Musical Theatre

“Jubilee” at The Lyric Hammersmith: Adapting Punk Classic

The late Derek Jarman’s 1978 film Jubilee is a punk classic. I think he was in his Fellini phase, his vision peopled by freaks, dwarfs, and cracked actors. And punks of every description. Plus a few New Romantics. And a touch of Andy Warhol (as in film-maker). The film is theatrical, situationist, punky, camp, awkward, word-choked, and often as slow as a drop of sweat dribbling down your back on a hot day—basically a mess, but great if you see it as a late nighter. And stoned. If not, a touch embarrassing. Cringe-making. You just need to pick out the good bits like...

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Chris Goode’s “Jubilee” – The State of The (Punk) Nation

The idea here is both exquisitely complex and wonderfully simple. On the one hand, Chris Goode’s show, Jubilee, is marking the 40th anniversary of Derek Jarman’s alternative cinema classic, the dystopian, ultra postmodern homage to a particular moment in British history – the year 1977– the simultaneous celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee and the irrepressible, all-consuming advent of the counterculture of punk. On the other hand it is a state of the nation play. In many ways, Goode’s Jubilee is a re-enactment of Jarman’s. The plot of the film is followed very closely with all the cinematic...

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“Love In Hate Nation” Premieres At Penn State’s Playhouse

My Heart Felt That Sha La La The proscenium stage of the Playhouse has been converted into a black box, and as you take your seat walking through the stage you already feel like you are inhabiting a different world. The feeling is slightly unsettling, the walls are dark and dirty, with peeled off posters and pictures from the people who once called this place their home. This is juvie hall. Joe Iconis’ new musical Love In Hate Nation has been specially commissioned for this very stage. It is the world premiere of a musical that has been in development for over a year.  The very first of Penn State Musical Theatre’s New Musicals Initiative program, it starts the year...

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The Way We Talk About Cancer Is Destructive – So I Made A Musical About It

I cannot believe it’s the first month of 2018 and I’m here in the last week of rehearsals for A Pacifist’s Guide To The War On Cancer. I usually spend January in a hole of hang-overs and failed detoxes, but I’m at work in a studio having been given a second chance to take this gorgeous show on the road. A Pacifist’s Guide… is about how we talk about cancer, and to cancer patients, and whether this is helpful or actually destructive. It’s made in collaboration with more than 30 real-life patients. It was originally created at the National...

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Interview With Rob Rokicki, Composer And Lyricist Of “The Lightning Thief”

Rob Rokicki is a Drama Desk, Lortel, and Off-Broadway alliance-nominated composer/lyricist. His musicals include Love, NY, Relativity, Strange Tails, Martha & Me, Monstersongs, and The Lightning Thief, and have been performed at New World Stages, Theatre Row, Lucille Lortel Theatre, and NY Fringe. Rob is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Actor’s Equity, and is an alum of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Writing workshop. He is currently on the musical theatre faculty for CAP21 Conservatory and Pace University. Rob began working on The Lightning Thief in 2013, originally as an hour-long adaption that was nominated for a...

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Finding Common Language: Paul Tate DePoo III Brings His Set Design For “Titanic” To Seoul, South Korea

I love Titanic, the sweeping Broadway musical with a book by Peter Stone and a score by Maury Yeston that originally opened on April 23, 1997, at The Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York. I also spent the better part of 2015 designing musicals in South Korea, an experience that I found to be both fascinating and daunting. So when I learned that Scenic Designer Paul Tate DePoo III had transferred his set design for Titanic at The Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia to Seoul, South Korea, I was eager to discuss the experience with him. How did he reimagine Titanic for a new generation and how did he go about moving...

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“Mr. Shi And His Lover:” A Tautly Executed Superlative Piece of Musical Theatre

A word of advice: If you’re going to see this superlative chamber musical, take the time to read the introductory notes from Macau Experimental Theatre that accompany the National Arts Centre’s program as well as the program itself. That material will give you not just the show’s background–for instance, it’s based on a two-decades long, real-life love affair between two men: a French diplomat and a Peking opera singer who presented himself as a woman–but also provide invaluable explanatory musical and storyline anchors for a show that, like its concerns with love, deceit, identity and the nature of performance,...

