Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Miserables

To avoid ranting, I'll structure this review as a series of letters to the cast and creative team. Let's remember that British musicals are a marathon-not a sprint.

Tom Hooper:

First of all, let me get this out of the way, how dare you take way the beloved turntable! And I don't care what they did in the fourth National Tour! Les Miz without the turntable is like Phantom without the chandelier or Evita without the descamisados. Those panoramic shots were gorgeous, but the close ups were too much and too often. If I wanted to see Anne's pores that closely, I'd become a dermatologist. And kudos on moving "I Dreamed a Dream" to the emotional climax of Fantine's story. I'm not saying that this is your fault, but I just realized that there is nothing thought provoking at all in this story. I really prefer a show that has a controversial lead character or at least something that I can wrestle with for a few days. It is very easy to sympathize with all of these characters, so I left the theatre feeling, well, nothing. 

Hugh Jackman:

Your singing was glorious as we expected, but where was the change in your character? Sorry, but pacing back and forth during confession isn't going to do it for me. You phoned it in dear, and as this was not a Jerry Lewis telethon, I wasn't amused. 

Anne Hathaway:

I have so many feelings about this performance. You aren't Patti LuPone so you had those odds stacked against you from jump street. However, you did everything in your power to change my mind. Normally for me, Fantine IS the song. Fantine is "I Dreamed A Dream" and that's it. But you dear, you made her into a fully developed character with a full arc. Brava! I won't comment on your method acting but you'll have Hollywood in the palm of your hand after cutting your hair and dropping those 25 lbs. Congratulations ahead of time on your Oscar. The most interesting thing about your portrayal was that it felt so modern. Your Fantine was so relatable outside of the context of the story. Brava again for that. I can't say I agree with those who say your performance was raw because of all that overacting. My final word is this. Thank goodness that scenery was digitally enhanced since you chewed it up.

Russell Crowe:

Thanks so much for ruining Stars for me, but then again it's not your faul that they cast a non-singer in one of the greatest baritone roles in the musical theatre. I wish your Javert had committed suicide earlier and your only redeeming quality was giving your medal to Gavroche.

Eddie Redmayne:

Thank you so much for taking a stock character and making something beautiful out of it. Usually Marius shows up, falls in love, nearly dies, gets married, and that's about it. But you did so much more. I genuinely felt your inner-struggle as you were pulled from Eponine to Cosette and from your love to your friends and the cause. I have never given Empty Chairs at Empty Tables a second thought until your stirring rendition. This is the one moment where I enjoyed Tom Hooper's gratuitous use of the close-up. That song was the best I've seen in a movie musical since Julie Andrews twirled on a hilltop in The Sound of Music. Bravo dear, you are a bonafide star!

Amanda Seyfried:

You were given a role with no depth whatsoever and you did the best you could have done. Your singing was crystal clear and it was refreshing to hear a proper vibrato. I can imagine how boring it must have been to play that role while your costars were singing showstoppers and it made me wonder why I ever dreamed of playing that role.

Samantha Barks:

You, my dear, were perfection. I chose A Little Fall of Rain for the cover photo of this because that scene was the gem of the production. That was my favorite moment of the film. I always leave this show saying "Poor Eponine" because she is such a sympathetic character, but you worked girl. On My Own is such an easy song to over-sing and we've all heard it 10,000 times so it could've easily seemed trite. However, you put your own, fresh touches on it and really developed the character. You didn't over-act it and you didn't phone it in either. It was just right.

Aaron Tveit:

You may have been a jerk at every stage door on Broadway, but I loved you and your wig in this movie. Ramin Karimloo was the only Enjolras I've ever paid attention to and you, my friend, just became number two. Your Red & Black was inspirational and you're unbridled will to fight was a perfect foil to your trepidatious friend Marius.

In short, if you are a fan of the show or you think you might become a fan, go see the movie, but take a few snacks because it's an epic. 

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity for PHANTOM PHANS!

 We are thrilled to announce that THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Broadway's longest-running show, is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this January! Since PHANTOM has such incredible Phans, we are running an online 25th Anniversary PHAN Loyalty Sweepstakes to show our appreciation.

100 lucky winners will receive a pair of tickets to the Anniversary performance, and two grand prize winners, in addition to the performance, will also receive additional passes to the exclusive post-performance party, as well as a one-night stay at the Algonquin Hotel (Exclusive official Hotel Sweepstakes Partner) and air transportation from American Airlines (Exclusive Official Airline Sweepstakes Partner) for two during the weekend of the event.

The cast of PHANTOM recorded a video with a special message on how to enter for a chance to win:

PHANS can enter directly through or Facebook page Sweepstakes tab or through this link:

I know I'll be entering and you should too!

