Romeo & Juliet – Broadway Screening

orlando-bloom-condola-rashad1-romeo-and-juliet-broadwayThis show played on Broadway and I will admit that there was a very brief flicker of interest just because of the name recognition of Orlando Bloom in his Broadway turn as the ill-fated Romeo, but I never would have paid Broadway ticket prices to see the show and I was even uncertain if I wanted to pay the $20 to see the limited engagement screening of the show. There really isn’t anything interesting left to do with the play. In the end the irony of seeing a show about star crossed lovers who kill themselves for love on Valentine’s Day was a little too strong for me to resist.

I will keep this brief and in bullet form the show was no more or less than I expected.

  • They cast the Montagues as a white family and the Capulets as a black family, I’m pretty sure that’s been done before.
  • Orland Bloom gave an appropriately ‘pectacular performance, but in an HD screening on a full size movie screen he passes for a teenager not at all.
  • Our Juliet, Condola Rashad, was much more convincing as a teenager.
  • tn-500_0435_romeo&juliet(c)carolrossegThe best part of the show, hands down, is Mercutio’s leather jacket.
  • The second best part of the show was Mercutio, Christian Carmago. Always been my favorite character in the show.
  • Why, oh why would you have Mercutio die off stage? I love that death scene.
  • When you decide to costume the show in modern dress you need to realize that a dagger in the belt just isn’t going to look right. (Mercutio most correctly kept his in his boot, don’t want to ruin the line of that great jacket)
  • Every single adult character in the show is an idiot. Especially the Nurse.
  • Friar Lawrence came across as kind of creepy.
  • They totally skipped Romeo killing Paris at the Montague’s tomb. Not that I really cared.
  • Orlando Romeo was wearing two pendants too many.
  • I kept trying to figure out from where I knew the actor playing the Prince. (The Cosby Show, he played the oldest daughters husband.)
  • To wrap up there was a gaggle of tween/teen girls there from which I had to physically distance myself.

I am still befuddled why parents think this is a good show to take their young daughters to. I suppose spun correctly it’s a cautionary tale about the dire consequences of not listening to you parents.

The Importance of Being Earnest – STC

Earnest01When the Shakespeare Theater Company hits it out of the park with a production they typically clear the fence with room to spare and with this production of The Importance of Being Earnest, they not only cleared the fence, they made it look effortless. Is it okay to use sports metaphors to describe theater? Everyone gets I’m talking baseball right? It was an out of the park homerun?

Earnest02

To put it plainly I loved this production. As funny as the broad slapstick of “A Funny Thing…” was (which I saw and loved as well,) the urbane wit of this show is easily equal to it. And for me is more to my personal tastes. Everything in the production worked, there wasn’t a weak link. It takes a great deal of skill to take these characters, who are in fact shallow, inane, fickle and deceitful people and make you like them and even root for them. Wilde’s work is obviously mocking the world of the Victorian gentry but does so in almost an avuncular manner. Granted that could also be a wise move of a playwright whose success was dependent on that which he mocked to cover the rapier satire with a liberal coating pink fluff.

Earnest03The cast in this show is wonderful and are well anchored by our fair haired erstwhile Earnests, Anthony Roach and Gregory Wooddell, who have great fraternal chemistry, even before your realize that they are indeed brothers. Vanessa Morosco and Katie Fabel’s turn as Gwendolyn Fairfax and Cecily Cardew respectively were hilarious and while I was watching the interaction of the characters with their faux immediate intimacy and feigned civility even in conflict it really made me think that women’s social relationships haven’t evolved that much from then to now. It had a certain tinge of teen high school cliquishness.

It is a wonderfully acted and thoroughly enjoyable evening of theater that I think all would enjoy. The play runs through March 16th.

Mother Courage and Her Children-Arena Stage

mother courage01Arena Stage typically dedicates one show a year to reviving a popular classic musical, and be it Oklahoma! My Fair Lady or Camelot they tend to do a great job with these shows. This year for a change of pace Molly Smith and her band of intrepid actors take on beloved and oft performed musical by Bertolt Brecht, Mother Courage and Her Children. The musical follows a mother and her three children as they try to scrape out a living following warring armies as they (the armies that is) lay waste to the countryside during the Thirty Years War; you know a classic RomCom premise.

I kid because I love.

I saw the show pretty early in previews and I did really enjoy the show it, though there were a few rough patches, lines stumbled upon a little too long of scene changes and in the end it did move me to tears. It’s about a single mother and her children trying to survive the vagaries of a war torn world, it’s bound to end in tears but it also ends in survival and undefeated determination. Or it could be it ends in the futility of life that is stubbornly clung to only in ignorance of an alternate. It is a post-WWII musical by a German, existential parallels were inevitable.

