REVIEW: Island Song @ Davenport Theatre Loft

All Things Broadway, a much beloved Facebook group, presented their first full-length show. The theatre was filled with family, friends and supportive theatre lovers. One of the producers, Eliyahu Kheel, addressed the audience, explaining in a short and heartwarming way the long road that lead to this production.

Island Song presents the overlapping lives of serval busy New Yorkers. The story follows 5 core characters, with actors doubling up to play minor characters. The show offered many opportunities to show off the actors’ vocal range, to my delight. The songs that bookend the show rang out through the theatre with the strong harmonies of a powerful cast.

The staging was interesting and the director, Keira Todd, impressively utilized the space and light of the Loft. The lighting stood out, as the twinkle lights around the room pulsed in time with the emotions and climax of each song. The small theatre space created an intimate atmosphere, and the show felt tailored uniquely for me. Focusing on romance and making it in the big city, the themes of the show resonated with me.

Each of the 5 characters struggled with living in the city and found strength in different ways. The pop songs illustrated the nuanced issues the characters were facing. Will (Mathew Billman) charismatically courted his girl-next-door, Jordan (Stephanie Michele Toups), and Shoshana (Kira Leiva) was just looking for love in all the wrong places. Caroline (Anna Harris) struggled with a purpose. The standout, however, was Cooper (Darren Cementina) who, through his story as a struggling artist, managed to give me goosebumps with his superb vocals.

Although there was a dense amount of songs, and there were some technical issues with the microphones, this show was undoubtedly heartwarming. The community produced show is representative of the great artistic creativity that can be produced with the faith and support of loved ones. Empowering and touching, this production showed me how much heart can be woven into a single show.

3 stars

Tickets for the performance 6/26 can be purchased at the door20180619_212412

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REVIEW: The Fourth Wall @ A.R.T

The fourth wall is an interesting idea for a show, it questions the formatting of plays, of life and of politics. The one-act provided some intellectual stimulation. The show focuses on a husband and wife who are at ends about the arrangement of their furniture. Peggy (Ann Marie Morelli) insists on keeping the fourth wall of their living room empty, which concerns her husband Roger (Stephen Drabiki).

The set design for the show was interesting, and a focal point for the plot. Often the characters address the benefits of a set for a play and are eerily aware of their roles in the show at hand. The constant reminder that the audience was watching a play did not necessarily have the desired effect, as it felt forced rather than enticing.

The gimmick of the play is the self-awareness of each character, and how frequently they refer to their lives being a play. This self-awareness could have developed into something interesting and powerful. Instead, I found it to be slow and convoluted. Characters acknowledge for the majority of the show on the fact they were in a play, rather than subtly and slowly coming to a realization.

Roger, Peggy, Julia (Pamela Sabaugh), and Floyd (Nicholas Viselli) weave their way through increasingly ridiculous plot driven by a need to acknowledge their presence is confide within a play. The plot, which centred around Peggy’s need for a blank fourth wall, fell flat. Some comments about the fourth wall were insightful. The perplexing wall can and often represents the hollowness of humanity, which at times during the show is a powerful image. However, the depiction of human connection and the depths it requires is quickly drowned out by forced puns, silly jokes, and dry dialogue.

Including an actress who is wheelchair bound and an actor who is hard of hearing felt like a profound choice. Julia stood her ground as a central character to the story and continued developing alongside her co-stars. This casting felt powerful, and despite the show feeling flat, the addition of all-ability casting made a significant impact on me.

There were several songs sprinkled throughout the play. The songs served little purpose, other than to act as transitionary moments between scenes, as confessed by the characters themselves. It seems these songs were there to add time to the show. It was disappointing that there were no other benefits to the songs, those would-be soulful moments were wasted.

The language of this show was superfluous, as the characters endlessly overused theatrical terminology and clichés. Despite what the author may think, acknowledging theatre clichés does not make those clichés permissible. The Fourth Wall fell victim to an inordinate number of theatrical clichés, which surmounted to a slow and dull show.

The back wall covered in mirrors was an excellent set design, the actors and the audience are both reflected back upon themselves. As a show about breaking through, it was poignant to watch actors from all angles, and to see yourself on a stage the characters acknowledged were real.

