Three days of rain May ’15

theatre misc

This is a play about family ties, about relationships, about concepts and misconceptions about the people closest to you. It boldly breaks with traditional theatre and opens the “third wall” into the auditorium, giving the actors the chance to actively interact with the audience on an almost intimate level. It’s a three person play, each of the actors portraying two characters which share the same blood but not the same experiences, characters or even the same time despite and because of their family ties. This naturally gives the actors in question ample opportunities to shine as they jump into another person’s skin after intermission, which could of course lead to disaster but Portland’s Center Stage hired a group of strong actors who not just enjoy their craft, but also know it very well. And their talent doesn’t hurt either.

In act one we’re getting a glimpse into the 90s. There’s Walker Janeway, running from his unsatisfactory relationship with his father, from responsibilities and from perceived wrongs over and over, in a rare moment of self reflection recognising that he’s not a people person. There’s his older sister Nan, married with two kids and a job, successfully living her life, her only worry being Walker and his long absences that are wearing her out. And there’s Philip or Pip, who made it to stardom in a daytime soap and is happily enjoying his fame thanks to shirtlessly doing things in front of a camera. They meet over the late Nat Janeway’s testament … And that’s where it goes downhill: because Nat gave Janeway House, the only piece Walker ever wanted, to Pip who apparently had the kind of relationship with Nat that Walker always craved.

Monologues define the characters in this first act. They show Nan as the carer, because her mother was mentally unstable. It is of no surprise that even with her own family to care for she is mother to her wayward brother – a fact her sibling makes use of. Walker is shown as highly intelligent but unfocussed and desperately searching for reason – and his distant father’s approval. Philip (Pip) raised fatherless but in a seemingly happy home seems to have none of these problems. Happy with his fame as an actor he loves his life charmingly, pragmatically and unabashedly. It is only when Walker confronts him unfairly that he explodes for once, finally letting go of all restraint, bursting out with secrets he harboured for too long.

Lisa Datz is great as the no nonsense uber-mother who almost breaks over her brother’s ways when she confesses to Pip that at one time she’d hoped  Walker was dead; at least then she would’ve found peace. Silas Weir Mitchell plays the neurotic, increasingly unstable younger brother with verve and precision, the frazzled mind mirrored in the debris filled apartment and his deliberately deranged clothes. But it is Sasha Roiz who vows the audience with his playful, sweet natured Pip whose positive energy is like a live wire connecting the three friends. With nonchalance, a winning smile and a glint in his eyes he seemingly effortless makes the audience smile as well.  And when Pip finally explodes, it is his passion and temper that has everyone stunned and breathless – till his anxious question: is that all news? He seems the only one centred  in an act of off kilter characters who rather speak to the audience than to each other.

The second act gives us the parents – Lina, a southern belle whose eccentric behaviour is hard to stomach for her lover, the boy wonder architect Theo Wexler. Beautiful, charming , jealous and erratic, she is the centre of attention and demands that place. Not an easy feat when she’s competing with Theo, who is driven by ambition to make it big in the world of architecture. He is also driven by the expectations of his peers having sailed through architecture school as the star pupil. But in the end it is Nat Janeway, who not only designs the most famous house but who also gets the girl. Despite his stutter (I know all the famous stutterers. I have their calendar) and his inhibitions and insecurities he is the one that prevails, while the golden boy is literally left outside in the rain.

Again it’s Silas’ precision that creates a very sympathetic “best friend” character who is loyal to a fault. The difference to his first act part is huge and a joy to watch. Lisa is the southern belle, coquettish and gorgeous, already showing hints of her later unstableness. Her actions will both make and break the friendship of those three people. She’ll be a muse to Nat and break him and her children, when her mind slips. All that is beautifully portrayed by Lisa Datz. But it is Sasha who again takes the prize, going from passionate, elegant up and coming star architect (one reviewer called him panther like) to nervous chain smoking and insecure beginner to finally desperate, broken and defeated lost man in the rain. Entering the apartment where Lina has just betrayed him with his best friend he seems blind to what’s going on, not able to deal with anything but his incapability to live up to everyone’s expectations. When he’s out in the streets again, alone, lost, there are very real tears streaming down his face. His portrayal of two so very different characters is an amazing tour de force, an intense study that doesn’t solely focus on tragedy but gives room to laughter and vice versa.

