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 Well, the racism song definitely has an outdated view of what racism is.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: If/Then “I wonder if it’s an early mid-life crisis thing?”

When we heard the ”The Wicked-ly talented, one and only Adele Nazeem,” (aka Idina Menzel – i.e. Elsa from Frozen, Elphaba from Wicked, Maureen from Rent) was coming to San Francisco with her latest Broadway Show If/Then, we knew we had to take this opportunity to see the star live. Growing up Rent-heads, we were even more pumped when we learned that her fellow co-star, Anthony Rapp (who originated the role of Mark in Rent), was also part of the star-studded tour. So like the musical fan-girls we are, off we went to the Orpheum to see two of the voices that helped us get through middle school.

Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp in If/Then

Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp in If/Then

Brittany: I can’t believe that likely the only time I’ll ever see Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp live, I didn’t feel like giving a standing ovation.

Katie: I know! Idina Menzel was amazing! She’s ridiculously good, but I couldn’t stand for an ovation either. Why are either of them in such a mediocre show?!

B: I wonder if it’s an early mid-life crisis thing? If this show really speaks to her as a 44 year old woman who’s feeling “I’ve done all these things with my life, but is this really where I want to be?” It’s hard to believe she’d have regrets though, given she’s one of the most famous women in American theater. Although breaking up with Taye [Diggs] would make me question my life decisions too. I actually like the idea behind the show; the little decisions you make end up changing the course of your life, but the execution was kind of corny.

K: Totally corny. The structure of the play just didn’t really hold up for me, bouncing between one possible fate and another. Of course, she’s gonna end up with the love of her life in both story lines. Fate? Really?

B:  So true. Aside from one or two songs the music isn’t that memorable either.

K: All the songs pretty much sounded the same to me. The play sounded like one generic – extremely well sung – song. Other then Idina Menzels beautful voice, nothing really stood out to me. Overall, I was expecting to be more wowed.

The Verdict: If you’re a Idina Menzel or Anthony Rapp fan, it is really awesome to see them live. Otherwise, if you’re only going to drop Broadway Tour kinda money once this year, we’d say skip it.

The Drama Talk: Idina Menzel is flawless. Anthony Rapp is so fun to watch on stage. Although we didn’t come into the theater knowing her as well, LaChanze was also stellar. The rest of the cast is not nearly as strong as these three, and since the supporting roles are pretty big parts, it made the show feel uneven. The play itself wasn’t a hit for a reason. The music doesn’t make a huge impression, and the show feels a bit disjointed as it jumps from one possible life to another.

The Drinks: Since the show was slower than we hoped, we got some sparkling wine at intermission. Skip the main bar in the lobby and head straight to the Blue Room near the entrance to order drinks, that is if you didn’t think ahead to pre-order before the show started. 

If/Then runs through December 6th at SHN’s Orpheum Theater. There are currently tickets available on Goldstar for $40-60. SHN is also doing a new “mobile lottery”, so if you’re feeling lucky go to the SHN website, download the app, and try to win $25 tickets (you can buy up to two if you win). Otherwise, you can buy tickets directly from SHN which will run you from $40-$200+ depending on the seats.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Kinky Boots – “In a way it was crazy impressive”

SF “fun” fact: Lena Hall, who originated the role of Nicola in the Broadway production of Kinky Boots, was in my high school class at School of the Arts, back when it was still behind SF State University. So she’s there, and I’m typing this, so obviously we are both shining our bright lights. Anyway, enough about me, Katie & Brittany checked out the local production of Kinky Boots last week, their reactions split down the middle. Here’s their review:

When it’s rainy in SF it’s a challenge just getting out of the house. But when presented with the opportunity for drag queens, fabulous boots, and a night out at The Orpheum, it’s hard to say no. So we braved the monsoon to go see SHN’s latest tour, Kinky Boots.

Katie: I hate to say it, but I’m a little disappointed. Going into this show all I knew was that Cyndi Lauper wrote the music, it won the Tony, and there were drag queens and boots involved. But given Cyndi Lauper’s LGBTQ advocacy, I thought it was going to have more substance and innovation. I guess I was expecting something more like Rent, but with fancier shoes and a few more drag queens. I came in hoping for cutting edge musical theater that would entertain you and make you think. All that kind of bullshit I love. This was just a little forced.

