Monthly Archives: June 2007

exalted beings

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The front page of the NY Times Dance section was dotted with the news of four internationally acclaimed ballerinas retiring, all at once. The sheer number of farewell articles sent me into a mild panic. Kyra Nichols and Alessandra Ferri’s farewell articles are touching, and a moving tribute to their final performances. Their artistry will definitely be missed.

Another of my favorite ballerinas retired as well: Muriel Maffre gave her final performance on the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House stage this season. One of the most unique dancers I’ve ever seen (standing tall at 5′ 10″), and one of my favorites – she completely stole the show as Diana in Mark Morris’ Sylvia last year even though her part was about one minute long. A reviewer said it well, when reviewing her final performance as the Dying Swan, “the taut silence in the house…spoke volumes about how much this particular Swan means to San Francisco, and how unprepared we are to say goodbye.”

All my favorite ballerinas are slowly retiring at the SF Ballet! First with Joanna Berman (I know that was a long time ago, but I’m still missing her), and now Muriel Maffre. Yuan Yuan Tan better not be next…

“[A ballerina] is an exalted being, and yet we respond to her as if we are her.”

random theater thoughts

Although I am physically in California, my theater self is in NYC still….here’s a few random theater thoughts….

  • Farewell Alessandra Ferri. Love the backstage photos, on M’s blog & thewinger. I remember when I first saw her perform in 2006….she danced Manon with Julio Bocca, what a memorable performance. She will continue dancing in Europe, lucky Europeans!
  • This is the closing week for Company, the Broadway musical, the most underrated musical this season (imho). God knows I’ve lauded it enough on my blog…grab your student ID (or a friend with a student ID), wait in line for an hour, and grab $36.25 front row seats for the show. I guarantee it will be unforgettable. There are rumors that the show will be recorded by PBS, but if not, this may be your only chance to see the performances of Raul Esparza, Barbara Walsh and the perfect ensemble members of this show.
  • The craziest Broadway fan story of the week: Someone in line for the student rush for Jersey Boys (he got in line at 1AM for student tickets that go on sale at 10AM) got punched out by sketchy students hired by ticket scalpers who showed up at the line at 5:30AM (Ticket scalpers have figured out that if they hire high school students to grab student rush tickets, those tickets can be sold to rich people for $300 each). The victim ended up going to the emergency room, filing a police report, suffered a concussion and bloodied lip. Later that evening, he shows up at the show (amazing…but I guess you’d have to show up if you’ve waited 9 hours for tickets) and thoroughly enjoys it. Even I think that is a little too extreme…who would wait 9 hours to grab a student rush ticket!!! Just do standing room, so much easier and safer, apparently. I know no one believes me, but trust me, I am not the craziest Broadway fan out there. But I do sorta understand that guy’s spirit…that show is truly truly worth watching. But not enough for me to suffer a concussion. That’s just craziness.

Jersey Boys, Sherry Cast at the Ahmanson Theater

Jersey Boys, Sherry Cast

I went to see Jersey Boys, the touring cast (Sherry cast) at the Ahmanson on 6/21/2007. While I will remain faithful and loyal first to the Broadway cast (so this review may seem biased), it was interesting to see a completely different cast from the original one.

  • My favorite cast member: Michael Ingersoll. While approaching the character of NIck Massi in a completely different way than Bobby Spencer, Ingersoll gave it an interesting twist. Michael Ingersoll is very different physically from Bobby Spencer; Spencer is tall and has a bit of an edge…while Michael Ingersoll looks so friendly with a twinkle in his eye. It’s a bit odd because Michael Ingersoll isn’t a bass singer, so that was weird. But otherwise, Ingersoll is a softer Massi than Robert Spencer, but equally great at playing the character of Nick Massi. Ingersoll makes the role of Bobby Spencer less of a “Ringo” of the group, which is interesting to see the character “stick out” a bit more among the group. A solid performance, one I found I didn’t really wish I was watching the original Broadway cast member =).

  • No one has a Jersey accent! Very obvious when comparing to the Broadway cast. Chris Kale Jones’ accent faded in and out, and Michael Ingersoll’s was the only consistent one of the group. I thought it was odd that the girls didn’t really have Jersey accents, which I feel really adds to the “local” flavor of the Jersey girls in the musical. If the Sherry cast tours in Jersey, it may be very obvious there.

  • Deven May is also very talented…but his lack of Jersey accent was bothering me. And of course, Christian Hoff’s performance is difficult to erase in my mind. But Deven gave his songs original vocal stylings that made his performance fun to watch.

  • “Oh What a Night” was performed with verve and zest by Erich Bergen, who hammed it up, to the audience’s delight. There was no trap door so the event took place up the stairs…

  • The “stars” in the Sherry cast seems to be Chris Kale Jones (Frankie Valli) and Erich Bergen (Bob Gaudio), whereas the Broadway cast “stars” are John Lloyd Young (Frankie Valli) and Christian Hoff (Tommy DeVito), whom both won Tony awards for their performances. It was odd to see Bob Gaudio getting attention as Bergen does in the Sherry cast, because Gaudio makes a speech about being more comfortable in the background, and hating attention and “drama”. In this sense, Bergen’s portrayal didn’t really seem to fit with the character of Bob Gaudio. Bergen is an obvious favorite with the ladies in the audience.

