Posts Tagged ‘musical’

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE Lights up the Stage with the Glitz and Glamour of the 20’s

Annmarie Martin as The Drowsy Chaperone, toasts the upcoming wedding of Janet Van de Graaff (Courtney Hatcher) and Robert Martin (Trevor Meacham). Photo: Nancy Fitzgerald-Metzler

My theatre buddy and I were lucky enough to be able to attend Opening Night of Hillbarn Theatre’s last show of their 70th season, The Drowsy Chaperone. We really enjoyed this fun, clever story, which is a good introduction to musical theatre.

I had heard of Hillbarn before, but had never been. Well worth the drive to Foster City from the South Bay. Hillbarn is a nice sized house, about 140 seats. Intimate, yet still large enough to have a great audience and to hold all the amazing song and dance numbers and extensive set from the Tony Award-Winning musical, The Drowsy Chaperone.

The Drowsy Chaperone is different than most musicals I have seen. It is narrated by a lonely, agoraphobic man who loves musical theatre, the Man in Chair. He plays for us the record of his favorite musical, the fictional 1928 musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone, and his apartment comes to life with the sights and sounds of the roaring 20’s, full of tap dancing, vaudevillians, gangsters, starlets, impressive sets, and of course, a drowsy chaperone. I even noticed some Shakespearean aspects, like mistaken identity and multiple weddings. Staples in most of Shakespeare’s comedies.

Ron Lopez, Jr. who plays the Man in Chair did an amazing job of engaging the audience into his world. It is just a normal night at home for him, listening to music to cure his blues. As the musical comes to life before us, he starts and stops the record, which stops the action on stage, to explain what is going on, what makes a good musical, and the gossip behind the actors who originally played the roles of this musical within a play. Ron’s neuroticism, flamboyance, and excitement to share the story of The Drowsy Chaperone with us made me chuckle again and again.

Courtney Hatcher who plays Janet Van de Graaff, the 20’s showgirl who is giving up her career to marry an oil tycoon, Robert Martin, definitely has some singing pipes and acting chops. Her song and dance numbers blew me away. Not just because of her extraordinary charisma and talent, but all the cute costumes she wore, fun props, the great background dancers, and the humor in it all.

Annmarie Martin who plays The Drowsy Chaperone, is an amazing singer and has a great stage presence. Annmarie was spot on as the Drowsy Chaperone. The Chaperone is a woman who enjoys a drink, or five, during prohibition. She reminds me of Karen in the sitcom Will and Grace. Karen was always drinking, saying something funny, and stealing the show. That’s exactly what Annmarie’s Chaperone did.

The show is full of humor and physical comedy. There are the Vaudeville-like characters such as Mrs. Tottendale, played by Melody Cole, and her butler, Underling, played by Don Cima. Mrs. Tottendale and Underling have an amusing scene where Tottendale repeatedly spits vodka at Underling.  It is spit take after spit take. Also Vaudevillian are the gangsters, Stewart Kramar and Joey Montes, who are disguised as pastry chefs to threaten Janet’s producer, Feldzieg, played by Michael Carey, to get Janet to call off the wedding and stay in show business. I love the gangsters’ dessert and food puns and their side-splitting physical comedy and dance numbers. Very memorable.

Also memorable were Eric Ribeiro as Aldolpho, the bumbling romantic, hired by Feldzieg to seduce Janet so as stop the wedding. And, of course, Trevor Meacham, Robert Martin, who has many enjoyable scenes. I especially liked the scene where he is blindfolded on roller skates as well as the entertaining tap dance number with his best man, George, played by Daniel Lloyd Pias. I can’t forget Michelle Foletta, who played Kitty, the dumb blonde who, according to Feldzieg, has no talent but thinks she can take Janet’s place as the starlet. She has some very cute numbers and scenes. The rest of the ensemble was very talented as well.

