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 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: How did those boys jump so high?

Weaned on The Little Mermaid, Lion King, Aladdin and countless other Disney musicals, you have to have at least a small soft spot for the magic only The Mouse can provide. True devotees of Disney musicals know however, you have to go beyond the animated features to get the full range of Disney’s prowess. That’s where Newsies comes in; the fantastical musical telling of the true story of paperboys who go on strike in 1899 to protest the unfair treatment they receive at the hands of their big-wig newspaper tycoon bosses. The tour of the Broadway show is playing at the Orpheum now, so of course we had to check it out.

Brittany: Damn can they dance!

Katie: How did those boys jump so high!

B: And flip three times in a row in the air without falling on their head! Seriously by the end I was worried that one of them might hurt themselves. I would collapse after one of those dance numbers, and in the finale they just keep going.

K: Yeah the dancing was ridiculous and amazing. I really loved the second act.

B: Yeah the second act was legit. The first act was a little too Disney corny, but the second act got into the protests and the drama and the really epic songs and set changes. You couldn’t help but feel that swell in your chest when you see four stories of boys dancing and singing in unison about seizing the day.

K: Yeah, you can’t get away from the fact this is a Disney musical. It’s kid friendly and maybe not as cutting edge and some shows I like. But everyone in this show was so talented, the set was dope, and the dancing was just incredible. I wasn’t one of those kids who was super into Newsies, but I was pleasantly surprise by this show.

B: Yeah, me too. And ten year old me would have had the biggest crush on the actor who played Jack Kelly (Dan DeLuca)

K: He can sing, dance and act. Yes please!

The Verdict: Newsies has all the Disney magic you could ask for, and a cast of super talented singers, dancers and actors. It’s a Disney musical, make no mistakes about it, but if you can unironically get into some cheering for a singing and dancing underdog in a jaunty paperboy cap you’ll love it.

The Drama Talk: This show is known for its amazing dance numbers and it more than delivers. Seriously impressive choreography, and an ensemble who can pull it all off. Like every touring show, the design and tech are top-notch, as is the the cast. At times the show is a little too predictable and borders on corny. But it’s heartwarming, good for kids, and with just enough Disney magic that you can believe villains may be able to be reformed after all.

The Drinks: Given this is a show about the newspaper industry, we couldn’t miss the opportunity for a newspaper themed cocktail, so we headed over to Local Edition. Katie got the Fidel and Che and Brittany got the Yellow Kid, and we toasted to dancing, workers rights, and a successful night of drama talk and drinks.

Newsies runs through March 15th at SHN’s Orpheum Theater. Tickets are currently available on Goldstar for $55 dollars for multiple dates. $40 rush tickets are also available for every performance, beginning 2 hours prior to curtain at the SHN Orpheum Theatre Box Office. Cash only, 2 per person. As always you can get tickets directly from SHN’s website.

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: “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.

 

Theatre Review – Habibi

Fellow theatre enthusiast Katie Cruz and I recently attended a press showing of Intersection for the Arts and Campo Santo‘s newest play, Habibi, running now through November 7th. Both of us are big theatre people (you can tell by the way I spell “theatre”!) and would love to encourage more people our age (70 and under) to actually go see live performances. In the Bay Area we have all kinds of great companies and houses, including Intersection, ACT, Shotgun Players, Berkeley Rep, etc.

To begin reviewing plays, Katie and I had to come up with our rating system. First we came up with a lot of funny jokes that weren’t actually that funny and not very useful, then we came up with a system (shown below) that rates plays on a five part scale.
Katie & Ariel's Mission Mission Theatre Review Scale

Hopefully that’s helpful. Anyway, on to our reviews:

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