The interesting end doesn’t quite make up for the dull start and relentingly long middle. This one act show develops slowly and misses the mark. There is a clear and strong heart to it, however, and the messages that motivate the characters are powerful. Although not entirely enjoyable, there were interesting and thoughtful aspects of The Fourth Wall.

2-stars

 

REVIEW: Ms. Estrada @ The Flea Theatre

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

The Flea Theatre that houses this production can be found off the beaten path in Tribeca, in a twist of oxymoronic fate this company is creating edgy and thought-provoking shows in the heart of the industrial upper class. This funky company introduced themselves by providing single pieces of paper, rather than a playbill. It was announced before the show began that this was a deliberate decision and that all other information can be found online. Their dedication to conservation is an interesting and thoughtful act towards global sustainability.

The show began with a disclaimer from the writers,The Q Brothers Collective. They astutely noted that they were all male, some gay, some of colour. The sensitive themes explored in Ms Estrada warranted the warning. The cleverly written prose professed profanity, and ultimately set the scene for a production that challenges and entertains.

Another visual that struck me before the show began was the DJ, Marguerite Frarey. Rather than having an orchestra, Ms Estrada had a band of one. Frarey would often shout and boo as the story developed. She was the first character you meet, and she remains a constant throughout. Frarey at times could be compared to an all mighty presence, watching the events of the show unfurl.

Ms Estrada focuses on a young woman’s experience through college. Written with dark humour and a clever sense of self-awareness, Liz Estrada (Malena Pennycook), a new college student, seeks the “power to change the system”. In an attempt to prevent the “Greek Games”, a sexist male competition focused on stereotypical frat games, Estrada convinces her fellow female classmates to withhold sex. With the support of her roommates and mentor (Jenna Krasowski), Estrada shows the Dean (Ben Schrager) how damaging the Greek Games are.

The songs in Ms Estrada are clever and catchy. With a flair for rap, the show slowly moves towards more traditionally female musical genres as the story progresses. “Ring the Bell” is a catchy earworm, as Estrada and the female rebels reprise the song whenever they are confronted. Estrada and her empowered peers rename themselves “Womxn with an X”, and flaunt their feminine power with some complex and intricate choreography. The boys begin losing matches and they complain to the Dean with a song that appears to find inspiration from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Macklemore. The show continues with a compelling blend of rap and pop.

Estrada’s compelling fight against an unrelenting torrent of sexism is remanent of Rob Thomas’ Veronica Mars. Young women are fighting for equality, and the stories focus on the struggle and success of these women. The storytelling and incorporation of Ms Estrada exudes a quirkiness similar to that of the charming Veronica Mars.

This masterful adaptation of the Greek Classic Lysistrata brings modern life to an ancient play. The in-house ensemble of The Flea Theater, The Bats, shine in this complex and captivating show.

4stars

Ms Estrada is playing at The Flea Theater until 28th April. You can buy tickets here

 

The Rockstar Experience: Jesus Christ Superstar Live

Written By Annie Zeleznikow

I had bought special students tickets to a show on at the public theatre. I didn’t know what they were for, it seemed interesting enough and I sure it would be a fun afternoon. But as soon as I got an email in my inbox about Jesus Christ Superstar Live I sent my friend a Facebook message:

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And of course, we decided to go to JCSS.

The first time I saw JCSS my older sister was dressed as a risqué maid, and there were chain-linked fences on stage. Surprising as it seems, the grunge of this university production wasn’t far off from the progressive and powerfully produced show that NBC aired on Easter Sunday.

I was assigned priority standing room. This meant that I was going to be on my feet from 4.30pm until about 10.30pm when the show ended. My friend was celebrating her birthday, so there was no way I was taking anyone else. We had a lot of time to chat and talk about our expectations and how we had been since we last saw each other. We also had lots of time to hype up the show we were about to witness.

It was a long journey from our home on the Upper West Side to the heart of Brooklyn. From a fabulous location in Brooklyn, the audience was transported via bus to Williamsburg. There I was meet with a strange sense of irony, as we elevated Christ in the heart of a large Jewish community. I was somewhat embarrassed to be celebrating Christ on the second day of Passover (which I had celebrated the night before), but my love of Theatre overwhelmingly won out.