Brittany: That’s so funny. I had the exactly opposite reaction. I was actually pleasantly surprised. I didn’t think I was going to like this show because I had a feeling it was going to be way too fluffy, but it was actually a bit deeper than I thought it might be. I mean it’s a show about shoes, but there were moments.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: “If Paris Hilton could play Roxie Hart we’d be set for life” – CHICAGO

Katie was out of town, so I got to go with Brittany to SHN’s Chicago tour. I’m a big fan of musicals, and I think more people would be if they gave them a chance. Chicago is a great entry point, with its relentless energy, dark humor, sexy style and classic Fosse pizazz. This cast was great and the show was a whole lot of fun. If you really need another nudge, Seinfeld‘s J. Peterman (John O’Hurley) has awesome personality as Billy Flynn, and of course, Bianca Marroquin is amazing as Roxie. Here’s Brittany’s report:

[via SHN]

Thanks to the 2002 film version of the Broadway classic Chicago most people have an idea where they stand when it comes to this play. Since Broadway touring casts tend to be pretty uniformly great, we thought rather than do a normal Drama Talk & Drinks review of the show, we’d go backstage and give you some insights into why you might want to see this current production in particular, now open at SHN’s Orpheum Theater until November 16th.

After a quick backstage tour, we sat down with Christophe Caballero, swing and understudy for Mary Sunshine, and Adam Pellegrine, who plays Harry, Martin Harrison, and is part of the ensemble, to talk about what it’s like to perform in SF and what’s special about this current production of Chicago. Skip to the end if you want our quick and dirty assessment of the show, but Adam and Christophe had some fun things to say.

Brittany: What’s it like to perform for a San Francisco audience?

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Drama Talk & Drinks: “I’m all about the orgy”

Katie & Brittany saw Pippin, yes Pippin, and really liked it! It sounds pretty sweet. And while we’re (they’re) speaking (writing) of Bob Fosse and Ben Vereen, check out The Jazz Singer, the final scene is one of my favorite in all of cinema. Here’s their report:

An over-educated privileged youth graduates college and desperately searches for something meaningful to do with his life. He tries war, drugs, casual sex, Burning Man-esque orgies, social revolution, religion, and even farming, but still feels unfulfilled. This may sound like every millennial we love to hate, but this time the youth is a prince, the son of Charles the Great, the Ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, and his ennui is the driving coming-of-age story behind the 1972 hit musical Pippin, which won the Tony for best revival in 2013. This lesser known Broadway classic has oddly been Brittany’s favorite musical since she was a little kid (maybe she identified with the privileged angst), so when we found out the tour was coming through SF, Drama Talk & Drinks had to go.

Katie: Wow, so I had no expectations walking in. It’s a musical I’ve heard nothing about, aside from what you’ve told me. So the whole time I was like WHAT! There was a lot going on, and I was a bit overstimulated, but not in a bad way. It was a lot of fun. A real spectacle. It was spectacle spectacle spectacle until the end, and even that was spectacle. I kept trying to guess what the original was like.

Brittany: AWESOME! Yay, I’m glad you liked it. I come into this show with the craziest bias, because I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only people under the age of 30 for whom this is a favorite musical. I watched the movie of the original with Ben Vereen in it at least 100 times. So whereas you were trying to figure out what was revival what wasn’t, I was thinking, “Okay, that dance is the same”, “WHOA, that’s different”, throughout the whole show. It was great seeing what a fresh take on this show can be, and I liked it!

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Berry Gordy in person

Katie & Brittany checked out Motown the Musical, and it sounds pretty great. Here’s their report (with a couple notes from me at the end, I couldn’t help myself, sorry):

We were very excited but also very skeptical about seeing Motown The Musical. (We are always at least a little skeptical when it comes to musicals based on already written music) Of course we knew of Motown Records, but didn’t know much about the man who founded it, Berry Gordy, so we were very interested to see how Broadway was going to tell this story.

Katie: I want some more Motown!

Brittany: Me too! The set was insane! There were many times that I was just like how are they doing that??

K: I was really into all those moving screens with media on them. For a second I thought they were projections but realized that they were large TV’s.

B: Amazing production value and cast. Everyone was beautiful and talented. It was disgusting.

K: It was like being taken back in time and attending a Motown concert. When the Marvin Gaye character started singing “What’s Going On” I almost started crying. I was extremely entertained but the only time it got a little slow was at the end of the second act.

