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Everybody’s Talking About the Fabulous Company – Happy Birthday Bobbie and Jamie

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In London, surprisingly, one across the street from another, two very different birthday cakes are being served up nightly. One for a 34-year-old single female turning 35, and another for a young bleached blond boy turning 16 years old. Even over at the beautiful Noel Coward Theatre, a third birthday (and a second 35th) is being celebrated by a band of young New York gay men in the phenomenal The Inheritance.  It’s a strange and funny coincidence that all three shows that I saw when visiting the West End over Thanksgiving weekend had a birthday within its structure, framing a personal development attached to age and advancement. A review for Matthew Lopez’s magnificent marathon play, The Inheritance will hopefully be coming soon, but for now, let’s take a closer look at the two musicals that I saw; Stephen Sondheim’s miraculous revival of Company and Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae’s Everybody’s Talking about Jamie as they revel in their individual birthdays, each in their own way, setting the developmental action into motion with deliberate finesse and agility. Impeccably, the two bring forth strong ideas of personal realization and growth and with candles blazing bright, the very different but fabulous shows give us all something quite special to sing about on the corner of London’s Rupert Street and Shaftesbury Avenue.
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Gavin Spokes, Rosalie Craig, Mel Giedoyc of Company.
The main reason my November trip occurred in the first place began with the announcement that Sondheim’s Company was being revived in the West End and one of my all time favorites, Patti LuPone (Gypsy, Sweeney Todd) was going to play Joanne, a part made famous by Elaine Stritch back on Broadway in 1970. I’ve seen LuPone perform the famous, “The Ladies Who Lunch” when she sang as part of a red-dressed ladies giving celebration to Sondheim’s 80th birthday. LuPone wondrously sang the song with a sweet nod directly to Stritch’s red hat stating,  “I’ll drink to that!” LuPone was also seen in the role opposite Neil Patrick Harris at the 2011 New York Philharmonic concert version, one I missed live but watched a live recording streamed from somewhere into my living room while cursing the world for allowing me to miss it. But here in London, directed with a wise and creative twist by Marianne Elliott (National’s Rules for Living, West End/Broadway’s Curious Incident…, Angels in America), I get a second chance. And boy, am I drinking to that (and sitting in my apartment in NYC, I hope one day to get a second round).
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Patti LuPone.
LuPone, phenomenal in one of the first West End shows I ever saw, Les Miserables, once said in an interview that she is only interested in doing revivals if there is a unique and creative vision or a different slant to look at the heart of the piece (not a direct quote), and in this London West End revival, Elliott certainly found a compelling argument for Lupone to jump on board with this alternative vantage point. Elliot’s Bobby, once beautifully played by the dashing Raul Esparza(I have a Raul Esparza story to tell regarding how Esparza’s understudy went on the matinée I went to see Company on my actual birthday) on Broadway back in 2006 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, is now reframed with a blessing and a bit of a rewrite from Sondheim. Bobby is now Bobbie, a thirty-four, turning thirty-five year old single female played meticulously well by the very talented Rosalie Craig (West End’s The Ferryman, National Theatre’s The Threepenny Opera). As with all previous Bobbys, this Bobbie finds it equally difficult to commit fully to a serious relationship, let alone the idea of marriage.  It’s a compelling flip, ripe with possibilities and reformations. Originally titled Threes, Company delivers forth five married couples, all Bobbie’s closest of friends, although one now is a gay male couple (Jonathan Bailey as Jamie, Alex Gaumond as Paul). They each as a pair engage in a debate of sorts with Bobbie through vignettes in no particular chronological order about the beauty and ugly complications of marriage and partnership. Three of Bobbie’s lovers, all now male (George Balgden as PJ, Richard Fleeshman as Andy, Matthew Seadon-Young as Theo), also have something to say to Bobbie regarding her lack of commitment and engagement. It’s all happening on Bobbie’s thirty-fifth birthday, a surprise party no less, setting this epic and troubling whirlwind of thoughts in manically smart motion. It’s one of my favorite Sondheim pieces, and in this London revival, it expands into something even more relevant and timely than one could ever have hoped for or expected.
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The cast of COMPANY
It’s a miraculous piece of writing and rewriting by composer Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd), tweaking the lyrics and George Furth’s book to fit the flip, and one that fills my mind with wonder at Sondheim’s brilliance of re-construction and subtlety in story-telling, advancing the story with each delicious line after each delicious reading of a lyric or verse. The male partners shine with “Sorry-Grateful“, beautifully and elegantly performed by Gavin Spokes as Sarah’s Harry, Richard Henders as Jenny’s David, and Ben Lewis as Joanna’s Larry. It gracefully entwines around the song and the structure, courtesy of musical supervisor and conductor Joel Fram (Broadway’s Wicked), giving movement and emotional clarity to the devastating lyrics. Bobbie’s airline attendant boyfriend, Andy played to perfection by Richard Fleeshman (West End/Broadway’s Ghost), delivers their growing attachment with such depth and dimension. His male version of “dumb” April is delicate and fascinating, bringing an investment to his Andy that breathes simplicity and honor into the beautiful “Barcelona“, just as powerfully strong as Fleeshman’s chiseled abs and muscular physique. Wow, is all I can say.
