Theater Review: Evita

images1I was so excited to see the Broadway revival of “Evita,” not only because of the amazing cast (Elena Rogers as Eva Perone and Ricky Martin as Che) or the renowned score (Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice), but because with Rob Ashford as choreographer, I knew I was in to see some amazing dancing.

Ashford’s choreography has received countless nominations and awards (both as director and/or choreographer) for shows such as “How To Succeed…,” “Cry Baby,” “Promises, Promises,” The Wedding Singer,” “Curtains,” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”  His style is very grounded and EXTREMELY athletic.  I was curious, therefore, to see how Ashford’s choreography would “fit” on a more traditional and thematic musical.

Be sure to check out Chris Bailey‘s “Evita” rep. class at Broadway Dance Center on Thursday, December 6th from 11-12:30pm as part of BDC’s Broadway Choreographer Series.

Theater Review: Nice Work If You Can Get It

images1Saturday was what I like to call a “matinee kind of a day.”   After work I walked through the crowds of people and the scorching heat to the s’wonderful, s’marvelous, air-conditioned Imperial Theatre, just a block east of Broadway Dance Center.  At 1:30pm I was still able to purchase a student ticket for the 2pm show (clutch?) and took my seat in the mezzanine of the beautiful theater.  Sometimes theaters will place student ticket-holders in the “worst” seats in the house (ie. far corners in the front or back, partial viewed seating,etc.), but that was not at all my experience! Check out tickets here.
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This was my second time seeing “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” having seen it back in April during previews for my mom’s birthday.  I decided to see the show again after taking Samantha Sturm’s “Nice Work” master class at BDC.  [*Jeffrey “Shecky” Schecter, who has taught several BDC master classes in the past as part of BDC’s Broadway Choreography Series, is also part of the show!].  Back when I saw the show in April, I was so infatuated with the experience itself – seeing a Kathleen Marshall musical starring big-names like Matthew Broderick, Kelli O’Hara, Judy Kaye, and Michael McGrath.  So this time, I focused on (surprise!) the dancing.

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Like I mentioned, Kathleen Marshall directed and choreographed “Nice Work.” Marshall has won three Tony’s and two Drama Desk Awards for “Best Choreography,” so it is no wonder that “Nice Work” has more than just your average “Charleston!”  Ben Brantley (NY Times) noted, “And as fluent as always in the period she means to evoke, Ms. Marshall has drilled her agile dancers to perform every possible variation on the Charleston.”

“To choreograph on Broadway it’s really important to know style.  This is a show that takes place in the ’20s, the last show I did [“Anything Goes”] took place in the ’30s, so I think it’s important to understand different eras and different styles.  Look at old movies, watch old TV shows, watch old MGM musicals, old “Fred and Ginger” musicals…understand how those classic musicals “work” and then you can turn around and make it your own.”

~ Kathleen Marshall

Theater Review: Porgy and Bess

If you haven’t yet seen the Broadway revival of “Porgy and Bess,” get yourself to the Richard Rogers Theatre (46th @ 8th) before the show closes on September 23rd.  Tony Award winners Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis are spectacular of course, but the choreography of the show is not to be overlooked.

Gershwin’s 1935 musical is known as an “American folk opera,” remembered for it’s classic songs like “Summertime” and “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’.”  But the revival, choreographed by Ronald K. Brown (founder of Evidence Dance Company and guest choreographer at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater), employs dance not as part of the “Broadway triple-threat” mentality, but to acknowledge dance and movement as parts of human nature.

“Porgy and Bess” may not have the partnering of “Memphis” or the tumbling and triple pirouettes of “Newsies,” but it has two important qualities: 1) sentimentality and 2) authenticity.  Brown’s choreography emotes and naturally supports the mood of the scene – whether it’s mourning at a funeral or celebrating at a picnic.  In an interview with Dance Magazine, Brown explained,

“I felt kind of liberated. Some people might think I would need dancers who could do toe touches and flips”—here he adds a hearty laugh— “but I’m like, let’s have the community. How would they move at the funeral? At the picnic? Through their lives? I could discover how those people would move.”

Ensemble member, Andrea Jones-Sojola, added,

“These are dances that an ancestor of a person living in 1939 would have taught their children and grandchildren. We’re doing movements onstage from West Africa or the Caribbean that our grandparents probably taught us. They’re authentic dances that would have been passed down from generation to generation. So instead of just busting out in a dance number, they’re very authentic. And the fact that a real dancer doesn’t have to do it makes me all the more comfortable.”

Ebony.com asked Brown, “What’s led you to blend different forms of world dance in your work?”

“In the early ’80s, people were discovering the facility in their body absent of emotion. I don’t get that. For me, dance is about something. It’s a sensibility thing. Is it just about “I can dance,” or demonstrating the technique? In traditional dance, there’s already a purpose in the dance. In Guinea, there’s a dance you do if a woman is having trouble holding onto a child. In Côte d’Ivoire, I learned dances that you do at a funeral. Or in Afro-Cuban dance, there’s a dance for opening the way. There’s a dance for fire, there’s a dance for change. And so I use those rhythms or steps. And because I touch it and I’m from Brooklyn, I can change [the dances], but that could be the vocabulary to influence this contemporary work.”

Click here for more information about “Porgy and Bess” on Broadway and to purchase tickets!

Theater Review: Cougar, the musical

Let me begin by admitting that yes, I was the youngest member of the audience at a preview performance of “Cougar, the musical.”  That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite the fact that I am still a “baby cub.”  The cast was tremendously talented (I recognized Brenda Braxton, who played “Velma Kelly” when I saw “Chicago,” my very first Broadway musical back in 2006!).  The songs were memorable, especially the song in the nail salon when each of the three women are getting different manicure colors to help them “get up the nerve” to overcome their fears.

“Cougar The Musical is an original, four person show about three divine but disillusioned women who unleash their “inner cougar” by dating younger men (played by one very sexy actor) and in the process, find self-love and empowerment. The multi-talented cast sing and dance their way through songs ranging from grinding blues to doo wop, to pop to “Julio”, a romantic ballad sung to a vibrator. Hilarious, soulful and heartwarming, Cougar the Musical is a madcap ride from Cougar Bar to nail salon to boudoir and back as the women learn to say “yes” to getting older, “yes” to trust and friendship and “yes” to embracing their lives.”

Long story short, whether you’re a cougar or still a cub, “Cougar, the musical” will have you laughing, crying, singing and dancing along!

Performances are at
St. Luke’s Theatre
308 West 46th Street (between 8th & 9th Avenues)

Performance times are
Wednesday and Friday at 8pm
Saturday and Sunday at 2pm