Slice of life served up sweet and tuneful in Waitress

Oct 18

Slice of life served up sweet and tuneful in <i>Waitress</i>

Waitress is very much like one of the wacky pies its title character concocts – an odd combination of ingredients that come together in a surprisingly delightful way. As a musical, it's about ordinary life – low-paying jobs, abusive relationships, childhood trauma, the families we make as opposed to the ones we're born into – but it sings, often beautifully, about the deep pain and the little joys of everyday living, and it finds ways to make the ordinary soar with lyricism and expressive movement.

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Finding Neverland: never found, never lands

Jan 19

<i>Finding Neverland</i>: never found, never lands

I'm calling it: the use of Peter Pan as an automatic trigger for poignant reflections on lost youth and the emotional cruelty of aging is officially over. It's been over for a while, but apparently word has not spread to those still hoping to cash in on Captain Hook, Tinkerbell and the whole Neverland crew. That's unfortunate for the musical Finding Neverland.

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Pippin in the center ring: razzle-dazzling!

Sep 25

<i>Pippin</i> in the center ring: razzle-dazzling!

Now this is how you revive a musical.Sure, you could set Les Misérables or Sunday in the Park with George in a circus with results that would likely be as baffling as they are entertaining. But when Diane Paulus was inspired to set her revival of Pippin under the big top, she was going for something more than a bright and shiny gimmick. Working with "circus creator" Gypsy Snier of the acclaimed Montréal-based theatrical circus company 7 doigts de la main, Paulus crafted a physical production that mirrored the emotional journey of the show's central character.

It's a brilliant concept and one that reenergizes the 1972 show and features its score by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson off to their greatest advantage. Pippin still feels a little like a hippy '70s musical (a good thing in my book), but this production finds something even more universal...

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Amaluna captures a tempest under a big-top

Nov 16

<i>Amaluna</i> captures a tempest under a big-top

The last time Cirque du Soleil rolled through town with Totem in 2011, the company seemed refreshed and revived. Gone was the pretentious stuttering and back was the purely enjoyable spectacle and thrill.

Now with Amaluna, the company's 32nd show since 1984, they remain firmly in that mind-blowing, eye candy groove, and it feels so good. Broadway veteran Diane Paulus is at the helm, and though there's a vague attempt to riff on an all-female version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, but that really seems an excuse to hire a lot of great women (including a kick-ass, all-girl band) and put on an eye-popping pageant.

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Porgy sings anew at the Golden Gate

Nov 14

<i>Porgy</i> sings anew at the Golden Gate

p>The music of Porgy and Bess is so pervasive in the musical landscape that actually seeing the show and how the songs fit into the story is a little startling.

I know the George Gershwin-Ira Gershwin-DuBose Heyward score not from cast recordings but from pop and jazz versions recorded by the likes of Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae, Cleo Laine and Ray Charles and Frances Faye and Mel Tormé. And then there are the countless covers of the show's songs. "Summertime" is considered one of the most recorded songs of all time, with more than 30,000 versions. This music, in other words, is part of the American cultural fabric.

Productions of Porgy and Bess don't come along very often...

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