Alysha Umpress as Cee Cee (left) Mara Davi as Bertie (right). Photo by Margot I. Schulman.
For a number of years, Broadway musicals based on their respective movies have been a staple on the Great White Way. In fact, more than one-third of the musicals currently on Broadway were films before they were ever stage productions. While some of these live adaptations fare very well with audiences, producers often find that taking a beloved film, musicalizing it, and then putting it on stage is a risky venture. One of the major reasons new productions are put through a series of workshops and premieres before opening on Broadway, in fact, is to gauge the potential success it will have and to edit and make changes along the way.
Signature Theatre has been instrumental over the years in assisting these budding new shows find footing by producing their world premieres in its Arlington facility, with almost 40 productions to date, including their current musical, Beaches. Based on Iris Rainer Dart’s 1985 novel, which the 1988 film with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey was adapted from, Beaches follows two friends through a 30-year friendship. One a brash performer, the other a WASP-y blueblood, these seemingly different women forge a powerful companionship when a chance meeting on the beach as young girls in the 1950s leads to a lifelong friendship that tests the bonds of sisterhood and shows the strength of friendship. Continue reading
Get ready to share your love for DC. On Saturday, April 5 at the Anacostia Arts Center, We Love DC is joining collaborative theater company LiveArtDC in holding the first annual LiveArt in a Day. We want your ideas to help create this unique presentation of five 10-minute plays that will be written overnight by local playwrights, rehearsed the next day, and performed twice that night only.
LiveArt in a Day will feature two performances of the plays, at 7pm and 9pm, in addition to three sets by local bands The Iris Bell, South Rail, and Clarence Buffalo, and a silent auction. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. All proceeds from the evening will benefit LiveArtDC (that rhymes with “Give Art DC”), a DC-based company of artists who believe in the power of collaboration to create engaging stories for theater. You may have seen their inaugural show I Heart Hummels at the Capital Fringe Festival. Now it’s your chance to join in the collaborative fun.
During the LiveArt in a Day event, plays will explore the sites, personalities and events that make DC the special place it is. But, we need your ideas to make it happen.
What are your quintessential DC experiences, the stories that make living here so unique? What locations or personalities would you want a play built around? How about that time you entered the annual High Heel Race? Or pelted an ex at the Dupont Circle Snowball Fight? Proposed at the DC World War I Memorial? Cried at the Eastern Market fire? Sat next to Kojo Nnamdi at the Kennedy Center? Started a family in Brookland? Shadowed Ian MacKaye at the Black Cat? There are so many possibilities. From simply telling us your favorite landmark or your favorite local character, to sharing more complex stories, we want to hear them all.
Share your ideas on We Love DC in the comment section below with Leave a Reply, or tweet your ideas with hashtag #liveart24 to @liveartdc. We’ll select the most promising and creative ideas for the LiveArt in a Day playwrights to choose from, and they’ll craft their plays from your themes.
Your love for DC, your life in DC. All in a day. Let’s go.
Stan Kang, Al Twanmo, Rafael Untalan, Mark Hairston, Tonya Beckman, Jacob Yeh (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)
Correction: This article originally referred to the closing date of Yellow Face as March 9. The production ended on February 23. We apologize for the mistake.
I had Theater J’s production of Yellow Face in my crosshairs ever since they first announced it would be a part of their 2013-2014 season. It sounded like a natural follow-up show to Signature’s Miss Saigon which I reviewed this past fall. The David Henry Hwang piece is a “based on true events” biographical tale of his life advocating for Asian American actors in the wake of the “yellowface” casting of Jonathan Pryce in the Broadway production of Miss Saigon in the early 90s. With that premise I knew that racial themes would be a big part of the piece, especially when Theater J invited me to speak on a panel about the subject.
However the show was much more than I originally expected. It’s a highly entertaining yet poignant story about the Asian American struggle as an invisible minority despite their reputation as a model minority. Just as films like 12 Years a Slave and Fruitvale Station are being touted as important films of the past year for their racial themes, I feel that the exploration of race in Yellow Face is important enough to say that this is one of the most important shows to see right now.
Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone onstage. Photo credit Joan Marcus
If a musical theatre lover were to create a bucket list, it would be a very safe bet to assume that seeing Patti LuPone or Mandy Patinkin perform live would be on the list. Both of them are Tony-award winners and legends of the stage and screen, with numerous credits to their names, so the opportunity to see LuPone and Patinkin individually on stage is enough to send shockwaves of excitement through any artistic community. To see them perform together, though, is tantamount in the theatrical community to the winning of the powerball lottery or finding the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. And if a person were lucky enough to see them perform together at a venue like the Eisenhower theatre in the Kennedy Center, and if it were not only every bit as good as you imagined, but even better (if that were possible), it would be a very safe bet that the bucket list would then have be retired completely, as the chance to see anything like it ever again is as rare as Haley’s comet.
Fortunately for the DC community, the above hypothetical situation is a current reality, and an amazing one at that. An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, directed by Patinkin himself with choreography by yet another Tony-award winner, Ann Reinking, and musical direction by Paul Ford, is in town for eight performances only and is worth cancelling all other plans this weekend in order to see this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Continue reading
The company of American Idiot (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)
Pop hits start and finish this stage musical version of Green Day’s American Idiot. The production, in its third U.S. tour at the National Theatre, opened strong with “American Idiot” and ended with a touching cast rendition of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” However between the curtain rise and fall is a performance that certainly packs all the moody, angst-filled energy you would expect but suffers from a story that feels too contrived to be anything more than a 90-minute live-action music video.
Photo Courtesy of Grandstand Media
After passing through the area to play an intimate solo acoustic show at Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville, VA as part of the Buncearoo Presents series this past summer, Graham Colton returns to the DC-area this weekend to promote his newest album Lonely Ones. Colton’s efforts on his latest release are a result of working hard to push himself as an artist and collaborate with trusted friends and musicians.
Catch the DC-area installment of the Lonely Hearts Tour at Jammin’ Java this Sunday, February 23.
With the release of Lonely Ones and the tour you’re currently on, what can you tell us about your artistic reinvention and how would you describe the catalyst that encouraged you to get outside of your comfort zone?
I wouldn’t say it’s a reinvention but more of a snapshot of who I am and where I am now. My life looks and feels totally different than a few years ago and I hope it means I’ve grown a lot. I put my creative trust in my friends in Oklahoma and for the first time didn’t travel to Nashville, LA, or NY to ‘make music.’ These are some of the most talented musicians I’ve ever worked with and all of them know where I’ve come from but wanted to push me into a new space. Continue reading
Andreu Honeycutt, Dawn Ursula, Joe Isenberg, Holly Twyford. Photo courtesy of Stan Barouh.
The experience of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company‘s We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915 starts as soon as you walk onstage. Yes, onstage. In another effort to explore integrating the audience further into the experience of Woolly’s 34th season (earlier in the season Woolly split the house in half for productions of Detroit), audience members are ushered into the house through the backstage. Drinks are served in the wings and there is a set of risers where patrons can enjoy the show from the back of the stage looking into the house. The new seating configuration for We Are Proud to Present… is very much theater-in-the-round. Placing the audience all around the actors also makes sense for a show where the actors are going back-and-forth between acting in a show and revealing the process of putting on the show. It’s a level of meta-physical that is beyond simple Frank Underwood-like asides.
Jackie Sibblies Drury’s piece isn’t really about the African history lesson described in the title but rather the process of telling that story, and how even true stories can be influenced by the people who tell them. It is within that process that We Are Proud to Present… finds both its most comedic and strikingly powerful moments.
Joey deBettencourt as Boy and Megan Stern as Molly in Peter and the Starcatcher. Photo by Jenny Anderson.
Before actually seeing it at the Kennedy Center, all I knew about Peter and the Starcatcher was that it was somehow tied into the Peter Pan story. A look at the cast list, however, revealed only one familiar character, Smee (Captain Hook’s legendary sidekick), but no Peter, Wendy, Nana, and certainly no Hook. I also knew the show had won five Tony awards in 2013 during its Broadway run. What I didn’t know was how brilliant and funny it was, how innovative it was, or how incredibly directed it was, leaving me only to question why it didn’t win all the Tony awards. It was certainly worthy of it.
