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He Says: Broadway’s Revival of The Music Man Entertains Charmingly

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Well, here it is boys and girls, that crisp new revival of Meredith Willson’s corny 1957 musical, The Music Man, coming on strong and slick, just like its leading man, “The Greatest Showman,” Hugh Jackman (Broadway’s The Boy From Oz). It’s the big-ticket item of the Broadway season, with sales and seat prices flying higher than one can imagine at the Winter Garden Theatre. It’s a salesman-like dream, packaging a big movie star with a Broadway darling kicking up their heels in a good ol’ fashioned musical. It’s a guaranteed win-win for Broadway, but the question that hangs in the air is basically, like any salesman, good or bad, would know, “is it really worth the hype?

I will admit, right off the bat, that I have never taken a full-on shine to this musical, even when I saw it so well done at the Kennedy Center in 2019 with Norm Lewis and the wondrous Jessie Mueller in the two lead roles. I have never watched the 1962 film version of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man in my life, which starred Robert Preston (“Victor Victoria“) and Shirley Jones. The show seems sweet but I never can quite recall, off the top of my head, any of the numerous songs that made it into my obsessional frontmezzjunkies orbit, except of course the iconic “76 Trombones” and I can’t say that song causes my musical mind to go all misty with adoration. I did almost have the chance to march into the town of River City, Iowa, and see the musical when it was produced a few seasons ago at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. I heard through the theatrical grapevine that the production, starring Daren A. Herbert and Danielle Wade (and, hilariously, my namesake, Steve Ross as the Mayor of River City), was “irresistible” (NOW Magazine), reminded us all of “the joy of the Stratford Festival” (Toronto Star), but I never did, in the end, make it over to River City, via Stratford, Ontario.

I know this could be seen as blasphemy, to admit that I never found my way to be in utter rapture of this all-American musical. It just doesn’t grab hold like some of the other classic ones that find their way back to the Broadway stage, usually (and preferably) when a high-wattage actor gets an inkling to play one of these historic iconic parts and stream rolls the whole show onto the stage. I mean, I get it. Who’d say no to Jackman wanting to star in this, or any classic stage musical for that matter? The idea on its own sells tickets, but I’m not sure I was ever excited by this particular show, regardless of its star, being revived. But here it is, and standing right behind it, ready to usher them all onto that stage, is famed theatrical director Jerry Zaks, just like he did so magnificently with the divine Bette Midler in the much more overall fun revival of that other classic stage show, Hello, Dolly!

Hugh Jackman and the cast of Broadway’s The Music Man. Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

No surprise there, and right by his side is the outrageously good choreographer, Warren Carlyle, a craftsman who can’t help but find excitement and precision in every classic show he touches, like She Loves Me and Kiss Me, Kate. He also can find the same in the quiet (and expansive) recesses of the River City library, even when the cast is continually, and adorably shhhh’d. These two pros seem to know exactly what to do to please, particularly with this type of old-fashioned musical and the wildly talented enormous cast that have been pulled together to do their will.

The Music Man does work, just like Bette Midler’s Dolly extravaganza. It sings and struts its stuff with simple strong precision, playing complete homage to Willson’s small-town values quite perfectly while offering up some technically challenging and awe-inspiring upbeat movements guaranteed to make you smile with glee. I mean, that library number and the book tossing that fills the air is just so thrilling and robust that it dazzles. It’s a wonder to take in, just like that acrobatic waiter dance number did so perfectly in Hello, Dolly! It’s one of those theatrical ‘you gotta see it to believe it’ kinda moments that make you happy you’re sitting in your high-priced seat taking it in live and in-person. It just wouldn’t, or shouldn’t be translated for the small streaming screen we got accustomed to since March of 2020.

The production’s dancing and singing truly are a spectacle to behold, with a cast that elevates the material that I think, in general, is perfectly fine and good, but not as magnificent as many suggest. Give or take a few songs, here and there, many of the numbers feel like fun exercises in construction, but few really take advantage of the star power on stage other than the mechanics of good singing and charm. Hugh has that in spades, but beyond that, he and triple-threat Sutton Foster (Broadway’s Anything Goes) as the stern librarian Marian, are almost wasted. Almost, but not completely.