I’m glad I finally made it to Hillbarn Theatre and was able to experience this pleasurable, entertaining musical. Even if you aren’t into musicals, you will hear the Man in Chair’s opinion about what makes a good musical, and you might just agree with him. And I know you will agree that going to Hillbarn to see The Drowsy Chaperone makes for a fun evening out.

The Drowsy Chaperone Through May 29th at Hillbarn Theatre
1285 East Hillsdale Blvd. Foster City, CA 94404
Tickets available at Hillbarn Theatre or call 650.349.6411

Michelle Foletta, as Kitty, has a run in with Gangster #1 (left - Stewart Kramar) and Gangster #2 (right - Joey Montes) as Feldzieg (Michael Carey) looks on. Photo: Nancy Fitzgerald-Metzler

March theater show round-up – and films galore as well!

February will be a tough month to beat, quality-wise, but March definitely wins the quantity category – mainly due to Cinequest.  Will the show quality be just as good next month?  I’m betting YES.  Here are the shows that Metblogs is planning to review for you in March – get your tickets now!!

March 1 – March 13
CINEQUEST
Interactive Schedule
Join Cinequest as they unveil 173 memorable films, soul stirring events and amazing innovations in palatial venues. Cinequest will fuse the community of film lovers with film creators, holding Q&A sessions and forums with the seven hundred (700) plus artists expected in attendance. Experience so much more than a film festival.


As always, Metblogs will be there to cover every aspect of this film festival, and we strongly urge you to follow along and join us.  It’s the most fun we have all year!!

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March 10 – March 27
SEPARATE TABLES
Hillbarn Theatre
Separate Tables is set in a shabby genteel hotel on England’s south coast where the residents, for the most part, dine alone—at separate tables.  The story is about sexual repression, understanding and forgiveness.  Hillbarn’s take on it, although true to the script, pokes a little fun at the repressed mores of the 1950s while at the same time understanding that the glimpse is real.  The original movie contained blockbuster actors Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth and David Niven—who won an Oscar for his portrayal.  Our version will make you laugh about some of the outmoded conventions in our past.

Hillbarn has the best track record of great shows so far.  I have no doubt this show will be a must-see!

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March 15 – March 20
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
Broadway San Jose
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, the Tony Award® winning musical that has captured the hearts of people all over the world with its universal appeal, embarks on its North American Tour.
Based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF has been lauded by critics again and again, and won the hearts of people all around the world. Filled with a rousing, heartwarming score, which includes “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were A Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is a timeless classic.
No other musical has so magically woven music, dance, poignancy and laughter into such an electrifying and unforgettable experience. Relive a glorious tradition of the musical theatre with FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

I’ve actually never seen the show or the film before, and I’m looking forward to my Fiddler introduction in March!

March 24 – April 17
LEGACY OF LIGHT
San Jose Repertory
Two brilliant women, centuries apart, push the boundaries of science while grappling with motherhood in this theatrically adventurous comedy.
Physicist Émilie du Châtelet, lover of famous French philosopher Voltaire, and a young poet, worries about her fate after she unexpectedly becomes pregnant. Driven by fear and ambition, she races to publish her theories based on Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion. Linked together by scientific legacy and maternal instincts, accomplished astrophysicist Olivia and her husband, Peter, want to conceive but cannot. Olivia’s attention turns to her new “child,” a planet she’s discovered in the midst of hiring a quirky and free-spirited surrogate. This touching and whimsical tale leaves us asking: Does the birth of a child ultimately mean as much to the world as the birth of an idea?

It’s the West Coast Premiere of the American Theatre Critics Association “Best New Play” 2010, and this show sounds intriguing!

Which shows are on YOUR calendar?

It’s maybe not A Wonderful Life at Hillbarn Theatre

Robert Brewer as George Bailey, Joey Montes as Clarence

It’s a Wonderful Life is one of those iconic Christmas films that everyone knows and, love it or hate it, you will probably see it fifteen times this December just flipping through TV channels. It seems to be so well known and loved that no other filmmaker has even attempted to remake it. How do you improve on Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore? It’s darn near impossible. But when I heard that the story of George Bailey and Bedford Falls had been remade into a musical, I definitely thought it could work.

