Saturday, March 19, 2011

Memphis on Broadway, by way of Palo Alto, coming to a (movie) theatre near you!

Did you get all that from the headline?

That's right: Memphis, the Tony-Award-winning musical, got its start right here in the Bay Area at Theatreworks. It went on to acclaim in NYC, and now it's participating in an interesting phenomenon that has popped up over the last few years.

A taped performance of Memphis is going to be shown in select movie theatres over a four-day period in late April/early May, produced by Fathom Events, which is part of National CineMedia. This has been going on with concerts and other live events for a while, but I'm not sure they've ever done it with a Broadway musical before, and certainly not with the reigning "Best Musical" on Broadway.

Another local tidbit: James Monroe Iglehart, a longtime local performer here in the Bay Area, traveled to NYC with Memphis and is still one of the featured performers.

There are lots of local showings.

So, my questions for you are: Have you ever gone to one of these kind of events before? Did you see Memphis when it was at Theatreworks? Or have you seen it on Broadway? And finally, of course, would you go see it in a movie theatre?

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ah, the "What's Wrong with Broadway?" meme

It rears its ugly head about as often as we hear "Where are the women in...[fill in the blank]?" meme here in Silicon Valley. It's the "What's wrong with Broadway?" meme, and having lived in NYC in the late 80s, you can imagine I've heard that question a time or two.

Kimberly Kaye tackles the issue for, of all things, The Economist. I didn't even know they had more of a lifestyle outlet entitled "Intelligent Life".

A factor Kaye brings up that I really hadn't thought about was the economy's impact not on Broadway, but on significant Off-Broadway houses...many have closed, apparently. And that leaves certain shows with more quirk, less sure-fire spectacle, with nowhere else to go but to attempt Broadway. Sometimes it works; often it doesn't.

It's a good read, and as she points out: Nothing new is wrong, specifically, with Broadway. Broadway has long been the most commercial of enterprises, vs. purely an artistic enterprise, and therefore it lives and dies by tourists and their dollars.

Could producers examine the model of lowering prices to bring in a higher volume of audience member? I think they should. It's part of a vicious cycle that's been going for decades...spectacle begets cost. Cost begets higher ticket prices. Higher ticket prices begets expectations of something "spectacular" is going to happen. Expectations beget spectacle. And so on. And this all also begets more dependence on tourists vs. theatre-loving locals.

Vicious circle, as I mentioned.

Here in the Bay Area, over the last few years my theatre-going habits have changed dramatically as I've had less time...but also due to that expectations cycle.

Of course, 42nd Street Moon is always on my list, since I'm on their board. And one of the things I like most about their productions is the intimate space and unamplified voices.

But my other theatre-going has shifted from a brief subscription with TheatreWorks and a very long-term subscription to American Musical Theatre of San Jose (AMT) to the more recent 3 years my S.O. and I have been subscribers to San Jose Rep.

With TheatreWorks, I felt like the prices (and local media hype) begat expectations they couldn't live up to for me. I wanted a level of quality I didn't feel I was getting for the price.

With AMT, I felt like they were resorting to more and more old and tired fare...to fill a 3,000 seat theatre they couldn't really be too out there...not too dissimilar from Broadway I suppose. When it became clear that our subscription was always going to include way more Camelot and Music Man than Spring Awakening or Assassins, we moved on from that subscription too.

Now, with San Jose Rep, we're seeing way fewer musicals, more straight plays.We're seeing more new works. We're seeing things we haven't see (a hundred times) before. And we really like it. And think we're getting our money's worth.

But it is not a big, commercial, for-profit theatre. And it likely never could be.

What's wrong with Broadway: The same thing that was always wrong with it.

But what's right with Broadway also remains: Amazing talent. Beauty, not just spectacle. The shared, live experience of something you can't get anywhere else.

I'm heading to NYC in late January, and I'll be saving an evening for Broadway, no doubt about it.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

My theatre schedule: Foothill, SJ Rep, Lyric Theatre, 42nd Street Moon


OK, after months of being in a live theatre desert, I'm hitting a busy two week period, filled with theatre-going opportunities.

Last night we went and saw Bat Boy at Foothill Music Theatre. It closes today, so unless you movie quickly, you've missed your chance, but we really enjoyed. it. I saw it at TheatreWorks a few years ago, and really wasn't that into it...I felt it lacked the inherent heart that a show of similar style and tone (LIttle Shop of Horrors) had. BUt last night's production convinced me that this was a problem of direction and acting approach, not the piece itself. When you take your characters absolutely seriously in the face of completely absurd comedy, it's the only way to make the audience care from curtain to curtain. Foothill and Jay Manley excel at that approach, which is why I've typically enjoyed Foothill productions of such shows more than TheatreWorks.

Next Saturday night we're seeing The Kite Runner at San Jose Rep. Great book, local connections, world premiere. Fascinated to see how they adapt this to the stage. I didn't see the movie, so only have the book in my head.

On April 11th, my birthday, I'll be seeing High Spirits at 42nd Street Moon. This is the musical adaptation of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, which I've never seen. This will be the first show I've seen there in a while, and since I joined their board. Last time I went they were still holding binders and doing staged concerts, so it should be quite fun to see them to more traditional stagings. I love the glamour of this photo of Dyan McBride as Elvira.

That leaves only one question mark. A good friend is playing Guenevere in the Lyric Theatre's production of Camelot. I don't understand these theatres that do runs of only two weekends. We lead busy lives, people, come on!! I don't know if I can make it. There is literally only one date that I can make, and I need to check with the S.O., but it's on a week night...which he usually totally shuns for social activities (this is a night owl software engineer, folks.) I'll have to play it by ear :(

So, seen any of those? What's on your March/April theatre agenda?

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Two shows I want to see now

I've been feeling a bit of theatre ennui. I really haven't felt excited to see anything, except for shows my friends are appearing in. And it even seems like some of my stalwart theatre friends aren't as active as they once were in theatre. but there are two shows I'm eyeing and that I want to make the effort to buy tickets and see.

I definitely want to see the John Doyle Sweeney Todd currently kicking off its National Tour by hitting ACT. I just got a little taken by surprise and didn't realize it's, like, now! It opened Thursday and runs through the end of the month.

So, I know it's only been playing all of three days, but has anyone seen it yet?

The other is Emma, currently playing at TheatreWorks. It's gotten pretty good reviews, and I do like Jane Austen. It closes even earlier than Sweeney, so I better get on it.

So, reviews? Anyone?

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Foothill Alum out in the world: Jessica Rauum

Last summer's Annie in Annie Get Your Gun, Ms. Jessica Rauum, has a busy spring lined up.

Her next show is A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine at The Willows. I've never actually seen the show, despite it being fairly commonly produced in the area. It plays May 28 - July 1, 2007 up in Concord.

But before she opens in that show she'll be understudying Molly Bell in the role of Mary in TheatreWorks' upcoming production of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. That runs April 4-29. Merrily is a terrific show, despite its lack of Broadway success, with a typically wonderful Sondheim score. It is fairly non-traditional to cast young, slender, ingenue types such as Molly and Jessica as Mary...she's usually cast as the more archetypal, wise-cracking sidekick (read: not slender, not beautiful, not-gonna-get-the-guy) type. I can tell you that either Molly or Jessica will be able to sing the shit out of Mary's material...which is some fun, belty stuff.

So, Jessica's got her hands full. What are the rest of you Foothill-ites up to?

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