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Rosalie Craig, Richard Fleeshman.
LuPone’s Joanna strongly leads the couples through an exact and dramatically fun rendition of “The Little Things You Do Together“, and destroys the competition, if there is one, when LuPone gives us her newest version of “Ladies Who Lunch” that is unlike any other, including her own.  It feels honest and heartfelt in a way that I haven’t heard before, and is deviously unique and compellingly detailed in thought and deconstruction. The whole cast clearly and wonderfully create versions of “Side by Side by Side” and the title song, “Company” that stick solid, but it’s all about the brilliant birthday girl Bobbie, when Craig beautifully delivers her Act One closer, “Marry Me a Little” and the breath-taking finale, “Being Alive“, tearing apart the house, almost, but not quite as well as Esparza did back in 2006.
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Rosalie Craig, Alex Gaumond, Jonathan Bailey
How does it all go down with Bobbie being reassigned as a straight female? In many ways, it makes Company a more solid and contemporary piece of insightful musical theatre, deconstructing the limitations and preconceived notions that swirl around a 35-year-old single woman’s head.  She should be married, thinking of starting a family, while keeping her career alive and her sexual body in shape, so some might say.  It’s a lot to ask for from anyone, and might just be considerably more relevant than being a bachelor in 2018. Squeezed into the confined world of a single female’s dwelling, Bobbie and Company are thrillingly staged with style and precision by designer Bunny Christie’s (National’s The Red Barn) into a tight and claustrophobic sliding room life, most delicately lit by Neil Austin (Harry Potter…), with sound design by Ian Dickinson (National’s Hangman), and illusions by Chris Fisher. Bobbie’s sexuality remains entirely heterosexual and decidedly authentic, giving her freedom of choice and a particularly strong sense of self.  In one particularly scenario, it makes her interactions with the young and handsome gay groom, Jamie (Jonathan Bailey), looking great in a pair of tight white pants who is freaking out most spectacularly in the most funny and brilliantly performed “Getting Married Today“, more beautifully realized and emotionally dense. It’s definitely, as it plays forward, far less creepy than then when Jamie is a female role, because when Bobbie suggests marriage between the two, it resonates on a far more authentic aura.  And Bobbie is right, in a way, because if they do, everyone will just leave them alone and carry on as if the party had never ended. It’s a far more compelling connection being explored than when the male Bobby suggests the same to his best friend’s bride-to-be. That part just seemed a bit creepy and desperate. Beyond the more politically correct arrangement, Bailey’s performance shines incredibly bright in his well crafted earth-shattering melt-down performance, giving us one of the greatest Jamie’s ever, and one of the funniest serious deliveries I’ve seen. He self-destructs his way past his loving and patient partner Paul’s heart with the most hurtful statement on love and a politically vibrant and timely cry of “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should“.  This scene and complicated engagement is when this Company and it’s Bobbie, gal pal to Jamie, leaps beyond the original into a stronger universe of understanding and meaning.
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Rosalie Craig, George Balgden.
The main question that I had when walking into the Gielgud Theatre, was how they would walk the tightrope around Joanne’s final plot-twisting proposition to what she believes to be a relationship-phobic Bobbie. In the original, this rich wife and strong woman suggests that Bobby should become her kept-lover, but how would Joanne push Sondheim’s new female Bobbie to arrive at the astonishing realization and say the important line, “but who will I care for?” In pre-show discussions with other theatre junkies, I thought that Bobbie needed to be bisexual in nature for Joanne’s proposition to work, and it would, if they formulated Bobbie’s sexuality into something that is more fluid and bi-curious.  That opportunity could reside with the feisty PJ, one of the more disconnected lovers of Bobbie, here portrayed by George Balgden (Theatre Royal’s Tartuffe). That part could have been played by a woman, giving Bobbie a more open sexuality that would allow a progressive Joanne to want to find her own brand of freedom in Bobbie’s bed.  It could have been a compelling and fascinating exploration of power and sexuality in the modern world (and from what I hear through the grape-vine, it was suggested to LuPone more than once).  And to be honest, although Blagden is fun in general as the narcissist PJ, his performance of the glorious song “Another Hundred People” is the weakest point in the generally strong production, which is amazing in itself as that song is one of the most fascinating and complex.  It doesn’t really help that the choreography by Liam Steel (Shakespeare in the Park/Delacorte Theater’s Into the Woods) is distracting on both subway car sides of Blagden’s singing, but something just doesn’t fire up in that moment as it did when Angel Desai played Marta on Broadway alongside Raul. Overall, this is a strong and invigorating recreation of an epic piece of musical theatre, one that should be embraced for its inventiveness and bravado, especially in the very stupendously talented hands of LuPone, Craig, Bailey, Fleeshman, and Elliott, along with her company of actors and creatives.
