Monday
Jan112016

DAVID BOWIE - 1947-2016

 

BY MATEO MORENO

The Thin White Duke has passed on. David Robert Jones, aka David Bowie, born January 8th, 1947 has passed away, just two days after his 69th birthday. Many, including myself, weren't even aware that Bowie was sick. For the last 18 months he had been quietly battling cancer and kept it very close to the vest. He had planned his final album, BLACKSTAR, to be his goodbye. And what a beautiful goodbye it was. Mr. Bowie and his music has meant so very much to me, and I, like many, don't really have the words to express how deeply his loss is. We will have a proper sendoff for him in the next couple days, but for now, share with me some of my favorite BOWIE moments. I'll add more, but for now, let's start with these. Godspeed Ziggy... See you on Mars...

STARMAN live (1972)

UNDER PRESSURE (1992 - The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in London)

Queen, David Bowie, Annie Lennox

ZIGGY STARDUST (Footage from the 1972 BBC4 Documentary, The Story of Ziggy Stardust)

ANNOYED -

 (A funny collection of Bowie being annoyed but staying the amazing gentleman he was).

LAZARUS (David Bowie's final music video, 2016)

EXTRAS (David Bowie appearing as himself on the Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant 2005-2007 series).

LIFE ON MARS (1971 music video)

HEROES (1977 music video)

ROCK N ROLL SUICIDE (Taken from the 1973 film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars)

 

Sunday
Jan032016

THE ARTSWIRE WEEKLY'S TOP TEN THEATRE EXPERIENCES OF 2015

BY MATEO MORENO

RICKY JONES

Each year around this time we here at "The ArtsWire Weekly" look back at the art that was and point out what really stuck with us. Here, our part time reviewer Ricky Jones and our Editor in Chief/Reviewer Mateo Moreno present their lists of the TOP 10 THEATRE EXPERIENCES of 2015.

MATEO'S LIST

10) TIE: SONGBIRD/THE LION - There was a TON of really great theatre that I saw this year. So it really was inevitable that there'd be a tie. These two productions were both seen Off Broadway (Songbird at 59E59 Street Theatre and THE LION returned to NY at the Lynn Redgrave) and were both sparse in terms of set and design.

SONGBIRD - Songbird was a musical retelling on Chekov's The Seagull through the eyes of a small southern town and its musically inclined inhabitants. Tammy (a fiery Kate Baldwin), now an international Country superstar, returns with her new beau, producer Beck (Eric William Morris) to the town that she grew up in and eft behind. Her ex lives there, her sister, her friends, and her neglected son Dean (Adam Cochran) who's inherated a lot of frustration and saddness from his mother. At first, all are throwing her a welcome home party in conjunction with her son's concert debut, but it all goes south quickly as memories of the past and ghosts of the present come to the surface. The sharp script of Michael Kimmel and the glorious county-folk score by Lauren Pritchard (Elsa from the original Spring Awakening and who now releases her own funk infused pop music under the name Lolo) sharpens every single moment. And every cast member are great in their own right. It pulls you in so much that you feel like your sharing your own memories of the quiet small town with big dreams instead of just witnessing it.

THE LION first premiered in NY during the summer of 2014 at City Center. It received raves there and came back to the city this last year, now at the Lynn Redgrave theatre. This musical one man show starred Benjamin Scheuer and he, along with several beautifully worn in guitars, told his own story, of how he first learned music from his father. The story starts off sweet enough, with his father making him a "cookie tin banjo" but through the years his father is unapologetically angry and violent, breaking Benjamin's toys just because he can. Benjamin soon learns that his upbringing is different than his other friends. Recalling one particular conversation with a friend, he states, “I ask my friend, ‘What do you do when your dad breaks your toys?’ ”  “And he looks at me like I’m insane.” He grows impatient with his father as he gets older, growing farther and father apart. After one particularlly angry fight, he storms off only to receive a call from his mother to tell her son that his father had passed away. And we haven't even started getting into his own battle with cancer and how brittle his bones became. This all sounds like very heavy stuff, and it is, but Mr. Scheuer tells it fantastically, vividly painting each picture for you with perfection, grace, and humor. The music, which he all wrote, is stirring and beautiful. It's a shame that his father never saw what a gifted young man he sired.

