Newsies on the Road

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I saw Disney’s Newsies the musical for the first time during opening week on Broadway in New York. I never knew much about the show and it blew me away. What I remember most about the show was the phenomenal dancing, all male dancing. There is something very powerful and mesmerizing about all those guys spinning, leaping and flipping in unison. The dancing is what I looked most forward to when I got the invite to review the show at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

It did not disappoint.  I can’t tell you how many times the choreography gave me chills. It was honestly better than I remembered. Seize the Day had me wanting to run from the theater to start changing the world for the better, while simultaneously completing insanely difficult dance moves and acrobatic tricks. However, the dancing wasn’t the only part of the performance that had me moving. This time the lead girl, Katherine, truly resonated with me.

I’ve been slacking on work lately…. Even after 16 months I can’t seem to juggle stay-at-home Mom/blogger/tutor/what have you. (Although, I have discovered many other bloggers secret: a babysitter. I should really look into those…) In any case, the female star of Newsies, Katherine played by Stephanie Styles, is a true hardworking, witty, stand-up for what is right, seize the day kinda gal. She’s basically a Lorelei Gilmore for the 19th century, and I adore her. In fact she’s this week’s #wcw.

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Her character, which doesn’t even exist in the movie, is a super cool girl that you not only want your daughters to look at as a role model, but that you yourself will look up to and love. There are a few notable changes between the movie and the musical, and in my opinion, they improved the show, especially with Katherine’s character. It’s nice to have the strong woman who can hold her own in the almost all male cast.

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Speaking of the male cast, they are bursting with talent. Yeah, they can dance their asses off, but they can also sing as well as any other musical cast, act and entertain an audience that ranges in age from preschoolers to senior citizens. Husband and I were both impressed and entertained from beginning to end.

date night

If you want to see Newsies in Nashville, you have a few nights left to catch it! For those of you outside of Tennessee, don’t forget to check out their tour schedule. AND, for all the locals you MUST take a peek at the line up for next year’s Broadway season! I am stoked!!!

Cheers!

We’ve Got Magic to Do… Just for You

I am one lucky blogger. Last night, I got to review Pippin at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. I miss seeing and reviewing shows in New York so much, but I am so grateful that TPAC offers opportunities to see so many amazing musicals throughout the year. Thanks to them, I get a little taste of Broadway about once a month, and Pippin was the show of choice this month.

pippin

I actually saw Pippin in New York about a year and a half ago, when Husband and I took a little NY vacation. To be honest, I liked the show, but I didn’t love it. I don’t know if we were just too tired or too pregnant, but I remember feeling confused and unhappy with the ending. Last night, I arrived with small expectations and few memories of the show. Then, it completely blew me and my expectations away.

Pippin is fantastic.

It is a combo of cirque du soleil, magic, Fosse dance moves, scantily clad performers, satire, burlesque, comedy, murder and love. Could you squeeze anything else into a 2.5 hour show? It is entertaining from beginning to end, and while it is sometimes hard to decipher exactly where and when the story is taking place, it doesn’t really matter. It’s Pippin’s journey to find meaning in his life and the unbelievable talent and stage presence of the “leading player”. And, yes that’s the name in the playbill, for that character has no actual given name.

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The Leading Player is being played by Sasha Allen (from season 4 of The Voice), and she is phenomenal. When she is on stage you cannot help, but watch every move she makes. She is flawless and has a powerful voice. Another character who took my breath away is Berthe, Pippin’s Grandmother, played by Priscilla Lopez. She is 67 sings, dances and performs aerial stunts better than any 30-year old I know. I aim to be her when I grow up.

Terrence Mann, left, foreground, and Patina Miller in the musical "Pippin."

The show ends with a meaningful lesson, as well as an uncomfortable idea. True happiness may be found in the most simple joys of life, but time and time again, each generation will question whether their life had any meaning at all.

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Pippin will be at TPAC until March 15th. Get your tickets here, and check out dates in other cities here.

Cheers

These Teens Will Never be the Same

Two days ago, I was invited to cover one of the coolest events I’ve ever witnessed. The Tennessee Performing Arts Center along with Cydi Laupers’s True Colors hosted a behind the scenes day for Nashville’s Oasis Center. It was so inspiring and touching to watch this event, the kids and the professionals who made it happen, but before I tell you all the amazing details, I should give you some quick cliff-notes on the organizations involved so you truly understand the impact of the day.

true colors

True Colors is the organization that put this whole shindig together. This organization was founded by THE Cyndi Lauper, and its mission is “to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, creating a world in which young people can be their true selves”. I chatted with their Community Organizer Intern, Cassie, and learned that this is all put together by their “Raise You Up” program, which involves Kinky Boots with a community organization. She also informed me that 40% of homeless youth is from the LGBT community (mostly due to family rejection), which is clearly unacceptable and why True Colors is so dedicated to helping these kids.