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The cast of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Blowing out almost half of the candles that Bobbie tries to across the way, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and its luminous star, John McCrea (Adelphi’s Peter Pan) are pushing forth an enlightened agenda that is just as surprising, mainly because it is being so wildly embraced and loved by the West End audiences that are filling the Apollo Theatre nightly. Strongly progressive and embracing, this heart-of-gold sweet musical, based on the documentary film “Jamie: Drag Queen at 16” straps on its signature red stilettos and dances forth the story of a young 15-year-old, going on 16, who dreams, most bravely, that one day he will become a well-known drag queen. It’s pretty amazing, especially in the casual way his dream is stated without an ounce of judgement coming from the smart and enlightened lyrics and book by Tom MacRae (Comedy Central’s ‘Threesome‘) and music and orchestrations by Dan Gillespie Sells (Soho Theatre’s The Bad, the Sad, and the Broken Hearted).
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John McCrea, Lucie Shorthouse in Everybody’s Talking about Jamie
As directed with feisty fun by co-writer Jonathan Butterell (Broadway’s 2005 Tony Award winning Nine), Jamie busts forth, gleefully embracing his authentic self for all to see. With a strong visual presence, courtesy of designer Anna Fleischle (ATC’s Hangman) with straight-forward lighting Lucy Carter (Royal Ballet’s Chroma), strong sound design by Paul Groothuis (NT’s Follies) and fun video design work by Luke Halls (NT’s Ugly Lies the Bone), McCrea’ Jamie steals your glittery heart from the get-go with an ease that’s astounding. It’s heart-warming and progressive, especially in how the audience embraces the young lad with warmth and clarity. It’s also a fine bit of creation how his mother, played passionately by the wonderfully talented Rebecca McKinnis (Novello/Prince of Wales’ Mamma Mia!) and her BFF, Ray, brilliantly played just as powerfully by the magnificent Shobna Gulati (Victoria Wood’s ‘Dinnerladies‘) give strong support to this young man and his career choices. The nemesis, beyond the typical brutish father figure played well by Ken Christiansen (NT/West End’s An Inspector Calls), surprisingly comes in the form of guidance counselor/teacher Miss Hedge, played by the fabulous Michelle Viage (judge on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race‘), who constructs a high and dangerous hurdle that young Jamie must find a way to leap past and over.
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The cast of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Beside Jamie’s mother who gets not one, but two powerful and compel songs, “If I Met Myself Again” and naturally, the dynamic “He’s My Boy”, the other highlight is Lucie Shorthouse (Soho Theatre’s Roller Diner) who plays Jamie’s best friend Pritti with a lovely kind presence and a killer voice that shines in her emotionally rich song, “It Means Beautiful“. It’s a gorgeous moment, courtesy of musical director Richard Weeden (UK’s 9 to 5) and musical supervisor Theo Jamieson (Savoy’s Funny Girl), blending the fun and the serious together with pleasure, even when there are moments that feel a bit forced and convoluted. With those two soldiers, Jamie and Pritti, arms linked in solidarity, the homophobic young student, Dean Paxton played strongly by the handsome Luke Baker (UK tour – Footloose) has no chance. Outnumbered and surrounded by the most liberal-minded fellow students one could imagine, Jamie power dances forward on the heels of choreographer Kate Prince (Novello’s Into The Woods), given a strong supportive boob boost by the retired but majestic former drag queen legend, Hugo Battersby aka Loco Chanelle, played joyfully by Lee Ross (West End’s Birdsong). One can’t help but get behind this brave boy, and want to help lift him up to where he belongs.
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John McCrea. Photo: JOHAN PERSSON
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is not a perfect musical, never coming close to the brilliance of Sondheim and his Company. It still is in need of a bit of polishing and reformatting, but Jamie is just turning 16 years old, so he has plenty of time to perfect this sweet-natured progressive show, and I’m crossing my fingers they will.  Company, on the other side of the road, with 35 candles glowing for the newly invented Bobbie is a masterpiece, and one so finely structured it can take on this re-imagining and shine just as bright.  They are both fabulous musical comedies, on either sides of Rupert Street, worthy of their individual celebrations and battle cries for the future. Now let’s blow out those candles my dears, and make a wish.  Just make sure you blow them all out in one go, or Joanne will have to remind you of the rules.  I know what my wish is for both of these shows. I can’t tell you or my wish won’t come true…but I will say it has something to do with New York City and Broadway….
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The cast of COMPANY

