Chicago  Musical Tour Poster

Chicago Musical Tour Poster

Chicago

Razzle Dazzle 'Em

 Chicago’s national tour, opened the doors of the Cook County jail on Tuesday evening at the Buell Theatre, leaving people dancing as by the end including myself. It only goes to show that within the world of musicals there’s Broadway, and then there’s Chicago

Fosse is such a big part of this production that all eyes fall on Miss Roxie Hart, a merry murderess that has just been sentenced to jail after shooting a lover that tries to walk out on her. Portrayed by the incredible Dylis Croman, she carries a certain flair within Roxie that would not allow you to look away from her at any given time she was on stage. Her attention to Roxie’s character had charm, this irresistible flair caught everyone in the audience. But even when she wasn’t talking, her dancing certainly was doing it for her. Fosse is a style of dance, that takes so much control and fluidity and yet Croman does it so effortlessly carrying the show in a way that even Bob Fosse would have been proud to see. Her precise movements showcased her trained excellence, fluid yet rigid, and more importantly Fosse to the point of himself.

In most shows we often root for a title character or ensemble such as with many modern shows that are misunderstood or naive. Some characters aren’t aware of the consequences  their actions have or  struggle with certain flaws that they try to overcome; leaving us rooting for the underdog.

Chicago however is not like that. It’s characters are complex but also openly confident in what they are doing and why they are doing it. Such as Roxie, the starlet Velma Kelly, or the sliver tongued lawyer to the two, Billy Flynn, each never have second thought on who they are, or where they stand. Its bold, confident and a prominent trait of the era that still to this day draws people in with their atmosphere and attitude. 

One thing that I must praise is the production’s attention to detail and style when handling the era. Entering the theatre we only see a spotlight on a single chair, with a black hat resting and waiting—Simple yet effective. As the show begins the backdrop lifts to the reveal the orchestra situated comfortably in the center of the stage atop an easel. Allowing you to see each and every member. I never expected the actors to interact with the conductor while they are in complete character. It certainly continues that charm only Chicago can carry, and again keeps true to it’s setting. With original designs by John Lee Beatty. It is safe to say this design will never get old to the eye; plus the added decor of the glitz and glamour of Chicago framing —quite literally— the show.

Of course, with story and its characters that are too good to not enjoy, it still remains obvious what is the crown jewel of this production. That being the choreography by Ann Reinking and recreation by David Bushman as well as the score by John Kander and Fred Ebb. I do not think I will be able to get this music out of my head for  months to come and I don’t believe many patrons that attend this show will be able to either. It is no surprise at what records and awards this show has received and the tour brings the shows magic from Broadway to Denver to leaves us all  a bit Razzle Dazzled by the time they are done. 

Chicago runs at the Buell Theatre through Dec. 3rd, get your tickets at dcpa.org 

 RENT 20th Anniversary Banner

RENT 20th Anniversary Banner

RENT 

20th Anniversary Tour

    It isn’t very hard to convince any theatre lover of what relevance the musical Rent had when it opened in the 90s. It changed the way we looked at musical theatre. Up till then Broadway musicals were a bit more classical I would say. Rent brought rock into the theatre, and introduced just how involved a cast can be. All the while tackling a subject many people were trying to ignore at the time of it's opening. 

     The question still arose in my mind as I entered the Buell Theatre attending the opening performance of Rent’s 20th Anniversary tour. Did this show that was almost as old as me hold up all these years later? Having never seen the live version of this show I was ready to have that be answered. This question satisfyingly was answered within the first song. What makes Rent so unique in the beginning is it’s opening. There isn’t an orchestra practicing before hand, there is no overture or signal that the show is about to begin. It is simply the character of Rodger walking in, no announcement or anything. Just him plugging in his guitar and testing it out. It is only then that the cast members rush out taking their spots to begin the show. This causes the audience to erupt in celebration. What caught my eye is that the lights of the theatre do not dim until the character Mark signals for them to dimmed by simply uttering, “Smile!” as he turns on his tape recorder. It is with this detail that a bit of character is added to the overall atmosphere of the show. 

    From that point on we are introduced to an array of characters that make up Rodger and Marks bohemian family; Collins, Angel, Maureen, Mimi, Benny and Joanne; each character having  distinct personality and behavior. While every actor performed wonderfully, I must point out one of the highlight performances was by one Lyndie Moe in the role of Maureen. At just 19 years old she takes on a role that was originated by the great Idina Menzel and still manages to add such individuality and hilarity to it that it commands your attention. You can clearly tell the production team took its time when choosing this cast, the emotion that radiates from them during their performance of Seasons of Love, caused I believe almost the entire audience in the orchestra to begin sniffling by the end.

