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Local Theater Spotlight: Beauty and the Beast

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Beauty and the Beast” isn’t necessarily my favorite Broadway offering, but it has some sentimental value for me personally, which is why I had to take part in it’s week-long run, currently housed at the Palace Theatre in Columbus, Ohio.

Though I’ve seen every Broadway tour to come through Columbus in the past six years, “Beauty and the Beast” is the only show I’ve actually seen on Broadway in the Big Apple, coupled with the fact that it was my favorite Disney movie growing up. I and my sisters often pranced about the living singing at the top of our lungs to Alan Menken’s popular score (much to my mother’s chagrin).

The 1994 Tony-winning, Broadway blockbuster beautifully transforms from the screen much to the work of it’s top class costume (Ann Hould-Ward) and scenic designs (Stanley A. Meyer). The stage becomes a masterpiece all its own.

Tim Rice joined the Academy Award winning team behind the movie to add seven new songs, but I wasn’t very impressed with the additions. Gaston’s “Me,” Belle’s “Home” and the Beast’s “If I Can’t Love Her” fall quite short in comparison to classics “Belle,” “Be Our Guest” and the title tune.

The cast however pulls out fantastic performances, especially Hilary Maiberger as Belle. It wasn’t until her act two aria “A Change In Me” did I really feel like I was watching a Tony-worthy showcase.

The show also infuses a healthy dose of comedy, which I appreciated.  Jeff Brooks as Gaston and Jimmy Larkin as his bumbling sidekick Lefou add hilarity with their Three Stooge-likes physical comedy exchanges.

“Beauty and the Beast” is definitely more of a showcase for your kids, the bright costumes and colorful moving backdrops, paired with the physical comedy will keep any 6-year-old on the edge of their seat, but as for me I’ll stick to with my fond memories of the film.

“Beauty and the Beast” runs through Oct. 14 at the Palace Theatre, 34 W. Broad Street, Columbus. Visit CAPA.com or Ticketmaster.com for more information. 

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Local Theater Spotlight: Broadway in Columbus 2012-13 (BEST. SEASON. EVER.)

CAPA just released the Broadway Across America schedule for Columbus and I’m in total shock. The 2012-2013 season will be my fifth year covering the theater scene here in Columbus and this will definitely be the best yet. The list surprisingly features a host of very recent hits (“War Horse,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” “American Idiot”), a couple crowd-pleasing Broadway blockbusters (“Wicked,”  “Beauty and the Beast”) and some of my favorite classics (“Les Miserables,” “White Christmas”).

Check out the full list below with descriptions courtesy of CAPA.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
October 9-14, 2012
Palace Theatre (34 W. Broad St.)

Based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature film, this eye-popping spectacle has won over the hearts of more than 35 million people worldwide. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped in a spell placed on him by an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity. This timeless musical love story is filled with unforgettable characters, lavish sets and costumes, and dazzling production numbers including “Be Our Guest” and the beloved title song.www.BeautyAndTheBeastOnTour.com

WHITE CHRISTMAS
November 20-25, 2012
Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.)

The classic holiday movie White Christmas comes to the stage at last! This brand new musical shines with classic Berlin hits like “Blue Skies,” “How Deep is the Ocean?” and of course, the unforgettable title song. Irving Berlin’s White Christmas tells the story of two buddies putting on a show in a magicalVermont inn and finding their perfect mates in the process. Full of dancing, laughter, and some of the greatest songs ever written, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas promises a merry and bright theatrical experience for the whole family! www.WhiteChristmastheMusical.com 

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET
February 5-10, 2013
Palace Theatre (34 W. Broad St.)

Million Dollar Quartet is the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical inspired by the electrifying true story of the famed recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. On December 4, 1956, these four young musicians were gathered together by Sam Phillips, the “Father of Rock ’n’ Roll,” at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions of all time. Million Dollar Quartet brings that legendary night to life with an irresistible tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations featuring timeless hits including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “That’s All Right,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Matchbox,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog,” and more. www.MillionDollarQuartetLive.com 

AMERICAN IDIOT
March 19-24, 2013
Palace Theatre (34 W. Broad St.)

Direct from Broadway, the smash-hit musical American Idiot tells the story of three lifelong friends forced to choose between their dreams and the safety of suburbia. Based on Green Day’s Grammy® Award-winning, multi-platinum album and featuring the hits “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “21 Guns,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “Holiday,” and the blockbuster title track, American Idiot boldly takes the American musical where it’s never gone before. With direction by Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening), choreography by Steven Hoggett (Black Watch), and orchestrations and arrangements by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), the result is an experience Charles Isherwood of The New York Times declares, “thrilling, emotionally charged, and as moving as any Broadway musical I’ve seen this year!” www.AmericanIdiotTheMusical.com

WAR HORSE
April 23-28, 2013
Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.)

