A rock musical written, executive produced and starring powerhouse Anzu Lawson has just floored the Fringe Festival. Playing to sold-out houses at the Lillian Theatre in Los Angles, this historical journey illuminates John Lennon’s controversial love for Yoko Ono that riled and defined an era. Lawson’s powerful portrayal of Yoko parturitates understanding and empathy for this often misunderstood and condemned woman, finally answering the question, “Dear John, Why Yoko?”
Fourteen original songs (with music by Joerg Stoeffel and Anzu Lawson and lyrics by Anzu Lawson), serenade the audience through Yoko’s emotional reckoning and awakening love with Lennon- a common experience by two very uncommon people. Exciting group choreography, creative staging in the three-quarter theater and brilliant directing by Nell Teare brought the audience to their feet at the end of this musical that blew the doors off of the expectations of a mere Fringe Festival show.
The show begins behind a huge scrim utilizing filmed scenes of a young Yoko (Anzu’s actual adorable niece Kohana Porter) surviving the horrors that she saw during the 1930’s conflict in Japan, while the full cast of thirteen angrily belts the song “I Know War”. This early traumatic exposure instantly capitulates the audience into clarity for the strength of Yoko’s later artistic journey into her expressions for peace.
Lawson bares her soul (and her breast) as Yoko in her famous 1965 art exhibition “Cut Piece” as the cast snips off pieces of her clothing systematically. Rock & Roll’s Greatest Lovers next introduces the musical dynamism of the Beatles and then the moment when Yoko and John Lennon met at the preview of her art exhibit at the Indica Gallery in Mayfair London. Depicting a decomposing apple Yoko had listed for two hundred quid, (which to her consternation, Lennon actually picked up and took a bite out of), as well as her interactive art piece “Hammer a Nail”, Lennon truly connects with Yoko when he was prompted to negotiate an imaginary fee to be able to hammer an imaginary nail into the exhibit so as not to ruin it for the opening the next day.
Tom Mesmer is hip and powerful as John Lennon struggling to find himself and fight through his first marriage, the media, his band and his own demons to stay connected to Yoko. The song “She’s a Witch” highlights the verbal spears thrown at Yoko by Paul McCartney (the talented John Griffin) and the public who blatantly accuse her of causing the downfall of the Beatles.
Nothing could stop the soulful outpourings from the cast of Rock & Roll’s Greatest Lovers, not the late-comers rustling through the oversold theater nor the intermittent, yet unyielding popping sound coming from an overhead speaker left to die during the show at the Lillian Theater. It is a testament to the entire cast’s professionalism that not once did a performer wince or show any signs of the sabotaging speaker. And it is exactly that tenacity that kept the audience fighting to concentrate as well- always hoping, assuming, expecting and believing that someone from the Lillian would appear to find the source and cut a wire, smash a box or pull the whole electrical system, forcing the cast to sing a cappella. But no such luck. The constant popping later tricked my mind into thinking that perhaps it was the shot that killed John Lennon being played over and over throughout the musical as a symbolic reference to his light so easily and tragically dampened.
Yoko needs to see this award-worthy creation, already configured for bigger stages, for herself. Empathy for Yoko Ono has not come easily to the public but in the hands of Anzu Lawson and Rock & Roll’s Greatest Lovers it is effortless.
Rock & Roll’s Greatest Lovers is currently crowd funding to bring the show to Broadway and the silver screen. For more information and to donate please go to:
Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike Live: The Tour Starts in North Texas for a Limited Engagement
The global stage sensation Magic Mike Live: The Tour is created and directed by Channing Tatum, Magic Mike Live is bringing its magic to the Dallas-Fort Worth area for a limited engagement for five weeks only starting May 11.
The Tour is co-directed and choreographed by film franchise choreographer Alison Faulk with co-choreographer Luke Broadlick and associate choreographers The Bartley Brothers (Anthony and Charles), with original music by Jack Rayner, and production design by Rachel O’Toole.
