Archive for the ‘Performance’ Category

Broadway San Jose raises curtain on an award winning season!

If you missed seeing Priscilla Queen of the Desert last week at the Center for Performing Arts, you missed one fantastic show.  There are shows that make you think, and shows that are 100% entertainment.  Priscilla hits around 3000% on the entertainment scale, but it is also a show that is full of humanity.  There are themes of friendship and family, and not only being and doing what you want, but finding someone who loves you for being and doing what you want.  Wade McCollum is amazing as Tick/Mitzi, who just wants to get home to his family and is worried his son will reject him.  Also fantastic is Scott Willis as Bernadette, the grande dame of the stage who has given up on finding someone to love her.  Entertainment is the clear priority in this show, with songs like “It’s Raining Men”, “Finally” and “I Will Survive.”  You also get over 500 costumes, 60 wigs, 150 pairs of shoes and over 200 hats and headdresses!  All this and a beautifully lit up bus named Priscilla.  This Australian set musical had the entire packed audience on our feet dancing and singing, and giving a standing ovation at the end.  It was one of the best times I’ve had at a show in a long time.

Broadway San Jose only gets these fabulous shows for about a week, so you have to plan ahead and get your tickets quickly.  What a wonderful holiday present some theatre tickets would be!  Although Priscilla had to end yesterday, here are the shows set for the rest of their season:

EVITA

November 19 – November 24

It’s not often I see this show available live and local, so don’t miss your chance to see the traveling Broadway production.

Watch the trailer!

Evita tells Eva’s passionate and unforgettable true story, and features some of the theatre’s most beautiful songs, including “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” and “Flying High, Adored.” Don’t miss the stunning new production of EVITA, directed by MICHAEL GRANDAGE and choreographed by ROB ASHFORD.

 The Australian Bee Gees Show

February 4 – February 9

What-What-WHAT???

Remember when polyester and a gold chain made the man? The film Saturday Night Fever launched one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time and made The Bee Gees a household name. The AUSTRALIAN BEE GEES SHOW is a live tribute to one of the five most successful recording artists of all time, alongside the Beatles, McCartney, Elvis, and Michael Jackson. Enjoy this celebration of music you all know and love, and the band that has sold more than 220 million records worldwide.

Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber’s JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT

May 27 – June 1

I sometimes see this show at some of our smaller theaters here, but how often do you get to see the traveling Broadway production??

One of the most enduring shows of all time, Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber’s JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT is the irresistible family musical about the trials and triumphs of Joseph, Israel’s favorite son. Retelling the Biblical story of Joseph, his eleven brothers and the coat of many colors, this magical musical is full of unforgettable songs including Those Canaan Days, Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door.  Experience the power and diversity of his music in one spectacular evening!

Jersey Boys

July 15 – July 20

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Watch the trailer!

You think summer is far off? It will be here before you know it, so mark your calendars because this will sell out quickly.  Remember, only six nights of shows!

Jersey Boys is the Tony, Grammy, and Lover Award-winning Best Musical about Rock and Roll and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Four Seasons: Franki Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. This is the story of how four blue-collar kids became one of the greatest successes in pop music history. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide-all before they were 30! JERSEY BOYS, winner of the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album and most recently, the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, features the hit songs, “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Oh What a Night,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

But WAIT! THERE’S EVEN MORE!!

WICKED

August 27 – September 14

Wow, this show will be here for over two weeks!  As anyone who has seen this show in San Francisco (or New York!) will tell you, there is so much more to this show than you would imagine.  I fell in love with it the first time I saw it, and I could see it again and again.  Even at over 2 weeks of shows, this is guaranteed to sell out every night.  It is truly spectacular, with surprises and spectacle at every turn, and moments when your jaw will drop.  Not to mention some glorious music.  “Popular”  (My personal favorite is Defying Gravity!)

So Much Happened Before Dorothy Dropped In.
Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkin land, two girls meet in the Land of Oz. One – born with emerald green skin- is smart, and fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious, and very popular. How these two grow up to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good makes for “the most complete- and completely satisfying – new musical in a long time.” (USA Today)
On Broadway and around the world, WICKED has worked its magic on critics and audiences alike. Winner of 35 major awards, including a Grammy and three Tony Awards.

October Theatre Round-up! Start marking your calendars now!

