Best. Show. EVER.
Seriously. If you’re in Vegas and you love the whole idea of Cirque du Soleil acts, but also like good comedy and dirty jokes – this is THE place for it! The whole experience is an experience! In reading reviews it sounds like everyone sums the show up as Cirque du Soleil meets Rocky Horror. It combines fun into one not so very large tent.
The thing about reviewing this show is I don’t want to give away all the fun. Considering there wasn’t a great description of it anyone could give me except “trust me, you HAVE to see it”, I now get that. You don’t want to spoil it. And it’s amazing-ness cannot be summed up – it has to be experienced.
It’s a process to get into the show to start. You can begin lining up 45 minutes prior to the show starting. There are no assigned seats unless you purchase a VIP seat. This gets you in the first 3 rows and a complimentary drink. In my opinion, unless you want to be that close, or the free drink, or dragged on stage, you don’t need the VIP seats. There are not many seats, and they’re in a circle around one tiny stage! There’s not a bad view in my opinion. We ended up 6 rows back. Not too shabby I’d say!
What I love about Absinthe is the encouragement to be loud, rowdy and obnoxious. Your host is so why can’t you be? They encourage being drunk/drinking. They love people that play back with them – and if you don’t want to play, god help you, you’re screwed because they’ll latch onto you after that! The Gazillionaire is your host along with his assistant Penny. The chemistry between these two odd characters is fantastic. And so funny, you’re crying. A lot. It’s just the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.
And with that hilarity, there’s a show of acrobats happening! Starting with a guy balancing on chair after chair in the middle of the tent. To the point he reaches the ceiling! Some strong men that created an almost ballet-like performance. There was lots of balancing. Lots of sexy women and half naked men. Some talented folks are in this troupe. And unlike the Cirque people, they’re actors as well! They play along, mess and be messed with the Gazillionaire and genuinely seem to be having a great time.
Let’s face it. What other show will tell you if you’re in the front row do not stand up while the roller skaters are on stage or you WILL get kicked in the teeth? Or what other show will put on a tightrope act literally above their audience? I doubt you’ll find one.
The inside of the theater is gorgeous and decorated for the bordello that absinthe should be served in. The people that work there are incredibly kind and helpful. Down to their own Twitter feed where the person on the other side of the computer remembered me tweeting about seeing them soon and before we left to head to Nevada, sent me a tweet to ask if we were excited! Excellent use of social media. Inside the theater, you don’t have to worry about being yelled at for taking photos. Just don’t use a flash and they let you snap and video to your heart’s desire! Quite different!
We saw Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Zumanity’ the night before and I was worried that Absinthe might be as lame as that was (it’s seriously not even worth my typing to talk about it – just go see O or Love and do yourselves a favor and skip Zumanity). The thing is Absinthe is perfect for Vegas. It doesn’t try to hard, it just is the production that it is. And now they’re pitching a tent (giggle) in NYC this summer? Sold and heading that direction when it opens!
All-in-all if you’re not a prude (seriously, there’s some flashing dick and simulated puppet sex) and can’t stand to hear the word “fuck” and “cock” repeatedly this is the show for you! If you’re in Vegas, it’s the new must see. It’s hard to explain, but when you finally see it, it all makes sense in a very drug-induced way!
And a few notes: yes there are absinthe spiked cocktails. Though I wished there was time for proper absinthe drinks! Also, there is no bathroom inside the tent. You have to go outside. Believe me when I say, you won’t remember needing to pee. You’ll be amazed and laughing to hard to even consider leaving the tent for fear you might miss something incredible!
I love it when shows surprise me when I leave with how much I enjoy them. This has happened with shows such as Working, and more recently American Idiot. But it’s fantastic leaving with that “show high” that comes so often (one should hope) after leaving the theater. Val and I usually have to hit up the bar for an 11 o’clock night cap to talk about what we just experienced and just to calm down our excitment.
Fela! was a nice surprise though in many respects. I got a Yelp message (which lately I don’t get many of) and it’s telling me about comp tickets to the opening night of Fela! at the Oriental Theater. So of course I jumped right on that! When we arrived we found that we had not only free tickets, but free orchestra level tickets?! I was prepared to hike it up to the balcony and instead just walked right in. Very nice!