    I was a bit concerned though when I read in the program there would be slight changes when comparing it to the original version that was directed by Michael Grief. However the director Evan Ensign did very well with what little changes were made. Angel’s costume during his most well known number, “Today for U,” is very well done. Costume designer Angela Wendt did a fantastic job staying close to the original designs of his most well known costume while adding just a touch of flair and modernization to bring it into the present. 

    With only slight changes made, this 20th anniversary tour of Rent keeps true to its roots bringing its message to a new generation and allowing previous ones to come and enjoy it once again. Its relevance seems to be growing stronger despite the era it is set in. People still connect with these characters in this emotionally charged musical. By the end of the final song, many people around me were crying, smiling, or appeared to be making a connection with these characters as they have decided to live every day as if it were their last. Rent shows what life can do to us, what struggles we must face, and how a group of friends try to over come the aids epidemic in New York City.     

    While Rent still isn’t my favorite show, comparing it to others is have seen; I will praise this production for its honesty, and talented cast. It’s powerful message is  why any musical theatre lover should see this show at least once. It will give a unique perspective on just how powerful theatre can be, and why Rent started a new era in musical theatre.

 Denver Center Off-Center's  The Wild Party

Denver Center Off-Center's The Wild Party

The Wild Party

Review by Samantha Koch

"Blame it on the gin..."

     When you initially enter the Stanley Marketplace Hangar it looks like any other type of cabaret experience you would imagine. Small round tables, nice mood lighting, and the cramped comfortable experience with fellow strangers as they sit next to you. The Wild Party is about to begin, it’s small; small enough to really notice that there are only about 50 other people here with you. When the cabaret finally begins we meet Queenie and the other party goers, even if we don’t know yet exactly who they are just yet. It doesn’t take long to commend Off-Center on its set. The large and long red curtain hides more than just a “backstage” as we thought. The actors/partygoers soon beckon us into a cacophony of antiques, chase lounges and everything I would imagine is 1920s. In all it takes about ten minutes for the entire cabaret to now be in “Queenie’s Apartment”, you have mild freedom in choosing your seat and learn a thing or two about the actor/partygoer who brought you into her abode. 

    At first glance it’s gorgeous, the detail to the set shows the attention to really immerse yourself into the experience. There are trinkets, odds and ends, even the cigarettes strewn all over the place are used. The space lives and breathes with the excitement the audience carries with them. While we sit the lighting makes you feel like you are in a dreamscape. The entrancement is exactly what Off-Center tries to do, their previous show Sweet & Lucky did just that to rousing excitement. I sat with a gentleman who had seen it and came back to this year’s The Wild Party simply because he loved the experience that Off-Center gave him. Back in Queenie’s Apartment the partygoers have now officially gotten us to dance — much to the amusement of myself, thankfully I can remember small movements of the Charleston— or to dance with them. I’ve bought into the experience fully now.

    The music is just as reminiscent of the era The Wild Party portrays loud, fun, and extremely complex. I commend the actors at the hard fought battle with the fast paced lyrics that stumble in and out while still entertaining us all. I give major props to the lead actress of Queenie’s Emily Van Fleet; she’s all over the place most of the first Act and still commands presence to know where she is at any point in time. In a controlled chaos as The Wild Party I find that encouraging to know, Off-Center knows how to find the right people who can really capture your attention. 

    Now I must be clear, you can engage with the actors/partygoers in any reasonable and safe way, the entire production is 360 degrees of immersive musical theatre. That means you might have someone singing directly behind you, or even the villain might use you as an example during their big song —that was my experience with Burr’s (Drew Horwitz) choking drunken anger in the second act. Now you can’t just get up and move during an Act, only if enticed by an actor/partygoer you stay put. This is not only for the safety of other partygoers but also for yourself, as you never know if one of the actors/partygoers is going to run smack into you. The other partygoers are just as strange as the next, one fun personality is Sally (Allison Caw) her strange ‘post modern’ partygoer only enhances the strange atmosphere when it slowly starts to get out of hand. 

