Spiegelworld : Empire

June 17, 2012

Last night I had the privilege of being invited to see Spiegelworld Empire. I’ve walked past their tent on 45th many times and have always been intrigued. Not at all your typical Broadway show, Empire brings thrills, laughs and moments where you forget to breathe.

What I loved about the experience before it even started, was the fact the place was flat out awesome. Funky on the outside, small and intimate on the inside. Show aside, I’d probably go there for drinks on any given night if it was just a bar. Any seat you get is perfect. They perform in the round, just a couple rows of chairs. The only off-putting aspect of it that kind of ruined it for me was before the show began. The performers would mill about all holding signs asking for money in some way – a dollar for a money tree, a quarter to ride a mechanical horse ride. I get that they are carnival-like performers trying to make a living but couldn’t they at least hold off asking for money until the end? With ticket prices over $60, let us see what you can do first.

The show features a couple different acts, mostly based on strength. Balance, contortion, roller skating [trust me on this one when I say, “wow”], ballet… the show has it all. I haven’t seen anything like it. I watched the acts in awe, one of the final balancing acts left me unable to breathe I was so nervous and captivated. Not only are these feats incredible and enthralling, the way it’s presented is visually stunning. The first act features an incredibly flexible woman in a giant bubble. Between the lighting and the actual bubbles blowing all around the room, it was beautiful. I have to say, the one “act” that I didn’t like, was the husband and wife duo that were basically the comedy relief – except they weren’t funny. They would come around between each act, do something stupid and/or crude to fill time. They really just weren’t my taste in humor and I dreaded every time I saw them coming back to the stage – I just sat and waited for it to be over.

The show runs about an hour and I think for the ticket price it’s worth it. You get to see a bunch of great acts, there’s a lovely woman that sings along with a killer one man band. You’ll laugh, you’ll be amazed, and you might get a lapdance. The show is a raunchy, ridiculous, good time.

Spiegelworld presents Empire plays at 265 West 45th street NYC. Tickets range from $59-$129, with $29 student rush. Check out  http://www.spiegelworld.com/ for more info.

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Presenting… NBC’s Smash!

January 16, 2012

Finally there’s something on TV that gets me a weekly theater fix. And that would be NBC’s SMASH.

The buzz around this show has been steadily growing since its first whisperings and to garner fans early in the season, the pilot episode was released on iTunes and Amazon for a free download today. After just one episode, people are already declaring allegiance to either #teamIvy or #teamKaren. [I’m #teamIvy in case you wanted to know. Sorry Katharine McPhee, I don’t know what it is about you, but you really annoy me.]

I admit I liked Glee when it first started but after about 5 episodes, I was beyond over it – I feel like it’s so juvenile. I was so disappointed when the HBO pilot The Miraculous Year with a stellar cast was somehow passed over. HBO’s “reason” for not picking it up? There isn’t a big enough audience that would watch the show every week. SMASH just might be the show to change that opinion.

The premise is simple. There’s a new musical in the works and these two lovely young ladies both want the lead. You don’t need to love theater or even understand the inner-workings to follow that plot. But the thing I love about SMASH is that it knows it’s core audience. And that’s us. Those of us that understood the little jokes. Those of us who know who Michael Riedel is. Thanks for putting in those little bits that make theater dorks like me smile.

The thing that Smash has in its favor is familiar all-star faces mixed in with some of our favorite Broadway stars. Who doesn’t love Debra Messing? How could you not love Jack Davenport with that dreamy accent? [Commodore Norrington, oh how I adored thee] I’m sure the younger crowd will know Katharine McPhee [okay NBC, seriously, we don’t need to be “introduced” to her, everyone knows who she is.] And Anjelica Huston? No words. Mix that star power in with brilliant stage actors and actresses like Megan Hilty, Christian Borle, Brian d’Arcy James, Savannah Wise, the list goes on… the entire cast is phenomenal. [Expect cameos and recurring roles from Nick Adams, Norbert Leo Butz, Will Chase, Wesley Taylor…]

To be perfectly honest, the only thing I’m slightly on the fence about would be the music [yes I know there’s only been one episode]. They have to keep it fresh every week and not over-do it. That baseball number, not my cup of tea. Reminded me of Catch Me If You Can and how that “Pinstripes” song was one of my least favorite numbers in that show. However, that last duet with Megan and Katharine – love. That melody will definitely be in my head for the next few days.

I had pretty high expectations for this show based on all the chatter and the previews. This pilot definitely met those expectations and I cannot wait until there’s more episodes. The writing is brilliant and it’s obvious they are taking care to make it realistic. The staging is fantastic for the musical numbers. …And I’m begging you SMASH, don’t go the Glee route and go merch crazy. No need to make t-shirts, release a new cd of “Music from…” every other month – it’s not cute. Don’t ruin this for us NBC, you’ve got something amazing on your plate.

SMASH will officially premiere on NBC on February 6th, 10pm eastern. Download the pilot episode for free via iTunes or Amazon.com.

Frank Wildhorn deserves a fighting chance. Push Wonderland out of the picture for a moment and take in Bonnie & Clyde with an open mind. The show is full of musical gems, gorgeous solos, brilliant performances and beautiful orchestrations.

Laura Osnes delivers a spectacular performance as Bonnie Parker – a girl from a quiet town in Texas who wanted to be famous and adored. Osnes has a voice that is so flawless it could break your heart, especially in “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad”. My personal favorite? “How Bout A Dance” – just beautiful. She’s a superstar.

Jeremy Jordan tackles Clyde Barrow with power and authority. He oozes confidence and cockiness and has that charm that would make anyone weak at the knees. “Raise A Little Hell” is reminiscent of his days as a rocker in Rock Of Ages – loud, aggressive and commanding.

The standouts in the cast for me are Claybourne Elder and Melissa Van Der Schyff. Having played Buck and Blanche Barrow since the La Jolla run, you can tell the relationship they have on stage is rooted in a deep friendship and they play off each other so well. “You’re Goin’ Back To Jail” has to be one of my favorite numbers in the show.

The entire ensemble is impressive from Louis Hobson as Ted to Tad Wilson as Frank Hamer to the actors playing the younger versions of Bonnie and Clyde, Kelsey Fowler and Talon Ackerman.

Was the show perfect? Nope. Does it deserve this sudden close? Absolutely not. There are some major stand out performances in this show combined with an amazing score. A lot of times, shows close because people assume it will always be there and they don’t rush to buy tickets. No people in seats forces shows to have a short life. Do yourself a favor and catch Bonnie & Clyde before the show closes December 30th.