For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents tick, tick…Boom!

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“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents”, is  filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 now in the conference room at the Hotel Edison.

In this episode T2C’s publisher and owner Suzanna Bowling talks with Director Eric Rosen, Andy Mientus and Krystina Alabado about tick, tick…Boom! at The Cape Playhouse opening this summer.

We are so proud because the show and our guests are now featured on the TV screens in the lobby and the hotel rooms.

I am so grateful to my guests Director Eric Rosen, Andy Mientus and Krystina Alabado.

Thank-you Magda Katz for videoing and creating the content to go live, Rommel Gopez and The Hotel Edison for their kindness and hospitality.

We are so proud and thrilled that Variety Entertainment News just named us one of Summer’s Best Picks in the category of Best Television, Radio, PodcastsThe company we are in, has made us so humbled, grateful and motivated to continue.

You can catch us on the following platforms:

Pandora:

https://www.pandora.com/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/PC:1001084740

Stitcher:

https://www.stitcher.com/show/1084740

Spotify:

Amazon:

https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/e3ac5922-ada8-4868-b531-12d06e0576d3

Apple Podcasts:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/id1731059092

 

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Crow’s/Obsidian Theatre Company’s “seven methods of killing kylie jenner” Kills It, Elevating the Dissertation with a Precise Brilliance

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Dragging their baggage in with a determined force, these two, dressed in fake fur and leather, enter the space at Crow’s Theatre with manic laughter and a forceful narrative. Sharply and expertly written by British playwright, Jasmine Lee-Jones (Curious), the play dives in with a tightness and fortitude that elevates and enlightens the darkness of its exploration. With a hypnotic frustrated energy, the play masterfully rolls out the seven methods of killing kylie jenner without missing a beat, unpacking the intricate exploration of cultural appropriation and queerness with a sharp precision. Delivered in a modern vernacular that excites, it circles around its formula with a careful carefree existentialism, becoming deeply entwined in the pervasive influence of social media and celebrity culture that can do mental damage to those around them, especially in the arena of the ownership of black bodies online and IRL, as well as the connecting energy and complication of female friendships.

Déjah Dixon-Green in Crow’s/Obsidian Theatre’s seven methods for killing kylie jenner. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

It’s completely hyper-engrossing and thrilling, giving power back provocatively to our heroine, Cleo, dynamically portrayed by Déjah Dixon-Green (Stratford’s Much Ado About Nothing), a young black woman who, after a confessional breakup with her cheating boyfriend, expresses her fevered frustration and anger via Twitter using the profile name @INCOGNEGRO. She dives in with gusto, flying into the fray with an aggressive rage that rarely fizzles. The play unwraps the seven methods in a layered unhurried manner, giving space and time to the framework, while also delivering engagement energy to her forever friend, Kara, fascinatingly well-played by Jasmine Case (Tarragon’s Black Girl in Search Of..), a queer person who has lots to say, both positive and negative, about Cleo’s unpacking online.

Dixon-Green is solid and on point throughout, with Case finding engagement at every turn somewhat brilliantly, and together, they excel in every way possible, finding attunement and synchronized energy throughout. Veering somewhere between real life and the virtual space, the play, as directed with exacting intent by Jay Northcott (Tarragon’s A Poem for Rabia), spirals in a rich media space, focusing its lasers on the framework that the born-wealthy media personality, Kylie Jenner, can call herself “self-made“, basking in the positive warm glow of what that label means to a woman like her, and how it can be felt by a woman like Cleo. The unwrapping is expertly intricate and verbally captivating, forcing us to dive in with these two and pay close-close attention to this vivid exploration of Blackness, queerness, and the way the online world can spiral one way and then another in an instantaneous flash of engagement and brutality.

