Tuesday already?! So much to share in so little time! Last week’s casting junket in NYC became more of an extended busman’s holiday seeing four Broadway shows before returning home to Aurora.
The Prom, a very populist, crowd pleasing, goofball musical comedy, has at its core the timely and difficult conflict of an Indiana high school kid barred from bringing her girlfriend to the prom. There’s quite a sensational circus of extreme, satirized, well-intentioned Broadway show-people’s shenanigans circling the heartfelt performance of a young Caitlin Kinnunen, giving strong, serious, honest voice to this issue ever-prevalent today across our country.
I spent all-day Wednesday at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and what a magical and drama-filled theatrical spectacle! For all of author J.K. Rowling’s surprises, suspense and intricate plot-twists combined with the production’s mind-blowing special effects and illusions, the essence of it all is distilled ever so simply and ultimately in the love shared by Harry and his son, Albus. The most jaw-dropping pyrotechnics I’ve ever seen, still, could not upstage the fine actors’ characterizations and ensemble dynamic. Among them, Aurora’s own Bubba Weiler in a star-making turn as Scorpius Malfoy with Chicago actors, Matt Mueller as Ron Weasley and Karen Janes Woditsch as Professor McGonagall in absolutely knock-out portrayals!
Three years into its Broadway run, I have finally joined the rapture that has met Dear Evan Hansen, and the main reason for that is Michael Lee Brown, the understudy who went on last Thursday night in the title role. A devastating, empathically, even clinically observed, perfectly calibrated performance crownedby his vocals that felt as if you were hearing this score for the first time. At once messy and precise, this young man achieved greatness, the likes of which, again, I’ve never quite ever seen before. This appeared to me to be such a stroke of luck! Ya know, that bit of hesitation you feel when you see that little paper insert stating an understudy is going on? My God, the minute he began, pale and pasty, itchy nervous, his singing so natural as if the music was coming from within him. This is a study of contemporary anxiety and angst that resonated expansively on all our lives. Brilliantly human and flawed. Exceptional. And Lisa Brescia as his mom, Heidi, and young Mallory Bechtel as Zoe Murphy, are right up there as well in another powerhouse ensemble on Broadway.
And talk about luck and powerhouse performances, I copped a great orchestra center seat for the astonishing, Hadestown, the most nominated show of the season! This smokin’, sizzlin’ score, lyrics and book by Anais Mitchell, (who is most likely to sweep the Tonys, June 9) is good old fashioned story-telling full of Director Rachel Chavkin’s contemporary theatricality and stagecraft that grabs you at the very start upon Hermes’ entrance (the incomparable Andre De Shields) and never lets you go! Again, at its center, are two incredibly magnificent young actors, Eva Noblezada as Eurydice and Reeve Carney as Orpheus. Their vocals alone could change your life! (I know, I sound like a kid myself!) The onstage band and actor/musicians cast create a kinetic energy, electrifying and another magnificent ensemble experience. Amber Gray’s Persephone brought the house down, in a totally original, one-of-a-kind performance, evocative and in-your-face present at the same time.
A lot of firsts, like nothing I’ve ever seen before events filled with the promise of some dynamite young actors whose rising stars are on fire; Broadway’s state of the art is full of new stories and new ways to tell old ones!
I’m sitting here with you having ducked-out of this morning’s production meeting for Director Amber Mak’s Beauty and the Beast, next season’s holiday spectacular for the whole family! With The Wizard of Oz, Elf:The Musical, The Little Mermaid and Hairspray under her belt, Amber, just yesterday, mentioned how good the production is looking with Jeff Kmiec on Scenic Design and Theresa Ham, Costume Design (both on Once, Sweeney Todd, Elf, and Mermaid, to name a few). Here’s the scoop: not since Paramount’s Les Miserables, (which both Jeff and Theresa worked on) has our audience seen anything quite like the magic, magnificence and grandeur Amber has in store for you!
Love and thanks,