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Excellent! Haven Theatre Presents The Total Bent at The Den Theatre (Through March 17, 2019)

A record producer from London comes to Montgomery, Alabama to record an album by Marty Roy, a rising musical star. Marty is the son of Joe Roy, a gospel star with a big personality. Marty does his best to distance himself from his father and create his own music and style.

The music in this show is fantastic. It’s rock and roll with a gospel flavor. The entire cast sings expertly supported by a full band on stage. It’s an impressive performance of 100 straight minutes of mostly music with no intermission. It’s a bit difficult to concentrate this long on the lyrics and it’s likely you’ll stop paying attention to the words and just feel the music at a few points. At a concert, this wouldn’t be an issue, but you could miss key points of the story. Thus, a break midway in the play would be a great addition.

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Robert Cornelius (Rightlynd, Lottery Day) is fantastic as Joe Roy. He has such a good voice and such a strong presence that fits the character perfectly. Also, Gilbery Domally (Memphis) is excellent as Marty Roy. Just like his character, his is surely a rising star.

The writer of the play, STEW, recorded the music for this play with his band, The Negro Problem. It is available on Spotify. Check out “Why Do Black People Still Believe in G~d?” for a good sample of what this show is all about.

Get tickets now for The Total Bent through March 17th!

Cost of a ticket: $40

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

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Quinn Delaney

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Hilarious and Intelligent! First Floor Theatre Presents Mike Pence Sex Dream at the Den Theatre (Through March 16, 2019)

Ben and Gary are a happily married couple. Ben is a teacher who wants to wear a dress to school. Gary works for an ad agency and is pursuing a big account with a meat company that is in trouble for its inhumane treatment of pigs. Gary has an affair with the representative of the meat company, Tom. Yet, even with two lovers, he continues to have wild funny sex dreams about Mike Pence.

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This production continues First Floor Theatre’s streak of hilarious and intelligent plays. The script is excellent and the cast does a great job with the work.  Shea Petersen is great as Ben, who is trying to make the world a better place.  Scott Shimizu (Machinal) is superb as Gary, a man struggling to make a living and keep both his husband and his business partner happy. Gage Wallace (An Oak Tree) is hilariously upfront and blunt as Tom pursuing a relationship with Gary.

The music for this show is spot-on which is demonstrated by the choice of Vogue by Madonna for the dance scene. Each scene transition is accompanied by a terrific song which truly sets a fun atmosphere.

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Get tickets now for Mike Pence Sex Dream through March 16!

Cost of a ticket: $25

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

 

Quinn Delaney

 

Also see our review of Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies.

 

Review: Fulfillment Center at A Red Orchid Theatre (Through March 24, 2019)

Alex has just moved to New Mexico from New York City with his girlfriend, Madeleine. He relocated to be a manager at a fulfillment center. Madeleine was quite reluctant to make the move. Alex hires Suzan to fill orders, despite his reservations that she is too slow to keep up. Suzan is living in a tent on a campground where she meets John, who is living out of his car. He has the best line of the play. “I feel old. I’m 42. It’s the oldest I’ve ever been!”

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It’s an interesting setup, but nothing very exciting happens. A few interesting developments begin to occur, but they aren’t deeply explored. A few laughs are had, but not enough to call it a comedy. It’s very short at just 80 minutes with no intermission. At this length, it feels half finished. There is potential here, however, if it is more fully flushed out.

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Get tickets now for Fulfillment Center through March 24th.

Cost of a ticket: $40

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

 

Quinn Delaney

Intense! Pipeline at Victory Gardens Theatre (Through March 3, 2019)

Nya is a teacher at an inner city high school. She is struggling to keep her son, Omari, on a prosperous path and not on the pipeline to prison. When he is suspended for pushing a teacher, she must fight to keep him from being expelled. Her ex-husband offers to take in Omari, but she isn’t convinced this a good idea.

The acting in this performance is intense. Everyone displays strong emotions as they fight for what they believe is the right thing to do. Tyla Abercrumbie is fierce as Nya. Matthew Elam is very intense as Omari. Mark Spates Smith is firm and strong as the ex-husband. Aurora Real de Asua is loving and caring as Omari’s girlfriend. Ronald L. Conner and Janet Ulrich Brooks round out the cast excellently with their supporting roles.

