Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

Baseball fans flock to GAME ON at the San Jose Rep.

Dan Hoyle and Tony Taccone star in GAME ON

Let’s do full disclosure first, shall we?

1)      My interest in baseball on a scale of 1-10 is 0.

2)      My knowledge of baseball is maybe a 6.

3)      My interest and knowledge in fantasy leagues is 0.

Please don’t run me out of town or take away my citizenship.  I’ll happily cook up party food for every night of the World Series if you like, just please let me read a book during the game.

And I promise not to serve you bugs.  Or DO I????

That said, baseball fans think Game On is a home run.  Set in an upper class home in Los Altos (is there any other kind?) the story is framed by a televised game between the San Francisco Giants and the LA Dodgers.  Local fans are so serious about baseball that I heard several in the audience exclaim they were having panic attacks during the play by play for the game.  But the main storyline is about two men who desperately need financing for their new venture, the use of insects as a protein. This is a real thing, and I actually know more about the trend towards eating insects than I do about baseball.  But in real life as in the show, the hard part is convincing the American public that insects are good for you and tasty too.

They actually had samples of (deep fried?) insects in the lobby before the show started.  I did not try them.  I said I had knowledge of the idea, not that I had ingested any bugs.  However, my guest did try one of each of the four samples, and she said one of them definitely tasted “just like corn nuts.”  So there ya go.

Back to the show.

At just 90 minutes with no intermission, it is a fast paced show with only a few characters but non-stop conversation.  It starts out with tons of laughs about the game, the players, and their fantasy league, but due to my lack of knowledge I had a difficult time following much of it.  Eventually we hear about the company the two main characters are trying to get funded.  And finally we realize that while the buddies really believe in their cause, they also desperately need the financing for their own personal reasons, and the show’s tone gets a little darker.

There are a lot of laughs about the bugs, and there is a fantastic food fight later in the show that released a lot of the building tension and got the comedy back on track.  There are many references to local areas, but using “South Bay”, “Menlo Park” and “Redwood City” as punch-lines will not likely work outside of Silicon Valley.  This local audience was privy to the inside jokes however, and appreciated all the humor.

It felt a little to me like the playwright had a few too many ideas he was trying to cram all into one show, and the dependence on a local audience will prevent the show from being a national hit. But this local audience certainly appreciated and related to all the ideas and situations presented and everyone appeared to be having a fantastic time.  I definitely recommend the show if you are a baseball fan, and if they are still serving insects at the Rep, I heard the toffee mealworms over ice cream are delicious.  YOU should totally try them.

GAME ON
San Jose Repertory Theatre
Through April 19

Don Bugito’s edible insects

“Once On This Island” feeds the soul at TheatreWorks

The cast of TheatreWorks' musical ONCE ON THIS ISLAND. Photo credit: Tracy Martin

The first thing you’ll notice upon entering the Lucie Stern Theater is the beautiful stage decoration.  Even the wall lights have been turned into overflowing fern pots.  You are immediately immersed in a rainbow of rich island colors and no detail is left out.  Sit down and get ready for a joyous 95 minute trip to the Caribbean.

Clockwise, from bottom right: Ti Moune (Salisha Thomas), Agwe, God of Water (Omari Tau), Papa Ge, Demon of Death (Max Kumangai), Asaka, Mother of the Earth (Safiya Fredericks), and Erzulie, Goddess of Love (Adrienne Muller). Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

Once On This Island tells a story of the people of Haiti, the “jewel of the Antilles.”   After a terrible storm, a little girl is very afraid and the island people tell her a story to cheer her up.  What follows is a magical, mythical fairytale set to bouncing happy music and tremendously invigorating dancing.  It is the story of little orphaned Ti Moune (Salisha Thomas), blessed and cursed by the gods, who struggles to discover her place in the world and the meaning of her life.  We are taken for the ride with her, meeting island gods, learning some of the French history of Haiti, and discovering the magic of music and dance.  It’s a story of racism, classism and humanism.  The cast is made up of beautiful, talented actors whose skin tones range from the darkest chocolate to the brightest cream, and that is integral to the story.  It is a true ensemble cast, with no player more or less important the another, and they each bring something so special, individual and important to the story.