The story I had to look up before we came. The only thing I had ever seen of Fela! was a performance on the 2010 Tonys when it was nominated for 11 Tonys, including Best Musical! And I knew that Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s names were attached to it in some fashion. So in looking it up online I learned of the real life activist and musician Fela Kuti and the turmoil he had to deal with just to make life in Nigeria a little better.
One thing I didn’t expect from this show was how interactive it was. Just 10 minutes into the production “Fela” tells us to all stand and then teaches us how to shake our hips to the music. Lots of hoopin’ and hollerin’ and hip shakin’ happened while actors ran up and down the aisles for encouragement! Fun and gets the mood set right away for the rest of the show.
Some notable parts, or should I say people, would be for one the fabulous Melanie Marshall playing Funmilayo. This woman could SING. Loud, soft, high note, low note. I was even amazed at the rolling of her “r’s” (something I could never master in French class) while singing. She was incredible, and after looking at the Playbill and seeing the training she’s had, it makes sense.
Now onto Fela “himself”. Sahr Ngaujah was the original Fela and is now touring with the production, which I read is something he didn’t want to do at first considering how taxing and emotional the show is to begin with, then you add the travel part! This man was the complete package ladies! He can sing, he can crack jokes, dance, play the saxaphone (while dancing) AND he’s hot with his shirt off. Sahr was perfectly cast for this role. The way he interacted with the audience was hilarious, and he shows the exact characteristics that one might think Fela Kuti had.
The set was incredible and the sound made the floors shake! There’s a scene with black lights that is eerie and gorgeous all at once! Paulette Ivory who played Sandra, also has a killer voice (and was the original Nala in London’s “The Lion King”!). Also, I loved the touch of the actors running up and down the aisles to created a scene (you are suppose to feel like your in the Shrine night club after all!) and behind us there were people occasionally clapping and hooting and hollering to create the scene all around the audience. Touches like this make me smile ear-to-ear at the theater.
This show extended its run in Chicago for the Spring Break season and I highly recommend everyone go see it – grab a discount code if you have to! I’m sure the sounds projects amazingly up in the balcony too it’s so loud! Enjoy and lemme hear ya say “Yeah-Yeah!”.
Seeing something in English and I’m familiar with at the Lyric Opera isn’t something I’m use to. Usually I’m asking Val “what is it”, “what’s it about”, and “do I NEED to see it!?”. If it’s good, even though on paper (or internet) it sounds dull, and Val says YES you have to see this show, I will. And then something strange happened. The Lyric Opera of Chicago decided to do a production of a musical! The old, old musical Showboat – we’re talking a musical from the 20’s and one that I never hear too many people doing any more.
In learning about what it takes to put on Showboat I understand why too many places don’t take this feat on any longer. For one, you have to have one ENORMOUS stage to fit, well, a showboat on….Then you have to make a show from 1927 appeal to a whole new audience.
I think Lyric did a good job of putting this show on though. What was most interesting to me though, was the fact that the star of the show was not the opera fan’s heartthrob, Nathan Gunn (who’s shirt stayed on the entire time, sorry ladies and some gentlemen 😉 ) But instead the shows set brought gasps and applause to the audience instead. The singers had to stop singing for a bit, so the inanimate object could get its applause time in! Amazing. And yes, it was incredible.
Beginning with the false wood panel wall coming apart in three pieces during ‘Old Man River’ and revealing behind it the front of a showboat pulling (yes it was moving) into the ‘dock’. Incredible, and felt very surreal, like the theater was on that dock for a moment. Some other scenes of note that the audience (and myself) adored, were the Palmer House and the park. The Palmer House Hilton is highly recognizable to most Chicagoans. So when the curtain rose to show the gorgeous ceiling, staircases and interior of the hotel, murmurs of approval ran throughout the main floor. The perspective was dizzying and I envy the eye of whoever painted it. Then there was a scene in the park which made you feel like you were outside, downtown Chicago (a LONG time ago based on the buildings or lack thereof in the scene) and flying kites. One thing I love about this city? Flying kites is still much adored here. Beaches, parks, wherever! Love it!
