Drama Talk & Drinks: Hamilton – “I never wanted it to end”

I can’t remember a musical phenomenon bigger than Hamilton: An American Musical. I know people of all ages and backgrounds who love this musical, while still claiming they are not “theater people”. This show is rare and special. Even though I had seen it the first time around, I could not miss a chance to see it again. So I grabbed one of the biggest Hamilton fans I know, and we headed to the Orpheum Theatre for some drama talk and drinks.

Photo by Joan Marcus.

Photo by Joan Marcus.

Katie: I am still in awe that even after listening to the soundtrack a million times and having already seen it, I was on the edge of my seat. This show moves fast, there are a lot of words and a lot going on in every scene. I think knowing the words and having seen it before, I saw things I didn’t see the first time. From the staging happening on the second level of the set, to the choreography. I never wanted it to end. This is a masterful musical-storytelling-experience.

Garrett: Having been my second time also, I continue to be impressed with everything about it. I forgot how beautiful the movement is of each scene as well as all the design aspects of the lighting and the set. The design of each scene seamlessly changes and there’s very minimal set designs, but they pull this off better than anything I’ve ever seen in that style. I forgot how good the second half was, it really brings everything together and allows the story to end on a truly emotional note. I think a highlight for me, was the actor who played Hamilton. He was so good! I think he stole the show. It really is a rock concert meets hip hop, meets Broadway, meets story telling and a history lesson.

Verdict: You haven’t seen Hamilton!? Don’t throw away your shot and go see this show! ;) You’ve already seen Hamilton!? It’s just as good, and I would argue better, the second time around.

The Drinks: We checked out a new Speakeasy a couple blocks away called The Pawn Shop. If you want the entertainment to continue this is a good place to go after a show.

Hamilton plays through September 8th at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets can be purchased on the SHN website and range from $95-$325. They are also offering $10 tickets at each performance through a digital lottery. Here is the link to the app where you can enter.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Come From Away – “I did feel the love”

I had some family who saw Come From Away on Broadway and loved it. So I was really excited that it was coming to town. I was intrigued to see how the true story of 7,000 passengers stranded on a Canadian island following 9/11 was turned into a musical. So off we went to the Golden Gate Theater for some drama talk and drinks.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Garrett: I think that this was a super unique, creative way to look at 9/11. I like how it told a story of something you didn’t really know happened, and that it took place outside the typical stories in New York. It was fascinating, and it had some really strong elements to it. I like that each actor played multiple characters, and multiple story lines were going on. But I was a little distracted by some of the asides in certain moments, but for the most part I liked the characters and their stories. I kept thinking to myself during it, could this be a straight play without music? Probably not, because although the songs were forgettable, the energy and rhythms did help it come to life.

Katie: I really wanted to love it. I can’t quite put my finger on why ultimately I did not, but I found myself not really caring about the characters until more than half way through. It was difficult for me to get into the story and the music being mostly ensemble pieces that felt random didn’t help.

G: It did have a slow start and it got better as it went on. It had a hard time finding it’s tone and it’s mood because it was trying to be funny at times but I didn’t laugh once.

 K: Me either.

G: A couple moments I smiled, and there were laughs in the crowd, but for me it didn’t land. I did love the minimal set and how they just moved chairs around to create the scenes. All the sudden they are on a plane, then in a bar and then on a bus. They did such a great job with that. For whatever reason I was feeling love for all people and all things during this performance. I don’t know if it was the mood I was in, or the whiskey from the bar, or the subject matter…but I just wanted everyone to get along and be happy.

K: I didn’t get lost in the story. I felt like it was trying to be a crowd pleaser and played it pretty safe. But the actors did a great job playing multiple characters and yes, I did feel the love.

The Verdict: Do you remember where you were on 9/11? Then this is a special yet emotional yet refreshing musical to see and worth checking out.

The Drinks: We wanted a chill bar to process this 9/11 tale. So we went a block up the street to Biig. No loud music, barely any people and delicious cocktails.