oasis

Then, there is the heart of this whole operation, the Oasis Center. This local organization is HUGE. It serves about 4,000 local youths a year, and it’s mission is to “provide safety and support to  the most vulnerable and disconnected youth…it seeks to provide resources that allow them to transform their situations and prepare them for productive fulfilling lives”. That’s perhaps the most important mission ever, to encourage the future, our youth. I also had the pleasure of speaking with Pam, the program director, who taught me lots about the Oasis Center. Their were a limited number of teens/ youth that could attend this special event, so Oasis brought a group of LGBT kids as well as some that have a strong interest in theater. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of the kids who were on the list to go, showed up, on time and ready to learn. That’s some kind of miracle, because as all us teachers know, students are never ever all present, on time and ready to learn. These particular kids knew they were in for something special.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect when I entered the main lobby of the theater yesterday. I did not know the age of the kids, how they would behave, how interesting the tour would, or would not, be and very little about either organization. I met up with the group of teenagers right before they entered the largest theater to watch the cast of Kinky Boots rehearse. Oh my, the look on their faces as the cast began singing and dancing was priceless. That one moment was worth my drive to TPAC.

in theatre

There was one boy in particular, a talented young dancer, who was so lit up when the dancing began. You could see the wheels turning as he watched the insane choreography being rehearsed on stage. Like, he all of a sudden realized, “Oh, I can do this, this could be my future.” As the number ended, the small group of teens erupted in applause, even though they were told not to make a peep. They couldn’t help themselves, and the cast certainly didn’t mind the appreciation.

We were all then taken backstage for a little behind the scenes tour. The kids got to see what a dressing room looks like, where costumes are kept, how the cast enters and exits and lots of other cool ins and outs of the backstage world. I think everyone’s favorite part was seeing the thigh-high high-heeled sparkling boots in everyone’s dressing room.

We ended in a conference room, where the kids had the opportunity to listen, learn and ask questions to part of the Kinky Boots crew and several staff members from TPAC. You may think this sounds boring, but I promise you it was far from it! I learned so much myself that I’m ready to put in my application! These teens got to learn about the coolest jobs in the theater business that most of us either don’t think about, or didn’t even know existed. The staff told them their background (some theater, some not), their experience (EVERYONE lived in NYC at one point or another), how they got their job (work hard! do what you love! learn! be scrappy!) and some funny personal experiences (one involving a Barney suit). The, they were able to ask whatever questions they wanted! Once again, you could see their eyes light up, the wheels turning and the excitement, excitement about their own dreams and ambitions.

meeting

I was so impressed with these young people. They were genuinely interested in everything they were being presented. They were polite, respectful, enthusiastic and asked some really great questions. (My favorite was, what was the best/worst play you ever worked?) This wasn’t even the end of the day. Yes, there was more.

Once the speakers finished, the kids got to eat dinner (pizza and soda) before going to see the entire musical themselves! THEN, after the show, they got to stay for a Q&A with the cast! Who gets an opportunity like this? I grew up in a nice area, went to great schools and never got to do anything this cool. Teenage Hilarie is super envious of them. These at-risk teens got an experience of a life-time. They were exposed to talents, jobs, art, culture and career options that they otherwise would have likely never known existed. That is amazing.

HUGE thank you to the True Colors Fund for selecting Nashville as your second city to participate in this program! Also, if any of you are interested in donating, volunteering or somehow getting involved with the Oasis Center please visit this link. TPAC, as always, you rock.

Cheers!

These Boots are Made for Watching

Kinky Boots is in Nashville!!!! EEEEEeeeee! I LOVE this show. I saw it on Broadway in New York when it opened and actually sat right behind Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein (the creators of the musical).It was a magical night of drag queens, glitter, shoes, high kicks and British accents. Can  you ask for more? Yes. You can ask to see the show again, the traveling show. Lucky me. I got to see it for a second time last night at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

kinkyboots

My friend, Bella, and I went together and because we love dressing up, we decided to dress the part, which can best be described as….well, kinky. That’s really just a nice way to say we looked like hookers, cute hookers. TPAC was decked out for the show. They had the usual huge crowd, themed snacks and souvenirs, but they also had a shoe cam. It’s like the one you see on the E! network.

workin' it!
workin’ it!