GOLDEN BOY Opening Night Video

For those of you who haven't gotten the chance to see it yet...go now! Here is the opening night video from GOLDEN BOY complete with interviews from the cast and crew.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

See CHAPLIN while you can!

The critics loved it and you'll love it too! Don't miss your chance to see Chaplin in its final weeks.

Chaplin, starring Rob McClure, runs through January 6th at the Barrymore Theatre. Make it a part of your Holiday plans!

2 Evitas: Elena Roger & Christina DeCicco

I had my doubts about Evita. I had never really connected with the score, save for a few numbers, but Michael Grandage's production at the Marquis took me by surprise. In the moment, the show was like any other. It was an enjoyable evening-if you can call a glorified funeral enjoyable-but nothing out of the ordinary.

But Eva stayed with me...for weeks. I couldn't get the score out of my head. She remained in my mind and I continued to wrestle with who this woman really was. Cinderella? A rags to riches story? A con artist? A Nazi sympathizer?

"The choice was mine and mine completely." That is the one line that haunts me above all others. What choice? Does she regret her social climbing ways? Does she regret sleeping her way to the top? Does she regret spending millions on diamonds on furs while her descamisados starved? Does she regret seducing a nation? I doubt it-not even for a second.

Beyond the character of Evita, I've struggled to process Elena Roger's portrayal of Eva. I have been listening to Patti LuPone for as long as I can remember-and nobody is Patti-so that was my first mistake. I had too many preconceived notions of how Eva should be played, and that clouded my judgement. I found Elena's voice shrill, nasal, and weak. When she went into head voice in Buenos Aires I was done with her. I wanted belting because that's what Patti did. I also didn't find her Act I Eva believable because she seemed too experienced. She didn't have that wide-eyed look of awe that an aspiring actress should have when she arrives in the big city. But, by the time we got to A New Argentina I was buying her performance hook, line, and sinker. She wasn't playing the role of Eva, she was becoming Eva. Honest to God I felt like I was watching and listening to the real Evita. Her feeble voice turned out to be perfect for the late Act II Eva. The weakness was evident. She sounded like someone who had really been through it. Eva was dying of cancer-betrayed by her own weak body-and Elena plays that perfectly. Now all these wonderful nuances that I noticed in Ms. Roger's performance-I didn't appreciate them until I saw the show a second time this week with the alternate Eva.

Christina DeCicco had me hooked from the moment she revealed herself at the end of Requiem. Her doe-eyed look and exuberance were perfect for the young Act I Eva. Her Buenos Aires was thrilling and her vocal power was evident. The excitement and joy of a young woman on her first trip to the Big Apple was palpable. But as her Eva transitioned from a teenager to a sex symbol, I couldn't help feeling like I was watching a Disney princess. She's known for playing Glinda in Wicked and that was apparent. She is simply too likable to play this highly polarizing figure. I so wanted her to become grittier, feistier, but it never happened. She started to lose me in I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You which was where Elena started to grab me. She was simply too young and too naive to play a woman who had experienced so much. She pulls you back when she starts to get sick. Her acting is almost enough to fool you into thinking she has become frail...but not quite. She is still just a little too healthy and a little too happy to be believable as a cancer-ridden woman bearing the weight of a nation on her shoulders.

I like to think I am a high brow musical theatre snob. I revere Stephen Sondheim and shun Andrew Lloyd Webber, but I couldn't help but fall in love with this piece. I'll never admit that I enjoy Andrew Lloyd Webber in certain circles, but this score is simply remarkable. It is nuanced, flavorful, and layered with a very smart use of leitmotif.  

Yes, Evita the show, but mostly Evita the woman, has gotten under my skin. I think about her often-I can't shake her. Eva said it herself when she promised to never leave me. It's fun to dismiss someone like that as power-hungry and opportunistic, but wouldn't we all have done the same thing given the circumstances. What would you do for the love of millions? As Che asks us in Act II, "Why try to govern a country when you can become a saint?"

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

2012 Grand Prix Final: Pairs Preview

This event is kind of a hodgepodge. I feel like no pair has impressed me this year. The fact that Denney & Coughlin are the 1st alternates shows you how weak the pairs field is this season.

Volosozhar & Trankov (RUS) are certainly the frontrunners. They should be at least 20 points ahead of the rest of the field. They are outstanding and if they can stay healthy, they should take the World title this year. They don't make me nervous when they compete because I know they'll hit every element. Plus, he's easy on the eyes.

Pang & Tong (CHN) should be podium favorites. After all these years, they are still divine. I feel like we we see the same lyrical programs from them each year, but with different costumes and music. But if it aint broke, I guess you don't need to fix it.

