TX-OU Weekend PARKING ALERT

October 7th, 2008

Dear Music Hall THE COLOR PURPLE patrons, Fair-goers, and Footballers:

We expect record heavy traffic for the TX-OU football game this Saturday. Please consider arriving early than you may have planned to avoid traffic (at least 2-3 hours early). The State Fair is opening their gates at 7 AM. Football fans will probably take up all of the available parking spaces in and around Fair Park between 7AM and 11AM, as well as causing serious traffic congestion in the area. Please be aware that the State Fair of Texas does not reserve any parking spaces exclusively for the Music Hall.

We ask that as many patrons as possible will take advantage of DART’s TX-OU “Park-n-Ride” opportunity to minimize the actual number of vehicles in the vicinity:

1. Instead of going to the fair grounds, head to the downtown and park in the available paid parking lots near the DART Pearl St. Station. 80 shuttle buses will be on a non-stop rotation taking people to the fair grounds.

2. You will be dropped off at the fair grounds, at Pennsylvania & 2nd avenue where fair-ground-shuttles will be taking patrons to the Music Hall.

3. Fair-ground shuttles will return patrons to the DART shuttle buses, which will return them to the Pearl St. station downtown.

4. DSM has confirmed with Fair Park officials that these shuttle buses will be running until MIDNIGHT.

Alternatively, The Box Office is selling 2008 State Fair of Texas Prepaid Valet Parking tickets. The tickets are $30 each, must be purchased in person at The Box Office and guarantee the bearer to a valet parking space in the State Fair’s valet lot (enter at Grand or MLK). There are some still available for your performance, but they must be purchased by 6 PM on Friday in order to ensure the correct number of parking places are reserved. (No day-of sales are allowed.)Thank you!
DSM


Hot Shows Around The Stage World – Do you know about FROST / NIXON?

October 3rd, 2008

THE FACE-OFF OF THE CENTURY, LIVE ON STAGE

Direct from Broadway

 

“A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits.”

Nixon’s secret of overcoming adversity – written in a private note to Ted Kennedy after the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969.

 

“If an individual wants to be a leader and isn’t controversial, that means he never stood for anything.”

Nixon’s take on leadership, 1978.

 

“The American people are entitled to see the president and to hear his views directly, and not to see him only through the press.”

Said by Nixon at a press conference on December 10, 1970.

 

IN SHORT:

 

Q: How did David Frost, a famous British talk-show host with a playboy reputation, elicit the apology that the rest of the world was waiting to hear from former President Richard Nixon? Award-winning actor Stacy Keach and Alan Cox lead a cast of 10 in this fast-paced Tony Award® nominated new play which shows the determination, conviction and cunning of two men as they square off in one of the most monumental television interviews of all time. Frost/Nixon is written by Peter Morgan, writer of The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, & HBO’s “Longford”, and directed by Olivier Award winner Michael Grandage.

For awards, key historical players, timelines, bio’s and more, keep reading!

 

AWARDS & NOMS

 

Tony Award Nominations: Best Play (Peter Morgan)
Best Direction of a Play (Michael Grandage)
Drama Desk Award Nominations: Outstanding New Play (Peter Morgan)
Outstanding Director of a Play (Michael Grandage)
Outstanding Music (Adam Cork)
Drama League Award Nominations: Distinguished Production of a Play
Outer Critics Circle Award Nominations: Outstanding Broadway Play
Outstanding Direction of a Play (Michael Grandage)
Outstanding Lighting Design (Neil Austin)

KEY HISTORICAL PLAYERS IN “FROST/NIXON”

Jim Reston
American university lecturer and staunch critic of Nixon. He joins David Frost’s team as a researcher and acts as narrator in the play.

Jack Brennan
Nixon’s Chief of Staff and loyal supporter, a tough negotiator in setting up the interview with Frost.

Evonne Goolagong
Tennis player, the first Aboriginal Australian to win Wimbledon and a guest on Frost’s show.

John Birt
Head of Current Affairs at London Weekend Television and Frost’s producer.

Manolo Sanchez
Nixon’s manservant

Swifty Lazar
Legendary Hollywood agent representing Nixon, brokers the deal with Frost securing an unprecedented $600,000 for the interview.

Caroline Cushing
Frost’s girlfriend

Bob Zelnick
Veteran American reporter, well-known in the Washington scene and a key member of Frost’s team.

Jack Anderson
Journalist, Washington Post

Alexander Butterfield
Deputy Assistant to Nixon (1969-1973)

Charles Colson
White House Special Counsel (1969-1972)

John Connally
Secretary of US Treasury (1971-1972)

Bob Haldeman
Chief of Staff (1969-1973)

Pat Grey
Acting Director of the FBI (1972-1973)

Henry Kissinger
US Secretary of State (1973-1974)

Mike Wallace
Anchorman of CBS news show “60 Minutes”

HISTORICAL TIMELINE:

January 21, 1969
Richard Nixon is inaugurated as the 37th President of the United States

June 13, 1971
The New York Times and the Washington Post begin publishing the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department’s secret history of the Vietnam War.

June 17, 1972
Five men, one of whom says he worked for the CIA, are arrested at 2:30am trying to bug the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel.

October 10, 1972
FBI agents establish that the Watergate break-in stems from a massive operation of political spying & sabotage conducted on behalf of the Nixon re-election campaign.

November 7, 1972
Nixon is re-elected in one of the largest landslides in American political history.

April 30, 1973
Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, Nixon’s top White House officials resign over the scandal. White House Counsel John Dean is fired.

May 18, 1973
The Senate begins its nationally televised hearings regarding Watergate.

June 13, 1973
Watergate prosecutors find a memo addressed to John Ehrlichman describing in detail the plans to burgle the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Alexander Butterfield, Deputy Assistant to the President, reveals that all conversations and telephone calls in the Oval Office have been recorded since 1971.

July 18, 1973
Nixon orders White House taping systems to be disconnected.

July 23, 1973
Nixon refuses to relinquish tape recordings to the Senate Watergate Committee or the Special Prosecutor.

October 20, 1973
“The Saturday Night Massacre”. Nixon fires Archibald Cox, the Special Prosecutor whose colleagues resign in protest. Pressure for impeachment mounts in Congress.

November 17, 1973
Nixon declares “I’m not a crook,” maintaining his innocence in the Watergate scandal.

December 7, 1973
The White House can’t explain an eighteen-and-a-half minute gap in one of the subpoenaed tapes.

April 30, 1974
The White House releases edited transcripts of the Nixon tapes but the House Judiciary Committee insists the actual tapes be handed over.

July 24, 1974
The Supreme Court rules unanimously that Nixon must hand over the tape recordings of sixty-four White House conversations, rejecting the President’s claims of executive privilege.

July 27, 1974
The House Judiciary Committee takes the momentous step of recommending that the President be impeached and removed from office.

