Sunday Night Sondheim: Passion: Act 1, Scene 1

Tony Award Winning Musical PASSION by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine filmed at Broadway’s Plymouth Theatre, starring Jere Shea and Marin Mazzie (orchestrations by Jonathon Tunick).

 

Listen to more tracks from Sondheim’s Passion here.

Banana Shpeel – Cast announced for Chicago production

BananaShpeel

Stars from Broadway’s Jersey Boys and Wicked join cast

Playing at the Chicago Theatre from November 19 – January 3

Stars from Broadway’s Jersey Boys and Wicked will join the distinctive cast of comedic and dance talent in the brand new theatrical production, Banana Shpeel, presented by Cirque du Soleil and MSG Entertainment. Banana Shpeel begins performances at The Chicago Theatre on November 19, with an official Opening Night on Wednesday, December 2. The limited Chicago engagement concludes January 3, 2010, and Banana Shpeel debuts in New York at The Beacon Theatre in February 2010.

 

The Cast

 

banana-longoria-ashford Michael Longoria, who starred as Frankie Valli in the Broadway production of Jersey Boys, will portray Emmett, an innocent and romantic young actor, while Annaleigh Ashford, who starred as Glinda in Wicked on Broadway and in Chicago, portrays Emmett’s love interest Katie, and Remo Airaldi, a prolific resident company member of Boston’s acclaimed American Repertory Theater, portrays Schmelky, a cruel and irritable theater producer. Joining them is an international crew of comedic actors: Claudio Carneiro (Brazil), Daniel Passer (U.S.), Patrick de Valette (France), Gordon White (Canada), and Wayne Wilson (U.S.). In keeping with Cirque du Soleil’s unique and diverse performers, global talents showcased in Banana Shpeel include Russian hand balancer Dmitry Bulkin, Vietnamese juggler Tuan Le, Spanish foot juggler Vanessa Alvarez, and the American sister-brother tap dance duo, Joseph and Josette Wiggan. Completing the cast is a talented ensemble comprised of 10 “triple threats”: singer-actor-dancers Robyn Baltzer, Alex Ellis, Adrienne Jean Fisher, DeWitt Fleming Jr., Luke Hawkins, Kathleen Hennessey, Adrienne Reid, Anthony J. Russo, Melissa Schott, and Steven T. Williams.

The Band

 

Under the direction of Band Leader Robert Cookman, the Banana Shpeel original score is performed live on stage by Roland Barber (trombone), Bobby Brennan (bass), James Campagnola (multi-instrumental), Iohann Laliberté (drums), Jean-François Ouellet (saxophone), Peter Sachon (cello) and Scott Steen (trumpet).

The Show

Banana Shpeel is a roller-coaster mix of styles that blends comedy with tap, hip hop, eccentric dance and slapstick, all linked by a narrative that ignites a succession of wacky adventures. This is not circus, or a musical or a variety show, or even Bananas_Dancingvaudeville. It is Banana Shpeel!

Synopsis: Propelled by crazy humor and intense choreography, Banana Shpeel plunges us into the world of Schmelky, who dangles fame and fortune in front of Emmett, who has come to audition for him. Emmett soon finds himself trapped in a flamboyant, anarchic world where Schmelky sows terror and reigns supreme. Emmett falls in love with the beautiful Katie and meets a bunch of absurd characters, including the strange Banana Man. But who is this mysterious Banana Man and how can Emmett escape the clutches of Schmelky and his henchmen?

The Creative Team 

 

The Banana Shpeel Creative Team includes: Artistic Guides Guy Laliberté (Cirque du Soleil Founder) and Gilles Ste-Croix; Writer and Director David Shiner; Director of Creation Serge Roy; Composer and Musical Director Jean-François Côté; Comic Act Designer Stefan Haves; Choreographer Jared Grimes; Costume Designer Dominique Lemieux; Set Designer and Props Co-Designer Patricia Ruel; Props Co-Designer Jasmine Catudal; Lighting Designer Bruno Rafie; Sound Designer Harvey Robitaille; and Make-up Designer Eleni Uranis.

Banana Shpeel writer and director David Shiner started out as a mime in Paris. His career took off in 1984 when he was discovered at the renowned circus festival Cirque de Demain. Shiner later teamed up with Bill Irwin to create the wordless two-man show Fool Moon, which played from 1992 to 1999, including three Broadway runs. Fool Moon picked up numerous prizes, including a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award. In 2007, Shiner directed his first Cirque du Soleil production, the big top touring show KOOZA.

