Hey MMT Fam! The Met: Live in HD is returning for its 12th season beginning October 7, with a new production of Bellini’s Norma directed by Sir David McVicar, conducted by Carlo Rizzi, and starring one of the world’s most acclaimed Normas, Sondra Radvanovsky.
Live in HD audiences around the world will see ten live performances from the Met’s 2017-18 season, and two lucky MMT subscribers will be in the mix starting with Saturday’s live performance!
To put your name in the hat, you must be signed up to this website and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Norma” and your full name and address in the body. Two winners will be selected and notified on Thursday, October 5.
You can see the 2017-18 season schedule and trailer below, and get tickets and additional information at the official website here.
Season at a Glance: The Met: Live in HD 2017-18
The HD season will begin on Saturday, October 7 at 12:55 p.m. with Norma. Future transmissions are as follows: Die Zauberflöte (October 14 at 12:55 p.m.);The Exterminating Angel (November 18 at 12:55 p.m.); Tosca (January 27 at 12:55 p.m.); L’Elisir d’Amore (February 10 at 12:00 p.m.); La Bohème (February 24 at 12:30 p.m.); Semiramide (March 10 at 12:55 p.m.); Così fan tutte (March 31 at 12:55 p.m.); Luisa Miller (April 14 at 12:30 p.m.); and Cendrillon (April 28 at 12:55 p.m.). All ten operas will be Saturday matinee performances, transmitted live from the Met stage. All start times are Eastern Time; for local start times and rebroadcast information, please visit www.metopera.org/season/in-cinemas/.
Last night was my first time seeing Fun Home, the 2015 winner of five Tony Awards – including its historic win for Best Musical, the first ever for a show written exclusively by women (Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori).
Based on a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, the story follows protagonist Alison (Kate Shindle) through a reflective journey of her life – from childhood (Carly Gold) through young adulthood (Abby Corrigan) – as the mysteries that lied within begin to unravel and expose truths about those closest to her – her mother Helen (Susan Moniz) and particularly her father Bruce (Robert Petkoff).
At its core, it’s the story of a woman who comes to terms and accepts complicated circumstances by learning to view them through a different lens.
I didn’t know what to expect, and hadn’t read much about the production prior to watching, but to say that I related to this play on an unexpected level is an understatement. The musical is raw and honest, displaying a universal truth of how adults better understand parents, good or bad, with maturation and acceptance. And I for one certainly reflected on how this truth pertained to my life by the final curtain.
And the play juggles candid and difficult content with refreshing humor – a favorite of mine was the scene with the child actors performing a commercial for their father’s funeral home!
In short, this is a play well worth seeing if you have the opportunity – just be prepared with facial tissue, if you’re a thinker and empath like myself, because you may accidentally get something in your eyes. 🙂
“Fun Home” is playing now through June 18 on Broadway Philadelphia at the Forrest Theatre. Tickets and information available at kimmelcenter.org.
I really can’t say enough about “Motown the Musical,” which is still playing at the Academy of Music on Broadway Philadelphia. I was impressed by mostly everything – the energetic performances, the beautiful costumes and stage design, and the fact that it was an approximately two-hour sing-along of classic Motown hits chronicling the journey of founder and business mogul Berry Gordy.
I chatted with the actor portraying Gordy, Chester Gregory, prior to last week’s press screening and more recently spoke with Mr. Jarran Muse – who gives a magnificent performance as the late, legendary singer/songwriter/musician Marvin Gaye. Muse has also performed on Broadway (NYC) in Motown The Musical, Irving Berlin’sWhite Christmas, Dreamgirls, and has toured in American Idiot, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, 42nd Street.
How much interaction have you had with Mr. Gordy, or any artist related to Motown, and what was the best piece of advice you were given by them?
“We have had a lot of interaction with Mr. Gordy. He wrote this show and is one of the lead producers. This is his life story, so he holds it very close to his heart. We also have interactions with all of the living Motown legends. They come to see the show whenever we are close to them. They all told us they were so happy that we were keeping their legacy alive.”