It’s definitely a must see at the Portland center stage.

West Side Story April 26th, ’15

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Director Barrie Koski came highly recommended and lived up to my expectations – he even surpassed them. West Side Story – the musical on the verge of being the first American opera – tells the Shakespearean Romeo and Juliet-story, replacing the feuding families with families of another kind – the gangs of the Jets and the Sharks. With its beautiful melodies (more than one a testimony to Leonard Bernstein’s Jewish ancestry) it could be a traditional matron gathering dust in a sacred part of every musical theatre’s fund. That this staging avoided that old “pong” is down to Koski’s genial approach. Also: While the spoken text is in German, the songs’ lyrics are in English – and that is a great relief, because their words were written for this music and any dubbing diminishes their beauty.

An empty stage framed by dark walls is all the stage setting that’s necessary to transport us into Berlin, 2015…  where minorities do still fight for survival. Costume design turned the Sharks into Rappers and the  Jets into their tattooed barechested enemies. The choreography starts with one Jet playing basketball – in perfect rhythm to the music. And it takes up pace and acrobatics that take your breath away. A huge thank you to the dance captain (Silvano Marraffa) Snowball – he did a brilliant job. Poor Tony (Tansel Akzeybek) – with the least “interesting” part of the musical he had a hard time finding his footing. He was good, mind you, but not exceptional;  which mattered in a production as high octane as this one. Maria (Jasmina Sakr) was very sweet with a strong voice and enough naivite to make the starry eyed lover believable. Fabulous Anita (Sigalit Feig) who of course has the best songs and knows how to shake it ( ;) ).

With the brutal rape scene in act 3 the production set a mark that had the mother in front of me gasp and distract her maybe 6 year old daughter. But it was a necessary scene, making the betrayal that follows understandable. 

Also a brilliant idea: The duet There’s a Place for Us, A Time and Place for Us… sung by the ensemble – Jets and Sharks together with officer Krupke, the detective, the store owner, very hushed, very yearning, while Tony is bleeding out on the street, victim to another gang fight. An incredibly intense and gripping moment.

All in all – a brilliant production with a great cast, minimalistic design and therefore showcasing the talent of the dancers and singers.

Gods and Monsters Feb 22nd, ’15

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so …. Gods and Monsters….

I’m still a bit overwhelmed by it all, so be patient.
James Whale – he was a director in early Hollywood. He created Frankenstein (and the monster) and Frankenstein’s Bride and The Invisible Man and other movies that were incredibly successful. But he also created what ppl dubbed the best musical movie when he directed Showboat. He started off the careers of many British actors such as Sir Laurence Olivier, as he being British himself, liked to work with fellow countrymen.
That said we meet James Whale when he’s already in his sixties and alone with his housekeeper/nurse who keeps an eye on him so that he takes his pills. He’s had a stroke.
There’s this beautiful analogy – Frankenstein’s monster was created by lightning – and now lightnings are misfiring in his brain and create crippling headaches and memory loss and aphasia.
A young and very eager film student comes by his house – Mister Kay – who adores Whale’s horror movies. unfortunately these are not the ones Whale is most proud of. There are a lot of side remarks (and snide remarks) about Hollywood’s greatest which I loved a lot – the witty dialogue feels as if we’re in a panopticum of sorts, going from picture to picture and getting dishy news about the people depicted. But in order to get the man to answer his questions about said horror movies, Kay has to agree to a rather mephistophelic deal: he’s going to drop a piece of clothing and will get one answer for it. But the deal falls through … Whale remembers when first he was young and knew someone just as eager and loved to draw him. A first love…
The doctor isn’t very helpful – the damage done to his brain is permanent and we don’t know enough about how a human brain is functioning so there’s no telling if Whale is ever going to get better.
The knowledge of this brought to life by Ian Gelder who is genial in the part. A glimpse of desperation in his eyes, his shoulders dropping, a head held proudly, honestly, I still find no words. it’s an amazing performance by an amazing actor and I’m still humbled and grateful that I got to see this.
And then there’s Clayton Boone.
Built like a greek statue (Mr. Whale’s words, but I concur) and an ex marine he comes from a farm and has been brought up with high values. he could snap anyone like a twig. And that’s also what he does – snapping twigs – he works as a gardener and Whale hires him. first as a gardener, but then he wants to draw him. and slowly and determinedly he gets the young man to feel comfortable in his presence, even after it is revealed that Whale is openly gay. they even attend a function with princess Margaret together. When they get home, it’s raining and they’re both soaking wet.
it is then that we see why Whale tried to befriend this particular young man. But – again – things don’t work out the way Whale wanted.
While young Mister Kay is off with “Rock” (Hudson) and Boone is sleeping in a chair very much unmolested, Whale finally finds peace.

