Review of Charles Isherwood’s Stomping Onto Broadway With a Punk Temper Tantrum

American Idiot, a Broadway musical directed by Michael Mayer, is featured in Charles Isherwood’s Stomping Onto Broadway With a Punk Temper Tantrum article issued in The New York Times.  Isherwood had a lot of very good things to say about the performance from the beginning of his piece.  He describes the performance as being “performed with galvanizing intensity by a terrific cast, detonates a fierce aesthetic charge in this ho-hum Broadway season.” It wasn’t difficult to tell that Isherwood was truly blown away by Mayer’s work.

I would put American Idiot in the category of a morality play.  From what Isherwood explained, the characters are constantly confused, upset and attempting to get themselves out of the dull-drums of life to make it more adventurous. Their morals are constantly tested by the tough situations they are being put in throughout the performance. The teens in this performance obviously need guidance to help them continue their lives as one worth living, which is a strong morality issue. They want to make something meaningful out of their lives.

Isherwood’s sole purpose of this review was to get the storyline across to potential theatergoers and make them interested in seeing a performance that he enjoyed so much. Characters are introduced and explained to the readers.  Eventually, their problems are exposed to the readers, making them want to stay tuned to find out how each character deals with their individual problems, as well as their insecurities and desires.  It allowed me to get to know these characters and develop a genuine concern for the trials and tribulations happening in their lives.  I was impressed by Isherwood’s writing style and it kept me engaged through the entire article.  He very clearly gave us every reason to see this play and even made this writer interested in finding out where it is playing next.

 

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Side by Side by Sondheim Review

Side by Side by Sondheim, performed at the Rhynsburger Theatre on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Missouri on Wednesday, October 6, is an assortment of classic musical stylings by the great composer Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim’s work can be found in stage and screen productions of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sweeney Todd, Gypsy and West Side Story. So obviously, this performance had a lot of history and fond memories for avid theatergoers within the production. The production was unique in that it did not carry a particular plot like most on-stage productions, but simply relied on songs with short breaks for narration to give background information on the songs and the productions they appeared in.

The production was written by Jim Miller and featured a cast of nine performers, five men and five women. Throughout the performance, each actor took the role of the various characters that were featured in each of Sonheim’s plays that were sampled. For example, in the number “Barcelona,” Zackary Reusler and Caitlin Reader are portrayed as husband and wife. Later on in the show, they are each playing completely different characters with completely different objectives. This show demands an open mind because it is impossible to associate one actor with a certain type of personality or character type.

Certain performers shined compared to others. The person that sticks out in my mind is the astounding voice and pitch of Paige Sommerer. Her performance in the second act of “Losing My Mind” seemed to freeze the entire theatre and demand the attention of everyone in attendance. I was simply blown away by her range and commitment to the tone of the song. She seemed to be the only performer with true vocal and stage presence training however. The other female performers were just average and almost all of the male performers were average to mediocre at best. Without a doubt, the outnumbered women side of the production shined compared to the men.

The songs seemed to change pace frequently. There were slow songs like “Buddy’s Blues,” then fast paced, goofy songs like “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” In my opinon, “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” was the most audience pleasing and attention capturing number in the whole show. When I found myself nodding off to some of the slower and less captivating songs, this number truly served as a wake-up call just in time for the final few songs to cap off the production. Also, in “Getting Married Today,” which occurred in the first act, the unique, fast-paced singing of Fraisia Logan really impressed me. The way she was able to deliver her words at such a fast paced while still being understandable to the audience was nothing short of astonishing. Being that the women were far more talented than the men, songs like “Can that Boy Foxtrot,” “If Momma Was Married,” and “A Boy Like That,” were very enjoyable to listen to as well. The women really seemed to work well and feed off of each other on stage.