Performance Schedule

Banana Shpeel performs from November 19, 2009 through January 3, 2010 at The Chicago Theatre

Ticket Information

Tickets are available now for all performances and can be purchased at www.cirquedusoleil.com or www.thechicagotheatre.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000. Regular ticket prices range from $23 to $98, with limited Premium and Tapis Rouge VIP Experience tickets also available. Discounts are available for groups of 20 or more, by calling 1-866-6-CIRQUE (1-866-624-7783).

banana

Brian Stokes Mitchell sings “The Impossible Dream” at Ted Kennedy’s memorial service.

For anyone that watched Teddy Kennedy’s memorial service tonight, you couldn’t help being blown away by Tony-award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell‘s solo performance of “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La ManchaThe exact video for this event wasn’t on YouTube yet, but here is Mitchell sing the same song with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Think Fast: “High Fidelity”, Jude Law in “Hamlet”, oyster-eating at the theatre, “Spiderman” schadenfreude, etc.

 
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  • Another big Hollywood name has (once again) caught the Broadway bug: Jude Law is set to star in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet on September 12th, running through December 6th.  Jude Law previously received a Tony Award nomination for the 1995 play Indiscretions. More info here.
  • Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre, which dates back to 1662.  The excavations are part of an 8-million-euro project to reinstate the theatre on its original site. The school’s director, Patrick Sutton, said the excavations had uncovered part of the theatre’s original walls as well as stage timbers. Among the artifacts found were an actress’s ceramic wig curler, clay pipes, a broken wine bottle and oyster shells. “Oysters were obviously the popcorn of the day,” he suggested. More here.
  • Rumors started among the Broadway fanatics (okay, I guess you can count me in as a member) last week that the musical-in-the-works, Spiderman, the Musical, must be in trouble when it was announced that the multi-million dollar renovation of the Hilton Theater had been halted.  It was called a "cash-flow problem", which is corporate for, "we’re not putting up another cent." Accordingly, Broadway producer Kevin Davenport’s theatre blog “The Producer’s Perspective” has a snarky well-deserved post titled “Schadenfreude for Spider-Man?”. 

Review: Victory Garden’s “Blackbird”

 

Blackbird confrontation

Blackbird

a play by David Harrower

Reviewed by Timothy McGuire

The much anticipated dramatic play Blackbird, staring William Peterson and Mattie Hawkinson is indeed quite disturbing; it gives humanity to both a child molester and his victim as their characters are presented on stage un-judged by the author David Harrower.

blackbird_mattie&william David Harrower has written a soul-stirring play that shows the complexity of human emotions and the struggle we have with guilt and being honest with ourselves. David Harrower does not try to justify Ray’s action nor is in favor of abolishing the age limit for sexual maturity, he sees his work as more of a metaphor for questioning other social norms. Harrower lets the characters stumble through their emotions, not demonizing or giving false purity to either character. Both characters show their humanity, with flaws and wrongful desires along with kindness and love. How horrible a crime was committed is left to the audience to think about and decide, Ray and Una struggle on stage to find that out for themselves.

Fifteen years ago when Ray was in his forties, he befriended a twelve year old girl Una. After serving three years in prison for child abduction, he has painfully put together a new life. After seeing a picture of Ray in a magazine at her doctor’s office Una has come to confront her past assailant. In Ray’s empty office cafeteria the emotional confrontation between them goes in unexpected directions as the molester and victim meet, or possibly it is past lovers meeting again.

blackbird_arguing William Peterson sucks the life out of his character to portray a beat-down Ray just fighting to get from day to day. Peterson’s ability to darken his emotions and stumble with the confidence to express himself is extraordinary. The choices Ray made in his past were absolutely wrong, but what was his motive? How did he let himself form a relationship with a twelve year old girl? William Peterson captures Ray’s inner struggle with the guilt of his actions and the justifications he believes means something.

William Peterson is a star, but this show belongs to Mattie Hawkinson.

Ms. Hawkinson, capturing her character’s poised and nervous state, came on to the stage as Una and through out her personal conversation with Ray keeps the audience glued to her with their attention. With just two characters in most of the play, Mattie proves that she belonged on stage with the best of them. After watching my favorite actor (William Peterson) the first comment I had when I left the theatre was “Get ready for Mattie Hawkinson.” This should be a break out performance to a great career.

blackbird meetingThe set, a cold, desolate cafeteria, was designed by Dean Taucher, and he presents a set that, thought simplistic, is actually very detailed. The remains of coworkers’ lunches are left strewn about, just another mess in the typical unfinished cleaning-up that takes place in a cafeteria. The room that earlier in the day was busy with people and filled with life is now completely empty until the next morning, like the void that fills both Una and Ray’s heart since their earlier relationship. The setting never leaves the office cafeteria and the time of the day expels a creepy lonesome feeling. It seems strange a victim of a sexual crime would meet her predator there.

