Saturday, December 31, 2011

So long, farewell Auf Wiedersehen, goodnight 2011

Oh, 2011, I am so glad you are over. Yet, while there is a lot that went wrong in the past year, theatre is not one of them. I had a goal to surpass my 2010 tally of 48 theatrical shows seen. I am proud to say that at the close of 2011, I have seen 56 theatrical productions from San Diego, Los Angeles, to Portland and San Francisco. I was happy to see everything from young adult productions to full glitzy professional productions.

As recap, here are a few of my favorite productions from 2011. (no idea why some areas are highlighted...sorry)

Ahmanson Theatre – Bring It On!
This show was a hot mess, but it was fun, bright and a good time at the theatre (and sometimes that all that counts, right?). The cheerleading was amazing and the crowd went wild.

The Old Vic - Richard the III (San Francisco, Curran Theatre)
What else to say but “Wow”, this show was epic in everyway. The cast from The Old Vic breathed life into this Shakespearian classic, Chuk Iwuji played the “deep revolving Buckingham” like a slick politico or infomercial salesman superbly, but it was the star Kevin Spacey who made this world his own. Falsely innocent, heartlessly ambitious and completely self-loathing, he didn’t just portray this person; he gave him a depth and charm that made you kind of want him as king.

Coronado School of the Arts- The Laramie Project
This encore performance staged reading featuring students from the Coronado School of the Arts was a stirring reminder of a story of a town touched by hate and a showcased some amazingly talented kids.

Cygnet Theatre – Cabaret
Karson St. John's Emcee goes from comic and friendly to terrifying and sinister and was the anchor to the wonderful cast in this gritty and entertaining production.

The Old Globe – Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show
This rollicking musical was a fun revival of a cult classic. The cast, the fabulous Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter and the audience interaction all added up to one fun time at the theatre.

La Jolla Playhouse – Jesus Christ Superstar
Sing hosanna, this revival, fresh from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival before going to Broadway, was a much more contemporary retelling of the last week of Jesus’ life. The three lead performers made their acting match the soaring music and brought the show to a sharp and poignant focus.

Chinese Pirate Productions – Dr. Horrible’ Sing Along Blog
This shows fun and inventive staging and strong performances from the cast made this show a blast to watch. Who doesn’t like to root for the villain, jeer the hero and support a local theatre in the process?

Cygnet Theatre- Little Shop of Horrors
This fun musical referenced every production of this show, from its B-movie origins to the 80’s musical movie with 50’s camp in between. The monochrome staging made this all about the only thing in color, the plant from outer space and what its plans are for Earth.

The Old Globe -Jane Austen’s Emma – A Romantic Musical Comedy
This charming and fun musical was a sweet portrayal of Austen’s favorite meddling matchmaker. The set, the costumes and the songs all seemed to finally hit their stride in this production (the show had traveled and been revised quite a bit prior to this one).

La Jolla Playhouse – Little Miss Sunshine
This ultimate dysfunctional family road trip had a fun cast and a way of making this crazy car trip entertaining. With an inventive way of making a car trip theatrical and some entertaining (if uneven) numbers and pacing this was a fun new show.

In the end, I am excited to start 2012 for a variety of reasons, but mostly I am excited to sample some more fun and fabulous theatre. I don’t believe I can beat 56 productions in a year without quitting my job and dedicating myself to the task, which I am not against but my husband is (so mean) so I hope to match that number if I am able.

I am not one for resolutions, but hopefully I will be as consistent in posting here as I would like and I look forward to hearing from you, my tens of readers J

Have a fabulous new year and happy theatre viewing!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sexy Naked Time at the Sinatra Club

I am not a dancer.  I know that this is shocking information, especially since once you see me in all my five foot, clumsy glory, you will wonder what in the world has prevented me from dominating the dance floor.  But even with this handicap, I love dance shows.  I love watching graceful and coordinated (Important in dance I have found) individuals tell a story though dance.

Combine this with the songs of Frank Sinatra and I am a happy girl.  I like Sinatra’s songs and think they could lend themselves to a fun show.  So I happily went to see Come Fly Away at the San Diego Civic Theater.

Being the epitome of a non dancer I took my friend along with me who is a dancer, for more technical feedback.  Curiously her feedback was “less crotch shots of the female dancers”, which is not a bad note.

