Depth, beauty surge through glorious Once

Jun 19

Depth, beauty surge through glorious <i>Once</i>

If every movie-to-musical transformation were as soulful and creative as Once the state of the Broadway musical would be in a much better place.

There would seem to be no less likely candidate for the Broadway treatment than the sweet and modest 2007 Irish indie film Once about a frustrated singer/songwriter in Dublin and the Czech immigrant who changes his life. It's a love story and not a love story, a musical and not a musical. Above all else, it's intimate and delicate, like a slice of life infused with passionate music transferred with great love to the big screen.

Fans of the movie (which nabbed a best song Oscar for songwriters/stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová's "Falling Slowly") let out a collective groan when it was announced that Once would be turned into a Broadway musical.

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ACT’s epic Orphan dusts off ancient tale

Jun 12

ACT’s epic <i>Orphan</i> dusts off ancient tale

American Conservatory Theater concludes its season with The Orphan of Zhao an epic tale of revenge that some scholars think stretches back to the fourth century BCE. It's a tale as old as time, and the first act of this 2 1/2-hour show feels like a millennia itself. But once the revenge gears really start grinding, there's an interesting story here. I reviewed the production for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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MTC’s Failure blends death, music and whimsy

Jun 11

MTC’s <i>Failure</i> blends death, music and whimsy

Philip Dawkins writes about the inevitable ending of all our stories in Failure: A Love Story, but his version of death is pretty darn upbeat. His beguiling play, now having its West Coast premiere at Marin Theatre Company

, is technically a "play with music," but there's a LOT of music, and it's charmingly played and sung by the five-person cast. I reviewed the play for the San Francisco Chronicle:

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Sondheim marries love & lyrics in melodic TheatreWorks revue

Jun 09

Sondheim marries love & lyrics in melodic TheatreWorks revue

Even Stephen Sondheim's cast-offs are sturdy enough to carry a show on their own. At least that's the case with Marry Me a Little, a 1980 revue created by Craig Lucas and Norman René. The show collects odds and ends from Sondheim's career, including songs cut from some of his big shows (Follies seems to have lost an extraordinary number of good songs), written for one-off projects or salvaged from flops.

The resulting show, using only songs and no dialogue, tells the story of two lonely neighbors on a Saturday night. The original location was New York, but the new TheatreWorks production directed by Sondheim-o-phile Robert Kelley moves the action to San Francisco and takes every opportunity to have its attractive actors shed clothing. In other words, it's aiming to be young, hip and sexy, and by and large, that tact succeeds.

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Hansberry’s Sun blazes brightly in Cal Shakes opener

Jun 07

Hansberry’s <i>Sun</i> blazes brightly in Cal Shakes opener

If you can't make it to Broadway to see the latest star-studded version of Lorraine Hansberry's classic American drama A Raisin in the Sun, you'll probably do just as well to head out to Orinda and catch California Shakespeare Theater's season-opening production.

Director Patricia McGregor's production offers a superb cast and makes a case for Hansberry's play to be in the pantheon of American dream plays alongside Miller, Williams and O'Neill.

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Can’t resist the charms of Mr. Irresistible

Jun 05

Can’t resist the charms of <i>Mr. Irresistible</i>

There's a lot of old-fashioned musical theater charm in Mr. Irresistible, a new musical by D'Arcy Drollinger and Christopher Winslow now having a short run at the Alcazar Theatre. It's a new-fashioned musical in the sense that there's camp, drag, sass, murder and a ménage à trois, but there's also a sort of sweet familiarity to it all that keeps everything grounded in the realm of appealing musical comedy.

Winslow's appealing music and Drollinger's smart book and lyrics are what might happen if you cross Little Shop of Horrors with 9 to 5.

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Hats off to Beach Blanket at 40

May 28

Hats off to <i>Beach Blanket</i> at 40

I've had the privilege of covering three Beach Blanket Babylon anniversaries for three different newspapers: the 20th for the Bay Area Reporter, the 30th for the Oakland Tribune and now the 40th for the San Francisco Chronicle. Steve Silver's extraordinary show just keeps going and seems to get stronger and faster with time (hey, it's the bionic musical revue!). For this anniversary, I talked to the boys in the band and some longtime and famous fans. The story links are below.

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