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Far From Being In Crisis, 2017 Was A Great Year For Australian Musical Theatre

In June this year, the annual Helpmann Award Nominations sparked concern that original Australian musical theatre was in crisis. John Frost, one of the biggest producers of musical theatre in this country, stated “I don’t think there will be a great Australian musical,” and suggested musical writers move to New York or London. Looking back through 2017, however, we find a surprising number of Australian musicals staged around the country. One of the most anticipated pieces of this year was the adaptation of PJ Hogan’s much-loved film Muriel’s Wedding. This co-production between Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures marked an exciting...

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The “KPOP” Invasion In A New American Musical Part II: Interview With Jason Kim And Helen Park

To read Part I of the series on KPOP, click here. For the article, I spoke with Jason Kim and Helen Park. Jason Kim who conceived the piece with Woodshed Collective and wrote the book recalls his inspiration for the piece: Jason Kim: A few weeks after I moved to the U.S. [at age 11], I opened my lunchbox at my elementary school cafeteria to find a delightful surprise. Kimbap [Korean rice roll]. My mom had packed my favorite dish, something that every Korean child grows up eating. Unable to find any chopsticks, I reached for the roll with...

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The “KPOP” Invasion in a New American Musical Part I

In the last few months of 2017, K-pop (Korean pop) has made it into U.S. news reports in two dramatically different ways. First, the Korean boy band BTS (Bangtan Boys) became the first Korean band to perform at the American Music Awards in November. With a remix of their song MIC Drop, featuring Steve Aoki and Desiigner, they also became the highest charting K-pop act in the Billboard Hot 100, rising to number 28. While K-pop has been acquiring a huge fan base in the US and all across the world with several artists such as Rain, Wonder Girls,...

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Clowning Around: An Unconventional “Heungbo-ssi” Misses the Mark

Audiences laughed throughout Ko Sun-woong’s new work Heungbo-ssi (written and directed by Ko Sun-woong, pansori music and libretto by Lee Zaram, National Theater of Korea Daloreum Theater, April 4–16, 2017). After his previous piece Madame Ong (premiered June 2016) succeeded domestically, it traveled to France, promoting Korean changgeuk—sometimes called Korean opera—abroad. Ko appreciates pansori and has experience directing musicals and operas. Still, it is remarkable that his two changgeuk productions have caused such a sensation since he does not fully understand the genre. Heungbo-ssi and Madame Ong are not original works; they are based respectively on one of the five...

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Why “Hamilton” Reminds Us Of The Roots Of British Musical Theatre In Political Activism

Such has been the demand for tickets to the London season of the multi-award-winning Broadway hip-hop sensation Hamilton that the show’s run has been extended and a lottery has been announced for the remaining seats. One wonders whether Boris Johnson, David Davis, Nigel Farage or any of the other leading advocates of Brexit will be among theatergoers thronging to the show over the next few months? Or maybe they’ll remember the experience of the US Vice-President-elect, Mike Pence, who was memorably booed by audiences when he attended a show shortly after the 2016 US election. At the final curtain, Brandon Victor Dixon (who plays the...

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“Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical” Is A Deeply Satisfying Tribute To Australia’s Most-Loved Dag

Muriel Heslop occupies a precious position in Australian cultural life. She is, perhaps, our most-loved dag. The creative team that has transformed her story into a musical have produced a deeply satisfying night at the theatre. Any moment of translation carries with it the possibility of disappointment and betrayal. But the Sydney Theatre Company’s Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical makes us fall in love with this story all over again. Muriel’s ABBA-propelled journey burst into Australian cinema in 1994 as part of a cultural moment in which Australian quirks became the object of tender and loving laughter on the big screen (alongside Priscilla:...

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Cleansed Through Chaos: “God Bless Iceland” at The Reykjavik City Theatre

The economic crisis in Iceland was messy, merciless and brought an entire nation completely convinced of its own excellence to its knees. Since that fateful fall of 2008, the country’s supposed recovery has been hailed internationally as a global success story. Iceland was the nation that rebuilt itself after an economic catastrophe, where the bankers responsible were jailed, MPs got their comeuppance in the following elections, and its citizens learned a valuable lesson in humility. Untrue. All of it. A week before the Icelandic general election, the second one in a year after the last two governments imploded, God...