August 8, 1974
Richard Nixon becomes the first US President to resign. Vice President Gerald. R. Ford assumes the country’s highest office and later issues an unconditional pardon for any offences Nixon may have committed as President.

May 2005
Former FBI Deputy Head Mark Felt revealed as “Deep Throat”, the anonymous source who helped Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein uncover the Watergate Scandal.

STACY KEACH (Richard Nixon)
John Huston once said of Stacy Keach that “Stacy is not a star. He is a constellation. The audience will come to see whatever character he portrays.” Keach, who has excelled in many of the classic and contemporary stage’s greatest roles, has been called one of America’s pre-eminent interpreters of Shakespeare. Mr. Keach began his professional career with the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1964. He received the first of his three Obie Awards for his work in the off-Broadway political satire, MacBird. Broadway credits include Indians (Tony Award nomination); Deathtrap; the Pulitzer Prize-winning Kentucky Cycle (Helen Hayes award for Best Actor) and Solitary Confinement. One of the most versatile stars of film, television and stage, Keach next appears in Oliver Stone’s cinematic portrait of George W. Bush, W. He has appeared in numerous films, including: The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, The New Centurions, Doc, Fat City, The Longriders, Up in Smoke, Nice Dreams, The Ninth Configuration, Escape from L.A., Honeydripper and American History X. He is celebrated worldwide for his hit series as hard-boiled detective, Mike Hammer, as the irascible, hilarious Dad on Fox’s comic sitcom, Titus and as the warden on Prison Break. He won a Golden Globe award and an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Ernest Hemingway. Following his triumphant recent title role performance in King Lear for the prestigious Goodman Theatre in Chicago, directed by Robert Falls (which he will reprise in June 2009 at Washington D.C.’s new Shakespeare Harmon Center), Keach has recently starred in such films as Rob Nilsson’s Imbued (for which he also composed the music) Ring of Death, The Boxer, The Assistant and Meteor.

ALAN COX (David Frost)
Before attending the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Alan worked extensively as a child actor, most memorably in A Voyage Around My Father with Sir Laurence Olivier and as Young Watson in Young Sherlock Holmes. Moving to the US in 2007, he made his Broadway debut in the Tony-nominated production of Translations by Brian Friel for the Manhattan Theatre Club and also appeared in Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago. He made his London West End debut at the age of thirteen in Strange Interlude and more recently appeared there in The Creeper and The Importance of Being Earnest. Other work in the UK includes: Natural Selection (Theatre 503), The Rubenstein Kiss (Hampstead), The Fence (Wrestling School), The Earthly Paradise (Almeida), The Flu Season (Gate), An Enemy Of The People (National Theatre), The Lady’s Not for Burning (Chichester Theatre), The Seagull (National Theatre) and several productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has appeared in Flahooley and 50 Million Frenchmen for the Discovering Lost Musical series and Chu Chin Chow in the Celebrating British Music Theatre series. He directed the surprise hit of the 2004 Edinburgh Festival, Dirty Fan Male (Gilded Balloon) as well as Flanders Mare (Sound Theatre), The Riot Act (the Gate) and A R (Theatre 503). He is delighted to be appearing alongside Stacy Keach whom he worked with previously on a radio adaptation of “The Plutocrat” by Booth Tarkington. Film and television credits include: August, Ladies In Lavender, The Auteur Theory, Mrs Dalloway, An Awfully Big Adventure, The Odyssey, Midsomer Murders, Not only But Always, Housewife 49, Custer’s Last Battle, John Adams and Margaret.

TRIVIA

Nixon made his famous ‘you won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around any more’ comment after he unsuccessfully ran for:
-Governor of California

Who gave Nixon the nickname ‘Tricky Dick’?
– Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas

What law school did Nixon attend?
– Duke University of Law

In what branch of the military did Nixon serve during World War II?
– The Navy – he was a Lieutenant Commander

How many US presidents has David Frost interviewed?
– Seven

What was the name of Frost’s groundbreaking satirical show that aired on the BBC from 1962-63?
– That Was the Week That Was

How did Frost commute from the UK to the US during the 70s?
– By Concorde

What were the documents the Washington Post & The New York Times published from the Defense Department that told the secret history of the Vietnam War named?
– The Pentagon Papers

Five men were arrested breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel on what date?
– June 17, 1972

One of the subpoenaed White House tapes caused controversy when it was discovered to be missing how much of its recording?
– Eighteen-and-a-half minutes

What was the name of the man who in 2005 revealed himself as the informant ‘Deep Throat’?
– Mark Felt

All the President’s Men, the movie based on the book written by Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein based on their experiences during Watergate, starred what two actors?
– Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman

What does it mean to be impeached?
– To charge a public official with an offence committed in office.

Who were the only two presidents to be impeached?
– Andrew Johnson
(In 1867, Congress passed laws placing restrictions upon the President. When Johnson allegedly violated one of these, the Tenure of Office Act, by dismissing Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, the House voted eleven articles of impeachment against him. He was tried by the Senate in the spring of 1868 and acquitted by one vote.)

– Bill Clinton
(In 1998, as a result of issues surrounding personal indiscretions with a female White House intern, Clinton was the second US president to be impeached. He was tried by the Senate and found not guilty. He apologized to the nation for his actions and continued to have unprecedented popular approval ratings for his job as president.)

Why wasn’t Nixon impeached?
– He resigned to avoid it, making him the first & only president to ever resign from office.

Which president signed the Resource Recovery Act to encourage recycling?
– Nixon


In 'Purple', story is the star

October 3rd, 2008

In ‘Purple’, story is the star

By PUNCH SHAW

Special to the Star-Telegram

permalink to the post on Star-Telegram website

 

DALLAS — In the end, it is the story that prevails.

The Color Purple, a musical retelling of Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that opened at the Music Hall at Fair Park on Tuesday night, is an outstanding production in almost every regard. The cast is stellar, and the vocal work is especially first-rate, but no one forgets the acting chores, either.

 

Every visual detail — sets, lighting, costuming — is also right on the money. The music, by a committee of three, is solid and serviceable, and only occasionally rises above the ordinary. The quality of the singing in this production, however, elevates it.

 

But, while this show wows with its “big musical” trappings, it is ultimately Alice Walker’s vivid characters and heart-wrenching story that carry the day. Book author Marsha Norman has done a superb job of capturing the straight-to-the gut emotions of the source material. And, better still, she has peppered the show’s grim story of loss and oppression with just enough humor in just the right places.

 

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that director Gary Griffin’s cast is led by three of the finest musical theater actresses to be found in one show.

 

It is hard to image anyone doing more with the central role of Celie than Jeannette Bayardelle. Her character moves from scared and beaten-down at the opening curtain to confident and empowered in the closing numbers. Tony nominee Felicia P. Fields provides the desperately needed comic relief for the show as Sofia. A more subtle performance is turned in by Angela Robinson as the Bessie Smith-like Shug Avery. She explores all of the corners of her complex, free-spirited character and sings up a storm in the process.