The show began with the gorgeous and youthful Brandon Niederauer rocking out on his electric guitar among the scaffolding and fellow musicians. With one minute to go, I waved frantically at Neiderauer, sending forth my best wishes to him and the cast. Ensemble members crouched down in front of us, and we all started chanting in an attempt to prove that we were going to be an amazing audience.

Brandon Niederauer JCSS

The show begins with the ensemble, draped in black and grey clothing, crowding around our Jesus, John Legend. Legend emerges on the stage bathed in light, his gentle features Christ-like in the flood of brightness against the post-apocalyptic backdrop of our Jerusalem. Just as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice would have wanted, the crowd, including me, screamed at the opportunity to reach out and touch Legends’ hand. This sort of response was evoked whenever Legend sang and derived from a primitive need to glorify the star. Legend produced the reaction from the crowd that one would expect for Christ. Legend has received mixed reviews, but in person, all I saw was a Christ-like vocal God. I was only privy to Legends’ smooth and delicious voice, which although sometimes faltered but never failed to impress the hoard of adoring fans that I had become a part of.

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Despite Legend’s larger than life character, Brandon Victor Dixon stole the show and the hearts of the audience as Judas. The Broadway veteran rocked the same trendy dark and slightly sinister-like clothes as the ensemble as he belted out some soulfully moving and powerful numbers. He comfortably reached vocal heights that Legend struggled to project. Dixon let his inner rock star shine, he was clearly moved by the audience that was cheering along any vocal riffs and challenging vocal pieces. Dixon carried the brunt of the story and played a huge narrative role in this revival of Christ’s story.

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Watching the show from the crowd distorted the story significantly, there wasn’t a storyline, rather a collection of intensely emotional songs. Instead of living through the last days of Christ, I found myself jumping up and down at a rock concert that ended with the Star floating away. The tall heads in front of me and the overbearing cheers and screams from my peers meant that the brilliant vocals were often drowned out. Although our adoration moved the cast to perform with greater gusto, the best place for an audience member to be was at home on the couch. Luckily NBC has made Jesus Christ Super Star Live readily available to those who live in the US.

As the announcement comes that there will be a national tour of JCSS, it dawns on me that although this was a delightful piece of artistic creation, the money aspect of this live production, and the widespread viewing of the Easter show, was a very purposeful decision. It will soon be possible for those of you living in the US to soon see Jesus and Judas fighting it out live. Until then please enjoy this fabulous gift NBC has given us.

Watch Jesus Christ Superstar Live Now- https://www.nbc.com/jesus-christ-superstar/video/jesus-christ-superstar-live-in-concert/3689643

Buy Tickets for Jesus Christ Superstar Soon- https://www.ticketmaster.com/Jesus-Christ-Superstar-tickets/artist/843994?list_view=1

 

 

 

 

 

Eight Powerful Shows that I Love

Written by Annie Zeleznikow

I have seen a lot of theatre throughout my life. I was lucky enough to have parents who valued theatre, and grandparents who could afford tickets for us. I travelled a lot as a child and my dad took great pleasure in finding shows in strange and wonderful locations. My life has always been filled with show tunes, and so here is a sneak peek into some of my favorites, and some stories about why they mean so much to me.

8) The Sound of Music

The loveliest musical. Julie Andrews is truly a fabulous gift to the world. I think the best way to sufficiently explain my love for this show is to first watch this recreation, made by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s father, Luis.

This was a musical that taught me the value of perseverance. Maria and the Von Trapp’s feared for their lives, so they climbed mountains and escaped, all while singing.

When I was about 13 my family went to Saltsburg. This is where the movie was shot, and where the story is based. There are Sound of Music tours, and we went on one. It was magical, we danced and sang where Ms. Andrews had danced and sung. The story came to life as we ran across the fountain and looked across the mountaintops. The Sound of Music is a movie that I have watched countless times, and I know I will continue to watch it, as it never gets old.