On paper, it should work. Christmas stories, tales of love and redemption, stories involving kids and small towns, these are all ripe fodder for a classic hit musical. And I think Hillbarn Theatre could pull it off, but I am not sure this particular production was prepared to open yet.

Two great things about the production: The eight piece orchestra was fabulous, and was on stage just behind the bridge. I thought this was a great idea, and it worked well. Second, the stage design itself: The Bedford Falls bridge was built large and looming over the stage, with most of the action taking place beneath it so that you are always aware of George Bailey’s past, present and future. The angels Matthew and Clarence stood over the bridge, and there were screens above and to the side of it where the different settings were projected.

But there were several problems. The choreography, surprising for Hillbarn, was not tight and could use a lot more practice. Leaving mics off many of the background characters was understandable until they suddenly had lines and we couldn’t hear them. There were a few musical cues missed which anyone familiar with the film (most everyone) would notice.

Bailey Batti as Mary Hatch Bailey, Robert Brewer as George Bailey

But it was the songs that really need work, and this was not necessarily (but sometimes was) the fault of the cast. Some of the songs seemed unnecessary to the story, or just too long. Robert Brewer plays a fine George Bailey and Bailey Battie as Mary is lovely and has a beautiful voice, and both had no problems with most of their pieces.  But neither was up to one operatic spoken word piece that was interminable. I am not sure if the point of this song, a tense exchange between George and Mary, was to make the audience as uncomfortable as possible, but even so it went on for entirely too long.  I don’t blame Brewer or Battie for this, I think it is a production problem with the song itself that needs to be fixed.

My love for Hillbarn Theatre and their productions is well documented, and at times last night I wondered if my expectations had just been set too high for this show. But sadly this production was nowhere near the level I would usually expect. It is also entirely possible that opening night was just “one of those nights”, and the show could improve in the coming weeks. I do hope it does as I love this company, and I firmly believe they are worthy of support. I still think it is a great show for a holiday evening out, and it is perfect for kids old enough to sit through a show.

A Wonderful Life
Playing through December 19
Hillbarn Theatre
1285 East Hillsdale Blvd.
Foster City
650.349.6411
Tickets

Tap into the holidays with Backwards in High Heels

(l to r) Benjie Randall, Christianne Tisdale, Anna Aimee White, James Patterson and Matthew LaBanca

This Holiday season the San Jose Repertory Theatre is playing Backwards in High Heels, a musical biography of Ginger Rogers, and two hours of toe tapping fun.  It is a fantastic show that is great for an all-age audience, even those who have never heard of Ginger Rogers.

Who hasn’t heard of Ginger Rogers??  Oh, just my 18 year old daughter, to my mortification.  However, when lights went up at intermission she turned to me and exclaimed, “OMIGAWD I LOVE THIS!”  As I’ve said before, this girl is San Jose theatre’s toughest critic, so this says a great deal about the show.  She is young enough to not understand many of the old Hollywood references, but the story does not depend on them, neither do they depend on the singing and dancing.  It is just a really great story about a very interesting woman.  Oh, and there is quite a lot of great singing and dancing as well!

Anna Aimee White as Ginger Rogers

It follows Ginger from age 14 in 1925 until the Academy Awards in 1940.  Much of the story is narrated by her mother Lela, played by Heather Lee.  One of the most entertaining scenes in the show is when Lela tells the story of Ginger’s alcoholic father, whom Lela divorced when Ginger was 4 – played with over-the-top physical acting and a strobe light, it appears you are watching an old time silent film.  An interesting woman in her own right, Lela ends up watching her adoring and very attached daughter grow into a strong business woman who insists on making her own decisions in life.  Not a lot of time is spent on Fred Astaire, which is probably how Ginger Rogers would want it.  She seems to have spent much of her adult life trying to convince people she could be successful on her own, not just as half of a team.

