Drama Talk & Drinks: The Color Purple – “Sing like a dream”

Ever since we saw the 2016 Tony Award performances of The Color Purple cast we’ve wanted to see this show. From the heart wrenching plot, to the big gospel voices, to Oprah’s love, we were excited to see if this revival lived up to all the accolades it had garnered. When we saw the Broadway tour was making its way to SHN’s Orpheum Theatre, we decided to head out for an evening of drama talk and drinks.

Photo by Matthew Murphy.  Adrianna Hicks (Celie) and the North American tour cast of THE COLOR PURPLE.

Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Adrianna Hicks (Celie) and the North American tour cast of THE COLOR PURPLE.

Brittany: They had such good voices. The first act was depressing. It’s awful how terrible people can be to each other. White people are terrible to people of color. Men are terrible to women. Women are terrible to other women. Basically everyone is just terrible to each other. Then the second act redeems it all. I love the message of – no matter how much shit you go through you can be resilient – that’s pretty amazing.

Katie: Masterful singing for sure. The music didn’t quite meet my expectations though. The majority of the songs sounded so similar to one-another. I can’t remember any of them for the life of me. I enjoyed some of the duets and harmonies, when the songs showed an emotional range, but even those aren’t that memorable.

B: Yeah, the songs weren’t that catchy. That’s part of why I liked the second act better, the songs were more varied. The first act was basically all gospel, which every-single-person in that cast could sing like a dream, but there wasn’t much variety.

K: The show was beautiful and moving, I was entertained, but I wouldn’t need to see it again. For me I saw The Color Purple and I’m good. Also, story-wise it was really fucking sad and then all the sudden it wasn’t. The complicated painful relationships were too easily cleaned up and reconciled, which felt really weird to me.

B: I didn’t understand Celie’s transformation, I don’t get what it was that made her flip from being passive, to suddenly willing to stand-up to her abusive husband. I just didn’t see that transformation happening until it already happened.

K: For me there was something really contrived about this musical. It felt like someone made a musical out of this well known book and movie just to make a musical.

B: This was totally made with the understanding it would probably make a ton of money, which you can kind of tell…I feel like the musicals that are really special, the ones that you can’t get out of your head, are the ones written by people who are hungry and brave and don’t necessarily know that their piece will be successful. With this musical they thought “It’s The Color Purple, people will come.” I still think people should see it though. Everyone in the cast was amazing.

K: Agreed, definitely a show worth seeing.

The Verdict: A sad but beautiful story told by actors with amazing talent, heart, and voices. Go see it!

The Drama Talk: While The Color Purple is neither of our favorite musicals, this is still a great production. The cast has unbelievable voices. Some of the performances are inspiring. In all, it was an engaging and impressive show, like so many of the Broadway tours. While the happy-ending feels a bit far fetched, it’s nice that the show doesn’t leave you in the pit of despair it puts you in during the first act. Although we didn’t leave the theatre humming any of the tunes, it was still a great and memorable night of drama talk and drinks.

The Drinks: After this rollercoaster of a musical we wanted to go to a bar that was chill and loungy. Luckily 2 blocks away in the Twitter building there is Dirty Water, which is often not very busy late night and weekends and is full of couches.

The Color Purple plays through May 27th at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets range from $55-$246 and can be purchased on the SHN website. Right now there are discounted tickets available on Goldstar.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts I, II, & III) – “storytelling you have to work for”

After five years of Drama Talk & Drinks, we realized we had never reviewed a show at one of the premiere theaters in SF, A.C.T. It seemed like a good time to start, particularly with opening of Father Comes Home From the Wars, a play new play by Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient Suzan-Lori Parks. So off we went to A.C.T for a night of drama talk and drinks.

Photo by Joan Marcus. A chorus of enslaved people—Second (Rotimi Agbabiaka), Third (Safiya Fredericks), Leader (Chivas Michael), Homer (Julian Elijah Martinez) and The Oldest Old Man (Steven Anthony Jones), Hero’s surrogate father—place bets over whether Hero will accompany The Colonel to the Civil War in Suzan-Lori Parks’s Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater April 25–May 20, 2018.

Photo by Joan Marcus. A chorus of enslaved people—Second (Rotimi Agbabiaka), Third (Safiya Fredericks), Leader (Chivas Michael), Homer (Julian Elijah Martinez) and The Oldest Old Man (Steven Anthony Jones).