You’ve portrayed on Broadway, and now this touring production, one of soul music’s most beloved and iconic artists, the late Marvin Gaye. What has been the most memorable fan reaction you’ve had since you started playing him?
“I love playing Marvin Gaye. One day, a lady was at the stage door while the cast was signing playbills and chatting with her group. She kept saying, ‘And that Marvin! Oh God, he looked just like him and sounded like him too! Oh, I just can’t! Where is Marvin?’ Someone pointed to me, as I signed her book, and said, ‘That’s him right there!’ She squealed so loudly, dropped all of her belongings, gave me the tightest hug and said, ‘Let’s Get It On!’ Definitely the best. (laughs)”
How much research did you do for the role, and what was the most surprising thing you learned about Mr. Gaye while doing so?
“I did a lot of research – reading books, watching videos of performances and interviews – and had a lot of one-on-one time with Mr. Gordy. Prior to that, I didn’t realize that Marvin grew up a preachers kid, and was an extremely shy person.”
You’re a Jersey native and graduate of Philly’s University of the Arts. What are you most looking forward to during this Philly tour stop, and what places will you recommend the cast/crew check out while they are in town?
“I didn’t graduate from UARTS, but the time I spent there was well needed. I am looking forward to hanging in Old City and Rittenhouse Square. I will definitely tell them to go to the Art Museum, and down South Street. Those were some of my favorite places.”
MMT signature question: If you could portray any artist – past or present – any genre on the big screen, who would it be and why?
“I actually want to portray Marvin Gaye in his life story. Marvin’s role in Motown the Musical is significant, but the world needs to really know how complex his life was. There has never been a Marvin Gaye story, and the time is now!”
And the time is also now for anyone who has yet to see this hit stage play, and for those who need to see it again! “Motown the Musical” runs on Broadway Philadelphia at the Academy of Music through Sunday, June 11. Tickets and info are available at kimmelcenter.org, and follow Jarran Muse for updates at jarranmuse.com.
Happy Memorial Day weekend MMT Fam! A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Motown founder and legend Berry Gordy, and his best friend the legendary singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson, and to say that I had a fan girl/out of time/space experience was an understatement! The only words I could speak, after Mr. Robinson decided to walk up to me and plant a kiss on my right cheek, were “Can we take a picture?” And he graciously obliged. I was a bit more articulate with Mr. Gordy after the event, which honored Gordy with the prestigious Marian Anderson award, and was able to state how much I adored him as a child and still to this day.
So, although it was a disappointment to me that both the screening of a movie that I’ve awaited forever – “Wonder Woman” – and a musical telling the story of Mr. Gordy and his founding of Hitsville, U.S.A. were on the same night, I really had no problem choosing the latter – “Motown the Musical.”
The musical, which broke Philly box office records back in 2015, returns for a two-week engagement starting this Tuesday, May 30.
Earlier last week, I chatted briefly with Chester Gregory, who is reprising the role of Berry Gordy after portraying him on Broadway last year, and he gave some insight into his experience with the production and his interactions with Mr. Gordy. Gregory’s Broadway credits also include Hairspray, Tarzan, Cry-Baby and SisterAct, and he has toured nationally performing in Dreamgirls and his one-man show The Eve of Jackie Wilson.
Let me start by saying I am a Motown “fiend!” I’ve met both Mr. Gordy and Mr. Smokey Robinson and went straight into fan girl mode. How much interaction have you had with Mr. Gordy, or any artist related to Motown, and what was the best piece of advice you were given by them?
“I am honored to say that I’ve had a lot of interaction with Mr. Gordy. He is very involved in our production, making refinements as he sees fit. Much like he did with actual Motown artists of that era. One thing I have learned is to never look down on your accomplishments. Keep them high and you will always be grateful for them.”
