MMT Quick Review of THE KING AND I now playing on Broadway Philadelphia through April 2

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.

Until next thought, Thomasena

 

MMT Quick Chat with THE BODYGUARD: THE MUSICAL’s Jasmin Richardson

The Bodyguard February 21-26 Academy of Music Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
The Bodyguard, February 21-26, Academy of Music Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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.

 

 

GIVEAWAY: THE BODYGUARD THE MUSICAL on Broadway Philadelphia February 21-26

THE BODYGUARD THE MUSICAL

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 contests@musicmoviesthoughts.com. One subscriber will be selected and notified on Saturday, February 18.

You can get a glimpse of the show in the preview below and purchase tickets for the show at kimmelcenter.org or click here.

Good luck!

 

MMT Quick Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (Broadway Philadelphia)

An American in Paris

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.

Until next thought, Thomasena

 

 

BROADWAY PHILADELPHIA jump starts its 2016-17 season with AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (November 23-27)

An American in Paris

The Philly holiday season is shining brighter with the start of the Broadway Philadelphia (#BWYPHL) 2016-17 season! This year features an outstanding lineup of hit plays/musicals including “The Bodyguard,” “Cabaret,” “The King and I,” “Motown the Musical,”  “Wicked,” and the season opener AN AMERICAN IN PARIS – which premieres on November 23.

The most honored new musical of 2015 and winner of four Tony Awards®, “An American in Paris” is the romantic story about an American soldier, a mysterious French girl, and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war. Directed and choreographed by 2015 Tony Award-winner Christopher Wheeldon, the show features the music and lyrics of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin and a book by Craig Lucas.

I look forward to the #BWYPHL season starting, and have enjoyed many shows from seasons past – including last year’s outstanding performances of “Beautiful: A Carol King Musical,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Matilda.” With tickets starting at just $20, what a great way to share the magic of the theater with the family – young and old alike!

Get additional information about AN AMERICAN IN PARIS Broadway Philadelphia performances below, www.kimmelcenter.org, or at the official website here.   And stop back and share a comment or two if you see the play!

Until next thought, Thomasena

Broadway Philadelphia “An American in Paris” dates/times are as follows:  

November 22, 2016, 7:30 p.m.

November 23, 2016, 1:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

November 25, 2016, 8:00 p.m.

November 26, 2016, 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

November 27, 2016, 1:00 p.m. November 27, 2016, 6:30 p.m.

Tickets start at $20.00 and can be purchased by calling (215) 893-3333, visiting www.kimmelcenter.org, or at the Kimmel Center Box Office. Group sales are available for groups of 10 or more and can be purchased by calling (215) 790-5883. Get additional information about the BWYPHL season at kimmelcenter.org.

 

MMT Quick Review: ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ on Broadway Philadelphia

Beautiful

I have adored Carol King all of my life. One of my songwriting muses, she is one of those writers who drew me in with catchy melodies and honest lyrics, whose emotions were so powerful even my toddler spirit was called to join in song. That’s the magic of Carol King. And I dare you to play any of her hits in a crowd, and not elicit some form of group sing from several gathered – her stuff is just that infectious.

And infectious certainly describes the experience Tuesday night at the opening of BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROL KING MUSICAL on Broadway Philadelphia at the Academy of Music. The production is a jukebox experience that follows the story of King’s rise to superstardom – from her teenage aspirations to become a songwriter, to her collaborations with former husband Gerry Goffin, to her setting records as one of the most successful solo artists in music history – with her landmark album “Tapestry.”

The play is also a clever synopsis of King’s life behind the music – including her marital joys and pains – and involves several key characters, including friends and fellow hit makers Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil whose music is also prominently featured, and smartly placed, in the production.

Lead actress Amy Mueller is remarkable as King, appearing in almost every non-group (e.g. The Shirelles, The Drifters) related scene while simultaneously balancing dialogue and song – and her vocal range is amazing. All of the cast’s voices were impeccable – and the actors who portrayed The Shirelles (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow), The Drifters (“Up on the Roof”), Little Eva (“The Locomotion”), The Righteous Brothers (singing Mann & Weil’s hit “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”) and Janelle (One Fine Day) really brought the house down with their performances.

Other parts of the production that really wowed were the stage production and costume designs. The audience literally watches the outfits donned by The Shirelles and Little Eva transform in front of our eyes – much like the set that readily changed from living rooms, to office spaces, to studios, to the final Carnegie Hall scene in a matter of seconds.

I highly recommend anyone in the Philly area that enjoys great music, especially fans of Carole King, to see this play before it leaves the Academy – now playing through April 3. Tickets start at just $25 and it certainly will be money well spent.

Until next thought, Thomasena

 

MMT Quick Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST on Broadway Philadelphia

Beauty and the Beast

Happy Friday MMT Family! I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST here in Philly on Tuesday, and watching a good bit of the audience promptly revert back to their childhood – some in front of their children, LOL!

