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Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
— If you’ve ever wondered what makes “Hamilton” a cultural game-changer, check out Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Tony Award-winning hip-hop/pop musical “In the Heights” —currently presented at the Schuster Center courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association and Minnesota’s Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in collaboration with Teatro del Pueblo.
Here are five reasons why you should see Miranda’s entertaining and eye-opening account of diversity, legacy and home, nominated for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
1. UNIVERSAL STORY.
Featuring a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes and co-directed by Alberto Justiniano and James A. Rocco, “In the Heights” weaves multiple stories and dreams of the Upper Manhattan Latino community of Washington Heights in New York City.
Centered on bodega (grocery store) owner Usnavi, the musical strikes a relatable chord in its depiction of close-knit individuals.
This colorful community takes care of their families, have deep pride in their neighborhood, have deep pride in their native homeland (Usnavi has roots in the Dominican Republic), rejoice in the successes of their neighbors, and struggle to make ends meet while longing for better opportunities.
When one of them suddenly wins the lottery, hope is renewed and celebrated. No matter where you were raised or whether or not you took Spanish in high school, you will find something in their journey to connect with.
2. RELEVANT INCLUSIVITY
Looking back, when this show opened the door for diversity on Broadway unlike ever before, planting the progressive seeds of what would become “Hamilton,” its depiction of immigration was ahead of its time.
The national discussion was simply not where it is today. So, hearing the story of Abuela Claudia, the grandmother who raised Usnavi, is a powerful moment with a more gripping impact now. In “Paciencia Y Fe” (Patience and Faith), Claudia details her upbringing in Cuba and arriving in New York in December 1943 to ultimately find employment as a maid.
“Nueva York was far, but Nueva York had work, and so we came,” she exclaims. Claudia’s pursuit of the American Dream cannot be discounted and is inspiring.
“I am thrilled to be working on a story that encapsulates the strength of a Latino community who, when its very existence is jeopardized, musters the guts to celebrate its cultural pride as an act of defiance,” said Justiniano.
3. DYNAMIC SCORE
Miranda’s gifted knack for hip-hop wordplay and creating moments with depth and soul that feel like throwbacks to classic musicals is evident throughout his Tony-winning score.
For example, the opening title song introduces Washington Heights on par with “Tradition” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” and flavorful ensemble numbers “The Club” and “Carnaval del Barrio” respectively recall the joy of “Havana” from “Guys and Dolls” and “Dance at the Gym” from “West Side Story.”
“Lin is always in tune with identifying who should express themselves,” said original “In the Heights” director Thomas Kail.
4. LIVELY CHOREOGRAPHY
Directors Alberto Justiniano and James A. Rocco provide exuberant routines with street-inspired and salsa-driven movement clearly aiding the look and feel of the story. The aforementioned “Carnaval del Barrio” is a particular knockout.
5. ENGAGING PERFORMANCES
Last week, an Australian production of “In the Heights” was canceled due to controversial whitewashing or inauthentic casting. Thankfully, Dayton audiences are treated to a terrifically authentic and very engaging cast wonderfully led by Justin Gregory Lopez as Usnavi. Breezily rapping without missing a beat while full of wit and energy, Lopez absolutely charms. Equally noteworthy are Aline Mayagoitia as soul-searching student Nina, Lauren Villegas as gossipy nail salon owner Daniela, Emily Madigan as Daniela’s ditzy sidekick Carla, Stephen Scott Wormley as Nina’s love interest Benny, and Debra Cardona as Abuela Claudia.
WANT TO GO?
What: “In the Heights”
Where: Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton
When: Through Oct. 8. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 12:46 PM
— The hilariously witty musical comedy “Something Rotten!,” nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 2015 including Best Musical, is playing through Sunday, March 25 at the Schuster Center.
A clever and naughty sendup of William Shakespeare and musical theater conventions, the show charmingly centers on brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, aspiring writers in 1595 London in desperate need of a hit. Their rival, the Bard, is treated as a rock star, but they feel confident in surpassing his greatness with the creation of the world’s very first musical. It is part of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series.
