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

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

Photo by: Joan Marcus

Photo by: Joan Marcus

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

volta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Drama Talk & Drinks: The Golden Girls – “yay, for mindless television”

It’s holiday time again, which means it’s time for Golden Girls the Christmas Episodes! Since this was our 3rd year attending (we saw the 2013 and 2015 shows and loved them too) we thought it would be fun to bring some friends who hadn’t seen it. We were excited to experience this show with fresh eyes, so out we went for a night of drama talk and drinks.

Golden Girls Live 05 sm photo by Mr Pam

Rachel: I thought it was great, very entertaining. Dorothy and Blanche were amazing, but as a Golden Girls fan, Sophia and Rose fell short for me. I wanted their delivery to be a little more like the originals. Overall though, really fun and recommend seeing it.

Garrett: Love this show! Best SF drag show I’ve ever seen!

Sam: It was a fun show. It’s all novel to me, I’ve never watched the TV show. They have a lot of rapport. They all seem to like each other. I don’t know the characters they’re trying to embody, so for me it was fun to just watch some good drag performances. I have no idea how true it is to the original. At first thought it was fan fiction, but I guess these are real episodes?

Brittany: Yep, real episodes. I do think it’s interesting, because Rachel comes from knowing the show so well, and she didn’t like Sophia or Rose as well, but you said Sophia was your favorite.

S: Yeah, she was the funniest, she had the best timing.

B: It’s a fun night. If you really like the TV show, you’ll enjoy seeing these fun characters larger than life on stage. If you don’t know the show well, it’s still a funny show with a lot of talent.

S: You don’t need to know anything to enjoy it for sure. It’s got beautiful and talented drag performers, great costumes, a really detailed set, everything you need.  Loved that they went around selling Fireball shots! I would definitely say yes to Fireball again.

Katie: It was fun to see it again, this show is so consistent. You can count on a good time, it just makes you smile. It definitely takes my mind off of the horrifying things that are happening in the world.

B: Yay, for mindless television.

The Verdict: Need to take your mind off of the terrible things happening in the world? Then get to this show ASAP. If you know and love the Golden Girls show from the 80’s or not, this is fun, mindless holiday themed entertainment for all.

The Drama Talk: This is our 3rd year of seeing Golden Girls and it hasn’t disappointed yet. It has been consistently well produced, with extremely talented drag queens year after year. We do advise to get there at least 30 minutes before the show to ensure a decent seat and grab a drink at the bar before the line gets too long. Better yet, get a cocktail nearby before the show (we recommend Bond Bar) and then just get a beer since the cocktails are the theater are expensive and not very good.

The Drinks: We headed up to Valencia street to a bar we had been wanting to try called Holy Mountain. It’s above the thai hipster restaurant Hawker Fare so we didn’t know what to expect. It ended up being a pretty open room with plenty of booths and tables. It was a great place to get a fancy cocktail, sit and talk about the show.

The Golden Girls runs through December 23rd at The Victoria Theatre. Tickets are $30 and available at online at www.goldengirlssf.com.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: The King and I – “If Rodgers and Hammerstein are your jam…”

After a week of post-election depression we decided to see if some Broadway magic could brighten our outlook on life. Hamilton had been our post-election playlist, but since that’s not coming to SF until next year, we decided to check-out the classic The King and I which is currently playing at the Golden Gate Theater.

The King And I

Brittany: You would think a week after election day would be a great time to go see a Broadway musical, because it would take your mind off all this stuff.

Katie: (laughs) Right, that’s what you’d think. We need singing and dancing. But gosh this is probably one of the worst musicals for people, especially women, to see to make them feel better about what’s going on in the world.

B: Right, it’s like let’s be a little racist, let’s throw some Western exceptionalism in there….

K: …and some misogyny.

B: Oh yeah, you can’t forget to add a lot of misogyny! And just kinda laugh about it. I don’t know, maybe we’re way off base. I understand that at the time this play was written (ed. note: in 1951) acknowledging that Taiwanese people are not barbarians was probably a revolutionary statement, even if it’s done while perpetuating Asian stereotypes. I’m sure having a single women stand-up to an Emperor in any way must have seemed so progressive.

