Video of the Week

I’ve been digging on this song for years and years now. I actually can’t remember who first introduced me to it. Written by Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk, it’s from a musical called The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown. This is the only song I know though; I should really learn more of their work.

Here is Michael Arden singing “Run Away with Me” (the song starts at :46). Jeremy Jordan also does a lovely version that makes me swoon a little.

 


Video of the Week

In honor of my second Violet review earlier this week, I would like to share a number from the show. This song is Flick’s anthem. It’s a stirring solo as he strives to inspire Violet to spread her wings. What begins as a simple marching rhythm grows into a rousing gospel-like tune (watch the writers talk about it here).

Here is “Let It Sing” performed by Tony nominee Joshua Henry at the 2014 Drama Desk Awards.

 


A Note on Previews, Plus Violet Take Two!

Violet

Matt has a rule that he doesn’t see a show in previews until at least the third week. I, as of late, have been trying to adopt this habit. This is not to say previews aren’t worth seeing or that they’re “bad” performances by any means, but more often than not, the show is simply not ready. It likely still needs more time to polish technical cues, and as they say in the theatre business, the show isn’t “frozen” yet.

For those of you who don’t know how previews work, basically, during those three or four weeks before opening night, the show is still malleable. Cuts are made, lines added, blocking shifted, light cues changed. Many of these shifts are based on how things are going in front of the audiences – the creative team and performers get an idea of which moments aren’t working, what isn’t reading, what can be taken further, etc. So everyone is also rehearsing during the day before the performances each night and constantly adapting to all of these changes. It’s an exhausting and frenzied time. There is so much else going on during a preview period aside from the story being told.

Back in April, Matt and I broke his rule when we got comp tickets to Violet, because come on, we weren’t going to pass up free seats! We saw the seventh preview I believe, and while I liked it (and gave it a fairly good review), it still lacked…something. It felt unfinished, the actors weren’t as connected as they could be, they hadn’t quite found their rhythm – all symptoms of early previews of a musical and of course, things I would never hold against a production.

Something I don’t often get to do is then go back and see a show later on in its run. To be able to return and see the developments and changes is always a rush. In this case, I couldn’t have asked for better circumstances. Four months of eight shows a week (and four Tony nominations) later, I took Brigitte to see the closing performance of Violet last Sunday for her birthday, and I am so happy to have witnessed it. So happy that I’m writing a second mini-review!

I loved this production. Truly. Back in April, I said in my review that I didn’t think the stripped down, minimalist approach fully served the show. Now I couldn’t disagree with myself more. It was incredibly effective and put the emphasis on the characters and the heart of the story. The connections between people were real and specific. I noticed so much more detail this time around – like the way Flick was treated in the opening scenes even when he was not the focus. There were sharp, striking flashes of choreography in “On My Way” and “Luck of the Draw,” moments which may have been there back in previews, but they didn’t read the way they did last week. Props to director Leigh Silverman and everyone else for such tight, precise storytelling.

I also had said there was no depth to the character of Monty and that I didn’t buy the love triangle. Again, now this couldn’t be further from the truth. Colin Donnell brought so much to the role, and you could actually see Monty changing, or at least wanting to change and be better. And I definitely believed this odd triangle of people and the twists and turns of their relationships, thanks to the nuance that developed over the course of the run.

The show was extra emotional since it was the last performance, and everyone was giving it their all. There were extra riffs, milked moments of laughter, and super long applause breaks between numbers. It was quite the ride, and I’m so thrilled I was able to go back on the Violet bus for a second time.

Violet
Music by Jeanine Tesori, Book and Lyrics by Brian Crawley, Directed by Leigh Silverman
American Airlines Theatre, Closed August 10th
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Pictured: Sutton Foster and Alexander Gemignani


Video of the Week

Are you familiar with Adam Gwon’s music? He wrote the musical Ordinary Days which had a run at the Roundabout Underground several years back. His music is also often featured on the web series, Submissions Only.

I got to see Ordinary Days and have been known to repeatedly watch the videos of the cabaret evening when they celebrated the release of the cast recording. It’s a quirky, minimalist musical with four characters. I dig a lot of the music, but this song is the song. It’s a beautiful chorus with a heartbreaking story being told. I strongly recommend watching the whole number.

Enjoy “I’ll Be Here” performed by the lovely Lisa Brescia.

 


King Lear

King Lear

What a beautiful night in the park I had last week. Thanks to a dear friend who hooked me up with tickets, I took my dad to see his very first Shakespeare in the Park! I tried to see Much Ado About Nothing last month, and the performance was unfortunately canceled due to those insane hurricane rains. Thankfully, we had better luck with King Lear, and the weather could not have been more ideal for an evening of outdoor theatre.

King Lear is a striking production (click here for a montage), although I wasn’t fully engaged the whole time. The reviews have been very mixed, and I can see where they’re coming from. I’m giving the show a solid “good” (I should note – my dad thought it was excellent). While the play wavered and lost my rapt attention in spots, for the most part, I was hooked in with the action, which drove ever forward during the three-hour tragedy. I felt Act II especially found its stride.

