Thursday, July 19, 2018

July 15, 2018 Radio Show

I am now linking my weekly Broadway radio show, "On Broadway" via my blog.  There are two ways to listen:
Click & Listen - You can click here to listen to this week's episode.  There are also hundreds of past episodes available on my website.

Podcasting - Each week a new program will be available by podcasting. If you have iTunes you can subscribe to the weekly "On Broadway" podcast or download it.

The podcast address is:
http://www.broadwayradioprograms.com/podcasts/Broadway.xml

TONIGHT'S THEME - BASTILLE DAY
Below is the playlist from July 15, 2018.  Tonight, we celebrate Bastille Day and France's victory in the World Cup with selections from musicals that include songs about the City of Lights.

Name of Song
Name of Show

Paris Wakes Up and Smiles
Miss Liberty
Paris, France
Make a Wish
Paris is Paris Again
Gigi
Speaking French
Lucky Stiff
Paris Loves Lovers
Silk Stockings
You Don't Know Paree
Fifty Million Frenchmen
C'est Magnifique
Can-Can
I Love Paris
Can-Can
Ah, Paris!
Follies
In Paris and in Love
The Girl in the Pink Tights
Paris Original
How to Succeed in Business...
Melodie de Paris
Phantom
At the End of the Day
Les Miserables
Sons of France
Irma La Douce
Paris by Night
Victor/Victoria

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review of "Jesus Christ Superstar"


I will state right at onset that the score to Jesus Christ Superstar is my favorite from the composing team of Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice.  Ever since the 1970 concept album was released I have been a big fan.  [Trivia Note:  the 1972 Original Broadway cast recording was only the second time a cast album was nominated in the Grammy Award’s prestigious album of the year category.]  The good news is that the latest production of the show, playing through July 22nd at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre in Storrs, CT, does an outstanding job bringing the score to life in all its rock opera glory.
 
Alex Prakken (Jesus) and Ryan Vona (Judas) and the apostles in “Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Weber, onstage at Connecticut Repertory Theatre through July 22.
The book of the show focuses on the last days of Jesus Christ.  There are scenes with his disciples, the apostles but, more importantly, his relationship with Mary Magdalene and Judas.  The end, after running afoul of such powerful figures as the High Priest, Caiaphas; the Judaic ruler, Pontius Pilate; and King Herod, comes with his crucifixion.

While, overall, the production is well-worth attending, a musical without any spoken dialogue can be problematic since needed exposition is sacrificed.  Here, for example, the role of the ensemble can be vexing since it is not always clear when they are playing Jesus’s followers or his apostles?  Establishing where the action is taking place was also sometimes difficult to pinpoint.
 
Alex Prakken (Jesus) and Sasha Renee Brown (Mary Magdalene) in “Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Weber, onstage at Connecticut Repertory Theatre through July 22.
The score, which ushered in the modern day, fully sung through Broadway musical, had my toes tapping non-stop.  There are passionate, heartfelt anthems; beautiful ballads; and anguished, harrowing compositions.  A number of the songs filled Top 40 radio playlists in the early 1970’s (“Superstar” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.”) 

The cast is talented and first-rate.  It is led by Alex Prakken as Jesus.  He brings a quiet forcefulness and charisma to the role.  You can feel the beauty and harmony he radiates, along with his intense pain and doubts.  Ryan Vona’s Judas is a tortured soul, thinking he is doing right, then realizing, when it is too late, the folly and deadly ramifications of his actions.  Jonathan Cobrda, in his short time on stage, is a fiery, no-nonsense Pontius Pilate, who sways from lobbying for Jesus’s release to relenting for his ultimate demise.  Sasha Renae Brown’s brings a tenderness and calmness to her role as Mary Magdalene
 
Alex Prakken (Jesus) and Ryan Vona (Judas) in “Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Weber, onstage at Connecticut Repertory Theatre through July 22.
Choreographer Christopher d’Amboise provides lively and diverse dance numbers, primarily for the ensemble that, while adding to the theatricality of the musical, sometimes don’t seem to mesh with the thrust of what is appearing on stage.  It’s almost like two separate components vying for attention.

Director Terrence Mann starts and ends the show with actors ambling on and off the performance space in their hippie finest (the original Broadway production did open at the height of the Flower Power generation) which, I suppose, is to inject a time appropriate, Easter pageant feel to the production.  He is at his best when helming the more vivid and dramatic sequences of the show, especially those involving the principle characters.  Working with Lighting Designer Doug Harry he creates a number of striking tableaus that add a powerful luster to the musical.
 
Jonathan Cobrda (Pilate) in “Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Weber, onstage at Connecticut Repertory Theatre through July 22.
Musical Director Bryan McAdams leads a skillful pit band and has the actors and actresses singing with power and a strong harmonic fervor.

Jesus Christ Superstar, another winning production from the Connecticut Repertory Theatre.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

July 8, 2018 Radio Show

I am now linking my weekly Broadway radio show, "On Broadway" via my blog.  There are two ways to listen:
Click & Listen - You can click here to listen to this week's episode.  There are also hundreds of past episodes available on my website.

Podcasting - Each week a new program will be available by podcasting. If you have iTunes you can subscribe to the weekly "On Broadway" podcast or download it.

The podcast address is:
http://www.broadwayradioprograms.com/podcasts/Broadway.xml

TONIGHT'S THEME - ALL VINYL
Below is the playlist from July 8, 2018.  Tonight, selections from musicals that will probably never be available on CD so it is an all vinyl program.