Sutton Foster, Benjamin Pajak, Hugh Jackman, and the cast of Broadway’s The Music Man. Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Foster’s Balzac frown, as she sees through this salesman’s charm, is as adorable as when she flips that frown upside down and starts liking that man who found a way to make her young brother smile. Her singing is absolutely lovely, not surprisingly, and her connection to all around her is completely endearing. Also not surprisingly. Her “Goodnight, My Someone” will fill you up fully, as with her duet with Jackman near the end of the show when love conquers all and everyone sings a happy tune. “Till There Was You” is sweet and delicious, but not the greatest challenge, I imagine, for any of these high-end performers. But it is appealing to skip along with them for a little more than two hours, smiling it all in while singing, “Gary, Indiana” out the door into the streets of New York City.

Standing alongside these two twinkling stars, the rest of the cast is perfection in diction, dance, and their attention to detail. The gossip ladies of the town (Linda Mugleston, Garrett Long, Jessica Sheridan, and Rema Webb) and their nonsense singing weave their way magnificently in and around one another like pro-hens. As fantastic as that barber quartet’s sublime harmonies and connection (Phillip Boykin, Nicholas Ward, Daniel Torres, and Eddie Korbich). But where is that moment when Jackman and Foster really can unpack and vocally shine, beyond exhibiting great chemistry and charm? I just don’t think this show has it inside itself to offer up anything beyond what is delivered here so reasonably.

The cast of Broadway’s The Music Man. Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

The glorious costumes against that pretty but somewhat flat set design, both by Santo Loquasto (Broadway’s The Iceman Cometh), with lighting by Brian MacDevitt (Broadway’s Carousel) and sound design by Scott Lehrer (Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird), deliver the goods as pretty and cute as the “Wells Fargo Wagon.” That number arrives into town pulled by some gallant hoofers spruced up to resemble the horses that pulled Dolly’s trolley car. All to the sighing sounds of an audience’s sweet approval. This is the epitome of vintage class act Broadway, ushered in with polish and pizazz, but it somehow feels borrowed and a bit blue. Which left me smiling but not exactly dazzled nor as gloriously uplifted as I’m thinking those producers were hoping for.

It does make perfect sense though that Jackman wanted his Broadway resume to include Harold Hill, the iconic charmer, slick salesman, and bold conman stranger. It’s effortless fun, this part, riding into town and sweeping (almost) everyone off their feet without ever breaking a sweat, including the mayor’s wife played to hilarious perfection by the always incredible Jayne Houdyshell (Broadway/Showtime’s The Humans). She and her fellow “Pick-a-little” ladies are a welcome joy to behold, but her husband, Mayor Shinn, portrayed lovingly by the very funny Jefferson Mays (Broadway’s Oslo), just isn’t as easily hooked, even as his bumbling buddies continually get distracted by Hill’s focused refocusing the crew on their own stellar voices.

Hugh Jackman, Sutton Foster, and the cast of Broadway’s The Music Man. Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Shuler Hensley (Signature’s Sweet Charity) as Marcellus, Marie Mullen (Broadway’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane) as Mrs. Paroo, newcomer Benjamin Pajak as the young sweet and sad Winthrop Paroo, and the cute as a button Kayle Teruel making her Broadway debut as the piano-playing Amaryllis, all find their moment to shine bright, with a wink and a smile. It’s pretty much a slam dunk, given that this charmer of a book, written by Willson (The Unsinkable Molly Brown) who also wrote both the music and lyrics with a story co-written by Franklin Lacey (Pagan in the Parlor), is a class act. Or never pushes any envelope too far. Rather it is happy just putting a smile on your face throughout your time spent in Willson’s River City, Iowa.

But let’s not forget to mention all those wonderfully talented ensemble players, particularly the magnificently talented Gino Cosculluela (Netflix’s Senior Year) as bad-boy Tommy Djilas, who could basically sweep pretty much anyone off their feet with his finely skilled moves and charming smile. The only disappointment, in regards to casting, is that sitting idly backstage is the equally impressive, fantastically talented Max Clayton (Broadway’s Moulin Rouge) who is Jackman’s understudy and sadly, nothing else in the show. I had hoped he’d be on stage somewhere somehow playing some part, and not just waiting for his chance to shine as Harold Hill. But no such luck. I get it though. It’s a huge responsibility and undertaking for Clayton, one I’m sure he is taking very seriously, but it is quite the pickle to hope for an understudy’s arrival on to the stage, as it would mean Jackman had to stand down. But here’s hoping he’ll get his moment to shine in the part, maybe when Jackman wraps up his run and takes his final bow. One can hope. Now the question. “Will I want to go back to see it?

