Drama Talk & Drinks: When the Puppets Were Having Sex…

For this DT&D we’re handing it back over to our original poster, Ariel! He and is mom checked out NCTC’s Avenue Q!

NCT Avenue Q puppets

Hi! I’m Ariel and I used to post here. I’m stepping out of my Mission Mission retirement to check out a show that I’ve always been curious about, Avenue Q. On a cool SF winter night I took my mom out for drinks and a show at the New Conservatory Theatre Center.

Mom: Well, walking down into the basement, seeing such nice, modern design underneath Market Street was really fantastic. I really liked that the theater was small and intimate.

Ariel: Yeah, and once they shut the theater doors you could be anywhere, totally ready for wherever the show is going to take you. Well, I love musicals, I love urban stories, I really like puppets. But I was still a bit hesitant at first, like could I really watch them sing for a couple hours?

M: And did it work for you?

A: It did! I think the cast was good, the characters are all very different, interesting and engaging, had charm and charisma, even if they were gross or weird.

M: I really liked the set, how they used different levels of it.

A: You know I’m a sucker for the gritty city vibe.

M: I know, I am too. The songs had good rhythm, everyone was bouncing around. And the show wasn’t as gross as I thought it would be. I did get offended a couple of times though.

A: Huh. Well, the racism song definitely has an outdated view of what racism is.

M: The references to suicide felt a little too insensitive. I know that was the purpose of a lot of it, but it was too much for me personally.

A: I did like that the two bad news bear characters at first tell the protagonist, Princeton, to make bad choices seemingly in the pursuit of fun, but ultimately, by the end, it’s purely destructive. To me it would have seemed irresponsible to not show us where that behavior goes. It didn’t go as far as The Happytime Murders, which I didn’t see but I heard wasn’t good, or Meet The Feebles. I also worked on a movie where puppets were having sex and doing drugs and stuff, so I appreciate the instinct, but also appreciate that they didn’t go too far. It wasn’t just let’s see what we can get a puppet to do.

M: I thought that the Asian character was a little too exaggerated. Her husband was like a big Jewish guy, right? But he was also just a guy, he had other stuff, but she always seemed stereotypically Asian. Her character stood out that way.

A: And when Eimi Taormina finally had her big number she was really great. How responsible are you to resolve all of the topics that you bring up to get people to react? Like the gay issues, they really worked through and I feel like they resolved it. Not with every issue though.

M: I thought Danya El-Kurd was so intriguing. She wasn’t really looking at the audience, but she was still so expressive in her face. She was very empathetic to the feelings of the puppet. I was in and out with Kamren Mahaney as an actor. Sometimes I felt like his presence overpowered the puppet.

A: I had that thought too, he was great, but sometimes it seemed like he wanted to throw the puppet aside and take the stage. I wasn’t sure how much of that was a choice, by him or the director, because he was the lead. I was curious how they made choices about the human vs. puppet presence. At first I was finding myself focused on the person, but by the second or third song I was switching to the puppet. There was interesting character work.

M: when the puppets were having sex, the acting of that, the physicality, was great.

A: I loved Chelsea Carruesco’s voice for the character of Kate Monster, I really liked the character and she had a really nice singing voice. But she was quieter than the other actors, her voice didn’t carry out as far. Even though it was a small theater, they had to play over the puppets too. She was a little more inward and subdued. So even though I loved her voice, I wish that she had sung out more.

M: I always like in any kind of performance the performers come out into the audience, I really liked when they did. It made us all feel like little kids, getting to be up close with the puppets talking to us. So, would you send people to see it?

A: I would, for sure.

M: Would you send people who enjoy comedy? Or musicals?

A: I think musical theater is for everybody. I could see people being turned off by puppets, or singing, or theater, but I think this show is for anybody. This doesn’t feel like a niche kind of experience.

M: No, and it ought not to be. And San Francisco has great theaters, for now. I would definitely send my friends.

