I was invited recently to a preview of It Shoulda Been You, the new musical by Brian Hargrove and Barbara Anselmi. It was starring the enormously talented Sierra Boggess, Tyne Daly, Lisa Howard, and Harriet Harris so I thought we were in for a treat. 

It was the timeless story of wedding day antics and jitters for bride-to-be Rebecca (Boggess) and her groom Brian (David Burtka), with the support her crazy Jewish mother (played by Daly) and father (the wonderful Chip Zien), her always overlooked sister (Howard), and her ex-boyfriend (Josh Grisseti). Wedding day jitters are the usual (am I really for this?!) and in the last couple of scenes there’s a huge, couldn’t-have-seen-that-coming plot twist that turns the entire show on it’s head.

It’s lovely and hysterical, and the score is cute and fun. The cast is entirely too talented and a blast to watch onstage. It Shoulda Been You isn’t a mind-blowing piece of theatre but it’s a great time at the theatre. 

For more information check out their website here

Rifts and Roses Follow Press Agent’s Abrupt Exit from Broadway’s Finding Neverland

I’ve been told before (by people who’ve worked for these folks) that Harvey Weinstein is a crazy person (like so many big fish in the land of Broadway).

Rick Miramontez is a classy dude though. I’ve met him on several occasions and he’s never been anything but the nicest. Calm, too!  

I’ve heard that Finding Neverland is like Big Fish was: It has the potential to be awesome, but it just falls flat. We shall see!

Rifts and Roses Follow Press Agent’s Abrupt Exit from Broadway’s Finding Neverland

Complete Casting Announced for Broadway-Bound First Wives Club Musical

Oh, man. Well, this casting is interesting – no one is really a box office draw. I’ve never seen the movie so I can’t really tell you if it’s accurate casting… But I do know the team behind this show is delusional – at least I think they are. They honestly went into meetings thinking and SAYING, “We have the next great American musical on our hands!

And who knows, maybe they do. But when was the last time a movie-to-stage adaptation was a big-huge-omg box office hit? 

Yeah, I can’t remember one either. If I’m wrong about that though (and there has been a movie-to-stage hit), can you let me know in the comments?

I stand corrected – besides the canned Disney shows (most of which are guaranteed hits), there has been Hairspray and The Producers (though I think the last one was a hit because of it’s stars). That being said… I don’t think First Wives Club is going to be the next Great American Musical

Complete Casting Announced for Broadway-Bound First Wives Club Musical

I had no idea what The Fortress of Solitude was about when my friend told me she had an extra ticket. I read that it was based on a book and Adam Chanler-Berat and Rebecca Naomi Jones were in it. So I told her I was in. I asked her if it was 90-minutes-no-intermission (#nmni) and she laughed and said, “oh no, this is a full two hours and forty five minutes.” I made sure to have an espresso milkshake from Momofuku beforehand.

It was about two boys, Mingus and Dyland, in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn in the 70’s when it was still called Gowanus. Both lived with their fathers and were abandoned by their mothers. One black (Mingus), one white (Dylan), they seem to be on a good path until Dylan is accepted to Stuyvesant High School and Mingus is left on his own to attend public school in Gowanus. We see the incredibly different lives they lead and after high school Dylan runs away to UC Berkeley because that’s where his mother left him to go. He makes a career for himself as a music critic there. 

A major aspect in both of their lives is soul music: for Dylan, it’s the music on the records his mother leaves behind and for Mingus, it’s the music that his father was previously famous for. Dylan’s mother leaves behind her wedding ring which acts as a magnet bringing the boys together, and eventually resulting in their final fight as adults.

