Dave the Musical Review: An Aptly Timed Musical Staged in the Perfect City

Dave the Musical

Quick Menu: [General]||[Movie vs Musical]||[Characters & Cast]||[Music]||[Set & Costume]||[Stage Dooring]||[Overall]

MUSICAL: Dave

WHERE: Arena Stage in Washington, DC (July 18th – August 19th)

PROTIP: There are 35% off student tickets and if you are 30-years-old or younger, they have “Pay Your Age” tickets in which you literally pay the price of your age. Additional SRO or bar stool seats also seem to be added a few days before sold out performances.

No public announcement yet as to whether the show will move onto Broadway.

38085310_10211869719880828_1023800240634855424_n

GENERAL: Dave is a musical based on the 1993 Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver classic of the same name in which Dave, an ordinary American and presidential impersonator, stands in for the actual President of the United States. While this musical had been in the works well before the 2016 election, since the election of Donald Trump, the feel-good comedy taking place in a fictional White House could not be more perfectly timed. The show could not have opened at a more perfect time or in a more perfect city or be opening in a more perfect city. While it could be risky to open a presidentially-themed show in Washington, DC, the (perhaps) more politically conscious crowd can appreciate the musical that much more. The political jokes were spot on, perfectly adapted to the current political climate (with a fair share of subtle and one perhaps not-so-subtle Trump reference).

I was seated in the back of the Orchestra Section (view was great) right next to the aisle which was cool because there are multiple instances in the show in which the fourth wall is broken and the cast interacts with the audiences – from asking us to (optionally) stand during a recitation of the national anthem to singing along with the national anthem to shaking the President’s hand to receiving campaign flyers.

The show features a hilarious book by Tony Award winner Thomas Meehan (Annie, Hairspray) and Tony nominee Nell Benjamin (Mean Girls, Legally Blonde), music by Tony winner Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, If/Then), choreography by Tony nominee Sam Pinkleton (Great Comet, Amelie), and lyrics by Benjamin. The show is directed by Tony nominee Tina Landau (SpongeBob SquarePants).

I had the opportunity to watch the fourth preview of the show, which was exciting for me because next time I see the show there definitely could be some changes in the script, songs, staging, etc. Also it was cool because I was seated in the same row as the director (Landau). [back to top]

Dave The Musical Arena Stage

There a few touchscreen podiums in the lobby where you could play games such as guessing how many degrees of connection the creative team is from other celebrities, solving a puzzle, or learning some blast from the past facts.

THE MOVIE vs THE MUSICAL: Minor spoilers are ahead (and throughout the review), but then again, this story has been out for 25 years.

Movies turned into musicals are always a ton of fun for me to watch because I love seeing how the screen translates to the stage. Some shows I had seen the movie before the musical (e.g. Mean Girls, The Lion King) while others I saw the movie after the show (e.g. Waitress, Groundhog Day, and finally Dave).

I saw the movie Dave less than 24 hours after seeing the musical, and both are great. Both follow the same general storyline with some minor details changed in the stage adaptation. For example, Dave Kovic is a school teacher with a Abraham Lincoln obsession in the musical whereas he is a Temp Agency Owner in the movie. Different items are cut from the budget to fund retirement home programs (vs homeless shelters for children in the movie) and the consequences of cutting those items are also different in the show from the movie (not sure if the math adds up exactly, but that could’ve just been the math geek in me half-analyzing things).

The show is brought up to modern times, however, with smartphones and flatscreens and selfies and hashtags. Other modern changing include the famous baseball scene with the est. 2005 Washington Nationals instead of the Baltimore Orioles, President Mitchell’s Chief of Staff is former CIA instead of a former Congressman, and there is a female White House Communications Director and a slightly different post-First-Lady occupation for Ellen Mitchell. However, most of the major scenes are included in the show; the show even manages to include the shower scene and hilariously mimic First Lady Mitchell noticing something different about Dave in the shower just like she did in the movie. There are some minor differences in the show, but most of your favorite parts are still there on the stage. [back to top]

THE CHARACTERS and CAST: The cast was extremely talented. This was my third time seeing Drew Gehling on the stage and he was an absolute star in the show as both Dave Kovic and President Bill Mitchell. I was so excited seeing him do such a phenomenal job on stage – a stage he maintained energy on for what I think was well over 90% of the show. He played the funny awkwardness of Dave perfectly and made the show that much more enjoyable. His range in the show was extremely impressive, going from high to low to high notes seamlessly.

Mamie Parris as leading lady Ellen Mitchell came into the show explosively with powerful vocals, immediately commanding the stage. Beyond amazing vocals, Parris expertly portrayed Ellen with subtle gestures and facial expressions to show how she was slowly figuring out that something was different about her husband.