The stage is amazing, and the props, costumes and hair are equally fantastic.  The flood is an aquatic beauty, the rain dance is a visual masterpiece, the set lighting is deep and saturated, and the costumes… well, I need one of those frog hats.  Hair ranges from natural beauty to the most handsome braids, and it’s all very impressive.

Papa Ge, Demon of Death (Max Kumangai) visits Ti Moune (Salisha Thomas). Photo credit: Tracy Martin

But the magic is in the music, singing and dancing.  We are treated to soaring ballads of love and loss, and joyous songs that make you want to jump out of your seat and move. At one point there is a graceful ballet, and then it is replaced by a soulful island dance of life and spirit, and you suddenly realize the island dance is the one you want to perform, every day and every night, for the rest of your life.

It’s a visual treat, it’s medicine for the soul, it makes you happy to be alive.  And it will make you want to go home and dance, and dance, and dance.

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ONCE ON THIS ISLAND
Through March 30
TheareWorks
Lucie Stern Theatre
Palo Alto

Madama Butterfly brings magic and tears to Opera SJ

Cast 1: Soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Cio-Cio-san (Madame Butterfly). Photo by Pat Kirk.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to see Opera San Jose’s tremendously entertaining production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, starring one of opera’s most dastardly villains: Lt. BF Pinkerton.

When you have two strong, educated, feminist women in the audience of Madama Butterfly for the first time, you can expect a lot of crossed arms, raised eyebrows, and smirks.  But though the story of an American lieutenant – who believes wives can be as changeable and temporary as the screens in his Japanese home – is barely tolerable, the opera as a whole is gorgeous, tragic, emotional and an auditory blessing.

The story:  Lieutenant BF Pinkerton signs a 999 year lease on a house in Japan that (Bonus!) comes with a free geisha wife!  Even better, the lease is also sort of month to month, and Japanese divorce laws are subject to the whim of a husband, so it’s a win-win deal for Pinkerton.

Not so lucky is sweet young Madama Butterfly, who has fallen in love with her husband and believes this is a till death do them part situation. Unfortunately, Pinkerton has other ideas, and already plans to get a “real” wife when he ships back to America.  Sweet 15 year old Butterfly, to Pinkerton, is merely a “toy” for sex while he’s in Japan, and there is a lot of talk of “breaking her wings” and pinning her for display purposes.  Nice.

Cast 1: Tenor James Callon as BF Pinkerton and soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Cio-Cio-san. Photo by Pat Kirk.

Even better, Butterfly gives birth to Pinkerton’s son after he leaves for America, and during the entire three years he is gone she believes he will return to meet his son and they will be a permanent family.  On the contrary, Pinkerton plans to return to Japan with his new American wife, and take the child from Butterfly to raise as their own.

Without giving away the ending, you can assume it follows the typical line of opera tragedies.  However, I have learned that the last few seconds of Opera SJ’s show, which brings a swift karma payment to Pinkerton, was added for this production.  I don’t know how opera purists feel about this change, but for me it made the whole story much more palatable.

I have always known I am very lucky to be able to see all these opera productions for the last several years.  This show, however, I felt truly privileged.   The music and singing is beautiful perfection as always, but in Act II Madame Butterfly sings “Un Bel Di” (One Beautiful Day), and it was a magical experience.  I have never felt that before at the opera, but Cecilia Violetta López made me feel I was present for something important.  By the end of Act III López is singing with tears in her eyes, and they were still present during the standing ovation at the end.  Cecilia Violetta López, having previously charmed me as Leila in The Pearl Fishers, has earned her place in this company, and should be considered a huge benefit to Opera SJ.

Cast 1: Soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Cio-Cio-san (Madame Butterfly). Photo by Pat Kirk.