You’ve portrayed Mr. Gordy, who’s arguably a genius in the music industry, on Broadway and now this touring production . How much research did you do for the role, and was it intimidating to have him involved in the project?
“I have studied Mr. Gordy for several years. Honestly, it is a dream that manifests itself daily and, strangely enough, it’s not intimidating. I want to learn all I can from him so, when he gives notes, I aim to tap into his mindset and make sure I deliver that intention. As an actor, I’m excited to get notes – they can add depth to the work!”
Now, the MMT signature question is typically – If you could portray any artist, past or present any genre, on the big screen, who would it be and why. But I also know you’ve portrayed Jackie Wilson on stage. So, if there’s a different answer I certainly welcome it, but would also ask if it was a big screen biopic – what else would you bring to Mr. Wilson’s story that you couldn’t do with the musical/stage play?
“You are 100% right! It has been a dream of mine to portray Jackie Wilson on the big screen, and that is because film captures a moment forever, for future generations to see.”
In addition to acting and singing, Mr. Gregory is a songwriter and producer. You can follow him on social media @ChesterGregory and learn more about his work, and that Jackie Wilson stage production “The Eve of Jackie Wilson,” at chestergregory.com.
Now for the even better part! Want to win a pair of tickets to the show for Thursday, June 1 on Broadway Philadelphia? You must be subscribed to this website and send an email to email@example.com with the subject line “Motown” and describing your favorite Motown memory/song in the body. One winner will be selected and notified on Tuesday, May 30.
“Motown the Musical” opens on Broadway Philadelphia at the Academy of Music on Tuesday, May 30 and runs through Sunday, June 11. Tickets and additional information are available at kimmelcenter.org.
Oh, to relive the music/message/love story/dance (any combination thereof) mashup movies of the 80’s! Many of us Music Movie loving old-schoolers remember Jennifer Beals dancing for her life in Flashdance (1983), Tom Cruise’s infamous underwear wearing floor slide in Risky Business (1983), the hip-hop, R&B and rap infused themes of Beat Street and Breakin’ (both 1984), Kevin Bacon fighting for prom and love in Footloose (1984), the loosely based and celebrity filled account of Russell Simmon’s story in Krush Groove (1985), Taimak’s fierce martial artistry and the late Vanity’s “7th Heaven” in The Last Dragon (1985), and then came 1987’s “Dirty Dancing” – when we learned that some got quite freaky in the Catskill Mountains in the 60’s and “nobody puts Baby in the corner!”
Flash forward 30 years, and not only are we getting the chance to relive the magic of Dirty Dancing in a new ABC network film set for a May 24 release – with Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes taking on the iconic roles of Baby Houseman and Johnny Castle that were immortalized by Jennifer Grey and the late Patrick Swayze on the big screen – but there is a touring production of the beloved classic, and Philadelphia is lucky enough to host the musical at the Merriam Theater one week before the TV movie premieres.
MMT took time to chat with Jennifer Mealani Jones, who’s taking on the role of Penny Johnson (remember that character? the pregnancy, the abortion, the scandal!) when the show hits town and who also has several ties to the Philly area. Ms. Jones, a native of Ellicott City, MD, attended the prestigious University of the Arts in Center City, was a Philadelphia 76er Dream Team dancer, as well as a member of the famed Philadelphia Dance Company (Philandanco).
Dirty Dancing has enamored audiences for three generations, officially turning 30 this August. Were you a fan of the original film and, if so, what impacted you most?
“I was a huge fan of the original film. I felt like I related to Baby so much when I was younger. I was shy but passionate, not very graceful but hardworking, and I had the hair to match. I also was the wallflower that was attracted to all the bad boys I never thought I had a chance with (laughs).”
What do you most look forward to while bringing this project back to Philly, an area where you once resided/went to school?
