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Posts Tagged ‘Broadway theatre’


Idina Menzel with Me and Rebecca Levey at the press conference announcing the contest!

Idina Menzel with Me and Rebecca Levey at the press conference announcing the contest!

Yesterday, I was at a press conferece with Idina Menzel.  Yep.  That’s me and her – right there with Rebecca Levey.

We were together to announce some special events at this year’s Kids Night on Broadway. And to ask this question: Is your kid Broadway’s biggest fan?

Because KidzVuz (my website for kids) and Kids Night on Broadway want to find Broadway’s biggest (kid) fan, and we’re having a contest to do just that.

I was a HUGE, theater geek.  I still am, actually.  But I never got a chance like this one:  KidzVuz and Kids Night on Broadway are giving away two family four packs of tickets to see a Broadway Show!  Amazing, right?  It’s the Broadway’s Biggest Fan contest – and it’s a contest for kids only (6-18) and it’s easy to enter.

But don’t take my word for it.  Here’s what the stars have to say about it.

What’s Kids Night on Broadway?  It’s an amazing, nationwide program where, when you buy a full price ticket to a Broadway or regional participating show, you get a ticket for a kid 6-18 – free.  Yep.  FREE!!!!

So get your kid on KidzVuz — and you and your whole family could be enjoying a Broadway Show as part of Kids Night on Broadway!

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Like lots of kids in my generation, I grew up listening to the songs of Godspell.  Even all these years later, I remember just about every word to every song.  But until last week, I hadn’t ever seen the show.

Godspell first appeared on stage in 1971 at a time when churches were losing people faster than Tweeters lose Klout. It was a very 1970’s response to the problem:  make Christianity fun.  Make it hip.  Make it youthful and accessible.  And it worked so well that  today, there are lots of copy cats using the same formula: Christian Rockers, Christian Rappers, Christian everything that used to un-religious in the art and music world.

So is there room for a Christian musical?  Well, yes and no.

The performances are terrific.  The young, energetic cast is working so hard at having fun it’s palpable.  SEEing them work at it is exhausting. They’re trying very hard. Maybe too hard? Still, the energy level is impressive, and their talent is too.  Standouts include Uzo Aduba who sings By my Side in a voice eerily like Tracy Chapman’s, Wallace Smith, as Judas, with charisma enough for ten men, (my daughter thought he should have played Jesus) and Lindsay Mendez’s Bless the Lord showed off a serious set of lungs!  That girl can sing!  They decided to cast a pretty surfer boy type – Hunter Parrish – as Jesus – which I found disconcerting, but that’s just me. And maybe it’s just me again – but I didn’t think he had the star power to carry the show – much less to inspire so much devotion. Talented? Yes.  That talented? Meh.

The music is as catchy, bouncy and hummable as ever. The set minimal and clever.  The book…well.  It’s scripture.  And that’s where the trouble came in: I don’t want to listen to scripture.  Just not my bag.  True there’s enough music to help you push past it.  And some innovative staging to distract you from the the fact that you’re being sermonized.  Still, it feels less like a musical when they’re talking than what I would imagine a hipster Church service to be like.

My two Bar Mitzvah bound kids were mostly confused by it.  They know who Jesus is – and they got plenty of the teachings – but they don’t know about Judas, or Mary Magdalene, or any of the rest of the story of his life and death.  And if you don’t know that, it’s a bit confusing.  They loved the singing, and that they were allowed on stage during intermission — even it it was, symbolically, to take communion. (Grape juice!).  And I loved the modernized references to pop culture – including texting and Facebook, and even Donald Trump.

I just kind of wished it had all been not so…pedantic when they stopped singing and started talking.  It’s a fault in the play rather than the production.  I’d rather see the  musical without the dialogue.  The songs, as should all songs in a musical, really do propel the story.  And for my Jewish, half-atheist self, that would have been more than enough.

Still – great music, talented cast, innovative direction — not half bad for a forty year old show that’s been resurrected for modern consumption.

Godspell  opens tonight at Circle in The Square Theater on Broadway. (at 50th St.)

If you’d like to see it, Get tickets using Discount Code: GSMDR79

$79.50 / $89.50 (Sat Eves)

Certain black-out dates apply

Valid through 12/23/11:

http://www.broadwayoffers.com/go.aspx?MD=2001&MC=GSMDR79

For more blog posts on Broadway’s Godspell visit MamaDrama.”

Disclosure: I received tickets to Godspell in exchange for a review. 

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Me as Heddy La Rue in my High School Production of How to Succeed...

I grew up in a family where sports were virtually non-existent. My father never watched a single game. My brother never played on a team. My mother couldn’t have named a single professional athlete.  My sister and I were wholly uninterested (and unskilled) at organized sports.  We weren’t un-coordinated.  My brother was a ski instructor in Utah, my sister was an excellent at figure skating, and me – well,  give me a dance step, and I’d learn it in a heartbeat. I was the star in every school play,  the soloist in every choral performance.

But until I became a mother myself, I didn’t realize just how much better it is to be the mother of a drama geek than a soccer-playing, baseball bat swinging, basketball, football or lacrosse ball hurling kid. Why? Read on.

1. Drama Moms never have to stand outside in sub-zero weather (more…)

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Image from BroadwayWorld.com

On average, I’d say my husband and I go to the theatre about 15 times a year — maybe even a bit more. Our kids?  Not so much.  A lot of the time, New York productions skew either too old (inappropriate) or too young (can you help the Princess find her way home? Clap three times everyone!).  We do love going to The New Victory, for unusual, innovative productions. I just bought our subscription for the year, as a matter of fact. But other than the occasional Broadway musical and the New Vic, the kids don’t go to the theatre with us very much. (Though we do go to dance: Alvin Ailey is a perennial favorite, as is Parsons Dance, as long as David Parson’s piece “Caught” is on the bill. Plus, I force them to see at least one classical ballet each year. Cuz I’m mean.)

