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Perez Reviews: The Band Wagon

| Filed under: Broadway BabiesPerez Reviews

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Encores! at City Center always puts on a good show. And we've seen many there. BUT…

Their most recent production of The Band Wagon is the best Encores! show we have ever seen!!!!

Such a gem and such a brilliant revival!

Originally a Broadway musical from the 1930s starring Fred Astaire, the show was later turned into a movie musical in the '50s - also starring the legendary Astaire.

This production more closely resembles the film, but thankfully the very talented Douglas Carter Beane has written a new book for the show. So it feels fun and FRESH! And the equally talented Kathleen Marshall directed and choreographed this production, which is the most staged and dance-heavy show we have ever seen at Encore!

It is such a WINNING vehicle. It just aims to please! An old-fashioned love story set in the world of Broadway, it most closely reminds us of the Cole Porter classic Anything Goes.

The Band Wagon has many truly memorable songs - and one ICONIC tune, That's Entertainment!

This production was lucky enough to feature some greats, including Tracey Ullman, Michael McKean, Laura Osnes, Tony Sheldon and in the Astaire role, Brian Stokes Mitchell, whom we had never seen in a show before. WHAT A VOICE!!!!!!!!

The whole cast was great!

If ever a City Center/Encores! production deserved to transfer to Broadway, it's THIS ONE!

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Perez Reviews: The Last Ship

| Filed under: Broadway BabiesStingPerez Reviews

The Last Ship is the first musical of the new Broadway season we have seen and it is ambitious and it's from Sting and, unfortunately, it's very disappointing.

The best way to describe the show is… like Billy Elliot without any gayness or without the heart and dazzle that show has.

The Last Ship is bleak, and though there are some moments of levity, the darkness far outweighs the light.

And as we could tell by the opening night audience, there's only so much heaviness people want and can take!

The main problem with the show is the book, by John Logan and Brian Yorkey, and the decision to make the socio-political story the main one, while the more compelling love story and the father/son story played second fiddle.

If people were more invested in the characters and more attention paid to them and less to the more global "economic drama" in the show, The Last Ship would have been far more compelling!

The female lead, played by Rachel Tucker, is SEN-SA-TIONAL! She's almost too good! She makes her male counterpart pale in comparison.

Choreographer Steven Hoggett did a super job of injecting the show with some much needed joie de vivre, but those moments were few and far between.

We appreciate all that The Last Ship attempted to do. We just wish it would have done it all more effectively!

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Perez Reviews: Piece Of My Heart

| Filed under: Broadway BabiesPerez Reviews

You may not know the name Bert Berns, but you definitely know his music!

The legendary songwriter is responsible for such iconic hits as Twist & Shout and Piece Of My Heart.

And, now, some of Berns' best songs form the heart of a new Off-Broadway musical about his life, Piece Of My Heart.

The show is satisfying but could benefit from some major changes, if it has aspirations of a Broadway run.

Berns was not only a gifted songwriter, but he was also the head of his own record label and a brilliant producer. Unfortunately, this show ONLY highlights the songs he wrote. But it would greatly benefit from the inclusion of some of these other hits he didn't write but was involved with, like Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl or Under The Boardwalk by The Drifters, both of which he produced.

As it is now, the show feels like it has too much filler and not enough killer. It just can't compete with the catalogue of mega hits that is Beautiful or Motown.

Or, if it will remain featuring only the songs Berns wrote, then Piece Of My Heart would benefit a lot from some major trimming. It could be a lot more effective as a one-act musical.

Also, the arrangements of the songs did not do them justice. Twist & Shout never twisted nor shouted!

And the book had too many sensationalized moments. Tone it down!

What makes Beautiful and Motown so effective is that they're simple stories with a lot of heart.

Sometimes less is more!

Thankfully, Piece Of My Heart features a great cast and with some work it can be a real contender!

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Perez Reviews: Side Show

| Filed under: Broadway BabiesPerez Reviews

sideshow whitedresses hires cademartin 400x400

What a treat!

More than 16 years after we saw Side Show on Broadway - twice! - we got to see a brand new and reimagined production at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The show, by Henry Krieger and Bill Russell, has one of the best scores of all time! And it truly is one of our favorite musicals!

Not only are the songs stunning but the story speaks to our soul! It's a tale of outsiders and love!

Based on the life of the original Hilton sisters, long before there was a Paris and Nicky, Daisy and Violet were conjoined twins who lived a difficult life - unwanted, unloved, "freaks" in the side show. Eventually they found fame in vaudeville and the movies before dying poor and barely remembered.

This new production, directed by Bill Condon, is VERY different from the original production. And it still has a little work to be done before being Broadway-ready.

And this MUST play a triumphant return on Broadway!

The new Side Show is darker and more lifelike. They've basically done to it what Christopher Nolan did to Batman, which was AWESOME!

Much of that credit goes to the direction and the visionary and brilliant new costumes from Paul Tazewell and the special makeup and effects design of Dave Elsey and Lou Elsey.

Inspired!!

There are a few new songs, and thankfully none of the iconic original ones are gone. There are a few more characters. Some, like the introduction of Houdini, are unnecessary. However, learning more about Daisy and Violet's backstory and their wicked caretakers is quite illuminating.

