Archive of ‘Theater’ category

Disney’s stage production of Beauty and The Beast roars with love, laughs and all the feelings

Brooke Quintana as Belle and Sam Hartley as the Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

It’s a tale as old as time and delivers a message that’s truer these days than ever before. Disney’s “Beauty and The Beast” returned to Broward Center for the Performing Arts June 15 and runs through Sunday June 19 before heading to Dallas to continue its summer tour.

The musical that teaches the message to look beyond appearances and get to know people for who they are on the inside is a necessary lesson all of mankind could benefit from, especially at this moment. Just three days after the tragic Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, I was still in a deeply somber mood. “Beauty and The Beast” provided the perfect diversion from the constant sorrow that kept popping up in my newsfeed and my mind.

It was truly wonderful to escape to the Beast’s castle for a few hours and reunite with Lumiere, played by the hilariously cheeky Ryan N. Phillips, the delightful Mrs. Potts played by Stephanie Gray and her adorable sidekick Chip, portrayed by Deandre Horner. Samuel Shurtleff shines as the Beast’s faithful servant Cogsworth and Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek delighted the crowd as the strapping and narcissistic town player, Gaston. The beefy baritone has also performed in multiple operas, which was obvious after watching him effortless belt out solos in this show.

The musical numbers in “Beauty and The Beast” are familiar and more feel good than ever with plenty of high-kicking dance routines and the show-stopping “Be Our Guest,” which features dancing flatware, spinning plates and plenty of confetti.

In the lead role of Belle, Brooke Quintana charms in her national touring debut as the book-loving introvert who refuses to conform to the norm. Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is a wonderful show for families, couples and anyone looking for a carefree night out with some truly unforgettable characters.

Get tickets for Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” at Browardcenter.org.

The Enchanted Objects of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Matthew Murphy_Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek as Gaston and the Silly Girls of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  Photo by Matthew Murphyfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Beautiful—The Carole King Musical is Some Kind of Wonderful

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In the ’90s, when most other kids my age were listening to Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I was listening to the music of Carole King. My mother and my aunts introduced me to the healing power of her music when I was a little girl. In 1994, my aunt Maryann bought me a boxed set, Carole King: The Ode Collection (1968-1976) from Costco. I have listened to this boxed set throughout my life and it remains one of my staples in my iTunes playlist.

Much like King’s music itself, “Beautiful—The Carole King Musical” is a cathartic journey of the heart. In the touring production, King is portrayed by Abby Mueller. Muller’s younger sister Jessie Mueller portrayed the same role on Broadway.

Abby illuminated the stage at Broward Center for the Performing Arts bringing King’s character to life as her vulnerable love affair with the roving-eyed lothario Gerry Goffin unfurls. The lyrics to their songs provided a diary of sorts for their romance. As they penned hit after hit with such beloved favorites as “Will You Still Love Me,” “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Up On The Roof,” it’s impossible not to connect with King’s pain as she struggles to stay relevant in the evolving sound of the early ’70s as she fights to keep her family together.

As groups such as The Drifters, The Righteous Brothers and The Shirelles comes to life on stage, the impact of King and Goffin’s music on American culture is undeniable. I found myself giddy at various points in the show as hit after hit was performed. “Oh my God, they wrote that one! And that one,”I squealed in my seat. The music in this show is incredible and the cast, which includes Ben Fankhauser as Barry Mann and Becky Gulsvig as Cynthia Weil, is a force to be reckoned with.

It truly was beautiful watching King go from teeny bopper girl song writer to a solid, dynamic solo artist who would become a voice of a generation and inspire many generations to come.

“Beautiful—The Carole King Musical” runs at Broward Center for the Performing Arts through Sunday May 22. Tickets are available at Browardcenter.org. Then the show continues on a tour throughout  America. It returns to South Florida Feb. 1-5 in  2017 for a stop at Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. Visit Beautifulonbroadway.com for details.