One can rarely go wrong in casting Kathleen Turner in anything, I’ve yet to see her disappoint, but casting her in a musical was certainly a risk; Ms. Turners is well known for her voice but not really for its lyrical qualities. I was quite pleased to discover that she has a good voice, on pitch with good tone, and the her huskiness of voice works very well with the world weary toughness that is Mother Courage. However, not being a trained singer, what she obviously lacked was sustained breath. Luckily the show, while billed as a musical only has 11 songs, half of most typical musicals, so it’s really more of a play with some musical interludes. A few times the on stage band seemed to overwhelm the singer, mostly the accordion, but they resolved that in the second act.

mother courage02The rest of the cast is filled out with some of my Arena Stage favorites, Nicholas Rodriguez and Nehla Joshi as the sons Eilif and Swiss Cheese are as always excellent. This was the first time I’ve seen Mr. Rodriguez play a less than affable character, and it’s entirely a personal preference that I rather have him as Curly or Freddy Eynsfod-Hill. Erin Weaver as the daughter Kattrin did an exceptional job as the one character that literally had no voice but showed more wit and soul than that of her brothers while constantly being judged as less.

The show runs through March 9th and if you’re looking for something a little different this show delivers.

Violet – Ford’s Theatre

violet 1One of my theater practices is that I do not read reviews of a show once I’ve decided to go see it. I don’t want my experience to be tainted by other people’s opinions and expectations. When I saw the ads for the Ford’s Theatre production of Violet,  a show which I knew to be opening on Broadway this spring, I naturally assumed that this must be their out of town tryout. I was excited and decided I would see the show early in its previews and the again on Broadway to see how the show had changed and how the performances had developed so I could compare and contrast because…that’s the kind of geek that I am.

I show up Friday night pretty excited to see the show and I’m immediately puzzled as I peruse the playbill. Isn’t Sutton Foster supposed to be in this? Hadn’t I read Sutton Foster was playing the lead? Does Ms. Foster not do out of town previews? As I continue to read the playbill I recognize as significant number of actors that are DC regional theater regulars. Well it turns out that this is not the Broadway bound production of Violet, starring Sutton Foster, but a regional production of Violet with a well-known and talented cast of regional actors.

Now that that confusion has been cleared up, back to the show.

violet 3Violet is a rarely performed musical that had a brief but critically praised off-Broadway run 17 years ago yet never made the transition to Broadway. Based on a short story, “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts (you know her better for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” which was recently made into a movie) and set in the mid ‘60’s it’s the story of a young woman whose face was badly scarred by an ax when she was a teenager and a fateful bus trip she takes from her home in North Carolina to Tulsa Oklahoma where she hopes to be healed by an televangelist faith healer. The story flashes back and forth from the current time to her childhood and her life with her father. Along the way she meets a variety of characters and befriends two soldiers who help her find her way more than any televangelist could.

Having seen this show, I’m excited to see the Broadway production. Not that this show is not entirely entertaining but I’ve read that the original writers of the show, music by Jeanine Tesori and libretto by Brian Crawley, are tweaking and reworking their original work for its Broadway debut so I’m very curious to see what changes they’ve made. I’ve read they are turning it into a one act show, which I can appreciate, sometime you just don’t want to interrupt the flow of the narrative. I also really enjoyed the music, it has a little more country/rockabilly/gospel vibe to it that is different from traditional show tunes or the more modern rock operas we’ve been seeing lately.

violet 2It is unfortunate for Erin Driscoll, our Violet, that for the entire performance I kept imagining Sutton Foster in the role (who I can see being incredibly well suited to the part). I am a fan of Ms. Driscoll and think she’s a wonderful performer but it seemed like she was holding back vocally in places where she should have aiming for the rafters. Kevin McAllister as the soldier Flick, steals the show and whatever actor is playing the part on Broadway will have to be something special to outshine Mr. McAllister’s performance.  He fully embodies his character and his performance of “Let it Sing” will be very hard to beat. It’s worth going to the show just for his performance. Bobby Smith as Violet’s father was also excellent and I really enjoyed Gregory Maheu as the televangelist, he gave the character depth and actually made you feel a little bit sorry for him. I liked the actress playing the daughter, but kept getting a weird Amy Poehler vibe off of her, don’t ask me why.

As a final note, be careful in selecting your seats. As an older theater there are columns holding up the balcony and they do create a pretty good obstruction. I would say a good 1/3 of the rear orchestra seats are obstructed view but the Ford’s seating chart only show a handful of seats as obstructed view. Technically my seat was not considered obstructed view but there were times I couldn’t see the actors on the stage. Nothing, perhaps not even the most chatty of seats mates, annoys me more that theaters selling obstructed view seats at full ticket prices! I’ve paid to see the whole show not 9/10th of it, as there seemed to be ample seats available I re-seated my self during intermission. Their ticketing system does allow you to pick your seats so be wary the column.    The show runs through 2/24 you can get tickets here.