B: I loved that since it was opening night Berry Gordy and the director came up after the show. And it was cool to hear the director talk about how this is exactly what we need right now, music that brings people of all ages and colors together, dancing and being kind to each other. And at the end of the first act “What’s Going On” was being sung during video of protests of the day and all I could think was wow, so timely and so on point. Not that it wouldn’t have been amazing otherwise, but the resonance with what’s happening in the world right now and what this play is about was really in sync.

K: Right, and yet I loved hearing these songs in context of the time period and what was going on in history.

B: The girl who played Diana Ross was so good. She was basically her generation’s Beyonce, and that woman pulled it off flawlessly. People should definitely go see it. There was a real story to tell and they did a great job telling it.

K: I could not stop smiling when little Michael Jackson was singing! So freakin’ adorable!

 

The Verdict: If you love Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, The Jackson Five and being “wow’ed” by talented singers, this is the event you will want to treat yourself to. This was everything you expect and hope for from a Broadway touring show. Amazing set, ridiculously talented actors and being thoroughly entertained for two hours.

The Drama Talk: We were afraid that this musical was just going to be hit song after hit song with a random plot shoehorned in. Instead it was more about what was happening at that time. That’s what really worked, it wasn’t just actors breaking into a song that everyone knows, just because. You really feel like you are at a Motown concert.

The Drinks: We were really excited after the show, so knew we wanted a good, strong cocktail. We decided on a place that was only a couple of blocks away from the theater that we had never heard of called Oddjob, which we found out opened 9 months ago. [They lost me at "bespoke mixologist mastery" - Ed.] Though pricey (our drinks were $14 each) they were really, really good. [Also, re: Oddjob, "working man's cocktail room" with $14 drinks . . . sorry, continue. - Ed.] We both ordered the “For Your Eyes Only”. Such a treat! Oh, and the “secret” entrance is to the left of the building, down the alleyway. Great way to end our entertaining evening. [Oh, secret alleys? Done it. - Ed.]

Motown the Musical runs through 9/28 at the Orpheum Theatre and tickets can be purchased through their website. Ticket prices vary from $45-$200 depending on where you sit. ALSO, another way to go is to grab some of the limited number of $40 rush tickets available two hours prior to curtain at the SHN Orpheum Theatre Box Office. It’s cash only and only 2 tickets per person, and are subject to availability. There are also tickets available on Goldstar for $69-$80.

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: “We are left with a dun dun dun di di di dun di di”

This week, Katie & Brittany went to see a musical based on a movie that sparked a romance that turned into a Broadway show and then came to our little town. Here’s their report:

Remember the 2006 movie Once? I know it was a long time ago but we still remember getting “Falling Slowly” stuck in our heads.

So we were really excited to check out the stage adaptation of Once last week. The musical was nominated for 11 Tony awards and won 8 of them. Between the critically acclaimed movie and all the awards, needless to say, we went into this show with extremely high expectations.

Katie: What I’ve noticed about going to SHN shows is that the production value is so high and the actors are so talented that even if it’s not an amazingly written show it’s always really entertaining. Always.

Brittany: It’s true. Once is so interesting. It was more like real life, which means depressing. At the end I definitely was left saying “Wait that’s it? That’s the end?” No happy ending here. Which I guess is refreshing because most Broadway shows are tied up in 2 hours.

K: Yeah, tied up in a pretty bow with a happy ending and we are left with a dun dun dun di di di dun di di. Not Once. But what beautiful music and amazing talent.

B: It’s really music anyone would like. I would listen to it with someone who didn’t like show tunes and I wouldn’t be embarrassed.

K: One thing that I struggled with was the format of the show. The fact that the set was a pub, but even though we are in a realistic pub setting it’s used mostly as other locations, like the vacuum shop, the music store, his house. It would have worked better for me if the set was not a specific place. I thought they were going to be a little more creative with turning this movie into a musical but instead they grabbed moments from the movie and threw it awkwardly on a stage designed as a pub. Luckily the actors and the music were so good that was enough to make it work. But for me I don’t think it was an example of great writing or a well constructed musical.

B: They really did themselves a disservice by having such a detailed set behind them which made it harder for your imagination to transform it into other things. It was a beautiful set though.

K: Really beautiful, really detailed. Just not needed. I thought they were going to take the story and the music from the movie and present it in a different, a very creative, theatery way, which didn’t exactly happen.

B: I’ve never seen the movie so I didn’t come in with certain expectations or context. It took me a little bit to get into the staging, but they were good enough actors that midway through the first act it worked for me. I did really like the stylized movement.