 

The Verdict: It’s a really fun, if dated, show and this cast was a blast.

The Drinks: We had a flight of delicious rums at Kaya alongside some amazing Caribbean food.

Avenue Q plays through January 6th at NCTC  inside 25 Van Ness (just North of Market). Regular tickets start at $39 with group discounts and rush tickets available.

Drama Talk & Drinks: If/Then “I wonder if it’s an early mid-life crisis thing?”

When we heard the “The Wicked-ly talented, one and only Adele Nazeem,” (aka Idina Menzel – i.e. Elsa from Frozen, Elphaba from Wicked, Maureen from Rent) was coming to San Francisco with her latest Broadway Show If/Then, we knew we had to take this opportunity to see the star live. Growing up Rent-heads, we were even more pumped when we learned that her fellow co-star, Anthony Rapp (who originated the role of Mark in Rent), was also part of the star-studded tour. So like the musical fan-girls we are, off we went to the Orpheum to see two of the voices that helped us get through middle school.

Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp in If/Then
Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp in If/Then

Brittany: I can’t believe that likely the only time I’ll ever see Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp live, I didn’t feel like giving a standing ovation.

Katie: I know! Idina Menzel was amazing! She’s ridiculously good, but I couldn’t stand for an ovation either. Why are either of them in such a mediocre show?!

B: I wonder if it’s an early mid-life crisis thing? If this show really speaks to her as a 44 year old woman who’s feeling “I’ve done all these things with my life, but is this really where I want to be?” It’s hard to believe she’d have regrets though, given she’s one of the most famous women in American theater. Although breaking up with Taye [Diggs] would make me question my life decisions too. I actually like the idea behind the show; the little decisions you make end up changing the course of your life, but the execution was kind of corny.

K: Totally corny. The structure of the play just didn’t really hold up for me, bouncing between one possible fate and another. Of course, she’s gonna end up with the love of her life in both story lines. Fate? Really?

B:  So true. Aside from one or two songs the music isn’t that memorable either.

K: All the songs pretty much sounded the same to me. The play sounded like one generic – extremely well sung – song. Other then Idina Menzels beautful voice, nothing really stood out to me. Overall, I was expecting to be more wowed.

The Verdict: If you’re a Idina Menzel or Anthony Rapp fan, it is really awesome to see them live. Otherwise, if you’re only going to drop Broadway Tour kinda money once this year, we’d say skip it.

The Drama Talk: Idina Menzel is flawless. Anthony Rapp is so fun to watch on stage. Although we didn’t come into the theater knowing her as well, LaChanze was also stellar. The rest of the cast is not nearly as strong as these three, and since the supporting roles are pretty big parts, it made the show feel uneven. The play itself wasn’t a hit for a reason. The music doesn’t make a huge impression, and the show feels a bit disjointed as it jumps from one possible life to another.

The Drinks: Since the show was slower than we hoped, we got some sparkling wine at intermission. Skip the main bar in the lobby and head straight to the Blue Room near the entrance to order drinks, that is if you didn’t think ahead to pre-order before the show started. 

If/Then runs through December 6th at SHN’s Orpheum Theater. There are currently tickets available on Goldstar for $40-60. SHN is also doing a new “mobile lottery”, so if you’re feeling lucky go to the SHN website, download the app, and try to win $25 tickets (you can buy up to two if you win). Otherwise, you can buy tickets directly from SHN which will run you from $40-$200+ depending on the seats.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Kinky Boots – “In a way it was crazy impressive”

SF “fun” fact: Lena Hall, who originated the role of Nicola in the Broadway production of Kinky Boots, was in my high school class at School of the Arts, back when it was still behind SF State University. So she’s there, and I’m typing this, so obviously we are both shining our bright lights. Anyway, enough about me, Katie & Brittany checked out the local production of Kinky Boots last week, their reactions split down the middle. Here’s their review:

When it’s rainy in SF it’s a challenge just getting out of the house. But when presented with the opportunity for drag queens, fabulous boots, and a night out at The Orpheum, it’s hard to say no. So we braved the monsoon to go see SHN’s latest tour, Kinky Boots.