    During intermission you have the freedom you want to roam the apartment, or get refreshments back at the cabaret. Some of the actors/partygoers are mingling around the apartment to meet and interact with, but you also can choose a new place to sit. This proves to be a new experience for me, I have never once been encouraged to find a new place to sit. In The Wild Party as it is with Off-Center I had no idea what was going to happen next, so I sat relatively towards the center. I would recommend that at any point in time to anyone seeing it soon, sit as close to the “aisles” as possible. There is more interaction and you see a significant amount of detail on actors/partygoers faces; in the sense that they might be singing or dancing right next to you. I personally loved that, it was better than any front row seat you could ever get from a traditional experience. 

    One other aspect of this experience that must be known is it is 21+, not because of the extreme nature of the content; the drinking, debauchery, and sexual violence might be scarring for some younger audiences. It is more that they actually hand out gin, a whole song is dedicated to the stuff and that’s when the party turns darker, the lights turn red and you have entered a true rage of a party. This turn, and the added aspect of real gin tipped the scale for me, it turned into one wild party after that, we aren’t just audience members, you are the strangers who show up. We are all dressed to the nines, drinking the hosts liquor and having on swinging time. Just remember to blame it on the gin.

    The Denver Center’s Off-Center: The Wild Party runs at the Stanley Marketplace Hanger until October 31. Purchase tickets through denveroffcenter.org or call 303.893.4100

 Colorado Ballet's  Dracula

Colorado Ballet's Dracula

Colorado Ballet's Dracula

Review by Samantha Koch

Going into this I had my sights set on an evening of silent encounters; feet shuffling and coughing. Not in the way you think though, in the way that having your attention anywhere but what was in front of you ripped apart every few seconds. Instead there was no snoring, nor did I hear any coughing throughout the beginning. With the instant blackout that not only startled myself, but that of my fellow audience, my attention turned directly to the stage.

    Dracula’s heartbeat. That’s the first thing we hear, it reverberates off of everything in the darkness that surrounds the audience. I’m in shock at the complete black, it is nice, it is also unnervingly setting the tone of this performance easily. This darkness sets a mirror to the stage, we see it, we feel it, yet it still separates us from the dancers. When the light finally returns we witness the first Act of Dracula. The dancing is exquisite, a pleasured surprise for a first time viewer of the ballet; Dracula is precise and memorizing as needed for the vampire. But we also have the pleasure within this first Act to truly enjoy a new experience; with each Act preceding giving the audience time to decompress. 

    When Act 1 closes I have come to the reality that this is no ordinary stage production, the set has given reality to the dark world of Stoker’s Dracula. This production has followed close with the novel even though the admittance to some omissions is evident in a short production. The colors of the principal dancers lets them stand from the homogenous crowd, but the crowd gives way to the mindless villagers full of fear, full of anger. Sitting in the theatre the crowd leaves, it’s 20 minutes before the next act begins and now it’s time to fully appreciate how wrong I was. This is my first non-spoken theatre performance I had ever been to, no other dance production I had been prior to this. Instead I shirked at the idea, even the time I had the option I shook the idea down as nothing but for those who knew better than I did. In those 20 minutes the Colorado Ballet gave me the education needed to truly enjoy the next two acts in a way than a first-timer. 

    I know now that the two 20 minute intermissions were for set and costumes, but for myself it gave me time to notice. The subtle way the principal dancers moved, to remember the sound of their point shoes hitting the hard floor; to appreciate the athleticism within the fluid storytelling. I can say that’s what I felt during the entire part of Act 2, it has nothing to do with the technique that the years of experience the dancers had on stage. Merely the music seemed to downplay the dramatic moments to happen. When Dracula re-enters the stage his posture and acting ability set the mood straight, the directing outside of the choreography brings it closer into focus from a flurry of fluid dance numbers from earlier in the act. I like the sharpness of Dracula as his presence helps bring the Act further to a close. 

    Again another 20 minutes passes, I’m ready for the final act, it’s the shortest but it’s the climactic approach of the novel of the same name. Again we hear his heartbeat, but now we too like the Nosferatu we are pulled inward. Within the dark cryptic set the dancers — now vampires— crawl out of the crypts. It’s creepy, very creepy, and I’m in love with the decision to have entrances this way. The dancers have brought their dark selves to life in the crawling and the rest of Act 3 surrounds the struggle between Mina and Co. with Dracula himself. This time the music is with a choir of angelic voices that send chills down my spine. I think I’ve finally found the sound of Halloween in those moments, I’m very happy to say the least. 