 Come From Away plays through February 3rd at the Golden Gate Theatre. Tickets can be purchased on the SHN website and range from $70-$250. They are also doing in-person AND mobile rush tickets for $40, which is pretty cool. Visit this page to find link to the mobile app.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: When the Puppets Were Having Sex…

For this DT&D we’re handing it back over to our original poster, Ariel! He and is mom checked out NCTC’s Avenue Q!

NCT Avenue Q puppets

Hi! I’m Ariel and I used to post here. I’m stepping out of my Mission Mission retirement to check out a show that I’ve always been curious about, Avenue Q. On a cool SF winter night I took my mom out for drinks and a show at the New Conservatory Theatre Center.

Mom: Well, walking down into the basement, seeing such nice, modern design underneath Market Street was really fantastic. I really liked that the theater was small and intimate.

Ariel: Yeah, and once they shut the theater doors you could be anywhere, totally ready for wherever the show is going to take you. Well, I love musicals, I love urban stories, I really like puppets. But I was still a bit hesitant at first, like could I really watch them sing for a couple hours?

M: And did it work for you?

A: It did! I think the cast was good, the characters are all very different, interesting and engaging, had charm and charisma, even if they were gross or weird.

M: I really liked the set, how they used different levels of it.

A: You know I’m a sucker for the gritty city vibe.

M: I know, I am too. The songs had good rhythm, everyone was bouncing around. And the show wasn’t as gross as I thought it would be. I did get offended a couple of times though.

A: Huh. Well, the racism song definitely has an outdated view of what racism is.

M: The references to suicide felt a little too insensitive. I know that was the purpose of a lot of it, but it was too much for me personally.

A: I did like that the two bad news bear characters at first tell the protagonist, Princeton, to make bad choices seemingly in the pursuit of fun, but ultimately, by the end, it’s purely destructive. To me it would have seemed irresponsible to not show us where that behavior goes. It didn’t go as far as The Happytime Murders, which I didn’t see but I heard wasn’t good, or Meet The Feebles. I also worked on a movie where puppets were having sex and doing drugs and stuff, so I appreciate the instinct, but also appreciate that they didn’t go too far. It wasn’t just let’s see what we can get a puppet to do.

M: I thought that the Asian character was a little too exaggerated. Her husband was like a big Jewish guy, right? But he was also just a guy, he had other stuff, but she always seemed stereotypically Asian. Her character stood out that way.

A: And when Eimi Taormina finally had her big number she was really great. How responsible are you to resolve all of the topics that you bring up to get people to react? Like the gay issues, they really worked through and I feel like they resolved it. Not with every issue though.

M: I thought Danya El-Kurd was so intriguing. She wasn’t really looking at the audience, but she was still so expressive in her face. She was very empathetic to the feelings of the puppet. I was in and out with Kamren Mahaney as an actor. Sometimes I felt like his presence overpowered the puppet.

A: I had that thought too, he was great, but sometimes it seemed like he wanted to throw the puppet aside and take the stage. I wasn’t sure how much of that was a choice, by him or the director, because he was the lead. I was curious how they made choices about the human vs. puppet presence. At first I was finding myself focused on the person, but by the second or third song I was switching to the puppet. There was interesting character work.

M: when the puppets were having sex, the acting of that, the physicality, was great.

A: I loved Chelsea Carruesco’s voice for the character of Kate Monster, I really liked the character and she had a really nice singing voice. But she was quieter than the other actors, her voice didn’t carry out as far. Even though it was a small theater, they had to play over the puppets too. She was a little more inward and subdued. So even though I loved her voice, I wish that she had sung out more.

M: I always like in any kind of performance the performers come out into the audience, I really liked when they did. It made us all feel like little kids, getting to be up close with the puppets talking to us. So, would you send people to see it?

A: I would, for sure.

M: Would you send people who enjoy comedy? Or musicals?

A: I think musical theater is for everybody. I could see people being turned off by puppets, or singing, or theater, but I think this show is for anybody. This doesn’t feel like a niche kind of experience.

M: No, and it ought not to be. And San Francisco has great theaters, for now. I would definitely send my friends.

 

The Verdict: It’s a really fun, if dated, show and this cast was a blast.