“I can’t wait for my professors, people I used to dance/work with, and all my friends still in Philly to come see the show. I can only hope I’ve grown since college. Also, most of the people above have only seen me dance and now they’ll see me act. I am really looking forward to some feedback.”
What can audiences expect from the stage adaptation that varies from the film?
“It’s everything you loved in the movie plus so much more. There are more dance scenes, live singing, and you get a closer look into Johnny and Baby’s relationship, Baby’s parents, Billy(Johnny’s cousin) and Elizabeth (one of the staff gals), and all the staff kids too.”
Tell me about some of your favorite Philly hangouts and where are you recommending the cast/crew visit while they are here?
“I have so many. I’ll definitely stop by Bru, Han Dynasty, Jose Pistolas, Honeys and PYT in Northern Liberties, Passyunk Square for brunch, Silk City for sure, and some spots in Fishtown because I hear it’s changed so much since I lived in Philly. The list is endless but it’s safe to say I’ll be eating well while I’m visiting.
I’ll send the cast to South Philly to get a cheesesteak, either Pat’s or Geno’s, and tell them to stop into Garage Bar. Of course they’ll have to take a walk around Rittenhouse Square, maybe check out Xfinity Live on a Saturday night, and go up and down all the bars and restaurants on Sansom street. Oh and Old City! I used to frequent Lucy’s. I just hope most of these places are still here.”
MMT signature question: If you could portray any artist (any genre/art form) – past or present – who would it be and why?
“That is so hard. My first instinct is to say Gwen Verdon, but I would do anything to do some of the numbers Cyd Charisse performed and oh my goodness Chita! Chita Rivera!
I think out of all of the Goddesses though, past and present, I would go with Barbra Streisand. Funny Girl is my favorite movie and she is just my favorite woman – with her power, class, and humor. I would do anything for a voice like hers.”
Check out Jennifer Mealani Jones as Penny and the rest of the Dirty Dancing– The Classic Story On Stagecast at the Merriam Theater May 16-21. Tickets and additional information are available now at kimmelcenter.org.
I’ll be honest, I’d never once watched Rodgers and Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I – musical nor theatrical versions, although due to pop culture references I can hum most of the tunes – prior to the Wednesday opening of the Bartlett Sher directed adaptation at Philly’s Academy of Music. Many of the versions years earlier were “whitewashed” in the choices of casting and it never appealed to my senses (you can read a very detailed piece from a 2015 Playbill on the cultural evolution of the casting for the play here).
However, I was quite surprised by the extremely well-acted performances, the casting diversity, the elaborate costumes and beautifully crafted stage sets, and a story that actually challenged the status quo with anti-racist and anti-sexist rhetoric for the period in which it was set.
Based on the semi-biographical novel Anna and the King of Siam (1944) written by Margaret Landon, which was adapted from memoirs written by Anna Leonowens, the musical tells the story of a widowed British schoolteacher named Anna who is hired by King Mongkut of Siam to teach his wives and children, and assist with bringing new concepts to Siam – in an effort to “modernize” it and head off imperialistic rule.
Leads Laura Michelle Kelly (Anna Leonowens) and Joan Almedilla (Lady Thiang) were both forces and I enjoyed them immensely, but it was Jose Llana in the lead as King of Siam with his comedic timing and Manna Nichols as the love-struck Tuptim with her magnetizing voice that really made the play for me.
And the ballet “The Small House of Uncle Thomas,” a visualization of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” performed to entertain British nobility at a reception in Act II, was also a highlight – and one of a few references to slavery in the play.
In short, I enjoyed the THE KING AND I way more than expected and would recommend you checking it out while it’s in town. Running now through April 2, there are tickets available for $20 – but I would suggest taking advantage and build a Broadway season package, since you can see 2 shows for as little as $55.20 per person (and 3-show packages amount to approximately $18.40 a show). Additional ticket and show information is available at kimmelcenter.org.
