I know being drunk and obnoxious was your primary goal during last night’s performance of CLEO at the Alley Theatre. Since you missed most of the play due to your alcohol-infused antics, I wanted to write this review specifically for you. I hope you enjoy it when/if you sober up.
When I hear the word “concert” I think of a stage with a band and microphones where artists perform their latest hits. Even some of the most ambitious tours I’ve seen (Madonna’s “Blonde Ambition” comes to mind) were bold in their theatrics but were still, in the end, the very definition of a concert. NBC had been billing JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR as a concert event. To say that is a dis-service to what was actually presented, although I suspect there is a reason for this somewhat deceptive marketing.
As a kid of the 80s, I grew up with some of the greatest high school rom-coms made, including PRETTY IN PINK, SIXTEEN CANDLES and SAY ANYTHING. These films found the right mix of humor, drama and teen angst to make them classics. LOVE, SIMON attempts to be this generation’s version of such a film, with mostly positive results.
A few weeks ago, I speculated about what shows would play The Hobby Center during the coming Broadway season. Today the official line-up was announced and now we know which shows will visit Houston in 2018 and 2019.
We’ve all admired a performer from a distance. Watching from beyond the footlights or via television, we usually only see what they want us to see. It’s easy to love the persona that is public-facing, but what if we could look backstage or see them when the camera is off? Would we still have the same adoration or would it be tarnished? SATCHMO AT THE WALDORF allows us that access to one of the greatest entertainers of all time — Louis Armstrong. But does that peek behind the curtain make us love this legendary musician even more — or tarnish our views by exposing the real man?
Before the curtain rose on MEMPHIS last night, TUTS Artistic Director Dan Knechtges (also the show’s director) and Executive Director Hilary J. Hart delivered a pre-show speech, pointing out that for their upcoming 50th Anniversary season, all six shows would be locally produced and focus on using Houston talent. They also explained that the majority of cast and crew on MEMPHIS were local artists. So for better or worse, this show is a watermark of things to come for this performing arts company.
Before the show even starts, we are told this is not a musical. In an interview with Suzanne Vega and Duncan Sheik, reprinted in the Playbill for LOVER, BELOVED: AN EVENING WITH CARSON McCULLERS, Sheik explains that musicals “come with a set of expectations that this show is never wanting to deliver on.” This feeling was also echoed by Vega and the show’s musical director/arranger Jason Hart at the post-show talkback. So while this may not be a traditional musical, the problem with the show, making its world premiere at the Alley Theatre, is that it’s not really sure WHAT it is.
It’s been a tough few weeks for the Alley Theatre, with the departure of long-time artistic director Gregory Boyd and the subsequent allegations of abuse. So it’s a bit ironic that the next production would be a story of struggles to bring people together in times of crisis. I had personally been torn about continuing to support the theatre but ultimately decided to support my friends in the resident company and their colleagues. The thing the theatre needed the most right now is some good publicity and a big hit — and they have found it with this near-perfect production of THE GREAT SOCIETY.
Putting together a Broadway show is much like assembling a good band. There are specific elements that must be in place to make you successful. One element both have in common is the music. A great musical (and a great band, for that matter) must have songs people want to hear and lyrics that tell a great story or entertain. The biggest problem with SCHOOL OF ROCK, playing this week at The Hobby Center, is that one of these key factors is missing.