Someone needs to do their math. RENT premiered on Broadway in 1996, so really what arrived at the Hobby Center earlier this week is, at best, a 23rd Anniversary Celebration. Despite some fuzzy math, it is billed as the 20th Anniversary Tour of one of only nine musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Times have certainly changed since the end of the last millennium. But has RENT, and more importantly, its impact?
Summer is one of my favorite times of the year in Houston. I’ll put up with the heat and stifling humidity because I know the Alley Theatre will always deliver some cool times in the form of their Summer Chills productions. When I heard that they would be mounting a production of Agatha Christie’s classic MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, I must admit I was very excited but plagued by one nagging question: How the heck were they going to put a train on stage?
When Disney decided to launch a theatrical division, they picked one of their most popular properties – BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – to make their Broadway debut. It was a lavish, faithful adaptation of the film and audiences loved it. Disney’s producing history since then has been hit or miss. They’ve had some bright spots (THE LION KING and the surprise hit NEWSIES) but they’ve also had some huge disappointments, particularly the short-lived shows TARZAN and THE LITTLE MERMAID. So where does ALADDIN fall on this scale?
“Balls! Balls! Balls! I love balls!” exclaims King Louis XIII (Alley Theatre Resident Company member Dylan Godwin) late in Act Two of the final show of the Alley Theatre season – THE THREE MUSKETEERS. The line is delivered with a tinge of double entendre, but it is also a perfect “pull-quote” to describe this swashbuckling production.
UPDATED: Be sure to see the update at the bottom of the article.
If you’ve read my recent reviews of the TUTS 50th Anniversary season (OKLAHOMA!, THE WIZ, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, MAMMA MIA!, and RAGTIME), there has been one unfortunate consistency: audio issues. I have sent a copy of the following letter to Dan Knechtges, the Artistic Director of Theatre Under the Stars. Hopefully they will do something to address this issue for the upcoming 51st season.
When TUTS decided to produce JEROME ROBBINS’ BROADWAY as the final show in their 50th Anniversary Season, it was certainly seen as a bold choice. A show with a huge cast that is rarely performed despite being a Tony-winning Best Musical. I’m sure the thought was, “Let’s wrap up this celebratory year with a bang and give audiences something to remember!” Sadly, my biggest memory of what should have been a great season will be the inability to hear a large portion of it.
The strength of a script, whether it be for television, movies, or the stage, can be judged by how well it stands up with nothing else to support it. Some of my favorite pieces are those where the visual isn’t really part of the story at all. In contrast to the visual feast that is MISS SAIGON (my last review), sometimes it’s nice to have a show just feature great writing and acting. But is that enough to make CONSTELLATIONS worth seeing?
Perhaps the third time is the charm? Producer Cameron Mackintosh and I have a love/hate relationship. I’m very grateful to the man for financing some of my all-time favorite shows. But I also hate that he has closed the original versions of some of his biggest hits in favor of newer versions that while no-doubt more cost-effective, are unfortunately not nearly as impressive as their forefathers. The recent tours of LES MISERABLES and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA are two of these shows. With the arrival of MISS SAIGON, we finally find out if he can actually make one of his shows better with a “newer” version.
The Alley Theatre produces eight shows in a typical season and usually does a great job of navigating the waters between world premieres, contemporary plays, and classic revivals. The most curious choice on this season’s schedule is CRIMES OF THE HEART, a title likely familiar because of its movie version, but a play not often revived in professional productions. Why would the Alley make such an unusual pick?