Name of Song
Name of Show

Only Right Here in New York City
Tuscaloosa's Calling, But I'm Not Coming
The Maze
Flowers for Algernon
Whatever Time There Is
Flowers for Algernon
I Never Had It So Good
Expresso Bongo
I Could Be The One
The Card
If You've Got It, You've Got It
Cindy
Holmes and Watson
Drat, the Cat!
If I Ever Fall in Love Again
The Crooked Mile
The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
Jumbo
Lambert's Quandry
Ambassador
I Wouldn't Have Had To
Let It Ride
You Can Be a New Yorker Too!
Mayor
Goodbye, Girls
Hot September
That's a Boy
Goodbye Mr. Chips
Doh, Ray, Me
Follow That Girl

Review of "Grease"


Nowadays, every production of Grease feels it must pay homage to the 1978 film version, which happens to be celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer.  Granted, it is one of the most successful movie musicals of all time that also spawned numerous Top Ten hits from its multi-platinum soundtrack.  But the problem with going this route is the show can too easily feel like a parody of the film, full of schtick and two-dimensional characters.  Sadly, this is the direction the Ivoryton Playhouse’s production of Grease has taken.  The result is a leaden, underachieving show that never finds its buoyant, giddy footing.

The plot is a variation of boy meets girl, boys loses girl and, in the end, boy gets girl.   In this scenario, we are presented with two seemingly incongruent lovebirds--high school greaser Danny Zuko (Johnny Newcomb) and dewy-eyed co-ed Sandy Dombrowksi (Kimberly Immanuel).  Along the way, we meet members of his high-spirited gang, the Burger Palace Boys, and their female counterparts, the Pink Ladies.  They rock, they roll, get into assorted mischief and, finally, come together to celebrate their disarming rebelliousness.

The drawback of the production comes in both the way the performers interpret their roles, the substitution of numbers from the movie that don’t necessarily fit, and the way songs are presented.  For example, right at the onset, the innocuous “Grease is the Word,” a number one chart-topper from the movie, is used instead of “Alma Mater” and “Alma Mater (Parody)” from the original 1972 version.  The latter songs would have better prepared the audience for what is coming, or should be coming—a raucous, slightly naughty-filled show. “Those Magic Changes,” which should be more of a simple celebration by a young man beginning his mastery of the guitar, has become a goofy, jittery performed Elvis impersonation. 

The young cast, too often, comes across as caricatures overplaying their roles for easy laughs. Johnny Newcomb’s Danny Zuko is more Prom King than rough and tumble gang leader.  Kimberly Immanuel, who was so wonderful in Ivoryton’s production of The Fantasticks, plays it straight—properly so--as the trusting newcomer, Sandy Dombrowski.  While the less is more philosophy could be applied to the other actors, her transformation into a leather-clad swinger at the show’s conclusion could have been more over-the-top.

The score for Grease is still a gem with rollicking upbeat numbers such as “Greased Lightnin’” and “We Go Together,” superb comic numbers like “Mooning” and “Beauty School Dropout,” and plaintive odes to youth such as “Summer Nights” and “It’s Raining on Prom Night.”  And, yes, in addition to the opening number the big songs from the movie—“Hopelessly Devoted,” “Sandy,” and “You’re the One That I Want”—have been blended into the musical.

Director/Choreographer Todd L. Underwood has not been able to generate enough energy and good-natured bounciness that such a playful show requires.  There was too much gesticulating and undisciplined histrionics for the musical’s own good.  The dance numbers, however, were enthusiastic and lively, taking the spiritedness and brio of the performers to heart.  There were some technical issues with errant lighting and a slightly garbled sound mix.  Hopefully, with more performances under its belt these issues can be ironed out.

Grease, playing at the Ivoryton Playhouse through July 29th.

Monday, July 2, 2018

July 1, 2018 Radio Show

Beginning this week, I will be linking to my weekly Broadway radio show, "On Broadway."  There are two ways to listen:
Click & Listen - You can click here to listen to this week's episode.  There are also hundreds of past episodes available on my website.

Podcasting - Each week a new program will be available by podcasting. If you have iTunes you can subscribe to the weekly "On Broadway" podcast or download it.

The podcast address is:
http://www.broadwayradioprograms.com/podcasts/Broadway.xml

TONIGHT'S THEME - ALL REQUEST SHOW
Below is the playlist from July 1, 2018.  The first Sunday of the month is an all-request program.  If you have a request for August, would like to suggest a theme for a show, or just contact me you can do so at Broadway99@comcast.net

Name of Song
Name of Show

Heat Wave
As Thousands Cheer
It Shoulda Been You
It Shoulda Been You
Dat's Love
Carment Jones
At the End of the Day
Les Miserables
Belmont Avenue
A Bronx Tale
Merci, Madame
The Baker's Wife
Sonya Alone
Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet
The Best in the World
A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine
What I Was Born to Do
Bring It On - the Musical
Day Two
Groundhog Day
Turn It Off
The Book of Mormon
You'll Be Back
Hamilton
Cabinet Battle #2
Hamilton
Mira
Carnival
Gee, But It's Good to be Here
Happy Hunting
Hang Up
By the Beautiful Sea
Higher Love
Honeymoon in Vegas
If You Love Me Truly
Can-Can
On the Highway of Love
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change