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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Matilda the Musical

When I was a kid, we didn’t have much money, but one thing I always got if I asked for it was new books. I grew up watching Sesame Street and learning to read before I was 5 years old. So needless to say when I was younger and read Matilda I found a kid I could identify with (except the parents being awful to her that is!).

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I’ve entertained going to Matilda the Musical a few times, and then a partnership with work aligned this so I could go opening night here in Chicago. And I was absolutely blown away and this went beyond my expectations.  Sometimes with traveling shows, the production value can drop – some a bit and some a lot (yikes Mamma Mia!). This one? Based on the photos, reviews, a clips I’ve seen, this was the exact show that is currently on the West End.

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Matilda is an amazing story about a very special child. One who is not appreciated by her parents and treated terribly. School would seemingly be her escape, except that the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is even more vile. Matilda finds that she can be herself around her teacher, Miss Honey, and the two immediately form a bond.

The musical stays true to the original material and is more magical than I ever would have expected. It is one thing to watch the movie, because through the power of movies, you can show a little girl being thrown around by her pigtails. But the fact that they even did this in the stage production thrilled me. I just assumed they would mention that Miss Trunchbull did such a horrid thing to a student!

The musical numbers get stuck in your head for weeks, trust me. “Naughty” reminds you that sometimes a person needs a bit of mischief. “Revolting Children” makes you want to cheer for the kids as they are indeed, revolting against Trunchbull! But the song that sticks out the most for me is “When I Grow Up” and I can only imagine that is because it speaks not only to the children but to the adults as well. Before seeing the show, I read the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones’ love for this exact song and thought it sounded great already. But seeing it on stage is an amazing feeling. Adding the swing sets from the rafters creating the illusion that the children are flying over the audience made me smile ear-to-ear.

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A song about kids wanting to be adults. What could be more fun? But then the mood changes drastically. Now it’s about the adults losing their childhood. There’s no happy medium apparently. A very real conversation we adults have with each other every day.

Which I believe added to my love for this musical. Not only did I identify with Matilda as a child, but now that I’m older I think I still do. And I’m thankful for that because I never lost a lot of my childlike qualities. I find joy in everything, I attempt to have as much fun as possible (even if there are chores to be done – they’ll get done! Don’t pass up enjoying life!), and my wife and I tend to live our lives just like this. Also, I still read like a fiend and the library is my best friend (Chicago Public Library is seriously amazing!).

It’s always interesting to me to see if a muscial really GOT to me or not. And the fact that I saw it a couple weeks ago and it’s still in my head says it did. Particularly the chorus of “Naughty”.

Just because you find that life’s not fair, it
Doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it,
Nothing will change.
Even if you’re little you can do a lot, you
Mustn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you.
If you sit around and let them get on top, you
Might as well be saying you think that it’s OK,
And that’s not right.

My office mate, who attended the show with me, and I both came in the next day to work talking about that particular line. If you’re unhappy, change what’s making you that way. You don’t have to take it. And that resonated with the both of us.

If Matilda the Musical comes through your city, don’t pass it up because it’s a “kids show”.  It’s really so much more than that. You’ll find yourself in there, I promise.

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 Blog Has Abandonment Issues

Whoa.  Way to abandon a blog for two years sweetie!  That said, though I never stopped going to the theatre it has lessened due to a pesky thing called grad school sadly.  What happened then you may ask?  Well, new job for one which I’ve been in for about a year. AND occasionally gives me #jobperks such as tickets. 

I LOVE TICKETS.

So I’m wanting to get this going again, and we will have LOTS to talk about in 2016.  

First and foremost: Broadway in Chicago’s 2016 Fall Season.  Oh hello.  I’m a subscriber again (or I will be on March 1st).  Yes, yes, Hamilton is on there BUT check out the rest of this line-up….

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What do all these productions have in common?  To the best of my knowledge, they’ve never been to Chicago. Not to mention I think they’re all relatively newer tours of shows. The whole reason I sadly left my perfectly picked out seats with BIC is the lack of rotation (or just plain dumb shows no one wanted to see).  But this? THIS is amazing and I could not be more excited. 

Hamilton – No-brainer. Can’t get NYC tickets? Next best thing!

Aladdin – Disney musicals are either really good or really not-so-good. This one that I’ve heard so much about though I can’t wait to see

Hedwig – Saw it with Neil Patrick Harris in NYC. AMAZING show. I can’t wait to hear who the traveling Hedwig is. The best 90 minutes in theater.

Curious Incident of the Dog – Loved the book when it first came out and I was a Borders employee. The cast recording sounds great so I’m excited.

Bodyguard – The only one I’m skeptical about but in the end, it should be fun with good music.

What else is upcoming?  Well so far we’re going to the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) Semifinals.  That’s right.  Just like Pitch Perfect!