Brittany: I loved the first two acts. The staging was beautiful and the Greek chorus was cool. The third act, after the intermission, lost some momentum for me. I was weirded out by the talking dog. I think they were going for an Odysseus thing, but it jumped the shark for me. Still very much worth seeing, but be prepared for a bit of a let down at the end.

Katie: There were definitely some cool moments, but I didn’t love the preachy, greek tragedy, lots of monologues format. I was interested in the story and cared about the characters, but it was a 3 hour show…I guess I’m a product of a generation of really short attentions span, but it felt long. I also agree the third act was not as strong as the first two. At first it wasn’t even clear that the Greek chorus was playing different characters, and then when the dog-human ran out it totally took me out of it.

B: I didn’t mind all the monologues because they were performed by really strong actors, but you’re right, it was a long first act.

K: Agreed. The actors were incredible. The set was cool and artistic too.

B: I liked how they used the lighting and the shadows.

K: I appreciate that the play explored some pretty provocative topics too.

B: Definitely some very interesting subject matter. I think that’s why I was okay with the length of the play. Watching the characters explore the legacy of slavery in the United States and the struggle for black Americans to be valued when the dominant white culture only sees value in a black person if they can be owned was some powerful stuff. I think it was a valuable play in that way. I just really wish they didn’t have that dog character.

K: This is for people who love meaningful theater and storytelling you have to work for, but it’s totally worth it. I enjoyed myself.

The Verdict: It’s a long and heavy show, but very well acted, well staged, and well worth seeing.

The Drama Talk: Father Comes Home From the Wars is thought provoking. It’s the kind of a play you’re engaged in while it’s happening, and then when you think about it after the fact you start to realize all the clever things you missed. This is undoubtedly in part due to the extremely good actors who were able to keep the audience with them in the moment. The dramatic yet sparse set and highly contrasted lighting design provided just enough of a canvass to give the scenes shape, while still allowing one’s imagination to fill in the detail. Yes, it’s long, but it’s also smart, and totally worth checking out.

The Drinks: It was late by the time we got out of this 3 hour show, so we wanted somewhere chill where we could discuss what we just saw AND have cocktail and a snack. Luckily Bartlett Hall was open and had all of the above.

Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts I, II, & III) plays through May 20th at the ACT’s Geary Theater. Tickets range from $13.50-$115 and can be purchased on their website.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: The Gangster of Love – “Really f*cking long”

When we heard about the world premiere of The Gangster of Love, a new play by award winning author by Jessica Hagedorn, which tells her story of immigration from Manila to the Haight during the 1970s we knew we wanted to see it.  Afterall, we love San Francisco, and this was a San Francisco based story. So off we went to the Magic Theatre for a night of drama talk and drinks.

Photo by Jennifer Reiley.

Photo by Jennifer Reiley.

Brittany: That was really fucking long.

Katie: What the hell was that?

B: I just don’t understand why they tried to cover so much? I get it’s based on a life story, but you don’t need to see every moment over the course of thirty years.They spent so much time showing different scenes they didn’t actually develop any of the subplots. They seemed to change the set every few minutes.

K: Agreed. The only thing I did care about was those awesome projections.

B: Visually this show was cool.

K: But that was it. I just sat there in confusion, thinking there must be something I’m not getting.

B: I didn’t care about anyone in the show. None of the characters were fully human. There were thirty bizarro plot lines that didn’t go anywhere. They introduce you to an interesting character and then that character never appears again. Meanwhile the girl who played the lead, Rocky (Golda Sargento), seemed to just float through the scenes. Despite the fact she was on stage almost the entire show, I still didn’t get a sense of who she was or why I should care about her.

K: The show did nothing for me. If it had just ended after the first act at least it wouldn’t have been as painfully long.

B: What I don’t understand is how it took that long to do nothing.

The Verdict: Despite some cool staging this is a show to skip.

The Drama Talk: Cool projections and San Francisco subject-matter can’t save a bad play. Neither can good actors if the characters they’re playing are poorly developed and disappear from the story with little explanation. Perhaps because the playwright is primarily a novelist, and she’s dealing with subject matter that hits so close to home, she thought the audience would intuitively understand why we should care about this moody young immigrant poet/musician and her life. Unfortunately the character of Rocky was in some ways the least interesting character in the story. Meanwhile the promising characters who appear throughout her life never get enough time to have an arc.