The Drinks: We had a flight of delicious rums at Kaya alongside some amazing Caribbean food.

Avenue Q plays through January 6th at NCTC  inside 25 Van Ness (just North of Market). Regular tickets start at $39 with group discounts and rush tickets available.

Drama Talk & Drinks: The People’s History of Next – “about everything and nothing”

I recently ran into an old friend who told me about TheatreFIRST, a theatre company in Berkeley that is “an art-as-activism organization investigating new models of equitable representation through our development-based new works process”. I think it’s so important that theater be more inclusive to people of color, women and the LGBTQ community and it’s great that they are approaching that in a really intentional way. I was excited to check out their original play The People’s History of Next which was developed with “Bay Area high schools, colleges, and community centers through listening circles, writing workshops, and media foraging”. I wanted to see this with someone who also values diversity and youth voices. So Nisa, an arts nonprofit colleague of mine, and myself headed to Berkeley for some Drama Talk and Drinks.

phon.fb_

Nisa: This show had a Black Mirror, meets Farenheit 451, meets Sense 8 sorta feel. They touched on some important topics like school shootings and racism and sprinkled in a little dystopia. I think there were interesting things done with movement, which was really cool, and they explored trauma in an interesting way. Then there was also a Matrix oracle type character, and discussions about the past, present and future. It was a lot to digest. The young actors did a great job with the words they were given. I don’t know how this was developed with high school students and how their words came into play but it did feel very much like an adult took young people’s words and kind of manipulated it. Maybe manipulated is a harsh word, but It felt like a touch of youth and a lot of adult. And I didn’t believe the words coming out of the youth’s mouths sometimes. Also I find it weird that the Jewish White girl gets the majority of the spotlight and there was this whole thing with her background and Jewish traditions that just didn’t quite make sense. The premise of this play really could be the start of a joke like a black boy, an Indian girl and a Jewish girl walk into a theater, you know. Anyway, I feel like there is something there. There are messages clearly there, and there’s artistry there too. Felt very much like performance art.

Katie: Totally, and performance art often doesn’t inspire or move me. I didn’t feel like this show invited me in. It felt like it was a story that only the people involved in creating it got something out of. There was just a lot of yelling and talking at us. It was the moments when the characters were talking to each other that were the most intriguing. The art direction and visual elements were really cool. My issues were not with the actors performance, the set or the projections. It was the story, which was very disconnected most of the time, and when I feel disconnected it’s hard for me to be moved.

N: Yeah, and I think what added to that feeling of disconnection was the sound effects. They were used to shock us into feeling a certain way. The story is what should have carried us to feel that certain way.  Also, the use of technology was forced. They mimed having a phone in the beginning and then in the end they had a real phone.

K: Right! One of my biggest pet peeves is when miming is inconsistent. A world was created that didn’t make sense for them all to be miming having a cell phone.

N: Honestly, I don’t understand what my takeaway was supposed to be and the whole time I was like “where is this going to go?”. And yeah, I know all the shit that’s happening right now, and these are important issues but it felt like these issues were thrown in a blender and I couldn’t understand what the main message was. The show was so focused on being deep, that they missed it.

K: To use words from the play, it was about everything and nothing.

The Verdict: Intriguing idea and approach, but a confusing end product. Definitely check out TheatreFIRST, but maybe wait until the next show.

The Drinks: We saw a matinee and bars weren’t open yet near the theater. So we went for a delicious Mexican mocha at Fertile Grounds Cafe.

 The People’s History of Next plays through December 22nd at Live Oak Theater in Berkeley. Tickets are $10-$30 sliding scale and be purchased on their website.

Drama Talk & Drinks: A Bronx Tale – “this kind of show is polarizing”

Since Brittany hasn’t been able to go to shows with me lately, I needed an extremely well versed theater-goer to attend the next one. I immediately asked my Uncle Louis, who, along with my aunt, were the first people to ever take me to a musical. We have been to a ridiculous amount of musicals together over the years, our joint favorite being Rent. So off we went for some drama talk and drinks to see this play-turned-movie-turned-musical, A Bronx Tale at the Golden Gate Theatre.