    Now everything isn’t without its’ faults and I can honestly say that there where times I felt like the silence was unbearable. Either the music blended so fully or my attention had faded for slight moments where I lost the narrative. But that can happen in anything, so the unexpected should still be accepted as usual. I appreciate wholly what the Colorado Ballet gave me as a learning experience, surely more shall come and I can honestly say as well—the snacks were just as fantastic as the performance.

 Denver  Applause  Frozen Edition

Denver Applause Frozen Edition

Frozen... Pt 2

Review by Emilee Hatfield

September 29, 2017, Denver, Colorado 7:30PM

     As Frozen the Broadway Bound Musical wrapped up its final days here in the Mile High City, itwould seem the show will be leaving with a lot of work to be done before it’s February opening on Broadway. 

    While seeing this show the second day it opened, I was not surprised to find that the show needed work, and that there were pieces that just didn’t fit. It is what is to be expected out of a show that just opened to the public the day prior. However its quirks and lost vision made it rather difficult for it to please anyone past the age of nine, or people who had never seen the film.  

    So naturally with being so displeased and curious, I decided to see what the production team would do differently within its last week when comparing it to it's opening week. Obviously there were some slight changes made, and when I mean slight. I mean they are not by any means noticeable if you were as distracted as I or some other audience members were while watching the show the first time around. As I have said in my first review, the children in the audience can be a bit of a distraction. While not as bad as the first experience, the noises made were very noticeable. But… there was also something else I noticed. Children were falling asleep not having the capacity to sit through the two and a half hour long show. I do still firmly believe Disney should market this show towards older audience members, and not the parents that are so desperate to get a reaction out of their young child. All they are doing now is causing little Anna’s and Elsa’s to get cranky in the middle of a performance because it is way past their bedtime. 

    But I digress, having more focus on the show did allow me to see some improvements as well as some problems that still were in need of attention. The first being one very large loss of opportunity that I feel the show should in this instance look back to the film. In the opening of the film we are welcomed with an intriguing song called, “Frozen Heart,” It sets the tone of the story and adds in the element of the Norwegian culture and lore. During the show however the song has been taken out and replaced with a small song written for young Anna and Elsa. While reaching more into the creation of Olaf and the bond the sisters had when they were younger, this song works perfectly. However it does not mean that the cut song should not be in the show at all but rearranged. The rearrangement of the song would give way to fix another missed opportunity and what I see as the biggest disappoint within the musical. 

     The Hidden Folk are the characters that have replaced the trolls in the film. I love the overall concept of the hidden folk, I find that having them appear as this mysterious and cultural group is a good start. But… once they start singing the well known tune Fixer Upper I find the concept rush out having hidden away under a rock. 

    This is a point I do hope the creative team does change before Broadway. If you are going to transform the hidden folk into this type of characters then make them those type of characters. Do not try and force a song that clearly will not fit with of them because all it does is ruin what the overall production is going for. 

    This also leads into the puppetry, which can be seen as both an improvement but also a problem. The characters of Sven and Olaf are very lovable within the movie. Capturing many peoples hearts, young and old. While in the musical… they appear to be much more of a distraction that just doesn’t seem to fit the story as well as we thought. Sven’s puppetry by Michael Curry is without saying an amazing feet, having an actor within the suit controls the puppet and gives him a very lifelike feel. His mannerism were much better this time as he moved more naturally; while Olaf… Still appears to be the problem. 

     During this performance the actor who controls and voices the puppet Greg Hildreth accidentally detached Olaf’s head from the rest of his body. Being the snowman it was very easy to play it off, however it is a mistake that shouldn’t be left unchecked. Yes, props break, but a puppet is a much bigger deal. The puppetry within Frozen, I feel is unnecessary and not needed. The perfect example being is another Disney musical that is still taking Broadway by storm. This being Aladdin; while the film version had a monkey and a talking parrot, the creative team chose not to go with Lion King’s route with puppetry. Instead they created human characters that actually helped audiences enjoy the show more so than the film. It gave the show and performance a more realistic take and the audience members a version of the show they weren’t expecting. That is what makes Disney musicals so popular and well received. There are changes made from the original material and they blend well with the original ideas from their counterparts. This also is the small but meaningful change that attracts older audiences as well.

    When looking at the design of the production as a whole, I will say this is where the improvements appear. The set was much more defined, and the projections and visuals that are used for Elsa’s powers are on a steady climb. Scenic designer, Christopher Oram did add a few details here and there to cause the once almost bare set to appear much smaller than originally. With the help of some icy borders, and well thought out designing he tricks the audience. The Buell Theatre’s stage is very large, much more so than the Broadway bond theatre The St. James. This theatre is much smaller and I think Oram’s small changes and overall design will shine once making it the Great White Way. 