Producing is Channing Tatum, Steven Soderbergh, Reid Carolin, Greg Jacobs, Peter Kiernan and Nick Wechsler in association with Vincent Marini, Bruce Robert Harris, Jack W. Batman, Julian Stoneman, Louis Hartshorn, Brian Hook, Gavin Kalin, Hunter Arnold, Los Angeles Media Fund, ZKM Media, Richard Winkler, Alan Shorr, Dawn Smalberg, Marlene and Gary Cohen, and Simon Thomas. Emmy and Tony Award-winner Michael Cohl and his partner Tony Smith, principals with Bat Out of Hell Productions, will serve as the lead promoters. The tour
Hot on the heels of the hit film Magic Mike’s Last Dance, the North American touring production will perform 10 shows a week in a custom-built venue located in the center of the action at the vibrant Stonebriar Centre in Frisco, TX. The tour’s North Texas engagement was announced today with an electrifying performance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, giving viewers across the country a sneak peek at the spectacular production. A limited number of tickets starting at $69 are on sale now and going fast at MMLTour.com.
Thanks to the incredible audience support of Magic Mike’s Last Dance in North Texas, the magic is heading live and in-person to Frisco! Magic Mike Live features professionally trained dancers delivering a thrilling 90-minute show that packs in sexy and daring dance routines, acrobatics, live music, comedy, and more in front of, above, and all around the audience. Equal parts empowering and exhilarating, provides an unforgettably fun night of live entertainment, perfect for date night or the ultimate girls’ night out, that’s guaranteed to leave guests feeling inspired and ready to ignite their inner magic.
“We considered a number of amazing cities to open our first production of Magic Mike Live after the release of Magic Mike’s Last Dance, but the Dallas-Fort Worth area rose to the top,” said Magic Mike Live Executive Producer Vincent Marini. “North Texas audiences have been visiting our Las Vegas show in huge numbers for years, but this touring production is something new. It’s the culmination of everything we’ve learned about our show and our guests after selling over a million tickets around the world. It’s joyful, it’s sexy, and it’s just a ton of fun. I just know that people will be blown away the minute they walk into the venue!”
Guests will marvel as they enter the multi-story, 600-seat venue which incorporates the best design features from Magic Mike Live productions around the world. Every performance, every fabric, every finish, every detail of the venue has been meticulously curated by Tatum and the Magic Mike Live creative team.
Guests are invited to come early and stay late to enjoy the indoor-outdoor lounge complete with music, multiple bars, and comfortable seating. The venue’s bars will offer a curated cocktail experience created in collaboration with Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh’s spirit brand Singani 63, featuring signature beverages inspired by moments in the show.
Epic experiences await those looking to up the ante on their visit to Magic Mike Live :
- Ultra Seats – Experience Magic Mike Live like never before from one of just 12 available Ultra Seats. Priced at $299 per person, each Ultra Seat package includes:
- Front-row, plush couch seating as close to the action as you can possibly get.
- Complimentary cocktails paired with special moments throughout the show.
- Complimentary preferred parking.
- A commemorative lanyard.
- A personal concierge, who will provide each party with direct communication before, during and after the show.
- Dedicated waitstaff during the show.
- All offerings from Mike’s Exclusive Package, including a post-show meet and greet with members of the cast, cocktail, and live music.
- Mike’s Exclusive Package: No matter where you sit for the show, upgrade your experience to score access to an intimate meet and greet with select cast members after the show with the purchase of a Mike’s Exclusive Package add-on for $99 per person. With their commemorative lanyard, guests will get to meet and take photos with members of the cast while enjoying live music and a specially curated cocktail. A show ticket is required to purchase the Mike’s Exclusive Package add-on.
To take full advantage of all that the region’s premiere shopping and entertainment destination has to offer, ticket buyers can also pair their experience with an afternoon brunch on Saturday and Sunday at Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza & Taproom. Priced at $50 per person, the 2 p.m. brunch seating offers up a three-course menu that includes stuffed cheese bread and your choice of pizza, wood-fired breakfast sandwich, or full salad, and either a delicious apple pie or cinnamon glazed knots for dessert, all topped off with a $20 Tap Wall credit to indulge with your favorite beer, wine or cocktail. A limited number of weekend brunch packages are available to add-on to any 4 p.m. performance ticket purchase on Saturday or Sunday.
