One Day More

Last night I saw (for – shockingly – the first time), a production of Les Miserables. This was the current North American tour and it was pretty darned good. 

One moment, at the opening of act two, Phoenix Best as Eponine sings “On My Own.” At one moment, she holds a note. The music stops. Then she stops and in otherwise utter silence, her last note echoed, resonated, lingered through the Peace Center auditorium. It was quite literally breathtaking. 

I can see why people get emotionally attached to Les Miz. 

Here’s my review of Les Miserables on BroadwayWorld

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Act One

I’m currently reading (listening to, actually) Act One, an autobiography by Moss Hart. It’s both a seminal theatre work and a highly enjoyable read (listen).

Moss Hart co-wrote several classics, including You Can’t Take It With You, a play I did in high school (which reminds me of a line from the New York Times review of a recent revival: “Those who saw, or performed in, You Can’t Take It With You in high school should not let that trauma taint the Broadway revival of that show.”).

Hart also directed the original productions of My Fair Lady and Camelot, so the guy was no slouch.

This is a book that, frankly, I wish I’d read when I was young and impressionable. His drive and ambition, as well as his ability to keep going despite setbacks, is inspirational. I suspect this book resulted in a lot of people moving to NYC over the years, in pursuit of theatrical careers. But few of them had Hart’s talent or – as he would likely be the first to admit – his luck. It’s a wonderful story, well told.

UPDATE:

I finished this afternoon and the ending is fantastic. What a story. What a life.

Frank Rich wrote this about Act One, and it encapsulates the book’s appeal: “Hart’s memoir is one of the great American autobiographies because it gives a certain kind of reader hope. It says you can escape a home where you feel you don’t belong, you can escape a town you find suffocating, you can follow a passion (the theater, but not just the ­theater) that is ridiculed by your peers, you can—with hard work, luck, and stamina—forge a career doing what you love. However modest or traumatic your beginnings, you can find your way to Oz—and you don’t have to go back to Kansas anymore.”

Fun Home, starring my Close Personal Friend, Kate Shindle

A couple of weeks ago I saw the musical Fun Home and it was terrific.

Quick back story: in early 1999, I went on a Birmingham TV news show to promote a production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile (I played Einstein in the show). In the green room, I met Miss America, Kate Shindle. She was clearly smart and quick-witted as well as friendly and charismatic and I liked her immediately. So when I saw that Kate was starring in Fun Home, I began to really look forward to seeing it. And I was not disappointed. She was fantastic and so was the show.

There are so many things to unpack, so many layers, so much truth. My close personal friend Kate is excellent. I was also impressed with the actress who played young Alison as well as the dad and the mom and the girlfriend, Joan. But more than any of them I really loved Abby Corrigan as the college-aged Alison. There’s something about her that really stands out. A fantastic performance. It’s also got a great set and lighting. It’s the kind of show I want to write a college essay about. If it comes to your town, see it.

Ghost and Mrs. Manwaring

Last night I saw a dress rehearsal for Ghost – The Musical, which opens this week at Centre Stage in downtown Greenville, SC.

Since this was technically still a rehearsal, it wouldn’t be fair to write a full review. But I can report that some wonderful performances anchor the production and that the audience absolutely loved it.

Paige Manwaring and David Bean head the ensemble as Molly and Sam (played in the original movie by Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze). I loved their chemistry, their emotion, and their strong, evocative voices. Honestly, they are two of my favorite local performers and they instantly won over this audience, as well. I also loved Gisele Gathings as Oda Mae Brown (the Whoopi Goldberg part) and loved to hate Joshua Thomason as Carl. Because this isn’t a real review, I’ll also share how much I enjoyed seeing Kristofer Parker in the ensemble. I worked with Kristofer in Hairspray years ago (Paige Manwaring was also in that production of Hairspray and she was the PERFECT Amber Von Tussle). I always admire the precision and energy in Kristofer’s dancing, and he demonstrated that again last night.

Last week BroadwayWorld published my interview with Ghost – The Musical‘s director, Glenda Manwaring. In it, she shares her hope that audiences “feel the joy, sadness and uplifting ‘spirits’ in our production and be glad that they came.”

Judging from last night’s performance, audiences are going to be very glad indeed.