K: But when Anna would stand up to the King, it was like one step forward and three steps back. She’d say “No I won’t be treated like this!” and then five minutes later she’d be like “Oh, NBD, I’m just a women. I’m probably overreacting when I yell that you should not whip one of your many slave-wives for running away because she doesn’t want to be married to you. It’s cool, sorry I was upset.”

B: And that whole refusing to give her a house thing.

K: Yeah! She’s all like “I’m putting down my foot and won’t stay here if you don’t pay me what was promised and give me my house.” Then the story fast forwards to a year and half later and she’s singing in the classroom with his wives and kids still without the damn house! Really, Anna? What happened this last year and a half? WHY ARE YOU STILL THERE!

B: This is just our liberal elite bubble Katie, we are out of touch with The King and I.

K: I guess so. This show is for somebody, but it’s poor timing for us.

B: I mean it was a beautiful looking show, the sets were amazing. It was a great production.

K: People did seem to be enjoying themselves. The women who played Anna, was just awesome. What an actress. What a voice! She really owned that stage. I couldn’t stop watching her. It’s just a very old-timey type of musical. I personally don’t like Broadway classics as well as more contemporary musicals, they’re a bit too corny for me. The King and I  just doesn’t feel very relevant anymore. It’s just not exciting.

B: Yeah it is a Rodgers and Hammerstein. Which, when you feel like Hamilton, is a bit of a let down. (laughs) But if Rodgers and Hammerstein are your jam…

K: True, if you’re looking for nostalgia, and you like this kind of musical you’d probably love it.

The Verdict: Beautiful production, and well sung Broadway standards, but unless you love this play already it may be better to pick another piece of theater to get you out of your post-election funk.

The Drama Talk: We personally don’t think this show ages very well, although this production was well done. If you’re a huge fan of Broadway classics, and are better at appreciating this play in the context of when it was written than we are, you may love it.  The sets are really amazing. There are some really impressive dance numbers, and some great renditions of well loved songs. But, if you’re not into musical theater, and as fed up with casual racism and misogyny as we are, it’s probably not a great pick for you.

The Drinks: Monarch’s The Emperor’s Drawing Room seemed aptly named for this show, so we decided to check it out for post-show drinks. While not the most ideal venue for a quiet post-show conversation, a good strong classic cocktails seemed the best way to dull the heartache.

The King and I runs through December 11th at the Golden Gate Theater. There are $40 both virtual and in-person rush tickets available. You can check-out the SHN website for rush instructions. Goldstar also currently has tickets for $50-75 (normally priced $65-150).

Drama Talk & Drinks: The Lion King – “I have some great feedback but apparently so do the speakers”

The Lion King was my favorite movie as a kid. I’ll admit, I even performed it in the back yard with my brother and sister. So when the stage musical version hit Broadway in 1997 I desperately wanted to see it, but it wasn’t until this week that I got the chance. Not only was it a musical of my favorite Disney movie but it was being directed by my favorite director Julie Taymor, who was the first woman to win a Tony for Best Direction. Brittany couldn’t make it so I had my star back up guest reviewer, Garrett, attend with me.

 Lion King Musical
Garrett: Well, I have some great feedback but apparently so do the speakers.

Katie: Ooohhhh, good one.

G: It was a bit jarring to experience sound and technical difficulties so severe that they had to stop the show, but after I got over that the show was great.

K: I’ve never experienced that level of technical difficulties at a professional musical. A first for me for sure.

G: I thought the show was incredible though, especially the costumes. What I didn’t love were the filler songs. The songs that were not in the movie that they added to fill out the show. It was fun to see the characters from the movie that I loved so much.

K: This show really had me at the opening number, so many actors in elaborate animal costumes killing the “circle of life”. But there was such a high in the first 30 mins, and then with the disruption of the technical difficulties, I never really got that high back. It was still an amazing piece of theater, but I might have gone in with too high of expectations.

The Verdict: While there were some technical difficulties in the production we say, this is still a must-see for anyone who loved the Lion King movie. The nostalgia is so worth it. It’s like watching the movie but better.

The Drama Talk: The costumes, set design and the amazing original songs make this show special. It’s no mystery why it won Tony awards for best costumes and set design. However, not every part of this adaptation of the film is award winning. The added filler songs were mediocre and due to sound issues it was sometimes hard to understand who was speaking and what exactly they were saying. Also, the stage version really loses momentum in the second act. Luckily the first act makes the whole show worth it.