Katie: I hate to say it, but I’m a little disappointed. Going into this show all I knew was that Cyndi Lauper wrote the music, it won the Tony, and there were drag queens and boots involved. But given Cyndi Lauper’s LGBTQ advocacy, I thought it was going to have more substance and innovation. I guess I was expecting something more like Rent, but with fancier shoes and a few more drag queens. I came in hoping for cutting edge musical theater that would entertain you and make you think. All that kind of bullshit I love. This was just a little forced.

Brittany: That’s so funny. I had the exactly opposite reaction. I was actually pleasantly surprised. I didn’t think I was going to like this show because I had a feeling it was going to be way too fluffy, but it was actually a bit deeper than I thought it might be. I mean it’s a show about shoes, but there were moments.

Continue reading “Drama Talk & Drinks: Kinky Boots – “In a way it was crazy impressive””

Drama Talk & Drinks: “If Paris Hilton could play Roxie Hart we’d be set for life” – CHICAGO

Katie was out of town, so I got to go with Brittany to SHN’s Chicago tour. I’m a big fan of musicals, and I think more people would be if they gave them a chance. Chicago is a great entry point, with its relentless energy, dark humor, sexy style and classic Fosse pizazz. This cast was great and the show was a whole lot of fun. If you really need another nudge, Seinfeld‘s J. Peterman (John O’Hurley) has awesome personality as Billy Flynn, and of course, Bianca Marroquin is amazing as Roxie. Here’s Brittany’s report:

[via SHN]

Thanks to the 2002 film version of the Broadway classic Chicago most people have an idea where they stand when it comes to this play. Since Broadway touring casts tend to be pretty uniformly great, we thought rather than do a normal Drama Talk & Drinks review of the show, we’d go backstage and give you some insights into why you might want to see this current production in particular, now open at SHN’s Orpheum Theater until November 16th.

After a quick backstage tour, we sat down with Christophe Caballero, swing and understudy for Mary Sunshine, and Adam Pellegrine, who plays Harry, Martin Harrison, and is part of the ensemble, to talk about what it’s like to perform in SF and what’s special about this current production of Chicago. Skip to the end if you want our quick and dirty assessment of the show, but Adam and Christophe had some fun things to say.

Brittany: What’s it like to perform for a San Francisco audience?

Continue reading “Drama Talk & Drinks: “If Paris Hilton could play Roxie Hart we’d be set for life” – CHICAGO”

Drama Talk & Drinks: “I’m all about the orgy”

Katie & Brittany saw Pippin, yes Pippin, and really liked it! It sounds pretty sweet. And while we’re (they’re) speaking (writing) of Bob Fosse and Ben Vereen, check out The Jazz Singer, the final scene is one of my favorite in all of cinema. Here’s their report:

An over-educated privileged youth graduates college and desperately searches for something meaningful to do with his life. He tries war, drugs, casual sex, Burning Man-esque orgies, social revolution, religion, and even farming, but still feels unfulfilled. This may sound like every millennial we love to hate, but this time the youth is a prince, the son of Charles the Great, the Ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, and his ennui is the driving coming-of-age story behind the 1972 hit musical Pippin, which won the Tony for best revival in 2013. This lesser known Broadway classic has oddly been Brittany’s favorite musical since she was a little kid (maybe she identified with the privileged angst), so when we found out the tour was coming through SF, Drama Talk & Drinks had to go.

Katie: Wow, so I had no expectations walking in. It’s a musical I’ve heard nothing about, aside from what you’ve told me. So the whole time I was like WHAT! There was a lot going on, and I was a bit overstimulated, but not in a bad way. It was a lot of fun. A real spectacle. It was spectacle spectacle spectacle until the end, and even that was spectacle. I kept trying to guess what the original was like.