Anna Aimee White quite capably plays Ginger Rogers from a perky teenager to the self assured woman she becomes, and is a great singer and dancer.  Heather Lee is outstanding as the mother who truly wants only the best for her child but must stand back and watch her make mistakes on her own.  A surprise standout is Christianne Tisdale who plays everyone from Ethel Merman, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, to, cross-dressed, Ginger Roger’s French fourth husband.  While Heather Lee brings a quiet seriousness to the story, Christianne Tisdale brings a lot of comedy.   Most of the cast outside of White play multiple roles, and they are all outstanding.

Backwards in High Heels
San Jose Repertory Theatre
Through December 19
$35 – $74
Tix:  408 367-7255
Online Tickets

To make it even easier for the family to enjoy this show during the holiday season, Creative Playshops are held during each Saturday matinee for children ages 6 to 12 in the Rep’s upstairs studio theatre.  Led by SJ Rep professionals, these playshops explore the imagination through interactive theatre activities related to the themes of the play.  Just drop the kids off before the show, enjoy the performance and pick them up afterward!  Single tickets are $10, Playshop subscriptions are $48.

LGBT Night: Out ‘n’ About Night will be Friday, December 10.  The evening will start with a VIP pre-show reception with wine, appetizers and a festive goodie bag.  Participants will be treated to parterre seating for the show, and immediately after the show they can meet the cast in the Curtain Call Patron Lounge.
Friday, December 10, 6pm to Midnight
Price: $49
Call the Box Office at 408 367-7255 and ask for the Out ‘n’ About rate.
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The Color Purple proves a perfect holiday production

“Push Da Button” featuring Taprena Augustine (Shug Avery). Photo by Scott Suchman.

The Color Purple is an award winning book by Alice Walker, and an excellent and amazing read that I highly recommend (ditto the 1985 film).  But with much disturbing and depressing subject matter, I was not sure how successfully Broadway would manage to adapt this book into a musical — or if I wanted to start out the Holiday Season by watching it.  Even so, it was one of the shows I was looking forward to the most this season.

Dayna Jarae Dantzler (Celie) and Traci Allen (Nettie). Photo by Scott Suchman.

I definitely was not expecting to exit the Center for Performing Arts Tuesday with a smile on my face, but that is exactly what happened.   From the very beginning of the show the CPA was filled with bodies swaying to the music, toe tapping and jiving in the seats.  The show is emotional and moving, sexy, violent, sweet, heartbreaking and heartwarming.  The show does touch on the hardships that Celie must endure through much of her life, and the horrifying events that lead up to her losing her children and her sister at age 14 (yes, 14).  Most people who have read the book or seen the film will always remember the truly horrendous things that happened to her – but many people do not remember on what an uplifting note the story ends.  And this ending is only the exclamation at the end of a very uplifting story.  The unredeemable are redeemed in the story, the downtrodden are lifted up, and the meek rise to the top.  No one rides off into the sunset to live happily ever after here, but hope and faith are restored to Celie, and there was not a dry eye in the audience when it was over.  The last few minutes of the show were filled with sniffling and inconspicuous eye wiping – but they were all happy tears!  What better Thanksgiving story than this – if Celie has something to be thankful for, so do we all.

The production itself is the best of the season so far.  Every detail was top notch; it is hard to pick out any one thing to gush over.  Set design, lighting, costumes, it was all great…  but this is the first time I was really, really impressed with the choreography.  Donald Byrd was nominated for a 2006 Tony award for The Color Purple, and it is evident why.  He impressively draws the audience in to participate in a lively church service in the South, we work on the farm with the handsome, shirtless field workers, we join in with the joyful dances of the 20s to the 40s, and then we sit in awe as we watch the native African dancers perform their unfamiliar but breathtakingly beautiful moves.  Every dance was simply outstanding.