The Drinks: We headed to our go-to post Orpheum spot with good cocktails Dirty Water. There we had plenty of space to have a drink and take a long walk down The Lion King memory lane.

Drama Talk & Drinks: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music “a radical faerie realist ritual”

When we were contacted about reviewing the Curran’s last show of their “Under Construction” series we hesitated because Brittany was going to be in DC for work. However, I thought if this show has even half the entertainment value, innovation and beauty of the previous show we saw at this venue…I really needed to be there! So while Brittany was being snowed in, I took my reoccurring stand in Garrett Lamb and we powered through the rain and headed downtown.

Taylor Mac 3 resize (c) Jim Norrena

Taylor Mac at the Curran: Under Construction (c) Jim Norrena

Katie: Wow. I have few words…still processing. All I can say is that was really impressive. I can’t believe I’ve gone my whole life without experiencing, as Taylor Mac (the writer, performer, and co-director) called it, a “radical faerie realist ritual”. So, what did you think?

Garrett: I don’t know, but I think I liked it. The format was unique. Sort of a storytelling/musical/drag show/concert. And of course the venue was unique too!

K: Hell yeah! How cool was it to be on the stage of the Curran and be looking out towards the orchestra!

G: Totally. But thinking about the show, some of it didn’t make sense, and wasn’t very polished. Like when they handed out a pamphlet on “Equality of the Sexes” and didn’t really refer to it, or use it with the audience. Or when he wanted us to be eating apples but his “dandy minions” hadn’t given them to us yet. But I guess Taylor did mention this was a workshop in progress. That said, everything else was on point and very moving and entertaining.

K: Agreed. For a performance art piece, this is the one of the best I’ve ever seen. I mean, to be able to command the room like that for three hours was really special. Plus, the idea of doing a 24 hour concert later this year in New York is super intriguing. But I can’t lie, I was really distracted by the fact that Nancy Pelosi was sitting in our row!

G: Me too! That was amazing, I’m glad Nancy was into it. I wonder what she thought when Taylor stripped down to only a golden thong, and then gave her husband a lap dance!

The Verdict: It doesn’t matter if you like or don’t like performance art, drag shows, or musicals. This is a very special experience that should be had by all. Taylor Mac’s performance was provocative, present, raw, hilarious, honest, beautiful, uncomfortable, comforting all the while very philosophical.

The Drama Talk: I’m not going to lie, when I saw that this show was 3 hours long without an intermission I thought twice about going, but the time went by so fast it was crazy. From the venue, to the ridiculously amazing costumes, down to the talented band there is so much to see and hear, there is never a moment you are daydreaming about your instagram feed. I do think time went by so fast because the show has interactive moments where you will be asked to participate. I usually don’t like to participate at the theater but the way it was done in this piece really enhanced Taylor’s theme of “imperfection fostering community”. That night we were a community and this was more than a show, it was a profound shared experience. Go in with an open mind and you will leave with a heart full of love for how art can change lives.

The Drinks: There is a bar on the stage. So get there a little early and grab a drink. And don’t worry, even though the show is 3 hours with no intermission there are little breaks where Taylor changes costumes and you can run down to the bathroom.

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music runs through January 30th at the Curran. You can purchase tickets on Curran’s website for $50.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Moments of Truth – “really loud and really close to me”

A couple of months ago we attended the 2015 3 Girls Theatre New Works Festival and loved that a piece from that festival would be chosen to be fully produced in 2016. We thought it would interesting to see the play that was chosen from the 2014 festival, Moments of Truth, now been fully produced and premiering at the Royce Gallery in the Mission. Off we went to a little known live-work gallery and theater for some drama talk & drinks.

http://3girlstheatre.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Moments-of-Truth-4-shot-web-res.jpg?bb94ea

Brittany: I appreciate that the play really felt like it was coming from a Woman’s perspective. I thought that the female characters shared some truth about how women think, which is part of 3 Girls Theater’s mission. They want to put women’s work on stage, and they want female perspectives on stage. I love the concept behind it.

Katie: Yes, it was so refreshing to see a show written by a women with two female leads, and those leads were both really good. However, I didn’t feel like the story, which is very naturalistic, needed to be a musical. It was a better story for a straight play, and I didn’t think the music was as strong as the play. While the writing was good, the lyrics felt forced.

