The heat is on in La Mirada, where “Miss Saigon” blows into the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts and transports the audience skyward. Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s phenomenally successful Vietnam War-era gloss on “Madama Butterfly” receives a sleekly staged, wonderfully performed revival that heightens this critic-proof popera’s strengths and obscures its frailties, to impressive effect.
Joseph Anthony Foronda conveys spontaneous wit and sardonic grit as the pimping, visa-obsessed Engineer. This character, the evening’s emcee and narrative engine, could descend into leering hamminess, but Foronda expertly balances sleaze, pragmatism and realism, from the opening “The Heat is On in Saigon” onward.
That milieu-setting number, where gyrating hookers vie for the highest bidder, introduces virginal 17-year-old heroine Kim, played here by the luminous Jacqueline Nguyen. Reportedly the first Vietnamese actress to star in a major “Saigon” production, Nguyen’s emotional acuity and water-clear soprano convinces throughout, especially in tandem with golden-voiced Kevin Odekirk as American G.I. Chris, their duets soaring and potent.
So is the whole ensemble, committed to Dana Solimando’s adroit choreography, gorgeously harmonizing under musical director John Glaudini’s baton. Lawrence Cummings as Chris’ buddy, Aidan Park as Kim’s betrothed and April Malina as the winner of the titular contest have such vocal and dramatic intensity you wish their parts were larger. Preternaturally poised Ken Shim as the 3-year-old plot pivot steals every heart, and Cassandra Murphy gives the thankless role of Chris’ American wife a full-throated conviction that wouldn’t shame Idina Menzel.
"Matilda the Musical," based on the popular book by Roald Dahl, was the big winner at the Olivier Awards on Sunday, scooping up the prize for best new musical plus six other awards. The Oliviers are Britain's highest theater honor, the London equivalent of Broadway's Tony Awards.
The seven wins for "Matilda" was an Olivier record. The musical was produced by the Royal Shakespeare Co. and is playing at the Cambridge Theatre on London's West End. The production also won prizes for direction, by Matthew Warchus; lead actor, for Bertie Carvel; and lead actress, which was shared by the four young actresses who rotate in the musical's title role.
"Collaborators," by screenwriter John Hodge, won the Olivier for best new play. The drama, at the Cottesloe Theatre, tells the story of a writer who is commissioned to write a play about Josef Stalin.
A satanic figure slithers up onto the water tower of a mythical Mississippi town called Lake Belle Reve, takes in the family feud down below and utters a self-satisfied literary pronouncement that seems to sum up the dramatic intentions of this show’s famous authors.
“It’s Tennessee Williams in hell,” says this tattooed ring-meister character called the Shape. “I love it.”
It’s true. The Spanish moss fairly drips over “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” the new musical by Stephen King (book) and John Mellencamp (music and lyrics) that opened Wednesday night at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. These first-time musical theater writers are infatuated with the idea of the Southern Gothic.
There may be some gothic elements to the production itself. King and Mellencamp have been working on it for 12 years, having been paired by a mutual agent. The show was originally scheduled to premiere at the Alliance in 2009 but Mellencamp had disagreements with the director, so a new one, Susan V. Booth (who runs the Alliance), was brought aboard.
The story ricochets between 1967 and 2007. As a boy, central character Joe McCandless (Shuler Hensley) secretly witnessed his two brothers — and the girl they were fighting over — die. Forty years later, he fears his two warring sons may be headed for a similar fate. King's conceit is to have the ghosts of the past mingling with the real-time story. (And, in an instance of art imitating the life of its authors, one of the McCandless sons (Justin Guarini) wants to be a rock star, while the other (Lucas Kavner) has just sold his first novel for half a million dollars.)
The Shape (Jake La Botz) lives in a shadow world somewhere between a “True Blood” vampire king and the MC in “Cabaret.” The show's premise may be thin but he is slithering, salacious, manipulative, delightful.
There are negative reviews, and then there is the kind of critical assassination practiced by Rex Reed, the veteran uber-critic whose current vulture perch is at the New York Observer. Once a powerful critical presence, Reed has long since been co-opted by the very cultural scene he once dissected, which has turned him into a Capote-esque shadow of his former self.
But in a review this week of Broadway's "Evita," Reed proves that he still has some bite left. The critic tears apart the revival production, starring Ricky Martin, with a gleeful ferocity that is a rare sight in today's rather genteel critical atmosphere.
"Can nothing be done, once and for all, to get rid of 'Evita?'" he writes. "Here it is again, worse than ever and revived on Broadway for no logical reason except to cash in on Ricky Martin's fame as a pop star."
Reed describes the production as "sprawling, overproduced, clumsily directed and strangely emotionless." He writes that Andrew Lloyd Webber's music is "derivative" and that Tim Rice's lyrics are "repetitive," reducing the story of Eva Peron to a "second-rate operetta."
"The Lion King" has dethroned "The Phantom of the Opera" as Broadway's all-time box-office champion. The Disney musical, based on the popular animated movie, has grossed a total of $853.8 million since opening on Broadway in 1997.
The gross figure, which represents Broadway box-office receipts only and not worldwide revenue, was confirmed by a spokeswoman at Disney Theatrical Productions. She said the figure has not been adjusted for inflation.
"Phantom" has grossed approximately $853.1 million since opening in 1988.