This is the world premiere of this play, so it’s possible it could be fixed by trying to do less. Fewer scene changes, fewer years covered, fewer characters who appear for only long enough for you to get curious before they disappear, less shoehorned in magical Jimi Hendrix angels. As it is, this play tries to do far too much, and in doing so accomplishes nothing.

The Drinks: After this show we wanted to go someplace fun and relaxing so we checked out a new bar in the nearby Marina district called Del Mar. They have swings for seats, so that did the trick.

The Gangster of Love runs through May 6th at the Magic Theatre. Tickets are $30-$60 and can be purchased on their website. Right now there are tickets on Goldstar for $15-$32.50.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Disruption – “you go girl”

A few years ago DT&D interviewed AJ Baker, Artistic Director and Resident Playwright for Three Girls Theatre company (3GT). Despite loving her, and loving the concept behind 3GT (they only produce plays written by female playwrights), it’s been a while since we had seen a 3GT show. So when we heard that AJ’s latest play Disruption was premiering at Z-Below, we knew we had to see it.  So out we went for a ladies night of drama talk and drinks.

 

Sally Dana as Dr. Andrea (Andy) Powell in Disruption at Z Below; Photo by Mario Parnell

Sally Dana as Dr. Andrea (Andy) Powell in Disruption at Z Below; Photo by Mario Parnell

Katie: Wow, I’m happy about how the story ended, but feel some whiplash from how quickly the problem was resolved. It seemed like a very complicated legal matter.

Brittany: Yeah, it was really stressful for most of the show and then it just wasn’t. For a script that at times felt like it was fairly slow moving, it wrapped up very fast. I enjoyed it, even though it was a lot of talk and not much action. I was engaged.

K: There were a lot of good things about this show, but the lack of “action” took me out of it sometimes. The blocking felt unnatural, it was like the actors didn’t have anywhere to move. There were moments when I felt overwhelmed by the dialogue too. Also the connection to the #MeToo movement was a little muddled for me. Given the focus of the promos I thought it was going to go deeper into talking about that movement, whereas it felt more like a side note.

B: That’s true, but I still left with a “you go girl” feeling, so it captured some of the ethos even if it didn’t feel like it spoke directly to the #MeToo moment. I like 3 Girls Theatre, and that they produce plays by women with strong female characters. Disruption was clearly written from a woman’s perspective, and it was interesting to see such authentic female characters. All their reactions, and guilt, and anxieties felt genuine.

K: I agree, I felt like a fly on the wall in a real office and there was something cool about that. I think overall it was authentic and it’s female forwardness was refreshing.

The Verdict: While there’s still some new-play clunkiness to the script and the staging, it’s a compelling story that portrays some very authentic strong female characters. We think it’s worth checking out.

The Drama Talk: It’s refreshing to see a show focused on strong female characters dealing with the kinds of challenges and emotions professional women confront in their lives. While the effort to shoehorn in current events like the #MeToo movement at times feels forced, Disruption still covers some important topics such as the ramifications of sexual harassment, gender bias, and the pressure professional women feel when they try to “have-it-all”. The script at times was a bit wordy, and the staging a bit stiff, however the compelling and authentic portrayals of women kept the show engaging.

The Drinks: After this show we felt pretty empowered so we wanted to go to a cocktail bar with powerful drinks and a high powered atmosphere. We checked our True Laurel and it was both of those things along with some delicious small plates.

Disruption runs through April 28th at Z Below. Tickets range from $35-$55 and can be purchased through their website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar from comp-$27.50.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Timon of Athens – “smoking a crack-pipe”

Despite being fancy theater critics, neither of us had ever seen Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens.  So when we heard that  The Cutting Ball Theater was doing a production of “one of Shakespeare’s neglected classics, featuring some of the Bard’s more experimental verse paired with some of his best poetry” we knew we had to see it. So off we headed to the TL for a night of Drama Talk & Drinks.

Photo by Rob Melrose.

Photo by Rob Melrose.

Brittany: I don’t know Timon of Athens well, so it was fun to see it performed. There were some really amazing monologues and great Shakespeare insults in there. I thought the actor who played Timon (Brennan Pickman-Thoon) was really impressive. I also enjoyed Apemantus (David Sinaiko) and Flavius (Courtney Walsh), they both had such a strong command of the language.