Douglas Sills was a crowd favorite as stern and somewhat-Trump-like White House Chief of Staff Bob Alexander. Bryonha Marie Parham made audiences fall in love with the new Dave Communication Director Susan Lee through killer vocals and hilarious wit. I couldn’t begin to say how awesome Josh Breckenridge was as Secret Service Agent Duane Bolden. With just one phrase he managed to convey so much meaning and was a hilarious protector of the President.

The ensemble was phenomenally talented and they all looked like they were having a ton of fun on stage. Of special note were Sherri L. Edelen as a White House Tour Guide (I don’t think an audience has ever laughed so hard at the phrase “And we’re walking”), Kevin R. Free as Dave’s hilarious accounting-expert-friend Murray Stein, and Dana Costello, who absolutely slayed over-ad-libbing (seriously though, those notes were impressive) the first half of the national anthem as teen-pop sensation, Montana Jefferson (hmm… that names sounds familiar hmm…)

It was also great to see such a diverse cast in the show — representation in the arts truly matters! [back to top]

THE MUSIC: It’s always hard for me to write about music that I can’t listen to again and again through a recording after the show, as I tend to really enjoy the music more and more doing that. However, I can say that Benjamin’s lyrics are great and the music was overall very enjoyable. There were a few standout pieces and Gehling, Parris, Parham, and Sills were all on point vocally. Of special note was Sills in “Kill That Guy” – a funny and memorable number that everyone well definitely enjoy.

The following goes through the songs in more detail and what goes on in each. Hopefully I am fairly accurate about the context of all the songs. Feel free to skip to the [next section] or go [back to top].

The show’s first song is “There’s Always a Way”, a cute opening Broadway number with the classic heartwarming Broadway-styled feel-good melody setting the stage for both Dave and President Mitchell in the show. In it we get to see Gehling switch back-and-forth between the characters and learn about Dave’s “famous” Lincoln Penny Banks.

“I’m the President” has a patriotic tune to it, for lack of a better phrase, with that classic marching-type beat, in which Dave impersonated President Mitchell for the White House for the first time. It’s hilarious and fun with Chief of Staff Alexander yelling at Dave most of the time. It’s also the song in which President Mitchell has his stroke.

“Bad Example” was a hysterically funny song with Dave, Alexander, and Lee, and definitely one of my favorites in the show. “Hero” is one of Dave’s solos in which (although not the point of the song but was memorable to me) he proclaims both his love for the Gettysburg Address (didn’t know it was only three minutes long until this song!) and his excitement to be staying in the Lincoln bedroom.

“The Last Time I Fake It” was Parris’ explosive entrance as First Lady Mitchell singing how she was done pretending that everything is fine between her and the President. It has a fun almost tango-like tune to it and was an overall jam. It’s filled with comedy as Gehling is stuffed with chocolates and lyrics that play on the irony of Kovic’s first time being with Ellen Mitchell. “A Whole New Man” takes us through Ellen Mitchell’s frustration with everyone seeing a new man in the President when she is not buying that he has changed.  This is also the song in which we see Montana Jackson’s hilarious anthem debut.

“Not My Problem” was Duane’s song to shine – explaining to Dave how he has enough problems. “Everybody Needs Some Help Sometime” is a crowd-pleasing song in which Dave as President Mitchell joins the First Lady at her visit to the retirement home and proclaims it a worthy initiative because… well  everyone needs help sometimes. “Sake of Argument” is a cute heart-warming duet between the two leads.

The second act’s first song is Chief of Staff Alexander’s phenomenal performance of “Kill That Guy” in which he vents his anger at Dave ruining all of his plans. “Not Again” is another great duet between the First Lady and Dave and how she does not want to be stupid enough to fall for him, not again. The “Whole New Man (Reprise)” is where Dave finds out being the President is harder than he expected. “Presidential Party” is the hilarious song in which Dave has a dream (or nightmare) about former unpopular Presidents convincing him to make certain decisions.  “A Little Too Late” is about how it’s too late for Dave and First Lady Mitchell to actually date.

Next is “History”, a powerfully sung solo with Dave singing about all the nuances with History. This song served as his final speech to a nationally televised joint-session of Congress in which “President Bill Mitchell” has a second stroke. The show closes with “It’s On Us”, serving as a motivational message to the audience to not lose hope, and that it’s on us to run for office and to vote! It was powerful, uplifting, upbeat, and a great way to end the show. I definitely felt motivated after it – that one person can make a difference (just as Dave Kovic could make a difference). [back to top]

Dave Arena Stage Set.jpg

Moving walls on stage currently closed. Musicians seated on a higher level to the left and right and all the way around the back of the moving walls in the picture above. 

THE SET and COSTUMES: I think doing costumes for a present-day musical can sometimes be super difficult because what do “normal modern people” wear. But they were spot on and the historical costume for Dave’s dream with former Presidents in it were great, especially of Taft.

