Originally written for the 1957 television broadcast starring Julie Andrews, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella finally made it’s Broadway debut in 2013. With a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, the classic tale gets some new updates – but still captures the magic of the story we know and love. The show is now playing at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis through February 1.
Returning from her leading role on Broadway is Paige Faure as Ella, with the look and cadence that would have you thinking she really is Cinderella in real life. Although some details have changed, the story is still close to the one we know and love. Ella lives with her wicked stepmother (Beth Glover) and stepsisters: Charlotte (Aymee Garcia) and Gabrielle (Kaitlyn Davidson) – although the latter is much nicer to Ella than we’ve grown accustomed to. Right at the start, Ella has a meet-cute with Prince Topher (Andy Jones) as he rides through town. It is there we are also introduced to her friends Jean-Michel (David Andino), a zany revolutionary, and Marie (Kecia Lewis) – a crazy old woman who we later learn has more up her sleeve than meets the eye. Topher’s adviser Lord Chancellor Sebastian (Blake Hammond) convinces the prince that it is time to marry – and what better way to find a bride than to throw a magnificent ball? It’s all fairy godmothers and magical transformations from then on, as the classic tale comes to life.
The show consists of many of the musical numbers from the original 1957 production, as well as some additional songs from the Rodgers + Hammerstein catalog – cut from shows like South Pacific, Me and Juliet. The number “There’s Music in You” was added from the 1997 television version that starred Brandy, which actually came from the 1957 film Main Street to Broadway – where Rodgers and Hammerstein can be seen performing it. CINDERELLA is full of great music and performances, sure to have audiences mesmerized when combined with the direction of Mark Brokaw (The Lyons, After Miss Julie, The Constant Wife, Reckless, Cry-Baby) and choreography of Josh Rhodes (Company, The Film, Three Generations at the Kennedy Center, Sondheim: the Birthday Concert).
Bonnie and Clyde (or Clyde and Bonnie, if you asked him) were a couple of American outlaws who captured the attention of the public in the early 1930s. While these two kids weren’t much more than a couple of petty robbers, commonly knocking over gas stations and small “mom and pop” stores, the media glamorized their exploits into legend. And now legend has become musical. Following its short run on Broadway, New Line has once again seen the potential in an unappreciated show – and has given it a new and glorious life!
Both newcomers to the company, Larissa White and Matt Pentecost play Bonnie and Clyde. The two leads share a phenomenal chemistry, as well as an energy that lights up the stage. Each of the actors hold their own in vocals and acting, but when they come together it is magic. The story starts off before the two of them met, with Bonnie’s dreams of being in the “Picture Show,” and Clyde trying to stay out of jail while singing about how “This World Will Remember Me.” The show then chronicles their relationship from their humble beginnings to making the headlines. Joining them are Clyde’s brother Buck (Brendan Ochs) and his wife Blanche (Sarah Porter), who both do a great job of providing the comedic relief in the show. Hot on their trails are Ted Hinton (Reynaldo Arceno) and Sheriff Schmid (Christopher Clark) who relentlessly track down the outlaws throughout the show.
Chances are that if you’re watching live theatre in the Midwest, more often than not it’s tough to be genuinely surprised. That doesn’t mean there is any lack of talent or amazing shows that come through town. And we have a great theatre community in St. Louis. Yet there is a huge difference between seeing a show that you know will be amazing – and feeling completely surprised by something risky and new. Most shows we see are already proven, and who can blame them? It’s expensive to put on a show, and especially to bring us something new from Broadway. Yet this isn’t the case with New Line Theatre, who time after time produces shows that are different and widely unknown. Artistic director Scott Miller has a true talent for recognizing the potential in shows we might otherwise have never seen, and filling them with some of the best actors in town. With that being said, I introduce you to their latest success: Hands on a Hardbody.
Based on a documentary film which follows true events from 1995, Hands on a Hardbody takes the audience to Longview, Texas for an annual competition of endurance. The prize? A brand new pickup truck. And it’s a musical. How wonderfully strange and fantastic the synopsis sounds. But you haven’t seen or heard anything until you’ve been to the show.
Songwriter Amanda Green is no stranger to bringing us this sort of unexpected gem. My first introduction to New Line Theater was in 2012 with their production of High Fidelity, based on one of my favorite films. But a musical? Green was responsible for those lyrics, and the show was an absolute blast. And how about the surprise Broadway hit “Bring It On The Musical,” based on a 2000 high school comedy about cheerleaders? Green teamed up with the mega-talented Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights) and Tom Kitt (High Fidelity, Next to Normal) on that one, which completely caught me off-guard with how fun it was. And now Green, along with Trey Anastasio (Phish) and a book by Doug Wright (Quills, The Little Mermaid), has done it again. This time with a musical about a contest to win a truck. On paper, it’s hard to imagine that the show could be so amazing. But I’ve learned to trust both New Line and Green by now, and both have yet to let me down.
Based on the 1992 box office hit which grossed over $230 million worldwide, Sister Act brings the character made famous by Whoopi Goldberg to the stage of the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis from November 19 to December 1.Deloris Van Cartier (TA’REA CAMPBELL) is an undiscovered diva with the dream to hit it big, as she auditions to sing in the nightclub of gangster Curtis Jackson (MELVIN ABSTON). After being rejected on Christmas Eve, she decides that she doesn’t need Curtis or his club to become famous. On her way out she witnesses the murder of an accused informant at the club-owner’s hands, sending her running into police custody for protection. With the help of officer Souther (CHESTER GREGORY), an old high school friend known as “Sweaty Eddie,” she takes refuge at a convent run by Mother Superior (HOLLIS RESNIK). There she tries to blend in amongst the sisters, meanwhile transforming a church on the brink of closure into a fabulous musical destination.
Sister Act is packed full of fantastic songs, which is no surprise with the talent of and Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) responsible for the music. Rarely do you find a new musical full of not-yet-famous numbers that have you captivated, one after the next. Yet in this case, the show is overflowing with catchy numbers. The lyrics by Glenn Slater are wonderfully written, telling the story while keeping things lively and entertaining throughout.
It’s difficult to know just what to expect when you are about to see a musical based on George A. Romero’s 1968 original horror classic – Night of the Living Dead. What you don’t want to see is a bunch of dancing zombies in musical numbers, or songs that take light of the desperate situation the characters are in. Luckily none of that is in the show, which sticks very close to the source material. New Line’s take is intense, creepy and full of slow-building tension.
Night of the Living Dead tells the story of seven strangers who happen upon an old farmhouse to take shelter from the zombie attack outside. Barbra (Marcy Wiegert) has been separated from her brother Johnny, and sent into a semi-catatonic state. Ben (Zachary Allen Farmer) happens upon Barbra, frightened and alone in the dark, and protects her as he takes charge of upstairs. Meanwhile Harry (Mike Dowdy) and Helen (Sarah Porter), along with their sick daughter Karen (Phoebe Desilets), are taking shelter in the basement along with a young couple – Tom (Joseph McAnulty) and Judy (Mary Beth Black). Although they often disagree on tactics and argue about who’s in charge, they all share the one goal – to survive until morning.