REVIEW: Hadestown @ National Theatre, Olivier

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

2018 has been the year for musicals based on Greek mythology in London, with Myth at The Other Palace earlier this year, Mythic at the Charing Cross theatre currently, then Orpheus at the Battersea Arts Centre next month, and now Hadestown at the Olivier Theatre.

Currently appearing in London’s National Theatre autumn season before transferring to Broadway, Hadestown is a musical re-telling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a myth that already has a fair share of theatre adaptions, and Hadestown is nothing like those.

Anaïs Mitchell, who penned all book, music and lyrics, provides a lush folk score that 7 on-stage musicians play throughout the show. Mitchell’s lyrics and book, however, are a major weakness to the piece. Both feel repetitive and boring, and would be extremely confusing if you weren’t already familiar with the myth. At times, the book felt like it was trying to drag out the myth to be as long as possible. I can’t even really remember what happened in act one.

The direction by Rachel Chavkin and choreography by David Neumann was inventive, yet minimalist and intricate. In fact, Neumann’s choreography really livened up moments in act one and the opening of act two.

The cast did well with what they had to work with. Reeve Carney as Orpheus was a stand out performance, despite having very little to do within act one. I mean, for a musical about Orpheus, there was a distinct lack of Orpheus. His act one solo, Wait For Me, was a highlight. Eva Noblezada as Eurydice provided gorgeous vocals, and worked well with what seemed to be a very under-developed and flat version of Eurydice.  Amber Gray as Persephone was incredible, with probably the best performance all evening. Her vocals and acting were wonderful, and she really brought some energy to the piece within her numbers Livin’ It Up On Top and Our Lady of the Underground.

I also enjoyed costume and lighting, designed by Michael Krass and Bradley King, respectively. Krass’ costumes were at times beautiful and bright with the character of Persephone, and yet they were simple and effective with Orpheus and Eurydice. King’s lighting was wonderful, once again often simple but helped to show setting and brighten up the mood and atmosphere of the piece.

Despite a boring, dragged out book and confusing and repetitive lyrics, Hadestown boasts a lush score with stellar performances and a gorgeous design.

3-stars

 

 

 

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Review: R+J @ Access Theatre, NYC

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

In this modern retelling of a classic story where men are nowhere in sight. There is a museum of sorts that explains why men disappeared. But the focus of this play is on the women, so that’s what I’ll do too. The set of R+J can be described as industrial and hazardous (designed by Marisa Kaugars). Large sheets of metal are the backdrop of the scene and surround the entire performance area. The aggressive set was an accurate location for this retelling, filled with anger and passion, it is hard to imagine this version of R+J in a set any less dynamic. The warlike set is reflected in the conflict ready direction of the play.

R (Charlie Aleman) is charismatic. The show revolves around R, and they provide a strong emotional foundation for a show that at sometimes is frantic. Benvolio (Chelsea Fryer) and Mercutio (Ania Upstill) banter with R with ease, an emotional bond is clear, as the actors move forward with the plot. Perhaps I am placing my ideas of femineity on the actors and seeing traditionally male characters as more emotional because they are being portrayed by female presenting individuals. Each thought and conclusion I made during the show has me second guessing my biases.

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R+J’s costume design (designed by Lux Haac) deepens the dark nature of the play, and the set forces the audience to imagine a different world. The inherit masculinity in the black and camouflage costumes contrasts the femininity exhibited from the actors. Even traditionally female characters, such as J (Briana Sakamoto) are shrouded in black. Although her mesh shirt exuded female energy. On the other hand, the low cost but high intellect of the set creates an entirely masculine world. The Reflective properties of the metal sheets double the cast and the audience- eerily reflecting our confused and shocked expressions back onto ourselves.

My preconceived ideas lessen lust in a gay relationship, I was shocked when I found myself surprised that two female presenting individuals could be as lustful as R and J. My idea of the traditional play, my understanding of lust and sexual desire, had been dictated by societal norms. The kissing scenes and sex scenes in this production felt so strange to me because I hadn’t thought that queer love could descend into the same single-minded lust and passion that I have come to expect in a straight couple. I think subconsciously I had made assumptions, most that non-heteronormative relationships were lustless, or less lustful. I was tested by R + J and found wanting.