38137328_10211869719320814_7926201830818709504_n

Colorful lights on the moving walls (from Mamie Parris’ instastory)

The set was really cool. There are these moving walls on stage that… well… they move around the circumference of the circular stage creating compartments and acting as screens for projections. It’s a really cool use of space for a variety of purposes. There are also a few screens to display news clips or show live television of events happening on stage such as TV interviews or Presidential speeches (it was amazing watching how what the actors were doing on stage exactly mimicked what was happening on the screens – I actually believed for a bit that it was a live recording). A great use of technology.

Dave also had the Broadway magic that I’ve grown to love – quick on-stage costume changes or when a person is one place on stage and then is suddenly in another. Gehling does several of these costume changes back-and-forth from Dave to President Mitchell (many all in the same song) and all (but maybe one) are like complete magic. It’s also really awesome how the choreography and staging will draw your eyes to one part of the stage and suddenly Dave appears on the other side and you’re like “woah what how did that happen”. I absolutely love shows with magic like that and it’s always awesome to see it live on the stage. [back to top]

Dave the Musical Playbill

STAGE-DOORING: I went on a Saturday night, the fourth preview, and show two of a four show weekend, in which it was pouring rain (and just day two of nine consecutive rainy days in the DC area). Yet the cast was so incredibly friendly at the stage door. It was just me and another little boy with his Dad. The actors, the boy, his dad, and I were huddling and sharing umbrellas and working together to make sure the little boy’s poster didn’t get wet. It was adorable and the cast was all extremely kind. The rain prevented conversations from lasting too long, but it was great to say thanks to everyone and I could tell everyone was just really excited to be part of such an awesome show.

Gehling was extremely kind as always and we caught up briefly as we’ve been doing the past few shows we have met up at. We also took a commemorative selfie (maybe a #SelfiesWithDrew Instagram page needs to get going hmm). [back to top]

OVERALL: A must see if you are in the DC area (though, for the record, one couple did drive down from NYC just to see the show on that Saturday night so geography isn’t too much of an excuse). Given the current political climate, the humor is just that much funnier, and you’ll leave the show a great feeling. That’s what awesome theatre is all about.

I really do hope the show does make it to Broadway – Gehling shines on stage, the cast is talented, and the creative team who put together the show did a killer job. It’s a story that everyone could use right about now. · [back to top]

 

Follow me on Instagram @ananteaterblog for more reviews and subscribe to the blog for updates.

 

If you liked this review, you might also like…

…A review of another show that opened in Washington, DC with lyrics by Benjamin: Mean Girls (Pre-Broadway Run)

…A review of another show directed by Landau: SpongeBob SquarePants (Broadway)

…A review of another show in the DC area: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Kennedy Center)

…A great restaurant in DC: Sfoglina Pasta House

Advertisements

Hamilton Review: Ryan Vasquez Blows Us All Away

Ryan Vasquez HamiltonWritten by Featured Guest Blogger, Kristen
Sugar Butter Flour Kristen! Future financier. Broadway and a cappella fan. Waitress aficionado.

MUSICAL: Hamilton: An American Musical

WHERE: The Richard Rodgers Theatre, New York City

Like anyone with interest in pop culture, I am a die-hard Hamilton fan.  Lin Manuel Miranda’s genius creation lights a fire in me like no other musical can.  As a self-proclaimed history nerd with a passion for music and a major in finance, Hamilton could not be a better fit as the soundtrack to everything and anything.  As such, I have had the privilege of seeing the show multiple times now.  And let me tell you, it never gets old.

Ryan Vasquez

Kristen and Vasquez!

On July 1st, I had the best seats in the room where it happened to see the one and only Ryan Vasquez on as Hamilton.  I was so excited to see my former Broadway Talks Back guest and friend take center stage in the title role.  Other notable cast members included Daniel Breaker as the incomparable Aaron Burr and Anthony Lee Medina as the charming John Laurens and feisty Phillip Hamilton.

Vasquez commands the stage as if he was born for the role.  It was clear that he had the “young, scrappy, and hungry” energy to play the role of Hamilton.  He raps with ease, pronouncing every word with intent.  Every syllable shows the intention and intelligence behind Miranda’s writing, and Vasquez displays that with a fiery passion.  “My Shot” was an early highlight, helping set the stage for the character relationships to develop.  Medina particularly shines in this scene and exudes energy through his lines.

As Hamilton ages, Vasquez flawlessly portrays different facets of his character’s personality.  In his scenes with Jefferson, he displays the political wit that made him such a successful writer.  Later in the show, you see him fall from grace because of his affair with Maria Reynolds.  I had to constantly remind myself that he is only 26, as he mastered these scenes as if he had lived them.  My favorite scene from Vasquez, however, was “It’s Quiet Uptown.”  I have always felt the emotion in the song, but I must say that Ryan made me sob uncontrollably during this scene.  I could physically feel the pain he was portraying, and it broke my heart.  Losing a child must be an unbearable experience, and this 26-year-old was able to capture that and leave no eye dry from that scene.

