REVIEW: Matilda: The Musical at the Academy of Music

Photo by Joan Marcus for Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre.

Photo by Joan Marcus from Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre.

Is a show like Matilda: The Musical too big to properly tour?

That question was definitely on my mind last evening after I left the performance at the Academy of Music. The touring Broadway musical has come a long way since, say, the first national tour of Cats, which pretty much employed a strand of Christmas tree lights on the stage and called it a “set.” But at least that set worked.

Last evening’s Matilda was plagued with technical malfunctions throughout the performance, including one that literally stopped the show during act one, causing an announcer to broadcast that the set was having difficulties. The other major malfunction took place during the climax of the show. I won’t give the plot away, but the moment was supposed to involve a piece of chalk magically writing a message on a board. Let’s just say the chalk stopped working. Read more »

REVIEW: Bullets Over Broadway at Academy of Music

Michael Williams and Emma Stratton (Photo by Matthew Murphy).

Michael Williams and Emma Stratton | Photo by Matthew Murphy

Olive, a stripper who wants to be a serious actress, says this of her previous stage experience in the musical Bullets Over Broadway: “I call it interpretive dance: The audience interpreted it one way and the Catholic Church interpreted it another.”

That’s the kind of zany gag that fills the nearly three-hour Woody Allen/Susan Stroman musical which kicked off the Broadway Philadelphia season last evening. The original Broadway production, which opened in April 2014 and closed five months later, earned a half-dozen Tony nominations. This touring show, which recreates Stroman’s signature choreography, highlights some emerging musical theater talent, although the play itself isn’t terribly well-crafted or thoughtful. Read more »

Penn State Alum Lands Lead Role in Broadway Philadelphia Season Opener

Emma Stratton in "Bullets Over Broadway."

Emma Stratton in “Bullets Over Broadway.”

When the big Broadway touring shows come to town, it’s always great to find some sort of a local connection, and with the Kimmel Center’s Broadway Philadelphia season opener, Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, there’s quite a homecoming for Emma Stratton. The Penn State alumnus plays the lead role of Helen Sinclair in the zany musical comedy. She took some time out of her busy schedule of opening the tour in Cleveland to chat with us about her Penn State education and how it prepared her for a life on the stage.

I have to ask if you’re from Pennsylvania since you went to Penn State. Funny enough, no. I grew up in San Diego, but I loved going to Penn State. It’s what I called the sort-of East Coast.

What kind of theatre department does Penn State have? It seems pretty comprehensive. When I was going into auditions for schools, I had no idea about Penn State. I actually wanted to study abroad, and I hadn’t really researched a ton of schools. I then found out that the BFA program at Penn State was one of the top in the country, yet not a lot of people know about it because its not in a big city. The more I started researching, the more people came out of the woodwork about Penn State: It was like it a had a cult following. It was an amazing school with an incredible program that shaped me so much. Thank goodness lots of friends from Penn State will be coming to Philly to see the show. Read more »

Josh Groban on the 5 Broadway Shows He’s Dying to Be In

I chatted with the incomparable Josh Groban about his new album, Stages, which is a full compilation of songs from the musical theater cannon. He’s coming to Upper Darby on September 16th to the Tower Theater, and closer to the date, we’ll share our longer interview with you. In the meantime, we thought we’d give you a little teaser of just how much of a Broadway boy Groban really is.

Sure, the songbird started in musical theater when he was younger, but Stages is the first full theater album he’s released during his career. He already wowed audiences in the PBS concert staging of Chess a number of years back. So, I had to ask: What Broadway musicals would Groban love to star in? Below is the list, in no particular order.

Read more »

Kinky Boots: A Bunch of Big-Hearted Drag Queens Remind Us Of The Golden Rule

The cast of 'Kinky Boots.'

The cast of ‘Kinky Boots.’

As Lola, the extravagant drag queen who is half the protagonist team in Kinky Boots, says in her splashy opening number, “No need to be embarrassed: I like being looked at, and you like to look!” She’s right: We really do like to look, and we’ll be liking to look for another two hours at this big, splashy musical that has so much heart, it’s almost overflowing from the stage.

That’s half the point of the Cyndi Lauper/Harvey Fierstein show that is in town at the Forrest Theatre. Underneath all the makeup, the sequin shoes, and the wigs, these queens reinforce the musical’s main message: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…and love yourself while looking fabulous, too, damn it! Read more »

Getting Kinky With Kinky Boots Star Steven Booth

Steven Booth, left, with the 'Kinky Boots' cast.

Steven Booth, left, with the ‘Kinky Boots’ cast.

When I asked Steven Booth, who is starring as the very straight Charlie in the drag-infused musical Kinky Boots, if audiences come “dressed” to the show, he replied without hesitation: “Oh, yeah!”

Booth admitted that although there haven’t been a ton of folks who have donned the show’s signature knee-high red boots while taking in the Broadway tour of the Cyndi Lauper musical, it’s pretty amazing when folks do show up dressed, but it’s even more amazing when the cast sees a transformation in the not-so-outlandish audience members. Read more »

GIVEAWAY: Win a Pair of Tickets to Kinky Boots Worth $225

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Broadway sensation Kinky Boots is about to clip-clop into town for its big Philadelphia debut starting April 28th, and we’ve got a super-nice pair of tickets to give away.

The six-time Tony winner—featuring several tunes penned by gay icon Cynci Lauper—concerns Charlie Price, a down-on-his luck chap who’s having trouble keeping his inherited family business, a shoe factory called Price & Sons, afloat. Just as the clouds start rolling in, Lola, a sassy cabaret star/drag queen, comes in looking for a new pair of stilettos. The boots they create turn out to be the ticket that saves the business, and things just get all kinds of crazy fabulous from there.

The tickets we’re giving away are a pair worth $225. To win, sign up for our weekly enewsletter in the box below between now and next Thursday, April 23rd. At that point we’ll draw one of those names at random and voila, they’re going to see Kinky Boots. Good luck!

Kinky Boots runs April 28th through May 10th at the Forrest Theater. More information and tickets can be found here.

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