    There are still some acting choices, that were a bit bizarre and out of no where to say the least. While Caissie Levy continued to stand strong, portraying Elsa perfectly, some actors can be seen as still trying to find their way into character. Pattie Murin who is playing Princess Anna is very good portraying Anna’s innocences, and lack of attention, but their costars, could use a bit more time to dig deeper into their characters motives. Overall the casting is still very well done, and their vocals are very pleasing to the ear. It is though quite clear some were not prepared for the altitude that comes with performing in Denver. 

    With this being said, I did enjoy this performance than my first experience. I did enjoy and laugh at certain points, like Hygge; one of the best moments and songs in the show.  As well as almost all the songs. This soundtrack I will be purchasing upon its release. Robert Lopez and his wife Kristin Anderson-Lopez again have done very well with the score, but some adds and cuts could be made if need be. It is here that you can almost catch a glimpse of what Frozen is trying to be. With the song Monster we are able to get an idea in mind and even with that little glimpse; we can see just how good this show can be. 

    It can go without being said. There comes a time when a story must grow up and Frozen isn’t really showing a defined age; with the mixed concepts of the Hill Folk, and the supposed dancing snowman. They build up multiple distractions while blinding everyone to the true tone, and overall concept that the musical is trying to get across. 

Frozen does need work before Broadway, hopefully it will find it’s age within that time. 

    

 Denver Center for the Performing Arts' Applause Macbeth Edition

Denver Center for the Performing Arts' Applause Macbeth Edition

Macbeth

Review by Emilee Hatfield

     The Denver Center’s production of Macbethopened at the newly renovated Space Theatre on Sept 15th to the excitement of many theatre goers. From the trailers and by word of mouth many heard of the new interpretation that the Denver Center was about to present. 

     I myself was interested as well. As I have said before in a previous blog entry. Shakespeare has never been my favorite to watch. I have always found it boring, or overdone to an extent. Still I walked into the Space theatre on Tuesday evening with an open mind. Upon entry my attention was not drawn to the hauntingly beautiful and strange designs on the stage, but to the giant pentagram that hung against the ceiling just above the stage with a strange daunting appearance. 

    Sadly the confusion of what direction this production would go did not stop there. Granted I had been forewarned on multiple occasions that the all male cast would be wearing a lot less clothing and the tone would be much darker than expected. However, for a tone that was bluntly trying to be dark, the lack of weapons and large use of techno music seemed to cause the tone to dissipate almost immediately. 

    A certain scene that I believe caused the most off the wall moment wasthe celebration that takes place at Macbeth’s home with the current King Duncan just before he is murdered. The scene completely turns into a club with loud Techno music, arrangements of set pieces that come together to hide most of the actors while the audiences watches awkwardly as they dance. 

    What could have made up for it was the violence that Macbeth often has as he slowly descends into madness. Sadly there is no use of swords, or weapons within this production; except for one moment. The actors simply use their arm and hand to represent their swords. An interesting choice that … lacks a bit of sense with what the show was trying to do.

     The actors themselves were very good, and put their heart clearly into their performance, even getting a bit of a response from the audience. Especially when they would interact with their guests that sat close to them. But still..the show lacked any base of storytellings, with not really a piece of origin or location. Macbeth is clearlyoriginally set in Scotland, and always has been. If you wish to keep elements of the Scottish warriors then the costumes would have been explained along with the tattoo that some actors had. Yet having Duncan and Lady Macbeth wearing classic Victorian costumes threw that idea out the window.

    This is where directed Robert O’Hara I feel needed to put limits on what they were trying to do. While what was trying to be a unique and different take on Macbeth turned into something that fell short as I found many audience members shifting in their seats growing very uncomfortable and confused at what they were watching. 

    Macbeth is playing at the Stage Theatre at the Denver Center Performing Arts Complex through Oct. 29th for tickets you can visithttps://www.denvercenter.org/shows/ or call the box office at 303-893-4100

 Original Pre-Broadway Show Poster

Original Pre-Broadway Show Poster

Frozen: The New Musical

Review by Emilee Hatfield

August 18, 2017, Denver, Colorado 7:30pm.

    It would seem many residents in Denver have come to realize that they won’t be able to Let It Go through October 1st. Frozen the Broadway Bound Musical premiered Aug. 17th to a sold out audience full of those young at heart; whether they be young or old. While the movie Frozen has become nothing short of a phenomenon,  the musical leaves itself short of what it could be.

