Bullets Over Broadway

Sometimes you go to the theater and leave changed by what you just witnessed. Thinking about life differently and all that. Other times you just want to be entertained. And that is exactly what the touring production Bullets Over Broadway at the newly named PrivateBank Theatre did for me last night.

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I was amazed at the choreography and always enjoy tap dancing (especially if it’s a group of mobsters!). Laughter was constant throughout the entire show. And who doesn’t love jokes filled to the brim with sexual innuendos?

The male lead David Shayne, played by Michael Williams, was a mix between NPH, Matthew Morrison, and Gene Kelly. So nothing wrong with that! Very entertaining with great facial expressions. Jemma Jane, who played Olive, did the dumb blonde act perfectly well for someone fresh out of AMDA. My favorite was Cheech played by Jeff Brooks, who played the tough guy gangster who could amazingly write a play that people loved. His character is supposed to be unlikable by nature but instead ends up being a crowd favorite. For a guy that played Gaston in the Beauty and the Beast tour, he plays a goofy “bad guy” perfectly.

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The bad of this show? The jokes sometimes fell flat. Also the set handling. Oh my lord the set handling. You could see the screen said “Bullets Over Broadway” before the fake machine gun fired the “holes” into the backdrop. Not cute. There was one moment for over a minute a brick wall was swaying back and forth. And then the top portion of the Boston “set” couldn’t decide if it wanted to be up or down (or the person operating it couldn’t). It was very much amateur hour up there in terms of the stage handling. Also, the intermission kept going and going after everyone was seated for a good 5 minutes. I didn’t think to clock it but it was a “are we going to start soon” and “why on earth did I leave the bar line 15 minutes ago when they flashed the lights” muttering among the crowd.

Also, can someone tell me what on earth the “Yes! We Have No Bananas” was suppose to be about? I got completely lost after that. And my wife had no clue either.

The staging was sometimes larger than life with the train sequences. The tap-dancing was on point. The extended ovation for “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do” was well deserved and the highlight of the show. The laughs throughout the theatre were tremendous (side note: there was a gentleman with a laugh SO LOUD he kept scaring everyone around him. Often.). And in the end we learn what matters when it comes to art vs. a human life (or love!). Congrats on another hit and I would love to see the movie if Amazon/Netflix can ever make it available!

And just think…the next show I’ll see here will be Hamilton!  All the squees!

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ALL the tickets!

Yesterday was new subscriber package purchasing day. Which we all know was about to be my favorite day of the year. I was on my phone at 9:58 ready to sit on hold with Broadway in Chicago.

Yesterday I WERKED

The only thing was that there was no queue – you had to keep calling back! Eek. But LUCKILY the musical gods showed me the love and on call #4 a lovely lady by the name of Frankie picked up and I tried not to squeal like a teenager.

And then again my hopes were dashed when I discovered I was just giving my information to a person, not really for certain getting subscriber tickets. I was so confused because in the past I sat on the phone with a person and we picked out my seats together (which is part of the fun of subscribing to theatre packages IMO!). I got off the phone deflated. The excitement was gone.

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BUT on the bus ride home I received a call from Kevin at BIC. Long story short I didn’t have to wait until April to get my golden ticket. My card was charged, my seats were selected (even got all aisle seats as requested), and a wonderful, beautiful email come through last night confirming my dates.  It’s official! So I clinked glasses with my wife and relaxed.

Out of excitement I put the photo below on my Instagram (which you should follow):

It was a strange way to process tickets in my opinion, but I’m also not on their side of things. Being at an institution with a blockbuster exhibition happening, where we get 400 phone calls a day at least, I can only image Broadway in Chicago’s situation.

I will say I wish there was a magical way to sort out the people that wanted to see ALL the shows and not just Hamilton! 😛 But ah well, I’m happy and got my first choice. So kudos to the BIC team and a shout out to their social media person for handling questions, particularly mine, on Twitter!

Now the waiting begins for these shows. Aladdin is over a YEAR away. *cries* But I’m sure it will be here before we know it.

My quick thoughts on Sound of Music Live

Yes it has aired and re-aired by now, but I’m still mulling it over.  As are many people that are musical theater lovers that we know.  So because everything that there is to be said is said I’ll bullet point my main points: 

  • Carrie Underwood did fine.  Singing.  Acting?  Not so much.  It was obvious she wasn’t comfortable.  Poor thing was outta he league except with The Lonely Goatherd, but she is a country singer.  I hope she’s proud of herself though for stepping outside of her box and doing something new.  Before she does something like it again though, she needs Acting 101.  
  • I feel bad for Stephen Moyer – all you can see is Bill from True Blood and him going “Sookie!”
  • Audra McDonald.  I heart her.  Seemed to young to be the all knowing Mother Abbess, but at least she could sing.  
  • Laura Benanti.  Show-stealer that one!  She was a treat from the Elsa in the movie that’s for sure.  I loved the catty attitude.  
  • From the very beginning I was confused, considering I read nothing about this beforehand.  Why was Audra singing “My Favorite Things” at the beginning?  Well thanks to the super helpful Playbill live tweeting, I quickly found out that it was  because this was based on the *stage* version.  Cue a much more interested household on our end!  
  • I thoroughly enjoyed the song “No Way To Stop It” with Christian Borle and Laura Benanti – not in the movie and a “pleasant” surprise of a song despite the subject matter.
  • There was ZERO love between Underwood and Moyer.  I did a “oh now I’m suppose to believe they fell in love.  Okay…”.  
To sum up – I didn’t hate it but I was far from loving it.  Not to mention I learned a lot about the stage production, which we’re seeing later in 2014 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  It’s never been a favorite musical of mine, but I appreciated it highly, and this production spent a lot of money, but they missed out on some casting opportunities.  