Katie: When any of the other actors were talking though, they might as-well have been speaking gibberish. Watching a Shakespeare play sometimes feels like watching a play in another language to me, I have to focus so hard to follow along. When actors don’t have command of the language it’s difficult to stay engaged.

B: Totally, if it weren’t for the strong Timon, that would have been a total snoozefest.  Maybe it’s because the ensemble was playing so many parts, but at times it felt like they were just doing caricatures. They didn’t seem get into the language enough to fully develop their characters.  The whole armed insurrection sub-plot was kind of overshadowed by the Timon drama. Then some directorial choices I didn’t fully understand, like the overly sexual guards or some of the weird dance party bits, but I think it’s partially because of an unbalanced cast.

K: The actor (Doug Nolan)  who played the punk-rock dude and the senator drove me crazy. I hate inconsistent accents, and when he was trying to do the southern accent it kept going in and out, and he couldn’t keep up the rocker thing he was trying to do either!

B: The second he started losing his accent I was like “Katie’s going to be so pissed!”.

K: I was! Onto things I liked though, often when Shakespeare plays are set modern times it doesn’t work for me, but this concept worked for me. It added to the story.

B: Yeah, seeing Timon smoking a crack pipe on the street in a homeless tent added context to my reading of the show. The shift he made from being a super rich tech titan who throws Burning-Man-Like parties to being out on the street homeless definitely made an impression.

K: If you love Shakespeare, and want to see a less often performed Shakespeare play this isn’t a bad production. For me, unless I’m seeing all incredible actors I don’t find watching Shakespeare particularly enjoyable.

B: If you like Shakespeare, the guy who played Timon was great, and there’s some great Shakespearean insults that made me giggle. However, it was a very uneven cast and not the best show we have ever seen from Cutting Ball. Good, but not great.

The Verdict: If you’re a Shakespeare fan you will probably like it, otherwise maybe sit this one out.

The Drama Talk: Cutting Ball’s production of Timon of Athens has many things we always love about Cutting Ball shows; inventive staging in a small space, some very strong actors, impressive costumes, and a fresh contemporary feel. However, Shakespeare needs actors to really own the language, and not everyone in this cast was up to the task.

The Drinks: In honor of the extravagant lifestyle Timon led we thought we would go to a fancy place to get drinks. We hit up Market street’s newest a rooftop bar (fancy right?) called Charmaines. We probably aren’t swanky enough for it’s swanky atmosphere, and the drinks were not cheap, but it was a fun place to end a night of theater.

Timon of Athens runs through April 29th at Exit on Taylor. Tickets are between $35-$50 and can be purchased on the Cutting Ball Theater website.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Saturday Night – “Such a dick”

We’re always up for a Saturday night of musical theater. When we heard local theater company, 42nd Street Moon, was putting on a Stephen Sondheim musical we hadn’t heard of before, called Saturday Night, we decided to check it out for Drama Talk & Drinks.

The Company of Saturday Night. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio

The Company of Saturday Night. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio

Brittany: I just don’t think Saturday Night is a show that necessarily needs to be done again. I like 42nd Street Moon, and appreciate that they are trying to preserve these lesser known shows from the American musical theater canon, but…

Katie: There’s a reason why some of those shows are lesser know and don’t get produced. They just aren’t good.

B: Exactly! I love Stephen Sondheim and I was surprised that he wrote something this mediocre.

K: So mediocre. If they weren’t so earnest I’d have thought it was a parody making fun of how lame musicals can be.

B: I almost started laughing at the finale when the cops started singing along too. I thought “oh my god, is this a joke”. They had a cool set and good costumes, but you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Not a good show.

K: The story was terrible. I didn’t care about anyone. I mean, the lead character, Gene, was such an asshole.

B: He was such a dick! Why would anyone feel bad for him? He does so many shitty things and virtually shows no remorse. Yet, for some reason all his friends are behind bailing him out because he’s dapper. Gross white male privilege on display.

K: I just don’t get it. The story was terrible.

Verdict: This was a fine production by 42nd Street Moon, it’s just a terrible play. This is one to skip.

