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Perez Reviews: Les Miserables

les miserables broadway 2014 revival ramin karimloo

The new Broadway revival of Les Miserables is like eating a big steak at a fancy restaurant and then having lots of dessert!

The meat is that exquisite, timeless and iconic score by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer. A steak cooked properly is always tasty! And this Les Miserables is juicy!

The dessert is some phenomenal performances!

The men RULE this production!

Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean gives one of the best performances we have EVER seen in the theater! His voice is so unreal we thought they may have been using live autotune or a ton of reverb. They don't. His voice is just THAT GOOD! Such an awe-inspiring instrument!!!!!! And his acting was superb as well!

Will Swenson makes you forget all about Russell Crowe as Javert. He was so convincing, it was as if he was born to play this part!

Andy Mientus is every bit the heartthrob as Marius. He has the face and voice of an angel! The audience just falls in love with him! Great singing, great acting and we need to mention great looking again! Cuz he is!

And Gaten Matarazzo as Gavroche is just equal parts cute, insanely talented and heartbreaking!

Kudos to Keala Settle for being the standout woman as Madame Thenardier. In addition to her big voice she brought her big comedic chops and brought some much-needed levity to the show! So funny!

Directors Laurence Connor and James Powell did a fabulous job of making the show different enough from the original but not messing with it too much to screw up a really good thing.

This production feels epic but also has some truly beautiful intimate moments too!

And congrats, as well, to Christopher Jahnke, Stpehen Metcalfe and Stephen Booker for their great new orchestrations.

A big round of applause and a standing ovation!!!

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Perez Reviews: Here Lies Love

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Wow. Wow. Wow.

Here Lies Love is one of the best new shows we have seen in years!

The new musical from Fatboy Slim and Talking Heads icon David Byrne is currently playing downtown, but this could easily play uptown and it SHOULD be a big Broadway smash - just not in a traditional theater.

The show is like Evita Part 2 in so many ways - and we mean that in the best way possible!

Just like the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic billed itself as a "rock" opera and told the story of a fiercely powerful female political figure, Here Lies Love calls itself a "revolutionary musical experience" and tells the story of a fiercely powerful female political figure.

In this case, that woman is Filipina Imelda Marcos and that "revolutionary musical experience" is a disco opera!

Like Evita, Here Lies Love is completely sung-through. There is no dialogue. The entire story is told through song!

And these are not "musical theater" songs. These are big pop songs told through mostly disco, dance and pop arrangements.

They are GREAT songs!!!!!!!!!!! GREAT SONGS!!!!

We're STILL singing the title track!

Conveying emotion without any dialogue and effectively showing a character's journey is not easy, but all of the actors do a superb job! Each one!

The show tells the story of Imelda as well as that of her husband, Ferdinand, and that of slain Filipino politician Benigno Aquino.

There is hunger, fame, corruption, greed, adultery, fashion, fun and more! This show has it all, as told through the wildly inventive creative imagination of director Alex Timbers, who also brilliantly conceived and staged the new Broadway production of Rocky.

Here Lies Love is presented as an immersive theatrical experience. There are no seats. The audience is standing and moved around the entire rectangular-shaped room.

Every square inch is used and it's dazzling to see how the stages and sets are transformed and evolve.

We were also SO IMPRESSED by Clint Ramos' costumes! As one would hope, Imelda wears soooo many in the show! And there are so many quick changes - some done right on stage. It's dazzling!

Everything about this production dazzles!

Even though it often tells sad tales and shows ugly moments, it still is told through a shiny disco veneer. Colorful! Happy!

You will walk away feeling GOOD!

This just isn't a musical. It's a concert experience!

It's a MUST-see!!!!!

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Perez Reviews: Heathers

The new Heathers musical, currently playing off-Broadway, will fuck you gently with a chainsaw!

If you liked Legally Blonde the musical, which we did, then you will love Heathers!

The stage show based on the iconic '80s movie has everything the singing Elle Woods production did - including a lot of the same creative team - and MORE!