 

Mention must be made of LaToya London as Celie’s sister, Nettie. Many will remember that this AmericanIdol competitor of a few seasons back was championed by Elton John when she failed to win.The only real problem with this show is its length. Stretching two hours and 45 minutes, it really loses steam in the second of its two acts. It needs to be at least 30 minutes leaner. But fans of the Walker book or the movie will be delighted with this gorgeously mounted musical. Finally, don’t forget that this show takes place close enough to the State Fair of Texas to be able to smell the cotton candy. Traffic and parking can be issues.

 

The Color Purple Through Oct. 19

Music Hall, Fair Park, Dallas

8 p.m. Tues-Sun; 2 p.m. Sat-Sun

214-691-7200; http://www.dallassummermusicals.org/

Run time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission

Be advised: There is little objectionable language, but this is a mature story unsuitable for preteens.

Best reason to go: Alice Walker


Performances overcome a lackluster score in 'The Color Purple'

October 1st, 2008

By LAWSON TAITTE / The Dallas Morning News

 

Epic novels often have a rough transition to the stage: Events fly by so fast they feel like a historical pageant rather than a play.

 

Oprah Winfrey presents The Color Purple, the stage musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel, exhibits such symptoms early on. The Dallas Summer Musicals opened the area premiere, its 2008 State Fair show, on Tuesday at Fair Park Music Hall.

 

The childhoods of the heroine, Celie (Jeannette Bayardelle), and her sister are over after two short choruses of the opening song. Horrors of domestic violence bump rudely against stylized comedy, even in the scenes in which Sofia (Felicia P. Fields) begins to show Celie she doesn’t have to accept the abuse that has been heaped on her all her life.

 

The show really doesn’t come to life, though, until the notorious Shug Avery (Angela Robinson) returns to town. Shug was the true love of Celie’s cruel husband, Mister (Rufus Bonds Jr.), but convention prevented them from marrying. Mister takes his disappointment out on Celie for years. During one of Shug’s periodic visits home, though, Celie nurses her back to health and the two women develop a sisterly relationship that eventually turns sexual. As this happens over the last half hour of the first act, we finally get characters interacting with one another.

 

The second acts ratchets things up by finding some creative solutions to the problems of long-range storytelling. To begin with, a dream – or rather a letters – ballet, spectacularly set in Africa, shows Celie what has become of her long lost sister. The successive stages of Celie’s evolution into a free woman each get a neatly turned scene or song, or both.

 

The score doesn’t have many grab-you tunes, a disappointment given the rich musical styles of the early 20th century, in which the story is set. But the performers are uniformly terrific, dramatically as well as vocally.

The gorgeously designed sets and costumes envelop the actors in swirling color. Donald Byrd, a significant modern dance choreographer, has the entire cast moving and shaking.

 

Occasionally Ms. Bayardelle’s gestures and expressions seem modeled a little too closely on Whoopi Goldberg’s in Steven Spielberg’s film version of The Color Purple. But Ms. Bayardelle does create a character that evokes sympathy and, eventually admiration.

 

PLAN YOUR LIFE Through Oct. 19 at Fair Park Music Hall. Runs 170 mins. $25 to $77. Ticketmaster at 214-631-2787, http://www.ticketmaster.com/.

 


2008-09 DSM Season Being Announcing This Weekend

September 26th, 2008


'Jersey Boys' transfixes eyes and ears at Fair Park Music Hall

July 26th, 2008

12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, July 26, 2008

By LAWSON TAITTE / The Dallas Morning News

ltaitte@dallasnews.com

View this article on their website here

 

Talk about a buildup: We are two-thirds of the way through the first act of Jersey Boys before the Four Seasons come together for their first big hit. When “Sherry” finally does erupt, it’s as if a skyscraper-sized bottle of champagne exploded.

The 2006 Tony Award winner for best musical opened at the Dallas Summer Musicals on Friday (after a couple of previews). The show doesn’t miss a beat in its transfer from Broadway to the road. You’ve probably never heard the names of any of the performers, but no matter. Jersey Boys doesn’t need stars, it creates them.

Marshall Brickman and Rick Ellice wrote one of the all-time great show librettos in telling the story of four working-class Italian boys who became one of the most successful musical groups ever. Take that example of the long buildup: Hearing the cover songs the boys sang as they established their career gives the tale a context. So do the pop-art and video projections Michael Clark designed for Klara Zieglerova’s ingenious set.

Each of the four group members narrates – and dominates – a quarter of the show. Tommy DeVito (Erik Bates) is the deal maker – and corner cutter, stealing when he needs to and gambling away his earnings during the good times. The baby-faced Bob Gaudio (Andrew Rannells) writes the music and doesn’t really feel part of the neighborhood. In his segment, Mr. Rannells proves that white bread can be charismatic and nearly steals the show.

Nick Massi (Steve Gouveia), the quiet one, gets tired of touring and wants to go back home. Of course, the frontman is Frankie Valli (Joseph Leo Bwarie). Tommy treats him like a lowly kid brother, but Bob knows that that strange, high-flying voice is the one he was destined to write for.

After intermission, we see the group falling apart. The emergence of Frankie’s solo career is the second act’s trajectory – and once again the build to the huge hit “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” is tremendously exciting.

Director Des McAnuff wove all the elements of Jersey Boys into a swirling, precisely choreographed showpiece that keeps on gaining momentum. Entertainment doesn’t get any slicker – or more accomplished.

PLAN YOUR LIFE Through Aug. 16 at Fair Park Music Hall. Runs 155 mins. $25 to $124. Ticketmaster at 214-631-2787, www.ticketmaster.com.


'High School Musical' the class favorite at Fair Park Music Hall

July 3rd, 2008

7/3/2008 12:00AM CST

The Dallas Morning News

‘High School Musical’ the class favorite at Fair Park Music Hall

By JOY TIPPING

 

View article on their website here

 

Whatever its artistic merits, Disney’s High School Musical has accomplished something special at the Music Hall at Fair Park: throngs of children and teens lined up, giddy with excitement over live theater. We’re talking jumping up and down with glee.

The kids even got into a “dress for the theater” spirit – cute sundresses with matching tights and color-coordinated sneakers for the girls, nice pants and shirts for the boys. Frankly, I’ve rarely seen adults dressed that well for Dallas theater, or that well-behaved.

HSM takes its spot in the pantheon of musical theater as the place where theater geekdom becomes the epitome of cool. It’s the theatrical version of the fair midway: full of flash and frivolity, color and movement, with all the substance of cotton candy. But honestly, when you’re having that much sheer fun, who needs substance?