Breaker plays a wonderful Burr, and plays the role of a very angry narrator.  He continuously highlights Burr’s fruitless efforts to succeed over Hamilton.  While Vasquez displays Hamilton’s continued success, Breaker becomes increasingly frustrated and bitter over his circumstances.  His “Room Where It Happens” was the highlight of the character, showing off both his impressive vocal range and nimble dance moves.  Breaker’s personal life is also interesting to note.  While off the clock from Hamilton, he loves cooking and can be seen branding his food on Instagram in his spare time.

Ryan Vasquez Hamilton Instagram

Vasquez’s Instagram story

I can confidently say that Ryan Vasquez is going to be one of the biggest stars on Broadway in the years to come.  He is as talented as he is genuine, and I fully believe that he deserves all of the success that he has in store.  Be sure to follow him on Instagram and twitter @itsryanvasquez to receive updates on what he is doing!

Catch up with guest blogger Kristen on Instagram @happilykristen and be sure to subscribe to the blog for more musical theatre reviews and follow @ananteaterblog on Instagram for updates.

Girlfriend: The Feel-good Musical “I’ve Been Waiting” For

20180616_195500

MUSICAL: Girlfriend

WHERE: Signature Theatre (Arlington, VA)

Girlfriend is a summer love story set in 1993 Nebraska in which the high-school jock takes an interest in the school’s gay kid in the final days of high school and the summer after graduation. A two-man show, the musical takes us back to our high-school days of nervously talking to our crushes, the awkwardness from the first (and second and third…) date, and all the emotions that go along with falling in love.

In a time with movies like Call Me By Your Name and Love, Simon and plays like Angels in America, The Boys in the Band, and Afterglow on-and-off-Broadway, Girlfriend plays an important role in showcasing the LGBTQ+ experience. Topics such as homophobia and coming out are referenced and acted out throughout the musical. However, none of the complexity of the topics are thoroughly discussed. I was initially confused as to why this is – there were multiple moments in the show to really drive home a deep topic through emotional conversation. However, I soon realized that just by alluding to and showcasing the characters’ reactions to the homophobia they face and the complexity of the coming out process, there is a beauty in the lack of complication in the show.

Given all of this, the show is extremely relatable for all audience members, regardless of their sexual orientation. And that’s another reason the show is powerful. We have all had crushes. We have all felt like we have not belonged. We all have experienced lows after feeling great highs. There is really something for everyone in this show to grab onto and connect to.

THE CHARACTERS and CAST: Jimmy Mavrikes stars as the fabulously awkward Will – a boy constantly bullied for being queer who is still trying to figure out what he is going to do with his life. Lukas James Miller stars as Mike, the handsome high-school jock going to college in the Fall who faces pressure from his Dad to follow a certain career and spend time with his girlfriend.

The chemistry between Mavrikes and Miller is amazing. During the musical numbers, their energy was infectious. During the relatable date scenes, the two expertly created awkwardness that was palpable. Mavrikes provided excellent comic relief throughout the show while updating the audience of Will’s thoguhts and expertly shows the roller coaster of emotions Will rides throughout the show. Miller does a great job showing the progression of Mike becoming more and more comfortable with his sexuality and gracefully balanced being both the humorous pursuer of Will and the strong-alpha that his friends and family expect him to be.

THE MUSIC:   The show features 10 songs from musician Matthew Sweet’s 1991 album Girlfriend. The arrangements for the songs are genius – they are fun and lively and the harmonies between Mavrikes and Miller are spectacular. The friend I saw the show with put it best when she said that “each successive song became my new favorite one” and I couldn’t agree more. “I’ve Been Waiting” and “Looking at the Sun” were the two songs that stood out to me, but all of the tunes were super catchy. I went home that night wishing there was a recording of Mavrikes and Miller singing so I could jam out to those awesome harmonies again and again (fortunately I could still listen to Sweet’s version of those songs on his original album!)

A cool dimension of the show was that the four-person all-female band played behind an orange glass behind the stage, visible to the audience the entire time. It felt like they were in a recording studio, providing the music and backup vocals to complement Mavrikes and Miller. The band sounded amazing, and it was great to not only see them rock out during the songs, but also react to what was occurring on stage. They were just as invested in the story as the audience was.

OVERALL: Girlfriend wasn’t the show I thought I was going to watch. It wasn’t the heavy 90s rock musical I expected, but there was so much beauty in its straight-forward message. It was insanely relatable and although not a complicated story, there was much to process, think about, and discuss after the show – this all just added to the power of the story. The music was a real jam and actors were extremely talented. My only regret is that I wish I saw it before its closing weekend so I could bring more friends to watch it again!