The set of the show, which featured a downtown, most likely New York City, skyline, was very eye opening and attention grabbing. The side of the stage was lined with a pattern that resembled piano keys that highlighted the musical nature of the show. I enjoyed the set, as well as the live band that was clearly in vision of the audience. It reminded me of the Big Band clubs that were so prominent during Stephen Sondheim’s peak era.

Overall, the show might have benefited from a plotline that somehow incorporated Sondheim’s songs in order for character development to be created. However, that was not the case. For what the director intended to do, it accomplished. I was introduced to Sondheim’s songs as well as his impact on the world of stage and screen. His impact was a great one, which is why he is still so respected today.

 

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Review of Charles Busch’s The Divine Sister

The dark yet often times silly comedy The Divine Sister pokes fun at the common stereotypes and behaviors of innocent nuns in the 1960’s. The way the nuns were portrayed as trying to block social change in the ever changing decade of sin and sex, said the author, was humorous while also being eye-opening to the ironies of the time. Any comedy that touches religion, especially as closely as this one, deserves the title of a dark comedy because of its controversial nature and the possibility of offending some of its audience.

The author loved this show, as he described by issuing an exclamation of “Hallelujah.” The writer had a very casual voice and style when it came to writing this review. Probably because he really liked the show and had very little to get serious about. I would say he was “giddy” about this show and encouraged everyone to “get thee to Mr. Busch’s nunnery,” to see this show again and again.

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My Fragile Family Tree

The one man production “My Fragile Family Tree” by Matt Fotis was an interesting look into the ordinary life of Fotis who surrounds himself with quite unordinary characters. Unfortunately for him, these unordinary characters are members of his family. Through interesting stories dealing from trips to Europe, the announcement to his family of his first born and the way his mother dealt with stress, Fotis attempts to tell the audience what he learned from his life experiences.

Fotis did a very good job engaging the audience and using strong body language to illustrate the scene in which he was trying to portray. He had a very inviting voice, which was clear and friendly, almost as if you were in casual conversation with him through the show.

However, while the show was very well acted out and put together, I kept finding myself wondering “why should I care?” Fotis, while accomplished compared to the everyman, had very few accomplishments in life that would make the audience truly consider his stories and advice as things to live by. Any man could have stood up in front of the audience, explained their lives and what they’ve learned, and I would probably have left thinking and feeling the same about my own life as I did after leaving this show.

This play was entertaining, which is ultimately the goal of theatre. Fotis displayed great story-telling skills and kept the audience engaged. However, I feel like he needs to be more accomplished before he tells an audience that his stories and experiences will lead to anything other than just normal everyday life.

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Identity

The lectures given this week in class spanned through a variety of different aspects of American identity when it came to the arts. Covered were the involvement of African Americans, women, gays and other minority groups in on-stage and main stream productions.

To me, one of the most important parts of the lecture was how far African American actors have come over the course of time. In the beginning of theatre in the 20th century, if a black person were to be included in a storyline of a production, a white actor would paint his face jet black to portray him. Now, black actors play the title roles in movies such as “Othello,” which is a William Shakespeare play.

Another really important thing was the emergence of homosexual characters and story lines to mainstream television in shows such as “Queer as Folk” and “Will and Grace.” A lifestyle which was once considered by the mainstream as wrong and immoral has been given a new chance to allow the population to identity with their ways and characters in a humorous and casual manner.

All of these differences in people have gradually become simultaneous with the “American Identity.” To me, the American Identity is the way each individual American sees their contribution to what makes America the way it is. Americans pride themselves on being a country filled with so many different types of people. Especially since 9/11, people from all walks of life, people of all walks of life have been making strides to identify themselves with the American way in support of the Patriotism. These media roles have helped with the identification process with these types of people.

The arts, most notably the stage and screen, have a great influence in American lifestyle for everyone. The lectures which highlighted the emergence of African American and homosexual actors really stood out to me as something that shows how far America has come as far as accepting those who may be seen as different.

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Haiku Me

Creativity

And what does it mean to me?

Like moss on a tree.

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