there are some beautiful flashback scenes that give us glimpses of Whales youth – his time during1st world war in the trenches where he inspired young men – and had to lose them to an enemy’s bullet, an awkward but endearing scene of good bye after a night full of passion, that bring us closer to James Whale. But it is Ian Gelder’s magnificent performance that had me shocked and speechless and enthralled. He becomes the frail, sick and desperate man at the end of his life, his battle with his speech impediments are almost too real but never over the top. and his desire to go out on his terms and just the way he had lived is so strong, you can almost taste it. And yes, he is drawing the greek god like young Boone – but it’s what comes out of it that really breaks your heart. I admit I was teary eyed…

I also admit I was a bit overwhelmed. And too chicken to wait for Ian Gelder at the non-stage door (just one door, inside the theatre). I did buy one of his drawings though. They sell what he’s drawing during the show after he’s autographed it. It made it to Vienna. I just have to fixate it with spray.
After Amanda was so very kind and came up to me during intermission, I thanked her after the show and left to get a taxi. And then Ian approached ME and I was a babbling, incoherent mess and so very pathetic. sigh. Thank you, Ian Gelder.
btw Ian Gelder just oozes charisma. good lord, so much charisma. still….totally out of it, me.

Cinderella – Panto Jan. 2nd to 4th, 2015

theatre misc

So, Panto. I so hope I remember everything vital. Not just I’m all about that bass… LOL

It starts off with the magnificent Fairy godmother (Melanie Masson), who flies onto the stage sitting on a glittery moon, singing and being all around gorgeous and lovely. (Plus: a huge bonus: she has a wonderful voice and is a joy to listen to)

We are all netted into helping her and her girl Cinderella (Rachel Flynn) to find happiness and love, and we love it. Then we get introduced to Cinders‘ two ugly sisters (or almost sisters as the marriage has not yet taken place) – and we hate them – they’re awful bullies. But they are singing Born This Way and I have to admit: great voices as well! (Graham Hoadley and Wayne Fitzsimmons who took the part when Pete Gallagher wasn’t able to perform with only a week of rehearsal) They treat Cinderella, their sister to be, like their maid or worse and walk away leaving the poor girl in tears; she wanted to go to the Prince’s ball where Charming is supposed to find a wife. The ugly sisters hope it’s one of them. We know it’s not. Oh no, it’s not…

In the meantime Baron Hardup (Ian Krankie) o fHardup Hall (and yes, there were jokes…) and Buttons‘ wee brother Zip (Jeannette Krankie) – with zips all over his jacket and cap – explain, that the marriage is a must as Baron Hardup is skint. They go off in search of Buttons.

It’s then the elusive Buttons (John Barrowman) shows up – in a GRAND entrance – he’s in a hot air balloon, slowly descending and singing Happy – much better than Pharrell Williams ever could. It turns out that he is in loooooove with Cinders but doesn’t dare tell her, so he’d bought her a present even though Hardup pays him only buttons. He puts it in a corner and we’re roped in to alert him if/when anyone comes too close. First it’s the ugly sisters, then it’s Zip – and hilarity ensues as the wee lad can’t reach to high five Buttons. He low fives him onto the `nads.

In the meantime we meet the gorgeous Prince Charming (young Lawrence Robb), who was summoned home to pick a wife, and his suave servant/bodyguard/swordpartnerDandini (Gregor Stewart… yes, thankyou, soooo much eye candy) – over a playfight with swords they discuss the Prince’s frustration about having to marry – until Charming comes up with a plan: Dandini should be impersonating him on a last trip to the village so that he, Charming, would be able to maybe find a girl who’d love him for who he is, not for what he is.