I remember when James Cameron’s Avatar hit theaters in 2009 and, not at first taken by the hype, I chose to forgo seeing it in theaters and waited for home video/viewing instead. Boy was I in for a shock! Why didn’t I see one of the most breathtaking and visually stunning films in this generation in 3 or 4D like everyone else?! Promptly feeling like the late knucklehead that I was, it goes without saying that I’ve regretted that decision ever since I sat at home – thoroughly enjoying my journey through Pandora with a fictional people called the Na’vi. And last night, I got to continue that enjoyment with Cirque Du Soleil’s latest creation TORUK: The First Flight, now playing in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center.
“Toruk” tells a story inspired by Cameron’s “Avatar” that predates the film by thousands of years. It follows protagonists Entu (Guillaume Paquin) and Ralu (Jeremiah Hughes), as they travel on a quest to locate the great and mystic Toruk and save the Na’vi, and all that they cherish, from harm.
With a super talented ensemble, composed of performers from all parts of the globe, the audience was treated to captivating choreography and dynamic physical feats, complemented with amazing stagecraft and a beautiful score. And to add to the uniqueness of the show, the audience was able to interact with the production before, during, and after the performance with a first of its kind SAP application (downloadable at iTunes here).
In short, TORUK: The First Flight is worth seeing up close, and something the entire family can look forward to enjoying. Click here to get info about performances at the Wells Fargo Center through March 12 (tickets start at just $30); and get additional information, including full schedule and tickets, at www.cirquedusoleil.com/toruk.
Whether you are a lover of the film The Bodyguard, or in the camp that brushed it off as a cheesy love story, there’s one thing on which most people agree – the soundtrack was, and is, magnificent. So, it’s no wonder that a musical adaptation, since its 2012 opening, has taken stages across the world by storm, and will make its début tonight in Philadelphia at the Academy of Music.
With an energetically talented cast, led by the multi-platinum selling artist Deborah Cox in the lead role of Rachel Marron, made famous by the legendary Whitney Houston, and a book by Alexander Dinelaris adapted from Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay, The Bodyguard: The Musical incorporates the Grammy award-winning soundtrack along with songs from Houston’s discography – including “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “So Emotional,” and “One Moment in Time.”
Also a part of this production is Jasmin Richardson, who takes on the role of Rachel’s sister Nicki Marron. No stranger to the theater stage, Ms. Richardson has been in the National/ International tours of Memphis (Felicia) and Dreamgirls (Deena). She’s also recognizable from her media campaign with Clinique Cosmetics.
MMT asked Ms. Richardson a few questions, including her reflections on the late Ms. Houston, working with Ms. Cox and what theater goers can expect from the musical version of the story.
February 11th marked the fifth anniversary of Whitney Houston’s passing and The Bodyguard is one of her most highlighted works. What are your reflections of Ms. Houston and her in the landmark role of Rachel Marron?
Whitney Houston is one of a kind and can never be replaced. Her voice is timeless. She was sexy, classy and very out spoken; she was the ultimate superstar.
Were you a fan of Ms. Houston’s prior to he being cast in the musical, and do you have any favorite Houston songs (to sing or listen)?
I learned how to tell a song through listening to Whitney’s music. The way she nuances a song was dynamic and her vocal ability is unmatched. She was known as the “The Voice” – it doesn’t get any bigger than that.
For those who’ve yet to see the show, what differences from the movie should they expect?
It really is a romantic thriller, so that cinematic element is woven into the script. My character Nicki has more of an arc (than the film), and you get to know her a bit better in our show. We also have additional songs intertwined into the story, not just the ones from The Bodyguard soundtrack.
What has been your favorite fan/audience member reaction to this production so far?
We opened in Jersey and it was nice to have a lot of hometown fans come and give us their stamp of approval. That was a wonderful way to start the tour.
Were you a fan of Ms. Cox prior to the musical and what is it like working with her on set?
Absolutely! She’s a beautiful person inside and out, and she has truly set the tone for our tour. She is a singing masterclass every night on stage, and amazing to work with.
