First Wives Club

On the way to the matinee we stopped in Plainfield to eat lunch at Larry’s. I ordered the special of stuffed green peppers and it was horrible. I have never sent anything back but I did this time. The sauce which should be like a tomatoish sauce looked like sweet and sour sauce and jello mixed and tasted half as good as that sounds. Needless to say I walked into the show needing to be uplifted.
The show starts with someone killing them self. This is done with a flashback to show how life was at the end of college for the leads and the deceased of the show. IT IS DEPRESSING. But what is most depressing about it is the pace. It is such a slow start. How I would fix it: Don’t make it a flashback. Make the exposition active. Stop talking about doing and do. No matter how cool the suicide scene transition is cut the scene of the suicidestress reminiscing and jump straight to the funeral.
Once the now 40 something (I love Faith Prince, but she is not a 40 something) college friends are together they sit in chairs in the middle of an apartment scene for a long time. A whole song just sitting there and the song was boring. I hope it is a section they are reworking because at this point it is all exposition that is super repetitive and again needs action. All the performers are working their butts off to pull it off but the material is holding them down throughout the entire show.
I could give a play by play of the show but really it needs a lot of rewrites. The songs are poorly done and do not forward the action and it talks a lot about feelings but any one who has knows anything about writing knows you need to have action to keep the audience involved.
One last thing about the structure of the show… The end of the first act a plan is hatched and you know what they are going to do. No need to come back for act two. You need to end the act with a problem or a cliffhanger.
The choreography is stagnant. You rarely know that you are in a musical. During one section I saw the running man, the hammer dance, and the sprinkler. Come on….this is a Broadway bound production. Where’s the innovation? I could choreograph what was on stage on my way to the first rehearsal. (Which is what I do when I’m choreographing for middle school.)
I wish this production luck because I know some people involved but I don’t think it will do well. I am always available for consulting.
[button link=”http://plays.patrickstinson.com/category/d/”]Grade: D[/button]

Dee Snider’s Rock and Roll Christmas Tale

I’m not gonna take it, no I’m not gonna take it.  I’m not gonna take it, anymore.

I know I should not take this show seriously and it seemed like many working on it did not take it seriously either.  I like Dee Snider.  I like Twisted Sister. I liked him on the Apprentice.  I was excited about seeing him live on the stage.  I was so hoping that I would love this show without it having anything to do with Dee Snider.  But there is a reason that his name is in the title.  Here’s the plot:

Hair metal band is doing lousy they write a contract for Satan to sell their souls.  They start getting audiences but they start singing Christmas Carols metal style magically and without prompting.  I don’t want to give away the ending but that is pretty much the whole thing.  This is not Chekov but it’s something to work with.

The show’s set is a rock band stage the most of the action is played in front of.  I am not a big fan of performing in front of a set..I think a set needs to be designed so actors can play in the set and besides the playing of the music not much happened in the set.  The staging suffered because of the set but also suffered because of lack of motivation in the script. Snider has some great one liners throughout but his ability to craft character’s that change and are more than just punchline robots is lacking makes it impossible for director Adam John Hunter to do his job well.

The songs in the show that are not songs played by the band are really out of place.  They lack motivation to be sung.  There needs to be a non-rockband song earlier in the show to let the audience know that this type of singing is happening too.

Is this show unsaveable?  I don’t think so.  I think it can be saved with some rewriting  and some reworking.  They need to decide if the show is tongue and cheek or not.  AND GO FOR IT.  I would so love to get my hands on the show and work with Snider to fix it. They need to look for the art in the show as opposed to looking for the next gag or joke.  What message do you want to say?  AND FOCUS ON THAT!  I love this genre of music and so want it to be successful but at this point all I can give it is….

[button link=”http://plays.patrickstinson.com/category/cminus/”]Grade: C-[/button]

Amazing Grace

So I get to the theatre alone because my wife had to work late and when I went to pick her up at work she saw no end in sight of her meetings so I drove the rest of the way to the city by myself, parked and didn’t write down or even acknowledge what level my car was parked in. When I get to the lobby to give them my ticket they said this was the wrong date that I was supposed to come on Saturday. I went to the box office and then they gave me center orchestra seating on the aisle, a total upgrade.
Looking through the program before the show I didn’t recognize anyone, which is strange I usually know someone from at least the crew.
There were several people though in front of me who were in house seats that were friends of the cast and crew so I heard a lot of buzz about the show. I hope it’s good. Please let it be good.
The first act started slowly as the lead actor Josh Young playing John Newton gave a stilted performance. To me it seems like he is not listening and in his own play at times. He is reacting to motivation that just isn’t there. Perhaps his reactions are right but the actors that are cueing his lines are not giving him anything to react to. The music in the first act is beautiful but I do think that the second number that Young and and Tom Hewitt (Captain Newton) sing needs new lyrics as they sing different lines at the same time and even though the harmonies are beautiful the lyrics create a rhyming dissonance.
Christopher Gattelli’s choreography is great. It is not overdone for the period. He uses quadrilles in the first act and diametrically uses African dance in the second act to show the relation of the black race and the white race without saying a word. This is perhaps the most artistic part of the show. During intermission I looked back and actually saw Gattelli in the back row taking notes and talking with colleagues. As I left the theatre I told him I thought his dancing was very good.
The show overall is good. It does need some work and perhaps recasting the lead. He has a great voice, but the show needs someone who can handle the acting as well. I would also make him more reckless in the beginning. He is too conservative to be perceived as a loser. There are great parts of the show that I would definitely not change like the swimming sequence and the ending Amazing Grace song.
[button link=”http://plays.patrickstinson.com/category/b/”]Grade: B[/button]

Motown

I love me some Motown music.  I have been and forever will be a Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 fan and this show helped me keep that mindset.  This is the story of Berry Gordy and how he started Motown records and how he tried to keep it going despite losing relationships with friends and lovers.  Gordy is a producer for the show and I thought going in that it would make him look like a hero and be more of the standard jukebox show that just features the numbers from the Motown catalogue.  To my pleasant surprise it and he wasn’t.   Yes it did have all the favorite Motown hits but it, but it wasn’t wrapped in fluff.  It was really touching at times and it made me feel good watching it and being a part of the Motown story.

[button link=”http://plays.patrickstinson.com/category/aminus/”]Grade: A-[/button]

Peter and the Star Catcher

Peter and the Starcatcher - Bank of America Theatre - Chicago, IL - April 10, 2014

Peter and the Starcatcher – Bank of America Theatre – Chicago, IL – April 10, 2014

I suppose I am in the minority when I say that I didn’t really like this show.  It won five Tony awards, but to me it was predictable.  This is the typical story of Peter Pan that has been told now for over a hundred years.  It is a playful telling that takes objects found in the set of junk and turns it into the story.  I think this is a contrived concept because it has been done so much lately and the objects found are not that far fetched from what they are being used for.  For a show that won 5 Tony’s I expect more imagination and from a show like peter pan I expect all imagination.

The show was overall done well and I do want to take anything from the actors and what they brought to the stage especially John Sanders’ “Oh my God” monologue.  I guess for me I want more when it comes to this show and not found.

[button link=”http://plays.patrickstinson.com/category/c/”]Grade: C[/button]