The opening shows for the 2013-2014 theatre season were absolutely amazing and full of SUPER FUN entertainment. I wish I could have seen ALL the shows! I did not make it to Dragon Theater after all, but I did get to Palo Alto Players for an impressive show, and The Fantasticks was canceled the night I went due to an ill leading lady (get well soon, Casey Ellis!).  Two of the shows (One Night with Janis Joplin and Spamalot) had extended runs!  I have high hopes for what the theatres have in store for us next!   How many will I get to this time around?  How many will YOU get to?

 

Warrior Class
TheatreWorks
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
October 9 – November 3

Son of Chinese immigrants, decorated vet, and a charismatic speaker, congressional candidate Julius Lee is dubbed “The Republican Obama.” But when word of a youthful indiscretion threatens scandal, he discovers the dangerous intersection of politics and idealism. In this taut, topical saga of backroom electioneering, the campaign lies ahead, the warriors are at hand, and our future’s at stake. Contains adult language.  From HOUSE OF CARDS writer Kenneth Lin.

Metblogs will not be attending this show but it’s bound to be a sell-out so get your tickets now!

 

Rich and Famous
Dragon Productions
October 11 – November 3

One of “the world’s oldest living promising young playwrights,” Bing Ringling’s 844th script is finally about to be produced, bringing Bing dreams of being, well, rich and famous. A surreal comedy with music, Rich and Famous is part vaudeville, part absurd, and an entirely funny romp through the perils of being a successful artist, by playwright John Guare, the genius who also wrote The House of Blue Leaves and Six Degrees of Separation.

Sounds very different, and different is usually interesting!  Hopefully I will get to this one for a review!

 

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Next Fall
San Jose Repertory
October 17 – November 10
Out ‘n’ About” night: October 26

Every relationship requires a leap of faith. This is the case for Adam and Luke, who’ve navigated a committed relationship for five years, even though Adam is a responsible but neurotic atheist, while Luke is an impulsive, underemployed actor and a devout Christian. When tragedy strikes, family and friends’ deeply held beliefs collide. Through pain, intolerance, honesty and laughter, they attempt to discover “how we live our lives” at the intersection of faith and love.

I better bring a box of tissue, I am certain I’ll be crying through most of this.

 

Lettice and Lovage
Hillbarn Theatre
October 18 – November 3

From the author that brought us Equus and Amadeus, comes the delightful comedy, LETTICE AND LOVAGE.   Lettice Douffet, an enthusiast of history and the theatre, is a tour guide at one of the most mundane of London’s stately homes.  She livens up her tours by fabricating wildly theatrical stories, which comes to the attention of her conventional employer, Lotte Schoen. Schoen is not at all amused by Lettice’s uninhibited history lessons. The meeting of these spinsters – the free spirited Lettice, and the straight-laced Lotte, leads to an unlikely, yet riotous friendship.

I always look forward to Hillbarn’s shows, and can’t wait to see what happens in this one!

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Priscilla: Queen of the Dessert
Broadway San Jose
October 29 – November 3

This OUTRAGEOUSLY fun show tells the uplifting story of a trio of friends, on a road trip of a lifetime, who hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love and friendship in the middle of the Australian outback and end up finding more than they could ever have dreamed. 
An international hit with over 500 dazzling, 2011 Tony® Award-winning costumes, Priscilla Queen of the Desert features a hit parade of dance-floor favorites including “It’s Raining Men,” “Finally” and “I Will Survive.” 

I’m looking forward to this one the most but I haven’t managed to wrangle tickets yet.  I recommend you get yours ASAP. There is no way this show is not going to be spectacular (and sold out)!

 

God of Carnage
Palo Alto Players
November 2 – November 17

While gathered around a coffee table sporting imported tulips and liberally covered with art books, two very civilized married couples meet to amicably resolve a playground altercation between their 11-year-old sons.  One boy admits to whacking the other with a stick, breaking two front teeth.  And both sets of parents agree that boys will be boys.  But civility quickly takes a backseat when parental impulses kick in.  In this winner of the 2009 Tony Award and coveted Olivier Award, the full-force of human chaos is unleashed – and the results are ferociously funny!

This doesn’t start until November, but it’s a well known show and a popular one so get your tickets soon! I won’t be reviewing this show, but it’s a good one and you should not miss it!

 

Come spend una noche caliente in Palo Alto: In the Heights

I have never seen a show by the Palo Alto Players before, but if their current production of the Tony winning In the Heights is any indication of the quality expected, I will be making a lot of trips to Palo Alto in the future.

