Theatre Seen

audra-w500-h500.jpgLady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
by Lanie Robertson
Directed by Lonny Price
Circle in the Square Theatre
1633 Broadway (cross Street 50th)

aupluspiano-w500-h500.jpgNew York, NY:  In an interesting thematic confluence of  New York productions, there are three shows concurrently running that focus biographically on the lives of three music legends. On my Spring New York stopover I saw Satchmo at the Waldorf, a drama about the late great jazz trumpeter and singer, Louis Armstrong set at the time of his final performances at the Waldorf Hotel in New York.

On this trip, I have just seen Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, that traces the evolution of the musical career of King, still a vibrant and active singer, pianist and songwriter who has written more than 400 song.

Continuing the music theme of my theater picks for New York 2014,  Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill stars the luminous Audra McDonald as tragic jazz great Billie Holliday, who died of cirrhosis at the too-young age of 44 .

beautiful_2647-w500-h500.jpgBeautiful: The Carole King Musical
by Doug McGrath
Music and Lyrics by Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
Director Marc Bruni
Choreographer Josh Prince
Stephen Sondheim Theater
Currently running

New York, NY.  Like the more than 25 million other fans of Carole King who bought her album Tapestry,  the songs of this album are embedded in my musical memory and I have been looking forward to seeing Beautiful: The Carole King Musical for months. But it wasn’t until I was actually in the theatre, relishing one superbly performed musical  number after another, that I realized just how many of the songs that I had danced to in high school and known only by the artists or groups that performed them, were written by King and/or Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. And the show covered only a fraction of their works.

img_1179_-_shot_4_-_money-w500-h500.jpgCymbeline
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Anita Rochon
 Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Howard Family Stage, Douglas Campbell Theatre, Vanier Park
July 4 to Sept 17, 2014

img_1435_-_money-w500-h500.jpgVancouver, BC: Cymbeline is one of the lesser known Shakespearean dramas with many characters taking on alternate identities. It is one of the few Shakespeare plays that I have never seen performed, studied or even read until now. In Cymbeline, the plot is rather convoluted and the Bard uses many of his familiar devices and characters - the poison that simulates death, disguises that are un-believably effective, lost royal heirs that are raised in poverty, the deceitful betrayer who besmirches the reputation of the virtuous heroine - and I honestly wasn’t expecting to be riveted to the stage as I am when I watch one of his great tragedies. 

But I really loved this production. Anita Rochon’s direction was crisp and incisive and this talented group of actors were able to push the limits of the multiple role casting to provide the comedic sharpness that this play needs.

img_0607_-_money-w500-h500.jpgEquivocation
by Bill Cain
Directed by Michael Shamata
 Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Howard Family Stage, Douglas Campbell Theatre, Vanier Park
July 2 to Sept 19, 2014
Vancouver, BC: I really enjoy the opportunity to see a play with a Shakespearean

Vancouver, BC: I really enjoy the opportunity to see a play with a Shakespearean “connection”  as the 4th play in a Bard on the Beach season. These plays such as Mark Leiren -Young's "Shylock" or Stoppard's "Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern", that are not of the Shakespeare's writing yet complement the current productions, add a different dimension to the Bard on the Beach experience.

This year, Bill Cain’s "Equivocation", though not specifically related to any of the three other plays on stage,  was an excellent choice and I found the play witty and thought-provoking. Filled to the brim with allusions recognizable to the Shakespearean “in” crowd, it presents an tantalizing imagined tale of how Equivocation's Shakespeare character, Shagspeare, comes to produce one of the Shakespearean tragedies most admired and performed to this day. I'll leave it to you to find out which one.

shrek_39a0653-w500-h500.jpgShrek: The Musical
Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig
Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Directed by Sarah Rodgers
Music Director Christopher King, Choreographer Julie Tomaino
Theatre Under the Stars, Malkin Bowl, Stanley park.
July 11 to Aug 22, 2014

Vancouver, BC:  With my grandchildren (one a five year old) in town, this was a great opportunity to take them to see a Theatre Under the Stars musical at Malkin Bowl. The story of Shrek, the lonely ogre, was more age appropriate than Legally Blonde, which I had enjoyed last year. Seven of us trooped off to Stanley Park, hoping for a beautiful summer evening, and we got what we hoped for, a warm, almost cloudless summer night and good family entertainment.

