Bright and bouncy, Moon’s Sunshine radiates charm

Apr 13

Bright and bouncy, Moon’s <i>Sunshine</i> radiates charm

The song titles say a lot about what this musical is like: "Livin' in the Sunlight," "You Hit the Spot," "Sweeping the Clouds Away." If it seems there's a rosy glow emanating from these titles, that's exactly right. You'll find no more glowing show in town than 42nd Street Moon's first original musical in its two-decade history, Painting the Clouds with Sunshine.

This is a stage musical in love with movies. Creators Greg MacKellan and Mark D. Kaufmann have learned a whole lot from the passing parade of lost, forgotten and banal-to-brilliant musicals...

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Big laughs, super star in Moon’s Little Me

May 05

Big laughs, super star in Moon’s <i>Little Me</i>

My faith in the good ol' American star-making machine is kaput. Any yahoo with a access to a "reality" show camera crew gets 15 minutes and all the nonsensical covers of ridiculous magazines they could wish for. Or singers of dubious talent get in front of a national audience singing notes by the pound with no understanding of (or interest in) the songs they're macerating.

And then you have journeymen performers like Jason Graae, who by all rights should be an enormous star, doing stellar work that is seen by far too few. I get worked up every time I see Graae perform because something is definitely not right that his dynamic performer with a golden voice and flawless comic timing hasn't already had several hit sitcoms, won a couple of Tony Awards, sold millions of albums, had a few plum roles on the big screen and written at least one tell-all memoir. In another era, all of the above would be true, but the truth is, Graae is a genius in a world of show biz that has come and gone (and may yet come again – if we're lucky).

Lest you think I'm exaggerating, go see Graae play seven leading men in 42nd Street Moon's production of Little Me.

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Moon’s Carnival: midway between comedy, drama

Apr 06

Moon’s <i>Carnival</i>: midway between comedy, drama

Watching the 1961 musical Carnival!, a hit on Broadway, it's fairly easy to see why the show was never a candidate for major Broadway revival or a staple of community theaters. The score, by Bob Merrill, has real charm and beauty mixed with pleasant mediocrity. The standout song, "Love Makes the World Go Round," is used to great effect, although the most poignant song in the score is a longing-for-home number called "Mira" that perfectly captures what the show wants to be: a sweet, melodic story with melancholy and pain running not too far under the surface. And therein lies the tricky part. This musical, with a book by Michael Stewart, looks like a happy mainstream musical, but it's much more complex than that. In many ways, it succeeds in being musical comedy and drama, but the creators didn't have quite the sophistication to pull it off – or maybe they felt they were offering as much sophistication or complexity as an early '60s Broadway audience could handle.

Whatever the reason, Carnival! Remains a curiosity, and thanks to 42nd Street Moon, the great reviver of Broadway curiosities, treasures and castoffs, we get to explore Carnival! games in a production that lets us experience what the show does best.

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One more walk around Carmelina

Nov 11

One more walk around <i>Carmelina</i>

Charming — that's the word that kept running through my brain while watching the 42nd Street Moon production of Carmelina, the largely forgotten 1979 musical by Alan Jay Lerner (of My Fair Lady and Camelot fame) and Burton Lane (of Finian's Rainbow and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever fame).

It's easy to see why this gently old-fashioned show didn't make it in the late '70s. Based on the Gina Lollobrigida comedy Buena Sera, Mrs. Campbell (the same inspiration for Mamma Mia!), the musical feels as if it's from a different time.

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Feeling gleeful with Darren Criss

Apr 11

Feeling gleeful with Darren Criss

When Darren Criss was a kid going to American Conservatory Theater's Young Conservatory, he attended one of the company's annual galas. Joel Grey was the headliner. Now Criss, all grown up and all of 25, is the headliner for this year's ACT gala.

To say that San Francisco native Criss has been on a rocket to fame ever since his first appearance as Blaine Anderson on the hit FOX series "Glee" would be to understate his rise to national prominence. He's had hit records and spent three weeks on Broadway (last January he replaced Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying).

How Criss has managed to keep a level head on this meteoric journey is a mystery, but in a conversation with the multi-talented young actor on a recent Friday morning, he came across as not only charming and grounded but also, perhaps not surprisingly, intelligent and funny.

I interviewed Criss about this Sunday's headlining gig at ACT's Expect the Unexpected gala this Sunday (April 15) for an article in the San Francisco Chronicle. Read the story here.

There wasn't enough room in the story to include everything we talked about, so here are some of the "deleted scenes" if you will.

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Faith Prince & Jason Graae: a perfectly delightful duet

Mar 22

Faith Prince & Jason Graae: a perfectly delightful duet

He says he’s been a fan of hers since he was a child. She says he makes her pee.

Quips fly fast and furious when talking to Jason Graae and Faith Prince, especially when they’re talking about each other. Graae and Prince are the latest double act on the circuit, and it’s about time. Seriously. These two have known and loved each other for years, ever since they met in college at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Now bosom buddies Prince and Graae and hitting the road together in The Prince and the Showboy (and there’s a long subtitle with their names and awards attached, see the info box below), coming to the Rrrazz Room this weekend (March 25-27) for three performances only.

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