K: I just feel that they should of taken it further. I mean there is already a movie. I can sit in my living room and watch the movie. What is going to make me want to see this on stage? And it’s that, it’s the stylized movement, it’s the musicians – who did a really good job – that’s why I’m going to want to see it live.

B: And I think when they went there it was really good. All of the musicians were amazing. I do wonder how I would be feeling if I saw the movie.

K: I think you would have had a different perspective. The production was really well done though. It was a concert with a story. The lead girl was so good. Her voice was almost like a violin. So beautiful. Loved how the lead guy would get crazy on the guitar. The music definitely makes it worth going.

The Verdict:
Once is a great night out. The actors are super impressive. As always SHN brings through a tour with Broadway level sets and production values.

The Drama Talk:
While some of us struggle to walk and text at the same time, these actors act, sing, play the accordion, change the set and dance in front of an audience of 100′s all without skipping a beat. If you haven’t seen the movie, wait. The play doesn’t elaborate as much on the film as we may have liked, so if you can keep the plot a surprise, you may enjoy the show more.

Drinks:
This production offers a special opportunity to go onstage before the show and during intermission to have a drink, so we did just that. Brittany had a beer and Katie had a chardonnay. As we were sipping our beverages, that were served in a plastic SHN sippy cup, actors came onstage and started playing music . . . right next to us . . . in arms reach. A really cool experience worth the really expensive unremarkable drinks. You don’t need to get a drink to be on the stage though, just get to the theater early since they limit the number of people allowed on stage at a time.

Once runs through 7/15 at the the Curran Theatre, and tickets can be purchased through their website. Ticket prices vary from $65-$210 depending on where you sit.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Mr. Irresistible

Interview edition! Here’s Brittany and Katie’s report:

A few days after Brittany attended a Jazzy-Hip-Hop dance class at City Dance, a review request came across the DT&D desk (aka email) for a new musical, Mr. Irresistible, by D’Arcy Drollinger & Christopher Winslow. Still sore from all the booty-popping, Brittany recognized D’Arcy’s name as her fabulous dance instructor. We decided this would be the perfect opportunity to do a pre-show chat and get our groove on. So we donned our spandex and leg warmers, and went to D’Arcy’s Sunday Skool Sexitude dance class. After an hour and a half of sexitudeiness, we sat down with D’Arcy to get the scoop on his new show Mr. Irresistible that opens tonight!

Brittany: How did Mr. Irresistible come to be?

D’Arcy Drollinger: When I first moved to New York, I had a dare going with my friend. She was going to write a novel in 45 days, and I was going to write a full musical in 45 days, and so that’s actually when I started writing Mr. Irresistible, early in ’98. Flash forward to about a year ago, I had been talking with the artistic director at ODC, and I told her about this show I had never completed, and she liked the idea, so I began an artist residency at ODC. At the time I was also working on a different piece with Christopher Winslow, the composer of this show, a musical parody of Flowers in the Attic. So I asked him if he wanted to take a break from that and work on Mr. Irresistible. We spent six months tearing apart the old show, rewriting the songs and putting it back together. After readings at ODC, La Mama offered us a two week workshop in New York, which sold out, then we got a letter from SFAC that we got a seed grant to produce the show here and add in a lot more of the video elements, so we started looking for a theater.

Katie: Tell us a little about the show.

D’Arcy: This show starts as a real traditional musical, and then about ⅓ the way through it, it turns into a horror musical, when Mr. Irresistible starts killing everyone because he doesn’t understand metaphor. At the end, it turns into The Terminator, an action thriller with laser fights. It gets a little dark and heavy, but it’s still a happy ending.

K: I hate to be the person who asks this, but are there “concessions”?

D’Arcy: There are drinks, people can can buy booze before the show, and during intermission. Unfortunately it can’t come into the theater.

B: You’ve worked and lived in NY and SF, but made SF your homebase, how’s it working out for you?  Is this a viable place to make a career as an actor or artist?

D’Arcy: I was born in San Francisco, and then in junior high we moved to Nevada City, so I grew up there. I came back to SF for college at SF State, then a few years after college I was transferred to New York for work. New York is such an industry. I was missing the lifestyle here. The food, the mellow pace. I love New York, especially for the theater and the dance, but it has been better for me to be a Bay Area local artist. I have a community here that rallies around what I do. I think that’s the great thing about San Francisco audiences, they really rally around things. I’ve been making a decent living here making theater, which is CRAZY. If I didn’t know anybody here, I don’t think this would be the first place I would come to do theater. As I’m sure you know, in the last couple years this place has become so expensive and so many small venues have had to close. But there’s a lot of community support that’s hard to get like somewhere in New York.