Here are five reasons why you should see this entertaining romp.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOVE SHAKESPEARE
In fact, Nick’s first solo is the comical “God, I Hate Shakespeare,” a laundry list of reasons why the Bard, a former actor in his troupe, just isn’t his cup of tea. Although effectively accented with an assortment of playful homages to “Henry IV,” “Twelfth Night,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and, most importantly, “Hamlet,” this breezy show is more of a love letter to the Renaissance, Broadway, musical theater, romance, and the universal bond of marriage and family. “We’re well aware the audience is going to come to this show not really sure of what they’re going to get,” said Maggie Lakis, who portrays Nick’s supportive wife Bea and offers a solid rendition of “Right Hand Man.” “‘Something Rotten!’ is a new show so it’s not a revival which is more commonly seen on tours these days. But it has great production numbers and it’s been wonderful hearing the audience experience the show for the first time because there are so many great surprises in it. And actually, it’s very rewarding to do a comedy right now considering everything that’s going on in the world.”
CAST LED BY BROADWAY PRINCIPALS
In a rare turn of events, the tour’s three principal leads closed the show on Broadway in early 2017. Tony nominees Rob McClure (Nick Bottom) and “Rent” alum Adam Pascal (Shakespeare) along with Josh Grisetti (Nigel Bottom) offer wonderfully cohesive chemistry befitting their time with this material. The verbal tap dance showdown between McClure and Pascal in the gospel-driven Act 1 finale “Bottom’s Gonna Be on Top” is a hoot.
Director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw is familiar to Dayton audiences thanks to his memorable work on “The Book of Mormon.” His contributions are equally inventive here particularly his knack for gradually building ensemble numbers to the fullest while inserting funny imagery where necessary including a few Grim Reapers during “The Black Death” and tap-dancing eggs in “Make an Omelette,” a key scene in Nick and Nigel’s musical.
Brothers Wayne Kirkpatrick (Grammy-winning co-songwriter of Eric Clapton’s “Change Your World”) and Karey Kirkpatrick (Golden Globe-nominated screenwriter of animated film “Chicken Run”) deliver an impressive array of tuneful melodies from the snazzy pop elegance of opening number “Welcome to the Renaissance” to the rock urgency of “Will Power” (delivered with flair by Pascal with moves like Jagger assisted by four brooding backup boys portrayed by Daniel Beeman, Drew Franklin, Luke Hamilton, and Tony Neidenbach). “We were conscious of not wanting to be so inside that you could only get it if you had seen the most obscure musicals,” Wayne Kirkpatrick said. “We went broad, purposefully. We referenced not only the musicals people would know even if they hadn’t seen them, or maybe they’d only seen the movie. The same with Shakespeare. Everybody knows some Shakespeare lines. There are a lot of what we refer to as ‘hits,’ that everybody is going to know.”
The Kirkpatricks and Nicholaw truly pulled out the stops when creating/envisioning Act 1’s “A Musical” and Act 2’s aforementioned “Make an Omelette.” The former, brought about by Nick’s visit to see faulty soothsayer Thomas Nostradamus (kooky Blake Hammond), ingeniously and joyfully references an array of musicals from “Annie” and “South Pacific” to “Les Misérables” and “A Chorus Line” with a nod to the Radio City Rockettes for good measure. Both are must-see showcases worth the price of admission.
“These two numbers sometimes receive mid-show standing ovations,” said Lakis, McClure’s wife on stage and off. “This show simply has everything you’d want from a musical comedy from great music to great costumes to great laughs.”
WANT TO GO?
What: “Something Rotten!”
Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton
When: Through March 25; 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $35 and up.
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— The Broadway smash hit “Something Rotten” is rolling into Dayton this week.
The show comes to the Schuster Center March 20-25 as part of the Premier Health Broadway Series.
In an era when all of the hype and attention were focused on their rival, William Shakespeare, two brothers — Nick and Nigel Bottom — were determined to write a hit play of their own.