The production is a glorious display of the Disney story – based on the French fairy tale of the same name written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont – which features former human prince “Beast,” played humorously by Sam Hartley, whose entire household has been cursed by an enchantress for his less than lovely behavior. The only way the spell can be lifted is if Beast finally learns how to truly love someone – and be loved by that person in return. Enter Belle, delightfully portrayed by Brooke Quintana, who exchanges her freedom for her captive father in the Beast’s castle, and the race the break the curse begins!

My favorite things about the play were the elaborate costumes and set designs, the crowd-engagement scenes, and Ryan N. Phillips as “Lumiere” stole my heart – yes, I had a kiddie moment myself during Lumiere & ensemble’s “Be Our Guest” routine!

I will say that I’ve always taken issue with the aggression of the male characters – i.e. Gaston, and Beast initially – towards Belle. And between the former and the mild sexual suggestions (ooh & some of the costumes were a bit risqué), I wouldn’t recommend this play for itty bitty pre-schoolers – oh, but some of the kids looked adorable dressed in Belle and other character costumes for their night out at the theater! So, it really is up to an individual’s discretion – but please be forewarned.

All-in-all, the musical is a fun watch of the old story that many know and love, and it’s on Broadway Philly #BWYPHL through Sunday, February 21. You can get additional information about BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at www.kimmelcenter.org.

Stop back and share your thoughts if you check it out!

Until next thought, Thomasena

GIVEAWAY: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical (Philadelphia, PA)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (photo: Kimmel Center)

Hey MMT Fam, I have a great giveaway for you today. There were certain Christmas TV specials that were must-sees for me when I was a child – A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and last but certainly not least Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer! I still have to hear the Temptations’ version of the holiday song to usher in my Christmas season! So it’s with pleasure that I offer one lucky subscriber two tickets to RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER: THE MUSICAL next Thursday night, December 17 at the Merriam.

Want to put your name in the hat? Send me an email with the subject line “Rudolph” to thinkmusicmovies@gmail.com with your full name in the body. I will select one winner at random and notify by Sunday, December 13.

This is sure to be a great family event for the holidays! You can read the below synopsis and watch the video, and get additional information about the play – including ticket/purchase information – here or at www.kimmelcenter.org/broadway.

Good luck family! Until next thought, Thomasena

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical synopsis

In 1964, the beloved stop-motion animated television classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, made its network television début delighting audiences across the country. The “most famous reindeer of all” from the longest-running and highest-rated television special is returning live on stage when Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical makes its Philadelphia Premiere December 17–20 at the Merriam Theater. This presentation, part of the Broadway Philadelphia season, serves as the perfect outing for families and fans of all ages.

MMT Quick Look: MATILDA THE MUSICAL

matilda

Hey MMT Fam! I had the pleasure of going to a press night showing of MATILDA THE MUSICAL here in Philly at The Kimmel Center. When I say it was one of the best theater moments I’ve experienced, I am not exaggerating!

I was not familiar with the Matilda story, having never read the beloved novel by Roald Dahl or watched the 1996 film starring Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman. But I was in awe watching the talented cast in this play, especially Mabel Tyler – who portrayed Matilda on the night I attended and is on stage for almost the entire show (note: there are three young ladies who are alternating this role during its Philadelphia run). She also spoke fluent Russian during one comical scene – I mean she and the other kids in this show are astounding!

All of the cast, children and adults included, are on point. The acting, singing, and dancing is superb, and the stage/set visuals are fascinating!

And Bryce Ryness (Miss Trunchbull), Quinn Mattfeld (Mr. Wormwood) and Ora Jones (Mrs. Phelps) were joys to watch on stage. I left the theater thinking about children in my family, and those of my close friends, that I needed to bring to see this play before it left town!

The show will run at the Kimmel through Sunday, November 29. It would be a great outing for the kids during the Thanksgiving holiday! You can get additional info and tickets at the Kimmel website here. You can also catch a glimpse of the show in the below video!

Until next thought family, Thomasena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY: tickets to ‘The Kimmel Center Presents PHILADANCO Having Our Say…..’ (Philadelphia, PA)

PHILADANCO! The Philadelphia Dance Company

Happy Sunday MMT Family! I’d like to extend holiday wishes to everyone celebrating Resurrection Sunday, and those who celebrated Passover this weekend! Now on to the giveaway…we have five pairs of tickets to the upcoming Philadelphia Dance Company’s, better known as PHILADANCO, annual Spring concert – being held this year at the Kimmel Center April 17 through April 19.

Now in their 45th Season, PHILADANCO continues their legacy of breaking barriers and building bridges across cultural divides. It is also making its home as a resident company of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts’ Perelman Theater.

Want to put your name in the hat? You must 1) be a subscriber of this site and 2) send an email to thinkmusicmovies@gmail.com with the subject line ‘Philadanco’ and your full name in the body. Winners will be selected at random and notified by Monday, April 13.

To find out more info and purchase tickets to The Kimmel Center Presents PHILADANCO Having Our Say…..visit the Kimmel’s website at www.kimmelcenter.org.

Alright, good luck family!  Until next thought, Thomasena