     The director Michael Grandage has been known for his wonderful productions and vision. It feels as if this vision of Frozen though is not yet clear. While its potential arises from the very beginning, it only breaks through the clouds of the large snowstorm that is taking place on stage. 

    The first thing that Frozen needs to address isn’t the issue with the show itself. No, it is the audiences that they are drawing in. Most people understand that this is a Disney musical, and many children will want to see Elsa’s ice powers and hear her famous ballad happen before their very eyes. But does that make it acceptable for parents to allow their children to scream during the songs they are familiar with from the movie? In any situation in theatre it is important to know that toddlers do not have the attention span that adults or young adults have. Therefore they get a bit bored through a two and half hour musical no matter who is on stage. Frozen seemed to have a certain mind frame for it's marketing but missed the mark completely. During the performance I attended this was one of my main concerns and something I feel needs to be addressed. 

    The show did place large pamphlets in the programs, saying that the use of phones, video or audio recordings were strictly prohibited. They even announced it prior to the beginning of the performance as most if not all theatre performance do. Sadly some parents get excited at the fact their children are seeing Elsa and Anna and want to capture their reaction. During the performance a mother in front of me pulled out her phone, while her child sung at the top of her lungs, taking pictures of both her and the stage. Now being the theatre fan I am, I find not only is it distracting from the performance but is very disrespectful to the actors and company that is currently performing.It also isn’t fair to the audience members who paid to see the show, to hear the performance, not a child. Parents must be aware of what they are attending and their child must be mature enough to silently enjoy the show. Still I must praise the actors themselves for having such professionalism when other can’t seem to grasp the respect and silence that comes with live theater. 

    With this being said, the show sadly does appeal to the younger audience rather than  older leaving a little bit of emptiness to those who expected perhaps more.The book written by the films own Jennifer Lee, leaves something to be desired. Still some plot points and concepts did create interest and left me shocked at the fact that such a topic could be used. Some I wish not to spoil, but the unique concept of Elsa and Anna’s mother having the same necklace as the hillfolk, (the characters based off of the trolls) brings more character to her giving us a glimpse into a possible source of Elsa’s powers. I only wish these concepts could have been expanded upon more than resorting right back to what is comfortable. 

    Even Lee’s book though cannot seem to hide the awkward atmosphere that comes with the lack of set and props. Granted what the set designer Christopher Oram did present on stage was beautiful, and blended well with not only the story but his costume design as well. Being that the outfits of both Anna and Elsa have become nothing short of iconic, it was interesting to see how the costumes designs brought beauty to Arendelle and its citizens perfectly from the film while being different with adding a few more culturally accurate costuming. It just appeared that the stage felt a bit bare for the standards Disney usually carries with their shows. Such as during “Love Is An Open Door,” the set was very simple and both Anna and Hans did nothing except an awkward set of dance numbers with so many different styles your head would spin. While the choreography by Rob Ashford is well done it sometimes feels misplaced. This scene alone gets a lot of laughs but is it in the way the creative team wants it to be received?

It is made up for as the special effects, video and lighting come together reminding us of the extravagance and expectations of Disney musicals. With Lightning by Natasha Katz, video design by Finn Ross, and Jeremy Chernick as the special effects; it is nice to see that all three designers have kept that magic that Disney musicals should carry no matter where the performance should take place. Taking advantage of the setting the use of Norwegian culture is present taking a very simplistic beauty with the use of the northern lights, the wonder of Elsa’s powers and many other little surprises if you pay close attention. 

    Speaking of surprises, I may finally speak one of my favorite pieces of the puzzle; the music. Robert Lopez and his wife Kristin Anderson-Lopez have put time and effort into adding new songs from the film. Drawing from the book written by Lee they have managed to  write songs that I still have not  been able to get out of my head. One in particular being “Huygga”, a song written specifically for Oaken, and “Monster” sung by Elsa during act 2. Both songs brought a different perspective to characters that I already loved. To say they have done their job and more is coming a little short of what they have managed to give to their current audiences and those to come. 