 

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Rod Stafford Hagwood steals the spotlight at Broadway Buzz event at Broward Center

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If you want to bring some sassy, classy magic to an event, Rod Stafford Hagwood is the perfect man for the job. The celebrated fashion columnist, foodie and brightest and best dressed star at the Sun Sentinel hosted a whimsical sneak peek of the 2016/2017 Broadway in Fort Lauderdale show season. Broward Center for the Performing Arts subscribers and theater enthusiasts packed the playhouse April 4 to sip some special Broadway-inspired cocktails such as Trunchbull Punch and The Glass Slipper and take in a few surprise performances from upcoming shows including “Cabaret,” “Finding Neverland” and “Something Rotten!” Several performers also participated in informative, yet very entertaining Q&As with Hagwood.

I grew up seeing plays at Burt Reynold’s Jupiter Theatre in the ’80s. As a little girl who battled bullying and other woes, musical theater was and remains my comforting escape from the real world. As a child, some of the greatest Broadway musicals unfolded before my eyes including “Phantom of The Opera,” “Anything Goes,” “Man of La Mancha” and it has brought me the greatest joy to continue to see shows with my loved ones now at Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

I personally cannot wait to see “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage” this month. I had the pleasure of interviewing the talented Margot White, who portrays Baby’s mother in the touring production of the show.

I am also excited to see “Beautiful,” “Something Rotten!” and “Finding Neverland.”

With several of the shows coming to Broward Center still on Broadway in New York City, it amazes me how culturally blessed we are in South Florida that such top notch entertainment travels to us.

Thank you Rod Stafford Hagwood for sharing your love for the theater through your wonderful writing. Nothing makes me happier than seeing new generations singing along to Broadway scores and using the bright lights of Broadway to brighten all of our lives.

Check out the upcoming season coming to Broward Center for the Performing Arts here:

“Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” December 13 – 25, 2016

“Cabaret” January 10 – 22, 2017

“The Little Mermaid” February 22 – March 5, 2017

“Something Rotten!” March 21 – April 2, 2017

“Matilda The Musical” April 25 – May 7, 2017

“Finding Neverland” June 13 – 25, 2017

Visit BroadwayInFortLauderdale.com for details on purchasing tickets to current and upcoming shows.
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Kinky Boots proves you can change the world when you change your mind

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There is nothing more exhilarating than a night out at the theater that involves a passionate tale of triumph in the face of adversity and a wickedly high pair of heeled boots that is kicking down stereotypes about gender one show at a time.

Kinky Boots, a musical based on a book by Harvey Fierstein with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, doesn’t miss a step when it comes to telling the story of floundering British shoemaker Charlie Price and the fabulous Lola, a man who transforms into even more of a  glam goddess through the magic of Price’s stunning, bedazzled boots. The unlikely duo ends up having much in common as they both attempt to emerge from the shadows of what their fathers had planned for their lives.

Tom Souhrada and J. Harrison Ghee shine as the stars of this while plenty of supporting characters such as George, played by my favorite Hollywood Square Jim J. Bullock also add to the depth of the show. The music from this show has the pop-rock thumbprint of Lauper and also includes the deeper message of acceptance that many of Lauper’s songs convey.

My favorite part of this show was watching the audience around me smiling, whistling and clapping to the beat while absorbing the message “Just be who you wanna be!”

Kinky Boots is playing at Broward Center for the Performing Arts through Sunday March 13. The show then travels two Fort Meyers and Naples. Kinky Boots will then return to South Florida next year. In 2017, the show will appear April 18-23 at Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach.

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South Florida audiences can soar with Toruk—The First Flight

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Toruk—The First Flight swept into BB&T Center March 3-6 and now this innovative new show is at American Airlines Arena March 10-13. Inspired by James Cameron’s “Avatar,” Toruk is a breathtaking prequel to Cameron’s film. Fueled by the magic of Cirque du Soleil, Pandora comes to life with a Na’vi narrator. Two Omaticaya boys must set out on a dangerous quest to save the Tree of Souls. The audience gets to travel with the boys into the iconic Floating Mountains and across impossible rivers and terrains as they encounter creatures and enemies on air, sea and land. 