Although it starts out a bit like a Shakespeare play, with the audience just trying to figure out the world in which the show is set, who is who, what is what and how the poetic language is to be interpreted, mere minutes are all that are required to become lost in the fanciful and magical world of creativity. Based on a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, writer Rick Elice, directors Roger Brees and Alex Timbers, and a slew of phenomenal designers including Donyale Werle (set), Paloma Young (costumes), Jeff Croiter (lights), and Darron L. West (sound) have envisioned a production so innovative that it’s hard to imagine ever having to sit through any other play without being unimpressed. Continue reading
Erin Driscoll as Violet with Kevin McAllister and James Gardiner in the Ford’s Theatre production of the musical “Violet,” directed by Jeff Calhoun. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
When the entire plot of a two-act show centers around the emotional scars present due to a very large physical scar and said scar (or even hint of it) is not actually present on the face of the leading character, who spends more than two hours on stage focusing solely on the fact that the invisible scar ruined her life, I have a hard time being sympathetic. When the same character continues to verbalize how ugly she is and then repeatedly and ignorantly insults an African-American man, who is always kind to her, for his physical appearance, I have a hard time respecting her. When she then engages in a sexual fling with his white army buddy who is cruel and disrespectful to her, and Act I ends with her naively believing that she has found love in this meaningless one-night stand, I have a hard time understanding her.
In Act II, when the protagonist’s deceased father appears to her in a vision of sorts to aid in her emotional healing and all she does is blame him for making her ugly (it was his loose axe blade that caused her physical deformity in the first place), I have a hard time even liking her. And then, after both the vision of her father and her journey to a faith healer fail to heal her physical or emotional scars, she is met at the bus station by the two servicemen who both profess their love to her. When this happens, with no explanation why the cruel man has changed his tune or why the kind man would want to be with a woman who has been so awful to him, I have given up.
Such was my experience with Violet at Ford’s Theatre. Although most of my criticism stems from blaring gaps and issues with writing team Brian Crawley and Jeanine Tesori’s script and director Jeff Calhoun’s failure to clarify some of these issues, the decision to not give actress Erin Driscoll, who plays the 25-year old Violet, the massive scar around which the entire show revolves meant that from the opening moment of the show, I was dismayed. Continue reading
Natalie York wants to rock. That’s her goal. And in a climate chock full of male rockers, her goal isn’t unfathomable but rather something to respect, admire, and follow.
This past week, York released her second full-length album titled “Promises,” which is an album crafted with that exact goal in mind – rocking out.
When York released her first album in 2010, the collection of songs ended up being a production effort associated with her final senior project at the University of Miami. While proud of the efforts on that debut album, York is finally ready for chapter two of her young and promising music career.
Tonight Theatre Washington announced the nominees for the 30th annual Helen Hayes Awards. The DC Theatre community gathered on the stage of the National Theatre, a departure from the Helen Hayes Gallery where the nominees were announced in previous years. The new backdrop made for a great setting for both the people on-hand and the many who watched the nominations through Theatre Washington’s live webcast.
Arlington’s Signature Theatre led the board with a total 20 nominations while Woolly Mammoth Theatre led shows with a total eight nominations for their production of Stupid Fucking Bird.
Nominees for Outstanding Resident Play include Woolly Mammoth’s Stupid Fucking Bird and The Convert, Round House Theatre’s Glengarry Glen Ross, Arena Stage’s Good People and The Mountaintop, Ford Theatre’s The Laramie Project, and Folger Theatre’s Romeo & Juliet.
Nominees for Outstanding Musical include Olney Theatre’s A Chorus Line, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Keegan Theatre’s Cabaret, Signature Theatre’s Gypsy, Ford & Signature Theatre’s Hello, Dolly!, Signature Theatre’s The Last Five Years, and The Rocky Horror Show from Studio Theatre 2nd Stage.
This will be the last year before the awards takes on a new format, however one notable change this year is the split of choreography awards into two categories: choreography in a musical and Outstanding movement in a play. Also the term “non-resident”, used for tours and other shows that are simply hosted in the city, has been changed to “visiting.”
The full list can be found below, the winners will be announced on Monday April 21st, 2014 at the National Building Museum, a change from the awards usual home at The Warner Theatre. With a new venue and a new show format allowing attendees to roam about the floor with drinks in hand; I can assure you that this year’s Drama Prom Diary will be one for the ages.