You think you’re funny, don’t you?” as her tweets spiral into the abstract world of death threats and verbal violence enlightening the space, designed with inventive flair by set designer, Nick Blais (Factory’s Trojan Girls…), with well-formulated video graphics, designed by Laura Warren (Outside the March’s No Save Points), helping guide us through the dynamic experimental argument that expands the needed structure addressed. Jones’ dialogue radiates quick, sharp, clever constructs, expanded in thought, and reduced to a parade of letters in caps most brilliantly. The sexual undercurrents are both hilarious and brazen, giving us ample reason to connect as she fastidiously piles up all the injustices against Black women that are woven into the wording of this expert play, and we find ourselves forever invested in her outcome and ultimate safety.

Jasmine Case and Déjah Dixon-Green in Crow’s/Obsidian Theatre’s seven methods for killing kylie jenner. Photo by Dahlia Katz

Steeped in the language of internet culture, assisted strongly by the sound design of Maddie Bautista (Stratford’s Les Belles-Soeurs), straightforward lighting by Christopher-Elizabeth (CS/Bluebird’s Maanomaa, My Brother), and precise costuming by Des’ree Gray (Coal Mine’s Appropriate), the delivery and online reaction to Cleo’s escalation pushes the agenda outward and upward. Embodying numerous online characters, the two flawless performers combine as an exacting unified force, showcasing Cleo’s viral methods for murder and the resulting pushback from the unseen faceless community that has a lot to say about her tweets. The recitation and debate are raw and deliberate, finding truths and the complicated echoings of racism and rape threats that are honestly horrifying and troubling. It’s a terrifying landscape, displaying the vile and horridness of the internet culture that we all play a part in, either as an active participant or abject denier.

Cleo’s tweets and dissertation gain momentum and the back-and-forth conversation becomes more drenched in blocked anger and hurt, with the two reclaiming their time when needed, as they navigate the difficult cloud space filled with personal dredged-up resentment and smoky spaces of connectivity. Demanding to be heard, yet also needing to find the empathy to apologize when required, these two friends work hard inside the vividness of this captivating play so they don’t get swallowed up whole by the racist violence of the world, even as Cleo vocalizes the seven methods of killing kylie jenner one after the other. Its high-minded viewpoint is crystal clear, and delivered with an expertise that is both thrilling and epic, finding inventive casualness in its meticulous unified delivery.

Gripping tight to our emotional attention with a brilliant determination by writer Jones, the play, while feeling a bit trapped by the body bag hidden in the back, seven methods of killing kylie jenner, produced by Obsidian Theatre in association with Crow’s Theatre, Toronto, finds its sharpness and quick wit in the end, reinventing the meta imaginative exit with the weight of history and cleverness. “What are you going to do now?“, they ask. Well…., I’m going to tell you all that this play is something to engage with, learn from, and completely celebrate, but more importantly, I’m going to tell you to get your tickets and dive into this inventive striking new play without delay or hesitation.

Déjah Dixon-Green in Crow’s/Obsidian Theatre’s seven methods for killing kylie jenner. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Crow’s/Obsidian Theatre Company’s seven methods of killing kylie jenner. For tickets and more information, click here.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents tick, tick…Boom!

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We are so pleased to announce our guests this week are Director Eric Rosen, Andy Mientus and Krystina Alabado about tick, tick…Boom! at The Cape Playhouse this summer. Join us Wednesday May 22nd at 5pm.

Andy Mientus as Jon in Tick, Tick…BOOM! at Bucks County Playhouse.
(© Joan Marcus)

Artistic Director Eric Rosen brings his acclaimed production – hailed as a powerful and bold new interpretation of this show – for his Cape Playhouse debut. Rosen directed the original production of A Christmas Story: The Musical, which opened on Broadway in 2012 and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical. He co-wrote and directed Venice at the Public Theatre. He is also known for his reimagining of classic musicals including Sunday in the Park with George, a punk rock production of Pippin, and Hair: Retrospection in collaboration with and starring members of the original Broadway companies of Hair

As a playwright, his work includes the play Dream Boy which won a Chicago Jeff Award for Best New Play and Best Direction.