The cast is led by the incomparable John Lithgow whose Lear is adamant and stubborn and sad. Witnessing him fall into madness leaves us full of pity despite the arrogance that blinds him in the first scene of the play (Lithgow kept a wonderful blog throughout the rehearsal process for the New York Times. I encourage you to check it out if you’re interested in reading more about the behind-the-scenes work). The Fool, played excellently by Stephen Boyer, brings humor and wit to all of his scenes. Another acting highlight, as always, is Jay O. Sanders as Kent. Sanders is a constant favorite of mine in the park. I have had the opportunity to see him in Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His performances are always vibrant, full, and clear in his choices, no matter the role size. Sheffer Stevens as Edmund is also strong; I very much enjoyed his work in Act I as he connives against Gloucester and Edgar.

A few of the performances fell flat for me, perhaps only compared to the more brazen Lithgow. Annette Bening and Jessica Hecht (as Goneril and Regan, respectively) – and I’m a big fan of both – didn’t stir me as much as I’d hoped. Whether this was a directing or acting choice I don’t know, but their cold and calculating deliveries left me wanting more. What’s bubbling beneath the surface? I wanted more real connection between the characters, no matter the quality of the relationship. Perhaps their distant nature further adds to what pushes Lear over the edge, but I craved something deeper. For example, I found the relationship that developed between Lear and his fool to be very touching. It is clear that despite their jokes, they deeply care for each other, and as Lear veers toward madness, you can see him reaching out to his fool in a desperate hope to stay grounded.

There is an ominous percussion underlying most of the action, which sets the looming mood in addition to creating the booming thunder of that infamous storm. One of the best aspects of the play is how extremely clear the language is. We heard every word thanks to excellent diction and a clear understanding from all of the actors as to what they were saying. So while occasionally stagnant, it’s certainly a worthy production worthy of your time.

King Lear
Written by William Shakespeare, Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Delacorte Theatre, Closing August 17th
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Pictured: Steven Boyer, Jay O. Sanders, John Lithgow, and Chukwudi Iwuji

 


You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me

Robin Williams

Robin Williams had one of those careers where you forget just how many momentous films he was in.

Of course, there are always the immediate ones that come to mind, a list that I’m sure varies from person to person. For me, it’s Aladdin, Hook, and Good Will Hunting. But then I scroll through his IMDB filmography, and I’m suddenly going down memory lane as I remember and realize how much my childhood was influenced and filled by his talent, humor, and presence. From watching FernGully on repeat, to Mork and Mindy, to Jumanji scaring the bejesus out of me with those enormous plastic spiders, to the iconic Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin was a constant in my young life.

And as I continue to sift through IMDB, I recall Dead Poets Society. Patch Adams. The Birdcage. Awakenings. One Hour Photo. And then there are the ones I have yet to see like What Dreams May Come, Toys, and Good Morning Vietnam (I know, I know. Maybe now I’ll finally get around to it). And that list doesn’t even touch half of the films he made – films which influenced audiences all around the world.

I don’t know how many of you watched his recent CBS show, The Crazy Ones (obviously not that many being that it didn’t get picked up for a second season). Nonetheless, I watched all of it and believe it was canceled prematurely. It was quirky and weird and maybe a little too out there, but it was hilarious and knew exactly what it wanted to be. Kind of like Robin.

I couldn’t fall asleep last night because I fell down the wormhole of watching clips and kept crying. As much as I’ve been saddened by some of the great actors we’ve lost in the last few years, this hits closer to home, as I imagine it might for many of the folks in my generation. We grew up with Mr. Williams. He shaped us. He taught us comedy, improvisation, voices, joy, and how to do an impression of a hot dog.

After I saw the news last night, I called my mom and said that I can’t believe we’re getting to a point where the generation of actors I grew up watching is dying. But we shouldn’t be there yet. Robin, you left us too soon. We will miss you and will continue to watch your films for years to come. Whenever we’re looking to be uplifted. Whenever we want to be inspired. And most importantly, whenever we’re in need of a laugh.

Bangarang, Peter.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255


Video of the Week

I’d like to start sharing a “Video of the Week.” Now admittedly, I’m not sure how consistent this will be, but if there’s a video that I’ve played on repeat, you can be sure to find it here for your own personal viewing. This could be anything from a Broadway performer I love to a song that I think you should hear to a moving performance of any sort.

I give you a beautiful song called “Do You Remember?” to kick things off. Although I’ve linked to it in an earlier post, I’m now going to dedicate a little more attention. It’s written by Pasek & Paul (A Christmas Story), the guys I told you about in my Dogfight post, and it’s performed by the glory that is Gavin Creel (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Hair). Based on the stories of Peter Pan, this video is from a concert of Pasek & Paul songs back in 2008. The lyrics are gorgeous, the melody kills me, and Gavin’s performance is mesmerizing. It’s a lesson in vocal control, and his storytelling is beautiful. It’s like he has a secret to share the entire time.

Enjoy, and see you next week.


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