The Drama Talk: If you’re also fed up with entitled whiny white men, who feel like they should be allowed to do anything to get what they feel is owed to them, then you too will agree that this is a show that’s better left to be forgotten. While 42nd Street Moon has a noble mission to “celebrate and preserve the art and spirit of the American Musical Theatre” there are some musicals that aren’t worth being celebrated or preserved. The cast of Saturday Night did their best with a dud of a show. As always 42nd Street Moon had impressive production values and held true to a traditional interpretation of a classic musical. However their true-to-the-script interpretation left us with a fairly well done production of a bad show. Not a worthwhile use of a Saturday night.

The Drinks: We needed a strong drink after seeing this show, so we hit up The Barrel Room a few blocks away. Luckily we weren’t disappointed by the cocktails.

Saturday Night runs through April 15th at the Gateway Theater. Tickets are available through the 42nd Street Moon website and are priced $25-$75. There are also some $22 tickets available via Goldstar.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Reel to Reel – “I was even a little heartbroken at the end”

It’s been quite a while since we’ve made the trek to Fort Mason to see a show at Magic Theatre. When we got notice about the world premiere of John Kolvenbach’s new play Reel to Reel “the story of a fifty-five-year marriage as told through the mundane sentiments of recorded conversations, arguments, and household noises” we were intrigued, so we headed to the Marina for a night of drama talk and drinks.

Andrew Pastides as Walter and Zoë Winters as Maggie. Photo by Julie Haber

Andrew Pastides as Walter and Zoë Winters as Maggie. Photo by Julie Haber

K: I really loved it. I don’t know if it’s partially because I’m about to get married, so this look at what happens when two people build a life together felt particularly poignant, but it definitely struck a chord. Both in the way it explored the idea of how no one can truly understand someone else’s relationship, but also in touching on the scary idea of what happens when you lose the person with whom you’ve built your life.

B: It was a really heartwarming show. In the final monologue the older Walter (Will Marchetti) talks about these mundane moments which are what made their life together so beautiful, and that’s really what this play is about. These precious innocuous details of everyday life that make up a relationship.

K: They did a beautiful job developing the relationship between the two characters.  I felt very invested. I was almost on the edge of my seat, which is weird since in so many ways it’s a very simple show. It speaks to how well it was written and acted. I was just intrigued.

B: I feel exactly the same way.  If you told me what this play was about – we get to watch the lives of two people with a relatively normal life grow in their relationship over a fifty five year period – I would think it is going to be a fairly dull play. But it wasn’t at all.

K: The humanness of story was so interesting. It was also really well cast. The younger and older version of each character looked like they could be the same person. They also did a good job having consistent physicality and mannerisms. Everyone created such deep characters that they were able to make simple interactions complex. It was interesting, endearing, sad and funny. I was even a little heartbroken at the end.

B: I got teary eyed too. I also appreciated that they did a lot of interesting technical things for such a simple play. The way they used recordings and did live foley effects on stage while playing multiple characters was innovative without being in your face.  Getting to see all those tiny pieces of their life together, and the way they amplified them by amplifying the various sounds of their relationship, made it a really rich story.

The Verdict: Go see it! It would be a perfect Valentine’s date if you’re into kind of thing. Either way it’s generally a very well acted and heartwarming show about love and relationships.

The Drama Talk: It’s always fun when theater pushes you to take particular notice of a sense. John Kolvenbach’s Reel to Reel asks audiences to reflect on simple sounds, and in doing so creates a rich auditory experience that pulls viewers into a more intimate understanding of the life and relationship of Walter and Maggie. Each character is played by two actors who help the story jump around fifty five years of moments in their relationship. While the love story itself isn’t remarkable, it’s the simplicity of the story and the sounds in it that makes this play so poignant.  The cast does a great job creating detailed and intimate characters that draw you into the scene. This combined with the creative use of recordings, live foley effects, and a quick script make for a light and refreshing night at the theatre.

The Drinks: After the show we headed to one of our favorite bars in the city, that also just happens to be at Fort Mason, The Interval to chat about the show. We ordered drinks that were both classic and complex (Brittany got the Improved Calvados Cocktail and Katie got the Hacker Club – we can recommend both) and we toasted to love, sound, and a fun night of drama talk and drinks.

Reel to Reel runs through February 25th at the Magic Theater on Tuesday – Sunday nights. Tickets available through Magic’s website range from $30-$75. There are also some tickets available at the moment through Goldstar starting at $20.