7) Guys and Dolls

When I was in twelfth grade I spent one weekend procrastinating. This was a week before a major exam. And I spent both Saturday and Sunday watching guys and dolls. I watched it on repeat. I watched it over and over again. It took me away from the chaos of my life, and it gave me an escape. I got to watch Marlon Brando fall in love, again and again. And the music was an enchanting combination of cabaret, soulful ballads, and sappy love songs. It was the perfect distraction from a horrendously stressful time. And it brought me such joy and relief from the stress of the real world around me.

guys and dolls

6) 13

This was the last musical that I participated in during high school. And I loved it. It was my introduction to the wonderful Jason Robert Brown. I had never really been exposed to a pop style musical before this show. The quirky characters fill the show with clever songs and funny numbers. The ballads are fantastic, and the lyrics are catchy. I was so lucky to be involved in such a fun show.

NOTE: While trying to find photos to add to the article I found the whole show, which was recorded and put on YouTube. Please enjoy my minor role as a preppy (chorus member), that’s me in the green blouse.

5) 1984

A most terrifyingly moving play. I saw this during my first week living in NYC. It was powerful and overwhelming. At one point the house lights went up, and it was clear that this terrifying dystopia that was created within the show was seeping into the real world. It was powerful and moving and I thought it was amazing.

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4) The Mountaintop

This was a play about the final day of MLK’s life, and it was my first introduction to MLK and the Human Rights Movement that occurred in the US in the 60’s. The Melbourne Theatre Company produced this show in 2013. I saw the play with my grandmother, sister, and cousins. My grandmother would buy season tickets to the theatre each year for my sister, cousins and myself. There were many amazing and powerful plays during the years that we went to the theatre, but when I started writing this list The Mountaintop jumped out at me. I remember it concluding with a video montage. And the montage included footage of Obama, and I started to tear up. The contrast of MLK and Obama was powerful and provoked powerful emotions within.

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3) Kinky Boots

My mums favorite. No way around it. She adores Callum Francis, the Australian Lola. We speak of him like an old friend, we speak about how he is doing, where he is living etc. I took a class called LGBT Community through the Life Span. During one class we were asked to write up different thing that affected how LGBT communities are viewed. I proudly wrote “Kinky Boots”, and although some of my classmates laughed, the Professor acknowledged it, this show impacted worldviews, and empowered people to live and be themselves. This show brought LGBT rights to the forefront, exclaiming to the world that we should all “Be who you want to be.” The unconditional acceptance in this show acts as such a powerful tool. Each time I’ve seen the show I’ve had an involuntary grin on my face.

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2) Dear Evan Hansen

This is one of the most powerful shows I’ve seen. I, like most audience members, found myself in tears. After all, Evan just wants to connect, and I can understand that. He gets caught up in a lie that he can’t escape, and he just wants to be seen and loved. I felt connected to Evan. The pop music is also a pleasant addition to the wonderfully classic repertoire of my favorite musicals. I keep coming back to this show. Each time I get excited about a new musical that opens in NYC, I get drawn away by Dear Evan Hansen, I find myself wanting to see it again and again. Despite the high costs. Each time I’ve seen it it’s been dynamic. All parts of this show make a mark; the music, the story, the acting- each connect to a deep part of me.

Dear Evan Hansen

1) Hamilton

I really owe so much to the genius work of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Although I was brought up with musicals, my obsession with the genre didn’t blossom until I heard the exquisite lyrics of Miranda’s tantalizing show. I am not American and knowing the history of America didn’t excite me in the same way it might excite a history teacher in the US. But this show lit a flame under me. And my desire to see the show quickly turned deeper and became an unquenchable thirst for Miranda’s materials. I moved to New York. I waited in line for 7 hours. I saw Hamilton. From my bedroom in Melbourne, Australia, I had made it! Hamilton is everywhere now. Rapping “My Shot” to the 4-year-old that I picked up from school brought me joy, and I hope to continue doing it. My favorite TV shows make jokes about how hard it is to get tickets. NYC appreciates and loves Miranda, and I do too.

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6 Ways To Afford Theatre in NYC!

Written by Annie Zeleznikow

Ah, the bright lights of Broadway! My eyes are drawn to the flashing lights of the star-studded posters. My heart is drawn to the warmth and depth of the shows. My ears a drawn to the sweet warbles of the casts. But alas, I have the budget of a graduate student (for I am a graduate student).