For those who’ve been watching only HBO for the last couple of years, HSM (which began as a movie on the Disney Channel) tells the story of “freaky math girl” Gabriella Montez (played by Arielle Jacobs) and “playmaker dude” basketball star Troy Bolton (John Jeffrey Martin). They bond over a summer-break karaoke session and then meet again when Gabriella transfers to Troy’s digs, Albuquerque’s East High School.

Much to the disdain of their respective cliques, Gabriella and Troy both secretly long for stardom of a different sort: the title roles in the winter musical, Juliet and Romeo, a “delicious neofeminist adaptation … with three tap numbers!” as drama teacher Ms. Darbus (a wickedly funny Ellen Harvey) describes it.

Tension, trauma and many musical numbers ensue, and of course everything works out in the end for the big finale of “We’re All in This Together.”

This is a true ensemble show, with no breakout star roles, although Ms. Jacobs and Mr. Martin show warmth, charisma and decent voices as Gabriella and Troy. Heléne Yorke also stands out as the irritating Sharpay, the school’s drama queen – in more ways than one – who has a tinny, screechy voice that perfectly matches the bark of her namesake dog.

This isn’t Les Misérables, or even Grease (which it resembles somewhat). But it’s a genuinely sweet-spirited, infectiously enjoyable reason for the whole family to see theater together – without once making the parents cringe.Plan your life

Through July 13 at Fair Park Music Hall, $18.50 to $78.50. 214-631-2787, http://www.dallassummermusicals.org/.


'Hairspray' keeps its bounce at Fair Park Music Hall

June 25th, 2008

6/25/2008 12:00AM CST

The Dallas Morning News

‘Hairspray’ keeps its bounce at Fair Park Music Hall

 

Nearly six years after it debuted on Broadway, Hairspray is turning out to be the most influential musical of the decade. To figure out why, check out the touring version that the Dallas Summer Musicals opened Tuesday.

 

Three things make Hairspray special: The stage adaptation of John Waters’ cult movie adds just the right dash of sincerity so that the formerly tongue-in-cheek story about an overweight teen determined to integrate 1962 Baltimore taps into a deep American mythos, the pursuit of happiness. The score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman forges 1960s pop styles into beautifully crafted Broadway songs, and Jerry Mitchell’s choreography (lovingly re-created here by Danny James Austin) keeps the fizz in the phosphate for all 2 ½ hours.

 

Here’s the plot: Plus-size Tracy Turnblad (Brooklynn Pulver) tries out for a local TV dance show but is rejected by the evil producer. In detention, she picks up new steps from some black kids. Her new routine catches the TV host’s eye and gets her a berth on the show, where the heartthrob, Link (Taylor Frey), eventually realizes he likes Tracy better than the producer’s haughty daughter. But when Tracy insists that the black kids should be able to appear on the tube more than the one day a month to which they’ve been consigned, trouble erupts.

 

The big gimmick, carried over from the film, is that Tracy’s mom, Edna, is played by a man in drag. Edna is so sensitive about her weight that she hasn’t left the house in years, but Tracy fixes that, too. The point of the show is the people who’ve been discriminated against win out in the end.

 

Although this tour features a young, non-Equity cast, it maintains standards. Ms. Pulver seems so competent and practiced that she skirts falling into routine, but her singing is exceptional. In fact, most of the performers show off strong voices. It’s a good thing, though, that a lot of the audience has already seen the musical movie remake, because the lyrics are even harder to understand than usual in the intractable Music Hall acoustics.

 

The performers zip through all the dance numbers as if their shoes were filled with helium, too.

 

For me, the most memorable aspect of this edition of Hairspray is Jerry O’Boyle’s Edna. More than anyone else I’ve seen do the role, he really acts it. He never affects a self-consciously feminine gesture, but you believe him as a woman. He’s got great comic timing, too – and his big number with his stage husband, Wilbur (Dan Ferretti) – “(You’re) Timeless to Me” – brings down the house.

 

Even though the incessant, smarmy double-entendres clash with the musical’s intrinsic sweetness and social conscience, Hairspray is beginning to feel pretty timeless itself.

 

Plan your life

Through Sunday at Fair Park Music Hall. 155 mins. $18 to $80. 214-631- 2787, www .ticketmaster.com


The Drowsey Chaperone interview with Michael A. Jenkins

June 12th, 2008

6/2007

WRR 101.1 FM Radio

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE interview with Michael A. Jenkins

Interviewed by Christopher Hackett

Audio recording of President and Managing Director Michael Jenkins interview about THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, running June 3 – 15, 2008 at the Music Hall at Fair Park.

Michael Jenkins

'Chaperone' brings bygone stage musicals back to life

June 5th, 2008

06/05/2008 CST

The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

‘Chaperone’ brings bygone stage musicals back to life

by Mark Lowry

mlowry@star-telegram.com

View article on their website here

 

DALLAS — On its champagne-fizzy surface, The Drowsy Chaperone is a homage to the kind of musicals they just don’t make anymore.

 

But if you’re a true musical theater buff — you wouldn’t think of trading your vinyl copy of Pal Joey for 100 special-edition CDs of Wicked — then this love letter to the theater is so much more. And the vibrant, tremendously good tour at Fair Park Music Hall is bound to tickle you every shade of pink.

 

The show won five Tonys in 2006, and it’s easy to see why. It spoofs the broadly comic situations and sometimes perplexing lyrics of Jazz Age shows, and sets it up ingeniously.

 

A narrator, simply called Man in Chair (Jonathan Crombie), is home alone, about to play his double LP of one of his favorite musicals, a fictional one called The Drowsy Chaperone. As he does, the 1928 characters come to life in his apartment. He frequently pauses for asides about musicals, theater, intermissions and overly silly comic relief. And the more he drinks, the more he gets into it. And so do we.

 

The confection he loves so much centers on the decidedly uncomplicated plot of actress Janet Van De Graaff (Andrea Chamberlain), who will give up her career to marry the rich and dashing Robert (Mark Ledbetter). Satellite roles include the ditzy Mrs. Tottendale (Georgia Engle from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, reprising the role she played on Broadway), a tap-dancing best man (Richard Vida), the stereotypical Latin lover Adolpho (James Moye) and the tipsy-but-wise title character (Nancy Opel). They’re all fantastic, capturing that 1920s spirit.

 

Crombie is funny, sad and utterly real, immersing himself in the role of a man who would be lonely if not for his collection of cast recordings. If you’ve ever caught yourself singing along in the car — and in various character voices — to, say, A Little Night Music, then you’ll identify.

 

I, of course, know no one like that.

 

The Drowsy Chaperone

Through June 15

8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and June 8; 2 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and June 12

Fair Park Music Hall, 909 First Ave., Dallas

$18-$84

817-467-2787 or 214-631-2787; www.dallassummermusicals.org

 

Be advised: Nothing offensive

Runtime: 90 minutes, no intermission

 

Best reason to go: The show itself and this cast. Funny, energetic and moving.