This was my first time seeing a production of In the Heights, and I’m glad I did.  Set in three steaming hot days framing the Fourth of July in Washington Heights, it’s the musical story of a neighborhood of people who work, play and love together, as well as just trying to get through life.  Finally a stroke of good luck hits one of the neighbors and it may change the lives of several people.  But then a tragedy also strikes, one much more far reaching.  What do all these changes mean?  We find out who will stay, who will leave, who will love together and who will wait things out.  It’s quite an emotional, uplifting, and thoughtful show about diversity and how it can be used in both positive and negative ways.

Directed by Alex Perez, the show is populated by a cast of young but very experienced and talented actors.  I don’t know why I was so blown away every time a new character started singing, but every voice was truly spectacular and more than worthy of a big production. These young “kids” are professionals in every sense of the word.

It is so difficult to single anyone out in this show (and yet I cannot name you all, please forgive me!).  Rudy Fuentes (Usnavi) brings the most charisma as the affable bodega owner who is in love with Vanessa.  Jia Taylor (Vanessa) has legs a mile long and brings a sweet humanity to a character who could come off as a brat.  Alexa Ortega (Nina) had the clearest and most powerful voice bundled in quite a tiny little package.  Even one of the smallest parts, “Piragua Guy”, will bring you to tears when Mark Alabanza starts singing.  And of course, this show would not be the same without the amazing Linda Piccone as Abuela.  Special notice: Sean Gilvary plays a smaller part of “Graffiti Pete” but he often steals the scene. I have seen this actor in several shows now and am starting to become very impressed with his work.  Keep your eyes on this one.

The set design was just as impressive, one of the largest I’ve seen on a stage this size.  There are several levels and dimensions to the realistic Washington Heights neighborhood and the lighting helps bring these steaming hot three days and nights to life.  The ONLY flaw in this show is the very large blind spot if sitting on the right side of the theatre (facing the stage).  The beauty shop is completely invisible although you can still hear the conversations inside.  I do not recommend getting a seat in this area unless there is a discounted price, but I will clarify that the rest of the show is still visible and you will still enjoy yourself.  Otherwise, every seat in this theatre is a good one, and everything was crystal clear even from the back of the theatre.

Go see this amazingly fun musical, fit for the entire family, and I will look forward to doing more reviews for the Palo Alto Players in the future.

In the Heights
Through September 29
Palo Alto Players
Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto

Amazing cast of In the Heights

Opera SJ’s Falstaff brings laughs from the belly of a wine barrel

Cast 1: Baritone Steven Condy as Falstaff. Photo by Pat Kirk.

Opera season has begun, and Opera San Jose was kind enough to invite the Opera Novice to opening night of  Verdi’s Falstaff, an uproarious comedy that is fun for all ages.

Let’s start by going over the rules of Opera Novice reviews:

1. The Opera Novice, after years of attending opera, still has no technical knowledge of opera and therefore has no real business “reviewing” the opera.

2. Therefore the Opera Novice reviews opera from a layperson’s perspective, i.e. will an opera newbie like this show.  I want to give the average person who has never attended an opera, or who thinks they might like to try one, an idea of whether this would be a good show on which to spend money.

3. I assume that those who love opera and are more knowledgeable than I about it are already attending, and if you are not, DO SO.

OK, let’s get to it.  Right off the bat I’m going to say that Falstaff is an opera that is accessible to the masses, and even fit for the entire family.  Nothing makes me happier than to see kids at the opera who are really enjoying themselves.  At one of the intermissions I heard a father ask a boy of about 8 years if he liked the show. “I LOVE it!!!” he exclaimed, bouncing up and down.  There was a girl of about nine sitting behind me who was just having a ball giggling through the whole show.

Cast A: Soprano Jennifer Forni as Alice Ford and baritone Scott Bearden as Falstaff. Photo by Pat Kirk.

Falstaff (a beloved character from several Shakespeare plays) is a jolly drunken fool who believes his massive belly is the source of everything good in his life.  Yes, he thinks highly of himself.  He hatches a plot to woo two rich married women, thinking he will be able to charm them both out of some money.  Unfortunately, the women meet up and share their identical love letters.  They then hatch their own plot to teach poor Falstaff a lesson.

Falstaff is such an over the top clown that no matter what awful thing happens to him, the audience laughs and laughs and laughs.  Whatever your mood when you enter the beautiful California Theatre, you will be smiling and happy when you leave after this show.