In 2000, he co-founded About Face Youth Theatre, one of the nation’s foremost arts and advocacy programs for at-risk LGBTQ youth, and the 18 year old program continues to serve thousands of young people in Chicago.

Director Eric Rosen

Andy Mientus toured with the first national touring company of Spring Awakening, appeared in the 2012 Off-Broadway revival of Carrie: The Musical, He made his Broadway debut in the 2014 revival of Les Misérables as Marius Pontmercy. In February 2015, he was cast as journalist Brett Craig in Parade, for a one-night-only concert presentation at the Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. In LA he appeared in the show Bent at the Mark Taper Forum. He also reprised his role as Hänschen in the Deaf West production of Spring Awakening, directed by his partner Michael Arden. The production then transferred to Broadway. In 2013, Mientus was cast in season two of the musical drama television series Smash as series regular Kyle Bishop. Following the cancellation of Smash, Mientus and co-stars Jeremy Jordan and Krysta Rodriguez joined the cast of Hit List, the real-world staging of the fictional rock musicalcreated for season two of Smash

Mientus appeared in several episodes of the ABC Family series Chasing Life as Jackson, the CW series The Flash as the Pied Piper (Hartley Rathaway), having previously auditioned for the lead role of Barry Allen. Mientus made history with this role by playing the first openly gay supervillain ever. He was in GoneGrendel, an eight-episode Netflix series based on Matt Wagner’s Dark Horse comic books.

Andy Mientus

At the age of 18, Krystina Alabado joined the national tour of Spring Awakening and made her Broadway debut in 2011 as a replacement ensemble member and understudy in American Idiotlater reprising her role in the show’s first national tour. In 2013, she joined the national tour of Evita (based on the 2012 Broadway revival) playing Juan Perón’s mistress. In 2016, she appeared in the short-lived Broadway production of American Psycho.  In  2019, Alabado joined the cast of Mean Girls as Gretchen Wieners, replacing Ashley Park. In March 2020, Alabado started a YouTube channel to explain to her followers different aspects of how Broadway works and interview her fellow castmates during the COVID-19 pandemic that temporarily closed Broadway

Krystina Alabado

“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a show filmed at the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our past episodes; First episode click here second episode click here,  third episode click here, fourth episode click here, fifth episode click here, sixth episode here, seventh episode here, eighth episode here, ninth episode here, tenth episode here, eleventh episode here, our twelfth episode here, thirteenth episode here and fourteenth here

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Another Barricade Visit for Mirvish Toronto’s “Les Misérables”

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I was apprehensive and excited, all at the same time, as I entered the touring company staging of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg’s  Les Misérables, now taking form at the Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto. The production, brought to us by Mirvish Productions, transported me back to that time, about forty years ago, when I first saw this glorious musical over in London’s West End. Twice actually, with the magnificent Patti LuPone. Lupone was divine, broking my heart at every moment given. This might have been the show that somehow created this theatre junkie, so much so that I had to return again a few weeks later, spending more than this young man could really afford. And I believe I also returned to see that same beautiful revolving stage design when it made its award-winning debut on Broadway, about two more times before it closed.  It was heavenly and forever memorable.  I remember being swept away by the intensely moving story, and sumptuous music and songs. Tears were in my eyes at so many emotionally heart-breaking moments, that I left fully satisfied and happy each and every time.

The staging this time around, with set and projected image design created by Matt Kinley (25th Anniversary Production of Phantom of the Opera) is said to be “inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo”, and with a stunning musical staging by Geoffrey Garratt and directed most beautifully by Laurence Connor (Mirvish’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and James Powell (London’s The Witches of Eastwick), the production still found its way into my emotional heart. It carried forth all of the same powerful moments, even without that famous revolve. It was different, and in some ways, it felt smaller and not as expansive and connecting, but maybe, with time and an awareness that I didn’t have when I first saw the same touring revival on Broadway back in 2016, this familiar staging fully engaged, taking me happily on that same emotional journey, even while missing the expansive previous revolving set design.

The music and those powerful tragic moments still deliver with a vengeance, mainly because of the incredible vocal performances of this touring cast. Tears came to my eyes at numerous moments, and I knew that I would enjoy myself from the moment the Bishop of Digne, played by a wonderful Randy Jeter (Public’s Parable of the Sower) told the constables that he had in fact given Jean Valjean, embodied by a magnificent Nick Cartell (Broadway’s Paramour) the church’s silver (that he, in fact, had stolen). And furthermore, he had forgotten to take the more valuable pieces of silver during the epic Prologue and ‘Soliloquy’. That and each subsequent moment, lasting all the way from the beautiful ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ sung with such loving sadness by Haley Dortch, the saddest of all sad songs; the engaging ‘On My Own’ by the powerful voiced Mya Rena Hunter; to Valjean’s stunningly rendered of ‘Who Am I?’ and all points in-between, moved me most generously. The songs, delivered graciously by these glorious-voiced actors brought it all back to life, and embedded itself inside my soul once again.

