the Guardsman revolves around 6-month newlywed couple who are actors and who are also starring as the leads in the current show. The romance seems like it's over, and The Actor is worried that The Actress may be looking elsewhere. He tests her by sending roses. Finally, he gives her the ultimate challenge - to meet him disguised as the potential lover. Act 1 becomes a farce as David Ledingham hams it up as the insecure, worried, goofy husband. Suzan Hanson plays the wife who listens to her dresser to spice up her life. The rest of the show is populated by the Playwright who also becomes the narrator, the Wigs Dresser, the Costume Maker, and the Stage manager. As the show states about romance shows, it's retelling the same story in a different way. This show does tell the same story, but it felt fresh. I was actually wondering what would happen.

Act 2 comes more of a disappointment as the book seems uncohesive. We get less focus on the couple's story. Meg Mckay's character gets a song about the old days when she was an actress but is now waiting in the wings. Peter Van Norden tries to end the romance story by telling us "They Should Die." By now, the momentum of the romantic story has fizzled. The comedy is also gone, leaving way for a serious ending. The story actually ends in a thud but the playwright tells us that it's on purpose because art imitates life. 

I am highly rating this show for the performances, elaborate set, and fine direction. For a moment, I thought I was in a Broadway theater instead of some San Jose regional show.


2006 Shows


[Title of Show]� - (off-Broadway)
25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The� - (Theatre on the Square)
A Chorus Line� - (Curran Theatre)
A Christmas Story� - (SJ Rep)
All Wear Bowlers� - (Berkeley Rep)
Anna In The Tropics� - (TheatreWorks)
Barbra Streisand� - (HP Pavilion tour)
Bea Arthur, An Evening With� - (Herbst Theatre)
Blue Man Group� - (Toronto)
Bridge & Tunnel� - (Broadway)
Brooklyn� - (SJ tour starring Diana DeGarmo)
Brooklyn Boy� - (TheatreWorks)
Bye Bye Birdie� - (Saratoga Drama Group)
Corteo, Cirque Du Soleil� - (SJ tour)
Curtains� - (Ahmanson Theatre)
Debbie Does Dallas� - (Eureka Theatre)
Dessa Rose� - (TheatreWorks)
Doubt� - (Golden Gate Theatre tour)
Drowsy Chaperone, The� - (Broadway)
Edward Scissorhands� - (Orpheum Theatre tour)
Eighteen Mighty Mountain Warriors
Festen� - (Broadway)
Formicans, The� - (Pear Theatre)
Gilligan�s Island: The Musical� (Santa Clara�s Mission Center)
Glass Menagerie, The -� (Berkeley Rep)
Hairspray (Vegas, San Jose tour)
History Boys, The� - (Broadway)
Immigrant, The� - (SJ Rep)
In On It� - (Thick House)
Inherit The Wind� - (San Jose Stage Company)
Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow, The� - (SJ Rep)
Iphigenia in Aulis� - (SJ Rep)
Jersey Boys� - (Curran Theatre tour)
KA, Cirque Du Soleil � (MGM Grand Las Vegas)
Learned Ladies of Park Avenue, The� - (Theatreworks)
Lieutenant of Inishmore, The � (Broadway)
Light In The Piazza, The� - (Orpheum Theatre tour)
Lord of the Rings: The Musical� - (Toronto )
M. Butterfly � (TheatreWorks)
MacHomer� - (Berkeley Rep tour)
Mack & Mabel� - (42nd St Moon)
Moonlight & Magnolias� - (SJ Rep)
Nerd, The� - (San Jose City Lights)
Pajama Game, The �w/ Harry Connick Jr (Broadway)
Phantom: A Las Vegas Spectacular� (Venetian at Las Vegas)
Pig Farm�� -� (The Old Globe)
Red Light Winter� - (The Studio Theatre, Wash DC)
Shaolin Martial Arts � (Flint Center tour)
Sister Act� - (Pasadena Playhouse)
Sisters Rosensweig, The� - (TheatreWorks)
Slava�s Snowshow� - (Golden Gate Theatre tour)
Souvenir� - (Brentwood Theatre, Los Angeles)
Swan Lake, Matthew Bourne�s - �(Orpheum Theatre tour)
Sweeney Todd starring Patti Lupone & Michael Ceveris� (Broadway)
Tarzan� (Broadway)
The Clean House� - (TheatreWorks)
Three Days of Rain� - (Broadway)
Twelve Angry Men� - (Kennedy Center of Performing Arts tour)
Two Pianos, 4 Hands� - (SJ Rep)
Vanities: The Musical� - (TheatreWorks)
Wedding Singer, The� - (Seattle 5th Ave Theatre)
Wiz, The� - (La Jolla Playhouse)

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