The set design is framed inside of a wine barrel which is simple, gorgeous, and frankly GENIUS.  Hair, make-up and costumes are splendid (especially Falstaff’s fancy outfit he wears for his “date”).  Music and singing are, as always, Perfection.

In short, it is the best kind of opera for someone looking to try their first, and judging from the smiles on everyone’s faces, it is just as perfect for the seasoned opera attendee.

 

Cast 1: Soprano Sarah Duchovnay as Nannetta, Soprano Rebekah Camm as Alice Ford, mezzo-soprano Buffy Baggott as Meg Page and mezzo-soprano Patrice Houston as Dame Quickly.

Falstaff
Through September 22
Opera San Jose
California Theatre

Coming up:

Hansel & Gretel:  November 16 – December 1
Madama Butterfly:  February 15 – March 2
Don Giovanni:  April 19 – May 4

“Bring me a shrubbery!!” watch out for Killer Rabbits, head toFoster City!

Russell Ward as the French Taunter. Mark and Tracy Photography.

Love Monty Python? Want to see Sir Lancelot and King Arthur dancing and singing their way to Camelot?  Well, what happens in Camelot, stays in Camelot, so pack up the family and head over to Foster City for a rollicking time with SPAMALOT, directed by Dan Demers.  Hillbarn Theatre does it again with a blockbuster production and fun for everyone (though some adult themes and gestures included).  I have always wanted to see SPAMALOT but I had my doubts as to how theatre could replicate Monty Python’s Holy Grail, so I didn’t know what to expect.

But SPAMALOT does it, and Hillbarn did a fantastic job (as usual).  If you are a Monty Python fan, you will LOVE this show!  “I’m not dead yet,” one of my favorite scenes of all time, was early in Act I and had the audience in stitches.  I especially did not anticipate they would be able to pull off the Black Knight scene, but pull it off they did, along with managing to chop off all his extremities (“It’s just a flesh wound!!”).  Other favorite scenes included are the Knights that say Ni, “Bring me a shrubbery!!!!” and the killer rabbits.

Russ Bohard as King Arthur. Mark and Tracy Photography.

I started to get excited for the show when I saw their Facebook posts and photos of them building the set and props.  There is a LOT of work put into the production of this complicated show, and multiple technical props. The set design is a giant castle covering the entire stage which lights up at various times. The Trojan Rabbit was huge and awesome, the killer rabbit was hysterical, there is a big cow tossed, and, while not props, let’s not forget the dancing Laker Girls and Sir Robin’s Minstrels.

Casting was perfect.  Tracy Chiappone as Lady of the Lake was tremendous, Russel Ward was an hilarious Sir Lancelot, and I really loved Paul Araquistain as Patsy, and Ray Mendonca as Sir Robin.  Oh, let us not forget Steven Ennis, who was born for the role of Prince Herbert.

Sir Robin played by Ray Mendonca* (center) and his Minstrels, Jacob Marker (center right), Evelyn Chan (right), Steven Ennis ( left), and Jason Hobart (center left). Mark and Tracy Photography.

The choreography wasn’t as tight as it usually is and there were some technical glitches, HOWEVER, this is a huge production and I have no doubt the show will get better and better after each performance.   I can see there was an enormous amount of work put into the show, and overall it exceeded my expectations. Everyone left the theatre singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.

I had so much fun.  Opening Night was a sold out show and the audience was ready for some play time in the air conditioned theatre.  Lee Foster, Hillbarn’s Executive Production Director, noted before the start of the show that the people of Foster City should remember that Hillbarn is a great theatre right in their backyard.  I can’t argue with that, I drive 35 miles each way to see their shows and I have never been disappointed.  So head over to Foster City and see a show that is rarely produced nearer to the South Bay than San Francisco!

 

The Cast of Hillbarn Theatre’s Production of Monty Python’s Spamalot!. Mark and Tracy Photography.

SPAMALOT
Through September 22 [extended to September 29!!]
Hillbarn Theatre
1285 East Hillsdale Blvd, Foster City

 

I really look forward to the rest of their season.
Make your plans now!:

Lettuce and Lovage:  October 18 – November 2013
Mame:  December 6 – December 22
The Grapes of Wrath: January 24 – February 9
Lend Me a Tenor: March 14 – March 30
The Color Purple:  May 9 – June 1

 

 

Spring Awakening ROCKS the Los Altos Hills

Do you love Rock N Roll? Were you ever a teenager? There is an amazing show at Foothill College right now, and you need to see it.  Take your teenager, send your teen with a friend, or go see it yourself.