K: What do you think about the future of theater and arts in San Francisco?

D’Arcy: I wish places like Google and Twitter would invest in more nightlife experiences for people that work for them that aren’t just bars. To keep this as a first class city we can’t destroy the downtown underground arts scene, and only have the big touring shows and a bunch of bars and nothing in between. People want hip stuff to do. I did a lot to make Rebel into a cabaret space, because there wasn’t anything like that, and now someone bought the building and is turning it into condos. I’m working very hard with some partners to create a cabaret space within a bar, where we can have a little more security knowing the building won’t be sold out from under us. But we need more viable nightlife, and a place for smaller productions.

B: What is your hope for Mr. Irresistible next?

D’Arcy: I’ve done nine musicals, and in a way this feels like my most commercial venture. It’s wacky, it has the love story, the thriller aspect, you’ve got your gay characters, you’ve got your drag queens, you’ve got Joey the Exterminator who the straight guys can identify with, it’s got the Sci-Fi aspect so all the Sci-Fi nerds can geek out on that. I could see this being a fun regional show. Start with a bigger production here, and then tour it, but with San Francisco roots. I can’t wait to show it to everyone. I feel so fortunate.

 

Mr. Irresistible runs June 4 – 8, 2014, Wednesday – Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 7:00 pm at the Alcazar Theatre (650 Geary St. in SF). Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased on the Mr. Irresistible eventbrite page. There are also half priced tickets available on Goldstar. Even if you can’t make it out to this show, make sure to check out one of D’Arcy’s incredibly fun sex-positive dance classes, or another one of his many upcoming shows.

Show love for your Bay Area actors, and do your part to keep SF a first-class arts city.

 

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: Porgy and Bess

Brittany and Katie are on a roll, seeing some really great theater around town. Here’s their review of Porgy and Bess:

http://youtu.be/14ZD4OsCJXA

After speed dating the cast and creatives of the touring cast of Porgy and Bess, now playing at SHN’s Golden Gate Theater, we were excited to see them in action. Donning our Julia-Roberts-in-Pretty-Women opera wear, we headed to the theater for some Drama Talk and Drinks.

Katie: I liked it (laughs) . . . I mean opera isn’t my favorite, but I really enjoyed this story. Everyone was really talented and I cared a lot about the characters. I was moved by this play.

Brittany: I think what was remarkable about this production is that they did such a good job of making the opera really raw. They brought a slightly more contemporary way of singing to some songs, which I liked, but it still honored the opera tradition. If you are a purist, some of these numbers may not sound like you remember, but I think it translates well for a new musical theater audience. The way they brought the wailing and the opera together. Their crying was singing, and their singing was crying, and I loved that.

K: Yeah, The music was beautiful. The struggle really spoke to me. The love between Porgy and Bess – I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a closeted hopeless romantic – that story kept me engaged. All I can say is it was passionate and beautiful, everything I think an opera wants to be.

B: It was a beautiful production. The costumes were beautiful. ESosa created clothing that made the actors look great. The lighting was my favorite part. I thought it was perfectly done, and did such a good job of directing your attention in subtle ways. I thought every single one of the actors had a deep and awesome backstory, and it was great to see those develop throughout the show.

 

The Verdict: This is a beautiful revival. If you aren’t an opera person, this could be a good way to get your feet wet. It has the operatic qualities, but also falls back on the Gershwins’ jazz influences throughout the production. If you’re a Porgy and Bess purist be warned, this production moves a lot faster than the original opera, which may not be a welcome change (it wasn’t for the Porgy and Bess superfan we went with, although he still enjoyed the show). If you really can’t stand opera, Porgy and Bess probably isn’t for you no matter how good or short the production. The folks we chatted up at Mr. Smith’s after the show were admittedly not opera people, and haven’t been to a musical in years. They were significantly less impressed than we were.

The Drama Talk: Porgy and Bess started as a book that explored the Gullah culture and the lives of African American fisherman on “Catfish Row” in South Carolina. The story was first turned into a play, then Gershwin turned it into an American folk opera in 1935. Many opera companies were uncomfortable staging it because Gershwin insisted it be played by black performers, so it was first performed as a musical. This revival honors that history, from it’s Gullah roots to its civil rights undertones, rounding out with 1930s jazz influences. In doing so it creates a layered and beautiful production of this classic American opera.