Drama Talk & Drinks: In Event of Moon Disaster “If you want to get to heaven, get out of this world.”

We heard murmurs of a theater company with a kinda funny name, Mugwumpin, doing something pretty cool at Z-Space in Potrero Flats. An immersive theater piece, In Event of Moon Disaster that took audiences to space. We were intrigued. Since Katie was double booked, Brittany took frequent guest reviewer Sam out for a night of Drama Talk & Drinks.

From left, Stephanie DeMott, Isa Musni and Soren Santos. Photo by Battista Remati (1)

From left, Stephanie DeMott, Isa Musni and Soren Santos. Photo by Battista Remati 

Brittany: So what did you think?

Sam: ”If you want to get to heaven, get out of this world.”

B: I don’t know exactly what happened in that play, but it was very cool looking.

S: I mean they made it clear what happened.

B: The people got lost on the moon.

S: Happens to everyone. It’ll happen to you.

B: I don’t know if I walked away with whatever I was supposed to walk away with, but I did find it visually impressive.

S: I loved it. I thought it was riveting the whole way through. I found myself wanted to prolong the scenes because they were so vivid.

B: It moved very quickly between the different scenes and which I thought kept it engaging. There was always some sort of visual stimulation or song or movement that you wanted to watch. I found myself trying to listen very hard, but I was never really sure what they were trying to communicate. It felt more like a dance or poetry piece than a narrative play. There was a story to it, in that there was a beginning, middle, and end, but it was much more of an experience than a play.

S: Well the movement was very poetic. The moon especially had a rhythm to her. With the 360° projections you felt like you were in the orbit of the moon, and part of this celestial dance that they’re performing.

B: Do you think other people would enjoy it?

S: Absolutely! If I were other people, I would pre-game with Stereolab and post-game with Gorillaz. Something a little post-apocalyptic. You’ll come out with an understanding of the deeper resonance—the harmonics—that are coming from the moon and the stars and in, and out, and around.

B: This review basically summarized what the show was like. It’s poetic and somewhat hard to parse.

The Verdict: A very visually cool and engaging experience. Go see it before it’s gone.

The Drama Talk: It’s always fun to see theater that defies description, which is very much the case with In Event of Moon Disaster. This lack of adherence to form is very intentional, refreshing, and part of what make Mugwumpin such a unique and innovative company. It’s a technically impressive show, and very cool to see Z-Below reconfigured and reimagined. They did a great job making the show interactive without being awkward. While we’re not sure we got 100% of what we were supposed to as far as the message, we still really enjoyed ourselves.

The Drinks: There’s something about being in outer-space for an hour that makes you want to get back to the familiar, so we headed over to Docs Clock after the show and toasted to the moon.

In Event of Moon Disaster runs through January 28th at Z-Below  with shows Wednesday-Sunday nights. Tickets are available via the Z-Space website and are $35. A lot of the remaining shows are already SOLD OUT so get over there fast if you want to snag one of the remaining tickets.

Drama Talk & Drinks: The Secret Garden “Grief and some ghosts’

The holidays make us nostalgic for childhood. So when we saw that 42nd Street Moon was doing a production of The Secret Garden, we thought what better way to spend a fun holiday night out? After-all, what’s more Christmassy than reclusive uncles, invalid children, and ghosts? So we headed down to the Financial District for some drama talk and drinks.

(L to R) Katie Maupin as Mary Lennox, Sharon Rietkerk as Lily, and Brian Watson as Archibald Craven, photo by Ben Krantz Studios

Brittany: I’m always impressed by the voices of Inflatable water slide for sale Canada the casts in 42nd Street Moon productions. The Secret Garden needs awesome voices. The music is tricky, and really, the pretty songs are most of what this show has going for it. They had the great voices things covered. I also liked the costumes and set. But, while I enjoyed listening to the pretty voices, it’s kind of a weird show.

Katie: The actress who played Lily (Sharon Rietkerk), holy shit, she was incredible. Pretty much spot on to the Broadway recording I listened-to on repeat when I was like 10. Also, the little girl who played Mary (Katie Maupin) killed it. She had the perfect look and voice for that part. Such good casting. Now that I have finally seen this live for the first time, I’ve realized it’s kind of a sleepy musical. Some of the songs are sooo long, and then they reprise them! I would have cut it down a bit. It was a good production though. I liked their use of projections.