The North American touring production of Magic Mike Live is led by South Africa-born Kalon Badenhorst, who has performed the titular role of “Mike” in Berlin and Las Vegas, and emcees Crystal Powell and Nikki Lowe. The ensemble features alumni Gianluca Briganti, Clare Billson, Nate Bryan, Kiana De Van der Schueren, Marcquet Hill, Burim Jusufi, Jake Paul Green, Nicholas Phillips, Blake Varga, and Joshua Williams. Additional casting to be announced.
While thrilling more than 1.2 million guests around the world with shows currently running in Las Vegas, London, on tour across North America, and past engagements in Berlin and Australia, Magic Mike Live has earned its place at the center of the zeitgeist with regular appearances on major TV shows including The Kelly Clarkson Show, The Drew Barrymore Show, The Talk, SHERRI, ELLEN, The TODAY Show, The Graham Norton Show, This is Us, Britain’s Got Talent, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and more. MAGIC MIKE LIVE also inspired HBO Max™’s instant-hit unscripted reality series Finding Magic Mike, and continues to fuel popularity for the Magic Mike film franchise, including the latest hit, Magic Mike’s Last Dance.
Starting May 11, MAGIC MIKE LIVE: The Tour will perform a 90-minute show at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday with 10 p.m. performances Thursday through Saturday, and a 4 p.m. matinee on Saturday and Sunday; no shows on Monday and Tuesday. For tickets starting at $68, upgrades, and information for groups of 10 or more, visit MMLTour.com or call 833.624.4265.
Connect with the show on social media: @MMLTour on Instagram and Twitter; @MagicMikeLiveTour on TikTok and Facebook / #MMLTOUR.
The Olivier Awards Return
Celebrate the very best in British theatre in a star-studded evening as the Olivier Awards return to the Royal Albert Hall on April 2nd.
Three-time Olivier Award nominee & Primetime Emmy winner, Hannah Waddingham will be hosting the awards for the first time.
The event will feature performances from all of the Best New Musical nominees, including The Band’s Visit, Standing At The Sky’s Edge, Sylvia and Tammy Faye. Also performing will be Oklahoma! and Sister Act, both nominated for the Best Musical Revival award, as well as Disney’s Newsies, which has been nominated for Matt Cole’s choreography.
The multi-Olivier Award winner The Book of Mormon, will be performing to mark its ten-year anniversary in the West End. Additionally, special award winner Arlene Philips will be honored with a tribute from the cast of Grease.
The ceremony will be broadcast live on Magic Radio from 6pm with Ruthie Henshall and Alice Arnold hosting.
The highlights program will also be aired on ITV1 and ITVX at 10:15 pm in the UK and via Official London Theatre’s YouTube channel elsewhere.
And the nominees are:
Out of Town
The Unpacking of the First Métis Man of Odesa, An Interview
Punctuate! Theatre is unpacking a love story. A love story about a couple. A love story about Ukraine. And a love story against an unbelievably complicated backdrop. Starting at The Theatre Centre in Toronto, the company is ushering forth the world premiere of First Métis Man of Odesa before it spins itself out on stages across Canada. Spanning continents and set against the backdrop of the COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Métis playwright and Punctuate! Artistic Director, Matthew MacKenzie (Dora Award-winning playwright for Bears, After the Fire, The Particulars) joins forces with his wife, the award-winning Ukrainian actress Mariya Khomutova (Odesa Film Festival Grand Prix – The Golden Duke award-winner NONNA, Two People), to tell the story of their COVID courtship and share an intimate perspective on the personal impacts of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Drawn from their real-life love story, a story that is ultimately still unfolding to this very day, First Métis Man of Odesa unpacks the journey of Matt and Masha’s love that spans continents where distance and conflicts can’t tame their passionate connection. After meeting on a theatre research trip in Kyiv, a spark is struck, and a romance between a Métis Playwright and a Ukrainian artist is ignited, taking them from the beaches of the Black Sea to the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, within the onset of a global pandemic, the eruption of a brutal war, but also the many joyous moments that this union begets, including marriage and the birth of their son.
