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‘Flashdance’ an astonishing musical spectacle
February 6, 2013
Source: Access Atlanta

Directed and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, who choreographed Broadway’s “Jersey Boys” and “Memphis,” “Flashdance — The Musical” is a classically structured romantic comedy with a pulsating electronic score of old hits and new material (by Robert Cary and Robbie Roth), covering some of the same thematic territory as “Billy Elliot,” which it predates. Both Billy and Alex (Emily Padgett) have strong-willed teachers and memories of dead mothers to fuel their passions.

Alex also has a good-looking romantic interest, Nick Hurley (Matthew Hydzik), and works in a club populated by archetypal gypsies, tramps, thieves and innocents.

Summoning the burlesque ghosts of “Gypsy,” Alex’s leggy cohorts — Tess (Rachelle Rak), Kiki (DeQuina Moore) and Gloria (Kelly Felthous) — add a lot of dance pizazz to the show and, in the case of Gloria, a secondary romantic plot. Tess is the proverbial gold digger and, thanks to Rak, a life force of dance and brass. Kiki is the quintessential sassy African-American sidekick whose barn-burning “Manhunt” references Grace Jones and Eartha Kitt. Gloria, aside from getting to sing the eponymous Laura Branigan dance-floor thriller, gets sucked down a vortex of degradation before having an 11th-hour reunion with her boyfriend, Jimmy (David R. Gordon), an adorably bad comedian.

Everyone makes a journey here, no one more so than Alex. Sorry to play the age card, but isn’t Padgett a little old for Alex (who was supposed to be 18 in the film)? I suspect Padgett and Hydzik will be replaced when this tour moves to Broadway. For now, Padgett is a terrific dancer and a fine singer. Hydzik is handsome and appealing, too, and particularly eloquent when he sings tenderly.

In a universally strong ensemble, JoAnn Cunningham, as Alex’s dance teacher, Hannah, stands out — a wonderful senior actress with an elegant silhouette, strong comedic chops, a lovely, well-preserved voice. Ballet dancers Brandt Martinez and Andrea Spiridonakos lead a superb company of movers.

Flashdance Tour Launches in Show's Steel Town Setting!
January 14, 2013
Source: Playbill.com

The national tour of Flashdance — The Musical, the fairy tale of a lady steelworker who dreams of legit dance while moonlighting as an exotic dancer, begins Jan. 1 in Pittsburgh, where the action of the show (and the movie before it) is set. The troupe includes Emily Padgett as Alex, Matthew Hydzik as Nick and Rachelle Rak as Tess.

This tour marks the world premiere of a new stage adaptation of the hit 1983 film, revised since its London stage premiere in 2010. It plays Heinz Hall. The Jan. 1-6 run is the dawn of a new national tour that represents rewrites and new creative team since the title's stage premiere in London. (Technically, it's the world premiere of a new stage version; the writers from London remain, but audiences can expect something "completely re-envisioned," with "new songs, new book, new creative team and overall a different physical production," a spokesman told Playbill.com.)

Director-choreographer Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, Memphis, The Addams Family) stages the new work. Read the Playbill magazine interview with Trujillo.

The cast also features Kelly Felthous as Gloria, DeQuina Moore as Kiki, Jo Ann Cunningham as Hannah, David R. Gordon as Jimmy, Matthew Henerson as Harry and Christian Whelan in the role of C.C., with Holly Ann Butler, Claire Camp, Derek Carley, Ryan Carlson, Natalie Caruncho, Lynorris Evans, Thursday Farrar, Charlene Hoffman, Holly Laurent, Jakob Karr, Dan Kohler, Brandt Martinez, Nicholas McGough, Ariela Morgenstern, Rebecca Riker, Andrea Spiridonakos and Lawrence Street.

Fresh, fun 'Sister Act' whips up disco inferno!
November 17, 2012
Source: Chicago Tribune

Well, sing hallelujah for a new, fresh, first-class Equity tour, which is about as rare these days as murder witnesses hiding out in convents when the sisters are just dying to be taught to love the night life, the boogie, the disco raa-ound.