I'd actually love to see Kavaguti & Smirnov (RUS) take the silver this year, but just when I start to believe in them, they find a way to screw things up. They almost always peak early in the season and then fizzle out by Worlds. They are aging and she has a history of injuries, so their window to win another World, and possibly an Olympic medal is closing.

Duhamel & Radford (CAN) are one of my favorite pairs these days. They have accomplished so much but still have a lot of upside. They are getting better every season and I see them being a real podium threat in 2014.They need to up the ante in terms of their chemistry and on-ice expression and they'll move up to the top tier.

Bazarova & Larionov (RUS) were the beneficiaries of a weak field at both of their events. She has no jump in her jumps and he is just "there". They are, in a word, 'dull'. They are fading fast, in my opinion, and I believe Stolbova & Klimov or one of the rising junior teams will pass them in time for Sochi.

Moore-Towers & Moscovitch (CAN) also benefitted from an easy schedule. They are fine, I actually loved them back in the Zorba/Les Mis season, but they are falling fast compared to Duhamel & Radford. One of their best qualities is they know how to do them. They know their style and they stick to it. There's nothing phenomenal about the Queen Free skate, but then again I'd hate to see them do Dr. Zhivago.

Podium Predictions:
1) Volosozhar & Trankov (RUS)
2) Pang & Tong (CHN)
3) Kavaguti & Smirnov (RUS)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

2012 Grand Prix Final: Mens Preview

Patrick Chan (CAN) has not had the banner season he had last year, but he tends to peak later in the season so it's not outlandish to bet on him here. I actually really like his programs this season  because he's making a genuine attempt to be artistic. Robo-Chan is if we could only get rid of those Dance Team Hands.

Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) is such a little nugget. I just love him but he genuinely upsets me too. He could beat the pants off of Chan if he ever held it together for a whole event. He could take this whole thing and the World title if he can do his programs up to par. He has all the goods if he could just put together all the parts.

My love Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) can never disappoint me, regardless of what he does. He can go out and fall seven times and still give the performance of a lifetime. His programs are so-so this year, but I keep telling myself that he is saving the best ones for 2014. He has held his own this season, but what I'm really afraid of is the chance that the younger Japanese guys could pass him by next season. That is a legitimate possibility but let's pray it doesn't come to fruition.

Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) is making a comeback and we are thrilled for him. He had a messy 2011-2012 and he's coming back with a vengeance. I won't say he's reinventing himself-he still has that grace and elegance he's known for-but now that he's experienced defeat, I think he's stronger because of it.

Javier Fernandez (ESP) is an anomaly. He can be amazing or disastrous. His Charlie Chaplin program is a gem when all of the pieces are working together. When the jumps go, the character goes, and the rest is downhill from there.

Tatsuki Machida (JPN) is this year's Christina Gao on the men's side. Who on earth expected him to make the GPF? I certainly didn't! He is interesting-he doesn't thrill me, but he is pretty consistant and these days, that's huge.

Podium Predictions:
1) Patrick Chan (CAN)
2) Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
3) Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)

2012 Grand Prix Final: Ladies Preview

One lady has dominated the 2012 Grand Prix and that is Ashley Wagner (USA). Sure, Mao Asada won two events as well, but the NHK results were spotty and her programs have not been perfect. Ashley is like a rocket steadily climbing toward Worlds and the Olympics. She has reinvented herself yet again. She is a lady, a diva, on the ice and she invites audiences to simply come along for the ride. I don't feel nervous when she competes, I feel like I'm watching a seasoned professional performing. The rest of this season is hers for the taking if she just keeps on keeping on.

I do love Mao Asada (JPN) and her new programs, but she gets a lot of her points on reputation. Let's just say that she can make little mistakes and get away with them. That being said, we love her and her Swan Lake is to die for.

Akiko Suzuki (JPN) is one of those skaters who never gets the credit she deserves. She basically has to skate perfectly and others have to fall apart if she wants to medal-but that's how it's always been for her whole career.

Kiira Korpi (FIN), other than her beauty, has really never done much for me. In terms of her skating, she's just kind of "there". She is elegant and pleasant to watch, but she just doesn't bring much excitement to the sport.

After starting out with such a bang last year, this Grand Prix was a slight disappointment for Liza Tuktamisheva (RUS) but she's still done quite well for herself. She's getting used to a growth spurt and she's survived. She didn't falli into a complete sophomore slump, so I think she's here to stay.

Christina Gao (USA) is certainly the surprise of the Grand Prix. Who ever would've thought the US would have 2 ladies at the GPF? She has skated with such joy this year and I am so happy to see her doing well, especially being a Harvard student. The balance in her life is unreal.

Podium Preductions:
1) Ashley Wagner (USA)
2) Mao Asada (JPN)
3) Akiko Suzuki (JPN)