P.S. Shows at the Signature Theatre in Arlington are great – awesome venue in a great location (Shirlington) and there are $25 student tickets.

Bright Star Tour Review: My Trip to North Carolina, Literally

Bright Star Playbill

MUSICAL: Bright Star (First US National Tour). Ticket info here. Student tickets may be available!

WHERE: Duke Energy Center in Raleigh, NC (At Winspear Opera House in Dallas, TX June 12th-24th and Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC June 26th-July 1st).

Bright Star is a musical set in the 1920s and 1940s by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell inspired by their 2013 album (a song in which won a Grammy!). It follows the story of a young soldier returning home from WWII, his interactions with the editor of a literary magazine, and the unearthing of a life-altering truth.

I enjoy Bluegrass music, but I have to be completely honest that when Bright Star was on Broadway, watching a bluegrass musical wasn’t at the top of my list (I had my doubts about a bluegrass musical). But when the opportunity arrived for me to go down to North Carolina to see this musical set in North Carolina, I jumped on it, and I am so glad that I did. The music was phenomenal and the story was moving (inspired by the true story of a baby who fell from a train in 1902).

One of my favorite parts of the show was how as the story unfolds on the stage in the 1920s and 1940s, you can see ensemble members in the background and sides of the stage watching it happen, as if they are also watching a story being told. It was powerful and just a really cool dimension to add to the show.

20180421_132351

THE CHARACTERS and CAST:  Lead actress Audrey Cardwell does an insanely great job as Alice Murphy. Not only does she play both a convincing teenager and middle-aged adult, but also she remains full of energy and emotion on stage for almost the entire show. Patrick Cummings plays Jimmy Ray Dobbs and transitions back and forth between playing a 20-something-year-old Dobbs and a 40-something-year-old Dobbs with finesse. Henry Gottfried plays Billy Cane with much gusto and charisma. Jeff Blumenkrantz continues from Broadway his role as Daryl Ames and provides the audience with numerous moments of comedy and great chemistry with Kaitlyn Davidson who expertly plays Lucy Grant. The rest of the cast was also amazingly talented.

THE MUSIC: Mainstream America doesn’t know Steve Martin for his music, but they should. The music is catchy, moving (emotionally, but also some of it will quite literally get you moving on your feet) (I advise you to resist the urge to actually stand up and start dancing in the middle of the show, however), and the harmonies are great.

One of my favorite songs was “Asheville”. Insanely catchy tune with an emotional performance by Liana Hunt that will have you thinking of your one that got away.

Henry Gottfried gave a vocally strong performance in “Bright Star”, another catchy tune from the musical. The choreography of the song with its many moving elements was especially impressive. Gottfried’s drunk and fun dancing in “Another Round” was also a highlight.

Speaking of “Another Round”, Kaitlyn Davidson and Jeff Blumenkrantz deserve several rounds for how fun they performed that song. It’s another tune that you’ll be singing for days!

One thing that I absolutely loved in the show were the southern accents the characters used. But Patrick Cummings especially knocked it out of the park (accent, vocals, and all) in “Whoa, Mama”.

My favorite songs of Audrey Cardwell were during the over-energetic teenager she embodied in “Firmer Hand/Do Right” and the raw emotion that brought me to tears in “Please, Don’t Take Him”. “So Familiar” was another song that was catchy and gave the audience a lot of hope and excitement.

The “Entr’acte” was also especially catchy and a fun start to Act II. An extremely talented band.

I think you’re starting to get the idea that I really loved a lot of the songs. They all told a great story and I’m still listening to the recordings of the songs to this day (if only there were a recording of the tour cast singing the songs too!

20180421_133909

View of the moving set and stage from my seat!

THE SET and COSTUMES: Another really cool aspect of the show was the set. The band was on stage throughout the show in a moving wooden house. Throughout the show the house would move around with the band in it (while they were playing music) as it served different purposes as a set piece on stage. It was something I had never seen on stage before and it added yet another cool dimension to the show.

Another notable moment was during “A Man’s Gotta Do (Reprise)” when the ensemble put down train seats to beat of train tracks, making it sound like a real train was going through the stage. It was a really cool aural effect that when you realize what’s happening, you’re just like “whoaaaaaaah”.

Oh, and the mini train across the top of the stage was definitely super cute.

Henry Gottfried

OVERALL: So sad this show is no longer on Broadway, but thankful for the tour and the opportunity to see this bluegrass musical. Go and see it while you can. The set is really cool, the cast is incredibly talented, the music is super catchy – you definitely won’t regret it!

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Review: Corporate Life Here I Come!