Then Cinders sees the „package“ (yes, he’s packed his package for her) and Buttons tries to woo her with a song (Listen to the Music) but to no avail. She has to rush off into the woods.

In the woods the ugly sisters are out hunting for a Prince, but Charming’s plan works – both sisters dressed in bags (Zenga in a handbag, and „what’s that tartan (tart in)“? – Sadie in a tartan golfbag) go for the fake prince and run after Dandini. And it’s now that the real Prince meets Cinderella for the first time – and it’s loooooove. He invites her as Dandini to the ball and she accepts but only if he, Dandini, is going to be there – she’s not hot for the prince at all…

So Charming – as Dandini – sings to Cinders, while sitting on a wall (Everything I do, I do it for you) as Buttons comes back – and he is appalled – HIS Cinders duetting with a stranger. He tries to sabotage the wooing by popping up between and under them, then topples Charming off the wall, then gets toppled off, pushes Cinders, the Prince, it’s a hilarious stint that has everyone in stitches. And all the while all three keep singing, without missing a beat or a note.

Charming keeps his word – he delivers invitations to the Hardup household – and is once again confronted with the ugly sisters who race him to have a practice run for their marriage with the Prince (Dandini) . Buttons delivers the invitation to Cinders, but the ugly sisters force the poor girl to tear it up (while being booed by the audience of course) and all Buttons can do i scheer her up (You to me are Everything).

But now the Fairy godmother comes into play: (One night only) she givesCinders another invitation, a dress, a coach, a coachman (Buttons), sparkly slippers and a curfew – midnight. And to The Power of Love the white coach takes to the air thanks to a white winged horse and off to the Prince’s castle.

Snow is falling onto the audience and everyone goes awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

Intermission

Meanwhile at the ball Dandini and Charming both hope Cinders will show up, even though she’s not a lady (it’s a man??? Dandini asks flabberghasted, no, just not a titled lady) – to the rhythm of We Danced All Night. The ugly sisters show up, dressed in chandeliers. (yes, they’re the entertainment – the light entertainment) and Baron Hardup as well.

And then finally Princess Starlight enters (yes, it’s our Cinders) and she goes straight to Dandini (Charming) who opens the dance with her. He has a lot to explain…

Then the „light entertainment“ starts and it is over the top hilarious. Both ugly sisters and Buttons (who wanted to go to the ball with Zip – undercover) show up in teeny tiny skirts (Buttons‘ had a wonky zipper and kept almost falling down) and paper mache tops with huuuuuuge fringed boobs. They sing I’m All About that Bass and from the second refrain on … the boobs sing too. It’s indescribably awesome. This leads to Buttons flirting with Dandini. Then Zip shows up as Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball singing I Wrecked The Ball.

And just as the Prince declares hislove for Cinderella it’s midnight and Cinders runs.

With her slipper in hand he sings A Moment Like This.

Back by public demand: the twelve nights of christmas. I think I peed myself there. I know I hurt my cheeks. Last show: John threw the loo-rolls towards his husband Scott and then forced him under his kilt to kiss his crotch. „That was my husband, it’s nothing he hasn’t seen before…“

Cinders is devastated she had to run and Buttons tries to cheer her up by finally giving her his package – it’s an ubercute Teddy Bear (song: Power of Love) but she rejects him – she loves Buttons, but as a brother. So he claims his Teddy again (on a loooooong note of let’s face the music and daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaance)

But Buttons is so very sad – together with his Teddy he sings When You Tell Me that You Love Me and uses the ubercute bear as a kind of glove puppet, so that the stuffed cutie interacts with him. Awwwwwwwww

Meanwhile the mean ugly sisters kidnap Cinders (who has possession oft he other glittery shoe left!) and hide her in the cellar with Boris (a gigantinormous Spider) as her guard to get her out of the way as the Prince comes to try HIS find, the second glittery shoe, on every maid in town, to discover his future bride.

Needless to say that we tell Buttons where to find Cinders and he saves her. Just in time!