(clockwise from far left) Jeremy Griffith, Mark Sanders, Brandon Leland, Dillon Mena, Jacob Marker, Warren Wernick, Ryan Mardesich (floor), and Jason Rehklau (sitting center). Photo: Karen Santos

A year or so ago I saw a bigger budget production of the Rock N Roll musical Spring Awakening.  It is an amazing, powerful, emotional show to watch with all the effects of a rock concert. It requires a very talented cast, a knowledgable choreographer, a well rehearsed band and a director capable of putting on a rock concert.

So what do you do when you are a small production company and want to produce a high budget rock and roll musical on a small budget in a tiny theater?

You get together an extremely talented cast and direct the crap out of them.

Spring Awakening is, like Rock N Roll, all about the truth of growing up.  It’s about anger, and frustration, and being held to adult standards while being treated like a child.  It’s about adult emotions and the inability to let them out.  It’s the kind of show that many parents won’t want their teenagers to see, but it is exactly the kind of show that teenagers should see.

And the young adults on stage at Lohman Theater on the Foothill College campus are just rocking the pants off this show.

Moritz (Ryan Mardesich, sitting) is rebuked by his teacher (Justin Karr). Photo: Karen Santos

I was incredibly surprised to see such an amazing production on such a small stage, and most impressed of all with the talented cast.  Special notice goes to Ryan Mardesich as Moritz.  Mardesich introduces Moritz as an innocent young boy who is just not quite as smart as his classmates, but manages to show the believable growth to a frustrated, hopeless teen who is rightfully angry with the betrayal of all the adults in his world, and the world itself.  The words of his songs do not matter; it is the hopeless anger in his eyes that tell his story.

Juliana Lustenader as Wendla is also outstanding.  She not only has a beautiful clear voice, but she played innocent, confused Wendla to perfection.  Her final, terrified scream made it very clear to the audience exactly where she was going and exactly what was going to happen to her.  I still get chills at the memory of that scream.

Two smaller parts, Otto and Ernst, are played by Dillon Mena and Warren Wernick, and they deserve special note for their singing.  Wernick has the voice of an angel, and Mena was a true rock star on stage.  Holly Smolik and Casey Ellis, as Martha and Ilse, also brought incredible emotion to their parts – and the bruise makeup which Smolik wore deserved an award.

This is a show about teenage frustration, and the frustrations teens deal with now are the same they dealt with in 1891 Germany when this show was written.  Sexual frustration and ignorance, child abuse, measuring up to expectations, abortion, suicide, sexual identity… It is a rare adult who would go back to that age.  And director Milissa Carey manages to pull those feelings to the surface from her actors.  Mardesich was awesome showing the emotion, but Mark Sanders as Georg demanded audience attention with both his character’s sexual frustration and Sanders’ own excellent singing voice.  Georg is a smaller part in the show, but Sanders manages to pull all eyes to him with the physicality of his dancing and his comedic expressions when called for.

The amazing women of S.A.: (l-r) Holly Smolik, Lyn Meheula, Taylor Sanders, Juliana Lustenader, Carissa McElravy, Dana Johnson, and Casey Ellis. Photo: Karen Santos

The 1890s costume design was perfect, the use of lighting design successfully brought tears to our eyes, and the use of stairs and ledges expanded the stage to rock concert size.

Everyone in this show is amazing.  There were stand outs, as I’ve credited, but the entire cast is genuinely amazing, and the show is Excellent.  If you have never seen Spring Awakening, you should take this opportunity – there might be more flash and/or fireworks at a bigger show, but director Carey manages to give you everything this show has to offer on a smaller scale and you never realize you’re in a small theater.  In many ways, I enjoyed this production more than the one with the big budget.

Keep in mind it is a show with “adult” themes, there is very strong language and sexual themes.  It is not really fit for preteen and younger, however I believe it is a show that every teenager should see and will appreciate.  It is also a show every adult can identify with.

 

Spring Awakening
Through March 10
Lohman Theatre
Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, CA 94022 (more…)

And a rollicking good time was had by all…

Cast 1: Soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Roselinde and tenor MIchael Dailey as Alfred. Photo by Pat Kirk

I have now attended close to a dozen different shows at Opera San Jose, and I can honestly say that Strauss’s Die Fledermaus was like no other I have ever seen.  If you are looking to attend your first opera, or even if you would like to introduce opera to your teenager (that’s right!) then this is the opera for you… and yet it is still perfect and worthy for the seasoned attendee.