The largely ensemble cast is uniformly excellent. Allison Whitehurst deserves special recognition for dancing in roller skates. And David Rossmer didn’t let his bandaged arm and hand in a cast bring him down (he apparently sliced the tip of one of his fingers recently), he was hilarious. Rebecca Naomi Jones did a great job with her two roles; I particular enjoyed her rage in act two. Kevin Mambo, as Mingus’ father, was and is always great. Chanler-Berat was fantastic, as per usual, easily conveying the range of emotions that his character goes through. Kyle Beltran as Mingus was the other standout. His character development and decay was perfect.

The show is long – especially the first act. But if they shave twenty minutes off the first act, The Public has another Fun Home on their hands for sure.

A few weeks back I went to the 30 Under 30 night at Playwrights Horizons, celebrating their new musical Fly By Night, written by Will Connolly, Michael Mitnick, and Kim Rosenstock. The cast was packed with fabulous actors: Adam Chanler-Berat, Allison Cast, Bryce Ryness, Henry Stram, and Patti Murin, to name a few. 

Fly By Night was a musical all about love and fulfilling our destiny. Murin, an aspiring actress, and Case, a very meek but loving younger sister, move to New York City from some nowhere town and both end up falling in love with the same guy (Chanler-Berat). One’s destiny is to be with Chanler-Berat and one isn’t (though she may or may not be engaged to him already).

The cast, like I said, was fantastic. I especially loved Henry Stram as the charming and whimsical narrator. 

I really did like the show, although I think it’s closing this weekend, so run! The afterparty included Shake Shake, sandwiches, cocktails, and a photobooth (above). 

Totally a good time. Thanks, Playwrights Horizons!

Writing about If/Then is something I’ve been tossing around in my mind for several days now. I saw it two weeks ago in (obviously) amazing seats and I love the cast, but I’m not sure what I thought about the show as a whole.

The show tells the story of a woman named Elizabeth (Menzel) who moves back to New York City after 10 yeas of living with her husband in Arizona and the two ways her life could’ve played out based on one decision in a park the day she returns. I’d heard that it was incredibly confusing in DC and I was sitting (by chance) next to a friend who’d seen it there but said the only difference was that in one of her “lifes” she would put on glasses. This definitely help make things a bit clearer, but things were still a bit confusing.

The score is beautiful and I could definitely relate to Elizabeth’s worrying and overanalyzing personality (unfortunately). Anthony Rapp as her best friend Lucas was wonderful, of course, but I don’t know if I believed that he was in love with Elizabeth. LaChanze brought down the house as per usual when she’s onstage as Elizabeth’s other best friend Kate. James Snyder (Menzel’s husband in one life, Josh) and Jerry Dixon (Menzel’s boss in the other life) were both lovely too.

The bit of confusion in the actual plot aside, I was left wondering why I should really care about Elizabeth. I knew both sides of the story, what was left to wonder? Her story didn’t end up being extraordinary either way. But one thing that I did like the fact that she ended up meeting Josh one way or another.

After seeing the show I learned that it was never meant to be your typical linear story but it was only changed to be that way after the confusion of average theatregoers (who’d probably have been happier watching My Fair Lady) down in DC. I’d love to listen to Kitt and Yorkey talk about writing this…

Anyways, if this review sparked your interest in the show, then you should definitely go see it. 

Two weeks ago I saw the off-Broadway production of Jasper in Deadland at the West End Theater on the Upper West Side. Produced by the Prospect Theater Company, Deadland features a book by Broadway veteran Hunter Foster and music and lyrics by Ryan Scott Oliver. It also starred Matt Doyle which is never a bad thing.

Jasper in Deadland, a modern retelling of Orpheus, centers around Jasper’s adventure into the underworld (deadland, or perhaps purgatory) to save his friend Gretchen who kills herself after revealing her feelings for him.

The music is really good and the story has a couple of plot twists that I didn’t see coming (because I wasn’t familiar with the story of Orpheus). I really enjoyed Matt Doyle and Allison Scagliotti (Gretchen), and honorable mention needs to be given to F. Michael Haynie who brought down the house with his solo. 

I’m not sure Jasper in Deadland will ever see a long run, but I kind of hope it does! 