Brittany: AWESOME! Yay, I’m glad you liked it. I come into this show with the craziest bias, because I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only people under the age of 30 for whom this is a favorite musical. I watched the movie of the original with Ben Vereen in it at least 100 times. So whereas you were trying to figure out what was revival what wasn’t, I was thinking, “Okay, that dance is the same”, “WHOA, that’s different”, throughout the whole show. It was great seeing what a fresh take on this show can be, and I liked it!

Continue reading “Drama Talk & Drinks: “I’m all about the orgy””

Drama Talk & Drinks: Berry Gordy in person

Katie & Brittany checked out Motown the Musical, and it sounds pretty great. Here’s their report (with a couple notes from me at the end, I couldn’t help myself, sorry):

We were very excited but also very skeptical about seeing Motown The Musical. (We are always at least a little skeptical when it comes to musicals based on already written music) Of course we knew of Motown Records, but didn’t know much about the man who founded it, Berry Gordy, so we were very interested to see how Broadway was going to tell this story.

Katie: I want some more Motown!

Brittany: Me too! The set was insane! There were many times that I was just like how are they doing that??

K: I was really into all those moving screens with media on them. For a second I thought they were projections but realized that they were large TV’s.

B: Amazing production value and cast. Everyone was beautiful and talented. It was disgusting.

K: It was like being taken back in time and attending a Motown concert. When the Marvin Gaye character started singing “What’s Going On” I almost started crying. I was extremely entertained but the only time it got a little slow was at the end of the second act.

B: I loved that since it was opening night Berry Gordy and the director came up after the show. And it was cool to hear the director talk about how this is exactly what we need right now, music that brings people of all ages and colors together, dancing and being kind to each other. And at the end of the first act “What’s Going On” was being sung during video of protests of the day and all I could think was wow, so timely and so on point. Not that it wouldn’t have been amazing otherwise, but the resonance with what’s happening in the world right now and what this play is about was really in sync.

K: Right, and yet I loved hearing these songs in context of the time period and what was going on in history.

B: The girl who played Diana Ross was so good. She was basically her generation’s Beyonce, and that woman pulled it off flawlessly. People should definitely go see it. There was a real story to tell and they did a great job telling it.

K: I could not stop smiling when little Michael Jackson was singing! So freakin’ adorable!

 

The Verdict: If you love Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, The Jackson Five and being “wow’ed” by talented singers, this is the event you will want to treat yourself to. This was everything you expect and hope for from a Broadway touring show. Amazing set, ridiculously talented actors and being thoroughly entertained for two hours.

The Drama Talk: We were afraid that this musical was just going to be hit song after hit song with a random plot shoehorned in. Instead it was more about what was happening at that time. That’s what really worked, it wasn’t just actors breaking into a song that everyone knows, just because. You really feel like you are at a Motown concert.

The Drinks: We were really excited after the show, so knew we wanted a good, strong cocktail. We decided on a place that was only a couple of blocks away from the theater that we had never heard of called Oddjob, which we found out opened 9 months ago. [They lost me at “bespoke mixologist mastery” – Ed.] Though pricey (our drinks were $14 each) they were really, really good. [Also, re: Oddjob, “working man’s cocktail room” with $14 drinks . . . sorry, continue. – Ed.] We both ordered the “For Your Eyes Only”. Such a treat! Oh, and the “secret” entrance is to the left of the building, down the alleyway. Great way to end our entertaining evening. [Oh, secret alleys? Done it. – Ed.]

Motown the Musical runs through 9/28 at the Orpheum Theatre and tickets can be purchased through their website. Ticket prices vary from $45-$200 depending on where you sit. ALSO, another way to go is to grab some of the limited number of $40 rush tickets available two hours prior to curtain at the SHN Orpheum Theatre Box Office. It’s cash only and only 2 tickets per person, and are subject to availability. There are also tickets available on Goldstar for $69-$80.