 

Die Fledermaus is about one man seeking hilarious revenge for an embarrassing practical joke from the past, and in the process there are endless mistaken identities which will leave you in sidesplitting stitches.  There is no love story in this opera, requited or otherwise; nothing particularly deep in the plot; neither is there a tragic death or a particularly happy ending.  More than half the songs are about drinking, and the second act revolves around a party of debauchery which may (or may not) include beautiful dancers skinny-dipping in a pool.

 

The songs are in German, and as usual are translated on a screen over the stage.  But there was something quite surprising in this show that I had never seen before:  a good deal of the story was spoken in English!  This was less like an opera and more like musical theater – and it was lovely.

 

Cast 1: Soprano Elisabeth Russ as Adele, soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Roselinde, tenor Alexander Boyer as von Eisenstein. Photo by Pat Kirk.

I had been disappointed that I could not make it to opening night, however last night was an unexpected treat as I got to see Cast 1 who were absolutely delightful and just as talented as any Cast A I’ve seen.  It was refreshing to see some new faces and there were no disappointments.  Soprano Elizabeth Russ was delicious as the petulant chambermaid Adele; soprano Cecilia Violetta Lopez was virtually unrecognizable to me from her role as Leila in The Pearl Fishers, and I still adored her immensely.  The familiar faces of tenor Alexander Boyer (Eisenstein) and tenor Michael Dailey (Alfred) were welcome and played their comedic roles beautifully.  Special mention goes to bass-baritone Isaiah Musik-Ayala as Frank the prison warden – who I just LOVED, and also Kelly Houston who plays a hilarious Frosch.  Some of these performers were newer to me than others, ALL of them I hope to see more often.

Wait, did I forget to mention baritone Jo Vincent Parks, as Dr. Falk (Die Fledermaus!)?  He has a small part for the title character, however he too was perfect.

Marc Jacobs makes his Opera San Jose debut as stage director, and this is a perfect show for his background in musical theater.  I hope we see more from him at OSJ.

 

Cast 1: Baritone Isaiah Musik-Ayala as Frank. Photo by Pat Kirk.

And as often happens at Opera San Jose, there was another star, and that was the set design.  It does not surprise me to find out that Charlie Smith also designed the Pearl Fisher’s sets, and I’m excited to see what he does for the upcoming double-bill of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi.  It is too bad there are no available photos to show you the complete beauty of the designs.  Acts one and two were set in a sweeping, gorgeous, art deco residence with subtle hints of the jail term awaiting Eisenstin… indeed, it transformed seamlessly into the jail itself in Act three.  As well there was an amazing newspaper print curtain with “articles” pertaining to the characters in the story.

This was not the usual opera I attend at Opera San Jose.  There were not so many ball gowns and sparkling jewelry in the audience that I usually see, perhaps because it was not opening night, perhaps because this show is just not as “stuffy” as some others (which I recommend no matter the stuffiness!!).  There was raucous laughter heard throughout the show, as if we were all drunk with the comedy we were watching.  “That was the most fun I’ve had at the opera ever!” stated my guest, Danielle Roberts.  And indeed, she is quite right.  This opera plays through November 25, and I can recommend without any reservation whatsoever that you should see it – and take your teenagers too.

 

Die Fledermaus
Opera San Jose
Through November 25
California Theatre
San Jose, CA

 

The Little Dog Laughed: Great theater in small packages

From left to right: (Mitchell) William Giammona - (Diane) Jennifer Lucas - (Alex) Henry Robert Nolin Photo by James Kasyan

My guest and I had the best time last night at Dragon Productions Theatre Company in Palo Alto.  Yes, even more fun than I had at the opera (review coming next!)!

San Jose and the Bay Area at large have plenty of great theatre, but sometimes it’s the little gems that get lost in the shuffle.  The Pear Avenue Theatre in Mountain View seats only about 45 people, but I saw an incredibly moving production of Death of a Salesman there. The small Renegade Theatre Experiment produced 9 Circles at the Hoover Theater in San Jose and the entire audience was not only moved to tears, but most of us could barely look at the actors on stage, we were so moved by what was going on.  And now I’ve seen the fabulous (and tiny) Dragon Productions Theatre where I had the pleasure of viewing 4 incredible actors put on an hilarious and moving show.