Last week I saw the just-opened production of Heathers (a musical version of the movie) and I have to say I loved it much more than I ever though I would. I tried watching the movie a few months and I got through maybe 20 minutes of it. I thought it was pretty stupid. I also admittedly like Jawbreaker better (a nineties version with pretty much the same plot). 

As soon as the lights went down at New World Stages, the energy in the room was on full throttle and we were all into it. it was upbeat music, hilarious dialogue, fun choreography, and a cast with a bus-load of energy. 

Albeit it being maybe 20 minutes too long (2 hours and 40 minutes is a little excessive), I enjoyed everything about this musical. it’s really hard to dislike a show when the audience and the cast is equally as excited and pumped. The score is fun and 80’s-ish and everything you’d expect from a musical based on the movie Heathers. The cast gives it everything they have, and the storyline is pretty much true to the movie (except, as my friend informed me, the ending is happier – but come on, it’s a musical!).

I really enjoyed Barrett Wilbert Weed as Veronica and Alice Lee, Jessica Keenan Wynn, and Elle McLemore were all equally as fantastic (and bitchy) as the three Heathers.

All of your favorite lines are intact, don’t worry. Christian Slater was in the audience that night and we heard he really enjoyed it afterward too. Sometimes you just need to go see a fun musical and Heathers is definitely that musical.

Tickets were provided by the production. Opinions are all my own. 

Last Saturday I was invited to see the new musical based on the movie Big Fish after winning a contest that was held on their website. I was incredibly excited because I remember liking the movie (when I saw it in theatres back in 2004!) and the cast was phenomenal: Norbert Leo Butz, Bobby Steggert, and Kate Baldwin. Tonight: Big Fish opens!

I didn’t really remember what the movie was about, but I heard it was a touching father/son story. A man who’s father has always told him phantasmagorical stories is dying and before he passes, he wants to find out the truth about his father’s past.

The first thing that stood out to me were the costumes (design by William Ivey Long) – they were gorgeous and somewhat magical. My next favorite aspect of the show? Norbert Leo Butz (and his dancing). He was fantastic in Catch Me If You Can, and he lives up to and surpasses every expectation in Big Fish. He weaved in and out of being a teenager and a dying old man with such ease. Kate Baldwin and Bobby Steggert also, of course, didn’t disappoint either. Baldwin weaved as easily from teenager to senior citizen as well, and Steggert has it easiest (as he never had to make any huge age leaps) but was still a joy to watch discover the truth about his father.

The score is enjoyable, the choreography fantastic, and supporting cast was lovable. Remember how I said this was a heartwarming father/son story? Well: it was. Everyone around me was crying at the end and I even choked back a tear.

I hope lots of legs are currently breaking at the Neil Simon and the reviewers are warm. Big Fish is definitely a welcomed addition to this Broadway season!

Last week I was invited to see a preview of the new musical by Amanda Green and Trey Anastasio (and the brilliant Doug Wright with the book), Hands on a Hardbody. The story is based on the true events that took place in a small down-on-their-luck town in Texas and the ten Texans who try to win a brand new pick-up truck. Whoever takes their hand off the truck last wins all.

The music is, as expected, very country, but also lovely to listen to. The staging, by Sergio Trejullio, around the beautiful center piece (a true-to-lifesized truck) flowed with ease.

The best part, in my opinion, was the cast. Filled with seasoned actors, like Allison Case, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Hunter Foster, and Davis Larsen, it was a true treat to watch them all perform onstage together. 

Neil Pepe also did an excellent job directing this new musical and made sure everything flowed seamlessly as the car turned. Though part of me wonders what it would be like to see this piece in the Circle in the Square Theatre, or any space that’s in the round. 

In any case, Hands on a Hardbody is a new musical that is full of life and hope, much like their main characters. 

Thank you to Serino Coyne for inviting me to see the show!