Mark Lowry, 817-390-7747

mlowry@star-telegram.com


The Drowsey Chaperone, The Column Review

June 4th, 2008

6/4/2008 1:10PM CST

The Column

The Drowsy Chaperone

by John Garcia

*THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (National Tour)Music & Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg MorrisonBook by Bob Martin and Don McKellar

Dallas Summer MusicalsDirected and Choreographed by Casey NicholawCostume Design by Gregg BarnesScenic Design by David GalloLighting Design by Ken Billington and Brian Monahan

 

*REVIEWED 06/04/08 PERFORMANCE THE DROWSY CHAPERONE

 

Musical theater is a unique, fickle, and engrossing art form. It runs the gamut in regards to emotion, originality, structure, and whether a certain musical is “art” or “commerce”. Suffice to say history has shown us both in abundance. Broadway and out of town tryouts is littered with the failures and successes in regards to putting a story set to music and dance, call it art, and make a buck in the process.

But then to create that special musical that is lavished with critical praise, awards, and sold out houses-well that takes a miracle. Many fail, so few succeed.

 

Personally I can sit through a dark, emotional piece like SPRING AWAKENING and savor the power of its message and painful, brutal raw honesty. But I can also sit back and enjoy the colorful fluff of LEGALLY BLONDE. The snooty naysayers will thrust their noses so high up into the air and with a cold response dismiss some musicals as “Pure dribble. It’s not art.” Jeez, loosen up those panties and just sit back and enjoy the fluff. What’s so wrong with that?

 

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE may be fluff-but oh what a delicious, scrumptious, and glorious piece of musical theater confection it is!

 

TDC opened at the Marquis Theater in May 2006, where it sipped champagne and tapped away for 674 performances, closing in December 2007. It would go on to receive 12 Tony nominations, winning five awards- including Best Book and Score. It would lose the Best Musical trophy to JERSEY BOYS.

 

The musical opens to reveal a man in his New York apartment, ready to cozy up to his record player and enjoy one of his favorite cast recordings ever-“The Drowsy Chaperone”. Serving as commentator and narrator, he takes the audience along a hilarious journey into the musical as well as provides wicked bon-bons of backstage stories and gossip of the various stars within the production. It’s a musical within a musical.

 

This is by no means an “internal” musical, everything is grand and over the top-which fits the piece beautifully. They play to the back of the house, wringing every last drop of laughter they can squeeze out of the material.

The book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar is full of wacky, zany set ups, outlandish subplots, and loaded with never ending jokes. Sure some of the punch lines and set ups are groaners, but you groan with a huge smile on your face. And yet so many of the tongue in cheek, “wink wink” jokes are absolutely hysterical and provide so much dazzling comedy to the piece. I will not spoil the riches of side splitting laughter here for you. But suffice to say you will leave with your face aching from laughing so much. Martin and McKellar even add towards the very end a wonderfully touching moment that does tug at the heart. It’s a solid book that pays off big time within the framework of this musical.

 

The loopy, toe tapping score is provided by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. Some songs work better than others. But many of the big, splashy company numbers are a sublime homage to those wild and over the top musical numbers from roadway’s golden age. Some of the best songs include “Cold Feets”; “Show Off”; “As We Stumble Along”; “I Am Aldolpho”; “Message from a Nightingale”; and “Bride’s Lament”.

 

Casey Nicholaw’s direction and choreography are spectacular in both areas. He knows when to allow the over the top wackiness go at full throttle, and then pull back for a heart warming moment. His marvelous choreography is full of eye popping dancing, from some grand tap numbers to delightful jazz flavored ones. The staging & choreography really glow brightly here.

 

From the design elements, it is David Gallo’s delightful sets and Gregg Barnes gorgeous costumes that serve as yummy eye candy. The main set is the New York apartment, but throughout the evening Gallo brings it set pieces, furniture, back drops, staircases, and so on to bring to life the musical within the musical theme. Barnes drapes his cast in magnificent, 1920s period costumes that are dripping in layers of beads, sequins, and rhinestones. His color palette is an array of blinding colors that actually add another level of energy to the stage. I did notice that some costumes have been designed differently for some characters. Such as the costume worn by the Drowsy Chaperone for her big solo. Nonetheless, these costumes are ravishing and will leave you drooling in your seats from its splendor.

 

The entire cast delivers outlandish, side splitting performances, with some who chew the scenery like famished wolves, with the audience savoring along with them every morsel.

 

Within the large company providing crowd pleasing performances include Georgia Engel (Mrs. Tottendale); Robert Dorfman (Underling); George (Richard Vida); twins Paul & Peter Riopelle as the Gangsters disguised as pastry chefs; and Fran Jaye as “Trix”, the female pilot.

 

Andrea Chamberlain gives the ingénue role of “Janet” equal amounts of sass and purity. “Janet” is a famous star who is willing to give it all up for marriage, and is wondering if her groom truly does love her. Chamberlain brings to the stage a sweet disposition with a lilting nightingale soprano that can belt with the best of them. Her facial expressions are priceless during some of the mad cap comedic scenes that’s she involved in. If you saw Sutton Foster (who originated the role on Broadway) on the Tony telecast perform Janet’s big solo “Show Off”, let me tell you that Ms. Chamberlain will make you forget that performance in a heartbeat with her hilarious characterization and divine singing voice.

 

As the groom to be “Robert Martin”, Mark Ledbetter taps like there’s no tomorrow in his big, show stopping number “Cold Feets”. His interpretation of his character’s voice reminds you a little of Dudley DoRight, which works perfectly within the framework of his hysterical characterization. A tall, handsome redhead, he sings beautifully and has wonderful chemistry with Ms. Chamberlain.

 

James Moye gives such a hilarious, scene stealing performance that he should be arrested! He portrays the Latin star “Aldolpho”, using a Spanish dialect that is just so, so bad, it has the audience rolling in the aisles. A tall, swarthy fellow who wears a pepe Le Pew skunk like hairdo, he commands and devours the stage with his comedic brilliance. I wish though his character had more than one song, because Moye’s performance is so downright hysterical, you want even more of him on stage.

 

Jonathan Crombie just wins the audience’s heart with his hilarious, yet moving performance as the “Man in Chair”. Sadly he has no major solo, but he serves as our guide into the musical. Crombie’s sublime comedic delivery, timing, and pace is jaw dropping amazing from beginning to end. Even the throw away lines create loud laughter from his hypnotic performance. Throughout the evening he glides in and out within the musical providing comments, quips, and gossip revolving around the stars and the show-which result in ear splitting laughter. But then towards the end, he touches the heart with a soft, melancholy approach to musical theater in regards to his life. Crombie is outstanding in this tour.