I could not wait to see The Little Dog Laughed because I had heard that the playwright was also the screenwriter for “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” which, sadly, might be the only drag queen road trip film available on Netflix. What my expectations received was a thought provoking comedy, and an adult show about love and sex and ambition, and all the problems that arise when you combine the three.

Mitchell Green is a small film star who could hit it big with one juicy role. Diane is his lesbian best friend and agent who plays Mitchell’s girlfriend for the public.  Yes, leading man Mitchell is gay, but because the film going public won’t accept an openly gay man in straight romantic roles, he’s forced to hire “rent-a-boys” (young looking but adult prostitutes) and hide his true self. One night in a drunken stupor he makes a call and hires Alex, a good looking “straight” boy who hustles for money.  Alex lives with his best friend and sometimes girlfriend Ellen, who runs her own money-making schemes with older rich men.  Soon it appears that Mitchell and Alex have fallen in love, but that poses problems for everyone involved.

Although the show is a comedy, it also raises many serious questions about living as a gay person in a straight world.  Mitchell laments at one point that we all learn about the American Dream, that anyone can have it all.  But he knew that really only middle class, straight white protestant men have easy access to the American Dream, and if he acted on his feelings towards other men, he could have that option taken away from him.

Dragon Productions plays in a tiny theatre, with a shoe-string budget for set design, yet still managed to find four incredible actors to play these intriguing characters.  William Giammona as Mitchell was both hilarious and heartbreaking as he showed us what a gay actor may have to give up in his personal life to be a success in his professional life.  Jennifer Lucas as Diane played Hollywood to perfection as the fast-talking agent who just wanted her friend (along with herself) to succeed. Maria Giere Marquis held my attention in every scene with her character’s quirky clothes and quirkier personality, but even as a hustler herself Ellen had our sympathy when she got herself into trouble.  And Henry Robert Nolin as young Alex is an incredible actor who you should look out for in the future.

The Little Dog Laughed is an adult show, but probably fit for older teens as well.  There are adult and sexual themes, but nothing too worrisome for anyone who knows the plot to begin with.  Tickets range from $16 (student) to $25 (adult), so it is a fantastic deal for an amazing theater production, and opening night was sold out.

Thanks also to Oren’s Hummus who provided an amazing Opening Night Celebration spread!

The Little Dog Laughed
September 14 – October 7
Dragon Productions Theatre
535 Alma Street, Palo Alto
(parking can be troublesome, so arrive in plenty of time to find a spot)

Cavalia trots, gallops and jumps into San Jose

Riders and their horses in CAVALIA; Photo credit: Lynne Glazer

Cavalia is a new show to San Jose, but it has been touring North America and Europe since 2003.  Normand Latourelle, a co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, is the visionary and creator behind Cavalia, and it shows in the beauty and emotion that comes through in the performances of the human acrobats and their horse friends.

Before I saw the show I expected it to be filled with great music and gorgeous backdrops, amazing acrobats and aerialists, and, of course, a lot of horses doing tricks.  I expected Cirque du Soleil with horses doing the performing.

I was totally and completely wrong.

A rider and an aerialist in CAVALIA; Photo Credit: Frédéric Chéhu

Cavalia‘s goal is to give a tribute to horses and celebrate the relationship that humans and horses share.  And so most of the 49 horses are on stage simply being horses.  The stage is over 200 feet wide and the width of a football field, and covered with 2500 tons of dirt and sand, allowing the horses to gallop full speed across and around the stage.  Some were ridden by human partners, some had human partners doing jumps from their backs, but many simply walked around, played, or just galloped around the stage.  There were a very few horses which did jumps, and several who did some intricate step work, but overall there were absolutely no horse tricks (and certainly no horse acrobats!).  The horses were simply being horses, and while the humans did tricks around them, all eyes were on the beautiful animals.

What Cavalia gives us instead of the amazing acrobatic feats of Cirque du Soleil shows is something which you have to see to understand: it gives us the beauty of the horse.  Eleven different breeds from France, Spain, Portugal, Canada, the US and the Netherlands, the 49 stallions and geldings are some of the most beautiful horses you’ve ever seen, and they are on stage for less than 6 minutes each.  The opening prologue focused on the two youngest horses, Idalgo and Geronimo, simply walking around the stage unaccompanied, playing with little toys, with the vocals of Marie-Eve Bedard in the background.  Often there would be groups of acrobats on stage with the horses, and though the men sometimes failed to stick the landings of their jumps, it didn’t matter because… HORSE!  Of course there are still the colorful and beautifully lit backdrops you associate with a Cirque show, and the tremendous live music you expect.  All in all it is a thing of absolute beauty that you just don’t see anywhere else.

