Aside from dancing, Berkeley Rep Square is far from paradise

Jan 11

Aside from dancing, Berkeley Rep <i> Square</i> is far from paradise

There are actually two competing musicals in Paradise Square: A New Musical now having its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. One of them is much better than the other.

Incredibly ambitious and overstuffed, Paradise Square wants to create excitement about a particular moment in American history with a wonderfully diverse cast and a score that blends show music, traditional music and contemporary sounds (sound familiar? can't blame producers for not wanting to throw away their shot). But this show, many years in the making, is still fuzzy, unfocused and only intermittently interesting.

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Humans at their best in joyful Come From Away

Jan 10

Humans at their best in joyful <i>Come From Away</i>

Already a long-running hit on Broadway, Come From Away is now making its way around the country. The touring company at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre is extraordinary. A dozen performers play the passengers and the townsfolk with astonishing ease and remarkable versatility with just the shift of an accent or a small bit of costume (designs by Toni-Leslie James).

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Waving through Evan Hansen’s remarkable window

Dec 07

Waving through <i>Evan Hansen’s</i> remarkable window

It's absolutely astonishing that a musical about pain, that is in itself a painful experience, can be so enjoyable. But that's what Dear Evan Hansen is: a deeply felt show that wrings tears but is so artfully crafted that is pain is also a pleasure.

This is also a show that managed, in the shadow of Hamilton a season before it, to become its own kind of phenomenon. Much of the credit went to original star Ben Platt, who originated the role of the title character, a high school senior whose discomfort in his own skin much less the world around him is palpable.

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Enough with the clichés already in A Bronx Tale

Nov 29

Enough with the clichés already in <i>A Bronx Tale</i>

If it feels like we've seen it all before, well, we have. The gangsters, the tormented teens, the tough streets of New York's deeze, dem, dose borough – it's all the same old stuff in the musical version of A Bronx Tale now at the Golden Gate Theatre as part of the SHNChazz Palminteri's autobiographical one-man show or the movie version that served as the feature directing debut of Robert De Niro or the upgraded one-man show that Paminteri took to Broadway and then around the country.

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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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Rhythm almost gets you in On Your Feet

Sep 13

Rhythm almost gets you in <i>On Your Feet</i>

On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical is exactly what you think it's going to be, and that's not a bad thing. Nor is it a great thing, but this amiable show lands squarely in the middle lane of enjoyable live musical entertainment. Is it a musical? Well, it's a jukebox musical, meaning it mixes pop songs into a narrative, and some of it lands very well and some of it not so much.

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