Heathers has sass, sex, songs and laughs! Lots of laughs!

Yes, there's really song in the show called My Dead Gay Son! And it WINS!!!

Big high five to Kevin Murphy & Laurence O'Keefe for not only writing those super fun songs but ALSO writing the equally fun book! Very unusual in the musical theater world and to be applauded!

Heathers is definitely an "off-Broadway" production and prime to make the jump to the Great White Way!

In this production, Veronica barely has any costume changes - a pitiful two or three!! On Broadway we'd want at least 12!

And can we do something about her wig ASAP, please? We know things are lower budget off-Broadway, but that's just CHEAP!

Thankfully, though, when our only main critique is the lack of costumes and the minimalistic stage, you know you've got a winner - with a very attractive and talented cast of up-and-comers!

Barret Wilbert Weed is no Winona Ryder, and she's not trying to be. Vocally she's amazing in Heathers and we enjoyed her acting too. But she's no Winona. She played Veronica a bit too cheery and optimistic, whereas Ryder brought more edge and darkness.

It was wonderful to see the adorable Elle McLemore from Bring It On again - putting her cheerleader skills to good use!

Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alice Lee were fab and fab as Heather Chandler and Heather Duke, respectively.

BUT….

The real star of this show is Ryan McCartan as JD Dean - aka the Christian Slater part.

McCartan is electric! We could not take our eyes off him onstage! And not just because he's dreamy to look at! The actor, currently starring on some Disney Channel show we'd never heard of before, has a BEAUTIFUL voice and so much presence! Star quality! He's truly magnetic on stage!

And he completely made us forget about Christian Slater! He was THAT good!

We really hope Heathers transfers to Broadway. We'd love to see them take this up a few notches! Bigger show and bigger audiences!

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Perez Reviews: Violet

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Sutton Foster is not even 40 years old yet and she is already one of the greatest musical theater actresses of all time!!!!

Like Audra McDonald, there seems to be nothing Sutton can't do on the stage!

In the Roundabout Theater Company's new Broadway production of Violet, Foster plays the title character, for which she was just nominated for a Tony, and she gets to show so much range as an actress/singer.

This isn't her typical musical comedy role. This is a character in pain, disfigured, seeking salvation, LONGING for love and so vulnerable! And Sutton plays all those moments beautifully, as well as adding some much-needed lightheartedness also.

Foster is in the show almost the entire time, which means we are blessed with song after song in which she's soars - solo or with a partner.

Her voice sounds SOOOOOO GOOD in this!!!

Lots of great tunes in this show, with church number Raise Me Up particularly bringing the roof down!

And besides Sutton, Joshua Henry is also superb as a potential suitor of Violet's.

The show is very satisfying, BUT….

It would have been even more enjoyable under different direction!

Director Leigh Silverman's vision seemed basic and uninspired. And some of his choices were just misguided.

Having the orchestra on stage in this show really took away. It felt like an Encores production, which is where this revival of Violet began. But it shouldn't have remained that way for the Broadway transfer!

Whereas in Chicago, which also got its revival start at Encores, the orchestra is addressed and makes sense - in Violet the orchestra is ignored and unnecessary on stage. They're distracting!

So many moments could have been more beautiful and poignant if there ware more of a set for them and lighting focus.

And, another puzzling decision, for which we can only blame the director, is the choice to have Sutton's character NOT have a visible scar. Violet suffered a serious accident at a young age and was left with a horrible facial reminder, which affects the way people treat her, yet that is not visually represented on Foster's face.

We didn't need Phantom Of The Opera makeup, but we needed SOMETHING!

Thankfully, though, the show's music and actors more than make up for those shortcomings.

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Perez Reviews: The Substance Of Fire

subtance of fire

Before there was Brothers & Sisters or Other Desert Cities there was The Substance Of Fire, one of Jon Robin Baitz's first plays, which originally premiered in 1991.