MUSICAL: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Tickets available on the Kennedy Center website and discounted tickets may be available on TodayTix

WHERE: Eisenhower Theatre at the Kennedy Center (as part of Broadway Center Stage)

Being a business student myself on the job hunt, no show could be more aptly timed than this one. And I will say, it definitely has prepared me to climb the corporate ladder (and taught me that advertising may not be the best route for me, unless of course, I want to do some trying).

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a musical that first opened in 1961 winning six Tony Awards including Best Musical. It’s been on tours since and has had two revivals, most recently in 2011 starring Danielle Radcliffe in the lead role.

For me, watching this show was especially exciting because it was the first professional production I have seen of show that was not written in the 21st century. And I was definitely glad I bought tickets. The show was hilarious and what was fascinating to me was how relevant the themes in the show still are today. Director Marc Bruni put it best when he discussed in the playbill how usually there is difficulty in revivals from that age of musical comedy because “contemporary sensibilities clash with worldviews from a times of different sexual politics”. The show “both identifies sexual harassment as a common workplace occurrence and offers real consequences for transgressors: ‘they fired him like a shot/The day the fellow forgot/A secretary is not a toy.’ Even now, in a world with daily #MeToo revelations, it’s still clear not everyone is subject to the same rule.” Moreover, the show explores climbing the ladder in many different ways (from a businessman’s point of view to a secretary’s point of view), which I think makes the story especially powerful for the audience.

Even more interesting were the audience responses to the lines about the inefficiency of congress or how the President of the US should watch out for his job. While not necessarily meant to be as funny in the mid-20th century, given our current political climate (and a likely more politically conscious DC audience), there were large uproars of cheers and applause after the lines.

THE MUSIC:  The music was insanely catchy and had harmonies and memorable tunes that you would expect from a Tony-winning 20th century musical. Equally exciting was the 17-piece orchestra, which is uncommon even on Broadway. Personally, my favorite songs from the show were “Paris Original”, “Coffee Break”, and “Been a Long Day” – filled with humor and catchy beats that I’ve been humming over and over again. The other songs, however, were all really good and the “Brotherhood of Man” was especially spectacular – an amazing high-energy way to (almost) end the show.

THE CHARACTERS and CAST: The cast was spectacular! For me, Michael Urie as the villain Bud Frump stole the show. The voice he chose and the mannerisms he used were hysterical, entertaining, and extremely effective in portraying the character. His mic stopped working for a few minutes and he improvised with finesse, holding a physical/traditional mic for a scene of the show. After the show, Becki Newton was telling us how this was her first stage performance and how she had never done anything like this before – no one could even tell, she was wonderful as Hedy LaRue. John Michael Higgins was hilarious as J.B. Biggley. Skylar Austin played the part of the corporate-ladder-climbing protagonist J. Pierrepont Finch extremely well and Betsy Wolfe was phenomenal as Rosemary (funny and killing the vocals). Sean Bell also stood out to me as extremely funny in his character.

The standout vocalist to me was Nova Y. Payton who absolutely brought the house down in “Brotherhood of Man”.

Watching this show was also a col experience for me because this was the first show in which I had seen some of the performers in other shows – It was awesome to see Kaitlyn Davidson (Bright Star Tour) and Vishal Vaidya (Groundhog Day) again!

IMG_20180607_114055_957

THE SET and COSTUMES: I really appreciated a few things about the set. First was the screen in the background, the created a really cool effect when the characters went up and down the elevator. The executive washroom in “I Believe in You” was staged extremely well and it was a very cool setup in how the bathroom mirrors were created on stage. Also, I especially appreciated how the orchestra was visible to the audience and how the actors had the opportunity to interact with the orchestra at certain times.

The set and costume choices made me feel like I was in the 1960s, but it wasn’t drab or boring at all.

STAGE-DOORING: It was crazy to me how much more popular stage dooring at DC shows has become in recent years. The Eisenhower Stage Door is on the right side of the building (when facing the main entrance) on the side closest to the Watergate Hotel. There were really no organized lines and it became more of a mob around the actors, which was probably a bit crazy and overwhelming (for both actors and fans alike).

The cast was incredibly gracious and kind – they had to have been exhausted from rehearsals and long recent days in tech. But they were conversing with fans and extremely friendly and that was very kind of them. I had several great conversations with the performers that were all much appreciated.

OVERALL: Going through the job hunt, this show was a funny way to think about how I may “climb the corporate ladder” myself. I think every student who is on the job hunt or may be soon can definitely appreciate the show. How to Succeed is funny and the cast is extremely talented. The songs are super catchy. And of course, it’s always great to see some of your favorite Broadway and Television stars on the stage. If you’re in the DC area over the next few days, I could not recommend watching this interpretation of a musical classic enough. It’s at the Kennedy Center through June 10th!

