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Perez Reviews: Mothers And Sons

mothers and sons broadway review tyne daly

It would be easy to dismiss Mothers and Sons as just another AIDS play from Terrence McNally.

But Terrence McNally is not just any other playwright. He is the great American gay playwright. He's the Arthur Miller of queer dramaturgy. He writes important plays about gay life and AIDS.

And his latest is just as important! A reminder of an era that has passed but is still affecting people in many meaningful ways.

The story is about a mother's loss and how she comes to terms - or doesn't - with her son's passing of AIDS.

Like life, Mothers and Sons is at times very funny and at times extremely emotional and sad. And true to life, things don't always end in a happy ending or wrapped up in a neat little bow.

But this play is beautifully written and even more beautifully acted by the great dame that is Tyne Daly.

She gives a tour-de-force performance! Showy but not forced.

And equally beautiful in this production is Bobby Steggert, who plays the husband of the widow that Daly's son in the play left behind. Less theatrical than Daly but just as good, Steggert is so real and believable in the part we oftentimes forgot he was acting. He was being. And being so good and sweet and charming and filled with love and light! He shines!

The same cannot be said of his counterpart, the miscast Frederick Weller. Weller looks way younger than his character is supposed to be, and seemingly to compensate he has a distracting vocal affectation - as if he's trying to age his voice. He is acting way hard. Too hard.

And, rounding out the cast is precocious youngster Grayson Taylor, who is so endearing. Kids always work on Broadway! And so does this play!

Go out and see it! It's nice to see shows besides musicals!

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Perez Reviews: Aladdin on Broadway

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We have seen more musicals than we can count and never before have we seen a standing ovation DURING a show… until Aladdin!

Disney's new Broadway musical is lucky enough to have such a literal showstopping number in Friend Like Me.

Aladdin has everything you want in a big Broadway musical - great songs, fabulous voices, stellar acting, amazing production value, huge sets, lavish costumes, dazzling dance numbers and MORE!

The show's secret weapon, though, is it's book and direction.

The book, by Chad Beguelin, is so LOL! Literally LAUGH OUT LOUD funny - from start to finish!

And the direction - as well as choreography - by Casey Nicholaw is so inventive! You just marvel at all the creativity on stage and you could tell he and his collaborators had so much fun making this show and trying to impress the audience!

They nailed the flying rug and so much more!

MAGICAL!

Disney learned from their recent misstep on Broadway that was The Little Mermaid and have delivered a mega satisfying hit with Aladdin!

It's great for the kids AND the adults! And the gays too! The show is super gay! Super camp! Super fabulous!

The performances are all wonderful! Jonathan Freeman, who voices Jafar in the film, plays the same part in this live production! How cool is THAT????

And extra kudos to James Monroe Iglehart - as the Genie - for fleshing out a wholly new interpretation and not just recreating what Robin Williams did in the film!

We also loved seeing such a colorful and multi-cultural cast on stage!

Everything about Aladdin is a win win WIN!

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Perez Reviews: The Threepenny Opera

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We LOVE the theater!

We have seen many many MANY shows, and there's countless others we have not seen - like the classic The Threepenny Opera, now playing at the Atlantic Theater Company.

This production of the Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht musical features some MAJOR Broadway talent in an intimate off-Broadway house. The perfect setting to soak in this incredible score!

From the very get-go this production puts the emphasis on the music - and the orchestra on stage. The songs are so beautifully orchestrated and played so beautifully! With all those period instruments! Who doesn't love some accordion music?????

Major kudos to music coordinator Michael Aarons, conductor Fred Lassen and every member of that topnotch orchestra band!

The performances were fabulous - most especially the women! Laura Osnes' voice is unreal! Mary Beth Peil is a legend! And Sally Murphy was a revelation and instant new fave!!

The original production of The Threepenny Opera premiered in 1928!!!!!! It feels more like a play with songs than a musical. And it was really interesting to see how this show influenced later vehicles, like Cabaret and Sweeney Todd.

The Threepenny Opera is dark, sexy and this production is a definite must-see!!

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Perez Reviews: The Most Happy Fella

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Encores! is the gold standard! A class! A GUARANTEED good time!