 

9) LAZARUS - You'll love it or hate it. You'll get it or you won't. Either way, you are DEFINITELY going to have an opinion. LAZARUS is a sort of sequel to the 1976 Bowie film The Man Who Fell To Earth, which was itself based on the novel by 1963 novel by Walter Tevis. It told the story of Thomas Newton, an alien who came to Earth who came to earth to take back water to his dying planet. He ends up getting caught and detained and doesn't return to his home planet at all. Cut to present day and Newton (now played by Michael C. Hall doing his best Bowie) is still stuck on earth. He spends his days drinking gin to wash away his pain and lonliness while his new assistant (Cristin Milioti) until a young girl (the marvelous Sophia Anne Caruso) mysteriously shows up in his apartment and an uper creepster (Michael Esper) shows up to shake things up. The score is all Bowie, both well known, obscure cuts, and new tracks. Directed by Ivo van Hove (A View From The Bridge) and a script by Bowie and Edna Walsh (Once The Musical), this trip of a sci-fi musical is unapologetically weird. I mean REALLY weird. And confusing (many moments I'm still trying to wrap my head around). But it's also gloriously original and beautifully staged. The sound design is perfect. Tell me the last time you walked out of a theatre and said, "Well, I definitely have never seen that before?" And with Bowie's untimely death rolling out as this is going to print, even more attention will be paid to this strange, beautiful trip of a show.

 

8) KING CHARLES III - Mike Bartlett's stirring new drama draws a fictional not so distant future where the Queen of England has died and a very ill-equipped Prince Charles becomes King. Imagine if Shakespeare were alive today and writing about England's royal family, and you have a sense of what you're in for. It sparks with fire and passion from the soaring script, the great direction from Rupert Goold and a top rate cast, especially Tim Pigott-Smith as the now King Charles and Oliver Chris as a brilliantly calculating Prince William. Much of the script is in verse and there are tons of illusions to Shakespeare's other plays, especially Hamlet, King Lear, & Macbeth. But what could feel like a modern retread instead comes to life with vigor and intensity. I was actually embarrased that I and my friend where the only two people to jump to their feet when we saw it (people eventually followed but we FLEW up). That's the kind of play this is. One that DEMANDS to raise you up.


Mike Bartlett
Mike Bartlett

7) SPRING AWAKENING - I honestly can't remember the last time a revival has been THIS differently staged and actually IMPROVED upon the original. I was a big fan of SPRING AWAKENING the first time it hit the Great White Way. Now it's been revived, courtesy of LA's Deaf West Theatre, which is comprised of both deaf and hearing actors. The result is overwhelmingly beautiful. The show itself, a story of a group of teenagers at turn of the century Germany who can't be heard by the adults around them, becomes a literal metaphor that pushes all the right buttons. Many characters have two actors playing them, turning what was already a rock tinged heartbreaker into truly a soul lifting experience. It's only playing until the 24th of this month. If you haven't been there, for shame. Get there now.

 

6) SONGS FOR THE FALLEN - Every summer in Manhattan, the New York Musical Theatre Festival has been known to bring light on shows that may not have been seen otherwise. This year's standout, in a solid year of great shows, was by far the stunning SONGS FOR THE FALLEN. Like a breath of fresh air, Australian star Sheridan Harbridge brings to life the story of Marie Duplessis, the French Courtesan who inspired “The Lady of the Camellias,” “La Traviata,” and “Moulin Rouge." She lived life at 150%. As she herself tells us, “It’s not me that dances too fast, it’s the violins that play too slow.” Harbridge plays Duplessis with a reckless sense of abandon. She throws herself into the performance, slaying each and every song and bringing just as many belly laughs as tears. The songs, written by Harbridge and Basil Hogios, vault us back to 1847 Paris in an instant and it's absolute bliss riding with her through her beginnings all the way through her death at the tender age of 23. If you live in Australia, you can see her soon, performing it around the country. If you missed out, pray that she brings it back. Until we meet again... (For more info on it, see my review HERE)