 

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Drama Talk & Drinks: “We are left with a dun dun dun di di di dun di di”

This week, Katie & Brittany went to see a musical based on a movie that sparked a romance that turned into a Broadway show and then came to our little town. Here’s their report:

Remember the 2006 movie Once? I know it was a long time ago but we still remember getting “Falling Slowly” stuck in our heads.

So we were really excited to check out the stage adaptation of Once last week. The musical was nominated for 11 Tony awards and won 8 of them. Between the critically acclaimed movie and all the awards, needless to say, we went into this show with extremely high expectations.

Katie: What I’ve noticed about going to SHN shows is that the production value is so high and the actors are so talented that even if it’s not an amazingly written show it’s always really entertaining. Always.

Brittany: It’s true. Once is so interesting. It was more like real life, which means depressing. At the end I definitely was left saying “Wait that’s it? That’s the end?” No happy ending here. Which I guess is refreshing because most Broadway shows are tied up in 2 hours.

K: Yeah, tied up in a pretty bow with a happy ending and we are left with a dun dun dun di di di dun di di. Not Once. But what beautiful music and amazing talent.

B: It’s really music anyone would like. I would listen to it with someone who didn’t like show tunes and I wouldn’t be embarrassed.

K: One thing that I struggled with was the format of the show. The fact that the set was a pub, but even though we are in a realistic pub setting it’s used mostly as other locations, like the vacuum shop, the music store, his house. It would have worked better for me if the set was not a specific place. I thought they were going to be a little more creative with turning this movie into a musical but instead they grabbed moments from the movie and threw it awkwardly on a stage designed as a pub. Luckily the actors and the music were so good that was enough to make it work. But for me I don’t think it was an example of great writing or a well constructed musical.

B: They really did themselves a disservice by having such a detailed set behind them which made it harder for your imagination to transform it into other things. It was a beautiful set though.

K: Really beautiful, really detailed. Just not needed. I thought they were going to take the story and the music from the movie and present it in a different, a very creative, theatery way, which didn’t exactly happen.

B: I’ve never seen the movie so I didn’t come in with certain expectations or context. It took me a little bit to get into the staging, but they were good enough actors that midway through the first act it worked for me. I did really like the stylized movement.

K: I just feel that they should of taken it further. I mean there is already a movie. I can sit in my living room and watch the movie. What is going to make me want to see this on stage? And it’s that, it’s the stylized movement, it’s the musicians – who did a really good job – that’s why I’m going to want to see it live.

B: And I think when they went there it was really good. All of the musicians were amazing. I do wonder how I would be feeling if I saw the movie.

K: I think you would have had a different perspective. The production was really well done though. It was a concert with a story. The lead girl was so good. Her voice was almost like a violin. So beautiful. Loved how the lead guy would get crazy on the guitar. The music definitely makes it worth going.

The Verdict:
Once is a great night out. The actors are super impressive. As always SHN brings through a tour with Broadway level sets and production values.

The Drama Talk:
While some of us struggle to walk and text at the same time, these actors act, sing, play the accordion, change the set and dance in front of an audience of 100’s all without skipping a beat. If you haven’t seen the movie, wait. The play doesn’t elaborate as much on the film as we may have liked, so if you can keep the plot a surprise, you may enjoy the show more.

Drinks:
This production offers a special opportunity to go onstage before the show and during intermission to have a drink, so we did just that. Brittany had a beer and Katie had a chardonnay. As we were sipping our beverages, that were served in a plastic SHN sippy cup, actors came onstage and started playing music . . . right next to us . . . in arms reach. A really cool experience worth the really expensive unremarkable drinks. You don’t need to get a drink to be on the stage though, just get to the theater early since they limit the number of people allowed on stage at a time.

Once runs through 7/15 at the the Curran Theatre, and tickets can be purchased through their website. Ticket prices vary from $65-$210 depending on where you sit.

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