 

My first exposure to Nancy Opel was in the Broadway production of URINETOWN. The production had its entire original cast still intact, but it had a very special and significant position in my life. For you see I saw it in November 2001, less than two months after that horrific tragedy we know as 9/11.

 

It was on a cold, rainy, and grey matinee that I attended along with a friend. The previous day we went down to where the World Trade Center once stood. It was overwhelming emotionally to say the least. So quiet.

URINETOWN opened on September 20th, the first musical to open since 9/11. They thought about postponing the opening because of the tragedy, but New York would not allow that. The show must go on. So when I saw it, this cast gave it their all, leaving the audience laughing from beginning to end. Ms. Opel portrayed “Pennywise”, and had me crossing my legs to prevent me from peeing on myself from laughing so hard because of her comedic riot of a performance. She would go on to earn a Tony nomination for this role.

 

So when I opened my program last night and saw Ms. Opel’s name, I felt a soft ache in my heart, and I quickly wiped a tear from my face so that my friend who came along did not see me. The emotions of actually seeing ground zero when it was still so fresh (the outer skeletal frame of one of the towers was still there) and watching Ms. Opel give such a great performance all came back to memory for me right then and there.Opel portrays the title role and walks-no- runs away with the show! She again brings to the table that magnificent comedic timing, delivery, and pace that radiates from her talents like blinding gold. She is one of those true talents that even when she is standing there, doing nothing but reacting, she still generates ear shattering laughter. The role requires her to be a grand diva of the stage, even though she brings her own liquor cabinet (fully stocked!). Her big solo “As We Stumble Along” is a sublime, comedic, tour de force gem that sparkles exquisitely thanks to this comic firestorm of a lady. Opel gets some of the loudest laughs of the night and rightfully so! She is superb from the second her bejeweled pump touches the stage boards.

 

If you work in musical theater or if you love musical theater-this glittery bauble of a musical was created just for you! You will be kicking yourself non-stop if you miss this spectacular touring production. It is fresh, exciting, hysterical, dazzling, and fillsyour heart with song and laughter.

 

The man in chair says something that is so, so, so true. Musicals that are full of color, song, and dance allow us to forget the world outside, if just for a brief two hours.We are in the midst of an ugly war, soaring gas prices, food is now costing more, airfares are through the roof, constant politics on the news, earthquakes, tornados, and so forth.

 

Take it from me: Go NOW to the Music Hall, buy a ticket for THE DROWSY CHAPERONE and let this dynamic company take you away from all that for two hours. Trust me; it is worth every dollar of that ticket!

GRADE: A+


Superiority of the Drowsy Chaperone tour

June 4th, 2008

6/4/2008 3:51PM CST

overthetopblog.dallasnews.com

Superiority of the Drowsy Chaperone tour

by Lawson Taitte

mailto:Taitteltaitte@dallasnews.com

 

I get kidded sometimes for maintaining that something we see here in Dallas — either a tour or a local production — is often superior to the original Broadway show. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a marked difference, though, as in The Drowsy Chaperone, which the Dallas Summer Musicals opened last night.

 

 

In my review, I detailed some of the cast members I think genuinely superior to the Broadway originals. I left out the specifics of the female lead role, Janet, though I praised the current performer, Andrea Chamberlain. But you wouldn’t believe how much better she is than Sutton Foster — who first came to Broadway stardom by winning a Tony Award for the lead in Thoroughly Modern Millie. In that role, and every role since, Ms. Foster has projected a brassy, knowing professionalism that lacks a spark of sincere feeling or charm. The one time I have liked her is in the current Young Frankenstein, which doesn’t need feeling or charm.

 

 

It has been very hurtful to Broadway in recent years that producers hire the same people over and over because they believe the performers have a following. Some of those performers just aren’t very good, I’m afraid.

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National tour of 'The Drowsy Chaperone' outdoes Broadway version for charm, poignancy

June 4th, 2008

6/4/2008 12:00AM CST

The Dallas Morning News

National tour of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ outdoes Broadway version for charm, poignancy

by Lawson Taitte

ltaitte@dallasnews.com

If you fret that they don’t make comedies like they used to, The Drowsy Chaperone will ease your pain. And give you a laugh or two.

This musical about a fictitious old musical won more Tony Awards than any other Broadway show in 2006. I was a naysayer back then, but I have repented. The national tour that the Dallas Summer Musicals brought to town on Tuesday is the reason for my conversion.

It’s not just a matter of affection growing on closer acquaintance. Role for role, the road version is much better cast than the New York original. Charm – a scarce commodity on Broadway – now abounds.

Take the central role, Man in Chair. Even before the lights go up, this namby-pamby narrator is talking to the audience. He has invited us into his living room, where he’s about to play a beloved old LP of a 1920s musical named, naturally, The Drowsy Chaperone. He sets the scene and puts on the overture – as the show comes to life behind him.

Bob Martin, who co-wrote the book with Don McKellar, performed the part himself originally. Here it is his old friend and fellow Canadian Jonathan Crombie, familiar to American audiences as Gilbert Blythe on the TV version of Anne of Green Gables. Mr. Crombie makes Man in Chair lovable in spite of, or perhaps because of, his theater-obsessed neuroses. He’s realer and more poignant than Mr. Martin was.

I found several of the principal performers on Broadway downright annoying, but that doesn’t happen with the touring cast. Andrea Chamberlain projects a lovely 1920s quality as Janet, the stage star ostentatiously giving up her career to marry the heir to a petroleum fortune, Robert (Mark Ledbetter). Wistful and glamorous by turns, Ms. Chamberlain reminds you of Betty Boop as interpreted by a young Bernadette Peters.

Georgia Engel, the one New York performer carrying over on the tour, gently sells the songs Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison wrote for the show. As her comic butler, Dallas favorite Robert Dorfman clowns it up magnificently and displays an unsuspected talent for tap dancing. James Moye even makes the nearly insufferable fake-Italian lover boy, Adolpho, entertaining.

Best of all, one of Broadway’s top comedians, Nancy Opel, plays the title role with a broad insouciance that takes us into her confidence. The chaperone – whose sole function is to make sure the bride doesn’t see the groom before the wedding – brings along her own liquor cabinet. It’s Prohibition, after all. Ms. Opel can belt and croon and mug hilariously while doing one of the best drunk acts you’ll ever see. The original performer in this role won a Tony; if there were any justice, Ms. Opel would be given a pair of them to balance on her mantelpiece.

Die-hard musical theater fans must not miss The Drowsy Chaperone. This touring version is so good you can have a good time even if you couldn’t tell Cole Porter from Stephen Sondheim in a crowd of two.

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CATS Interview with Michael A. Jenkins

May 30th, 2008

5/2007

WRR 101.1 FM Radio

CATS interview with Michael A. Jenkins

Interviewed by Christopher Hackett

Audio recording of President and Managing Director Michael Jenkins interview about the Andrew Lloyd Webber show CATS, which opens Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at the Music Hall at Fair Park.