The crowning of "The Lion King" as Broadway's new box-office leader comes with a caveat, however. The Disney musical has benefited from higher ticket prices than "Phantom."
Figures provided by the Broadway League show that the average ticket price for "The Lion King" was recently $155.09, compared with a recent average ticket price for "Phantom" of $98.97.
"The Nutty Professor" has been a lucrative property for Jerry Lewis. The original 1963 movie was a commercial hit, and so was its 1996 remake starring Eddie Murphy. Lewis has been working on a stage musical version of the movie, which will have its world premiere later this year in Nashville, organizers said Wednesday.
The musical is set to open at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, where it is scheduled to run July 24 to Aug. 19. Michael Andrew will play the role of professor Julius Kelp, a nerdy scientist who develops a smooth-talking alter-ego named Buddy Love. Andrew is a singer and performer who has appeared on a number of Lewis' telethons benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Assn.
As previously reported, Marvin Hamlisch, the Oscar and Tony-winning composer, is writing the music for the show. The book and lyrics are by Rupert Holmes. Lewis won't star in the musical but he will direct it.
The show's out-of-town tryout in Nashville is being regarded as a warmup for a planned Broadway run. No announcement has been made about if or when the show would open in New York.
-- David Ng
Photo: Jerry Lewis and Stella Stevens in the 1963 movie "The Nutty Professor." Credit: Paramount
Amy Adams has featured her vocal chops in the movies "Enchanted" and last year's "The Muppets." Now the three-time Oscar nominee will have a chance to sing for live audiences on a daily basis in the Public Theater's revival of "Into the Woods" in New York's Central Park.
The musical, featuring songs by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, takes characters from several Brothers Grimm fairy tales to create an original story. "Into the Woods" debuted in 1986 at the Old Globe in San Diego and premiered on Broadway the following year, winning multiple Tony Awards.
The Public's revival is set to run at the Delacorte Theatre from July 23 to Aug. 25.
Gavin Creel, the Tony-nominated actor who starred in the 2009 Broadway revival of "Hair," will trade in his love beads for the Holy Scripture when he joins the national tour of "The Book of Mormon," which kicks off this August in Denver.
The tour's second stop will be at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, for a 12-week engagement starting Sept. 5.
Creel is set to play Elder Price, the bright-eyed Mormon missionary of ambiguous sexuality. The role is played on Broadway by Andrew Rannells. No other casting for the tour has been announced.
"The Book of Mormon" follows elders Price and Cunningham as they travel to a remote African village for their mission. The musical was created by "South Park's" Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Robert Lopez of "Avenue Q." Parker directed the show with Casey Nicholaw, who is also the choreographer.
The musical has been a hit on Broadway since opening last year. It won nine Tony Awards, including the award for best new musical.
Creel received Tony nominations for "Hair" in 2009 and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" in 2002.
-- David Ng
Photo: Gavin Creel. Credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press
Gladys Knight, Amy Grant and Kenny G are the leading stars of the Pacific Symphony’s 2012-13 pops season in Costa Mesa, with four members of the original Broadway cast of “Jersey Boys” and two former witches from the “Wicked” franchise also in the mix.
The season at the Segerstrom Center’s Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, announced this week, also includes a multimedia tribute to George and Ira Gershwin, as well as a movie night (May 9-11, 2013) at which the orchestra will provide live accompaniment to Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds in a screening of “Singin’ in the Rain.”
“Wicked Divas – An Evening of Broadway Hits” (Nov. 15-17) stars the team of Alli Mauzey, who grew up in Anaheim Hills and went on to play Glinda in "Wicked" on Broadway, and Julia Murney, a former Elphaba from Broadway and touring companies of “Wicked.” They'll sing songs from hit musicals, among them both "Wicked" and “The Wizard of Oz.” Murney's credentials include surviving Broadway's critically pilloried “Lennon,” in which she was one of the nine actors who took turns playing John Lennon. Her reading of "Beautiful Boy" was one of the few moments that critics liked in the 2005 disaster.
Three of the “Jersey Boys” original Broadway cast veterans -- Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer, who played Four Seasons Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi, respectively -- perform June 13-15, 2013, as will Michael Longoria, who played several parts, including a young Joe Pesci, while understudying (and eventually succeeding) the original Frankie Valli, John Lloyd Young.
The Pacific Symphony’s announcement says that the show is “not a performance of, nor affiliated with the show 'Jersey Boys.'” Instead, the foursome, billed as the Midtown Men, will sing a repertoire of harmony-driven oldies, with the Beatles, Beach Boys, Temptations and Jackson 5 on the menu along with the Four Seasons.
Susan Boyle can add a new category to her showbiz resume. The Scot, who became an international celebrity in 2009 when she belted show tunes on the reality TV show "Britain's Got Talent," is the subject of a new stage musical, aptly titled "I Dreamed a Dream." The show had its world premiere this week in Newcastle, England.
The title of the musical is a nod to the song from "Les Miserables" that made Boyle famous when she first appeared on "Britain's Got Talent." Her ascent from an unknown amateur singer to a TV and Internet sensation forms the arc of the stage musical, which stars actress Elaine C. Smith in the role of Boyle.
The cast of characters also include Boyle's parents, Pat and Bridie, as well as a childhood friend and her manager. The musical deals with Boyle's rise to fame and how she coped with constant media attention.