A remarkable tale of courage, loyalty and friendship. England, 1914. As World War One begins, Joey, young Albert’s beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry and shipped from England to France. He’s soon caught up in enemy fire, and fate takes him on an extraordinary journey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man’s land. But Albert cannot forget Joey and, still not old enough to enlist, he embarks on a treacherous mission to find him and bring him home. This powerfully moving and imaginative drama, filled with stirring music and songs, is a show of phenomenal inventiveness that is currently playing to packed houses in London andNew York. At its heart are astonishing life-sized puppets created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, that bring to life breathing, galloping, charging horses strong enough for men to ride. www.WarHorseOnStage.com

LES MISERABLES
May 14-19, 2013
Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.)

Cameron Mackintosh presents a brand new 25th anniversary production of Boublil & Schönberg’s legendary musical, LES MISÉRABLES, with glorious new staging and dazzlingly reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo.  This new production has been acclaimed by critics, fans and new audiences and is breaking box office records wherever it goes. The New York Times calls this LES MISÉRABLES “an unquestionably spectacular production from start to finish.” The London Times hails the new show “a five star hit, astonishingly powerful.”  The Star-Ledger says “a dynamically re-imagined hit.  This ‘LES MISÉRABLES’ has improved with age” and NY1-TV proclaims “this new production actually exceeds the original. The storytelling is clearer, the perspective grittier and the motivations more honest. Musical theatre fans can rejoice: ‘Les Miz’ is born again.” Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, LES MISÉRABLES is an epic and uplifting story about the survival of the human spirit.  The magnificent score of LES MISÉRABLES includes the classic songs “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “Do You Hear the People Sing?,” “One Day More,” “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” “Master Of The House” and many more.

WICKED
June 5-23, 2013
Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.)

Back by “Popular” demand! Variety calls Wicked “a cultural phenomenon,” and when it last played Columbus in 2010, it broke box office records for attendance and sales. Winner of 35 major awards, including a Grammy and three Tony Awards, Wicked is “Broadway’s biggest blockbuster” (The New York Times). Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkinland, two girls meet in the land of Oz. One, born with emerald green skin, is smart, fiery, and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious, and very popular. How these two grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good makes for “the most complete – and completely satisfying – new musical in a long time” (USA Today). www.WickedTheMusical.com

Local Theater Spotlight: ‘Shrek the Musical’

Lukas Poost as Shrek, Andre Jordan as Donkey, and Liz Shivener as Princess Fiona in SHREK THE MUSICAL 2011 – 2012 national tour, photo by Joan Marcus

A big ugly ogre crooning about love while farting isn’t exactly what most would call high class theatrical art. But somehow that’s what was on display at Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street,Columbus) as “Shrek the Musical” rolls through town this week.

Well, maybe not high class, but definitely theatrical.

The bubbly and brightly cloaked cast romped through two and half hours of DreamWorks’ popular green creation. The book pretty much sticks to the first “Shrek” in the four-part movie franchise. Ogre meets girl. Ogre falls for girl. Girl to marry evil king. Ogre saves girl from evil king. Girl turns out to be an ogre. Beauty only skin deep message beat over your head. Story ends with catchy pop song.

If you’re a fan of “Shrek” you’ll love this show. If nothing else it’ll make you the “coolest guy ever” in the wide eyes of your 9-year-old nephew. And there’s more than a few well-placed jabs at theater favorites, from “Gypsy” and “Les Miserables” to “Wicked” and “Rent.”

Leading players Lukas Poost as Shrek and Liz Shivener (a Columbus native) as Princess Fiona are adorable enough. Shivener adds that sassy kick to Fiona, reminiscent of Cameron Diaz’s take on the role in the films. And Andre Jordan mostly dons the familiar annoying and slap-happy jabber that Donkey, Shrek’s self-titled sidekick, played by Eddie Murphy in the films. But the highlight for me is Merritt David Janes as the short and ultra campy Lord Farquaad. Janes performs a majority of the show on his knees (no pun intended) and his scene-stealing comedic timing garnered most of the night’s big laughs.

The flashy sets and costumes definitely do the job of keeping grade-schoolers intrigued, which makes sense as Tim Hatley’s costume designs were the show’s only Tony Award win, out of 8 nominations, in 2009. It also makes sense that the show isn’t the total disappointment that I was expecting. Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rabbit Hole,” “Good People”) is responsible for the show’s book and lyrics, while Olivier Award-winner Jeanine Tesori Olivier (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”) composed the music. And the tour is being directed by Stephen Sposito, Associate Director of the wildly successful recent revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” starring Daniel Radcliffe.

Just imagine you’re watching the film play out live mixed with a host of catchy modern musical theatre numbers in the same style as “Legally Blonde” and “The Book of Mormon” and you’ve got “Shrek the Musical.”

“Shrek the Musical” runs Jan. 10-15 at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street, Columbus). Tickets begin at $28, to purchase visit www.ticketmaster.com. For more on “Shrek the Musical” visit ShrektheMusicalonTour.com.

Local Theater Spotlight: Broadway in Columbus 2011-12

When I heard about the new CAPA/Broadway Across America season in Columbus this year, I have to admit I squealed with delight. Some of my favorites and a couple shows I’ve been dying to see are coming our way this year and next!