The dancing is really really good.  It is a mix of jazz, modern and ballet.  The dancers were fluid and their lines were beautiful.  Especially the gentleman who played a “Chanos” the drunk (his spins were beautiful) and the young waiter,” Marty”, who was adorable in his enthusiasm and high energy.  The dances don’t so much end and begin as they blend into each other and one couple might fade away as others become more prominent.  There are a tremendous amount of lifts in this show (many which feature the woman in a full split facing the audience – hence the crotch shot comment).  There are so many lifts that it was almost like whenever someone wondered “what shall the next step be?” the answer was always “A lift!”

All this combined makes for a continuously moving stage and characters that are in the background and always moving.  And their movements are not always things that help define the story.  A girl randomly moves chairs and wanders around.   One guy is dumped by the hot blond and so naturally he proceeds to find another girl and have sex with her against the proscenium.  Meanwhile the mood spread and it seems for a moment that an orgy breaks out.

The characters were also asked to do some very strange things which I cannot begin to comprehend:
  • ·         One character was always crawling over the stage, even across the front of the stage during another couples dance.  Bonus for some - she was mostly not dressed while doing this.The same character was passed around between the men in the company for the first half of the show, finally settling on one guy.  I think she was supposedly to be the “Vamp” character, but really I couldn’t think of her as anything but “tiger crawl” girl.
  • ·         One character was choreographed to deliberately pull gum out of his pocket, unwrap it, put it in his mouth and throw the wrapper o the floor.  WTF?  How does this add anything to anything?  Plus I was always worried that he was going to choke as he chewed and danced.  (but he does get bonus points for being able to dance and chew gum at the same time)
  • ·         Inexplicably take of your clothes…….at some point all the men took off their shirts and the waiter his pants.  Why?  No. Idea.  (but it sounds very unhygienic for a supper club)  I have no idea why they took off their clothes and danced around, and then some of the girls ended up in the underwear and negligees.  Why?  Why in a supper club?  At this point my friend deemed it “sexy naked time at the Sinatra Club”.

But here is the main problem; I was trying to make sense of it.  This was a bad plan.  The plot is so thin you could read a book in the dark through it.  The “characters” are so loosely created that they barely meet the stereotypical archetypes.    There are the young couple in throes of first love, there’s the couple that fights (the vamp and her …rebellious whatever he is), the drunk (which I didn’t get from viewing, it was only after dancer referred to his character as that after the show did I get a label for him.  Before this he was referred to as the guy with the mustache).

It has been referred to as Tharp’s homage to Sinatra, which I would have loved to seen, but this not it.  The dances don’t seem to take any cue from Sinatra in either dance styles or costumes.  The men are in nice suits and ties but the women are in shiny short dresses that defy any time period other tacky 70’s.  The dancing is strong no doubt; it just makes no sense at times.

An unexpected bonus was the awesomeness of the band.  They have the unenviable task of playing along with vocal tracks of Frank Sinatra singing in different venues and with different bands and make it sound cohesive.  The band does this and more.  They blend with the vocals so well I almost expected Old Blue eyes to walk out at some point.  The band has some moments to highlight their drummer and some horns, including the saxophone player, which are stellar.  Its good music that makes the audience forget that they’re there to see a dance show.

Upon inquiry it was discovered that the band plays to a series of “click tracks”.  So the original vocals are taken and the music is removed, but they have a background “click track” that helps the band keep track of the beat and where they should be.  Like a giant metronome, I suppose.  This is the most simplified version of how they do this possible, I’m sure that it is much more complicated in actuality.  No matter how it’s done, it was a fantastic performance from the band.

Have you see this show?  What were your thoughts?  I need someone to discuss this with so comment!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Jim Parson on San Diego and Theatre

This is an article I wrote after comic con for another site, but thought that I would share it here as well since it involves me asking recent Emmy winner Jim Parsons, from "The Big Bang Theory" about two topics close to my heart, theatre and San Diego.  Known, for playing everyone's favorite nerd Sheldon, Jim Parsons is no stranger to San Diego, having appeared at both the Old Globe and the La Jolla Playhouse while he studied for his MFA in Theatre.

