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Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday Internet Finds

If anyone has been reading my blog for a while, they might remember that I used to do roundups of fun Internet links every Friday. Recently, a friend asked me if I might consider bringing it back and I've decided to do so -- but with a twist.

For now (and I'll continue it if it goes well!), I'll be doing Friday Internet Finds but with all musical theatre related links. So make sure to check back every Friday for my fave Internet finds of musical theatre and theatre links of the week. And let me know in the comments below or on social media if you like these! x

Skimm for Broadway: If you want to stay up to date on daily Broadway news, consider subscribing to the Broadway Briefing newsletter. It includes important news, events happening that day, Broadway birthdays, and more delivered straight to your inbox!

Newsie No More: Dear Evan Hansen's Mike Faist opened up to MTV about playing the troubled Connor Murphy in Broadway's biggest hit of the season. He discussed how he's dealing with portraying a suicidal teen and why he rarely stage doors.

Things I Almost Remember: I got a perfect score on this "How Well Do You Know Anastasia?" quiz from BroadwayWorld.com. How well can you do?

It's Bigger: This Broadway.com article explains how this year's Broadway season boasts the most new musicals since 1981...and what that means for the Tony Awards.

Charmante: As they approach the release of their Broadway cast album next month, Great Comet has been releasing music videos for their songs. This jazz club themed one of Amber Gray (who plays Hélène) singing "Charming" is absolutely stunning.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: Miss Saigon Broadway

Miss Saigon has been one of my favorite musicals since I discovered it years ago and it's much more than simply the show that shot Lea Salonga to stardom. I saw it last month, on March 24, to celebrate my sister's birthday. Based on the opera Madame Butterfly but set in the Vietnam War, it tells the story of a young American GI and a Vietnamese girl who are separated by the fall of Saigon. Furthermore, it brings light to the situation of the "bui doi" -- the half-American children born to Vietnamese women who had to deal with the stigma of their Western heritage. As a history major, how could I resist a show like this?


The music is written by the team that brought us Les Mis: Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil. It's a sumptuous score, alternating between dance numbers like "American Dream" and "The Heat is On" and soaring ballads like "I'd Give My Life for You" and "Why God Why." You can't leave the theatre without at least one song in your head. (If you'd like to listen, I recommend the recent live West End revival recording.)


This first Broadway revival takes after the recent West End one, even importing some of its cast. It's grittier than the original production and more focused on showing the atrocities of war. The sets are realistic enough to immerse you in the action and the costuming is lovely. Of course, it's the helicopter that many come to see and the effects surrounding it (especially with lighting and sound) are intense and impressive.


I could write whole essays on how fierce and wonderful Eva Noblezada is as Kim. Eva first played the role in London, right after graduating from high school (yes, I feel inferior in every way). Now back in her native United States after finishing up playing Eponine in Les Mis, it's clear that her Kim has only improved. Aside from her stunning vocals and acting that leaves me sobbing every time, I'm always impressed with how naturally she interacts with the young children who play Tam.

You can check out her singing "I'd Give My Life for You" at the Olivier Awards:


Though this was my third time seeing Miss Saigon, I've never seen anyone but Jon Jon Briones as the Engineer and I frankly never want to. It's a character with a tricky line to walk between comedic relief and showing the immorality that flourishes in wartime and Jon Jon executes it perfectly while also providing a humanity to the character. His "American Dream" is a show-stopper; the audience didn't stop applauding for several minutes the night that I saw it!


I truly didn't think that Alistair Brammer's Chris could be improved upon after seeing him in the West End, but Alistair proved me wrong. Alistair has been one of my favorite actors since I was sixteen and I'm so incredibly proud of him for being a leading man on Broadway, especially for a role like Chris which he seems born to play. (Yes, I feel like a proud little sister or something.) His voice is well-suited to the score and his "Why God Why" is the kind of performance that makes you remember why you love live theatre. However, it's his acting that impresses me the most: he truly shows a man broken by war and frustrated by his inability to help the people of a country torn apart. His "Confrontation" in Act II brought me to tears, especially his deliver of the heartbreaking line, "I'm an American, how could I fail to do good?" It's also worth saying that while his American accent was good in his West End performance, it's so impeccable now that I'm sure some are surprised to find out he's English!


If you have the chance, I would highly recommend seeing this beautiful and moving show before it leaves Broadway again in January as it's on a limited engagement. Worth seeing for any one of the three leads alone, it also boasts an impressive ensemble and cast of featured actors. For now, I'm just glad to have my favorite show back on Broadway, living the "American Dream."

Make sure to check out my full review video below x

Friday, April 21, 2017

Review: Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

I never would have guessed that War and Peace would be great material for a musical, but that was before seeing Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812. I was lucky enough to see this masterpiece in March over my spring break at the Imperial Theater on Broadway. This new Tony Awards hopeful was written by Dave Malloy and is an adaption of a small part of Tolstoy's work. It follows Pierre through his existential crisis and Natasha through her anguish over the two men in her life, Andrey and Anatole.

I chose to see the show mostly because I had read so many good things about its immersive experience. They remodeled the Imperial Theater (where I have seen Les Mis three times) to include seating on the stage and ways for the actors to access the orchestra and balcony. With the actors all around you, it's hard not to get swept away in the action of the show. It has such an intimate feeling and if you're lucky, you might get handed a dumpling, shaker, or letter during the course of the musical!


However, even if it weren't one of the coolest theatrical experiences ever, the music itself is worth seeing the show. Dave Malloy has created a show that intermingles haunting melodies like Pierre's "The Great Comet of 1812" and Natasha's "No One Else" with rousing songs like "The Duel" and "Balaga." My sister and I both walked out the the theatre with the chorus of "Letters" stuck firmly in our heads! You can currently buy the Off-Broadway cast album featuring Malloy himself as Pierre and Philippa Soo as Natasha or wait until May when the Broadway cast album is released.

If you've not heard, Josh Groban is currently playing Pierre and I don't think I've ever been so surprised by a performance. Of course, I knew that Josh has a lovely voice but I wasn't prepared for his impressive acting performance. He brings a gravity and a realness to Pierre's struggle...and even made me wish I could play the accordion? If you have a chance to see him before he leaves the show in July, I would highly recommend it. I'm expecting a Tony nomination for this one!

No, I did not leave the lipstick mark on his cheek.
Denée Benton is absolutely stunning as the troubled ingenue Natasha. With a pure beautiful voice and an ability to portray emotion from across a theatre, it's easy to see why she was cast in the role. Natasha is definitely one of my favorite female roles on Broadway right now and Denée makes the audience feel for her.

While sadly I didn't get to see the great Lucas Steele as Anatole, I was lucky enough to see his understudy Blaine Krauss who was absolutely incredible. His charisma onstage was magnetic and he sang the (rather difficult) role wonderfully. Though Anatole is somewhat of a cad (spoilers!), I couldn't help but be drawn to him and found myself watching him in scenes with the ensemble. I also just can't help but be impressed by any understudy or swing in a show with blocking this difficult!

If you only have the chance to see one show from this Broadway season, I would pick Great Comet because there's simply nothing else like it. While the plot is admittedly complicated and perhaps somewhat difficult to follow, the beautiful music, set, and costumes are absolutely a must-see. And who knows...you might come away with a War and Peace obsession like I did.

Make sure to check out my video review on my YouTube channel as well! x

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