Hamilton in SF: Re-creating America

Mar 24

<i>Hamilton</i> in SF: Re-creating America

If you love Hamilton, and let me say for the record that I love Hamilton, there's a whole lot to love, including, now, a new company in my hometown. After the Chicago company, which began performances last fall, this new one is what would be considered the national touring company. It's here until August as part of the SHN season before heading to Los Angeles. The full Broadway creative team is represented here, and at Thursday's opening-night production, the show shone through the hype with clarity, excitement and emotional heft.

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Theater Dogs’ Best of 2016

Dec 28

Theater Dogs’ Best of 2016

The theater event that shook my year and reverberated through it constantly didn't happen on Bay Area stage. Like so many others, I was blown away by Hamilton on Broadway in May and then on repeat and shuffle with the original cast album (and, later in the year, the Hamilton Mix Tape) ever since. Shifting focus back home, theater in the San Francisco Bay Area continues to be a marvel, which is really something given the hostile economic environment arts groups are facing around here.

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Spirit but no soul in loud Bring It On musical

Dec 15

Spirit but no soul in loud <i>Bring It On</i> musical

Like a weak episode of "Glee" shot up with steriods and stuffed full of anti-depressants, Bring It On: The Musical sends up a rousing cheer for the robotic vapidity of the new Broadway. The real shame about this overblown movie-to-stage adaptation is that it's chock full of appealing, talented and boundlessly energetic young performers, but their sparkling humanity is mostly lost in the non-stop machine of this depressingly mechanical, surprisingly shrill effort (a part of the SHN season).

Targeted to an age range of teens to twentysomethings who slavishly recite lines from the 2000 movie starring Kirsten Dunst as a beleaguered cheerleading squad captain, this musical has a startling pedigree with its multi-award-winning creative team. You'd think among this heavily lauded crowd of artists that someone could have located a little heart or a moment of actual human connection. But no. This is musical by committee, and a strenuous effort it seems to have been.

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Just play it cool, boy! The enduring sound of West Side Story

Oct 25

Just play it cool, boy! The enduring sound of <i>West Side Story</i>

What is it that makes West Side Story so incredibly intoxicating, even 53 years after its premiere? There's no denying the power of Jerome Robbins' athletic and gorgeous choreography or the simplicity and (occasional) corniness of Stephen Sondheim's lyrics (his first for a Broadway show). And Arthur Laurents' book, which puts a 1950s spin on Romeo and Juliet, is about as solid as Broadway books come.

But it's the music, Leonard Bernstein's astonishing music that elevates West Side Story to legendary status. Combining classical with jazz with show tune, Bernstein concocted a highly original sound that has yet to be bested on the Broadway stage. This is a score for the ages, one equally at home in the symphony hall as in the high school auditorium. How many scores can fit as comfortably in both spaces? Aside from Bernstein's own Candide (which he was working on in tandem with West Side Story), not many.

We'll have the chance to revisit the score this week as the most recent Broadway revival comes to town as part of the SHN/Best of Broadway series.

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New side of `West Side Story’

Jun 02

The new Broadway cast recording of West Side Story is out today in all the usual outlets (in three dimensions on CD, digitally via iTunes, etc.). To celebrate the classic work of Leonard Berstein, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins, let’s take a peek at the music video for “Tonight” from the new recording as sung by Karen Olivo...

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Watch it: `In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams’

May 26

Everything wonderful about the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical In the Heights is captured in the new PBS documentary “In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams.” (The show airs at 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 27 on KQED Channel 9) The program, part of the “Great Performances” showcase, is only an hour, but in exploring why the musical is so...

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