Regardless, the gullible River City townsfolk con runs smoothly forward, thanks to Hugh’s wide-eyed wonderment, prancing out all those well-known “Seventy-Six Trombones” songs effectively and meticulously well done, thanks to the fine work of Jonathan Tunick (orchestrations) and Patrick Vaccariello (music supervisor/music director). But I can’t quite shake the idea that this salesman con is also a bit on us. “Ya Got Trouble”, yes, in River City, but also, maybe on Broadway, if the star-power of its cast is more high-voltage than the artistry of the show, even when all the theatrical elements, including the dancing, are first-rate. Where’s the creativity and inventiveness? I’m not sure I see it here in this revival.

Hugh Jackman, Sutton Foster, and the cast of Broadway’s The Music Man at the Winter Garden Theatre. Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

For more from Ross click here

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

Broadway

The Heart of Rock and Roll’s Huey Lewis Gets His Portrait On Sardi’s Wall

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Huey Lewis had the honor of being placed on the Sardi’s Walls of Broadway fame with his portrait at an unveiling by Max Klimavicius, owner of Sardi’s.

Huey Lewis Photos by Tricia Baron

Huey Lewis, Max Klimavicius – Photo by Tricia Baron

Huey Lewis, Max Klimavicius – Photo by Tricia Baron

Huey was represented on Broadway this season with the musical Huey Lewis  but he also made his Broadaway acting debut as Billy Flynn in Chicago in 2005 where the iconic Grammy Award wining rocker fell in love with the Broadway community.

Huey Lewis, Mike Baerga – Photo by Tricia Baron

Jonathan A. Abrams, Brian Usifer, Hunter Arnold, Huey Lewis – Photo by Tricia Baron

Brian Usifer, Huey Lewis – Photo by Tricia Baron

Many of The Heart of Rock and Roll’s creative and cast came out to congratulate him!

Lorin Latarro, Brian Usifer – Photo by Tricia Baron

Mike Baerga, Robin Masella, Huey Lewis, Autumn Guzzardi – Photo by Tricia Baron

Kayla Greenspan, Jonathan A. Abrams, Hunter Arnold – Photo by Tricia Baron

Huey Lewis, Tamika Lawrence – Photo by Tricia Baron

Huey Lewis, Ross Lekites – Photo by Tricia Baron

F. Michael Haynie, Huey Lewis – Photo by Tricia Baron

Autumn Guzzardi, Taylor Marie Daniel, Josh Breckenridge, Michael Olaribigbe – Photo by Tricia Baron

The Company of The Heart of Rock and Roll – Photo by Tricia Baron

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Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents John Patrick Shanley

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We are so pleased to announce our guest this week John Patrick Shanley is an American playwright, screenwriter, and director. He won the 1988 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film Moonstruck. His play, Doubt: A Parable, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama Drama Desk Award and the 2005 Tony Award for Best Play; he wrote and directed the film adaptation and earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Shanley is the author of more than 23 plays, which have been translated and performed around the world, including 80 productions a year in North America. He has often directed his own productions. In 1990, Shanley directed his script of Joe Versus the Volcano. Shanley also wrote two songs for the movie: Marooned Without You and The Cowboy Song. He wrote the screenplay for the film Congo (1995), which was based on the Michael Crichton book.

Shanley’s journey in playwriting began in the early 1980s, with his first play, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, which premiered in 1984. This powerful drama showcased Shanley’s talent for creating deeply flawed, yet sympathetic characters.

In 2012, Shanley wrote the libretto for an opera version of Doubt: A Parable, which premiered at the Minnesota Opera in January 2013, with music by Douglas J. Cuomo. In 2012, his play Storefront Church ran Off-Broadway in a production by the Atlantic Theater Company. His play, Outside Mullingar, opened on Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, produced by the Manhattan starring Debra Messing and Brían F. O’Byrne.