20180606_194945

View from Kennedy Center Plaza the night of the show

Afterglow the Play Review: Come for the Curtains, Stay for the Feels

IMG_20180104_090559_870

PLAY: Afterglow

WHERE: The Loft at Davenport Theatre

When I decided to make the trip to Manhattan with friends this January, all the Broadway and Off-Broadway buzz made me realize we had to watch two shows. The first being the Spongebob Musical. The second being Afterglow: a one-act, off-broadway play that has extended its run three times. Afterglow even had a mention on SNL, which is pretty awesome!

The story revolves around a married couple in an open relationship, a third person entering the relationship, and how they deal with all the complicated emotions and drama involved, especially with unfaithful utterances of “I love you” and a baby on the way for married couple.

The 90-minute play is honestly one of my favorite shows, and I think part of that is because it is relevant and relatable to anyone of any gender or sexual orientation who has ever been in or plans to be in a relationship or is trying to figure out what they want to do with their life. One character is a 25-year old masseur struggling to afford living in Manhattan. The other is a 30-year old well-off Theatre Director. The third is a graduate chemistry student who is exhausted at the end of each school day. The script expertly uses the three characters’ backgrounds to create relatable scenes from everyday life sprinkled with casual, subtle, direct, and flirtatious humor.

A lot of reviews of the show I don’t think do the show justice, which could be because, although still relatable, it’s laughable for an older audience member that the character Josh is having a mid-life crisis at the ripe old age of 30 (also other reviews focus too much on the nudity, which enhances but is not the focus of the play, instead of the emotions). While I cannot speak for older audience members, I think the show is especially relevant and relatable for younger, more millennial audience members. One idea brought forward is the prominence of dating apps and “with all the options out there, we’re kind of paralyzed by the illusion of choice.” There’s a struggle for many millennials between giving up choices, or at least the illusion of it, for the security in a relationship that so many millennials want. Beyond dating apps, other themes are explored such as what does it mean to be in love, to be in a relationship, to have friendships, what does it mean to be loyal, and more. Or it could be relatable because there’s a joke about naming a plant and lots of millennials name plants.

THE CHARACTERS and CAST: Brandon Haagenson played Josh and was superb. Josh reminded me of the cool uncle – fun most of the time, but also a “real adult” at times too. Haagenson did an exemplary job of displaying a wide-range of emotion throughout the show, which was really great to see.

Joe Chisholm played Alex. Alex is sort of the more serious uncle, for lack of a better metaphor. Chisholm did it beautifully. I think it can be really difficult not to overdo frustration on stage, but Chisholm executed showing Alex’s frustration with ease and I could really feel his exhaustion from his long days in school (but perhaps I’m also drawing from personal experience…)

Patrick Reilly played Darius. Darius was young, free, flirty, and cheeky. Reilly did a great job showing off the youth of Darius in the way Darius would approach Alex and Josh with his concerns. The scene to note that I thought was especially great in showing Darius’ young and free (but also goodhearted) attitude was the laundry-folding scene. Within minutes Reilly displayed a rollercoaster of emotions that I thought was especially impressive

I thought the actors were magnificent in their roles and really did a good job on making it all feel real. What was also cool is that the three actors did all of the set changes themselves, while interacting with each other and remaining in character. That was a great touch to help keep it all feeling real.
20180109_173303

THE SET and COSTUMES:  The Davenport Theatre is a repurposed firehouse, which already is especially cool. As you go up three flights of stairs you enter a room with a small stage and seats surrounding it. This was especially cool because the audience literally surrounded the three actors and the stage.

The curtain at the beginning was really pretty and I’m not going to ruin the surprise here (though pretty much every other review talks about it), but I did not expect what was in it when I was walking past it to get to my seat.

The set piece to note was the built-in waterfall shower in the middle of the stage, which was really cool and something I have never seen before on a stage. The use of lights to create roof scenes and stargazing scenes and cool apartment vibes was also really great.

Every piece of clothing the actors wore were seemingly deliberate, making 25-year old Darius look even younger and the 30-year old married couple even older (which is good, because some critics have poked fun at the five-year age gap). The clothing choices did a good job in differentiating Josh’s and Alex’s personalities too.

OVERALL: As the director, S. Asher Gelman, had wanted, “What you bring into the show from your own life is what you’re going to take away from it.” I think this holds especially true. Overall, I think the show is great because it gets you thinking and makes you feel things and draws things from your own experiences. One of my favorite shows I have seen by far. Plus, it isn’t too long, and tickets can be found for a great price (over 60% off) on sites such as TodayTix. And you’re right in Hell’s Kitchen for a delicious dinner right before or cocktails right after, which works out perfectly.

I definitely recommend if you are in New York to read up more about the show and watch it!  The ending is appropriately left open-ended and you’ll walk out of the theatre thinking for hours about what you just saw.