 

5) HAND TO GOD - From the tiny Off Broadway house of Ensemble Studio Theatre to the slightly bigger house at MCC Theatre to Broadway, Robert Askins critically acclaimed meditation on small town religion has finally left New York and headed to the West End. Lucky you England, because this perfectly wrote tale so expertly examines how American views religion with fear instead of hope and unfolds it with such intensity and drop dead (vulgar) hilarity that you may find yourself going back a second or third time, just so you can catch every last nuance. Director Moritz Von Stuelpnagel is a master at directing the largest and smallest moments here, Steven Boyer was truly triumpant as the young lost boy Jason who's hand and puppet suddenly spring to life beyond his control. Geneva Carr SHREADED every moment as if it was her last, and Sarah Stiles stole every moment that you weren't watching them. It never quite got the attention it deserved on Broadway so hopefully London audiences will do it proud. 

 

4) FUN HOME - I was lucky enough to see the very first workshop of the now record setting Tony winner, adapted from the wonderful graphic novel of the same name. Alison Bechdel's coming of age story, of a young woman looking back at her life, learning that it's okay to be gay, and figuring out what exactly happened to her father and why he killed himself the day after she came out to him, is adapted so well by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori that you would have thought they experienced it right along with Bechdel . It's heartbreaking, powerful, romantic, funny, and shows you how a sophisticated adult musical can exist and succeed in the age jukebox musicals like Mamma Mia, & On Your Feet. You need a good cry as much as you need to laugh. So head to Circle and the Square theatre and watch theatre magic (and just TRY to get "Ring of Keys" out of your head).

 

3) A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE - Shocking and powerful is the best way to describe this unorthadox revival of Arthur Miller's classic tale of a broken man in Jersey who has an unhealthy obsession with his own niece and the crumbling that happens because of it. The Young Vic's production, directed to perfection by Ivo van Hove (Lazarus) first stormed London's stages and now has graced us with one of the most refreshingly strange (he's good at that) and original stagings in quite some time. Leading the pack of brilliant actors is Mark Strong whose performances is truly shattering. The Tony is his. Everyone else is playing for second. The way to experience this is on the stage (stage seating is available every performance) so do your best to see it from there. But do see it. This is the show that will raise the bar for many more years on how to reimagine a classic American play.

 

2) HAMILTON - The hype is real. Yes, it really is that good. Lin-Manuel Miranda's epic Hip-Hop retelling of Alexander Hamilton's life, which itself is based upon Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography, fuses together classic storytelling, a strong book, and a brilliant score mixing together rap, R&B, musical theatre, and pop. Miranda himself plays Hamilton and almost all of the cast are minorities, aka played against type/color blind casting. Miranda enfuses real soul into his characterization and never treats this as the Lin show (the finale, semi-SPOILER ALERT-ends with Eliza, not Hamilton). Standouts in the phenomenal cast are Daveed Diggs, chewing up the stage and scenery to delicious proportions as Thomas Jefferson /Lafayette, Phillipa Soo shines both in acting and vocals as his bride Eliza, and Renée Elise Goldsberry as Eliza's sister and the first woman Hamilton lays his eyes on. In fact, Renée's "Satisfied" is one of the very highest points in a show full of high points. You'll probably want to see it more than once just to catch all of the lyrics, which come at you at a rapid, fluid pace. You'll definitely want to see it more than once just because it fuses itself into your brain and won't let go. But make no mistake, this is this generations landmark musical. Following in the footsteps of West Side Story, Hair, & RENT it is currently changing the face of musical theatre - for the better. It absolutely didn't miss its shot.

