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.
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.
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.
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.
If you read Saturday’s post you know I was lucky enough to review the traveling production of I Love Lucy: Live on Stage, and probably more excited about it than most. Pretty much anything with Lucy on it excites me. I once ran across a theme park, losing my friends, in order to take a picture with a Lucy impersonator. Knowing this, I’ll try my best to give a fair review.
The show is set-up to make the audience feel like we are at an actual taping of the famous sitcom. There are scenes from Lucy and Ricky’s house as well as Ricky’s club set up, a director, a host to keep the crowd entertained and even performers to entertain (and advertise) between takes. It’s all set in the 1950’s and they don’t step out of this setting for even a moment. In fact we were never asked to turn off our cell phones, but we were reminded that those fancy pants 35mm cameras.
The play showed 2 episodes from I Love Lucy and a few outtakes between the scenes. Sirena Irwin and Bill Mendieta (Lucy and Ricky) are the stars of the show and truly do an amazing job embodying these classic characters. Their comedic timing is perfect, Ricky’s frustration is real and Lucy’s cries, crazy faces and antics are all there. Then, there’s Fred and Ethel, played by Kevin Remington and Joanna Daniels, they are equally as funny. Fred does little jigs and moves his big belly around the stage with no shame. Ethel is perhaps the most realistic of all the characters. Joanna manages to sound, look and act exactly like the Mrs. Mertz I grew up watching. It has everything you’d expect when watching any I Love Lucy episode.
It was a little odd to watch other actors perform such iconic roles and scenes. It was kind of like when some random American Idol contestant belts out your all-time favorite song, it just isn’t right. But, after about 15 minutes, I managed to be sucked in enough to feel like I was watching old episodes being played out in front of me. Since, I’m a sucker for cheesy comedies from the 50’s I really ate up the performances between the takes. They had the “Crystaltone Singers” dance and sing jingles for us to fill the commercial time. They sang about alka seltzer, shampoo and a myriad of other ridiculous products. It was cute, very funny and exactly what I imagine people enjoyed watching 50 years ago.
Overall, the show was great. Being a true I Love Lucy fan (or fanatic), made the experience very nostalgic and even a little magical. It was a very special experience. Husband is not an I Love Lucy fan. He never watched the show growing up and I’ve yet to convince him to watch the series, even though I have the entire collection on DVD in my nightstand. However, on the way home from the play he not only admitted to enjoying the show, but said he wants to go back and watch some of the episodes now.
I was glad we both loved the show, but I have to say that our entire experience was not exactly perfect, and it has nothing to do with the show itself. We have never ever in our entire lives sat around such rude and inappropriate people in an audience, and we have been to A LOT of shows. There was the “I’m with the media!” woman who insisted it was necessary to take crappy photos on her iPhone throughout the show. Then there was the drunk “I need to explain every joke and finish each line with the actors” girl, who actually began moving and dancing along with the actors. Husband was lucky enough to sit next to weezy-laughy-woohoo loudly through the entire show lady. And, in front of us was the “I can talk over the actors as much as I want because I apparently think I’m in my living room” old woman. At on point the girl next to me actually explained to me that when Ricky said “wild duck chase” it was funny because he means “wild goose chase”, get it? Clearly, these people have never been out of their house. It was so bad, that Husband and I couldn’t even stay irritated, we ended up just laughing at the whole ridiculous situation. We only wished we had a flask to turn it into a drinking game…if I could drink of course.
Anyways, you should definitely check out the show if you’re in Nashville, and if you aren’t the check out their touring calendar. Fans will adore it and even non-fans will enjoy it. Just try to sit by people who have at least a Kindergartner’s knowledge of proper theatre etiquette. If not, then pack a flask.
I was a HUGE dork growing up. One prime example of this fact is that I loved everything on Nick on Nite. Every night I put my TV on TV Land in hopes of catching TV classics like Mr. Ed, Dick Van Dyke, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Patty Duke Show, the Munsters and Laverne and Shirley. I adored these classic comedies, but the show I looked forward to most and watched religiously was I Love Lucy. Lucille Ball was the most hilarious person I had ever seen and my Mom and I spent many nights watching marathons of old episodes and laughing the night away.