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“One The Bear” (La Boite) New Transmedia Storytelling

In true international award-winning Black Honey Company style, One The Bear bursts on the audience. In an apocalyptic aesthetic avalanche, its stars, the story’s titular One (Candy Bowers) and her best friend Ursula (Nancy Denis), emerge from a rubbish skip. One and Ursula are bears attempting to escape a hunter. Such is the reality of their untold herstories, which form the basis of this enigmatic work. The abiding hyper-real aesthetic comes courtesy of video designer Optikal Bloc. The accompanying explosion of fluorescent color details down to not just performer glasses but even the eyelashes behind them. As always, music is at...

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Dramaturgical Leadership And The Politics Of Appeal In Commercial Theatre

In an early scene of Rick Elice’s irreverent Peter Pan prequel, Peter And The Starcatcher, the precocious Molly Aster discovers three orphan boys in the bilge dungeon of the Neverland, a shabby merchant ship on an 1885 voyage from Portsmouth to the remote and dangerous isle of Rundoon. Upon her request for the leader, and without the consensus of his fellow orphans, the cocksure Prentiss introduces himself in charge. After a few more feeble assertions, including his claim that “The leader has to be a boy,” Molly turns to the timid, tubby orphan: “Ever notice, Ted—the more you claim leadership the more it eludes you?” Appreciating the sly put-down, from a girl no less, Ted shoots Prentiss a sideways glare and anachronistically retorts, “Oh, snap!”[1] Staged by Tony-winning veteran...

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Life In The West End’s Second Best Historical Musical “The End of History”

Last month, 1,601 people were left disappointed by the news that Hamilton, the American musical sensation that has taken over $1 billion at the box office, would be opening two weeks late in London. Of those, 1,600 were preview ticket holders, some of whom had booked flights, hotels and/or spent over £2,800 per ticket on the secondary market. The other was me. At one fell swoop our advertising strapline – “The second-best historical musical in the West End” – became less pertinent. Thanks to Hamilton’s delay, The End Of History, which I have co-authored and produced, will now be...

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“Bright Star” Shines It’s Light on The Ahmanson, Los Angeles

With the opening of Bright Star at The Ahmanson Theatre at The Music Center in Downtown Los Angeles, our City of Angels has gotten a little brighter thanks to the multi-Tony Award-nominated musical with music lyrics and story by Grammy, Emmy, and Oscar winner Steve Martin and Grammy winner Edie Brickell.  The cast includes Tony Award nominee Carmen Cusak as Alice Murphy, who is nothing short of a pure delight to watch as she navigates North Carolina in the early 1920s and the mid-1940s as an older and more severe version of herself.  The physical choices she makes are...

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Assassinating Katie Hopkins May Be Bad Taste But Theatre-Goers May Just Love It

Katie Hopkins, the controversial British media commentator, has become the subject of a new stage play guaranteed to inflame the public as much has her own extreme columns do. The Assassination of Katie Hopkins musical is due to open in spring 2018 at Theatr Clywd in North Wales. Tucked away in the market town of Mold, Flintshire, one may not expect it to be the venue for such a topic, and yet Theatr Clwyd has long held a reputation for excellent, thoughtful, and entertaining stage productions, often attracting luminaries of British Theatre to tread the boards there. One can already hear the knives of public opinion being sharpened....

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Taylor Mac Makes History At Melbourne Festival Opening With “The Inauguration”

Taylor Mac described The Inauguration, which helped launch the 2017 Melbourne Festival, as “a Radical Faerie realness ritual.” The Inauguration was a 90-minute show featuring selections from Mac’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, which spans 241 years (1776-2017) of American popular music across 24 hours. In 2016 Mac performed the full 24-hour marathon in New York City. The durational aspects of A 24-Decade History of Popular Music were necessarily lost in The Inauguration’s whistlestop tour. But Mac’s six headliner performances across 27 hours this October incorporate the festival itself into a durational Radical Faerie realness ritual....

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