 

Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda

1) AN OCTAROON - Not really a revival or a reimagining even. More like a "rebirth" of the 1859 play The Octoroon by Dion Bouciacult. It told of a plantation called Terrebonne and told of a story involving a white plantation owner and his love for a young "Octaroon" black slave (the word "Octaroon" means 1/8 black). It was controversial in its time, sparking a good amount of debates about slavery and the abolition of it. It even had two endings, once for audiences in England that ended in a mixed race marriage, and one for American which ended in tragedy, for such a happy ending marriage would not have been greeted well. Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' rebirthing was first staged at "Soho Rep," but really found its sea legs when it transferred to Brooklyn's "Theatre for a New Audience," a much bigger house better equipped for the stunning transformations held within the show. In this version, Austin Smith starts the evening as the playwright himself. He speaks directly to the audience telling us of the play "The Octoroon" and battling with his therapist, who doesn't understand him. He tells us that white actors don't care to play roles like this anymore (racist plantation owners, maddening racist types) so he dons "white face" (he himself is African American) to start the story. This is the first moment of many that your mouth may drop (mine definitely did). Another man playing the original playwright Bouciacult watches from afar. They're short on actors they explain, so he himself dons "red face" to play the Native American in the story and another caucasian actor dons "black face" to play two central black characters. And this is JUST the beginning. What Jacobs-Jenkins does is literally turn every race question and circumstance and push them not on their head but forces them to turn over and over and over. He uses racial stereotypes, actors performing in blackface, white face, and redface, and has the three slave girls (a dazzling trio made up of Maechi Aharanwa, Pascale Armand and Danielle Davenport) dress in period appropriate clothes but speak like inner city present day kids. Every moment surprises and shocks you, and forces you to think, to laugh comfortably and uncomfortably, and to cry. And then asks you to do it all over again. I've never seen anything quite like it, and I don't know if I ever will again. Truly one of the best, and most important, theatre experiences I've ever had, and probably WILL have, in my life.

 

A SECOND OPINION - RICKY'S LIST

10) DADDY LONG LEGS - In lesser hands, this off Broadway musical about lovers writing letters to each other could have been oh-so-boring.  But with this infectious score and the glorious original cast, it was such a gem! The music is simply gorgeous with some of the most haunting harmonies I've heard on stage in years. Megan McGinnis and Paul Nolan have two of the very best voices in musical theatre these days. Every time I see McGinnis on stage, I fall in love with her. Such a charming production!

9) SPRING AWAKENING - I wish we had more revivals like this. It shows a completely different take on the material itself and makes you see it in a completely new way. Now I can't say that I agreed with every choice that was made BUT every choice was so strong that applaud them for making the choice! Michael Arden's direction is so beautiful and daring! I have always wanted to see a Deaf West production and to see this on a Broadway stage was truly inspiring!

8) BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY - Stephen Adly Guirgis' play was about an African American police officer shot in the line of duty by a Caucasian officer and his discrimination suit against the Police Department.  It was such a powerful piece of theatre with an outstanding performance by veteran theatre actor Stephen McKinley Henderson. It's always a delight to see this man on stage and it really felt like it was a role of a lifetime.  Between Riverside and Crazy won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was one of the most thought provoking and engaging productions I saw all season.

 

7) THE HUMANS - The Humans is one of those family dramedies where I couldn't help but to love all the characters because they reminded me so much of my own family. Every character was completely real and you understood every choice they made. With this play moving to Broadway this month, here is hoping that the always solid veteran actress Jayne Houdyshell will get the award consideration she deserves. While this show is not for everyone, it is a play that really spoke to me.

6) THE LION - This one really took me by surprise. Benjamin Scheuer is a singer-songwriter and The Lion is his one man show where each point in his life is represented by a different guitar. The result is a very simple and yet deeply moving show. Because Scheuer is not really an actor, there was such a sense of ease and honestly to his performance. And the songs he sang are as good if not better than the majority of the scores we hear on Broadway. This is a show that stuck with me long after I saw it.

5) SOMETHING ROTTEN - I haven’t been this happy watching a musical in a very long time. Something Rotten is a musical theatre nerd's dream come true. First of all, we always complain that there are so few original musicals these days so when one comes around it is always a pleasure! Everything about this production was perfect! I especially walked away praising the sound design! It is most definitely a love letter to musical theatre.

