Continuing the tradition that NBC has of airing musicals live, this year they tackled Hairspray. With an all-star cast of Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Derek Hough, Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Ariana Grande, Dove Cameron, and Kristin Chenoweth, I had high expectations for this show. Hairspray: Live did a good job paying homage to the original dance movie, Broadway musical, and musical movie; however, it unfortunately fell flat.
(I will not be discussing the final four words of the series or any major plot events, so enjoy my article about Netflix’s Gilmore Girls Reboot theatrical rabbit trail).
Eight years ago the Gilmore Girls series finale aired. After a few years the show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, also created a television show called Bunheads. Bunheads was very similar to the Gilmore Girls as it was set in a town very similar to Stars Hollow, with many of the same actors, except instead of Lauren Graham being the fast-talking lead, Tony award winner Sutton Foster was. Despite Bunheads only lasting one season, it helped Sutton Foster make the transition from stage to television. (Not familiar with Sutton Foster? Check out my blog dedicated to her, here, after reading this one).
The Gilmore Girls reboot successfully brought back 37 of the original cast members, plus some from Parenthood (the television show Lauren Graham did after Gilmore Girls), a few familiar faces from Bunheads (including Sutton Foster), and Broadway actors Christian Borle (Falsettos, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Something Rotten!, Peter and the Starcatcher, Legally Blonde the Musical, Mary Poppins, Thoroughly Modern Mille, Spamalot, and Footloose) and Kerry Butler (Xanadu, Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, Rock of Ages, and Catch Me if You Can).
In the reboot, the residents of Stars Hollows decided to put on a musical to increase tourism. In the Netflix reboot Kerry Butler auditioned but was not cast as the lead because Sutton Foster was.
While many critics did not enjoy the outrageous detour of the Stars Hollow: the Musical, I did. It showcased the talent of real-life ex-spouses Sutton Foster and Christian Borle. It spotlighted the composition of Tony Award winner (for Fun Home) Jeanine Tesori. It was nice seeing Brad Ellis (pianist in the television show Glee) play the piano once again in Stars Hollow. I also appreciated the witty Broadway references to Kinky Boots, Mamma Mia!, Violet (produced by Gilmore Girl‘s creator and starring Sutton Foster), The Book of Mormon, Fiddler on the Roof, Hamilton, The Lion King, School of Rock, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, and Beautiful – the Carole King Musical (“I Feel the Earth Move” was sang by Carole King herself) while the advisory council reviewed the musical. Sutton Foster’s final heart-gripping song performed in the reboot, “Unbreakable” is what propelled Lorelai Gilmore to the next part of the plot.
In an effort to not give away any of the plot, I will stop there. So, stream Netflix’s Gilmore Girls reboot, now, on Netflix!
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend starring, written, and created by theater-veteran, Rachel Bloom, has taken the CW by storm. It is a story following Rebecca Bunch (played by Rachel Bloom) on her quest to find love. What makes this television show wonderfully unique are its musical theater songs that propel the story forward. Another CW television show, Jane the Virgin, took a page out of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s book and included a theater parody in its most recent episode.
To set up the scene, Jane’s mom (played by Andrea Navedo, who has been in Off Broadway shows) was trying to figure out her career path. She figured out that what made her heart sing was giving dance lessons, so her daughter Jane (played by Gina Rodriguez), her mother (Ivonne Coll) and her ex-lover and father of her daughter (Jaime Camil) sang “Open a Dance School” parodying “Beauty School Drop Out” from Grease.
What some may not realize is that these actors have been on stage before. Jaime Camil was on Broadway in Chicago: The Musical as the attorney, Billy Flynn. Ivonne Coll was in various Off Broadway productions before she was recruited for a minor role as a singer in the movie, The Godfather II, which greatly helped put her career on the map. In addition to many accolades, Ivonne is a Tony Award nominated actor. Even though Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez has not been in a Broadway or Off Broadway stage production, she attended performing arts schools, took Salsa Dancing lessons for years, and held her own in this scene.
Kudos to Jane the Virgin for utilizing the multiple talents of their actors. I am sure fans of this show would continue to welcome witty theater parodies to break up the drama of this light-hearted telenovela. Don’t miss Jane the Virgin on the CW, Mondays at 9 p.m. or you can watch episodes online on the Jane the Virgin website.
Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland teamed up with the Olney Theatre Center to direct “Angels in America” (Part 1: Millennium Approaches & Part 2: Perestroika). Unlike so many who were familiar with the 2003 HBO Mini-series based on this 1993 two-part play by Tony Kushner, I had not heard of this show. It is not a stretch to conclude that including these shows in the 2016 season for both theaters was an intentional decision due to Donald Trump running for President this year. I held off on publishing my review prior to the election as its results would influence what I had to say.
FOX commemorated the fall and Halloween season by making its own revival of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Victoria Justice, Adam Lambert, and Christina Milian were a part of the star-studded, talented cast. Instead of FOX just remaking the movie straight, it was clever for them to incorporate the aspect of midnight shows and pan to the movie theater audience when the action of the musical cued audience participation.
Since different television networks have been televising musicals live, I was surprised that FOX had everything pre-recorded. It would have connected more with the viewing audience if the audience in the movie theater was live, participating with us.
While watching the 2015 Tony Awards, I was first introduced to the play, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” which won 5 Tony awards, including best play. This play was based off the best-selling novel of the same name released in 2004 by author Mark Haddon. Because of the hype, I quickly binge-read the novel and was determined to go to New York to see the play. Unfortunately Alexander Sharp, Tony winner for his portrayal of the lead character, Christopher Boone, was no longer a part of the production, so I decided not to go. Fast forward to now, and I had the honor to see the National Theatre touring production that just finished their run at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Technology can be used to help us be more efficient, remain organized, stay connected with anyone in the world, and instantly find answers to any question. Artificial intelligence used to only be found in science fiction stories, but robots are quickly becoming a reality. In the Pulitzer Prize nominated play, Marjorie Prime, the Olney Theatre Center is taking its audiences to a not-so-distant future where holograms (or ‘primes’) the spitting image of loved ones can be purchased and programmed to embody the essence of a deceased family member.
I first learned about The Passion Live while watching Grease: Live about two months ago on FOX. Based on previous live musical television events, I assumed the whole show would be performed live with original music to tell the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. What was televised during this Palm Sunday event was not what I expected.
Dear Sutton Foster,
Happy Birthday! Last month I attended your show-stopping performance with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, waited in line to get your autograph, met you, and froze. All I said was, “Happy Birthday, next month!” There were so many other things I could have said to you: the person whose career I closely follow, cheer on, and admire. So here you go.
Mirror Woman: the Battle Unseen was originally slated to make its debut in Baltimore, Maryland last year; however, Kingdom Bound Productions rescheduled it to March 12, 2016. Performed for one-night-only at BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, Maryland, this show had a powerful message for its predominantly female audience.