When asked about his recent theatre experience with Normal Heart in New York and how it all came about, here is what he had to say:
“I called my agent a couple of months before the season was over and said ‘Look, we don’t have anything lined up for the full summer or anything, and I would just kill to do some theatre. I know it’s a long shot to get on a Broadway show, that’s not what I’m asking. I’ll do reading, I’ll do whatever’.
They said “Ok, let us think”.
About 5 days later, they called back and said that they’re going to do the Normal Heart and that they were going to do it in this time frame, would you consider this role.  And then I said “uh, yea!”.
Then they had to work out scheduling conflicts, which were many, you know. I had about 8 days of rehearsal total before the first preview of that show, which was very frightening. With that being said, the whole process was short. The whole cast had about two weeks total of rehearsal, so they were willing to work with me and I was so grateful. And I feel very rejuvenated having done that. I’ve done so much theater in my life, but I haven’t done any since I’ve started "Big Bang". Even if we tape it in front of a life audience, it’s different you know, never mind the tone of the Normal Heart is so different from a "Big Bang" episode. It was just nice to play somebody different, you know, it really was. It was nice to spend the summer doing that and that group of people I worked with is a remarkable bunch, they really were. It was more than I ever dreamed that request for theatre would have turned into, they did so many things. ”
How do you feel about returning to San Diego for Comic Con?
“I love it here.  We drove in this morning and I was talking with my manager and said that the only thing hard about being San Diego for Comic Con is that when I was here for school, San Diego is a very fun town, but also very laid back.  There is nothing laid back about Comic Con. “
Is there more theatre in his future, or did his Broadway experience tide him over for a while?
“One of the people in the show said “This is your first Broadway show?”  I said “Yes”. They said “You should retire now, you do not want to see the way things can go in another show. Just stop it here.  That’s the only bad part about it was that it did not satiate my thirst for theater, it made me hungrier. I want to do another theater”.
Hopefully in his quest for more theatre he will find him performing in San Diego again!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Theatre from an unexpected source...

I have been away for a while, I know….

This week I have been super busy working Comic –Con. Comic – Con?, you ask. Why am I there? How could I possibly connect theatre and comics? These are usually the questions that the other reporters ask of me whenever I sit at their tables.

Very easily, but those articles will be out soon enough.

At one roundtable people are firing questions at the actor and he was responding pleasantly, probably having responded to these questions a bajillion times over the course of the day. At a brief pause I asked him about his most previously theatre experience. He immediately responded with “Thank you for asking!” and launched into a 4 minute answer about how much he misses theatre and told his managers that he had to do some theatre on his next break from his show. He talked so much that the publicist had to interrupt him twice before he stopped talking and left for another table.

The other reports all looked over at me (hopefully with new found respect for my theatre questions).

Next actor approaching the table, I told the person next to me that I hoped I had a chance to ask him about a new play he wrote. The actor sat down and immediately started talking, in a semi-monologue about the show he is on.

At a brief moment in his tirade I said, “A bit off topic of the show, but I had a question about the new play that you wrote…” The actor sat up straighter and talked for about 10 minutes about his play, when it opens and how excited he is about it. As the interview came to an end, he stood up and thanked me for the very interesting question and how much he appreciated me knowing about it and asking about it.

At this point every reporter looks at me and starts asking me question about theatre. I chuckled to myself and was saved from answering any of them because the next person sat down for their interview.

For the next hour and a half every reporter at the table, peppered the table with questions about theatre. I didn’t have to ask one question and they all did the work for me. Their questions were a fun way to see how these people, whose lives are steeped in pop culture, video games and television, thought about theatre. The questions were mostly about Shakespeare and what working in front of an audience is like, but still, they were theatre questions!

I love that these reporters are going to go write their articles and their readers will get the information, using information they got from questions about theatre.

More people learning about theatre from unexpected sites with the words “TV” and “Monsters” in their names? That makes me very happy

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Oh Mamma....

Mamma Mia – here we go again? I know that I am late to the Mamma Mia party; it’s been an international hit for years and somehow I am just now getting around to seeing it. I have nothing against ABBA and I love jukebox musicals, so this should be something that I really enjoy.

(Before I get started, if you want to read my official review click here)

And yet…there was something missing. What was it……?

Oh yes, a plot and dialogue.

Are those important?

The plot is this: Sophie is getting married and wants her Dad to walk her down the aisle. Except, according to her Mom’s diary from the year before she was born, that could be one of three men. So Sophie invites all three of them to the wedding because she will just “know” when she meets her Dad. Throw in two old band mates of her Mom’s, who naturally when they get together, put on their old costumes and sing their old songs (I can’t find too much fault in this as I can’t imagine this being a huge stretch for me and my friends, and we weren’t even in a band).

The dialogue consists of things such as this:
''I'm old enough to be your mother.''
''You can call me Oedipus.''
Cue song

Every line seems to be a cue for another song. Some of which, are distressingly out of context. As the person I went to the show with said afterwards,” If you are gong to use pop culture in a show then you must acknowledge that the audience knows the context of the song. So having her sing what is a love song to one of her potential Dad’s is a bit off putting”.