During the height of the lockdown in 2021, an initial version of this piece was presented as a radio play at Factory Theatre, written by MacKenzie and directed by Nina Lee Aquino. This March, First Métis Man of Odesa, as directed by Lianna Makuch (Pyretic Productions/Punctuate!’s Barvinok), makes its stage debut, offering a compelling continuation of the initial story told in that first radio play. The couple, Matthew MacKenzie and his wife, Mariya Khomutova, sat down with Frontmezzjunkies and thankfully answered a few questions about their incredible journey from that first love-struck connection to its World Premiere at The Theatre Centre in Toronto.
Tell me, how you decided to embark on telling your own story and what the beginning of this creative process looked like for you two?
Initially, Matt wrote an audio play for Factory Theatre about our romance, then getting married and having their son during the pandemic. The plan had been to expand the piece for the stage, a plan that took on much urgency after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Both the pandemic and war have a deeply dehumanizing effect, so our hope in telling our love story is to share the human side of these major world events; a human side that headlines and news clips can’t fully capture.
What aspect of your character, or your involvement with/creation of this play resonates the most powerfully inside you?
For both of us, the opportunity to share all the joy, humour, anger, and frustration we’ve experienced in the past few years is a really therapeutic process. Many of our friends and family only know snippets of what we’ve been through, so the opportunity to tell our story across the country is one we are deeply grateful for.
The phrase “you don’t know what someone is carrying with them” has really hit home over the past couple of years, as we have had to contend with some pretty epic challenges as a couple and as individuals.
Tell me a bit about what it is like to bring your character to the stage? What does mean to you to be telling this story?
We play ourselves in the play, but we very much play versions of ourselves in the play. We had to mine conflict between us out of a few outbursts, as there haven’t actually been a lot of [conflicts] in our relationship so that we could bring the drama of what we are going through to the fore.
Challenges of playing ourselves have included the fact that [Matt] is not a trained actor, while Mariya is. Mariya though comes from a theatre tradition that was almost entirely focused on the classics, so playing herself in a play based on her life is definitely a new and challenging experience!
Tell me a bit more about your development process? Was there a typical ‘first read’ or was it different, given your own story inspired the work…
We were able to conduct several development workshops over a period of six months. There was no shortage of content that we could derive from our lives, so the challenge was determining what to keep and what to let fall away. Even after our first read, we cut 15 pages from our rehearsal draft. Events in our lives and in Ukraine will no doubt continue to necessitate the evolution of our script.
What’s been the most challenging part of this process for you?
For Mariya, it was buying into the idea (that is quite a common one in Canada) that a play about someone’s real life can be art. Seeing Hailey Gillis’s My Ex-boyfriend Yard Sale, really helped her believe this was possible.
For Matt, it met the challenge of performing for the first time in ten years. The last time he performed, he made his friends promise they would never let him perform again, but all agreed it didn’t make much sense for anyone else to play him in this piece.
The most rewarding?
Having already performed several shows in Kamloops, the most rewarding part of this process is sharing this story with refugees from Ukraine. Their responses have been incredible and have really encouraged us to share our story with as many people as possible.
What do you want the audience to get from this play, and from your character?
We want the audience to join us as we relive our sweeping love story, from Odesa to Toronto. We want the audience to see the human side of the conflict in Ukraine. And we want the audience to leave the theatre with the hope that love can and will conquer all.
First Métis Man of Odesa is in Toronto for its world premiere run at the Franco Boni Theatre @ The Theatre Centre from March 30 – April 8, 2023 (opening March 31). Following the world premiere in Toronto, First Métis Man of Odesa will appear at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, The Cultch in Vancouver, and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg. For information and tickets, please visit theatrecentre.org/event/first-metis-man-of-odesa/
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