The cast performs “African Homeland”. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Every single actor is incredible in the show.  Everyone from stars Dayna Jarae Dantzler (Celie), Edward C. Smith (Mister), Taprena Augustine (Shug Avery) and the awesome Pam Trotter (Sofia), down to every single background actor – it was all played to perfection.  There were often anywhere between 17 – 22 people on stage at a time, but they were all set in smaller groups playing perfect individual characters so that you wanted to take in every individual little scene at once. The singing, dancing and acting talent on stage at any one time was just unbelievable.

The show is playing through November 28 and I definitely recommend you take a break from the holiday rush to see it.  It was a packed house on Tuesday and everyone had a great time.  Despite some disturbing content, it is really a joyous story about love and triumph over life’s obstacles and the restoration of faith; it is about forgiveness and redemption, and most of all, never ever ever giving up hope.

It is my favorite of Broadway San Jose’s shows so far this season. Go see it. You will leave the theater happy and ready for the Holidays.

The Color Purple
San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
November 23-28
Tickets:  415 792-4111
www.sjtix.com
Not recommended for young children. Fine for high school age at parent’s discretion. Some scenes depicting or insinuating sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

It’s time to start planning your November show nights!

We survived the many great October shows, now we have an even more packed November!  This month I can honestly say I am VERY excited about every one of these shows.  These are the ones we are set to review this month – get your tickets now!

Flying Karamazov Brothers

The Flying Karamazov Brothers
The San Jose Repertory Company
November 10 – 14
Welcome to the zany world of The Flying Karamazov Brothers, where the daring and goofy take center stage. This ground-breaking blend of nouveau cirque, comedy, theatre, music, and, of course, juggling is nothing short of genius. Innovative and unique, they display their juggling prowess in such show stopping numbers as “The Gambler.” In this daring act, the Karamozov champion Dimitri will juggle three items presented to him by audience members. If the champion succeeds he gets a standing ovation. If he fails, he gets a pie in the face! This exuberant and hilarious off-Broadway rave is full of fast-paced virtuosity and fun as the four brothers deliver a stupendously entertaining evening like you’ve never experienced.

As if that wasn’t fun enough: The audience is encouraged to bring zany items to the theater for the Karamazov champion to juggle!

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night
San Jose State University Theatre
November 12 – 20
Theater director Kathleen Normington and English Professor Dr. Adrienne Eastwood are continuing to draw a great deal of attention with their provocative steampunk Shakespeare production.  Director Normington intends to use the steampunk aesthetic to style the production and highlight some of the themes of disguise and gender ambiguity within the play.  Dr. Eastwood, as dramaturge, is helping to guide the marriage of steampunk visuals with Shakespeare’s written words into the creation of a beautiful new version of the play.  This combination is sure to bring Twelfth Night’s message to a wider audience in unexpected ways.  DO NOT MISS this innovative vision that will stay true to its original ideas.

Tosca

Tosca
Opera San Jose
November 13 – 28
She’s a superstar: brilliant, beautiful, and spoiled. Yet Floria Tosca, despite her wealth and privilege, cannot save her aristocratic lover without consenting to debase herself. An opera diva as wildly popular in 1800 Rome as any rock or movie icon today, she finds that living for “art, love, and prayer” isn’t enough to protect her in a society run by wicked, powerful men. She is a beauty pursued by a beast determined to have her, and killing her stalker – chief of the secret police, Baron Scarpia – still doesn’t end her suffering. Suicide is her final act of defiance

The Color Purple

The Color Purple
Broadway San Jose
November 23 – 28
A soul-stirring musical based on the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and the moving film by Steven Spielberg. It is the unforgettable and inspiring story of a woman named Celie, who finds her unique voice in the world. Nominated for eleven Tony® Awards, THE COLOR PURPLE is a landmark theatrical event, a celebration of love, and a Broadway phenomenon. With a joyous GRAMMY®-nominated score featuring jazz, gospel and blues, THE COLOR PURPLE is capturing the hearts of young and old, and uniting audiences in a community of joy.