The singers were great, though it was weird to see people I’ve watched in other operas, well, singing in English for one! Not to mention, Nathan Gunn not having as big a part (and shirtless). He came across well though as the swarmy Gaylord, and stole the heart well from Magnolia.
One cast member that gets a mention all his own is Morris Robinson who plays the part of Joe. Better known as, “the guy that sings ‘Old Man River’ throughout the show”. His deep and sultry voice was amazing, and perfection for that role and more importantly, the one song that everyone knows from Showboat. He was the only actor who received as much applause as the false boat did on stage.
I’m liking Lyric’s effort to bring in some new things not usually seen at operas, and if this is the beginning of that, then I welcome a new direction. And am super curious to see what they bring to the table next. We already know that subscribers get to see Renee Fleming herself in ‘Streetcar Named Desire‘. Now, how does lil ole me get a ticket to that? *wink*
Talk about a show that you went into it expecting nothing, and walked out in amazement! Like all other musical enthusiast, we had seen American Idiot and Billie Joe Armstrong strut their stuff on the Grammys and the Tonys. Upon hearing in 2011 that American Idiot would begin touring the United States, I immediately put it in my memory bank that if it came to Chicago then it was a “must see” (only two others are on the list….Book of Mormon and Sister Act – both of which are on their way!).
I was a Green Day fan back in the Dookie, Insomniac, and Nookie days of my high school years. I later loved 21st Century Breakdown when it was released. It told a story. It was in Acts!? Nutty – but I loved it. So when I heard that Billie Joe and team signed on for Broadway, I wasn’t surprised, but I was skeptical. And then it was nominated and won for some Tony awards!? Say what? Green Day? The punk rock band of my high school youth were on Broadway and successful at that. The fact that even the New York Times raved about the show peaked my interests.
All that to say, I was in Chicago and it was in NYC. But not for long – it left the The Great White Way and headed out on tour. So, even though we’re in a money saving mode, on the day we were downtown to get our civil union (yay!), we had already planned on purchasing tickets at the box office. To make matters even more solidified, in three stores we went into they were playing Green Day on their music…..okay, okay we’ll go!
Now onto the show….the short premise of this is the story of three friends in a small town: Johnny, Will and Tunny. Their dreams to get out of this small town all go in different directions instead of together as best friends as they had hoped. Will stays home with his pregnant girlfriend, now stuck which Johnny and Tunny go off for adventures. The city is harsh to them and Tunny joins the army, while Johnny loses himself to drugs.
The choreography is not much, but it’s effective. It’s a lot of thrashing and arm pumping. But not in a dumb way. These kids are angry. Angry at themselves. Angry at what’s happened to them. Angry at the world. And just plain angry at life! The movements in the choreography reflect the lyrics and the emotions that the actors are portraying on the stage.
The singers were crisp and clear. Some even got lifted into the air by wires! Incredible talent all around. Tunny falling in love with the Extraordinary Girl after losing a leg in the war was sweet and poignant, but not sappy to ruin the whole mood of the dirty war and the wounded soldiers. Another scene that was incredible was the sex scene with Johnny and Whatshername. The mimicking of having sex on stage was quite visual – more so than I’ve ever seen before. This was not just your average “moving around under a sheet” people – there was thrusting and hard kissing and whew! Some parents with their kids in the audience has to be uncomfortable….
In any case, the show ended and we were all out of our seats – and then the BEST part happened. The curtain lowers and quickly goes back up again – as usual. But in that brief moment some very quick and nimble stage hands had delivered guitars on stage. To every. Single. Performer. That’s right, they could ALL play the guitar!! And what was even more amazing was that they all started playing and singing Green Day’s “Good Riddance” (or better known as the graduation song or “Time of Your Life”)!! People singing and bouncing in their seats at a musical. I hadn’t had this much fun since Rock of Ages!! In any case it was the *perfect* ending to a great show!
The show is short sadly, but it works. It’s only 85 minutes long and no intermission. The people that came to the Saturday evening show were super mixed from older people you wonder how they ended up there, to 40 year olds, to the kiddos in their Green Day concert t-shirts. In any case, no matter what the age, this show is politically charged and connects to anyone who felt lost in life at one point or another. Check it out if it swings into your town!