    Now with all of these elements coming together, it can always benefit the actors allowing them to immerse themselves in their roles they are portraying. When having such a famous Broadway icon like Idina Menzel lending her voice to Elsa, it requires a large amount of magic and experience to fill that spot. Caissie Levy, fills it and more. While her performance can be a bit held back considering Elsa doesn’t have as much stage time when comparing it to the film Levy still held a unique presence as the snow queen. She took what she was given  and ran with it. Especially when it comes to the most anticipated and beloved song within the show. That alone is hard to carry on your shoulders when you think of it. Yet Levy does it with such grace, and talent that no matter if she was standing on an empty stage, or had the most lavish set her voice continuously commands your attention, while leaving even the youngest of audience members in awe throughout the intermission, perhaps even longer. 

    But Elsa would not be anywhere without  Anna who is played by Patti Murin. Their chemistry is nothing short of Elsa and Anna’s bond throughout the film. Both women clearly have a good understanding of what these sisters go through and the emotions they face.  Patti Murin is the perfect choice in the role of Anna. From her voice, to her acting, she completely embodies the character from start to finish. Portraying that sweet innocence of Anna, that care free nature that caused us to root for her from the very beginning.

    The pros and cons of the show are a balancing act, leaving a sense of uncertainty when leaving the theater. Despite the distractions of the screaming children and mothers wanting pictures.  I found while presenting very interesting concepts and wonderful performances the musical itself can expand past what the movie did. It can be matured and focus not only on Elsa and Anna’s relationship but add depth to them and the world that surrounds them. Still there seems to be something lacking when it comes to the overall design and production.  

    It is simply this, when we think of Disney musicals we think of the great designs and unique originality of The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. These shows took the best parts of the Disney films while still creating an original mature show that could hold its own. The standards are a bit high when it comes to something as big as Disney and shouldn’t this musical based on a film with such high regard have expectations just as high if not higher? All I can say after leaving Frozen, I only wished that we were given more than what was expected. 

 

 Original Broadway Playbill

Original Broadway Playbill

Finding Neverland

Review by Emilee Hatfield

"When your feet don't touch the ground..."

When we were young we always found ourselves fascinated by the tale of Peter Pan. Of how he fought against Captain Hook, cutting off the pirate’s hand and throwing it to the crocodile. Of how the Darlings children flew to Neverland, meeting Lost Boys, fighting pirates, and believing in fairies. Now as an adult…do we remember what that story was trying to teach us? 

    That there is a young child within us all, no matter how old we become. 

    Finding Neverland attempts to bring that tale to life, of what sent playwright J.M. Barrie’s imagination flying into Neverland to bring this lesson to life. Originally you wouldn’t believe the show would start out revealing a stressful Barrie walking through the park trying to finish theidea for his new play. 

    This came as a bit of a surprise to me. Having been in New York when Finding Neverland was running, and having heard the soundtrack on repeat over the past three years; I was thrown off at the fact the show opened differently than expected. In fact there were two songs missing from the beginning when comparing it to the Broadway company. Which I found disheartening; those two songs were the bases for the show; it explained so much within a short amount of time, giving you a good solid introduction to the characters. Within their was a place was a song titled, “Welcome to London,” a simple …welcoming to the audience if that’s what you want to call it. It sets the tone for the story in a much more childlike manner when compared to the original opening. Leaving out a much needed development for certain characters. That does not mean the score is not one of the best currently within the world of Broadway. Composer/Lyricist; Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy create a breathtaking score that will allow your inner child to soar discovering a child within you that you possibly forgot was there.  

    But what brings the beauty to this show? Why and how did it last on Broadway for over three years without a single Tony Nomination? The credit is due to the brilliance within the production team. Mia Michaels outdoes even the best of Broadway with her bewitching and haunting choreography that shines the brightest within “Circus Of Your Mind” near the end of the first act.  The set design while simple gives life when entering the realm of Barrie’s own imagination as he comes face to face with what will soon be Captain Hook. His “ever slightly more handsome,” alter ego all the while the people within Mr. Barrie’s reality are trying to tell him differently about a simple idea that sprang from meeting a widow Sylviaand her four children in the park. 

    The company’s performance creates a very lovable and unique ensemble of characters that I rather enjoyed. Great ensembles are pleasing to see, especially when they have little details here and there of their characters personalities in order to separate them from one another. The leads, Kevin Kern (J.M Barrie) and Christine Dwyer’s (Sylvia Davies) chemistry was easy, beautiful and very meaningful. I do have to praise Miss Dwyer for not only her acting but her singing as well.  By the end of her solo, “All That Matters,” she had won the audience’s heart while not even making it through the first act and broke our hearts by the finale. I will not give away much to this show simply because I believe everyone who loves the story of Peter Pan must see it. 