Once again Awards Season is in full effect and for Oscar Watchers like me, there’s an extra week to catch-up on films this year thanks to the Winter Olympics. So if you are up to the challenge of watching all nine Best Picture nominees, or perhaps you are like me and will try to watch all 58 nominated films, here are some tips on taking on the challenge and here is an updated breakdown on where you can find this year’s Academy Awards nominees in The District before the March 2nd ceremony.
Last night, playing in front of a sold out crowd at the 930 Club, Phosphorescent laid down a poignant, vibrant, and captivating show.
Matthew Houck, the sole member of Phosphorsecent, donned a cream white, eagle crested bolero jacket paired with a straw cowboy hat and glistened in front of the stage’s shimmering floor to ceiling metallic curtains. Backed by a seven person band, Houck pulled from his six albums to lay down a serious jam session set along the lines of the Allman Brother’s Jessica and Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir; one seriously got lost in the wonderous, free-flowing sounds Houck and his band created.
Photo Courtesy of The 18th Street Singers
There’s this (nearly) perfect moment in vocal music when a chorus of individuals come together to not only sing four-part harmonies broken up into individuals parts but rather a moment when the group creates a pure tone of unadulterated sound on pitch. This is not only a goal for the 18th Street Singers, this is what they do.
Earlier this fall, I spent some time watching the 18th Street Singers in their natural habitat — their rehearsal space at First Trinity Lutheran Church — and I was quick to learn that this group is comprised of passionate voices from many different walks of life all coming together for a common purpose.
The 18th Street Singers’ Executive Director Benjamin Wallace took some time to speak with us one-on-one via e-mail to answer our questions regarding the group and their upcoming performances on Friday, January 24 and Saturday, January 25.
Tell us a bit about how you originally got involved with the 18th Street Singers? How do you fit into the overall puzzle?
I have been involved with the 18th Street Singers since its founding in 2004, and let me tell you, my participation was a classic case of being in the right place at the right time. I was living in a group house with a talented conductor (our musical director Benjamin Olinsky) when a tenacious young woman and college classmate of ours approached us saying she missed singing. While there were other choirs in D.C. none of them were exactly what we were looking for. We wanted a younger, hipper, more personable group, so we started brainstorming names and advertising on alumni list, in the paper, and on Craigslist.
It was a pretty humble beginning: I think our first season we had 14 people singing simple four-part harmony. We knew we would need a place to rehearse and perform, and having no money, we were shocked and delighted when the First Trinity Lutheran Church offered to host us. We have had an incredible partnership with the First Trinity ever since and are so thankful for their support for us and the arts. The group grew quickly up to our current size around 45 people, and as we had greater and greater success, we attracted ever more talented members. For me, much of the early days was spent working on fundraising and helping build the kind of social environment we were hoping for. After leaving D.C. for a few years, I was delighted to rejoin the group in 2012, and to start working with our board of directors to keep fulfilling the same aspirations we had in the early days: making music and friends with a fun, talented collection of young people from all walks of life.
Got cabin fever already? Wow…jeez….yeah…..us too. Here are a few spots to escape to – that is if you can make it there safely. Yes, all listed below are open. I checked. If you’ve got other recos, post ‘em in the comments section or reach out to me @digibec
Irina Tsikurishvili as Viola with Ensemble in Synetic Theater’s Twelfth Night. Photo: Koko Lanham.
Synetic Theater has been praised for many years by the artistic community for their innovative visual theatre performance style. Combining movement and music and eschewing verbal dialogue to tell a story, their productions are unique and more eclectic than most other theatre happening in the DC area. The first time I saw one of their shows, I was blown away by the beauty, the fluidity, and the outside-the-box artistry. The second production I saw was also dazzling, but reminiscent of the first production I saw. By the time I saw my third Synetic production, I was feeling that as much as I enjoyed and appreciated what they did, they might be a proverbial one-trick pony. This didn’t stop me from seeing their shows, because I have always been impressed by the stunning design and the graceful movement of the company members, but I began to feel like I knew what I would be getting. For me, Synetic Theater was a place where the “you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all” adage seemed to apply.