The glorious “Bring Him Home“, sung with incredible intensity and love by the gifted Cartell, felt as tender and angelic as ever. Understudy Cameron Loyal (Broadway’s Bad Cinderella) as the determined Javert couldn’t match the heightened level of expertise that Cartell climbed himself up to and was maybe the weakest link in this beautifully performed construction, but it never tarnished the overall effect. The Thenardier husband and wife team, gorgeously well-played by Matt Crowle (Mercury Theater’s The Producers) and Victoria Huston-Elem (Goodspeed’s Gypsy), performed the wonderfully crafted ‘Master of the House’ number with great comic timing and delivery, and the Student’s songs, ‘The People’s Song’ and ‘Drink With Me to Days Gone By’ were also lovingly performed, although there were a few over-done attempts of humor and inauthentic drunkenness. Marius, lovingly portrayed by the handsome Jake David Smith (Off-Broadway’s Between the Lines) delivers a tender (but not so well stage-designed) version of one of my favorite songs, ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’.  His voice graced us with its loving tones, lifting us in its softness, and working well our emotional heartstrings with this sad sweet song.

All in all, my friend and I had gathered together to hear all these aforementioned, beautifully crafted, and much-loved songs, sung with care, expertise, and love. Les Misérables sounds as glorious as ever, and I must add that I was happy to have had the chance to insert these songs back into my head. I’ve been humming these numerous melodies, all of which brought me great joy and happiness, all weekend long.  This small simple staging still packs a musically beautiful and powerful punch, and I’m forever grateful for that gift, revolving or not.

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Out of Town

Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” Burns Hot and Cool at Coal Mine Theatre

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With homecoming flowers and the sound of strings, Coal Mine Theatre‘s revival of the classic Hedda Gabler gets underway. It’s a captivating runway set-up, giving intimacy to the struggles of Henrick Ibsen’s anti-hero and namesake by placing the audience on three sides of its wood-planked rectangle. Played with wild abandonment by Diana Bentley (Coal Mine’s Detroit), her Hedda finds herself sitting in the moonlight at the piano, hunched over in some complicated state of anguish, trapped and caged in a backless gown. It’s clear, from that first image and the music that comes, that this production, adapted with tinges of modernity by Liiisa Repo-Martelli (Crow’s Uncle Vanya), is aiming itself directly at the naked soul of Hedda Gabler, now Hedda Tesman, the married woman who had once enchanted the men of this town with her beauty and cool exterior. But in what time frame does she come from and live within? That is a complex question that doesn’t actually have to be answered because as directed by Moya O’Connell (Actor: Coal Mine’s The Sound Inside) with a fierce passion that sometimes overflows the sparsely-used space created by set and costume designer Joshua Quinlan (Crow’s Theatre’s The Master Plan), this Hedda is from no distinct era, floating and fighting against her position and place in the world that never fits her frame.

Fiona Reid and Diana Bentley in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer.

When the sweet Auntie Julia, played lovingly by Fiona Reid (Shaw’s Dance of Death), is ushered into the living room by an overwhelmed nervous Berta, played quietly by Nancy Beatty (“The Shipping News“), it is clear that there is tension in this newly acquired home of Hedda and her newlywed husband, Jorgen Tesman, played a bit too obviously by Qasim Khan (Canadian Stage’s The Inheritance). Jorgen is forever oblivious, even when prompted by the sweet maternalness of Auntie Julia. He doesn’t seem to see much beyond his books and personal interests, even when addressing the woman he has married and is completely spellbound by. Khan’s Tesman is a bit dense about marriage and what comes next, sailing in worlds that are oceans apart from his wife, especially when it comes to sensuality and seduction. It all flies over his head, but not ours.