Photo by: Joan Marcus

Photo by: Joan Marcus

 

Louis: I thought the show propelled itself with a lot of energy, but the vehicle for that energy was very formulaic. It became redundant, I’m not sure how many times “look to your heart” can be said in a song. We did see the best quartet of gangster singers in sweater vests that there has ever been. At least now I’ll never forget to look at my heart.

Katie: Not just look at your heart, the songs also told us that you need to follow your heart, listen to your heart, choose your heart. Talk about the ultimate filler songs! This movie did not need to be made into a generic musical. It was disappointing. I guess I thought it was going to be more interesting than it was.

L: What was very interesting was as we walked out the people around us were very quiet, there wasn’t a buzz like I’ve felt leaving other shows. I think this kind of show is polarizing because it is formulaic. Some people loved it because it was familiar, but others that were seeking a moving experience didn’t get that.

K: The things I did love was the set, the lighting, and the actors who did a really great job. The casting was on point. When the writing was specific, the actors were able to create some really nice authentic moments.

L: Overall, to me, it was a really well polished turd. Pretty to look at and the actors were so talented, but this show could have been any show and the songs could have been anyone’s songs. A show like this makes me angry at Jonathan Larson for dying because I think we just had a taste of what he was going to do with Theater. Right now we are left with this formula that, granted, a lot of people seem to love and I’m sure would disagree with me about this.

The Verdict: Our hearts were not moved, however, if you have a 13 year old in your life that you would like to impress, this is a great show for them, otherwise this is one to skip.

The Drama Talk:  A Bronx Tale’s story, based on a play of the same name, made for a popular 1960’s mob film but an awkward and generic musical. I think that’s all we really have to say about that.

The Drinks:  We hit up my go-to bar after a show at the Golden Gate Theater, which is PianoFight.

A Bronx Tale runs through December 23rd at the Golden Gate Theatre. Tickets range from $56-$256 and can be purchased on the SHN website. They are also doing in-person AND mobile rush tickets for $40, which is pretty cool. Visit this page to find link to the mobile app.

 

Remembering Radish, Specchio, Hi Lo BBQ, and I guess Hog & Rocks

I don’t actually recall much about any of them to be honest, but the Ford GoBike map is keeping the dream alive:

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The Lexington Club is definitely still kaput though.

Also what ever happened to Emily’s Seasonal Soulfood?

Drama Talk & Drinks: Cirque Du Soleil’s Volta – “I was mesmerized”

I haven’t seen a Cirque Du Soleil show in about 9 years and Garrett had never seen one. So this year I knew we needed to check out Volta. So off we went to the parking lot of AT&T Park to see what was going on underneath that huge tent.

volta

Katie: Having only seen a Cirque Du Soleil show about insects, I enjoyed the heartfelt, darker tone and mood of Volta’s storyline. I also liked that they explored themes of how technology can be a negative distraction and it can keep us from each other.

Garrett: Having never seen a Cirque du soleil show before, I was thoroughly impressed and entertained. I was mesmerized with what was going on. I liked some of the themes they explored but there were times where the story was hard to follow and didn’t really match was was happening in a scene.

K: Yeah, agreed, but overall I thought it was beautiful. The music, lighting and costumes were so great. The show feels like a concert, but also a dance show and also an exciting athletic event with acrobats and gymnasts.

G: Yeah, the vibe was really cool. The relationship between the performers and the audience is very unique, and different from anything I’ve seen. Everyone’s very encouraging because you understand that what they are doing is dangerous so there is applause when someone does something cool or when someone messes up they get love from the audience. Having driven past those tents hundreds of times over the years, it’s incredible to finally see what’s going on inside, and I like it. They create such a unique environment…you forget you’re in a freaking parking lot!

 The Verdict: Cirque Du Soliel shows are all about spectacle and Volta doesn’t disappoint. Bring a date, bring the fam, this show is for everyone.

The Drama Talk: Wow. How do they do it? You forget how difficult these things are because they make it seem so easy. Tricks off trampolines, with bikes and jump ropes, through hoops and in the air, there were like 100 athletic achievements being done and it was all pieced together with a story of a young man who has lost touch with himself because he’s different. The storyline has some cool, beautiful moments, but overall it didn’t quite feel cohesive. However, the incredible performers, music, and lighting make up for it.