But after seeing Synetic Theater’s production of Twelfth Night, I have to amend my former opinions. I now state with absolution that they are not a one-trick pony and have, once again, blown me away by the beauty and outside-the-box artistry unlike anything I have ever seen. Continue reading
It was 2010 and music virtuoso, producer, remixer and collaborator, Jean-Philip Grobler was stuck. The rock project he currently belabored on felt forced, unnatural; he turned to the past, looking for inspiration from Peter Gabriel, Fleetwood Mac, Madonna – potentially DC’s very own Thievery Corporation, for a jolt of inspiration. At this moment of stuckness, the young South African found both the inspiration he was looking for and birthed the idea for a new project that would become St. Lucia.
St. Lucia’s sound is distinct with a solid grounding in the best music from the 80s and 90s, with a constant freshness and an eye towards the future. Think a harmonious, fun mix of Cindy Lauper, Lionel Richie, Rick Astley, John Secada, and All Saints. Throughout my first listen to their first record, When The Night, I was consistently noting rifts, sounds and harmonies that were clearly inspired from previous artists, although I was hard pressed to get specific to the artist or their track. Their sound draws on the past, but evolves it, making it their own.
St. Lucia will be at the BlackCat this Tuesday, and although the show is sold out, I highly recommend going the extra mile to snag a ticket because from my Q&A with Grobler it sounds like the band is going to BRING. IT. Continue reading
(L-R: Sarah Olmsted-Thomas and Alyssa Wilmoth-Keegan in No Rules Theatre’s production of Late: A Cowboy Song. Photo: Second Glance Photography)
Despite the title of Sarah Ruhl’s Late: A Cowboy Song, this early work from a quickly rising playwright is about being trapped rather than being late. The show now playing at No Rules Theatre features a heroine Mary (Sarah Olmsted-Thomas) who is trapped in an abusive relationship and day-to-day bustle that is quickly getting away from her to the point where it feels like she’s living from holiday to holiday. Her exasperated observation about the litany of holidays in a year will ring true to you once you sit down and think about it. Her boyfriend/husband Crick (Chris Dinolfo) is trapped in a perpetual man-child state which involves a love for modern art that borders on unhealthy and extremely needy tendencies. Mary’s childhood friend Red (Alyssa Wilmoth-Keegan) found her escape through her life as a cowboy living outside the city setting of Pittsburgh. The show’s eclectic tastes include musical interludes, interpretive dance, and clever use of props. However, despite a captivating exploration of identity, romance, and the idea of the perfect life, Late is a production trapped in its own complexity. Its lack of polish can be attributed to a playwright’s early work.
Yeah we’re a little late with our monthly concert round-up, but hey even we need a little R n R from concert going and writing. Nevertheless, there are still PLENTY of solid shows left in the month of January, so keeping reading after the jump for recommendations (St. Lucia, Cate Le Bon, Phosphorescent, Delorean, Pixies and MORE) on how you should kick off the first month of your 2014 DC concert goings.
Sherri L. Edelen as Momma Rose in Signature Theatre’s production of Gypsy. Photo by Teresa Wood.
Based on the real-life memoirs of burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee, with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Gypsy has been a beloved musical of mine ever since I was 15 and was fortunate enough to be cast in a local production of it. I have seen a number of productions both on stage (including the 2003 Broadway revival with Bernadette Peters) and screen (with the 1993 film version with Bette Midler my favorite). I can honestly say that Signature Theatre‘s current production was, by far, the best one I have ever seen. It was breathtaking, rendering me speechless. Those who know me realize that is a huge feat.
Between an engaging script and two acts of captivating songs, Gypsy is more the story of Gypsy Rose Lee’s mother, Rose, than it is about her. Although the account of the famous stripper (real name: Louise) and her sister, June, is told—their history as child performers on the vaudeville circuit to June’s running away from home and Louise’s transition from novelty act to burlesque performer—it is only to highlight the journey Rose takes. The quintessential stage mother, Rose foregoes personal relationships, a stable career and home life, and financial comfort so that her children may be stars. It is only when her children and fiancé leave her, their vaudeville careers washed up, and with her life in shambles that Rose realizes all the toiling and strife done in the name of her children were really about fulfilling a dream of stardom for herself that will never come true because she was “born too early and started too late.” Continue reading