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For those familiar with this environment, it really resonates as true. For those unfamiliar, it provides a glimpse into the reality of the school to prison pipeline.

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Get tickets now for Pipeline at Victory Gardens Theatre (Through March 3, 2019)

Cost of a ticket: $40 – $66 (Note: There isn’t a bad seat in the house)
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

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Quinn Delaney

Magnificent! Joffrey Ballet Presents Anna Karenina at The Auditorium Theatre (Through February 24, 2019)

Anna Karenina has a void in her life. Her husband and son are not enough for her. She seeks a new love with Vronsky. Things don’t go smoothly for her on this journey in a snowy Russia.

The dancing in the production is fantastic. Amanda Assucena’s performance as Anna Akrenina is impressive. She is so emotionally expressive. It’s also a true feat of endurance as she is on stage for most of the scenes. Greig Matthews as Vronskey and Temur Suluashvili as Anna’s husband are excellent, especially in the scene where they are both dancing with Anna. It’s an expertly choreographed dance with the three of them moving as one.

Victoria Jaiani_Alberto Velazquez_Fabrice Calmels_Photo by Cheryl Mann

The original score was created by Ilya Demutsky specifically for this production. It is played magnificently by The Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra along with the operatic singing in Russian. Unfortunately, there aren’t surtitles translating it into English like they do at most operas. It could also be helpful to have surtitles describing the action taking place on stage. Or, maybe it’s best not to have them and not worry about the meaning of the words and just get swept up in the emotion.

Victoria Jaiani_Photo by Cheryl Mann

Get tickets now for Anna Karenina through February 24!

Quinn Delaney

Mr. Wow! Cirque du Soleil Presents Volta in San Jose (Through March 24, 2019) and then in Chicago (May 18, 2019 – June 23, 2019)

Volta is a very entertaining show with many fantastic moments. Here are some of the best moments.

The trampoline scene with the two story wall in the middle: Can they add this to my local trampoline park?

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When Mr. Wow first appears on stage in his fantastic costume: Seriously, is this available for purchase as a Halloween costume?!

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For about half the crowd, when the unicycler removes his shirt: Has he ever eaten a carb?

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The double dutch: Holy cow, they move so fast it’s a blur!

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The washing machine scene: A great bit of clowning that is really funny!

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The woman being suspended by her hair: Wow, this in incredible!

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The BMX bikers: Watching them spin their handlebars and flip and then nailing the landing is like a shot of adrenaline!

Cost of a ticket: $70 and up (Note: There isn’t a bad seat in the house)
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Get tickets now for Volta in San Jose through March 24 and then in Chicago (May 18, 2019 – June 23, 2019).

Quinn Delaney

 

 

 

Amazing! Broadway in Chicago Presents Dear Evan Hansen at The James M. Nederlander Theatre (Through March 10, 2019 and July 7, 2020 through September 27, 2020)

“Dear Evan Hansen” was the darling of the 2017 Tonys, sweeping up a total of 6 awards including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, which went to the original Evan Hansen, Ben Platt.

Now the tour has reached Chicago with a new Evan/Ben, this time with Ben Levi Ross. And for those who worried that Platt’s shoes would be too big to fill, worry not.

I truly believe the show is best seen without a full summary of the plot (which you can surely find elsewhere), but to give the barest of an overview. The show is about Evan, an anxious high school student without any real friends. Quickly, he becomes entangled in a lie that grows bigger and bigger, with painful consequences. The story is about mental health, grief, the relationships between parents and their children, and the universal desire to matter, to be known, to be found.

2 - The Company of the First North American Tour of Dear Evan Hansen. Photo by Matthew Murphy. 2018

Ross fully inhabits the role, putting the character’s internal struggles and pain on full display. And his voice? You can hardly believe it’s coming out of a lean 21 year old. He sings with such emotion, such power and the highest notes in the show are comfortably within his range.

And with all of the praise for Ross, he is matched by the entire cast. Maggie McKenna presents a touching portrait of a character both guarded and vulnerable (not to mention the beautiful tone of her voice). Jessica Phillips and Christiane Noll, each playing a mother in the show, both grab your heart every single minute they are on stage.

Catch this tour of Dear Evan Hansen if you can through March 10th. And if not, the show returns next summer, July 7, 2020. Tickets to the return engagement will go on sale to the public February 19, 2019. Don’t miss it twice!

Quinn Delaney