The BEST part was seeing Tony (one of TPAC’s best employees) dressed in the iconic red high-heeled boots! From across the room a spotted a photo backdrop and a line of people waiting to take their photo with who I assumed was a cast member. I then see Tony’s head peaking through the crowd and thought he must be doing crowd management. Then, the crowds parts just enough that I spot the boots… the red boots on Tony’s feet! It was amazing, and yeah we definitely took advantage of that Kodak moment.

tony

 

Before the show began we took the theme one step further and ordered ourselves a double of the “Kinky Boots” drink, delicious BTW. One minute before showtime we finally got to our seats, settled in, took a sip of our pink drink and got read for a show unlike any other.

red boots

 

Kinky Boots is a musical based off of a movie based on a true story. The story is of two boys with two dreams. One dreams of dancing in high heels. One dreams of doing anything, but running the family business, a shoe making factory. As adults. the first boy is a very talented drag queen in London, the latter is forced to run the shoe factory when his father unexpectedly passes away. The factory is failing quickly and the son has no clue how to save it in everyone he loves’ jobs. The two very different young men cross paths unexpectedly and together they not only learn how to save the business, but also discover the importance of accepting others and being true to yourself.

Throughout the heartwarming and hilarious story are some seriously impressive musical numbers. The music and lyrics reminds me of classic Broadway hits, but the dancing is like none other. It’s not often you see grown men doing high-kicks, splits, back handsprings and a myriad of other moves in 6-inch heels. Well… I guess it’s possible you do see this often, depending on what clubs you frequent, but I guarantee you that you have yet to see this level of talent.

The show rocked. We left feeling excited, happy and desperate to go shoe shopping.

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Kinky Boots will be playing at TPAC until February 8th! GO SEE IT! You may even spot a celebrity… Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson were there last night. Check out show details and future shows here. If you don’t live around Nashville (shame on you), check out the tour dates here.

Cheers!

Blue Man Group Review!

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“Dude that was bad-a@#,” was the first thing my friend said when we stepped outside after seeing Blue Man Group perform at TPAC this Tuesday. “My mom and brother definitely need to see this!” he followed up with as we walked through downtown Nashville to our car. I really have to agree with him; you definitely have to see this.

The Blue Man Group, if you don’t already know, started in the late 1980s as a group of three friends who were a little burnt out on the consumerism of the times and decided to make a show that’s somewhat anti-technology and pro real-life interaction. It’s really hard to believe if you haven’t heard of them; they have permanent shows  in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Orlando and Las Vegas, a US National and an International Tour and a plus they were in all those Intel commercials, come on!

The show is pretty hard to describe. Well I guess I could describe it pretty accurately, but you’d never understand what I was talking about; “Wait so they eat Twinkies with an audience member and then the Twinkies spray out of a tube in their chest…?” Also, I’d hate to give away too much but I’ll just explain it generally. As you enter the theater, and find your seats, you’ll notice a quote on stage that says something about the best way to make new friends is to have an experience together, be it cooking a meal, making some art or having a dance party. While you wait there are scrolling marquees on the sides of the stage that at first display normal messages about not talking or using your phone, but gradually get more and more absurd, eventually calling out specific audience members and having the crowd sing happy birthday to them. And then it starts.

Through the hour and a half or so performance, you’ll get a combination of crazy loud  bass thumping music, played by the Blue Men themselves and a live rock band on stage, and comedic scenes where it almost seems like the actors are aliens, who have no knowledge of, Captain Crunch for example. Again I don’t want to spoil anything but the show ends with a dance party that will have your fist pumping, butt shaking and ears ringing long after its over.

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This was the third time I’ve seen the Blue Man Group (once in New York and once in Orlando) and this traveling show is just as fun and crazy as the others. My friend who went to see this performance with me was a little worried that he might fall asleep, having been up very early in the morning. I promise you, even if he had wanted to sleep he couldn’t have; Blue Man Group has you dancing, laughing and questioning what is going on for the whole night and you seriously don’t wanna miss it. And if I actually convinced you, Blue Man Group is performing through January 11th at the Tennessee Performing Art Center in Nashville and then in Ohio and Michigan and all over the country after that.

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Hello! Book Of Mormon Came to Nashville!

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Wednesday night the biggest show on Broadway premiered in Nashville. Surely, you have all heard of the Book of Mormon. It’s huge, it’s crazy popular, award-winning and very controversial. Before I review the show we saw in Nashville, I think I need to give you a brief synopsis.The biggest question I’ve gotten from people pertaining to the show is “Is it offensive?” And, honestly, the answer just depends on how sensitive you are.

Let me explain, The Book of Mormon is a musical that follows two brand new Mormon missionaries who are unexpectedly paired together and sent to Uganda. They imagine living on the set of Lion King while spreading the word of God and baptizing dozens of Africans into their religion. However, Uganda turns out to be the scariest place they’ve ever imagined and is riddled with disease, crime, death and people who don’t exactly trust that any God will fix all their troubles. The story that ensues is the most ridiculous, hilarious and brilliant show that’s hit Broadway (as far as I’ve seen). It sounds like a serious story, but it’s full of tap dancing, an electric guitar playing Satan, science fiction character cameos and some of the worst language you have ever heard.

tour

So, back to that question…is it offensive? Well, if blasphemy, cursing, gay jokes, mocking of religion or suggestive moves and language offends you, then yes. This shows will probably be the most offensive form of entertainment you have ever seen. You have to remember that Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the creators of South Park) are 2 of the 3 creators of the Book of Mormon. These two men may be crude, but they are wickedly smart and talented. The show is filthy, but it’s also full of heart. The two main characters are truly trying to better the world, and you can’t help but love and root for them. Vogue magazine explains it best…

the filthiest, most offensive, and—surprise—sweetest thing you’ll see on Broadway this year, and quite possibly the funniest musical ever.