Backwards in High Heels

Backwards in High Heels
The San Jose Repertory Company
November 24 – December 19
The remarkable life of the legendary actress Ginger Rogers comes to life onstage!
This intimate musical dances its way through Ginger’s life with unforgettable music, show-stopping dance numbers and a captivating story that chronicles her journey from hometown to Hollywood and from one love affair to another. Best known as Fred Astaire’s dance partner, Ginger defied her overly-protective mother to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and one of the industry’s first women to demand equal pay. Funny, moving and a visual feast, Backwards In High Heels is a toe-tapping, swirling, gliding account of her ambitious public and private life.

A Wonderful Life (Musical)

A Wonderful Life (MUSICAL)
Hillbarn Theatre
December 2 – 19
Although this show starts in December I want to make sure you are all notified in time.  Hillbarn has been putting on consistently fantastic productions, and has been selling out of many shows.  I’ve had my fill of Wonderful Life over the years, but I am truly excited to see Hillbarn’s new musical version.  I’m sure it will be a Don’t Miss production!

Gypsy at Hillbarn Theatre — Let them entertain you!

Last week we were delighted to be invited to Hillbarn Theatre’s opening night for Gypsy.  Finishing up its 69th straight season, Hillbarn has put on quite a show.  I was excited because I had never seen this show done live and I was very interested in seeing Hillbarn itself, the 6th oldest theatre of its kind in the US.  They are also celebrating the installation of a brand new air conditioning system, which will be much appreciated during these warmer May evenings.  My guest and I were both delighted with this show.

Based on the life of Gypsy Rose Lee, Gypsy is the story of Mama Rose and her daughters Louise (Gypsy) and “Baby” June.  Rose is one of the original stage mothers, pushing her daughters and a band of young boys through Vaudeville and trying to hit the big time.  Most of her attention is focused on Baby June, but when June grows up and runs away with a boy it is up to Louise to carry on with Rose’s dreams of stardom.

If you have ever seen any production of Gypsy you know it’s an incredibly complicated and involved play to produce.  You have a double cast of young children to deal with, and there are multiple costume and scenery changes.  The production also must find a very talented singer/actress to play Mama Rose, and one young woman who can play everything from a shy young tomboy to a sexy bombshell stripper.  None of this is easy.  Hillbarn may not have pulled off a 5-star show but my guest and I were thoroughly impressed with what they did do.

Dan Kapler and Annmarie Martin as Herbie and Rose

First, Hillbarn is a great theatre.  It may not be on a hill, but inside the theatre it is set up like a barn, with the stage melting right into the seating.  There is the possibility of some blind spots when seated stage right, but this show is set up to avoid any of this.  The seats are also set well above each other so there is no possibility of anyone blocking your view.  I would definitely go to another production there; it was well worth the drive and a great experience.

The show is absolutely carried by the actress who plays Mama Rose, Annmarie Martin.  Rose is almost always on stage and must belt out a great deal of songs.  It takes an accomplished singer to get through this show four nights a week, but I am sure Ms. Martin has what it takes.  She has great chops and her acting as Mama Rose is also done to perfection.

Milly Boyce plays the very difficult role of Louise/Gypsy and she does a great job.  Her role requires her to first play a young teen who dresses in boy’s clothes and plays second fiddle to her younger sister, and then morph into a sexy, confident burlesque stripper.  This is a difficult, wide ranging role to play and Milly is obviously a talented actress. (more…)

OMIGOD You guys! Elle Woods has brought her case to San Jose!

Elle Woods and Bruiser

And she has won!  Broadway San Jose has brought Legally Blonde the Musical to the Center for Performing Arts and it is an outstanding show.  Opening to a packed house on Tuesday evening the audience was laughing, cheering, clapping and (happy) crying throughout the evening.