When I was about ten years old I came across some old I Love Lucy paraphernalia while on vacation and had to have it. I don’t think I have ever been so excited about a purchase in my life! It was two tin lunch boxes with scenes from my favorite show and they quickly became my most prized possessions. As the years passed, Lucy collectibles became more and more popular and soon everyone I knew was buying me “Lucy” stuff for every holiday. By the time I was 16, my entire room was decked out in I Love Lucy collectibles (told you…huge dork).
During my first year of college I actually entered a Halloween costume contest dressed as Lucy from the famous “Vitameatavegamin” episode. I had my own bottle of vitameatavegamin and reenacted the entire scene…seriously, can’t make this stuff up.
I am admitting these humiliating details of my life so when I tell you how excited I was about not only going to see the traveling production of “I Love Lucy: Live on Stage“, but getting to interview the stars of the show dressed in their full costume and make-up, you understand that I was truly over the moon with this opportunity.
“I Love Lucy: Live on Stage” is currently showing at TPAC (the Tennessee Performing Arts Center) in Nashville until February 2nd. Opening week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sirena Irwin (Lucy Ricardo) and Bill Mendieta (Ricky Ricardo). I met with the two stars of the show on their lunch break and got to know a bit about their life, background in theatre and Lucy experience with a couple other local reporters. (BTW: they were very chatty.)
Me: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, your background before becoming Lucy and Ricky?
Sirena: Let’s see, I have been involved in comedy out in L.A. for a while and have done lots of work in cartoons. I was lucky enough to be cast on Spongebob Squarepants. I’m still on that show, thankfully, I play Spongebob’s Mom, Mr. Crab’s Mom and basically any random women on the show. From that, I started doing many other shows…Batman, the Brave and the Bold, HollyHobby, etc, etc. Besides that, I always did theatre in L.A., which for me is just a place that I love. I always did at least one, maybe two productions a year. I’ve done sketch comedy and improv and even worked with Rick Sparks, our director of I Love Lucy, a few times. He actually called me up and asked if I wanted to audition for the role and I said “of course”! I went in and prepared “Vitameatavegamin”, a song, and was prepared for some improv. I came at a real deficit because I didn’t have a deep understanding of I Love Lucy. I didn’t even grow up with a television. It wasn’t until I was in an acting class when a woman asked if I’d seen much I Love Lucy. I told her I hadn’t, but realized I really should. She then invited me to her home to borrow her own collection. Her name was Paula Stewart and she had played Lucille Ball’s younger sister in the Broadway play Wildcat. She told me a lot about her relationship with Lucille and showed me letters Lucy had written her and other personal artifacts. That is basically my journey up until this show.
Bill: My journey…I did a lot of theatre, I grew up in San Francisco with a family that is all involved in the arts, so performing is always something that we just did for each other. I did all types of theatre, but when I moved down to L.A. I got more involved in the TV and film business, but was still doing theatre. Before I did this, I did a production of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and that was really fun. I’ve done some directing over the years too and directed some comedies which has definitely helped with this project. When this came around and I saw a notice for the auditions I knew it was going to be a great script because it’s I Love Lucy. Of course Ricky has great material, and he gets to sing, and he gets to lead a band…this is going to be a really fun project. Originally, this was going to be a three-week project and I thought okay, cool, not much of a commitment, and now…
Me: 4 years later…here you are!
Bill: Right?! The show was first tested in Los Angeles where it did really well. We then moved to Chicago, where it was a great success, and bringing on a National tour seemed to be the next logical step. The cast has changed a little from place to place, but we have also become a family. It’s been such a great experience.
Sirena: He’s right. Playing this role for so many years and for so many audiences has been a real lesson in comedy. Just getting to know the show, the characters and stepping into these roles has been like a degree in comedy. Doing this live we get instant feedback and we know if we hit it just right or if we are a beat off. We never tire of it because every show and every audience is different.
Me (to Bill): So, were you a Lucy fan at all growing up?
Bill: We watched the show as a family like we watched lots of classic comedies, but as a child I felt so frustrated with Lucy! I always thought “Why did she do that? They could be rich! They could do this or that, she is ruining everything!”