The Drinks: Mr. Smith’s is right around the corner from SHN’s Golden Gate theater, on the corner of 7th and Market. But despite it’s convenient location, the trek through Mid-Market is evidently too much for many theater goers, because they were empty and about to close when we arrived after the show. The bouncer, Jerry, and bartender, Mike, were true gems, and invited us in for a final drink. We had delicious craft made cocktails, Brittany got the Marmalade Sour and Katie got the 7th Street Gimlet, and we had a great conversation with a few fellow audience members about the show and theater in San Francisco. That’s what’s great about mixing theater and drinking, it brings strangers together.

Porgy and Bess runs through December 8th at SHN’s Golden Gate Theater. All tickets are subject to dynamic pricing based on demand, but prices seem to range from $40 – $210, and are available through the SHN website.

 

Gentrification & Ginger – The Musical

I got an idea for a new musical about the rapidly changing neighborhood that surrounds us.

A couple in their late twenties move to San Francisco’s Mission District from Iowa. Stacy and Sam had been running Stacy’s family’s restaurant, but when they read an article in the New York Times (online) about Valencia Street’s fabulous new foodie explosion they decide to risk is all to start a new life out West. They get an apartment in a little alley off of Dolores Park (Dorland), purchase a struggling appliance store on Valencia Street and 21st with the help of a loan from Stacy’s parents. Here they set about to create their dream of bringing more artisan cocktails and delicate nibbles to the hot, young Bay Area entrepreneurs in a storefront setting with the comfort of small town Iowa.

Then I guess some kind of conflict would have to enter in, like they realize that a homeless person that they’re trying to get arrested for sleeping on their doorstep is actually a long lost uncle? Maybe then the narrative can shift off of them for the second act and onto the homeless uncle, as Sam and Stacy realize that they’re not the center of the universe. We dive backwards into the history of the uncle, Steven, and how he came here from Iowa in the eighties, a Vietnam vet looking to start a new chapter in his life, lived on Haight Street, abandoned by the government that sent him off to war, got burned by a girl and/or best friend and watched his life collapse.

Maybe we end with some hint at the fact that the cycles continue endlessly, some kind of twist either in the future or further in the past.

Anyone else getting some good song ideas? I am.

UPDATE: In the comments, “Whataperv” makes a great addition to the story (did I mention Do The Right Thing is one of my favorite movies?). Now let’s get some songs written.

. . . a Latina couple (two women) the same age as Sam and Stacy apply for essentially the same thing – they want to open a healthy taqueria to provide affordable, nutritious food to those who cannot afford a $13 hamburger. Born in the Mission, they scrimp and save working several jobs trying to realize their dreams. Despite having a good business plan and start up capital, they have trouble getting loans because of their lack of credit history (as juxtaposed to Sam and Stacy, who have no problem relying on their family and their good credit to get the money they need). Stymied by their lack of financial privilege, the two decide to start with a street cart, which they dutifully push up and down Mission street every day and night, trying to raise the cash, while also trying to provide relatively healthy soft tacos to the neighborhood. Act three ends when two angry Google employees with Stanford MBAs stumble drunkenly out of Sam and Stacy’s establishment and into the food cart, one of them burning themselves on the grill in the scuffle. This leads the drunken, white men to tell the two women to “Go back to their own countries.” The very end of the act shows Stacy and Sam down at City Hall trying to get “disruptive” food carts banned from the sidewalks in front of their business because they’re driving away paying customers and creating issues.

In Act 4, we see that the homeless veteran witnessed the whole exchange. For whatever reason (maybe because a new non-profit has opened down the street and he’s started receiving help from an NYU educated, Brooklyn born African American man), he decides to try to turn his life around and begins organizing a coalition of homeless and working class individuals to respond to the rampant gentrification of his neighborhood. The play climaxes when a protest in front of Sam and Stacy’s store is met with violence from a contingent of drunk partiers from Walnut Creek. The police are called and, as they’re about to arrest the lesbian Latinas, the homeless guy and everyone else assembled, Sam and Stacy emerge from their under-siege business and set the record straight – resulting in the arrest of the Walnut Creek partiers. This act of reconciliation paves the way for a partnership between Sam and Stacy and the latinas in a new restaurant on Valencia, newfound respect for the homeless man, who goes on to run for the Board of Supervisors, etc. etc.

Basically “Crash II: Mission Stories.”