 

Spongebob Squarepants Musical Review: My Trip to Bikini Bottom

IMG_20180103_140233_302

MUSICAL: Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical

WHERE: The Palace Theatre

The Spongebob Musical, amidst dozens of highly positive reviews, has been one of the most controversial musicals currently on Broadway, whether because of its costume choices or budget or the megastar artists who wrote the songs or the fact that it’s a musical about Spongebob. Every person I had talked to who had seen the show would always just tell me a seemingly positive (but also neutral) “It was something else, you need to see it for yourself.” And so I did.

In the first ten minutes alone, I was just like WOAH. I was taking in a lot at once, from voice effects to sound effects. But by the end of the first song, I knew this was going to be nothing like I had ever seen before.

I may be one of the few millennials who did not watch Spongebob growing up. Though I have seen around 10-20 episodes. But even still, I did get most of the references (whether quotes or sound effects) to the show. And the ones I didn’t know, I quickly figured out were a meme or show reference due to the audience’s loud applause.

I sat as far up front with the cheapest tickets I could buy. The Palace Theatre is a three-tier theatre, which isn’t my favorite, but from the third tier balcony you can see the entire stage (the only part you can’t see is the very front which is only used for actors to walk across the stage). It was a unique experience for me because there were lots of kids everywhere, and I had never attended a musical with an audience like that. But it was cute how excited they all would get, and anything that gets kids to Broadway is a winner in my book.

I will admit the show does a feel a bit long (especially because intermission comes fairly late into the show).

THE MUSIC:  With songs written by David Bowie/Brian Eno, Steven Tyler/Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Cyndi Lauper,  Sara Bareilles, John Legend, Plain White T’s, T.I., Panic! At the Disco, Lady Antebellum, Yolanda Adams, Jonathan Coulton, TMBG, The Flaming Lips, and more, how could the music not be great? The harmonies are wonderful. The tunes are modern and catchy.  The lyrics are clever. There are modern pop songs, there are traditional Broadway songs, there’s hip-hop, there’s rock, there are emotional duets. And you have two iconic songs from the Spongebob show.

THE CHARACTERS and CAST: The cast was great. The voice effects they were able to do were remarkable. Special shout out to Ethan Slater playing Spongebob – his upper body strength in the Musical for some of the scenes was incredible and man can he sing. Wesley Taylor was a hysterical Plankton, he did an amazing job. Jai’len Christine Li Josey has some pipes and was extremely impressive in the role of Pearl Krabs. Another standout voice was Gaelen Gilliland as the Mayor of Bikini Bottom.

Also, I’m a huge fan of representation, so it was great to see multiple colored actors and actors of Asian descent in the show!

20180103_135331

THE SET and COSTUMES: The set and costumes were incredible. One of the big “controversies” were how Spongebob wouldn’t be in a square costume. But this isn’t Barney or the Teletubbies. The yellow outfit he wore was perfect in my opinion. Sandy, with her hair, looked just as Sandy should. Patrick looked like Patrick. Mr. Krabs, with his boxing glove claws, looked great. Mrs. Puffs looked like Mrs. Puffs. Special shout out to Squidward’s legs – that was really cool how they gave him multiple tentacles.  The random sea creature costumes were superb.

20180103_152100

And the set was genius. It was superfluous and out there in every way it should be for a show like Spongebob. You’re going to have to see it to believe it. There was one set choice for the Mountain in the show that I wasn’t exactly sure why it was portrayed the way it was. Maybe I missed some symbolism? But overall, very creative use of set pieces.

The creativity for set and costumes, from ladder volcanoes to skateboarding on stage, is what makes Broadway wonderful and I think Spongebob exceeds in that creativity.

STAGE-DOORING: I went to a matinee show on one of the coldest days of the year. So, understandably, they were not stage-dooring that day. But some actors did come out  to greet us and did sign playbills.

The stage door is around the corner from the main entrance (take a right from the front door and another right).

ezgif.com-video-to-gif

Bubbles! Footage courtesy of Luka Jelenak

OVERALL: This show is extra in every sense of the word. There’s no other way to put it (and may be why it rubs some viewers the wrong way. Also keep in mind, they sneak in some innuendos, but it is a show meant for all ages.) But extra isn’t a bad thing at all. Great cast. Phenomenal music. Creative costumes. Beautiful set pieces. The story was original and cute and conveyed a great, positive message. Though I completely understand why people say the show is something else, because it really is unlike any other show I have seen on Broadway. The show definitely makes you wonder at points whether you’re actually enjoying it, but you probably are, because again, it’s nothing like you’ve ever seen on Broadway.

It is “extra” and that extra-ness is great. It is bound to win some Tony’s in the Spring. I definitely recommend watching it, especially if you’re a fan of the Spongebob Show. Prepare to have the Spotify playlist on repeat on the ride home!

20180108_165801