We saw the show for the first time in New York and were lucky enough to see it performed by the original cast, including Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad.I can only imagine that seeing these two perform the roles they originated is equivalent to seeing Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth perform Wicked. No one can compare. Then there’s the songs. We LOVE the soundtrack to the Book of Mormon, and my favorite song is by far “I Believe”. I know every inflection and get goosebumps every time at the end, so hearing someone else sing it even slightly differently isn’t easy.

Book of Mormon Tour

The two starts of the Book of Mormon tour group are no Andrew Rannells or Josh Gad, but they do an incredible job filling such big and talented shoes. Although, the standout star was by far, Denee Benton. She plays the lead female role, Nabulungi, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Remember her name, I am certain she is going to be huge one day.

denee

Compared to the version we saw in NY, the tour is very close to being just as amazing. The final notes of “I believe” aren’t earth shattering, but the singing, the comedic timing, the dancing and acting are phenomenal, maybe even the best Broadway tour I’ve seen. The show has stuck with me and I have had the songs in my head all day. Actually, I have a feeling the show stuck with most people.

My favorite part about seeing the show last night was hearing the shock in the crowd as each joke got cruder, every line more offensive and song more crass. You could literally hear the room gasp and then roar with laughter. The audience definitely seemed surprised at the amount of profanity in a Broadway musical, but still appreciated the well intended story and the clever lines. I didn’t hear one negative comment as we exited the theatre.

MORMON THEATER REVIEW 3

If you ever hear of Book of Mormon coming anywhere near you, you better get online and purchase tickets the minute they’re available. Those puppies sale like hotcakes and you are going to be very sad if you miss this show. Check out their tour dates here. And, of course, remember to look at TPAC’s upcoming schedule. They’ve got some good shows coming up!

Cheers!

The Many Tales of Camelot

It isn’t until last night that I realized just how much King Arthur has been a part of my life. There was The Sword in the Stone that I watched numerous times as a child. Then, there was Monty Python and the Holy Grail that we all loved in high school. I was lucky enough to see Spamalot in my early twenties, and then last night I saw the musical, Camelot for the first time. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t know this musical existed until recently, but thrilled to say that I have now been able to experience it.

Don't you want to watch this again? I do!
Don’t you want to watch this again? I do!
And this??
And this??
And, this is another musical everyone should make an effort to see.
And, this is another musical everyone should make an effort to see.

After a very busy day of errands and baby duty yesterday, I was relieved to get away for a few hours and head downtown all dressed up to see another Broadway show at Tennessee Performing Arts Center. This place is starting to feel like a second home, and I am not complaining. Between the Broadway shows, the ballets and the myriad of other events I am making the drive to this theatre very often. Nashville is lucky to have such a nice theatre and the opportunity to see so many shows.

camelot

Anyways, I’ve gone off track now. Back to Camelot! Camelot the musical is based off of T. H. White‘s novel The Once and Future KingIt tells the story of Arthur, how he becomes king, falls in love with the beautiful Guenevere, learns from Merlin, attempts world peace and is eventually betrayed by everyone he loves. It’s actually fairly heartbreaking. It has just enough laughs to keep it somewhat light-hearted and fun, but I left feeling sad for Arthur. I wanted to hug him, pat his head and say “there, there, it will all be alright”.

OH, what I would do to see Julie Andrews perform...
OH, what I would do to see Julie Andrews perform…

That isn’t to say, I did not enjoy the show. I loved it. While it’s slightly old fashion (Hello! Julie Andrews and Richard Burton originated the roles!), it remains classic. War & peace, men in tights, magic tricks, love triangles, bloodshed and dysfunctional families never get old. Adam Grabau, who plays King Arthur, is phenomenal! He began the show with a passionate and almost frightening speech, but quickly transformed to a clueless funny young King. I couldn’t get enough of his character. I’d say he stole the show, but the local boy at the end, who played Tom of Warwick, was pretty impressive.

The show brought back many fond memories of the various other forms of King Arthur’s tale that I grew up loving. Now, I have one more version of Camelot to enjoy!

If you are planning to see the show head to TPAC’s website for more info. If you aren’t local then visit the Camelot National Tour’s website for cities and dates.

Cheers!