Wait. The ghost of the disco era � and, of course, the ghost of Whoopi Goldberg � both haunt the 2011 Broadway musical "Sister Act," but I don't want to leave the impression that this stage-to-screen confection has anything less than a stellar original score, witty Glenn Slater lyrics and all, from the great Alan Menken. Indeed, I thought that Menken's terrific set of songs for this show � a toe-tappin' fusion of soul, funk, disco and sacred music � didn't get the respect it deserved when "Sister Act" played on Broadway. Actually, all of "Sister Act" was rather better than a lot of folks cared to admit.

For sure, this musical, now in its first national tour stopping through Chicago at the Auditorium Theatre, has many of the problems that afflict many screen-to-stage transfers � bitty scenes in multiple locales, caper-ish action that doesn't quite translate to the stage, too much adherence to the style and plot of the source movie. And it relies heavily on standard stranger-in-a-strange-land comic setups. But "Sister Act," directed by the inimitable Jerry Zaks, compensates with some special advantages. Firstly, if there's one thing better than a flying nun in the theater, it's a well-voiced chorus of swinging, singing sisters, givin' it up for heaven in front of the stained glass. Who in their right mind does not love a show with nuns? Where else do you get a gag like "My life has been like the stations of the cross. Without the laughs." Ta da, bom. The sisters will be right here in Chicago for three weeks, ladies and gentlemen.

The touring production of the Broadway musical "Sister Act" is at the Auditorium Theatre in the Loop through Dec. 2

Disney's, The Lion King Still Dazzles Audiences!
August 20, 2012
Source: St. Louis Post Dispatch

When Disney's "The Lion King" opened on Broadway in 1997, audiences and critics applauded it for its dazzling design, heartfelt performances and groundbreaking direction. The national tour, now playing at the Fox Theatre, makes it perfectly clear, even 15 years later, what all the fuss was about. 

"The Lion King" no doubt will be many youngsters' introduction to the theater, and it's a fine place to start. The source material, the 1994 animated film, is already familiar, and the spectacle onstage (and, sometimes, off the stage) is too captivating to look away from.
That's not to say that "The Lion King" is just for kids. But it may turn adults into kids, at least for a few hours.

The show's 49 cast members and a collection of 200 puppets of all sorts � shadow puppets, rod puppets, full-size puppets � bring to life the story of lion cub Simba. The actors in "The Lion King" pull off incredible performances, especially the ones who are both actors and puppeteers.

Music from the movie is intact, along with some additional songs. And while it's all beautiful and moving, the tunes from the motion picture are the ones that prove to be the most memorable. "Circle of Life" opens the show in grand fashion, and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" is a touching moment between grown-up Simba and Nala. "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" gives the cubs a chance to shine, along with some witty pop-culture references and slapstick by Zazu.

Brilliant scenic design, lighting and costumes also are key elements in this stage spectacle. Creative backdrops and special effects manipulate scale and perspective to show us everything from a stampede to poor Timon falling into the river. 

It's official! BRING IT ON is coming to Broadway!
May 15, 2012
Source: New York Times

‘Bring It On’ Is Coming to Broadway This Summer
By PATRICK HEALY

Broadway producers rarely open new shows in summertime, when tourist-dominated audiences in New York are biggest for long-running hits, but a new musical comedy is moving into the St. James Theater in July: “Bring It On,” a takeoff on the battle-of-the-cheerleaders movie from 2000 starring Kirsten Dunst. The show will start previews on July 12, direct from a 13-city national tour — a rare example of a production that played in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and Toronto before coming to New York, where musicals usually begin before going out on the road.

The show was created by several Tony Award-winning artists: The music is by Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (“In the Heights”), with lyrics by Mr. Miranda and Amanda Green and a book by Jeff Whitty (“Avenue Q”). Andy Blankenbuehler, who won a Tony for choreography for “In the Heights,” is the director and choreographer. The production, which has a different plot and characters from the movie but still turns on a cheerleading competition, will feature the entire cast from the tour, which includes real-life cheerleaders in some of the high-flying acrobatic sequences.

The musical is scheduled for a limited engagement on Broadway, with an opening night of Aug. 1 and a closing date of Oct. 7.

The Buzz Archive
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