Agreed – You could argue that the song works in the context of the show, but if you listen to the words and realize it s a love song then it’s back to being creepy. And since there is so little meaningful dialogue (see above) the audience has no choice but to listen to the words of the song. It’s a vicious circle.

The choreography is, I suppose, designed to look like anyone from the audience could run up on stage and join in. To help show that each number is really a spontaneous expression of the characters about what is happening in the moment. Except, some of it I can do and no one is going to pay to see me dance. These people on stage are professional dancers, please; lets give them something interesting to do (and watch).

Then, there are the scuba themed dance numbers. Yes, I said numbers, as in plural.

I’ll wait while that sinks in

WTF?? Really? Someone thought that what the world needed was not one, but two scuba themed dance numbers? Accented in bright neon colors?

There’s a story that Kevin Smith the filmmaker tells about how he joined a movie to write the script and all the director could talk about is having the main character fight a giant mechanical spider. While Smith argued that it made no sense and couldn’t figure out how to add it in a coherent manner, and as things spiraled out of control, the director steadfastly demanded his mechanical spider. Eventually the film wasn’t made, but in the very next film this director made there was a giant mechanical spider. I feel like this can be the only plausible explanation for these scuba themed dance numbers. They had to be the dream of someone, who, come hell or high water, wanted two scuba themed dance numbers damnit!

Notice that I am not talking about the performances, that’s because they were very entertaining and talented. They made this crazy show more than the sum of its parts.

In the end, I did like the overall message of the show (albeit it didn’t arrive until the second to last line of the show) that there are “all kinds of families”.

While I loved the music (at over 20 songs, there was a lot of music), the performances and even the very small side plots, overall I think I’m not going there again.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tell Me on a Sunday: Who to you go with to the theatre?

Tell Me on a Sunday: People…who go to theatre with other People…

Are the luckiest peeeeoople….

Sorry, I got Barbara stuck in my head there for a moment.

Right, so you may have noticed that I have not had a chance to write a whole lot lately, yeah, sorry about that.

It’s not that I didn’t want to write; I just literally had no free time in which to write. Hopefully the crazy that has kept me spinning will slow so I can get get in some blog time!

All righty then, enough with the chitchat here is todays Tell me on a Sunday question: With whom do you like to attend theatre? Is there a specific person? Why or why not?

I love to attend theatre with all of my friends, because they always notice something that I don’t, they interpret something differently than I do and are super interesting to do the post show chat with. (Also all of my friends are super interesting, hence their super interesting commentary) Not all of my friends are theatre people, and that’s fine with me. I don’t need you to know anything or everything about theatre to go with me; you just have to want to go (I’m easy like that).

But the person that always gets first pick of show tickets, whether she wants them or not, is my Mom. I love going to the theatre with my Mom. The things she notices and the way she comments on them always interest me. She likes theatre, but she didn’t study it. When I got into theatre she helped with song choices, rehearsals and even getting my hair dyed black (Thanks King and I).

I remember attending Les Miserables with my Mom. We had pretty good seats and were very interested since everyone and their Mother had told us that it was the BEST SHOW EVER. Apparently neither of us though that because once intermission arrived my Mom turned to me and said, “Did you see those pockets on his jacket? Beautiful!” I laughed because; in fact the show had such little pull for me that I was also looking at the seaming on this characters jacket (it was beautiful, and infinitely better than the show)

Another time were watching Jekyll and Hyde and as the show was going on she said,” The lighting on the ground is fantastic”. Since I had been watching the characters I had neglected to even notice that they had lit the floor to look like cobblestones and then change to tile depending on where the characters were going. (I was in high school then, I notice lighting now, I promise)

After every show we break down everything we just saw, from the performances to the sets, costumes and plot. We debate whether things that stuck with us are directing choices, acting choices or were specified in the script. We try to imagine how hard it must be to wear that ridiculous outfit or dance in those heels. Sometimes I love something that she couldn’t stand, sometimes we both gush but each over a different aspect of the show. Sometimes we go back at the end of a run to see how something has changed and debate all over again.

Yes, it is possible that I think my Mom is a theatre whiz because we find the same things funny, the same things annoying and both love a happy musical…but more than that I love having this to share with her, especially since she’s the one that helped make me into this theatre crazed person I am today. I guess it’s up to you if that something we should thank her for or not.

Happy Mother’s Day to the bestest theatre Mom I know.