Resident tenor James Callon is a perfectly awful BF Pinkerton (in the best way possible) with an amazing voice as usual. Lisa Chavez and Zachary Altman (Suzuki and Sharpless) are spectacular as the only two characters who speak any sense.  And special mention goes to an actor who really deserves mention: Sammy Tittle as Butterfly’s son.  Sammy is quite young and the part requires him to be on stage for much of the show.  He was a quiet scene stealer because he was so absolutely perfect.

There are many visual treats in this production.  The main feature of the set is a changeable lighted screen at the back of the stage.  This provided an impressive opening when the curtain went up.  The screen was lit with giant red and white stripes, and the figures of Lt. Pinkerton and friends standing at attention in uniform set the scene and mood immediately.  Later in Act I Madame Butterfly and her friends and sisters appear in their full geisha costumes and make-up, and gorgeous multicolored parasols.  But while there were some individual scenes that stood out, I was underwhelmed by the stage setting as a whole.  I have seen some drop-dead stage designs at Opera SJ before, and I was really looking forward to being immersed in a gorgeous Japanese setting.  On the contrary, I was not.  However, this is a minor disappointment in what quickly became one of my best experiences at the opera.

I am open about not knowing anything technical about opera, but I know entertainment and a great show when I see one.  Not only is this show now one of my favorite operas I’ve seen so far (and by now I’ve seen quite a few), but some scenes moved me in ways I’ve never felt before.  It’s a show that is suitable for both opera experts and opera newbies.  It’s a show you should not miss.

Madama Butterfly
Opera San Jose
Through March 2nd
California Theatre

 

R. Buckminster Fuller brings a creative mind to The SJ Rep

"R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE!"

My review of R. Buckminster Fuller is way late, but let’s be honest here, it’s because this amazing show just might have been too smart for me.  I didn’t understand every word Fuller said, and I can’t comprehend some of the concepts he was talking about, but I do know it was one certifiably entertaining show.

Let me clarify: I didn’t sit there stupidly wondering what was going on.  The show is profoundly interesting.  I often found my mind wandering while Fuller was talking, but I was just thinking more carefully about something he had said earlier.

Rick Lombardo is taking a risk by bringing R. Buckminster Fuller to the Rep because I don’t think the show is for everyone, but with great risk often comes great theatre.  This is not your typical show, and the show is not for your typical audience.  On the other hand, it may bring in a new audience to the theatre, which is always a good thing.

R. Buckminster Fuller was the science/philosophy/architecture/social science teacher you wish you had.  He was likely a genius, and not only ahead of his time, but ahead of our time as well.  His genius comes with a hypo-eccentricity, which perhaps made it difficult for people to take his ideas seriously, or at least see them to fruition.

I went into this one man show not really sure who Fuller was, only knowing that he had something to do with inventing the geodesic dome.  My mind is currently so crammed full of theatre shows, independant films, and trying to finish a stack of fat library books that I had a very difficult time trying to drum up interest in a show about science. But I have faith in Rick Lombardo, so I went in with the knowledge that Lombardo was likely going to knock my socks off.

I will say that instead, Ron Campbell knocked my socks off with his portrayal of the amazing Fuller.  Campbell is charming and engaging and makes this show more than a science lesson.  As Fuller, he tells the story of his difficult childhood, and explains how his brain works and how he came up with a lot of his ideas.  He was an amazing man, and the show is cerebral and enjoyable.  What better place to hold this forward-thinking show than in the heart of Silicon Valley? Our town was built by forward thinkers, on ideas that were ahead of their time, and concepts that most people could not comprehend.

Let’s not waste any more time here and get this published so you can buy your tickets.

R. Buckminster Fuller
Through February 23
The San Jose Repertory Theatre

 

There is a Smell of Delight at City Lights Theater Company

 

 

Diahanna Davidson, Mandy Armes and Morgan Voellger. Photo by Mike Ko of SiliconValley Designs

City Lights Theater Company was kind enough to let us review their newest show, The Smell of the Kill, and hopefully we will be doing this on a regular basis because WHAT a great theater!