The Prince has already handed over the shoe to Zenga – no fit just stinky feet and a looooong stocking, and to Sadie – and it FITS Sadie!!! But it fits on an artificial leg, as Dandini finds out, and soon Sadie is „legless again“. With the help of the Fairy Buttons and Cinderella are saved from the locked wobbly wardrobe (which is the secret walkway to the cellar) and Cinders is able to try on the shoe. Awwwwwwwwww

So at least for Cinders and Charming there’s a happily ever after. Buttons – despite flirting outrageously with Dandini AGAIN – is left sad and lonely. But the Fairy tells him that he’ll find happiness soon – Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

And then it ends and it’s over and we’re all sad. But we, the audience, collected more than 25.000 pounds for a down syndrom charity, which is brilliant!

Stage door: as always The Barrowman was patient and professional and taking the time to sign and selfie with everyone. But everyone else was just as charming and sweet and patient! The only „problem“ were the ugly sisters – we didn’t really recognise them because of their hideous make-up which took 90 mins to apply. Lol

Especially sweet: Dandini and Prince Charming who was obviously enjoying the interaction with a bunch of crazy ladies with sharpies. LOL

Many thanks to Gabe and Katrin for their invaluable input. XXX

La Cage aux Folles Nov.21st, 2014

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I can die a happy woman now. Not only have i been treated like the queen of England – or maybe even better – and kissed not only by Simon but by Todd and the producers, the creative directors et al, I was also lucky enough to see the absolute best version of La Cage aux Folles to date. (There might be a better one in some distant future, but actually I don’t even believe that). 

The seemingly easy interaction between Georges and Albin, the frigging talent of the Cagelles, the sweet, helpless innocence of The Son Jean Michel (Robert Tripolino) that makes him vulnerable… it all adds up to an amazing show that is both gripping and funny and hilarious and heart wrenching. Leave it to Simon Burke to have me sniffling more than once, esp when pointing out how much Albin had sacrificed for him(look over there) or throughout the truly heartwrenching rendition of song on the sand. I loved how they use flashbacks with young actors to show the solid fundament on which their love is built – all within a few takes of the music. Leave it to Todd McKenney to make me feel the real anger during his rendition of I am what I am, no frills, no sugarcoating, just pure human anger. And I absolutely adored the sweet unassuming last scene behind the curtain, in the dressing area, after the Dindons are gone, that made their kiss so much more than just a kiss!
It is a bonus of course that Rhonda Burchmore is part of the ensemb!e as well as Marg Downey as Mrs Dindon – repressed by her overbearing husband – and Gary Sweet as right wing politian. An honourable mention goes to Aljin Abella as The Maid – hilarious as s/he should be.

And the best : I’ll be able to see it again and again and again… Lol
Stage  door – yes, definitely. Bar: hell yeah! The woman’s face when she printed out my tickets? Priceless!! All in all a marvellous experience!!!

midsummer night’s dream, a chamber play Sept.12th, ’14

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It’s four amazing actors playing with most of the parts of Shakespeare’s midsummer night’s dream. I was glad I was familiar with the play, as otherwise it would have been a lot less interesting. Dion Johnston, Mike Nadajewski, Sarah Afful and Trish Lindstroem were absolutely fabulous.

And that’s all the good things I’m able to say about the thing. It was shown in what appeared to be a dirty basement with 12 rows of seats. An installation by an artist seemed to me as if everything that had been stored in there was now tucked to the ceiling, but hey, that’s art. Also, I had ordered my ticket in November, when they hadn’t even known yet what venue to use. And then I was seated in the second to last row, and basically didn’t see a thing. I admit I raised a stink and the marvellous stage manager sat me and 3 others in row b.

Unfortunately the directing – by Peter Sellars! – consisted mostly of turning down the lights on the dark coloured stage. It was a bit tiresome. So not really a huge win, this one.

The Beaux Stratagem Sept.11th, ’14

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A restauration comedy, it says. This means that in the disguise of pretty dresses and opulent scenery there come razor sharp wit, sarcastic critique of social misgivings and still very current depictions of flawed characters all enrolled in brilliant dialogue. It’s a laugh and so much fun to enjoy even though it tells of a time when women had no rights at all, notably not if they wanted to escape an abusive relationship.