Audience members with smart phones can really get in on the action of Toruk by downloading the Toruk—The First Flight app. The app kicks off the show by allowing downloaders to play with the fireflies in Pandora by touching their phone screens. Then, there are hidden effects showgoers can unlock during the intermission and before and after the first and second act of the show. This is a show that will appeal to adults as well as children and would make a great family outing or a fantastic date night.

The First Flight is now playing at the American Airlines Arena on March 10-13, 2016. Purchase tickets at Cirquedusoleil.com/toruk.

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The Book of Mormon delights audiences at Broward Center for the Performing Arts

bookofmormonMy 25-year-old cousin recently won the lottery. No, not the Powerball.—the lottery to snag front row tickets to see The Book of Mormon. They loved the play written by “South Park” creators Trey  Parker and Matt Stone. The Book of Mormon returned to Broward Center for the Performing Arts after originally touring in the 954 in 2013.

The play, which opened Jan. 27 and runs through Feb. 7, is a hilarious tale about love and finding one’s purpose. Although the play pokes fun at the Mormon faith, it isn’t so much about religion. Two innocent Mormon missionaries are sent to war-torn Uganda to attempt to convert local villagers to their faith. Actual Mormon missionaries stood in the rain near the theater’s parking garage on opening night passing out literature on the real “Book of Mormon” and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took out multiple full-page ads in the show’s Playbill to encourage theater goers to “read the book now that you’ve seen the play.” But again, this play is more about acceptance and searching within to find the strength to answer some of life’s biggest mysteries.

Cody Jamison Strand was the perfect Elder Cunningham. He adds a touch of Jonah Hill-like flavor to this already side-splitting production. Ryan Bondy ignites the stage as Elder Price. The entire touring cast of this productions is top-notch as they pull off now classic Broadway numbers such as “Hasa Diga Eebowai” and “Making Things Up Again.” This show has truly opened up a niche spot for a new generation of theater fans. There are plenty of expletives, relatable lyrics and feel good moments. The show also addresses real life epidemics in Africa such as Aids and female genital mutilation. It’s hard to imagine anyone poking fun at such subject matter, but somehow, this show is able to pull it off. It’s a show you won’t be able to stop talking about for days.

Get tickets here.

There are many more exciting Broadway Across America shows coming to Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Visit Browardcenter.org for details.

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No excuse to miss Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical

Stefan Karl as The Grinch with Seth Bazacas as Young Max Photo by PAPARAZZIBYAPPOINTMENT.COM

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical easily made my heart grow three times bigger. I’m very impressed with this intermission-less show starring Stefan Karl as the evil yet strangely endearing Grinch. Karl slithers through this musical with plenty of sinister swagger as the classic Christmas-loathing villain of Whoville. On opening night at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Karl demonstrated the Grinch is wittier than ever as he had a couple of live interactions with some overzealous children in the office who were trying to snatch his spotlight for a moment. Karl glowed as a traditional Seuss-created Grinch but added a few modern twists. The 2015 Grinch uses hashtags when he’s ranting about how much he despises Christmas.

Bob Lauder does a superb job narrating the show as Old Max, The Grinch’s former dog. While the play is definitely suited for children as maybe even a first taste of the theater show, this is one holiday play that will appeal to the child in all of us. Don’t miss this magical show that includes an epic audience sing along to  the beloved tune: “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch.” After all, it isn’t Christmas without The Grinch!

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical  runs at Broward Center for the Performing Arts through Dec. 27. There are no performances on Christmas Day.

Tickets start at $35.

The show takes place at Broward Center for the Performing Arts

201 S.W. Fifth Avenue, Fort Lauderdale.

For tickets visit  browardcenter.org or call 954-462-0222.

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Extra! Extra! Newsies wins over South Florida audiences

It’s difficult not to immediately fall madly in love with Jack Kelly, played by the dynamic Miami-born Joey Barreiro in the touring production of “Disney’s Newsies.” He is, after all, the perfect spokesperson for the American dream. While it’s partially based on the New York City newsboys strike of 1899, the whole “exploitation of workers” theme is perhaps more relevant now than ever. More work for less pay? Sound familiar?