    The overall production was wonderful to see despite the changes. I did at many points within the show find myself in Mr. Barrie’s shoes as his imagination created the world of Neverland around us. The production’s director Dianne Paulus yet again fascinates audiences with her dynamic and wondrous direction looking into the small details of how a writer’s mind could work and how the smallest things in life can aid in the creation of world so different from our own. 

    The tour is running through April 2018

Full Schedule: http://findingneverlandthemusical.com/tour/

 Original Broadway Playbill

Original Broadway Playbill

If/Then

Review by Emilee Hatfield

"What If?..." 

     A question that seems to pop up every now and again while we stumble our way through the messy alley ways of life. This question is the premise of the musical If Then with book by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt (Next To Normal). The show itself carries a very interesting flow of the two roads, one taken, and the one left abandoned. 

    We follow the two paths of Elizabeth, a 40 year old woman who recently divorced her husband and has moved back to New York City in order to have a fresh start. This is where the show I see uses a difference in character. Elizabeth is much older, and presents a relatable tone when thinking of her bare bones. However it is the woman who plays the role of Elizabeth giving her a face and a voice. Voice being the most important. It is no lie when saying Idina Menzel is a powerhouse. A true Broadway icon that took everyone by storm not only by one phenomenal show but two; earning her a tony. As Elizabeth her feet sadly stay firmly on the ground, as the character becomes a part of Menzel’s own skin and personality. Her roots are very vulnerable as Elizabeth and perhaps that is the raw honesty Brian Yorkey was looking for when writing this character. 

     As the journey progresses, Elizabeth’s character becomes two complete identities when choosing to either go with her new friend Kate, to listen to a guitar player, or to go to a meeting with her best friend. Something this simple sets off two very different time lines. Sadly the only differences between the two versions of Elizabeth is that Beth… when choosing to go with Kate, and Liz, the alternative who wears glasses instead of contacts. This can present a bit of confusion if one is not paying attention to every single minute in the show. The switch is so small I can see where many would find themselves being lost. 

    Menzel carries the strategic blocking and character changes well, as someone with her experience should, however the stress of the large amounts of belting that is required throughout the show does put a strain on her vocals. Still. Regardless of this Menzel is without a doubt good within the role of Elizabeth, and the chemistry between her and fellow cast member Anthony Rapp is a sight to behold. It is nice to see that after going different directions in their careers Menzel, Rapp and director Michael Greif still have much more to give us long after Rent. 

     While the plot can be a little fuzzy at times, even taking a much darker turn than one would expect; Kitt’s songs match well with the story, leaving us to the happy thought that the cast album is available and we don’t have to wait long to hear the songs yet again. I saw the touring production of the show with the original cast as it opened here in Denver in fall of 2015 after missing the opportunity while visiting New York City earlier that year. It is interesting to see looking back on what the show did question and what morals they were able to place within it. Michael Greif presented the show in a way that still causes me to pause and think on some of the choices I have made, or will make in my life. 

    IF I had made this choice, THEN when would come from it? Or If I had not taken this path would the other have been easier to travel on? However the ending itself gives you the honest answer that I believe we all were aware of but still were in need of remembering. We all will make choices, we all will make mistakes and we will all fall. There is no guarantee of anything or another day. The people we are meant to meet and the places we are meant to go are out there waiting. We just have to sometimes take an alternate route to get there. Sometimes it will be long, sometimes it will be quick. But either way it will come together and in all aspects of life whether it be a big risk, or a simple choice such as Elizabeth has. We must learn how to love with not-knowing and take the step forward. 

    My experience with this show was an exciting welcome here to Denver, and it still sticks with me. I do wish though that I could have had a chance to see the understudy for Idina Menzel in the role of Elizabeth as well. Jackie Burns has also received much well deserved attention for the role and took over on the national tour once Menzel departed. After seeing some later performances of Miss Burns I find myself curious as to what choices she made when comparing to Menzel’s. Actors always tend to make different choices based on their personality and individuality as a performer. Burns also has a very different and higher vocal range than Menzel and brings my point to a close. While Menzel is used to all of this attention and her popularity within and out of the Broadway community, how would a Broadway actress of less popularity take on the role. With less hostility in certain scenes? With more compassion? It’s a question that is left unanswered. Nevertheless the casting for the entire company was very well done and you clearly can see the work that Kitt, Yorkey and Greif presented to the world still sticks with people, including me. It just shows that I chose the right path with seeing this show two years ago.