Musical Theatre

Theatre Kraken’s “Cry-Baby” Triumphs Over Its Material

If you lower your defenses, Theatre Kraken’s production of Cry-Baby is capable of providing you with an uproariously enjoyable time at the Gladstone Theatre. This is less due to the material—an uneven stage musical derived from John Waters’s 1950’s movie starring Johnny Depp—than to the spirited ensemble work of a 19-member cast and the sturdy contribution of a six-piece band under Chris Lucas. Only the most dedicated sourpuss would be able to resist the trashy pleasures afforded by this cheeky reworking of one of the most durable themes in dramatic literature—the one where the bad boy from the wrong...

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London’s Fatberg Is Getting Its Own Musical

London’s fatberg–the giant mass of congealed fat and disposed items like nappies and sanitary towels–is getting its own musical. The infamous heap of waste–which was discovered in the sewers under Whitechapel and weighs an estimated 130 tons–will be the subject of a comedy horror called Flushing Fatbergs! The mass will even be animated The musical is being produced by playwright Tilly Lunken and actress Kate Sketchley, and aims to explore our relationship with waste. In this world, humans live in the sewers and use the fatberg as a source of energy–but it also threatens their entire existence. Lunken, 29, told...

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“Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” – Setting The Record Straight

As we’ve settled into the 21st century, pop-culture vestiges of the 20th century have fallen by the wayside. Bell bottoms, platform shoes, and the ever-casual widespread use of cocaine followed disco into the place where all the things we’d like to forget go. It’s interesting, then, that one would choose disco as a genre and subject matter for a new Broadway musical. But, like most things we’d like to forget, there exists an opportunity to correct, clarify, and contextualize what we know in a way that brings new meaning. Summer: The Donna Summer Musical does just that, while delivering...

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“Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy Of…”: Docudrama Musical for Black Lives Matter

The Beginning Of A Most Important Dialogue Initiated By This striking and moving staging of rage! This docu-drama or docu-fiction, a form of musical theatre that ties together reality and fiction inspired by real-life tragedies, concerns events that took place in Montreal (the death of an unarmed Freddy Villanueva in 2008) and the shooting of unarmed Trayvon Martin in Florida (2013) which set off the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the US. We are immediately drawn back to Shakespeare’s work The Lamentable Tragedy Of Titus Andronicus (1623) whose ending is inspired by Seneca’s Thyestes. The Roman play concerns the horrific torture...

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“Miss You Like Hell”: New York Premiere Musical

There’s no curtain to create the traditional pomp and circumstance of American theatre. The stage is empty, save for a curiously eclectic ensemble, and the visible pit gives the theatre a homey sense of connectedness that is clearly purposeful. It seems like a perfect metaphor for the simplicity of a new connection; open space soon to be filled with misunderstanding, oversimplification, discovery, responsibility, and life. Miss You Like Hell opened last week, a show as effervescent and timely as one would expect from the Public Theater. A Broadway alum in her own right, Quiara Alegría Hudes (In the Heights,...

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Dramatic Soundscapes

Rather than experimental theatre, it is the realm of dance works that is considered to be much more amenable to music and its ability to guide or transform a live performance. It is as if the body can only respond to the suggestible registers fed to it by soaring melodies or beats. Yet, recent excursions in contemporary dance have attempted to entirely dispense with sound altogether. Sounds of silence Instead, a vast unstarched expanse of silence becomes the ether in which the performers must discover their corporeal alter egos. In Avantika Bahl’s Say, What?, she interacts through gestures with deaf performer...

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Searching For Lost Artists In “A Song Of Dewdrops”

I went to the Seoul Donhwamun Traditional Theatre in early November, the night of the first full moon after the Chuseok holidays. After getting lost in the maze-like neighborhood, I was pleasantly greeted by the traditional hanok architecture of the new performing arts center. The entrance lay between Changdeokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine, two historic sites in the heart of Seoul. Inside, there is a beautiful yard surrounded by a low, tile-roofed wall. The performance hall was in the second-story basement, a small and intimate space where raked audience seating looked down on the stage. A Song Of Dewdrops (November...

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World Premiere Musical: “The Lucky Ones”

With downtown theatre audiences, the never-ending challenge is how to push boundaries and create theater that can be understood. Writers want to tell stories that have never been heard,  and producers want to present work that shakes up the zeitgeist. Still, even the most open-minded audiences may leave the theater dazzled, confused, and unsure of how to explain what just happened. In a city of near-professional theatergoers, there’s often the expectation to witness something unexpected in a package that is familiar; so its refreshing that The Lucky Ones, which opened last week at the Connely Theater, arrives wholly unbound...

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“Oklahoma!” at 75: Has the Musical Withstood the Test of Time?

Musicals have long depicted utopian worlds, offering an escape for audiences, if only for a few hours. When Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! premiered in March 1943, the musical was a perfect reprieve for audiences immersed in the day-to-day anxieties of World War II. It offers a classic narrative: Two men, cowboy Curly McLain and farmhand Jud Fry, fight for the affections of one woman, farm girl Laurey Williams. This love triangle is played out against the backdrop of westward expansion at the outset of the 20th century. In the end, Curly prevails, and the musical closes with...

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“Butcher of Balkans” in Jester’s Attire: A Musical About Slobodan Milosevic

A musical about Slobodan Milosevic and his wife Mira dresses the “Butcher of Balkans” in jester’s attire–but the tricks at play are neither innocent nor new. Considering Slobodan Milosevic earned a nickname as “the Butcher of the Balkans” and was accused of war crimes at the Hague, one rightly wonders if a play about him would be about the making of a monster, or, perhaps, an attempt to redeem him and justify his actions as mere circumstances of fate. In effect, Lift: The Slobodan Show, a Serbian-language play about the former president of Serbia and Yugoslavia, his wife Mira...

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“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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