The Smell of the Kill is a dark comedy about three Chicagoan couples who take turns meeting for dinner.  This night it is Nicky’s turn to host.  Friends Debra and Molly join her in the kitchen to clean up after dinner while the three husbands are “playing golf” in the dining room.  We never actually see the husbands, but they are heard loud and clear throughout the show as they drunkenly yell at and complain to their wives, and generally behave like neanderthals off stage.

As the evening goes on it is revealed that the three women don’t actually like each other all that much, but they do have one thing in common: a hatred for their husbands.   Soon enough, an incredibly convenient way to murder all three of them arises, and the three women must decide whether they should let the men die or go save them.

Mandy Armes and Morgan Voellger discuss matters. Photo by Mike Ko of SiliconValley Designs

Mandy Armes is great as the brash wife who takes no guff from her husband with a criminal secret.  Diahanna Davidson channels Joan Cusack perfectly as Debra, wife of the cheating Marty.  And Morgan Voellger has perfect comic timing as the ditzy and beautiful Molly, whose husband is way too possessive.  I was disappointed that I would not actually see Max Tachis (Jay) as he was absolutely brilliant in Renegade Theatre‘s 9 Circles. But he, Jimmy Allan (Danny) and Frank Swaringen (Marty) fill their roles as the loud mouthed doomed husbands with exuberance.

The City Lights theater is on the small side, seating 100 people, but the stage is large and the setting for this play spared no expense.  The seating is first come first serve, but the chairs themselves are super comfortable and all have a great view of the stage.  There are also cash-only refreshments available, including wine.

The Opening Night after party was hosted extravagantly by Cafe Stritch, and the smells were incredible. Having sadly just started a diet, I crept out of the theater quickly when the show was over and tried not to look hungrily at the amazing spread of food available for the entire audience to enjoy.  Opening Night is always the best night of theater!

The Smell of the Kill 
City Lights Theater Company
Through February 23
529 South Second Street
San Jose, CA 95112

Coming up at City Lights:

Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, March 20 – April 20

The Language Archive by Julia Cho, May 29 – June 29

Monty Python’s Spamalot!, July 24 – August 31

 

Little Women brings Big Surprises and Holiday Joy

(l-r) Arielle Fishman, Emily Koch, Sharon Rietkerk, and Julia Belanoff star as the March sisters - Amy, Jo, Meg, and Beth. Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

Little Women the musical, produced by TheatreWorks, is quite simply one of the best shows I’ve seen this year (and this year has been full of some fantastic shows).  One of the best (and rare) parts of reviewing theater is coming across an unexpected gem, and Saturday evening’s Opening Night was the Hope Diamond.

“Little Women”, by Louisa May Alcott, is the story of four sisters who vow to stick together forever when they are young in the 1860s.  Father is off in the war, and while the family is short on money, they have an abundance of love.  Jo March, the second sister, narrates the story and has ambitions of being a writer.  For many young girls who read the book, Jo is the favorite as she insists on living life according to her own terms and not 19th century society’s.

(l-r) Jo (Emily Koch) and Professor Bhaer (Christopher Vettel) imagine a scene from Jo's novel, portrayed by Justin Buchs, Sharon Rietkerk, and Elizabeth Palmer. Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

I loved the book when I was young, but even so I never imagined a Jo as charismatic and exuberant as the one Emily Koch brings to the stage.  Her joy in narrating her stories to the audience is palpable, and her physical acting makes it clear this character is made for pants, not long and stuffy skirts.  I cannot state enough how much every single actor in this show is perfection, and yet Ms. Koch raises it to a level even beyond that.  Jo is the girl we want to be, and later the woman we look up to as a role model.

I was not so sure how well it would work turning Little Women into a musical, but this show is so perfect, and the actors are such incredible singers, that it becomes one of those shows you don’t even realize is a musical.  The songs fit so well they are just part of the story and the experience.