But in the end, my favorite Tweet of the night came from Lin-Manuel Miranda (of In The Heights and Bring It On):



This is what it boils down to in the end.  People watched a musical, and if they turned it on just for Underwood, then they saw their first musical production perhaps, and I like to think that we hooked a few new lovers to the theater!

Finally, we got to say "HELLO!"

If there has been one statement we’ve gotten a little tired of hearing it’s been “you guys haven’t seen Book of Mormon yet??”.  No, no we haven’t.  And for no particular reason really.  We had the money, we had the time since you had to buy the tickets about 6 months out, but we never got the motivation to just go buy them.  

Then one day Val’s sister, who I think has never seen a musical in her life, got free tickets to see it in St Louis.  Then it got to the point of “well if she’s seen it we have to go now!”.  And I’m glad we did since I had just discovered the news that it was leaving Chicago soon.  So I went to the box office and scored two balcony seats within the next month by not being too picky and Val and I would have to sit one behind the other (which actually, the people next to me never showed so the second half we got to sit together!)

Now, onto the actual show.  Elder Price is usually played by Nic Rouleau, but like most matinees, we got the understudy of Stephen Mark Lukas.  I don’t know of Rouleau and haven’t heard anything fantastic about him as the Elder, but Lukas was not fantastic.  It took him a few beats to find the pitch.  His voice didn’t make it through “I Believe”.  And he was just dull.  Now, that being said, having not seen Mormon before this could be how they all act (dull, not off pitch) but I could have cared less about the character.

So Elder Cunningham helps the show out.  That’s how it is?  The Elder Cunninghams in NYC and West End are usually the ones I hear about.  And now look at Josh Gad on TV!  In any case, this Cunningham was play by Ben Platt, who if you’re a music nerd like us, you’ll remember as the Star Wars nerd from the (amazingly funny) movie Pitch Perfect.  He played Cunningham as a bit mentally challenged it seemed.  He got a ton of laughs.  His voice, also not strong, but still better than Lukas’.  I think he did the character very well and it was nice to have someone that didn’t sound exactly like the original cast recording.  

Now, having been listening to the cast recording for about two years now, and knowing every single line, I was set up for disappointment.  But I wasn’t in the end.  It didn’t blow me away at all, but it was one of the most highly entertaining shows I’ve ever seen.  Seeing it finally in person was even funnier than listening to the recording or watching clips from the Tony Awards.  The set was really detailed for a touring show, the costumes are basic though.  One thing that we both enjoyed is that every character plays several minor characters in the show.  I can only imagine the costume changes going on backstage during those times!  

Though we weren’t impressed with Lucas, and I liked Platt while Val was meh about him, the one we both loved was the kid that played Elder McKinley, Pierce Cassedy.  He lit up the stage as the closeted gay Elder.  His singing was more decent than his cast mates.  And all around with his dancing and acting skills, he was a delight to watch.  Also, we want to now be BFF’s with him.  I thought about asking when passing him in the theater hall with his Broadway Cares bucket.  

I’m SO happy we finally saw this show. There is nothing like looking over on a Sunday at 2pm and seeing 70 year old people laughing at jokes about clits being cut off, maggots in scrotum  and AIDS.  It’s something I can’t imagine ever experiencing again.  It’s not a show you come out feeling renewed in humanity or found you learned a valuable lesson.  But in the end you laughed your ass off and it was worth it.  Don’t go for amazing singing – go to have fun.  Because I was crying several times and I know every word to the music in this show.  They did a great job bringing these interesting characters to light for sure!

Been waiting since 2011…

….and in two weeks the day will finally be here.  We’re finally going to see Book of Mormon here in Chicago.  

Any theater ticket that has “Explicit Language” is okay by me
Marquee of Chicago’s Bank of America Theater

Almost every single person we know, whether they enjoy musicals or not, has seen this show, and the two who based their wedding on musicals because they love them so much?  Yeah, haven’t gotten around to it just yet.  I finally found a random matinee a month out that had two not-so-high balcony seats with one seat on the aisle and another single one behind it.  We don’t need to talk during the show, so that worked out just fine – and much cheaper than the inflated floor seats (NOT saying it’s not worth it though).  

Entrance to Book of Mormon Chicago


In any case, I have a fear that it won’t live up to my expectations.  And it might not.  It might be like Les Miserables and the two tries we’ve given it now.  But at least we’re fortunate enough to live in the next major city for Broadway theater and Book of Mormon decided to stay here for awhile instead of just a two week engagement.  

And it’s at my least favorite theater of course.  Groan.  But we shall persevere and say “Hello!” to Book of Mormon Chicago soon!

We say "Yeah-Yeah!" to Fela!

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!”.

I wanna be an American Idiot!

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!