When a soothsayer predicts that the future of theater is going to involve plays in which an actor suddenly breaks into song, the brothers plot to write the world’s very first musical.
Set in the 1590s, “Something Rotten” captured 10 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical when it opened in New York in 2015. What’s especially exciting is that three principal cast members who were in the show on Broadway will come to Dayton.
A FAMILIAR FACE IN STARRING ROLE
Portraying William Shakespeare is Adam Pascal, who wowed students and faculty when he came to Wright State University in 2015 as part of a year-long program called “Musicals Rock.” Joe Deer, chairman of the department of theater, dance and motion pictures at Wright State, says he chose Pascal “because he is such an iconic Broadway pop star.”
Pascal, who began his career as a singer/musician in a rock band, got his big Broadway break in 1996 when a friend — Idina Menzel — suggested he audition for “Rent.” He was cast as the HIV-positive rock guitarist Roger Davis in the Off-Broadway, Broadway and London Productions of the iconic show and he was nominated for a Tony award for his performance. He went on to play the original Radames in Broadway’s “Aida” and appeared in “Memphis” and “Chicago.” In Dayton, he’ll play Shakespeare in all but two performances of “Something Rotten.”
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“Adam was one of the nicest and most direct master teachers we’ve had at Wright State,” says Deer. “He did a Pop/Rock audition workshop and was so open with students. He also did a question-and-answer session with Muse Machine students that was just perfectly tuned to their needs. The concert he gave was wonderful — just him and a guitar doing songs he’s performed on Broadway and that he just loves. We ended that event with him singing ‘Seasons of Love’ with all our seniors. It was wonderful.”
Deer says what’s fun about “Something Rotten” is that it starts with the idea of revised history — how things “really” happened as opposed to how we’ve learned about them in fancy theater-history classes. “So William Shakespeare is a Pop Star instead of the stuffy intellectual,” he explains. “It’s a delightfully absurd plot, filled with characters who are much more ambitious than they are smart or talented — except for Shakespeare! This is true musical comedy, with no pretensions of changing the art form. They just want to have fun.”
YOU WILL LAUGH OUT LOUD 😂🤣
Pascal agrees, calling the show a fun frolic, a laugh-out-loud comedy.
“What makes it unique is that it’s an original idea not based on previous source material and that’s a rarity in the landscape of musical theater,” he explains.” It’s one of those rare comedies appropriate for the entire family…. as long as you don’t mind having your kids hear the word ‘s—t’ a couple of times. It’s incredibly funny with different layers of comedy that appeal to a broad spectrum of audience members.”
You don’t need to know anything about Shakespeare and his plays in order to enjoy this show, insists Pascal. “I’m not that familiar with Shakespeare and I avoided it all through high school,” he admits. “This character can be anybody. The fact that he’s Shakespeare is almost incidental. In this universe, he’s a pompous, arrogant, buffoon who is wildly successful at what he does.”
He says his favorite songs in the production are those he can watch from the wings, such as the chorus number, “Musical.” His own big numbers include “Will Power” and “Hard to be the Bard.”
Pascal, who grew up in New York and now makes his home in Los Angeles, prefers being on tour. “I love going back to Broadway but the least part of it is being in the city. I didn’t enjoy living there. I enjoy the road —exploring new towns, new restaurants.”
Although he got his start as a musician in a rock band and still loves playing live music, Pascal says musical theater is a much better fit for him. “It’s where I’ve had the most success and where I feel most comfortable.”
What’s fun as a performer, he says, is the opportunity to be silly, over-the-top and brash. “To me there’s no more fun than getting to be in musical theater, especially in an incredibly funny musical. I would pay to do this!
WANT TO GO?
What: “Something Rotten”
When: March 20-25. Performances at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Saturday matinee performances are signed and/or audio interpreted.
Tickets: $30 and up plus service fees. Student and military discounts are also available at Ticketcenterstage.com or by calling (937) 228-3630.