Tickets range from $44.50 to $139.50 (+fees), however if money is an issue be assured that every seat appears to have a great view.  If money is no object, there are package deals which include things such as a cocktail/dinner reception and a tour of the stables.  The show is suitable for children and adults of all ages, and something that any horse or animal lover should not miss.

A rider and her horses in CAVALIA; Photo credit: Lynne Glazer

WHAT:  Cavalia
WHEN:  Premieres July 18, 2012
WHERE:  Under the White Big Top, at the intersection of Hwy 101 and 87 East on the 101 Tech campus site, across Hwy 101 from the San Jose Airport.
TICKETS:  Available at www.cavalia.net or by calling 1-866-999-8111. $44.50 to $139.50+
applicable fees. Special pricing and packages also available for groups, children (2-12),
juniors (13-17) and seniors (65+).
INFO: www.cavalia.net

 

A Busy Summer for 2012: Ready, Set, CALENDAR!

Thought you’d have the summer off from theater, music and performance this year? HAH! This summer is shaping up to be the most busy and FUN summer in recent history.  Here are just a few items which you can plan for.  Metblogs should be at all these events, so if you can’t make it we’ll tell you about the fun you missed!  Don’t let it come to that… Put these events on your calendars now!

 

Roxanne (Jessica Wortham) and Jake (Craig Marker) inspect Harry's (Gabriel Marin) equity card in The Understudy. Photo: Kevin Berne

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The Understudy
Now through June 3
San Jose Repertory

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SOMETIMES A VENEER OF PROFESSIONALISM IS THE ONLY THING MASKING ALL-OUT PANIC
Time is running out to see this show that Kathleen Normington, Professor of Theatre at SJSU, called “brilliant and achingly touching”.  Metblogs sadly had to miss this show, but all the reviews have been raving.

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Opera SJ

Summer Concert Series
Opera San Jose
Ongoing

One need never live without opera in San Jose.  OSJ has posted their Summer Concert Series schedule on their Facebook page, and if you haven’t clicked LIKE yet, you’re missing a lot of great deals.

 

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Bill W. and Dr. Bob

Bill W. and Dr. Bob
San Jose Repertory
June 21 through July 15

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A GREAT AMERICAN STORY ABOUT HEALING AND CONNECTION
This quick-witted and honest docu-drama follows two dynamic and dedicated men who, in the midst of their battle with acute and debilitating alcoholism, formed a formidable and historic alliance to help others combat the same addiction. Bill Wilson, a stockbroker who crashed with the stock market, finds himself in a bar. He could have pursued any number of distractions–a game of solitaire, reading a book–instead he chose to make a phone call. Through an astonishing series of events and bitter humor comes the inspiring, true story of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and their wives.

The Odyssey

The Odyssey on Angel Island State Park
We Players
Now through July 1

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A couple years ago the We Players put on an amazing live Hamlet at Alcatraz. This summer it’s a live action The Odyssey on Angel Island.  Metblogs will be there June 16 and this is one of the shows we’re most excited about.  Missing the Alcatraz Hamlet show is something I’ll regret forever, I’ll not make the same mistake twice!  We’re so excited we’re going to read The Odyssey one more time before we go!

 

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Cavalia

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Cavalia
July 11 – July 22

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It’s like Cirque du Soleil with horses!  Go to the website and check out the videos.  I can’t imagine a more beautiful show.  We’ve checked out the word on animal treatment and they appear to get the highest marks possible, so you can have a guilt free enjoyment of some of the most beautiful horses in the world.  Some packages even allow for a tour of the stables after the show!  Tickets go on sale June 3.

 

"One ring to bind them!" Charles Ross in One-Man Lord of the Rings™

 

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One-Man Lord of the Rings™
July 24 through July 29
San Jose Repertory

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Last summer at San Jose Rep, Ross kept audiences laughing with his solo take on the Star Wars trilogy. This time in One-Man Lord of the Rings™, Ross shoehorns 11 hours and 23 minutes of Peter Jackson’s epic films into a 70-minute show packed with 42 characters, theme music, and sound effects. 

Metblogs was there last summer and it was the most frenetic 90 minutes we’d ever lived through.  We wouldn’t miss this show for the world and you shouldn’t either.

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