Prodigal Son, which he directed, was produced Off-Broadway by the Manhattan Theatre Club. It starred Timothée Chalamet and Robert Sean Leonard. His play The Portuguese Kid opened on October 24, 2017, at the New York City Center Stage I. Directed by Shanley, the cast featured Jason Alexander, Sherie Rene Scott and Mary Testa. His new play Brooklyn Laundry opened on February 6, 2024, at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Shanley directed, with a cast featuring Cecily Strong and David Zayas.

The New York premiere of his new mystical comedy Banshee, starring Elizabeth Bays (Simpatico) and Erick Betancourt (Cost of Living), with David Zayas Jr. (Simpatico) directing for the Chain Theatre’s 2024 Summer One-Act Festival August 8 – September 1.

We are so proud and thrilled that Variety Entertainment News named us one of Summer’s Best Picks in the category of Best Television, Radio, Podcasts.

Host Suzanna Bowling was also just named Most Engaging Hosts on TV, Radio and Podcasts on “The Daily Geek Report.” We are so grateful.

“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, fourteenth here, fifteenth here , 16th here, 17th here, 18th here, 19th here, 20th here, 21st here and 22nd here.

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Theatre News: Cast Albums, Queen of the Mist, Kimberly Akimbo and The Oyster Radio Hour

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The new Broadway cast recordings for The Great Gatsby, The Outsiders and Suffs are out. However Here We Are, the final Original Cast Recording from legendary composer Stephen Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown’s The Connector are out on YouTube and these are the best scores of the year.

Another CD out is My Favorite Things: The Rodgers & Hammerstein 80th Anniversary Concert: featuring a 40-piece orchestra and stars, including Michael Ball, Maria Friedman, Daniel Dae Kim, Audra McDonald, Aaron Tveit, and Patrick Wilson, the Concert was recorded live at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The celebration showcases original arrangements of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s iconic songs from Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Cinderella, The Sound of Music and more.

Mary Testa return to Queen of the Mist in New Jersey Concert Performances at New Jersey’s Montclair State University. The concert performances of Michael John LaChiusa’s Queen of the Mist featuring the work’s original star, Broadway favorite Mary Testa.

Adam Gwon and Sarah Hammond’s Richard Rodgers Award-winning musical String has joined BroadwayLicensing Global’s catalogue and is now available for professional and non-professional productions. The company also dropped a studio cast recording of the show July 16, which is now available on Spotify, Apple Music, and all digital platforms.

Carolee Carmello

Carolee Carmello

Three-Time Tony Nominee Carolee Carmello to Star in Kimberly Akimbo National Tour” by Broadway.com’s Darryn King – “Three-time Tony nominee Carolee Carmello will play Kimberly in the national tour of Kimberly Akimbo.

Little Island is bringing Tony Award® nominees Amber Gray (Hadestown) and Amber Iman (Lempicka) to perform in The Oyster Radio Hour, which begins performances on Wednesday, July 31 and will run through Sunday, August 4 as part of Little Island’s blockbuster summer season.

The Oyster Radio Hour is a live, three-act family-friendly radio show combining science, story and song that celebrates the resilience of oysters and their crucial ecological roles. Beginning at 8PM each evening, the show blends hope and interconnectedness, spotlighting the humble oyster’s journey of revival, including special Broadway guests Amber Gray and Amber Iman.

During The Oyster Radio Hour’s run in the Amph through August 4, the Island’s central plaza, known as the Play Ground, will transform from 6:30-10PM daily into a one-of-a-kind Oyster Market, with food and beverages curated and overseen by New Amsterdam Market founder and world-famous market designer Robert LaValva.

Alongside live oyster shucking, the market will feature 10 local vendors selling their unique culinary creations, which pair perfectly with the live performance. The local vendors include Real Mothershuckers, Oyster Party, Lobster Place, Houseman, Dayboat Blue, Cervo’s, Té Company, La Newyorkina, Chomps Elysées, and Pamina Dolce Gelato. Danny Childs, author of Slow Drinks, will make summer bespoke cocktails during a bar takeover on Friday, August 3.  

The Oyster Radio Hour is a collaboration between RR Sigel, who was the Associate Artistic Director of NY PopsUp in 2021; WNYC podcast producer Ana González, previously of Radiolab: For Kids; composer Angélica Negrón who has performed at Opera Philadelphia, the LA Philharmonic, NY Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and more; and Emmy® and Drama Desk Award®-nominated songwriter Mark Sonnenblick.