The Drinks: There was free champagne at this performance as well as a bar so we decided not to venture, but if we did we were going to go to the Atwater Tavern since it’s pretty much in the same parking lot.

Volta plays through February 3rd under the Big Top at AT&T Park. Tickets range from $68-$290 and can be purchased on their website. Right now there are discounted tickets available on Goldstar.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Shout-out

As big fans of Crowded Fire Theater we were really excited to hear about their collaboration with AXIS Dance Company, Star Finch, and Ensemble Mik Nawooj to create a new immersive multidisciplinary experience that merges “hip-hop, contemporary dance, and theater into a boundary-pushing work featuring a 12-person orchestra”. Sounds intriguing right?!

Unfortunately there are only 3 performances over 2 days, which means we won’t be reviewing it, but we felt strongly that a show as unique as this needed a shout-out. We definitely recommend checking it out. We will be.

Photo by Ian Davis.

Photo by Ian Davis.

WHAT:

DEATH BECOME LIFE: BANISH DARKNESS - a future vision by Crowded Fire Theater, AXIS Dance Company, Star Finch, and Ensemble Mik Nawooj

WHERE:

Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Memorial Theatre, 4705 3rd Street, San Francisco

WHEN:

November 16, 8:00pm

November 17, 3:00pm and 8:00pm

Tickets $25: Visit www.crowdedfire.org/dbl-banish-darkness for more information and to purchase tickets.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Men On Boats – “It looked so cool when they were going over waterfalls!”

I knew when I heard about Men On Boats, a play described as “Spinning historical, theatrical, and gender conventions on their heads, this subversive tale of 10 men, four boats, and two rivers contains none of the above”, I needed to go with one of my awesome lady friends. So I brought my friend Kim, lawyer by day, and theater goer by night, to A.C.T’s Strand Theater for a night of drama talk and drinks.

John Wesley Powell (Liz Sklar, standing center) leads a brawny and eclectic band of explorers on an expedition through the canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers | Photo: Kevin Berne

John Wesley Powell (Liz Sklar, standing center) leads a brawny and eclectic band of explorers on an expedition through the canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers | Photo: Kevin Berne

 

Kim: If I read this play in script form I would be convinced I would hate seeing it put on stage but actually I was surprisingly pleased, and it was a lot of fun.

Katie: I was very entertained, I really didn’t think I would like this show as much as I did. I mean, we just saw a group of women play narcissistic white men from the 19th century. That sounds annoying to me and yet I really cared about the characters.

Kim: That’s definitely part of the theme that’s going on there. If they had actually been all white men, it would have been impossible to swallow. This all female cast really nailed it, their comic timing was really good. It was very charactery, campy acting throughout, which worked in the context of this play.

Katie: On top of the cast being so strong I was very impressed by the set, lighting, and sound design. You really believed they were in boats on a river to the Grand Canyon. It looked so cool when they were going over waterfalls!

The Verdict: Very well done new approach to an old narrative. This is storytelling at its finest. Go!

The Drama Talk: The ups and downs of the plot, interesting character development, cool set, and strong all female cast, created a tight and entertaining 90 minute adventure. The story and style of this play creates multiple layers in this show that different people will enjoy. For those who want an entertaining show that will make you laugh, you can come and watch this play and have fun. For those looking to question the patriarchy, manifest destiny, and the power structures in America you this play does not disappoint.

The Drinks: The Strand was serving drinks after this opening night performance, but assuming that doesn’t happen every performance we recommend going around the corner to Mr. Smiths.

Men On Boats plays through December 16th at A.C.T’s Strand Theater. Tickets range from $30-$100 and can be purchased on the ACT website. Right now there are discounted tickets available on Goldstar.

  

Old Time Relijun back from the grave plus Rocky’s band Turqoiuz Noiz!

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OTR hasn’t toured in like 10 years, but they’re back, at the Chapel! And Rocky’s band Turqouiz Noiz is opening!

RSVP and invite your friends!