Michael Jenkins

Love Janis review by EDGE Dallas

February 22nd, 2008

2/22/2008 12:00AM CST

Edge Dallas

Love, Janis

by Alexandra Bonifield

EDGE Contributor

 

The main problem with a biopic is that everyone already knows how the story ends. There’s no suspense or dramatic conflict to resolve. Case in point is the national Columbia Artists Theatricals’ touring show Love, Janis playing through February 24 at the Majestic Theatre under the auspices of Comerica Bank and Dallas Summer Musicals. The music is beyond fabulous. The additional stuff is, well, stuff.

 

Randal Myler, director/co-author of the award-winning “Hank Williams: Lost Highway” biopic conceived of and directed this musical, drawing inspiration from Laura Joplin’s biography of her sister, “Love, Janis.” The program states that the “entire spoken text comes directly from Janis, herself”, gleaned from family correspondence and media interviews. What comes across is the disparity between the average, insecure, small town girl desperate for love and approval that Janis was and the consummate blues/rock singer she became, an ideal disaffected, drug-addicted icon for the late 60’s era.

 

The audience is initially lulled to attention by black and white family photos from Janis’ childhood projected in muted tones across a huge scrim behind the stage, accompanied without explanation by a recording of Odetta singing “I Know Where I’m Going”. Without pause the frenetic, psychedelic rock show launches in full force, The lights come up bright and full on a rockin’ out four piece band and there she is– it’s Janis in signature 60’s garb, large as life, pouring everything she’s got into “Piece of My Heart” on a downstage mike. Psychedelic-inspired patterns swirl and gyrate across the upstage scrim. All that’s missing is the odor of stale, cheap beer mixed with the heady perfume of marijuana smoke wafting through the crowd. And the singing Janis is breath taking.

She’s precisely what everyone came for, to catch a glimpse of a memory, a sense of what it must have been to experience the genius of Janis Joplin in all her earthy, heartfelt, rough-edged glory. Stomping, swaying, clapping, on their feet, cheering-the audience welcomes her rebirth. Tuesday night’s performance featured accomplished blues, rock and soul singer Mary Bridget Davies as the singing Janis, fresh from performing the role in San Francisco and Houston. Her sustained re-creation of Janis’ style, tone and unique delivery is a masterful feat of interpretation and mimicry. To spend an entire evening basking in her performance as Janis makes a fantastic experience indeed. Unfortunately, this biopic follows a different path.

 

Inexplicably, there are two Janis Joplins in Love, Janis: the singing Janis and a speaking one, portrayed by New Yorker Marisa Ryan. The wear identical costumes and frequently share the stage at the same time, awkward audience to respective spoken or sung scenes. Near the end they huddle together downstage and singing Janis croons to speaking Janis, followed by a shamelessly schmaltzy hug. Two Janises might work very well if speaking Janis revealed all aspects of the offstage life while singing Janis enlivened the larger than life rock star aspect, an intriguing dramatic dichotomy. Costuming them like twins destroys the dual persona effect and detracts from the play. One woman is petite, while the other is full-figured. Matching colorful velvet bell-bottoms with flashy white trim and fringe make the larger woman appear grotesquely large standing next to the petite “twin”, while the matching pastel feather hairpieces worn by both performers later in the show overwhelm the petite performer’s face and make her look silly.

 

Speaking Janis reveals a lonely, intellectual, pensive woman, one who loves her pets and writes longingly to her mother in Texas, ever seeking approval and attempting to justify her West Coast existence. It’s not the wild, party girl Janis her fans know, the one the media creates and hounds. She doesn’t fit wearing the garish garb, which belongs solely as a planned effect on Janis’ rock star persona.

 

The on-stage band grows from four pieces (two guitars, bass, drums) to include keyboards and a two-piece horn section. Listed musicians in the program are: Mark Alexander, Ben Nieves, Eric Massimino, Jim Wall and Tim Brawn. They definitely know their rock and blues. The sound mix is excellent, loud enough to give the sense of a rock show but not so blaring as to injure eardrums or drown out singing Janis. The band plays seventeen numbers, providing rousing accompaniment to singing Janis’ dynamic performance. The tunes gain daring, raw edginess as the show unfolds. High musical point comes at Act One’s conclusion, with a tantalizing rendition of Willie Mae Thornton’s “Ball and Chain”.

 

There’s curiously scant reference to Janis’ long history of drug abuse; neither performer ever exhibits the ravages of besotted, drug-induced behavior. Asked about Jimi Hendrix’s death by overdose, speaking Janis comments, ” Some people die and some are survivors. People like their blues singers miserable and drunk.” Self-justification, apology? No apology needed for the musical performance part of Love, Janis. Go to thrill to the inner light and sound of a super energized rock icon or experience her musical mastery for the first time. It’s impossible to not love Janis

 

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Janis times two is one terrific theater experience

February 20th, 2008

2/20/2008 12:00AM CST
The Dallas Morning News
Janis times two is one terrific theater experience
by Lawson Taitte
Love, Janis gives you two Janis Joplins for the price of one. Both terrific.
Randal Myler (Hank Williams: Lost Highway) conceived, adapted and directed the show, which the Dallas Summer Musicals’ Broadway Contemporary Series brought to the Majestic Theatre Tuesday for a week’s run. Inspired by the book of the same name by Janis’ sister Laura, it alternates spoken excerpts from the singer’s letters to her family and from interviews with dynamic renditions of the songs that made her famous.
Joplin’s shooting-star career in the 1960s, as her strong cadre of fans well knows, took her from Texas to San Francisco as the acid-rock scene in the California city was jelling. Within a few months of her arrival, she was a nationally known recording star. Love, Janis tells us the story in her own witty, vulnerable, frequently apologetic words.
Marisa Ryan speaks them as if she were the tragically short-lived singer reborn. As the play develops, we worry for this psychologically fragile waif. But we aren’t asked to pity her. Rather, we participate in her exultation as she tells her folks how Paul McCartney showed up at one of her concerts, or as she tells an interviewer that money has always been what she had a little of in her pocket – “So what’s that stuff in the bank?”
It’s a bit of a shock when the singing Janis joins the speaking one in some of the scenes – but the device helps the piece from seeming too schematic in its back-and forth patterns. Mary Bridget Davies, who performed the singing role on Tuesday, alternates with Katrina Chester. I can’t vouch for Ms. Chester, but Ms. Davies nails Joplin’s idiosyncratic style and physical mannerisms. The illusion is all the more remarkable because Joplin and Ms. Chester are such different physical types.
Back in the day, I never fully gave into that unique Joplin sound, based on classic blues. I succumbed completely to Ms. Davies, perhaps because there’s more honey in her tone, less of Joplin’s anger and aggression. Ms. Davies does screech and wail passionately, though – in the precise way that the show’s heroine could sound like an electric guitar played with lots of rough feedback.
It’s both a bad thing and a good thing that Love, Janis is all in the singer’s own words. The limitation is that the show can’t really have a controlling theme or give us an interpretation of just why the star was so tortured and self-destructive. The benefit is that we don’t feel we’re being manipulated or that the subject is being betrayed. We like Janis Joplin a lot more – maybe even give her the love she so strongly missed – after seeing Love, Janis.
It’s terribly sad that she’s not around to see it herself.
•Through Sunday at the Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm St. Runs 145 mins. $15 to $67. 214-631-2787, www.ticketmaster.com.
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Love Janis in D Magazine Online