Keenan Tyler Oliphant (Hadestown) serves as director with Miller & Harlow as writers; Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew (Kimberly Akimbo) as lighting/video designer; Beth Lake(Camelot) as sound designer; Dr. Matthew Hare, Elliott Ma, Ayasha Guerin, Moody Harney, and Alan Michelson as audio interviewees; and Beatrice Perez-Arche as stage manager.

Little Island’s first annual, four-month-long summer season of world premieres, which kicked off on June 1, features a total of nine newly commissioned pieces. Little Island’s new arts program moves towards the future with a commitment to a multi-year roster of original work, all commissioned by and developed at Little Island. Bookended by the premiere of choreographer Twyla Tharp’s newest work How Long Blues and a 90-minute remix of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in which outré opera diva Anthony Roth Costanzo sings every leading role, the season offers premieres of varying scales across all areas of performance – including music, dance, theater, opera, comedy, jazz, pop, and funk, all outdoors and directly sited on the Hudson River at 14th Street in New York City. The Amph, the park’s 700-seat amphitheater, will house larger scale performances at a $25 ticket price, while The Glade, the park’s

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Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Patti LuPone: A Life in Notes

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Patti Lupone is on a roll. Patti LuPone: A Life in Notes will be released digitally on July 19, and on CD on August 30, from Center Stage Records. Her first new studio album since 2006, the Grammy Award winner’s new double album can be pre-ordered now at Amazon and www.CenterStageRecords.com, and the digital album can be pre-saved at https://orcd.co/lifeinnotes.

Never say never, LuPone also returns to Broadway in The Roommate  this fall. It’s been more than two years since LuPone tweeted “Quite a week on Broadway, seeing my name being bandied about. Gave up my Equity card; no longer part of that circus. Figure it out.”

The three-time Tony Award winner will star opposite none other than Mia Farrow in Jen Silverman’s new play “The Roommate,” directed by Jack O’Brien (“Shucked”). The Roommate will begin previews at the Booth Theatre on 45th Street in late August and then open in mid-September.

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Broadway

Disney Broadway In Bryant Park Part Two

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106.7 LITE FM’s brought Disney to Broadway in Bryant Park. We brought you the video and now the pictures so you are there.

Tshidi Manye

Jackie Rene

Jackie Rene and Gilbert Domally

Jackie Rene and Gilbert Domally

Jackie Rene and Gilbert Domally

Jackie Rene and Tshidi Manye

Jackie Rene and Tshidi Manye

Tshidi Manye and Gilbert Domally

Tshidi Manye and Gilbert Domally

Jim Ferris, Gilbert Domally and Ben Jeffrey

Jim Ferris, Gilbert Domally and Ben Jeffrey

Jim Ferris, Gilbert Domally and Ben Jeffrey

Ben Jeffrey, Jackie Rene, Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris and Gilbert Domally

Gilbert Domally, Jackie Rene, Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris and Ben Jeffrey

The Lion King’s Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Jackie René, Ben Jeffrey and Gilbert Domally

Charissa Hogeland

Charissa Hogeland

Chad Burris

Frozen’s Charissa Hogeland and Chad Burris

Michael James Scott

Adi Roy

Adi Roy

Michael James Scott, Adi Roy

Michael James Scott, Adi Roy

Sonya Balsara

Sonya Balsara

Adi Roy, Sonya Balsara

Sonya Balsara, Adi Roy

Adi Roy, Sonya Balsara

from Aladdin‘s Michael James Scott, Sonya Balsara and Adi Roy

106.7 Lite FM’s Hosts-Paul Cubby Bryant and Christine Nagy

Paul Cubby Bryant and Christine Nagy

The hosts were Paul ‘Cubby’ Bryant and Christine Nagy.

Chad Burris, Charissa Hogeland, Ben Jeffrey, Jackie Rene, Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris and Gilbert Domally

Chad Burris, Gilbert Domally, Jackie Rene. Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Charissa Hogeland, Ben Jeffrey, Sonya Balsara, Adi Roy and Michael James Scott

Chad Burris, Gilbert Domally, Jackie Rene. Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Charissa Hogeland, Ben Jeffrey, Sonya Balsara, Adi Roy and Michael James Scott

Chad Burris, Gilbert Domally, Jackie Rene. Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Charissa Hogeland, Ben Jeffrey, Sonya Balsara, Adi Roy and Michael James Scott

 

 

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