Me: And, now that’s your job!
Bill: I know! And, that’s the point of situational comedy. But, I did always think that Ricky Ricardo was very cool.
Other Reporter: What was the process after getting these two roles?
Sirena: After I received the call from Rick Sparks, saying I got the part, I tried to talk him out of it. “Are you sure you don’t want an impersonator or someone who has lived with this longer than me?” I felt like I was coming at such a deficit. Ultimately, they wanted to give ma shot, and I had a lot of work to do, but I really owe a lot to do them to have given me this opportunity and trusted me to do the work and learn this role. I’ve read, and am still reading, Lucy books every evening.
Another reporter: And can you tell us a little about the show?
Sirena: Rick Sparks really wanted this to be a Valentine to I Love Lucy, but also a love letter to the beginning of the television era. He wants the audience to come in and understand what it’s like to watch the show being shot live in front of them.
Bill: They shot the show with three cameras in front of a live audience, and it was the first time anything like had been done. It was ground-breaking at the time. So, now, in our show the audience will see cameras and little scenes between the shots, like they’re really watching a sitcom being filmed.
Me: So, did you watch and study lots of old episodes to prepare for your roles?
Sirena: I’m sure the two of us have each seen every episode, and many multiple times. They never lose their comedy. For me, the one where she tells Ricky she’s pregnant is so moving! That’s what keeps us coming back; it’s so honest, connected, truthful and yet funny. For me, that ticks all of the boxes.
Bill: The fact that they were also actually married, makes it a very unique blend of reality and fantasy.
Another reporter: Why do you think I Love Lucy: Live on Stage is so successful and resonates with so many people?
Sirena: One thing we hear from the audience is that they actually feel like they’ve been taken back in time and are able to see the filming of this show.
Bill: That’s what theatre does, it gives you that suspension of disbelief and allows you to step into that world for 2 hours. It offers two different experiences: If you are fans of the show it allows you to imagine what it may have been like to experience the filming or if you are just getting to know it, you get a little bit of history of TV and I Love Lucy. It’s also just a great love story between Lucy and Ricky, you the see the complexities and the comedy in their relationship which is why it’s still a success even on TV today.
We ended our interview shortly after this statement. The two stars needed lunch and we were escorted to the stage to find our spot before a special mini-performance. There was a gala going on inside the theatre and Lucy and Ricky were going to surprise the guests with a 10-minute skit.
Ricky entered the stage first singing the lyrics to their famous theme song and Lucy soon joined him, singing off-key and trying to find her way into the spotlight. They performed a hilarious skit that included bits and pieces from a famous episode, as well as the Live on Stage performance. It was great and it really was like watching Lucy and Ricky perform together. Bill and Sirena have such chemistry and have managed to completely transform into their characters.
If you are interested in seeing the show then check out the times and ticket prices here and learn even more about the show here. Can’t wait to get my review of the show up!
Several years ago in Orlando, Husband, myself and his family saw the Blue Man Group in Orlando. We LOVED the show as much as we loved Cirque! The Blue Men are mysterious, multi-talented, AND hilarious! I’m not even sure where to begin when describing their show… It’s unlike anything else. Husband and I were lucky enough to get a second chance to see these Men, but this time in NYC!
The first thing we learned at the New York performance is that it is very similar to the show in Orlando. It was definitely updated; it had 7 foot tall iPhone looking props (they call them GiPads), and the theme was heavily focused on technology. The creepy blue bald men with crazy eyes and no voices seemed identical to the Men we’d previously seen. How they manage to relay so much emotion and tell so many stories without talking is very impressive. I assume all the Blue Men shows are fairly similar, which is not necessarily a bad thing. There are not many Blue Men shows in the world, so there aren’t a lot of opportunities to see them. We had a blast at both shows and enjoyed seeing our favorite stunts and scenes again.
The quote displayed at the beginning of the show sets the tone for the performance:
“If you would like to establish a connection with people from another culture is it always good to offer a few gifts as a gesture of friendship. But, an even better way to forge a lasting bond is by creating something together. Whether it’s a meal, an art project, or just a spontaneous dance party, when you create with others, you build a connection that lasts a lifetime.”