The play, currently off-Broadway at 2econd Stage is everything we have come to love and expect from Baitz.

The Substance Of Fire is about a family patriarch and what happens when his publishing business is crumbling.

It's an exploration on family and the intricacies of those relationships. It's funny and sad and beautiful and doesn't always end like you wish it would.

We left the show a bit frustrated things didn't end nice and neatly, but we did leave very thankful we saw it - especially for the performance of John Noble, as the dad who makes your curmudgeon of a father seem like a cheery perma-smiling pop!

This character is very unlikely yet Noble makes him more than human. He makes him likeable! Not an easy feat!

He's truly superb and we were SHOCKED to read in his bio that he is Australian. His character is originally from Germany and his accent is so convincing that we thought he was from there!!!!

Daniel Eric Gold is another standout as the son with the heart of gold.

Fine fine acting all-around!

Fine fine production!

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Perez Reviews: If/Then

If Idina Menzel were not so super talented, then If/Then would be such a Debbie Downer of a show - more so than it already is!

Unfortunately, this is no Wicked or Rent.

If/Then fails to serve the greatness that is its leading lady and her big Broadway return in 10 years is dampened by a show that is underwhelming at best and laborious throughout.

The whole concept of the show, a musical ripoff of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors, does a disservice to the material and actors. If/Then would have worked A LOT better as a musical comedy! The show is a dramatic musical, but you're not very invested in the characters because you don't have time to be. The action is split into two alternating stories that explore the different consequences Idina's character would have been faced with if she made different decisions in her life.

Brian Yorkey's book literally made us groan repeatedly. There were so many moments we wanted to pull our hair out throughout the show, but then - thankfully - Idina would sing and all would be temporarily better.

Note to Mr. Yorkey: cursing repeatedly does not make your show "cool" or "edgy".

And even worse and more distracting than the book was the choreography by Larry Keigwin. It is just embarrassingly cheesy and bad!

Sigh.

THANKFULLY, though, there are some real standout performances. James Snyder brings so much warmth to his role as the love interest that you can't help but fall in love with him. And LaChanze brings so much humor and personality to her role as the best friend that she almost steals the
show!

Annmarie Milazzo did a FANTASTIC job with the vocal arrangements and she must be applauded for truly giving the audience what they want - to hear Idina sing and really show off that big and iconic voice of hers!

Menzel is at the top of her game vocally, and despite the show itself being lackluster, she will still likely get a Tony nomination!

Hopefully next in line for her… Menzel with a Z! Or something like that!

A Menzel one-woman show would have a lot more appeal and would be such a universally loved hit!

Do it! Do it! Do it!

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Perez Reviews: Cabaret

michelle williams cabaret alan cumming

We had never seen Cabaret before - until recently! And, boy, are we glad that the first production of the iconic Kander & Ebb musical we saw is the much-heralded one by the Roundabout Theater Company, now playing on Broadway with Michelle Williams and Alan Cumming in the starring roles

This is a revival of a revival, which is very unusual and not done - but it sure is merited!

Directed and conceived by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, their Cabaret is brilliant! You are transported and immersed in the Kit Kat Club, which happens to be the old Studio 54 space.

This production is dark, sexy and oh so bittersweet!

You're all probably wondering if Michelle Williams can sing. We know she can act, and the answer is a resounding YES! She sounds awesome and we are surprised she hadn't sooner gotten her Anne Hathaway on!

Alan Cumming is sinister and sensual. He's completely captivating!

And the entire ensemble is great - and HOT!

It must have taken such a long time to cast this production because every member of the house band - prominently featured and utilized in the show - is ridiculously good looking!

BUT….

None of the bells and whistles that this production has would matter much were it not for the timeless score! Those songs!

And the book still feels fresh!

Cabaret is only playing a limited run, so hurry and get your tickets NOW!

P.S. Major props and congratulations also to Deborah Hecht, the show's dialect coach. Those German accents were all flawless!!!! Kudos!

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