 

p1100095-w500-h500.jpgFor a theatre-loving foodie, few cities in the world can match New York and on traveling out of New York, I always try to plan a few days in Manhattan before or after my trip. Theatre and restaurant reviews from my NY explorations over the past few years can be found through the links below. This post is the index to hotel, food and theatre experiences Spring 2014.
(New York New York: 2009 Part I Seven Days of Theatre and Food)
(New York, New York Part II) 
(New York, New York Part III)  
(New York, New York 2010) 
(New York  in Winter 2012)
(New York Theatre 2013)

This time en route to board the Crystal Symphony for a short cruise from New York to Halifax, I planned a two night stop-over in New York for dining and theatre. Despite the limited time I managed to enjoy several excellent restaurant meals and three shows.

img_0336-w500-h500.jpgThe Book of Mormon
Book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone
Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker
Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw
Eugene O'Neill Theatre, 230 West 49th St. (8th and BWay)

New York, NY:  After reading my little rant about the mind-numbing effect of excessive and unexpected profanity on stage, you may wonder why I would have chosen to see The Book of Mormon. After all it was written by the creators of South Park, the award winning animated comedy sitcom known for its shock value and crude language. The difference is that going into the theatre, I knew that this show described as a "bawdy, irreverent, hilarious" look at missionaries sent to Africa to convert the masses, would create  its comedy by using foul language and sexually explicit humour to shock. So in the context of the show, swear words were the least "offensive " aspect. Overall The Book of Mormon is entertaining and quite hilarious.

satchmo_at_waldorf_023_1-1-w500-h500.jpgSatchmo at The Waldorf
starring John Douglas Thompson
by Terry Teachout
directed by Gordon Edelstein
at the Westside Theatre (407 West 43rd)

New York, NY.   In general I avoid reading reviews of plays or musicals that I am about to see so as not to bias my enjoyment and opinion on the show. In the case of Satchmo at the Waldorf, I wish I had broken my rule as the play turned out to be very different to what I had been expecting.

In a powerful performance John Douglas Thompson plays the seventy-year old Louis Armstrong in his dressing room at the  Waldorf Astoria as he unwinds after one of his last performances.

kinky_boots_broadway_15_email_1-w500-h500.jpgKinky Boots
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
Based on the Miramax motion picture Kinky Boots written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth
Directed and Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Music supervision, arrangements and orchestration by Stephen Oremus
At the Al Hirschfeld Theatre,  302 West 45th

kinky_boots_billy_porter_andy_kelso_757_1-w500-h500.jpgNew York, NY.   This is the second production of Kinky Boots I have seen. I first saw the show with the original Broadway cast  in June last year, and enjoyed it so much (specially the boots!) that on this return visit I thought my fashionista  friends had to see it too. Good decision because I confess I loved it even more the second time around.

 

wh1-w500-h500.jpgWhite Hot
by Tommy Smith
directed by Ben Ratner
The Shop Theatre, 125 E. 2 nd St.
A White Hot Equity Co-Op production
May 8 -17, 2014

i-btvwcbk-x2-w500-h500.jpgVancouver, B.C. One of the things I love about my job as a theatre reviewer is the opportunity to see off-mainstream shows by small independent theatre companies. It is also often an opportunity to learn about small funky theatre spaces which these independent companies find to use for their productions. And that's how on a rainy Vancouver night I found myself driving round the vicinity of Main and Québec Streets, trying to find a a street parking space reasonably close to The Shop Theatre, which I discovered is in the old production space of the now sadly defunct Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company.

I do not use the F-word, at least in my writing, so I will simply say instead that Tommy Smith's play is about some seriously M-essed up characters. Lil (Loretta Walsh) and Sis (Stefania Indelicato) are sisters, the yin and yang of a manic-depressive persona. Sis is a manically crazy nymphomaniac who kicks off the play with a superbly articulated, warp-speed monologue about her sex-driven, violent but empty life.  “I love when people lie to me. I love the moment when I figure it out. I’m like, there, I got white hot justice on my side.”

 

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