I moved to NYC from Australia late August 2017. Since then I have seen over 30 shows. “How is this possible?” I hear, through the gasp of college students all across Manhattan. It took some waiting, a little know-how and a lot of good luck. This article will take you through my favourite ways to get decent* Theatre tickets for one of the most expensive cities in the world, New York.

Note: Most of these are ways of getting tickets the day of the show!

1) Digital Ticket Lotteries

One of the best ways to get good tickets to shows for cheap is winning the digital lottery for shows. There is a whole range of websites that provide this service for individual shows, and each show has a different policy! Lottery tickets are usually the BEST seats, so it is well worth the 30 seconds it takes to fill out the forms online. However, for shows like Hamilton, there are hundreds of thousands of people entering each day. A lot of shows have a separate website for their lotteries, but below are some websites with multiple lotteries in the once place:

  1. https://lottery.broadwaydirect.com/
  2. https://www.luckyseat.com/lottery.php

2) In-person Lotteries

Something that is similar, but has a different process is the In-person Lottery. You will P1013243mormondraw.jpgusually get those sweet seats, without the huge odds against you! The only problem is that you have to have the free time to wait around for the draw before the show! Below are some shows that offer in-person lotteries:

  1.  Book of Mormon (2 ½ hours before curtain up)
  2. Mean Girls (2 ½ hours before curtain up)
  3. Once on this Island (2 hours before curtain up)
  4. Wicked (2 ½ hours before curtain up)

3) Rush Tickets

Rush Tickets, although far from the best seats, do offer great value for money. These tickets are offered just when the box office opens (for most shows during the week this is 10am). Depending on the popularity of the show, you might want to get to the box office at 8am, or if the show is not doing well, just stroll in any time after 10am! I have gotten front row tickets, where I missed whatever was happening in the back, but I didn’t care because I was inches away from Christian Borle’s face. Below are some shows that offer Rush Tickets:

  1.  Anastasia^
  2. Angels in America
  3. The Band’s Visit
  4. Beautiful (during the week only!)
  5. Carousel
  6. Chicago
  7. Come From Away
  8. Escape to Margaritaville
  9. Farinelli and the King
  10. Hello Dolly^
  11. The Play That Goes Wrong
  12. School of Rock
  13. SpongeBob SquarePants^
  14. Waitress
^ From experience, you won’t need to get there before 10am.

4) Standing Room Tickets

Shows that sell out will often have Standing Room tickets. If you don’t mind standing for the whole show, you can get a great ticket with an orchestra view. I found that Kinky Boots was made more interactive with standing room, as my mum and I danced to the BN-RJ672_NYSTAN_GR_20161227154525funky music while enjoying the show. Shows that offer Standing Room tickets when they sell out include:

  1. Book of Mormon
  2. Chicago
  3. Come From Away
  4. Farinelli and the King
  5. Hello, Dolly!
  6. Kinky Boots
  7. Once on this Island
  8. The Phantom of the Opera
  9. School of Rock
  10. Waitress

5) TodayTix

My favourite app TodayTix always provides me with quick and easy accesses to affordable tickets. Not to mention the numerous in-app Lotteries and Rush Tickets available! The app neatly compiles the best shows offering discounted tickets on and off Broadway. Visit TodayTix here.

6) The TKTS Booth.

Finally, there is the well-loved TKTS booth. Although I have not utilised this wonderful tool, it is the best way to get good tickets last minute. The tickets are a little out of my price range, but you will often find good value for money. TKTS is run by an organisation called Theatre Development Fund (TDF) that provides discounted (properly priced) tickets to teachers, students and many more professional for an annual cost of about $30. TDF, and other subscription-based discounts can be worthwhile if your living in NYC and hope to see lots of theatre!

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Although at times stressful, I have found all these methods to bare results. It is important to enter lotteries every day if you want to win, it’s only a matter of time. It is essential to remember that if there is a will, I’ll find a way- inside the theatre. You may not always get the best seats, and you may not always get into the show that you want, but it will always be an adventure. And it’s an adventure that you will treasure.