Overwhelming humanity, extraordinary theater in The Jungle at the Curran

Apr 11

Overwhelming humanity, extraordinary theater in <i>The Jungle</i> at the Curran

You may enter The Jungle at the beautiful Curran theater in downtown San Francisco, but you exit in an entirely different place – mentally and emotionally speaking, that is.

The idea of immersive theater tends to bring on expectations of fun and intrigue with promises of leaving present circumstances behind and allowing yourself to be somewhere else (possibly someone else or in some other time) for just a little while. But The Jungle is different.

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Oi! Dancing boy! The barnstorming brilliance of Billy Elliot

Jun 29

Oi! Dancing boy! The barnstorming brilliance of <i>Billy Elliot</i>

When Billy Elliot the Musical caused a sensation in London in 2005 and then swept the 2009 Tonys with 10 awards, you could be excused for wondering what all the fuss was about. Wasn’t this yet another in a seemingly endless and mostly unnecessary line of movie-into-musical transformations?

The answer in the case of Billy is a definite no. There has never been a musical quite like this before that blends politics and pathos, glitz and grim reality, corny schmaltz and genuine emotion. This is sophisticated stuff: an old-fashioned and new-fangled musical all jumbled up in one fascinating, enormously entertaining package. It’s a sad story with joyous highs and inspiring performances.

All that said, the musical is still not as good as the 2000 movie it’s based on (which is an absolute gem), but given that the movie’s creative team also worked on the musical indicates a pleasingly high level of integrity in the musical expansion of this story.

The touring version of Billy Elliot, the final show of the SHN season, opened Tuesday at the Orpheum Theatre for a three-month run, and it’s “cush,” to use the characters’ Northern England slang.

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