Whereas I may be a bit too critical of this cast, all in all, it is a solid cast, worthy of a good touring company. I begin to wonder, is the world not

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big enough to have more than two good Frankie Valli’s (John Llloyd & Michael Longoria). The part is excruciatingly difficult…but I’m so used to John Lloyd Young’s brilliant portrayal, equally great in singing and acting… which John does so easily. I suppose one of the things that are sacrificed with commercial success is the lowering of standards to accomodate more casts to tour. While more people will be able to see the show with multiple touring casts and experience some of the brilliance of the show, the original Broadway cast will always hold a special place in my heart.

In the Heights

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Last week, my friend Chinedu and I got rush tickets to see the off-Broadway musical “In the Heights“. It was such a fun night…really cool to see a musical set in the same neighborhood we went to school, it was a refreshing change to see an original musical (not based on a movie) with exciting songs, with talented performers and songwriters involved in this intimate piece. The scenic design for this musical was so fun for us to see; we saw the subway station, bodega storefronts, Washington bridge…all so realistic and reminiscent of our school days in the Heights. :) The mixture of piraguas, salsa dancing, rapping, and graffiti has never been so much fun!

Standouts in the cast were, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is such a geeky, charming, hilarious rapper, an underdog in the romantic sense. Karen Olivo, who literally lit up the stage with her vulnerability, strong female facade, and sexiness…reflective of her past work as Mimi in Rent. Robin de Jesus was so funny as the young, deadpan, pimply cousin …”give him a moment, he’s forming his artistic opinion“…The character of Nina (played by Mandy Gonzales) reminded me of our friend Liz, who is also Hispanic and went to Stanford University.

But simply put, the main star of the show was the music. The music and lyrics were brilliant; Lin-Manuel Miranda, who stars in the show, is also the songwriter and lyricist for the show. That man has talent coming out of his pores. I loved how he weaved rap into the theater; this man obviously loves musical theater as much as he loves rap… and not one overshadows the other. I see him up for the Tony next year!

Do not attend this musical if you’re looking for a completely original story. Some have complained that the story is too “generic”, but I think the beauty of this show is that the story can take place in any neighborhood, in any setting. The setting of Washington Heights gives the story a unique “flavor”, imo. And watch it before it transfers to Broadway! I fully expect to see a performance on TV next year at the Tony awards.

Broadway.com has a fantastic video here, you get samples of the music, dancing and rapping. Here’s a cool video of Lin-Manuel Miranda rapping on the set of the show, and another hilarious video of Miranda as a 10 year old kid. The slight choking in the middle and the perfect execution of the splits hints at the talent of Miranda, even at age 10. Bravo!

introducing the twin sister

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Hi everyone,

Jolene (full disclosure: she is my twin sister) has been nice enough to add me to the saturday matinee blog. I will be doing reviews of theater in NYC (recently seen in the past few weeks), Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.. Upcoming reviews coming soon: In the Heights (off-Broadway), Mary Poppins, and others….! Tons of excitement. Check out my personal blog, http://jenchang.blogspot.com.

Welcome!

ok here is my attempt at keeping a blog, dedicated to my favorite obsession, theater, centered around the Bay Area in California with occasional forays elsewhere. I’m an avid theater goer, and this is going to be a blog about my thoughts, reviews, and opinions about the shows that I see. I’ll also include posts about general theater topics as well and basically, whatever I want to write about. My favorite genres include Broadway musicals and plays, ballet, and classical music, which will probably be the main focus of this blog.

I hope you enjoy!

“And here’s to the girls who play smart–
Aren’t they a gas?
Rushing to their classes
In optical art,
Wishing it would pass.
Another long exhausting day,
Another thousand dollars,
A matinee, a Pinter play,
Perhaps a piece of Mahler’s.
I’ll drink to that.
And one for Mahler!”

-Stephen Sondheim, “Ladies Who Lunch”, Company

i’ve been very impressed with the writing in the dance section of the ny times lately. this article was a beautiful tribute to four ballerinas who are retiring all at once: alessandra ferri, patricia barker, darcey bussell, and kyra nichols. it’s a loss not only for their art, but for what their artistry symbolizes to their audiences.

“Ballet is sexist, not in the crude sense of being biased against women (the opposite tends to be true) but in the sense that it is predicated upon gender distinctions. She, by going on point, will become transformed, ethereal, sublime; he must remain mortal. He may partner her; she may not return the favor….

That ballerina onstage may be tremendous or angelic, but we nonetheless identify with her. Whether we are male or female, white or black, straight or gay, she is also dancing out a voice in our own heads.”

article here.

This article reminds me of the dance history class that I took as an undergrad at Stanford – it fulfilled my “world studies and gender” requirement that was required for graduation. I mean, we read magazine articles on Suzanne Farrell, for homework. These are articles I would have read for fun.

raul esparza did not win the tony???

so unfair – david hyde pierce’s fame as “niles” in frasier trumped raul esparza’s layered and complex performance as Bobby. Not to mention that Company was a much better show than Curtains.

why, world, why??