South Pole Station

I went through a long period of fascination with Antarctica, especially the doomed Scott expedition. I don’t know how much of that was spurred by the 20th Century Vole motion picture and how much might have been just a natural progression from the general cuteness of penguins. In high school, I wanted to mount a production of Terra Nova, but our drama teacher just laughed at me. In the nineties, I filled out an application to join Antarctic Support Associates and become a south pole worker.

 

I recently finished listening to a very entertaining novel called South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby and when it was done I was glad I’d never actually mailed that application.

The book gives an insider look at pole life while also offering sharp characters and some interesting discussions of science. I had some visceral reactions (which, for good or ill, I tweeted to the author) and generally found myself eager to return to the audiobook as often as I could. I loved it.

GLT’s Miracle on 34th Street Affirms the Magic of Christmas

Theatre review originally published November 30, 2016 in the Greenville News.

For those of a certain age, Miracle on 34th Street is one of a handful of beloved holiday films that played in regular rotation each December. Others were such classics as White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, and various versions of A Christmas Carol. The dialogue and characters – and the actors who brought them to life – are as familiar as our own childhood living rooms.

Others may not have been so lucky. Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical, now playing at Greenville Little Theatre, tries to capture both audiences. It sticks close to the original screenplay, about a Macy’s Santa who may actually be the real thing, while adding a few songs to help give it a more theatrical appeal. Continue reading “GLT’s Miracle on 34th Street Affirms the Magic of Christmas”

From the Deep Archives – Sebastian Bach, Superstar: Former Skid Row lead singer plays Jesus at Peace Center

This interview was originally published in Creative Loafing.

When a replacement was needed to play the lead in the Broadway musical Jekyll and Hyde, theatre execs decided to look for someone from the world of rock and roll in hopes of attracting a different audience to the play, then in its fourth year. They turned to Sebastian Bach, former lead singer of the hard rock band Skid Row (who scored with hits like their Slave to the Grind album and the singles “18 and Life” and “I Remember You”). New audiences came to the show, pleasing the producers and creating a new career path for a rock and roller who was tiring of life on the road. But now that he’s starring in a revival of the “rock opera” Jesus Christ Superstar, Bach comes full circle.

“Right before Broadway,” Bach recalled in a recent telephone conversation, “I was on the road with my solo band, doing 90 dates across the U.S., and I was like, man, wouldn’t it be great if I could just play in one place and the crowds could come to me instead of all this traveling. Then I got on Broadway, so that came true. Then when I was on Broadway, I was like, man, what a drag it is that this is only in one city, I’d love to take this around to all the other cities. And now that’s exactly what I get to do.   I get to bring Jesus Christ Superstar, the Broadway show, to Greenville and I’m so excited about that.” Continue reading “From the Deep Archives – Sebastian Bach, Superstar: Former Skid Row lead singer plays Jesus at Peace Center”

From the Deep Archives – A Typical Day at Jim’s Garage: Flat Rock Premieres Endearing, Laid-Back Musical

Theatre review originally published in MetroBeat.

At Jim’s Garage, an auto repair shop in a small North Carolina town, you’re as likely to hear the mechanics singing as tune up your car. Jim, the amiable owner/operator, keeps a guitar on him at all times. As for the shop’s three mechanics, the laid-back ZZ burns up both an upright and electric bass, while Purvis, the town stud just back from the military, plays lead guitar and Dee usually sings back up. Dee is the newest mechanic, and she (yes, she) knows her way around a carburetor, sports an angelic voice and has a few ideas that might just shake up the auto industry. The shop’s receptionist, Ivy, also sings back-up and is certain that if she’s chosen as the pin-up girl for this year’s Jim’s Garage calendar, that’ll be her ticket to the big time. Merle, the straightlaced bookkeeper, takes his place on piano and mandolin. And if you’re really lucky, Purvis’ Aunt Ethyl may show up, eager to add her voice to the proceedings before inviting you to a pig-pulling.

That’s a typical day at Jim’s Garage, the endearing and “high octane” country musical now making its world premiere at Flat Rock Playhouse.

Continue reading “From the Deep Archives – A Typical Day at Jim’s Garage: Flat Rock Premieres Endearing, Laid-Back Musical”