My son has complained that he only ever gets to see musicals – never a play.  And I can’t say I disagree.  But do I really want him – does he really want – to sit through a meditation on the morality of war photographers, and the essence of what it means to be present? (Donald Margulies‘ Time Stands Still, last season at Manhattan Theatre Club) Would he enjoy a play about a small town that’s really about birth, death, and everything in between? (Will Eno’s Middletown, at The Vineyard Theatre last season.)

ummmm. No.

Which is why I was excited about War Horse, the hugely successful play from The Lincoln Center Theatre at the Vivian Beaumont. Based on the young adult novel by Michael Morpurgo, (more…)

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The new commercials say it all: 55 million people have seen Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway. And as of Saturday night, my daughter is one of them. (I had already seen it.  This was my second torture time.)

Want to know what my 10 year old daughter thought? “It’s beautiful!  I love the puppets and the costumes.  But it was long.  And kind of boring. It was like the Avatar of Broadway.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

The Avatar of Broadway!! What a perfect analogy!  James Cameron’s Avatar was gorgeous to look at, technically spectacular, and ultimately predictable, cliched, moralistic and boring as hell.  At least it had a message – however obvious and simplistic: We must protect the planet.  Not exactly profound, but at least admirable.

What’s the message of The Lion King?  Disobey your father and it might end up killing him? Make fart jokes and people will laugh? Cast cruise-ship caliber performers, put them on a Broadway Stage – and it’ll be Broadway?  I think not.

To me, Broadway is about – or I guess I should say SHOULD be about – innovation, great acting, challenging story lines. It should be about the best quality theatre can offer.  If I want to see Disney – and I love Disney, really I do, I’ll go to Disney World. I love the shows at Disney World.  The How-di-Do Dinner Show was one of my favorites.  But that’s because my expectation was that I was going to see, well, a How-di-do Dinner Show at Walt Disney World.  When I go to a Broadway Show, I expect more.

True, Julie Taymor’s opening of Disney’s The Lion King is innovative, visually spectacular, and almost makes the sitting through the rest of the plodding show worthwhile.  There were some isolated moments of innovation and beauty – the animals running through the ‘grass,’ the Xhosa spoken by the Baboon. But did the rest of the show have to be such a direct translation of the movie?  Does the Scar character really have to do an imitation of Jeremy Iron’s line readings?  Does Timon have to try to sound like Nathan Lane? (Thank God Harvey Fierstein didn’t voice the movie.  Who could imitate that?) One of the things about true theatre is that it’s always changing.  I’ve seen both Dustin Hoffman and Brian Dennehy in Death of a Salesman – and those actors gave performances so personal, it was like seeing two different plays. (You can bet I’m going to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in the role when director Mike Nicholls brings it to Broadway next Fall.)

Somehow, I doubt that The Lion King changes much from cast to cast.  It’s Disney, after all.  There’s no room for interpretation. The Disney Way or no way, is my guess.  And that’s not always a bad thing.  Inside the walls of Disney World, that makes sense.  Disney World is an alternate universe with it’s own rules for everything — even pointing out directions.  I can see how personal interpretations could spoil the fantasy.  That’s fine, in context.  But why teach a generation of young people that that’s what Broadway theater is, too?  That isn’t what it is.  Or at least not what it’s meant to be.

I know that financially speaking, Disney has helped Broadway a lot.  It has brought people to the theatre in great numbers.  But at what price?  What does it teach the countless children who have gone to see it about theatre?  That it’s essentially a commercial enterprise?  That it’s not really all that different from the movies?  That it doesn’t need to challenge or make you think? And it isn’t just the Lion King. Disney’s Mary Poppins on Broadway was – to my mind – a soulless bore.  It was impossible to imagine anyone loving the Mary Poppins character, because she wasn’t a character…she was a prop that they could make fly, and dance along rooftops.  Technically and visually speaking, it was impressive.  But so is “It’s a Small World”, and you don’t see Disney setting up little international cities inside a theatre on 42nd street, floating people through them in little boats and calling it Broadway Theatre, now do you?

Just because it’s on Broadway, doesn’t make it Broadway Theatre.

I think my feelings about The Lion King were only made worse by what I saw off-Broadway at The Vineyard Theatre the night before (and for a third of the price): a small spectacular performance piece (based on one by Spalding Gray) called Interviewing the Audience. Guess what it was?  A director, Zach Helm, interviewing, one at a time, three different people picked out of that night’s audience. That’s it.  The set was two chairs, a small area rug, and a few coffee tables.  There was water for the interviewees.  Nobody flew. Nobody (at least to my knowldge) farted. That night, Helm interviewed a middle-aged hotel concierge, a retired insurance consultant, and a recent college grad.  I can’t tell you exactly why it was wonderful – only that it was.  But I can tell you that for me, it embodied precisely what theatre is supposed to be: unexpected, entertaining, moving, profound, and open to interpretation. Also, that, as Helm pointed out, it was the only time the February 25th, 2011 performance of that show would ever occur.  There could never be another one like it.

If that isn’t a unique theatrical experience, I don’t know what is.

I know that with the price of mounting a Broadway show, most don’t meet the criterion I outlined above.  But wouldn’t it be nice if Disney – with all of it’s money – could produce a show that was all of those things? They have the power to make something spectacular. But I don’t think they even want to.  On each seat at the theatre where I saw The Lion King on Saturday Night was a survey:  How did you hear about the show?  How did you buy your tickets?  Have you seen any ads for the show?  Where did you see the ads? They didn’t ask what we thought of the show, if we liked it.  They only cared about the marketing.

And doesn’t that pretty much say it all?

 

 

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