The company, who picks often forgotten musicals and brushes them up for contemporary audiences, always puts on such quality productions! And their latest, Frank Loesser's The Most Happy Fella, is no exception!

The shows themselves may be flawed, but you can always count on the Encores! revival to be fun, fresh and featuring a to-notch cast!

Their The Most Happy Fella is true on all counts! We all saw Laura Benanti on NBC's The Sound Of Music, and here she gets to showcase her beautiful soprano and highlight an almost operatic quality to her voice. She delivers!

Cheyenne Jackson has a welcome return to musicals in this production.

Shuler Hensley is a revelation in the lead role!

And the supremely talented Jay Armstrong Johnson, whom we recently saw in Lincoln Center's Sweeney Todd and before that in Hands On A Hard Body, in this proves he can not just sing and act and look real pretty, but he can dance too!

There are some GREAT dance numbers in this production, choreographed AND directed by The Book Of Mormon helmer Casey Nicholaw.

The show is super enjoyable and very old-timey, but…..

If this has hopes for a Broadway transfer, the book needs to be completely revamped.

Frank Loesser had great success with Guys & Dolls and How To Succeed In Business, but The Most Happy Fella he not just wrote the music and lyrics for but also the book too!

A very funny script doctor can come in and make this production super fun for big mainstream audiences!

Great GREAT job with the current mounting as is, though!

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Perez Reviews: Jasper In Deadland

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A theater in a church? Yup!

Currently playing the West End Theater in the Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew in NYC, new musical Jasper In Deadland could not ask for a more appropriate space. The show deals with issues of death and the afterlife.

Unfortunately, the musical doesn't quite live up to the venue's grandeur.

However, like life, much beauty can still be found in imperfection and Jasper In Deadland is definitely worth seeing - for three reasons.

1) The ever-likeable Matt Doyle gets to shine and show off his many talents in the title role

2) The direction of Brandon Ivie is INSPIRED! It is thrilling to see all his inventiveness and everything he and his team were able to do with that space and budget

and

3) Bonnie Milligan, whose voice is as big as her comedic ability. We saw her in a crappy Fifty Shades musical last year, so it was WONDERFUL to see her in a much better show. We can see the future and we expect this girl to be a big Broadway star - soon!

The show itself is enjoyable, although very flawed.

The majority of the musical is set in "Deadland", which is - you guessed it - a land dead people go to.

This fantastical element detaches the audience from the characters, who have to go through some outlandish and surreal scenarios in the show.

Setting Jasper in high school and creating a show withing a show construct, where they are performing "Deadland", may have been more effective. It would have been easier to come back to reality and ground the show in relatability.

There are some VERY funny moments, and we applaud Hunter Foster, for the book. But, overall, the story needs a lot of work. As does the music.

There are a few great songs, most of which are backloaded in the second act, but the majority of the tunes could be scrapped and replaced with… better ones. Ryan Scott Oliver wrote the music and lyrics all by himself, which is a bit unusual in theater. It's often very helpful to have a collaborator to bounce ideas off and make your work better. There are so many great teams in musical theater, and that's definitely something we'd encourage Oliver to explore.

Theater takes A LONG time to develop shows. Jasper has been worked on for years. And, sadly, this may and probably should be the end.

But there are some great moments in this production and a lot of promise from all parties involved!

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Perez Reviews: Rocky The Musical

Spider-Man is out and Rocky is in!

However, the similarities between these two shows are many!

We saw Spider-Man and we really enjoyed it. We enjoyed it so much that we saw it a second time.

We just saw the new musical based on the iconic Sylvester Stallone movie and we really enjoyed it. We enjoyed it so much we would see it a second time too!

And, just like Spider-Man, Rocky on Broadway features dazzling production and an underwhelming songs from an iconic musical act.

U2 lent their talent to the average score for Spidey and iconic songwriting duo Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Seussical, Once On This Island and more) are responsible for Rocky's just fine songs. Not bad. Not great.

There's no Let It Go here!

In fact, the best song in the show is the only one from the '80s film used, Eye Of The Tiger.