4) THE VISIT - What a wonderfully, strange show! We rarely see musicals like this anymore. There was something so unapologetic about its tone. It just did the show it wanted to do and trusted the audience to be there with them. I truly thought it was breathtaking and so refreshing to hear a new Kander & Ebb score on a Broadway stage one last time. Chita Rivera had the audience in the palm of her hand from the minute she stepped on stage.  She is so well known for her career in dance that it was wonderful to see her in a role that reminds us what an incredible actress she is as well. There were many times when I was watching this production that I thought to myself, "This is why I love musical theatre."

3) THE KING AND I - There's nothing like a Rodgers and Hammerstein revival! This had me in musical theatre heaven. Barlett Sher never seems to disappoint when directing these classics. The Vivian Beaumont is my favorite Broadway house and its always a pleasure to see what a great director and creative team does with that massive stage! Then of course there's Kelli O'Hara, who has been one of the best actresses working on Broadway for years now and it was so heartwarming to see this show earn her the Tony Award that she deserves!

2) HAMILTON - What can I say about Hamilton that hasn't already been said? You can feel the love and passion radiating from the stage. I'll say it: Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius. Not only has this insanely talented man written one of the best musicals in years but he is also the perfect leading man. He brings such humor, warmth, and vulnerability to the title character. Another reason why this musical is so incredible is because of the collaboration of director Thomas Kail and choreographer Andy Blankenbueler. Everyone involved with this production deserves every bit of the praise they have received, and will continue to receive.

1) A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE - I am in complete awe of this revival! I was lucky enough to watch this show from an onstage seat and I was completely on the edge of that seat the entire time. The whole thing was intense, raw and incredibly moving.  Brilliant work from director Ivo Van Hove! The production was minimalistic yet cinematic at the same time. Mark Strong is going to be a hard one to beat for Best Actor this year and I'm sure there will be numerous nominations for the rest of the cast. This revival sets the bar high for next Arthur Miller production of The Crucible which starts previews in a month.  But in the hands of Ivo Van Hovel, I am very confident it will be equally as intense.

 

 
Thursday
Aug272015

FANTASTICAL PREVIEW // TRAILER FOR "OSCAR'S HOTEL FOR FANTASTICAL CREATURES"

BY MATEO MORENO

With all of the online hubs offering streaming entertainment (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon) it can be challenging to find all of the upcoming series being offered. One that we here at THE ARTSWIRE WEEKLY are very excited about is OSCAR'S HOTEL FOR FANTASTICAL CREATURES coming to Vimeo September 15th with the help of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.™

Creator/Director PJ Liguori and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop™ "brings the characters from Oscar’s Hotel for Fantastical Creatures to life and transports the audience to a surreal fantasy universe. When hotel owner Oscar (Chris Kendall) suddenly leaves on unexpected cosmic council business, his nephew Oliver becomes the new proprietor and his attempts to maintain order lead him to wild adventures with its eccentric guests."

Chris Kendall stars with an ensemble guest cast featuring Anna Akana, Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart, Hannah Hart, Jake Roper, Mitchell Davis, Dan Howell, Phil Lester, Jack Howard, Dean Dobbs, Meghan Rienks, PewDiePie, Marzia Bisognin, Carrie Fletcher, TomSka, Steve Zaragoza, Andrew Ableson, Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina, Elliott Gould, and more. Check out the trailer below and head over to VIMEO in September to see all of the episodes!

Oscar’s Hotel for Fantastical Creatures from New Form Digital on Vimeo.

 

 

Created/Directed by: PJ Liguori Starring: Chris Kendall, Anna Akana, Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart, Hannah Hart, Jake Roper, Mitchell Davis, Dan Howell, Phil Lester, Jack Howard, Dean Dobbs, Meghan Rienks, PewDiePie, Marzia Bisognin, Carrie Fletcher, TomSka, Steve Zaragoza, Andrew Ableson, Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina, Elliott Gould All Episodes available September 15th at: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/oscarshotel