I am not usually thrilled when musicals are adapted from films, but Legally Blonde is perfectly suited for such a thing.  It’s a delightful, uplifting story with a change in tone at the halfway mark, plenty of quirky characters, and a happy ending.  The musical sticks with the storyline from the film, only making minor changes to make pop culture references more current.  There is also the addition of a Greek chorus – Elle’s sorority sisters, of course!

The story of Elle Woods and her move from Malibu to Harvard, though sometimes described as “bubblegum,” is actually inspiring and empowering to both females and males, young and old.  If you have never seen the film you need to understand that it is not about a bubble-headed blonde with a love for pink Gucci and aspirations to be a senator’s wife.  Okay, Elle does start out as this person, but she figures out before intermission that taking advantage of her brain is a better idea.  I love how the story shows that valuing the superficial is not important, however putting your best face forward is.  Elle learns that chasing love should not be the priority, but the story acknowledges the need for having love in one’s life.  Above all, girls are encouraged to support each other and use their brains, and to be the very best they can be.

Paulette and the UPS Guy with Rufus

Aside from the fantastic story, the musical is insanely well done.  Gorgeous backdrops are switched out super fast, the choreography perfectly conveys personalities and mood changes, and the costumes are well thought out and show Elle’s character development.  The audience is hooked from the catchy opening song (which you will be singing for days after), and the attention is held by the very talented cast and a few scene stealers.  The UPS Man and his accompanying porn-like soundtrack are played to perfection, and lesbian classmate Enid received loud shouts of approval with every line.

The real scene stealers come to Broadway San Jose straight from animal shelters.  The adorable dogs who play Rufus and Bruiser are all rescue animals that are trained for the stage.  They are used minimally in the show but have a magnificent presence every time they run across the stage.  Any time those adorable dogs were on stage all eyes were on them.

At Harvard Law

Broadway San Jose is turning into an arts powerhouse , but unfortunately Legally Blonde is only running through March 21.  You should NOT miss it.  Everyone at Tuesday’s show left the CPA with huge smiles and ready to take on the world.  “When I was young, Elle Woods taught me that a girl can be pretty AND smart,” said the gorgeous Stanford graduate who attended with me, “and now I really want a sparkly pink Harvard shirt.”

If you have pre-teen or teenage girls in your family, take them with you to this show.  Take the boys and men in your life too, and get ready for an exceptionally fun evening.  Even those of us who have seen Elle Woods on screen many times before will feel renewed and inspired after seeing this musical.

Don’t miss your chance to see Avenue Q by Broadway San Jose

avenueq1Avenue Q opened at Broadway San Jose Tuesday evening and we were lucky enough to attend this fabulous show. Sometimes described as an adult Sesame Street, it really is so much more than what that description implies. It is also much more than the various skits you may have seen on YouTube.  It is a complete story filled with appealing characters and hilarious songs, definitely worthy of an evening downtown.

Just as Sesame Street deals with problems that kids can relate to, Avenue Q is a very human story dealing with problems many adults and teens have faced. Both human and puppet residents of Avenue Q deal with love and sex, lack of employment, betrayal, prejudice, finding their own identity and where they will fit in society. Complicating matters are the scene stealers of the show, the Bad Idea Bears. These cuddly evil twins of the Care Bears give the worst advice possible (usually involving booze), always popping out from behind a corner when a character has an important decision to make.

avenueq2The story focuses on Princeton, the newest resident of Avenue Q, who opens the show wondering “What do you do with a BA in English?” He soon meets and seems to fall in love with Kate Monster, his neighbor. Other neighbors are Trekkie Monster, who has discovered the true use of the internet (PORN!), roomies Rod and Nicky, and real human neighbors Christmas Eve and Brian. All of these characters are also friends with the sociable apartment superintendent, Gary Coleman.