Trapped in a marriage and a house that she does not want, Bentley’s Hedda is a heap of contradictions, struggling with her new life and the timeframe she must live in. Devoid of any excitement or enchantment, she battles with an inner demon that only comes out when she finds herself alone on that stage. Her fighting spirit erupts in those moments, making it clear that when she is in the room with others, she is mostly insincere and putting on whatever face is required. This is especially true when it comes to her interactions with the timeframed women who float in and out of the room in a more traditional tone. She belittles them, slyly, for no other reason than knowing how. Playing nice, when she needs security or information, but shifting gears the moment she is no longer in need. Hedda’s tragic flaw, as we all know, is her willful narcissism that latches itself on to a destructive force within. Her only focus is getting whatever she wants at any given moment, even if it comes at the expense of another person’s feelings.

Diana Bentley in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer.

This Hedda, passionately portrayed by Bentley, needs to manipulate others as an undercurrent form of power and control, forcing those frameworks forward, most likely, because of societal expectations and norms. Ideals Hedda can’t abide by. Bently does a fascinating job at flinging herself into the role, flipping back and forth from insincere politeness and care to manipulative and suggestive power dynamics, usually involving one particular way of sitting on that lounge chair. Unfortunately, those two aspects get used repeatedly without much variance or subtlety added. Where is the steady climb to destruction? And where is the fall from grace? She is supposed to be a woman born into a higher class than the one she finds herself in; more her regal father’s daughter than her intellectual husband’s wife. Thus the play’s focus on her maiden name. But rather than class consciousness, she simply comes off as a hungry smooth sociopath, with no empathy and an impulsive streak that stings all that get too close. This Hedda sometimes falls into the form of a one-page, two-sided narcissist without a soul, and with nowhere to go, she doesn’t hold our interest as sharply as she is supposed to.

A sense of subtlety seems to be the key that is missing in much of this production of Hedda Gabler. Everyone is hitting their marks, doing what is required of them at any given moment, raising their voice when they are told to, but the deeper depiction of the manipulative nature feels a bit hurried, as we watch the characters move with urgency around the space. Within this patriarchal society, Hedda pushes a bit too hard and obviously, trying to gain some agency or control over her existence. It’s clear that she is forever disturbed by her marriage to the boring Tesman, now that she has found herself caged in a new house that, while being more extravagant than they can really afford, “smells like old lady” and death. And it will never bring her any contentment unless she seizes control.

(L to R) Andrew Chown, Diana Bentley (back), and Leah Doz in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer.

So when she hears from a former classmate Thea Elvsted, portrayed tense and uncomfortable by Leah Doz (Coal Mine’s The Effect), that a former lover, Eilert Lovborg, handsomely portrayed by Andrew Chown (Crow’s Bad Roads) has resurfaced, her focus shifts. “He’s nothing to me“, Hedda delivers, but a shaking, dynamic need has been awakened. A spark has been lit inside this trapped animal, and this spark leads all to chaos and a sea of drunken madness and despair. “No one trusts a tea toddler,” Hedda says, tempting and creating her own manifesto for the future, one of manipulation, deviance, and a roaring fire of pages destroyed. Why, we may ask? Because something must happen in this woman’s new world order, and she must find a way to take control. “This night will be the making of him,” she says, for someone, or herself.

Hedda is smug and cruel, out of boredom and shallow emotional connection to others. She moves through the space like a caged lioness, under captivating lighting by Kaitlin Hickey (Factory’s Wildfire) with a strong sound design by Michael Wanless (Coal Mine’s Appropriate). Hedda initially only finds excitement in the eyes of their family friend and helper, Judge Brack, played suggestively and a bit overtly by Shawn Doyle (Canstage’s A Number). But that triangle only works with one rooster in it, the Judge tells the woman he wants to control, and once he sees the glint in Hedda’s eyes for the firebrand that is Lovborg, a different tension climbs up and out of its box. And like any caged animal unleashed, destruction must come for all those who get too close and demand too much.

Diana Bentley (back) and Shawn Doyle in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer.

The ending is legendary, complicated and raw. A different fuse has been lit, as we witness what happens when Hedda discovers that the intended destruction did not go how she had conceptualized it. She must take control of something, but unfortunately, after such a solid buildup, the end disappears into the depths in a far too quick undynamic fashion with an inauthentic mayhem following soon after the firing. The symbolic bodily unleashing is fascinating, but doesn’t actually carry the emotional weight and magnitude that is intended. It’s overwrought and disconnected from the heart, even with the thought-provoking physicality thrown out with wild abandonment. The tragedy doesn’t connect to the desperation that is underneath in Coal Mine‘s Hedda Gabler. It’s distinct and electric, but doesn’t manage to shoot itself deep into the soul.

Qasim Khan and Shawn Doyle in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer. For tickets and more information, click here.

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