B: The small space was also really hard for a musical. It was a little too much for the space. Not that it was bad singing, it was just really loud and really close to me. The most genuine moments happened when they weren’t singing. When they sang, everything got so big. The guy who played all the ensemble characters hardly sang, but he was delightful, in some ways he was my favorite part of the show.

K: Yeah there is something special about being in an intimate space. But there’s a good reason it’s rare to see musicals done in essentially a black box.

The Verdict: The actors, the set and the story were good, but this fell short as a musical. The space was too small for the actors’ big voices, and even if we didn’t feel blasted by some of the belting, we just didn’t like the songs that well.  Still, it’s a cool company, with an awesome mission, so go if you want to support local theater and see a musical in a really small-historic-random art space.

The Drama Talk: Moments of Truth, does have in it some truth. The story touches on some very real feelings of doubt, self esteem issues, and ennui that felt very authentic. Unfortunately, the lyricist chose questionably clever rhymes, to go with a traditional musical theater score, which held back what could have been a great story. We both thought this would be a much better play than a musical.

The Drinks: The Royce Gallery is situated near a lot of great bars. We chose to go to Homestead for it’s relaxed atmosphere and straightforward, truthful drinks.

(Note: We were provided a large glass of red wine and a mission mini cupcake in the lobby, FOR FREE. We liked that touch)

Moments of Truth runs through October 18th at Royce Gallery. Tickets can be purchased directly through their website. Tickets are between $30-$50. There are currently tickets on Goldstar from comp-$15.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Amelie, A New Musical – “This was set and lighting design porn”

When we heard that Amelie, the 2001 French romantic-comedy that was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, was turned into a musical we were intrigued. We loved Amelie the movie, and we love musicals, so we thought this could be a match made in heaven. Off we went to Berkeley Rep for a world premiere and some Drama Talk & Drinks.

http://www.berkeleyrep.org/press/images/1516/am/AM2.jpg

Katie: You know how people talk about architecture porn, for me this was set and lighting design porn. The design of this show turned me on. Okay that’s graphic, but you know what I mean. My eyes were very happy. I love that the set kept reinventing itself. So many different set pieces and projections and lighting changes. The world they created was so imaginative and fun.

Brittany: Yeah, it was visually stunning. They could sing like “whoa” too. It was beautiful, and really fun to watch. Berkeley Rep puts together great shows, but as a new musical, I wonder how this play would do without all the talent. There were only 2 songs that I loved, as in I could see my teenage self belting them in the shower, and basically the whole show was sung. It wasn’t a problem for this production, because the awesome cast and great staging, but I don’t think the music is as catchy as a lot of other musicals.

K: The actors were so good and their voices were so freakin’ beautiful that I didn’t really care that some of the songs were mediocre at best. It’s rare that I see a show and I’m truly transported, get chills and can’t stop smiling . . . it’s a feeling that I never get when I see a bad play or even when I see a good movie, but I got that feeling tonight.

The Verdict: This musical is delightful. Did you love the Amelie the movie? Well, this musical will not disappoint. It is every bit as sweet and imaginative as the movie.

The Drama Talk: Using inventive staging and the relying on the audiences’ imagination, Amelie, A New Musical, was perhaps even more whimsical and delightful than the movie. Through projections, bright costumes, and fast moving but minimal set pieces the very talented cast created a magical world, where charming characters intertwined to create beautiful story about love and self acceptance. While we’re not sure if many of the songs will enter the musical theater canon, since the book and script alone are not as strong as the Berkeley Rep production as a whole, as long as you’re okay with musical theater we think you’ll like this show.

The Drinks: The theater has a nice bar in their courtyard, but if you are like us and want to get away from the crowd head across the street to Revival Bar & Kitchen. We felt it appropriate to debrief about Amelie over wine, but after a show that whimsical you need a wine that is also fun, so we ordered Sparkling Rose.

Amelie, A New Musical runs through October 4th at Berkeley Rep. Tickets can be purchased directly through their website. Tickets are between $49-$99. Are you under 30? Lucky you, because they give ½ price tickets for people under 30 (must purchase tickets online, and proof of age is required).