Related programming: “Background on Broadway” At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and at 1 p.m. Saturday you’ll learn about the development, history and artistry of the show. This free event is held in the Schuster Center’s 4th Floor Lobby. You must have a ticket to that day’s performance.
Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— Everything old is new again as Rupert Holmes’ delightful Tony Award-winning 1985 musical comedy whodunit “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” receives its Wright State University premiere beginning Thursday, March 15 in the Festival Playhouse of the Creative Arts Center.
Inspired by the unfinished novel by Charles Dickens, the audience-friendly musical uses the conceptual framework of an old English Music Hall to tell its story of Edwin Drood, whose murder in the small town of Cloisterham, England baffles its citizens. Due to Dickens’ death, the audience gets to choose which character is the killer, often leading to hilarious and unique results.
“This show is wonderfully interactive because the audience is much more a part of the show rather than just watching it,” said director/choreographer Greg Hellems, who staged an entertaining “9 to 5” last season for WSU. “The constant breaking of the fourth wall engages people in a way they prefer to go to the theater for. This is an experience you wouldn’t have if you were sitting at home watching TV.”
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The large ensemble cast features principals Kenneth Erard as the Chairman, Kyle Miller as John Jasper, Megan Valle as Edwin Drood, Emma Buchanan as Rosa Bud, Alejandria Solis as Helena Landless, Nick Wasserbauer as Neville Landless, Casey Borghesi as Princess Puffer, Kyle Sell as Durdles, Rachel Woeste as Mr. James Throttle, and Sam Maxwell as The Reverend Mr. Crisparkle.
“This show offers a great opportunity for ensemble work,” Hellems added. “Plus, the actors have the challenge of playing two roles, the actor in the Music Hall Royale and the characters in the play. They also have to understand the show’s stylistic differences, particularly the melodrama happening within the play and the interplay happening with the audience. There are so many layers in this show.”
Hellems’ artistic team includes music director Scot Woolley, set designer Pam Knauert Lavarnway, lighting designer Matthew P. Benjamin, costumer Elizabeth Bourgeois, properties by John Lavarnway, and sound designer Ryan Burgdorf.
Holmes, most famous for “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” wrote a beautiful and challenging score consisting of such tuneful numbers as rousing opener “There You Are,” “The Wages of Sin,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Both Sides of the Coin,” “Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead,” and uplifting finale “The Writing on the Wall.”
WANT TO GO?
What: “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”
When: March 15-April 8; March 15, 28, 29 and April 5 at 7 p.m.; March 16, 17, 30, 31, April 6, and 7 at 8 p.m.; and March 18, 31, April 1, 7 and 8 at 2 p.m.
Where: Festival Playhouse of the Creative Arts Center, 3640 Col. Glenn Hwy., Fairborn
Cost: $22 for adults; $20 for seniors and students
Tickets: Call (937) 775-2500 or visit https://liberal-arts.wright.edu/theatre-dance-and-motion-pictures/box-office.
Published: Monday, March 05, 2018 @ 12:34 PM
SPRINGBORO — A performing arts center featuring a 150-seat theatre is part of plans for redevelopment of Springboro’s central crossroads.
On Tuesday, city officials are unveiling plans for the development of 6.5 acres on the northwest corner of Ohio 741 and Ohio 73, Main Street and Central Avenue in Springboro. Members of the public are to provide input during a meeting from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Springboro City Hall.
This morning, City Manager Chris Pozzuto said the arts center now calls for a 14,000-15,000 square foot building with a 140-150 seat theatre, activity and meeting rooms.
The land, formerly known as the Springboro IGA plaza, is south of the Settlers Walk and Austin Landing developments on Main Street.
“We hope that the performing arts center construction closely mirrors the infrastructure (roads, water lines, etc.) for the rest of the redevelopment of the former IGA Plaza site. We would love to break ground sometime late summer, but that remains to be seen,” Pozzuto said via email.
The city is expecting to fund the project, but no cost estimate was available this morning.