Barreiro, who is a University of Miami graduate, steals the show as the foot-stomping no-nonsense Jack. When greedy Joseph Pulitzer raises the prices of his newspapers assuming he can force his already starving paper boys to spend more money to buy the same amount of newspapers they did yesterday,  Barreiro’s character pulls off the impossible and goes against the newspaper giant.

With inspiring song and dance numbers such as “Seize The Day,” “King of New York” and “Watch What Happens,” “Disney’s Newsies” is the people’s musical. While it’s based on the 1992 Disney film starring Christian Bale,  it’s no surprise “Disney’s Newsies” won the 2012 Tony Awards for best score and best choreography. This show is a must see for dreamers and believers of all ages.

“Disney’s Newsies” hit Broward Center for the Performing Arts Nov. 17 and runs through Nov. 29. A ticket to this show would make an awesome pre-holiday gift for someone special.

Tickets for “Disney’s Newsies” is on-sale now and can be purchased by visiting Browardcenter.org or by phone 954-462-0222.

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Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal deliver a solid performance and memorable reunion with Love Letters

Ali MacGraw, Ryan O'Neal

Ali MacGraw, Ryan O’Neal

 

Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw first demonstrated their onscreen chemistry in the iconic ’70’s film, Love Story. The pair has reunited now for a national stage tour of A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters. The captivating production involves O’Neal, who plays the studious and sensible Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and MacGraw, who shines as poor little rich girl, Melissa Gardner. The duo’s turbulent relationship unfolds over the course of 50 years beginning as children and then carrying them toward the much later days of their lives.

The play is ultimately an homage to two lost art forms that once dominated our society—listening and the art of letter writing. As Andrew and Melissa look back into the crevices of their hearts and memories, it’s painfully depressing to realize that love stories today can be deleted in an instant and exist only on invisible, intangible clouds.

As a writer, the play made me yearn for the comforting feel of quality cardstock and the graceful, indelible strokes of a fine fountain pen. Love Letters is a must-see show for fans of Love Story but especially the 20 and 30-something generation that has traded love letters for texting and is more likely to snap selfies than listen.

Love Letters runs through July 26 at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 S.W. Fifth Avenue, Ft Lauderdale, FL, 33312.

Tickets start at $41.30.
To purchase tickets, visit Browardcenter.org or call 954-462-0222. To check out shows in additional cities, please visit Lovelettersontour.com.
To read interviews with O’Neal and MacGraw, don’t miss these fabulous pieces written by my friends Rod Hagwood and Linda Marx.
 

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If you still haven’t gotten to see Cameron Mackintosh’s fabulous rendition of Phantom of The Opera at Broward Center there are a few tickets available for the Nov. 30 shows

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA 2 - Julia Udine and Cooper Grodin - photo by Matthew Murphy-4839THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA 1 - Cooper Grodin and Julia Udine - photo by Matthew Murphy-5135THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA 7A - Julia Udine and Ben Jacoby 925 - photo by Matthew Murphy

 

The first time I saw The Phantom of the Opera I was around 10 years old. I was haunted by the delicious mystery of the Phantom and when I started taking musical theater singing lessons at age 8, I begged my singing teacher, the late, great Broadway legend and composer Fred Silver to let me sing “The Music of the Night” and “All I Ask of You.” He let me sing those songs and I got so excited over hitting the high notes in “All I Ask of You,” I tripped and slammed into the wall next to his piano and shattered his clock. It wasn’t quite the famous Phantom chandelier scene, but I made a scene all my own. Over my life, I have seen The Phantom of The Opera at least four times in both New York and Florida. But each time I find myself face-to-face with this elusive Broadway star, I find myself always wanting one more encounter with him.

He’s fabulously misunderstood and this time, he’s back and bigger and better than ever. The chandelier in this production would make Liberace weep with envy. The Phantom of the Opera is playing at Broward Center for the Performing Arts through Nov. 30 in Fort Lauderdale. Visit BrowardCenter.org for ticket information and details on other exciting shows coming to that theater.

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