And what a story for the young women of today, or any day.  This is not merely a story of a girl who refused to put aside her wants and needs in life so she could be someone’s wife, but neither is it a story against marriage.  It is a story of deciding what you want from life and accepting nothing else – and sometimes that means changing your mind.  Sometimes it means getting married.  The right choice is the choice that a woman makes for her own self.  And every character in this story does just that.

It’s a joyful story and a heartwarming one, but of course it also has a couple incredibly sad scenes that left everyone in my row wiping their eyes, and the theater was full of sniffling and shaking shoulders when Marmee sings “Days of Plenty”.

Laurie (Matt Dengler) kisses Jo (Emily Koch). Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

I had had a very long day holiday decorating with my family, and neither my daughter nor myself were keen on driving to Palo Alto to see a show, but never have we felt more grateful that we had done so.  We were enthralled from the first moment, mesmerized by the balletic beauty of Meg (Sharon Reitkerk), the sweetness of Beth (Julia Belanoff), the spoiled petulance of Amy (Arielle Fishman), and the utter joyfulness of Jo.  We never for a moment wanted to close our eyes or miss one moment.  This show is for everyone, including kids perhaps as young as ten (they should be old enough to deal with a very sad death), and it is a perfect show for the holidays and a cold winter night.  My highest praise, from one who sees a lot of shows:  I would see this show again. And again and again.

Little Women the Musical
TheatreWorks
Extended through January 4
Lucie Stern Theatre
1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Holiday Tea Luncheon at the Garden Court Hotel
with matinee this Saturday, December 14

 

This year give the Gift of Theatre

I hope you all aren’t really braving the crowds on this Black Friday, but if so I also hope you’re enjoying the holiday hustle and bustle and excitement.  I’m an internet shopper myself, and won’t visit the mall at any time of year unless forced.  But whether you shop with the masses or shop from your couch, sometimes figuring out WHAT you’re going to buy is the hardest part. Especially when it comes to that someone who has everything.

So why not give the gift of Theatre this year?  Most theaters have tickets on sale now not just for their holiday shows but for the next show in line as well.  Hillbarn Theatre is showing Mame in December, and Grapes of Wrath in January. The Palo Alto Players are selling tickets for all their upcoming shows: The Heiress, Young Frankenstein and The Farnsworth InventionTheatreWorks opens Little Women the Musical in next week. Opera San Jose is gearing up for Madame Butterfly in February and EVERY opera buff will want to attend that show. And of course Ballet San Jose has The Nutcracker.  Tickets to any of these shows would make an amazing and original gift, or you can just plan to take the family as part of the holiday season enjoyment.

At the moment though, there is one show that I am looking forward to the most, and that is The Snow Queen at the San Jose Repertory Theatre.  Here is why:  We have only seen two shows of the 2013-2014 SJ Rep season and I am already blown away.  One Night with Janis was an amazing look at the queen herself and all her inspirations, and the show moved on to Broadway after leaving its extended run in San Jose.  Then they showed Next Fall which was just about the best show I have seen in the Bay Area in the last five years.  It combined issues of religion, age difference in relationships, dealing with death and impending death, and also several issues of gay relationships, and it did all this without preaching that any side is right or wrong – but overall it was a story about any relationship and every relationship.  And it was played by a group of some of the best actors we have available in the Bay Area.  This was two in a row of not just good theatre, but GREAT theatre.  And now we have The Snow Queen.

“With steam punk flair, an alternative rock score and girl heroine, this is not going to be your average Holiday Musical,” states the SJ Rep, and the early audience reviews of the previews are gushing:   “Fantastic.. One of the BEST plays ever.. LOVED every minute” says Joani Krieger Mitchell.  “Absolutely FANTASTIC! Not to be missed. All you fans of English pantomime will rejoice,” from Sally Bookman.  Click here to see a preview of The Snow Queen.

And if you buy your ticket today (Black Friday) you can get 42% savings off regular ticket with promo code “FRIDAY2013″.

I am looking forward to writing a review for the show next week, and I hope you all will join me there.  Something amazing is happening at the SJ Rep this year, and I cannot wait to see what the season brings us.  Happy Holidays!

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

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