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Also, Matilda the Musical which I love that cast recording and am very much looking forward to that production.

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I’m sure there will be much, much more to come in 2016.  Anything else in the smaller theater world that you’re seeing and keep staring longingly at the tickets on the fridge, wishing the day would get here sooner??
  

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!

Othello: The Remix

My favorite daily browsing of BuzzFeed reminded me of my favorite show that we saw this summer, which was Othello: The Remix.  I heard about it from a coworker and the next day the show popped up super cheap in my daily Goldstar newsletter.  So why not?  

Now I am a fan of Shakespeare, while my wife is definitely not (not even David Tennant in the BBC’s version of Hamlet could keep her interested while I’m laughing like crazy).  She’s not a fan of having to decipher what the actors are actually talking about.  And she loved this show as well.

To be short and sweet about it, it’s a rap version of Othello.  And not in the way I thought it would be either.  I expected four guys on stage rapping the words of Othello.  But no!  They actually rewrote the entire story with more modern words and set it to rap and hip hop.  These four guys (and one DJ who was more involved than just changing music on a laptop) ran around in overalls playing all the characters in the play – sometimes by changing something slightly such as a hat and other times going full drag in a slip over the head dress and a wig while going falsetto!  They were amazingly talented and I’ve never laughed so hard at a Shakespeare before – and I love Shakespeare!

The show has left the Chicago Shakespeare Theater but apparently has recently hit the news by performing for inmates, which I think is fantastic.  Inside a place where people have either committed a crime against others or on the flip side, in there for what someone else did to them, the play speaks to those inmates I should hope.  

This has been continuously traveling throughout the world, and I would pay to see it again if it came back through and have made a permanent mental note that if I see the The Q Brothers have started a new show to go immediately!

Les Miserable (for the second and last time)

When Val and I first started dating, she treated me to Les Miserables at the Hobby Center for Performing Arts in Houston, Texas.  I was ecstatic.  This was a show I dreamed of seeing for ever and now I finally get to see it and how this moving circle thing with people walking on it works….


I also didn’t know and/or realize this would be the beginning of a long, long list of shows that Val and I would end up seeing in our lives together.  


Now back in Houston I left feeling, in a word, “meh” about the whole experience.  But then again, I’ve hated the acoustics in that theater (don’t get me started about the 2nd time I saw Rent and couldn’t even hear the first act) so I wasn’t surprised.  


So when we heard that Les Mis was coming to Chicago, we bought the season ticket package and were off!  It was the first show of the new season!

this was taken leaving Wicked 2 months before



So we were off with some high hopes of seeing this epic show in a new light.  I read about how it’s been redone for the 25th Anniversary.  The turning center of the stage is gone.  There’s new stage scenery and some new technology?  I’m interested!


Unfortunately though, we left with the same “meh” feeling once more.  I think that was the last chance I’m giving Les Miserables on stage.  Though the music continues to move me.  I think we just haven’t seen any strong individuals in this show.  No one’s voice is carrying the way that they use to in the Les Mis shows of old (and on CDs) so our expectations are high.  As an ensemble though the weight that the songs have is amazing.  



Luckily we knew the lyrics because some of them ended up getting lost for whatever reason.  Muffled sounds.  So weird in such a great theater!  Valjean was just a loud singer.  Nothing to write home about.  Fantine made me cringe at times.  Éponine was actually one of my favorites. And then later on the train ride home we had a laugh about how the auditions must be for Young Cossette.  The child’s voice almost sounds recorded because no matter what production you’re seeing ‘Castle on a Cloud’ sounds *exactly* the same!  


The changes I happened to like while Val did not.  The lack of the moving stage didn’t bother me too much.  Now there’s a screen behind them showing a road (or sewer etc) and the perception of it makes it seem like they’re actually moving.  The sewer scene made me slightly nauseous even with how it made my sense feel like I was watching a movie!  Also, *SPOILER ALERT* for the death of Javier, that was much better than the actor jumping off the “bridge” and down the stage hole below.  He is now hoisted and hovers flailing his arms and legs while the scene moves behind him quickly giving the illusion of falling down.  It was beautiful (I guess as suicide can be?) and that image has still stuck with me.  


Also of course, the epic battle scene (or as I like to call it “EVERYONE DIES!!!”).  They really make you feel like you’re behind the barricade with them.  Feel every loud gun shot and feel for every fallen solider.  



All-in-all I’m very happy we tried again.  Oddly enough though the new Les Miserables in Concert was on WTTW when we got home off the train and we ended up watching most of that for the rest of the evening.  Now THAT is what the singing in our show should have sounded like!!  Besides Nick Jonas that is.  Talk about one of these things is not like the other.  His voice does NOT carry with the power in everyone else’s.  Kinda feel for the guy…..


What are your experiences with Les Miserables?  Have you seen the updated version?  Like it or loathe it?