I LOVE this quote! It’s genius! It’s also what the Group tries to do with their show. They are constantly including the audience in each scene, and even though they do not speak they manage to communicate with their expressive eyes and ridiculous actions.
The Blue Men are most famous for drumming on barrels that are topped with bright-colored paints. This is definitely one of the most memorable parts of their performance, but they offer so much more. I particularly love the part where one of them manages to catch about 30 large marshmallows in his mouth at once, and then proceeds to spit it out as a sculpture. Husbands loves the finale, which includes giant glowing 3-dimensional creatures and tons and tons of toilet paper streamers. However, there are also, hilarious skits, audience participation and some award-winning original rock music from their band.
The one major theme of the show is that technology can often become overwhelming. We are in a world were it not only necessary, but expected to multi-task. They bring this to your attention by forcing you to read three different “GiPad” screens at once. The Blue Men have always brought technology to the forefront, but their recent theme seems to suggest that it isn’t always a good thing. No matter the theme, we spent a lot of time lol’ing at their hilarity.
The theatre in the East Village is intimate and underground, at least partially. We were really surprised to be sitting in the balcony, and still be about 30 feet from the stage. They manage to do a lot in the small space, but the real plus is that every seat is a good one!
I left the show thinking two things: 1) Do I have an unhealthy addiction to technology and social media? 2) How on Earth do they clean this mess every night!?
Buy your tix and see if the tour is headed near you here!
Husband and I went on lots of dates last week (trying to make up for lost time and future time apart). One night we headed to the West Village to checkout and review the off-broadway show Women of Will.
Tina Packer is the creative genius behind this wild feminine ride through Shakespeare’s plays. This enthusiastic lady has studied and taught Shakespeare for most of her life (She is the former artistic director of Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts), and her passion for all things William is evident from the moment she opens her mouth. The play is a five-part series that takes you through The Comedy of Errors, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale and many many more! The only catch is that each “part” is a different play. For example we saw Part 1: The Warrior Women, from Violence to Negotiation.
Going into the show we were very nervous. It is located in the gym of Judson Memorial Church The seats consist of fold out chairs and cushions on the floor. The set consisted of an Oriental rug, some lights and scaffolding. I don’t mean to sound snooty, like good shows can only be performed in enormous glamorous theaters…I know that’s not true. However, we were worried the first line of the show would be “Why don’t you like me!?”
It was not a one woman show. A man, Nigel Gore, performs with Tina, but it definitely has the ‘one-woman show’ feel to it. Tina’s goal is to present the women of William Shakespeare and explore how they evolve, and how Shakespeare’s writing evolves, through the history of his plays.
The performance is half lecture – half theatre. It consists of 5 minute skits, and a discussion following each skit. What I find most impressive is the actors’ ability to switch so quickly and effortlessly from casual chats with the audience to dramatic Elizabethan characters. They are very talented, intelligent and have the ability to relate with their audience.
Overall, I have very mixed feelings about this show. I would have enjoyed it most as a student. Thanks to my senior English teacher and Humanities teacher I studied enough Shakespeare to appreciate his works and continued studying him in college, so I really appreciated learning about the development of the women in his plays. However, I was not in the mood to be a “student” on Friday night. The lectures were all a bit too long, and I longed for more acting. Husband wanted to bolt immediately. He agrees that the acting is good, and the information interesting, but not his cup of tea AT ALL.
Even though both Tina and Nigel were great actors, it was hard to imagine them as so many different characters, and of very different age ranges. Sometimes, I was just getting pulled into a dramatic scene, and it would be abruptly interrupted for another spiel.
Any fan of Shakespeare will adore this play, but I’m not sure if non-fans will appreciate what Tina and her team have to offer. The audience consisted of all adults, most whom were taking notes. Yes, notes..during a play. There was also a very grumpy older woman next to us who complained about the man who snorted while laughing next to her (to his face), and treated us like criminals for eating candy. We were probably the least serious people in the audience.
Women of Will is running through May 26th and you can purchase you tickets here. If you see it, I’d love to know what you think!