Act 1 felt a bit bloated and could use from some slight trimming, as well as a bit more razzle dazzle and bang for Broadway. Bigger sets! Moving pieces. Etc.

But, overall, this new production is dazzling!

And there are some thrilling performances!

Emily Padgett's voice is UNREAL and she gets to show that off so beautifully as Daisy! And playing the sister with a bit more heart, Erin Davie brings so much emotion and superb acting to the show, as well as a great voice of her own.

Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, who first played Daisy and Violet, would be proud!

And the breakout star of the show is David St. Louis as Jake, Daisy's jilted wannabe lover, in a role originated by the phenomenal Norm Lewis! Tony Award-worthy!!!

Big kudos to everyone involved!

Can't wait to see it on Broadway and the final tweaks and improvements they make!!!

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Perez Reviews: Holler If Ya Hear Me, The Tupac Musical

| Filed under: Broadway BabiesPerez Reviews

What is the takeaway from Holler If Ya Hear Me, the new Tupac Shakur musical, now playing on Broadway???

We're not sure what the message of the show is - and that's not a good thing!

What we do know is that it's bleak, depressing and disappointing on so many levels.

A risky move, the creators and producers of the show decided to NOT tell the story of Tupac. Instead they told a story about gun violence and drugs that was not as effective or powerful as the Shakur songs used throughout the show.

Beautiful is beautiful because it's a real story about real emotions and experiences that we can all relate to.

Same with Motown.

Holler If Ya Hear Me, unfortunately, is trying to be a little too ambitious and feels extremely undercooked.

We didn't need a "traditional" musical about Tupac. Something bolder and braver would have been quite brilliant. An exploration on politics, race relations or a myriad of other issues (many or one) would have been much more effective.

The traditional musical NOT about Shakur that is Holler If Ya Hear Me is lacking the passion and vibrancy that Tupac had.

There is very little dancing, which shocked us.

And there's very little of everything. The set is lacking and the whole production seems like it was done on a budget.

Multimedia, video, illustrations - all that could have added so much more!

This show would have worked better in a small off-Broadway theater downtown… after a lot more workshopping and revisions!

We missed the spunk. We missed the light.

You can miss Holler If Ya Hear Me!

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Perez Reviews: American Hero

| Filed under: Broadway BabiesJerry O'ConnellPerez ReviewsAri Graynor

american hero

Every ten years or so comes a movie or a play that attempts to illustrate what life is truly like today.

Thankfully, American Hero, currently playing at 2econd Stage Theater Uptown, does it very very well!

Like a more current and funnier American Beauty, the show is filled with characters who have crushed dreams, failed relationships and so much more!

Whereas a few years ago a similar play may have been darker and more cynical, American Hero is filled with moments of hope and almost non-stop laughter.

Telling the equally bizarre and somehow all-too-realistic tale of three workers at a fancy sandwich shop, playwright Bess Wohl masterfully mines the everyday and mundane into comedic brilliance.

Who knew making a sandwich could be so funny???

The show is about the big and the small. The good and the bad. Working together as a team and how sometimes we get the best of ourselves and each other.

A lot to explore in just 90 minutes with no intermission! A feat executed under the direction of Leigh Silverman.

Thankfully this show has a great cast - all who do a wonderful job. They include Jerry O'Connell, Daoud Heidami and Erin Wilhelmi.

AND Ari Graynor delivers an inspired and revelatory performance as a loose mother who is down on her luck and even more down on herself.

Sitting in that audience we were IN AWE of her comedic timing. Her complete immersion in this character. The way she was able to be big and ballsy yet also intimate and authentic.

She was so invested in every moment! It was a pleasure and a privilege to get to watch her do this part.

Ari Graynor is a superstar! We can't wait until the rest of the world finds out!!!

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Perez Reviews: Bullets Over Broadway

| Filed under: Broadway BabiesZach BraffPerez ReviewsWoody Allen

Bullets Over Broadway is a fine show. Unfortunately, fine isn't good enough for a Tony nomination for Best Musical nor is it likely to help sustain a long run.

The new stage adaptation of Woody Allen's film is firing blanks.

The show was poised to be a big smash of the current season, with an all-star cast lead by Zach Braff and spearheaded by an all-star director, Susan Stroman.

While Stroman's last Broadway musical, Big Fish, was spectacular and filled with wonder, awe, imagination and playfulness - Bullets Over Broadway is "by the book".

Harmless. Inoffensive. Not a bad time. But not a great time.

It's all been done before. Mobsters. Self-reflection. Etc. Etc.

A lot of the blame lies on the material. The songs chosen are little-known jazz standards from the early 20th century. If they're "little-known", that should tell you something about the quality of the tunes!

The show's other big weakness is that not every movie works on the stage. Allen's characters from the film don't hold up well when having the spotlight on them and amplified on Broadway.

They aren't characters as much as they are caricatures.

There's Braff doing Woody. There's a girl doing a Cyndi Lauper impression. There's all these fine actors giving fine performances, but it's hard to relate to any of them because these characters are drawn so superficially.

There are, however, two standout performances.

Once again, Betsy Wolfe proves she is one of the top leading ladies on Broadway! Not only does she have one of the best voices, but she is also such a superb actress! She infuses the show with so much heart and humanity, something it's sorely lacking.

And the other standout Nick Cordero, who turns his one-dimensional role into a fully-fleshed and fantastic portrayal!

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