The first show that immediately caught my eye was “Billy Elliot the Musical.” I’ve been wanting to see this show since I heard they were finally turning it into a musical in 2008 and especially when the show swept the Tony Awards in 2009. It’s based off the AMAZING 2000 movie that was directed by Stephen Daldry and written by Lee Hall, who also wrote the musical with Elton John.  I’m bummed they had to move the show from earlier in the fall to March, due to scheduling conflicts with the tour, but happy it’s coming nonetheless.

I was also excited to see “Memphis” on the list. I don’t know too much about this show, but it did pull an upset at the 2010 Tony’s, winning for Best Musical and few other big awards. According to Wikipedia, it’s about famed radio DJ Dewey Phillips, who was one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s. It’s supposed to be amazing, so I can’t wait to learn more about it.

Some old favorites are also joining us this season. “Mamma Mia” and “West Side Story” (which recently saw a Tony-winning revival on Broadway). “Mamma Mia” is always a crowd pleaser and you can’t doubt the classic brilliance of “West Side Story.” I’m not too thrilled about “Shrek” or “Blue Man Group,” though I’ve heard the latter is pretty good, but we’ll see how those go.

Check out the full schedule below. All shows at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street, Columbus) or Palace Theatre (34 W. Broad Street, Columbus). For tickets head to Ticketmaster.com or call 614-469-0939.

“Mamma Mia,” Dec. 13-18, 2011, Palace Theatre

“Shrek The Musical,” Jan. 10-15, 2012, Ohio Theatre

“Blue Man Group,” Feb. 7-12, 2012, Palace Theatre

“Billy Elliot,” March 20-25, 2012, Palace Theatre

“West Side Story,” April 17-22, 2012, Ohio Theatre

“Memphis,” May 29-June 3, 2012, Ohio Theatre

What do you think? Are you excited? Hate this season’s list? Sound off in the comments!

Local Theater Spotlight: ‘Jersey Boys’

Tonight the Ohio Theatre hosted a “press night” for its three-week run of Jersey Boys, as the national tour sets up shop in Columbus through September 4.

Broadway’s 2006 Best Musical Tony-winner about the sordid rise of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons (America’s Beatles before The Beatles), definitely pleased the mostly middle-aged audience at the packed Ohio Theatre. An intense standing ovation immediately struck as soon as the last chord of the group’s 1975 hit “Who Loves You” was strung.

The show was electrifying. And though my only experience with The Four Seasons has been “oldies” radio and the late Heath Ledger’s swoon-worthy performance of “Can’t Take My Eyes of You” in the 1999 Julie Stiles vehicle 10 Things I Hate About You, it had me captivated from start to finish. The musical is a true testament to the undeniable longevity of classic music. (Interesting side note: The real Frankie Valli, who, surprisingly, is still touring at age 77, will be making his way through Columbus for a holiday show Dec. 9.)

Anyone who hasn’t seen “Jersey Boys” could easily dismiss it as your typically clichéd jukebox musical. A simple male rip off of Dreamgirls. The rags-to-riches tales of pop music stars has been told and retold for centuries. And the story about a group of Italian rough necks fromNew Jersey that make it, against all odds, to the top of the Billboard Charts during the 1960s is as cliché a tale as they come. Not to mention, classic hits like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man” and “Bye Bye Baby” have been heard in more movies and commercials than one would care to remember.

So why then does “Jersey Boys” still rock the house in 2011?  Again, it goes back to a cliché. Brilliant storytelling will always pay.

Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s Tony-nominated book breaths new life into the Bob Gaudio music and Bob Crewe lyrics that made The Four Seasons legends. Brickman and Elice perfectly build the first act, filled with the ruckus behind Four Seasons originator Tommy DeVito’s (Matt Bailey) shady tactics, toward that first hit that finally put the quartet on the map. When Joseph Leo Bwarie (Frankie Valli) sings the last note of “Sherry” the crowd erupts with satisfaction. Brickman and Elice somehow transports you back to 1962, it’s as if you’re actually watching the group “make it” in real time.

Bailey, Bwarie, Steve Gouveia (Nick Massi) and Quinn VanAntwerp (Gaudio) are a harmonizing dream team as the four leading men. It’s as if Valli’s signature falsetto was transplanted into Bwarie’s vocal chords.

The show’s visuals are equally stunning. Howell Binkley’s Tony-winning lighting nearly steals the show on its own. The Lichtenstein-style projections, period video footage and Jess Goldstein’s era-eccentric costumes perfectly enhanced the spectacle.

We’ve seen many of the themes in this show before—a family torn apart by a traveling musician, fame dangerously heightening a man’s addiction (this time it’s gambling), the drama of a budding star outshining the rest of the group—but we haven’t seen a jukebox musical that’s well written, well staged and well orchestrated from top to bottom, until Jersey Boys.

“Jersey Boys” runs through September 4 at the Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State Street, Columbus. Tickets are $57.50 to $127.50. Call 614-469-0939 or visit www.broadwayacrossamerica. com.