Shakespeares’ sex jokes feel weird, female-presenting individuals are talking about how hard their dicks are, and how they want to sleep with different women. The jokes become poignant. A reminder of how ridiculous and segregated our genders are. It seemed bizarre for a woman to make a joke, but it was just funny (to me) in other Romeo and Juliet productions. I think this is one of the many reasons this production is so revolutionary and relevant, it highlights internal sexism and forces me to confront my prejudices. These differences are mirrored in my response to the violence in the show. It feels overly violent, and I wondered while watching, would I have felt that way if it were two male presenting individuals fighting to the death?

It feels strange for J to wait for R to take action. In this retelling, there is no fairer sex, but J still waits. In previous shows I have seen it felt natural, Romeo will go organize the wedding while Juliet waits. But when there are two female presenting individuals, why should one wait for the other to take action? They are equal. I am mortified at myself, and my complacency. The power imbalance between Romeo and Juliet in classic telling’s of the show are increasingly obvious as I watch the classic story unfurl.

At the top of Act II the show began to drag a little. This does happen (in my opinion) in almost all Shakespeare plays, so it wasn’t too outside the ordinary. What was strange and unique to this production was the confusion caused by actors playing multiple roles, sometimes in the same scene. That was truly one of the most confusing aspects of the show.

R crying seems too feminine for the character as portrayed by a female presenting actor, and again this show puts my own notions of gender to shame, as I am faced with my deeply innate response to men crying, which is to perceive them as weak. R is described as “a child and a beast” and this stood out to me. During R + J, I was faced with a lot of confrontational ideas and this line stood out to me as powerful as it was a strong and reasonable way to define a man, but not a woman.

When J is found ‘dead’, there is a single light that follows her. J is found by R, and the long soliloquy begins. I never thought about how truly toxic R’s masculinity is until a gender non-conforming individual portrayed him and he was so clearly made to look ridiculous through his bravado and self-imposed masculinity. R takes the poison and violently throws up. My response to this was that it was accurate yet entirely melodramatic. J’s demise is powerful, touching and modern. The drama feels accurate to the text, and to Shakespeare, but with a female presenting individual in the role, it felt over the top.

I have seen countless retellings of this story, but never before have I been so surprised by my response to this well-known and well-loved story. I was moved, angered, and made to question myself throughout the show. Although confronting this show is worth seeing. It might not be what you want to hear, nobody likes discovering dark and ugly things about themselves. But I feel this show justly deserves a receptive audience.

4stars

 

 

Review: Pop Punk High @ (Le) Poisson Rouge, NYC

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

The show began with a standing crowd and no chairs (except some couches and a reserved section), not what one expects when heading to the theatre. And as the unconventional seats forewarned, Pop Punk High was no ordinary show. The evening I attended began with a band, Dude Ranch, singing and encouraging the audience to shout “DICK”. The band was loud, and I should have paid more attention when the merchandise stands outside the theatre had earplugs for sale. Despite the intense volume, Dude Ranch sufficiently warmed the audience, preparing them for the power of pop-punk music. 

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The show began in earnest with the protagonist, Derek (Ben Lapidus) yelling at his parents (Mclean Peterson and Eric Wiegand), telling them he hates them. Which seemed odd to me, as I have a deep respect and love for my parents. Little was I to know how clever the foreshadowing was in this overtly silly show. The cleverness of this show, as a form of self-deprivation, is unfortunately overshadowed by the loudness of the dated music.

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While describing the evolution of pop-punk, Tib (Amanda Centeno) states that pop-punk was created by “tak(ing) out the nuance, and leav(ing) the power cord”. How accurate she was. Although moving at times, this show pandered to a specific niche music fan. Despite that, the hilarious show remains nostalgic, if sometimes a bit silly. And Tib’s charisma and charm help elevate the show.

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The crux of the story is that Derrick, a loser with a needledick, sprays a magic axe bottle, releasing a dead Avril Lavigne (Kelly Krauter), who offers Derek 3 wishes. The ridiculous wishes come as no surprise, despite its predictability the wishes nicely foreshadow the outcome of the show. The story itself is whimsical, and at some times thin, logic crumbles under narrative pressure.

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The pacing of the show and the quality of the songs were excellent. The songs meaningfully moved the story forward, providing excellent rhythm for the show. The ensemble continuously sang and danced their hearts out. It was the first time I asked myself what the true meaning of punk-pop was. And I’m surprised a show with such an airy story managed to perfectly provide me with a deep existential question. This show climaxes with a giant dick knocking over the antagonist. Despite that, the evening was enjoyable.