MMT signature question: If you could portray any artist (any medium) past or present, who would it be and why?
Maya Angelou because she was a light on this earth. She had a beautiful way with words, especially when it came to addressing the plight of the black woman and her inner strength.
Speaking of the plight of the black woman, and in the spirit of #BlackGirlMagic, please share one piece of advice to young girls/aspiring artists coming to see musical?
Commitment to your craft and consistency are key. You have everything it takes to succeed. Work hard and trust yourself. Anything is possible!
The Bodyguard: The Musical runs February 21-26. Tickets and information are available at kimmelcenter.org.
And what would a Valentine’s Day be without including a love story contest?! MMT is excited to giveaway tickets to THE BODYGUARD the musical starring Deborah Cox! The show makes its Philly début next week, February 21-26, at the Academy of Music and we’re giving away passes for Wednesday night.
Adapted from the film which starred the late Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, the musical follows former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, who is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge; what they don’t expect is to fall in love. A breathtakingly romantic thriller, The Bodyguard features a host of irresistible classics from the film, as well as Ms. Houston’s repertoire, including Queen of the Night, So Emotional, One Moment in Time, Saving All My Love, Run to You, I Have Nothing, I Wanna Dance with Somebody and one of the biggest selling songs of all time – I Will Always Love You.
To try your luck at winning, you must be a subscriber of this website (and remember following MMT on Facebook always increases your chances) and send an email that includes your full name and a short message, telling us about your Valentine and why they deserve a night out, to firstname.lastname@example.org. One subscriber will be selected and notified on Saturday, February 18.
The Broadway Philadelphia season was jump-started last night, with the opening of the four-time 2015 Tony Award winner AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. Inspired by the 1951 Gene Kelly led film, the musical follows four people in a story of dreams and love pursued during the aftermath of WWII in Paris.
While it varies in the hidden love triangle of the film, now a love “squared” that worked well in driving the plot of the musical, the audience watches the four main characters (Adam, Jerry, Lise, and Henri) in triple-threat actions of acting, singing, dancing through scenes of love longed, love found, loved promised, and love released.
The musical is a grand display, filled with exquisite dance performances – including the climatic 17 minute ballet that was a hallmark of the original movie – set to the timeless score of George and Ira Gershwin, with such ageless classics as “I’ve Got Rhythm,” “‘S Wonderful,” and “They Can’t That Away From Me.”
I was very impressed with the set design, which appeared minimal but beautifully intricate, and even more impressed with actors/dancers physicality – as they moved the set along, while they danced and sang throughout the musical. And the costumes were extraordinary in their ode to one of the most stylish fashion periods to ever exist.
Lead actors Garen Scribner (Jerry Mulligan) and Sara Etsy (Lise Dassin) seemed born to play their respective parts with displays of euphoric, and at times melancholic, dancing. It was beautiful to witness such emotion relayed through movement.
I also greatly enjoyed the witty and spot-on performances of both Nick Spangler (Henri Baurel) and Etai Benson, who played the lovelorn, pianist/war veteran Adam Hochberg – and added much-needed comic relief to a story that sometimes was somber in its discussion of effects of the Nazi invasion.
In terms of standard running time, the musical is a bit long at almost three hours. However, the story is enjoyable and visual a feast. I will give a disclaimer for those who may not be fans of, or are new to, the theater. My companion for the night, not sure which of the two aforementioned categories they would fall, literally fell a sleep (who does that at the theater?) and seemed to not be as impressed with the performance.
In all honesty, if you are not a fan of ballet, musicals, or at least open to varying forms of performance art, this might not be the musical to start. But if you enjoy a good love story, and are a fan of theater (and ballet, which is definitely the bonus in this one), you will find this musical to be more than a pleasant experience.
AM AMERICAN IN PARIS will run at the Academy of Music through November 23. You can get additional ticket and showtime information at the official website here.