An aesthetically and musically beautiful production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “The King and I” opened at the Marcus Center on April 9, to an appreciative audience that delighted in the King’s first use of his signature phrase “etcetera, etcetera” and gasped in awe as the King and his English governess-turned-confidant Anna twirled across the stage to the familiar “one two three and” rhythm of “Shall We Dance?” The tour is based on director Bartlett Sher’s highly acclaimed revival, which opened at Lincoln Center in 2015 and garnered four Tony Awards. Filled with grand scenes from the King’s court in 19th century Siam; opulent, richly detailed costumes in jewel tones and gold; and a gorgeous ballet sequence illustrating “The Small House of Uncle Thomas,” the show is part fairy tale, part spectacle and part resurrection of a true chestnut of musical theater.Read More
There are quite a few playwrights I’d like to meet. Shakespeare is definitely invited to my “amazing authors throughout the ages” dinner party, but I’m actually taking Bill Cain off the list. Not because I don’t think his work is smart, funny and intriguing, but because I already met him, through his transparently autobiographical work, “How to Write a New Book of the Bible,” on stage at Next Act Theatre through April 28th.Read More
As patrons made their way to Overture Center for the opening night of Miss Saigon on April 2, several dozen people on the sidewalk handed out orange photocopies of an essay criticizing the production for its depiction of Vietnamese people. “What’s Wrong with Miss Saigon?” was written by UW-Madison Asian American Studies professor Timothy Yu, who provided it, originally expecting it would be included in the program book of the blockbuster musical.
In the auditorium, many audience members were reading the piece, as other patrons took their seats and awaited the opening number of the award-winning musical, created by the French team of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, the same creative pair that took the world by storm in 1980 with their musical adaptation of Les Miserables.
When the lights went down and the orchestra began to play, longtime fans of the show settled in for an evening of soaring music, epic tragedy, impressive stagecraft, and some good, old-fashioned Broadway production numbers. Newcomers to the Miss Saigon leaned forward in their seats, anticipating a theatrical experience that has made the show one of the longest-running musicals in history. And others held their breath, wondering if the story would really hold up in an era where cultural representation has become a hot-button issue.Read More
The internet is full of short, funny subtitles for classic books. Moby Dick is summed up with “Man versus whale. Whale wins.” Don Quixote is labeled “Guy fights windmills. Also, he’s crazy.” For The Grapes of Wrath there’s the pithy title, “Farming sucks. Road trip! Road trip also sucks.”
But don’t bother looking up an on-the-nose assessment of Anton Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya. Award-winning playwright Aaron Posner has already beaten you to it. Life Sucks, his homage to the classic Russian work, riffs on its characters and themes while bringing them decidedly, and sometimes irreverently, onto the modern stage. Forward Theater’s excellent production of Life Sucks, running in the Playhouse at Overture Center through April 14, is a funny, contemplative, tragic, ridiculous and insightful take on the sad-sack antihero Uncle Vanya (William Bolz) and his loosely related family group, most of whom live on the edge of despair.Read More
What if our first encounter with extra-terrestrial intelligent life doesn’t go at all like we’ve imagined? Instead of E.T., or Jabba the Hutt, or Alf, what if evidence that we’re not alone in the universe came in the form of a hologram named Althea (Rachael Zientek), a somewhat obnoxious teenage girl who’s obesessed with her hair and nails? Sure, she knows everything that can possibly be known in universe and she’s here to recruit future rock star scientists who will contribute to a vault of itnergalactic knowlege known as the “library of heaven,” but can you really take an alien seriously when she’s wearing in a super frilly summer dress, a pink dotted jean jacket and OMG, the absolute cutest pair of sandals that totally bring that outfit together?Read More
Overture shelves panel to discuss racial stereotypes in Miss Saigon
“This is not how I thought today was going to go,” said Timothy Yu at the “teach-in” he helped organize on the sidewalk outside Overture Center on March 27. With the poster for the blockbuster musical Miss Saigon in the background, Yu, a UW-Madison professor of English and Asian American Studies, looked slightly chagrined as he surveyed the crowd that was gathering to hear concerns about Asian representation in the touring show, which is scheduled for eight performances, April 2-7 in Overture Hall. “As of yesterday morning I thought this was going to be a sleepy little panel,” he said, originally predicting that 15 or 20 people would be in attendance. Instead, after officials at Overture Center abruptly cancelled the joint panel discussion just hours before it was scheduled, the group of interested onlookers swelled, taking over the corner of State and North Dayton Streets.Read More
One of the most powerful experiences theater can impart to audiences is one of empathy. Florian Zeller’s play The Father accomplishes this in a way that a slew of other plays about older people in the grip Alzheimer’s or dementia cannot. The current Strollers Theatre production, onstage at the Bartell Theatre through March 30, illustrates the main character’s final years, primarily through his own altered perspective. Instead of exclusively looking in from the outside at an elderly man who’s lost his faculties, through Andre (a remarkable Carl Cawthorne) the audience also sees a world that doesn’t make any sense. There are puzzling time lapses, new people showing up in each scene claiming to be relatives or caregivers, and contradictory information presented as facts. It’s as if the main character is the only sane person in an increasingly absurd world that refuses to snap back to normal.Read More
Over the course of a decade when the Lebanese Civil War was at its height -- 1982-1992 -- more than 100 foreign nationals were kidnapped and held hostage in Beirut. Used as leverage against Western intervention in the conflict, most of them were Americans and Europeans. Among the prisoners were Irish writer Brian Kennan and British journalist John McCarthy, who shared a cell for nearly five years before their release. The story of their captivity is the basis for Frank McGuiness’s play Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, which is currently receiving an extraordinary production at Spring Green’s new Two Crows Theatre Company.Read More
There’s no doubt that the slightly scruffy Huck Finn (an astonishing Luke Brotherhood in the Clemens cast) could use some “civilizing,” as his elderly guardian Widow Douglas (a chameleon-like Kat Wodtke) pointedly suggests with demanding thumps of her cane and an accusing finger pointed at Huck’s chest. In First Stage’s soulful and enchanting production of “Big River,” she sings admonishments in “Looka Here Huck,” while many of her castmates join in the chorus and provide accompaniment on the fiddle, guitar, ukelele and washboard. Among other pronouncements, she asserts that Huck should go to school, eat all his vegetables, and start behaving like a responsible adult. Of course this is Huck’s cue to playfully disobey, running off to the banks of the Mississippi River to commence loafing on the shore and fishing under the warm sun.Read More
According to historians, German composer Carl Orff was so pleased with his new composition “Carmina Burana,” a spectacle which combined Medieval poetry, a full orchestra, choirs, dance, and many theatrical elements, that he sent the following note to his publisher: “Everything I have written to date, and which you have, unfortunately, printed, can be destroyed. With ‘Carmina Burana,’ my collected works begin.”
After experiencing Skylight Music Theatre’s multi-media, multi-disciplinary performance of the symphony/concert/opera/dance piece with the unforgettable hook, it’s easy to see how an artist would regard this as a bold new chapter in his work. Often performed as an orchestral piece with a standard chorus, this version, running in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center through March 31, is probably much closer to what Orff had in mind.Read More