Niched, fun and a bit rude, this silly show will fulfil your 2003 self’s dreams. With all the ups and downs of the show, it creates a positive atmosphere for growth and excitement. I felt empowered as the cast took their bows, to be the best version of myself.

3-stars

Pop Punk High is currently playing at (Le) Poisson Rouge until November 1st, tickets can be purchased here

5 ways traveling makes me a better theatregoer

by Annie Zeleznikow

If you follow me on Instagram (which you all should @_anniedaynow_) you might have noticed that I am traveling through Europe. Through numerous train journeys and countless cinema-going experiences outside of the English-speaking world, I feel I have gained new insight into extracting and enjoying the most from my theatre experience. I wanted to share these new insights with you, dear reader. Going to new places and exposing yourself to foreign cultures enriches one’s understanding of themselves, the world, and THEATRE. Travelling is marvelous, as is theatre; and both are deserving of your time and attention.

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  1. Be courteous of others and they will do the same. Show respect to others, and if something goes wrong, you are in it together. You’ll help each other out. if you freak out because you don’t speak German and you’re afraid you’re heading towards Russia, ask for some help from a fellow passenger, usually, they are willing to help a sobbing 20-something-year-old.
  2. Wear what makes you feel comfortable. When traveling, I would mostly wear yoga pants and trainers. And do you know who cared? No one. It was comfortable and able to do the task at hand- fall asleep on public transport. If your nervous about what to wear to a Broadway show, wear whatever makes you comfortable, or whatever feels best for the occasion. I have seen heaps of people rock Potter wear to Cursed Child, and they are all killing it.
  3. If you don’t understand what is going on, just lean into it. Someone will explain it afterward if you remember to ask. Just enjoy what is happening around you right now, everything else will follow.
  4. Take time to close your eyes. Although I loved watching the French countryside roll by, sometimes I need a rest from the overload of stimulus. Often big production shows can be overwhelming, and demand attention from all your sense. I try to close my eyes if the songs are particularly sweet, and I want to focus on the vocals.
  5. Do what makes you happy! All experiences are your own- and this summer I’ve tried to take upon myself only tasks that make me happy. The same goes for theatre! I’ve seen some shows multiple times, and although its costly, and I am not widening my musical repertoire, those shows make me happy. And I get something new and exciting from the same show each time I see it.

Review: Laura Bush Killed a Guy @ The Flea Theatre, NYC

reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

I was welcomed into the theatre with an offer of a pen and a cowboy cookie. Delighted, I took my seat and was surprised to find two things. One, this was a one-woman show with no intermission and Two, my uncultured assumption that Laura was one of the Bush twins was wrong. I was surprised to find a well-groomed older woman, George W. Bush’s wife Laura.

Munching on my cookie, Laura (or First Lady Bush, or Mrs. Bush now I guess) began sharing her renowned Cowboy Cookie recipe in detail. This long monologue bookended the show, Laura used her recipe as a method of connection with America, and on a smaller scale with our audience. The mirroring of her words continues throughout the show if I paid close attention I could see the dual image Lisa Hodsoll was creating in her portrayal of the First Lady.

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Hodsoll’s engaging and thrilling storytelling captured the small audience. Ian Allan used carefully crafted words to paint a specific image of Laura Bush. Laura’s story was told as though to a friend, with whom she was happy to lie to. Halfway through the show, Laura retold an earlier story, with different motives around the accident. My personal feelings of betrayal shocked me. Hodsoll had made me her friend, only to tell me she had been lying the whole time. This dualism of Laura added both suspense and intrigue to the show. Hodsoll had my full attention.

Laura tells two stories about an orphanage. She went once with her parents, and she went once with George. This reflection of events provokes powerful emotions and was successful in engaging me in meaningful thought about the Bush family, something I had thought impossible. Laura speaks about visiting countries in the Middle East, and how the weight of a Burka surprised her. Hearing stories of Laura trying new things and opening up her world to new experiences impressed me. In light of modern politics, this show cleverly introduced a more sympathetic woman than I would have suspected.

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Laura tells two stories about how she met George. At this point, I’m not sure what to believe. I’m not sure if it matters which story is true or accurate. The emotions a felt in response to each story was real for me. Although jarring, I found this show thought-provoking and engaging. The atmosphere was electric and like a true politician, Hodsoll had me eating out of the palm of her hand.

3-stars

REVIEW: Island Song @ Davenport Theatre Loft, NYC

reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

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.

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REVIEW: The Fourth Wall @ A.R.T, NYC

reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

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.

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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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