The puppetry in this production is remarkable. Unlike most puppet shows, the puppeteers in Avenue Q are on stage and in full view at all times, yet their expert manipulation of the puppets renders them invisible almost immediately. Even when you do notice the human operators their faces are also acting the parts, and the puppeteer for Lucy the Slut shakes her hips as you just know Lucy would.

avenueq3This is an adult themed show that is not for young children, however teenagers are sure to love it (with parental discretion). Profanity is sparingly used for maximum impact. There is a long and graphic scene of puppet sex (but puppets only exist from the torso up). Issues of sexual identity are also addressed. All these issues and more are treated with comedy, yet as you come to know and love the characters you also begin to laugh and cry with them. You cannot help but begin to relate to the puppets, and then are sometimes disappointed in the life decisions they make, just as we sometimes are with ourselves.

This is much more than a parody of Sesame Street. It is really exceptional, laugh out loud comedy for adults and teens, and should not be missed. Opening night was packed at the Center for Performing Arts, and the audience was all smiles and laughing as we left the theater.  I really recommend you take time to see this show with your spouse, a friend, or your teens. It’s an outstanding and fun couple hours filled with laughter.

Single tickets are $20-$75 and the show runs through January 17 at the Center for Performing Arts.
Broadway San Jose
Rating:  Mature Content
Warning:  Contains Strong Language and Full Puppet Nudity

Do not miss the SJ Rep’s Putnam County Spelling Bee

Putnam County Spelling BeeI attended the Opening Night performance of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with open expectations.  I had never heard anything about the show before and did not know what to expect, and I got the same feeling from other audience members in attendance.   Two hours later we filed out of the SJ Rep with euphoric hearts and maybe a tear in an eye or two.  This is a production that draws you in from the moment you step into the theatre, and it continues on with a catharsis of hysterical laughing, hopeful rooting for your favorite speller, and heartbreaking sorrow for the losers.  It is an interactive production like no other and simply put, is not to be missed.

My guest and I stepped into the theatre and gasped with delight when we saw the stage had been turned into an extraordinarily detailed gymnasium.  It was brightly lit even as the audience was finding their seats, and the bright colors and fun details from floor to ceiling really helped make the audience excited before the play even began.  When the play started at 8pm the house was packed full and ready to see what this play was all about.

Every character in this play is the protagonist of their own little story, and we slowly learn about each student as the play goes on.  Four members of the audience are also chosen to participate on stage and are given spelling words until they have been eliminated from the competition.  There is a lot of playful fun-poking and the audience cheered loudly for all the students whether they won or lost. 

There is no fourth wall in this production and the audience is a fully participating part of the play.  Fifteen minutes into the production on Friday the audience was uncontrollable in our laughter and yelling and rooting for each speller.  Halfway through the play the character of Chip Tolentino walks through the aisles with a candy box and slings M&Ms and Kit Bars at the crowd while singing about his “Unfortunate Erection”.  But soon after this we started to quiet down as the student characters in front of us slowly opened up and we saw some of the sadness and hurt and disappointment they held inside.

As the play tells us, “Life isn’t fair,” “Life is pandemonium,” and “the good don’t always win.”  These are hard lessons that we all have to learn in life, and the students in the spelling bee are dealing with extraordinary pressures put upon them from their parents, society and themselves to succeed.  There is only going to be one “winner” at the end of the spelling bee.  But as director Timothy Near tells us, this play shows that “working hard, being creative and making good friends in the process IS winning.”

The actors in this production were incredible.  You never for one moment believe you are looking at adults playing children, you only see six hopeful preteens sitting in the gym waiting for their turn to spell.  Clifton Guterman as Leaf Coneybear and Dani Marcus as Olive Ostrovsky were special standouts who make you fall in love with their characters.  Berwick Hayes as Mitch Mahoney brings comic relief and much love and comfort to the characters and participating audience members.  But every member of this cast was amazing.  I also give high marks to scenic designer Robert Broadfoot, costume designer Shigeru Yaji and musical director Dolores Dura-Cefalu.

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