Chita! The liveliest living legend of all

Feb 24

Chita! The liveliest living legend of all

In her opening number, Chita Rivera sings, "You're alive, so come on and show it. There's such a lot of livin' to do." She finishes the song, and the 81-year-old legend adds, "I mean it." And she's not kidding. After a triumphant turn in the Fairmont's Venetian Room in 2010, Rivera returned to the Bay Area Cabaret as part of the company's 10th anniversary season. Rivera's performance four years ago was spectacular (read my review here). This time out, she was beyond spectacular.

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Enchanting Starcatcher has all the right star stuff

Nov 07

Enchanting <i>Starcatcher</i> has all the right star stuff

The company of Peter and the Starcatcher opens Act 2 with a rousing number involving Neverland mermaids. The Tony Award-winning play continues through Dec. 1 at the Curran Theatre as part of the SHN season. Below: Peter (Joey deBettencourt) takes a leap of faith into a golden lagoon. Photos by Jenny Anderson Is it the fantasy of flying? The lure of perpetual...

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Norm Lewis brings on the leading man charm

Oct 21

Norm Lewis brings on the leading man charm

More than two dozen songs and four standing ovations later, Norm Lewis has officially made his San Francisco splash. The Broadway leading man and golden-voiced baritone made his long-overdue Bay Area concert debut Sunday night at the Fairmont's Venetian Room as part of the Bay Area Cabaret's 10th anniversary season.

Most recently, the 50-year-old Lewis nabbed a Tony Award nomination opposite Audra McDonald in The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, but his impressive resume also includes Javert in the revival of Les Misèrables, King Triton in Disney's The Little Mermaid, the Sondheim revue Sondheim on Sondheim and Side Show. He also has a recurring role as a senator on ABC's "Scandal" and will be starring opposite Bernadette Peters and Jeremy Jordan in A Bed and a Chair conceived by Sondheim and Wynton Marsalis. So all of that to say: Norm Lewis has chops, and he's not afraid to use them.

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Broadway-bound Carole King bio truly is Beautiful

Oct 09

Broadway-bound Carole King bio truly is <i>Beautiful</i>

You know that Beautiful: The Carole King Musical has worked its musical biography magic when, during the curtain calls, the extraordinary Jessie Mueller takes her bow, you feel like you're applauding an actor for her superb performance as King and you feel like you're acknowledging King herself and all of the remarkable work she has contributed over the last five decades.

King herself is nowhere to be found in the creation of this Broadway-bound enterprise except where it really counts: in the music. The story that book writer Douglas McGrath and director Marc Bruni are telling springs out of King's early start in the songwriting business and her emergence as a seminal singer-songwriter of the 1970s, but the show is really a tribute to the craft of songwriting.

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Drag, disco, divas and – surprise – delight in Priscilla

Aug 23

Drag, disco, divas and – surprise – delight in <i>Priscilla</i>

Musical theater's rush to turn every movie into a Broadway show has taught us to tread carefully and lower our expectations. For every Billy Elliot or Hairspray or The Producers there's a Cry Baby or Catch Me If Yo Can or The Little Mermaid or Shrek or Sunset Boulevard or Sister Act or Leap of Faith or Young Frankenstein and the list goes on. And on

So it's understandable to come to the splashy Broadway musical adaptation of the absolutely charming 1994 movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert with some trepidation. Banishing original music and lyrics in favor of '70s and '80s disco and pop hits further lowers the bar of expectation as the tale of two drag queens and a transsexual on a road trip through the Australian outback makes its way to the stage

The surprise, then, is that Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical is actually quite fun and not devoid of charm.

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Sirs Ian and Patrick in conversation

Aug 04

Sirs Ian and Patrick in conversation

It's not the worst thing in the world to have to spend an hour with two of England's finest: Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart. Though more famous from TV and film than for their extraordinary stage careers (on both sides of the Atlantic), the two journeymen actors are giving up the sci-fi/fantasy limelight to return to their first love: the stage.

They are currently on stage at Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Roda Theatre in Harold Pinter's No Man's Land co-starring Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley. (Good luck getting a ticket; they're awfully hard to come by, as you might expect.)

I interviewed McKellen and Stewart for an article in the San Francisco Chronicle. You can read the full story here (subscription may be required).

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