When that one cover is leaps and bounds better than the original songs, you know your musical is not the strongest musical.

But it doesn't need to be!

Like we said, the songs aren't bad. Just many feel generic and uninspired. And there's not enough variety and fun - at least not till later on in the show. When Apollo Creed joins Rocky in the ring for the big match and he busts out some Sugar Hill Gang flavor, that was some much needed spice that should have been sprinkled THROUGHOUT the show!

Overall, the score is too consistently serious and lacking fun.

However, every single visual element is more than fun! It is FABULOUS! It is breathtaking! It is innovative!

The scenic design by Christopher Barreca is straight-up GENIUS! It was so fresh! So grand! The scale of the show is huge! Giganctic flying sets! Such a 360 use of the space - literally!

For the big match, the first few rows are taken out of their seats and escorted up on the stage as the boxing ring moves out and over the audience!

Thrilling! And the energy for that finale is THROUGH THE ROOF!

The video design by Dan Scully and Pablo N. Molina was also so inspired and with such attention to detail!

Christopher Akerlind's lighting added so much to the show!

The choreography by Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine- especially the stage fighting - was epic!!!!! The actors were SO CONVINCING in the ring! And that is not an easy task to pull off in the theater!

Major kudos and credit to director Alex Timbers for his vision and executing all these elements so flawlessly!

Ticketbuyers are definitely getting their money's worth with Rocky. Big show! Big production! And a BIG cast, lead by Andy Karl in the title role.

It is all but assured that Karl's FANTASTIC performance will ensure him a Tony nomination, and it will be hard to find another actor more deserving of that win!

We last saw Andy in the comedy The Mystery Of Edwin Drood on Broadway, so it was really revelatory to see him do something soooo different.

He sang beautifully. He acted beautifully! And he became the champion necessary to play this part! He's trained, transformed his body and gives audiences his all!

Truly impressive!

As for his Adrian, Margo Seibert did a super job with the acting. She's known mainly for her television work (Boardwalk Empire). And while she's a very capable singer, we just left wanting MORE vocally - range and tone - from her.

The rest of the cast does a fine job. But it's really all about Andy Karl.

He IS Rocky. And Rocky is a must-see, even if you won't go home and buy the original cast recording after.

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Perez Reviews: Sweeney Todd - Starring Emma Thompson!

emma thompson

Is there anything Emma Thompson CAN'T do???

That's a serious question!

The multiple Academy Award-winning actress enchanted and impressed a jaded New York City audience on Thursday night not just with her superb acting skills but also with her equally superb singing voice!!!!!

The internationally adored Brit stars as Mrs. Lovett in the New York Philharmonic's production of Stephen Sondheim's classic Sweeney Todd, which has just three shows left! Do whatever you have to and MAKE SURE you get tickets to see this!!!!!!

We have never heard Emma Thompson sing before and she doesn't just sing well for a famous actor/Hollywood type. She more than holds her own with Broadway greats! And there were plenty in this production!

Our future boyfriend, Joy Armstrong Johnson, whom we previously saw in Hands On A Hardbody, was even better in Sweeney! Christian Borle was great, as he usually is! And….

Audra McDonald was a surprise cast addition as the Beggar Woman and she was supremely amazing! Her talent is on a whole other level!

Audra McDonald!!!!!!!!

Also a pleasant surprise was Bryn Terfel in the title role! He is a world-famous opera singer, but we were unsure of his acting chops - especially in an English production with dialogue. He was great!

Another pleasant surprise was Emma Thompson's tour-de-force comedic performance! Never before has Mrs. Lovett been so funny!

And yet another pleasant surprise was that this production, which we thought was going to be a concert version of the show, was so much more than that!

The actors didn't perform at podiums with binders in front of them. Each one had all their parts fully memorized and the show was fully staged - with costumes and props and the works!

What was also exceptionally special was hearing this iconic Sondheim score with the entire New York Philharmonic playing on stage with the actors! Exquisite!

And also exceptionally special was the augmented vocal chorus, much larger than you'd see in a traditional Broadway mounting of Sweeney.

Such lush sounds!

Such great singing!

Such great acting!

Such a great time!

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