So whom do you like to go with to the theatre? Why do you like going with them? I look forward to reading your responses!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Blind Faith

My good friend Bibliophile Girl is an awesome writer (you do follow her blogs, yes?... yes) and when she told me that she had an idea for a blog post I didn't even hesitate to say," Write it!"

Here she goes:

I have been honored with a request to guest post here on Theatrophile, and I hope that I do this blog justice. J

Let’s start off with an admission, shall we? I am not here to review “Rock of Ages” (EM here- that review is coming later- back to her post). Heck, I’m not even here to tell you about how we managed to find the only cab driver working in San Francisco who didn’t know what (or where) the Curran Theatre was. I am here to write about the concept of Blind Faith.

As I am sure that most of you have surmised by now, EM is a rabid theater attendee. But even behind Thursday’s Thesaurus, Tell Me on a Sunday, and other random features like her talking about overrated musicals and such…there is a true student of theater. And the student within EM…has fantastic taste in shows.

Case in point:

She and I had made plans to meet up in San Francisco, where we were both covering WonderCon for our respective gigs writing for (she as the San Diego Theater Examiner, I as the San Jose Book Examiner). Whenever we meet up, we end up doing something fun. We aren’t generally the “let’s-go-see-a-movie” types (No, we're the lets spend a bunch of $ types - EM), it usually manifests in a whole host of possibilities. This was no different.

While I was at work this week, I got an email the night she arrived in town. Here’s the title of her email: Rock of Ages – Muy Importante – Open Me Now!”. So I opened the email – it was muy importante after all – and here’s what she said:


ok, so Im not sure what day or time you are able to come up here but Rock of Ages is playing up here and I really really want to see it. It runs 2 1/2 hours and they have a few options

They have shows on friday night and Saturday night at 8pm at the Curran Theatre. If you're not interested I totally understand, but I may go by myself.

If you are interested tell me which day and I'll buy tix ASAP

Notice that there isn’t exactly an explanation of what kind of show…just that it’s a show she would like to see. Sure, it was playing at a premier theatre in San Francisco. However, I once saw Robin Williams perform at the Curran. So, it could have easily been a concert-like show.

In any case, I didn’t give it that much thought. Hell, I didn’t even bother looking it up online. All I needed to see was “show” and “I really really want to see it”. I replied to her via Google chat – basically “go ahead and do it, 8pm Sat, I’m IN”.

I tell my husband about it, to which he says something like “Now what is this show you’re seeing?”…I replied….”Oh I don’t know, I think it’s a concert". I admitted to EM before our ill-fated cab ride that I had no idea what it was that we were going to see. She did a search on Google so she could accurately describe it, and sure enough, it was a musical.

Well we went to see it Saturday night as planned. It was an awesome show. So, so much fun. Oddly enough, my original supposition that it was a concert was not all that far off. :)

But I made my decision on two factors:

1. When it comes to shows, she generally knows what she’s talking about.

2. She thought it was a good idea to see it.

That was all I needed.

And that, dear readers, is what Blind Faith is.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Comics and theatre..unlikely allies

I am currently at a comic book convention in San Francisco. This may seem like a departure from theatre related things, but it’s really not. Theatre and comics have a lot more in common than you might think.

Do you know how many Broadway actors are in comic book related shows? Hugh Jackman played Wolverine (both in "Wolverine" and in all the "X-Men" movies), Liev Schrieber played Sabertooth in "Wolverine", Peter Sarsgaard will play the villain Hector Hammond along side fellow Broadway alums Angela Bassett and Geoffery Rush in the soon to be released “Green Lantern" movie. Three of those names have won Tony Awards and the other two have been nominated for them!

Spiderman: Turn off the Dark is playing on Broadway (don’t let the 5th push back of the official opening date sway your feelings on it's comic book origins) Warner Bros. and DC Comics are currently in process of creating Batman Live a stage spectacular touring production and every year Broadway and off Broadway theaters have musicals based on comic books, one of the most recent being a collaboration of actual comic books from the 1950's as a source material called My Comic Valentine: A Comic Book for the Stage.

Add to all of that the basic form of a comic book tends to follow the structure of the ancient Greek theater and explores all of the same subjects that theater does, which is why it so easily translates to stage. Revenge, love, heroes, villains, people who come to realize that "With great power comes great responsibility" are all plots that have been used by playwrights from Shakespeare to Stephen Sondheim to Stan Lee.

OK, gotta go…. Next panel is about to start J