February 20th, 2008

2/20/2008 12:00AM CST
D Magazine
OnlineCalendar Listing

We are legitimately excited about this production. There’s nothing like the portrait of an artist’s struggle with alcohol and drugs to warm the cockles of our jaded heart. Told through Joplin’s interviews and letters to her family, Love, Janis, tells the story of the iconic singer’s rise to fame. Songs performed include “Piece of My Heart,” “Me and Bobby MGee” and “Mercedes Benz,” to name a few.
•Through Sunday at the Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm St. Runs 145 mins. $15 to $67. 214-631-2787, http://www.ticketmaster.com/.

View article on their website here


Stage Revival Promises to Be Even Better Than the Movie

January 16th, 2008

1/16/2008 12:00AM CST
The Dallas Morning News
Stage revival promises to be even better than the movie
by Lawson Taitte
ltaitte@dallasnews.com

Sweeney Todd: You’ve seen the movie. Now see the real thing.
Actually, Tim Burton’s screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s bloody musical masterpiece was faithful to the 1979 stage original, in its fashion. But it left quite a bit out. And a musical almost always works better when it’s being performed by genuine singing actors rather than by well-coached but essentially voiceless movie stars.

The stage version that the Dallas Summer Musicals’ Broadway Contemporary Series brings to the Majestic Theatre on Tuesday has considerably more going for it than mere completeness. This is the production by director John Doyle that won plaudits first in London and then a 2006 Tony Award in New York.

Its eccentricities have become famous. All the onstage performers play musical instruments. In fact, they’re the only band there is. The show is apparently taking place in an insane asylum, and the inmates are the actors. A certain amount of blood is part of the action – although even Mr. Doyle’s production can’t rival the film in the gore department.

The story, of course, remains the same. A mysterious man, Sweeney Todd, returns to London from abroad in search of vengeance. His new ladylove, Mrs. Lovett, owns a pie shop near the barbershop where Sweeney once worked. The two find a new supply of meat for the pies – in the bodies of the men whose throats Sweeney cuts in his quest for revenge.

Five performers from the New York revival are part of the tour. The live cast is strongest, however, in the role that suffers most in the movie. Helena Bonham Carter is too glamorous, and not nearly dotty enough, to make a credible Mrs. Lovett. The tour stars one of Broadway’s most talented performers, Judy Kaye, in the role. Ms. Kaye won a Tony Award as Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera and was nominated for another as one of the female sidekicks in Mamma Mia! Those roles didn’t begin to show her real powers as a performer. Mrs. Lovett is a perfect fit.

Opens Tuesday at 8 p.m. and runs through Jan. 20 at the Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm St. Continues Wednesday through Jan. 18 at 8 p.m., Jan. 19-20 at 2 and 8 p.m. Ticketmaster. http://www.dallassummermusicals.org/.

$17 to $62.

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Leading Lady's Performance Delicious to the Last Bite in 'Sweeney Todd'

January 16th, 2008

 

1/16/2008 12:00AM CST
The Dallas Morning News
Leading lady’s performance delicious to the last bite in ‘Sweeney Todd’
by Lawson Taitte
ltaitte@dallasnews.com

THEATER REVIEW: Kaye cooks up humor, passion in ‘Sweeney Todd’
Judy Kaye is a wonder as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. She’s all the reason you need to run downtown to the Majestic Theatre.

Otherwise, the touring version of the recent Broadway revival, which the Dallas Summer Musicals’ Broadway Contemporary Series brought to town on Tuesday, has its issues. But, as I always say, pretty much any Sweeney Todd is a good Sweeney Todd.

Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 masterpiece, subtitled The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, recounts an old horror story. A barber, deported for a crime he didn’t commit, returns to Victorian London to get his revenge. After the first man whose throat he slits, Sweeney’s girlfriend, Mrs. Lovett, gets the bright idea of using the meat from the carcasses in the meat pies she sells.
The tale is gruesome, but onstage the bloody bits are a great deal less bothersome than in Tim Burton’s current Golden Globe-winning movie version. Mr. Sondheim’s witty lyrics keep the mind amused, while his nearly operatic score accumulates overwhelming momentum and power.

The British revival by John Doyle, imported to Broadway two seasons ago, cuts the epic musical down to size. Only 10 actors play all the roles, and they double as the orchestra. Ms. Kaye, for instance, plays the bright percussion instruments and occasionally wanders in with a tuba. The compression is all very clever, but it smacks more of thrift than of inspiration.

Setting the whole action in an insane asylum doesn’t really work, either. The locale is all too obviously a metaphor; we don’t believe for an instant that this is a cooperative production by the staff and the inmates. Unfortunately, the gimmick encourages the actors to go off the deep end. The young lovers, Johanna and Anthony, sometimes seem as loony as the truly crazy old beggar woman.

Frankly, all this doesn’t matter much. The material is so strong, and the performers sufficiently competent, that Sweeney Todd survives in all its glory. I did find David Hess’ performance of the title character somewhat problematical, in that he lacks the obsidian voice the part needs. He’s also among the worst offenders in the acting-loony department. Yeah, Sweeney is more than slightly off his rocker. But the story does require him to be able to pass for normal.
But ah, Ms. Kaye. The first requirement for a Mrs. Lovett is a quirky sense of humor, and Ms. Kaye is as funny as they come. Her vocal technique has held up as well, so she can warble daintily or go as deep as her tuba, as required. This whole cast manages to make its words heard in the often intractable Majestic, but no one else uses language like Ms. Kaye. Every rhyme in the remarkably clever “A Little Priest” gets a laugh. But you also believe in the woman’s passion for her lover and in her absolute determination to give him what he wants.

Since Helena Bonham Carter’s Mrs. Lovett is the Sweeney Todd film’s biggest problem, seeing Ms. Kaye is an ideal supplement – or antidote – for the film. It’s a great performance by one of the great ladies of the American theater.

• Through Sunday at the Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm St. Runs 150 mins. $16 to $72. Ticketmaster at 214-631-2787, http://www.ticketmaster.com/.

View article on their website here