Blackbird won the Olivier Award (Britain’s equivalent of a Tony Award) for best new play in 2007, beating out tough competition with plays such as Peter Morgan’s “Frost/Nixon” and Tom Stoppard’s” Rock and Roll.” Making its Chicago premier at Victory Gardens, Director Dennis Zacek allows the unique text and talented actors carry the one act conversation.

Blackbird possesses that unique quality found in theatre of presenting a topic that forces the audience to an uncomfortable edge, as their skin crawls with the thought of empathizing with ideas that go against their moral core. It forces you to question the most reviled actions in society, leading one to question personal crimes you have committed and how it would play out if you were confronted with the past fifteen years later.

Rating: «««½

Where: Victory Gardens Theatre
When: Thru – Aug 9, 2009
Tickets: $30-$58, Box Office: 773-871-3000

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Tony Award-winning Stephen Sondheim and Christine Ebersole set for the Harris Theater

The Harris Theater in Chicago’s Millennium Park has announced a number of theater-related special events to be part of its 2009-2010 season, including:

 

sondheim Stephen Sondheim will be on hand for “An Intimate Exchange with the "Master of the Musical" on March 4, speaking with John Calloway about the state of American musical theater and reflections on his own creative process as he celebrates his 80th birthday. An audience Q&A with Sondheim will follow.

 

christine_ebersole Two-time Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole will appear in An Evening of Song with Chicago’s Own Nightingale on March 25, singing Broadway show tunes and standards. Celebrated pianist Lang Lang will appear with the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra on April 11.

For more information, visit www.harristheaterchicago.org.

 

 

Courtesy of Dan Bacalzo of TheaterMania.com.

"History Boys" Reviews – TimeLine delivers a triumph!

The Chicago-premiere of the Tony-Award winning play The History Boys , by Alan Bennett, held its opening night this past Saturday, and I can personally say that it was a highly-imaginative, stellar production of an enthralling, rambunctious play.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Pictures and a compendium of reviews (as they are produced) follow:

Hector (Donald Brearley, center) teaches his students (from left) Scripps (Will Allan), Crowther (Govind Kumar), Dakin (Joel Gross), Rudge (Michael Peters), Lockwood (Rob Fenton), Akthar (Behzad Dabu), Timms (Brad Bukauskas) and Posner (Alex Weisman) in rather unconventional ways in  

Dennis Polkow, NewCity

I don’t know what kind of techniques director Nick Bowling might have employed to have the eight-ensemble cast seem as if they know each other as well as a group of students who have been together in class together for what always seems like an eternity while it is happening, but the way these young men interact is extraordinary.  No less an accomplishment is that the teachers and the headmaster who are preparing these students for their Oxford and Cambridge entrance exams also interact with the students and each other with the needed familiarity necessary for Alan Bennett’s witty and thought-provoking play to work its special charms.  Recommended                     (Full review here.)

Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times:

TimeLine fills your head: Actors revel in the wit and energy of ‘History Boys’

Enter TimeLine Theatre – where The History Boys, Alan Bennett’s Tony-Award-wining play is receiving one of those Chicago productions that exults in the glory of the ensemble – and you instantly become part of its hothouse world. 

At issue here is the whole notion of education – intellectual, emotional, sexual.  The veteran literature teacher, Hector (Donald Brearley, in a remarkable mix of subdued passion, volatility and self-loathing), believes in knowledge for knowledge’s sake, even if that include groping his favorite students.  As he notes: “The transmission of knowledge is itself an erotic act.”                           (Full review here)

Donald Brearley, Michael Peters, Govind Kumar, Brad Bukauskas, Behzad Dabu, Joel Gross, Will Allan, Rob Fenton and Alex Weisman 

Artistic Director PJ Powers comments:
“Alan Bennett’s provocative script tackles essential questions we regularly grapple with as we explore TimeLine’s unique mission — ‘how do we benefit by dissecting, studying and examining history?’” Powers said. “Whether audiences have seen this production in London, on Broadway or on film, or are coming to it for the first time, The History Boys will have a fresh and powerful impact at TimeLine’s intimate theater.”

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