B: Overall it was very well done. It’s just a hard play. There isn’t really much conflict to drive the story. I guess there’s the tension between Dr. Uncle who doesn’t think Colin should get out of bed vs. Mary who wants to take him out to the garden. Otherwise it’s just a show about grief and some ghosts. I still enjoyed it, and got misty eyed at the happy ending. It’s not my favorite musical, but 42nd Street Moon did very good production.

K: I feel a young person would like this…it’s just long. If you love the Secret Garden you will like this.

B: If you like the story of the Secret Garden, it’s fun to see it on stage. I feel like this would be a great show to see with your grandparents or the children in your life. It was sweet and entertaining classic childhood story.

The Verdict: Want to see a sweet and classic childhood story told onstage? Love the story of The Secret Garden? Like musicals with pretty songs and singing? Then you’ll probably want to see this show.

The Drama Talk: 42nd Street Moon is decidedly not edgy, but in a way that’s what this company has going for it. They do really lovely and faithful stagings of classic musicals. Their latest production, The Secret Garden, is about as good as this play gets. It was very well cast, well sung, and beautifully rendered on the small Gateway Theater stage. While it’s not a groundbreaking show, it’s a cozy classic that gives you a warm fuzzy ending. Sometimes that’s all you want at the holidays.

The Drinks: After watching a musical that’s set long long ago, it felt appropriate to go to a bar with a theatrical old school feel. Luckily just a few blocks away on Columbus there was the Comstock Saloon. It has that very old timey decor, classic cocktails and all the servers are in black bowties. It definitely adds to the night out feel.

The Secret Garden plays through December 24th at the Gateway Theatre. Tickets range are $15-$55 and can be purchased on their website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Bright Star – “We expected more from you Steve, but we still love you.’”

The Curran’s first year of being open after a major renovation is coming to a close, and what a year it has been. The shows we saw at the Curran were some of our very favorites of the entire season, so we were so excited to see their last show of the year Bright Star, a musical written and composed by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Unfortunately, Brittany had a last minute work commitment come up, so luckily my Brittany replacement, Garrett, was available and more than willing to join me for some Drama Talk and Drinks.

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Garrett: Going into the show not knowing what it was about, maybe wasn’t the best idea because it took me a little bit to get into the story, which made it start off slow and at some points I was confused about what decade we were in. As far as the story, the emotion and music, the second act was better than the first act for me. I think the highlight was the style of music, I loved the old americana and bluegrassy type of stuff. The songs weren’t very memorable, but they were good enough to carry it.

Katie: For me I just didn’t care too much about what was happening until the end of the first act. I didn’t care much for the story in general, it kind of fell flat. The highlight was the lead actress Carmen Cusack. What a voice and what presence. I never wanted her to leave the stage…but she did, and too much in my opinion. She was outstanding, the show however, was just good.

G: Knowing that Steve Martin co-wrote this I expected more wit and a little more comedy and creativity as far as the story and lyrics. I think what they were trying to do was create a story about the American South, and a little slice of life but they didn’t quite pull that off.

K: Yes! I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I was underwhelmed. The elements of this musical from the side stories, to the going back and forth in time, to the large dancing ensemble who were awkwardly integrated into scenes, just didn’t quite harmonize. Definitely nothing groundbreaking to see here and frankly we expected more from you, Steve Martin.

G: It’s true, we expected more from you Steve, but we still love you.

The Verdict: Go to see Tony nominated actress Carmen Cusack sing the hell out Steve Martin’s songs. If you like the bluegrass style of music and melodrama then this is going to be a toe-taping, tear jerking good time.

The Drama Talk: We knew Steve Martin had a bluegrass musical side, which comes through beautifully in this show, but his thought provoking, witty and moving writing style doesn’t. Where this show shines is in its extremely likable lead character, Alice Murphy (Carmen Cusack), as well as the set and costume design. The rotating shack that housed the bluegrass band was well done and whimsical, where the costumes really took you back to the 20’s and 40’s. Overall this musical is an enjoyable and entertaining experience.

The Drinks: Since this was about a time where a lot of things were forbidden going to an unmarked somewhat secret bar seemed appropriate. Good think less than a block away from the theater there is Benjamin Cooper that has that speakeasy feel and great cocktails.

Bright Star plays through December 17th at the Curran. Tickets range are $39-$145 and can be purchased on their website. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar.