Category Archives: Stage Reviews

Kristina At Carnegie Hall Hits Stores Finally

Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA first let audiences in on their masterpiece, “Kristina Från Duvemåla,” in Malmö, Sweden on October 7, 1995, then record buying audiences were able to obtain the 3-CD cast recording in September of 1996. Almost immediately there was talk about translating the work to English and bringing it to an American audience, particularly because the story of “Kristina Från Duvemåla” (translating to Kristina From Duvemåla) is just as much a story about Sweden as it is a story about America. However, it seems a lot of the work in bringing “Kristina” to America would have to wait due to the surprise success of a little show launched in London in 1999, called “Mamma Mia!” would demand a lot of time and attention for Björn and Benny.

The story for “Kristina” is based on Vilhelm Moberg’s “Emigrants” series of four novels, which follows the lives of a group of Swedish settlers which include Karl Oscar and his wife Kristina, as they make the tough decision to pack up and take their chances settling in the unknown wilds of America in the mid 1800’s. While the books follow the group, the show has singled out Karl Oscar and Kristina to be the central focus of the show. The novels are considered to be some of the finest works in Swedish literature, which is what attracted Björn and Benny to wanting to tell the tale of Kristina. Their earlier musical effort, a collaboration with Tim Rice on an original idea by Tim Rice resulted in the musical “Chess.” As much as “Chess” is praised for it’s incredible songs, it’s also panned for its relatively weak plot, which left Björn and Benny looking for a well crafted story to transform into a musical. Björn and Benny felt for their second musical, they didn’t want plot to be one of the problems to plague the show.

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The Touring Xanadu Stage Show Returns To Southern California

One of the highlights of 2008 for me was the opening of Xanadu at the La Jolla Playhouse. The stage show that became a surprise hit on Broadway and was even nominated for a few Tony Awards, made its debut as a touring show in San Diego. Following San Diego, the show moved to Chicago and then played a brief stint in Tokyo before going on a brief hiatus for a few months, but now the tour is back on the road starting in Costa Mesa, California, just a short drive from San Diego.

I immediately fell in love with the show when I first saw it and then proceeded to see it several more times before it’s run at the La Jolla Playhouse finished it’s two month run. I took several friends to see the show and one of the highlights was when I took my mom to see the show as I was able to get on stage seats for that performance. I didn’t tell my mom until we got there that we’d be sitting on stage, she wasn’t so amused by that, but we had a good time and she enjoyed the show.

With the return to Southern California, I definitely wanted to see the show again, and since my dad was back from doing work in Austin, Texas and my grandfather was in town it seemed like a good opportunity to take them to the show. I asked my mom if she wanted to see the show again, if we did the Christmas Eve matinée show and she said she was interested but had too much to do to prepare for my brother and his wife’s arrival and Christmas to take time out to see the show. But she did like the idea of me taking my father and grandfather to the show so that she could get some things accomplished while they were out of the house. So I booked the tickets for my dad, grandpa, and I to see Xanadu on Christmas Eve at 2 pm.

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Xanadu Returns To San Diego Tonight For One Night Only

XanaduTonight is the night that Xanadu returns to San Diego. No, it’s not the fantastic stage musical that was here for two months last year. (That’s actually opening up tonight as well, but further up the road in Costa Mesa.) Tonight, it’s the Original Motion Picture version of Xanadu starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly that is playing here in San Diego.

The movie is notoriously known for being a bad movie, as it has a very loose plot, but despite the fact the movie bombed originally, it’s soundtrack was a massive hit for the record label. The collaboration between Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and Olivia Newton-John (ONJ) on the title track, Xanadu has made the song one of Oliva’s biggest hits. Filling out the rest of the album are more fantastic songs by ELO and ONJ. Wisely, the songs weren’t put on the album in the order in which they appear in the movie, they were placed so that one side was the ELO side and the other side was the ONJ side. As the both acts draw different audiences, it made sure the fans of each artist could enjoy the work of their favorite if they weren’t as big a fan of the other.

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On My Way To New York To See Björn & Benny’s Kristina

Kristina Carnegie Hall InfoLater today I will be boarding a couple of flights that will take me to New York City. My flights are “Red Eye” flights that will deliver me to New York first thing tomorrow morning. I’m excited to be seeing the new English translation of the epic musical, Kristina, written by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. The show is based on Vilhelm Moberg’s epic novels in “The Emmigrants” series which chronicles the adventures of Swede Karl Oskar and his wife Kristina as they move their family from famine stricken Sweden to the wild’s of America in the late 1800’s.

Kristina is not being staged as a complete show, it is being staged in a concert style at the famed Carnegie Hall. The purpose of which is to record the show as well as gauge the reaction to it to see if there’d be interest in a fully staged version. The original Swedish epic was a definitely considered an epic masterpiece by those who saw it, but at a four hour running time, is going to have to undergo some trimming if its ever going to be staged fully here in the United States. The concerts will be a good indication of where some of the trimming has been done.

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Wicked Is A Rather Unusual Musical

WickedThe touring cast of Wicked is in San Diego at the Civic Theatre this month and I had the opportunity to catch the show for a Sunday Matinee performance. A lot of friends have been very surprised that I haven’t yet seen the show as they know I like to see a lot of shows and usually stay pretty current on the top shows. And despite the long run the show had in Los Angeles, I hadn’t seen it yet. So I made sure to catch it this time around.

Did I love the show? No. Did I hate the show? No. Did I enjoy the show? Yes. Would I see it again? Maybe. So what did I think? Well, let’s just say I never thought it would be possible to like a show that I didn’t particularly care for the songs. I enjoyed the story and the visually stunning presentation of the show, but musically, I just wasn’t really connecting with the music on any level. Despite having owned the cast album for several years now, the only songs I really knew were “Popular” and “Defying Gravity” so I was a little disappointed both were in the first act. I was also fighting off the urge to fall asleep during a couple of really boring songs in the first act like “Dancing Through Life.”

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Sad News: Avenue Q And 9 to 5 Closing On Broadway In September

Avenue Q & 9 To 5I’m sad to report that two great shows on Broadway are closing down in early September. Avenue Q, which has been running since July 2003 will close on September 13th, 2009. The musical 9 to 5 which opened in April of this year will be closing on September 6th, 2009. I’m really disappointed because I love both shows and was hoping at least to see 9 to 5 when I go to New York in late September and both will be done and gone by then.

Avenue Q, I first saw during its run in Las Vegas at the Wynn Hotel and then saw it a few more times when it was here in San Diego before launching its national tour. I saw 9 to 5 during it’s pre-Broadway tryout in Los Angeles. The sad part with the 9 to 5 closing is that it was announced the day after the cast album was officially in stores nationwide.

If you happen to be in New York before these shows shut down, try and get tickets. For information on Avenue Q, visit AvenueQ.com. For 9 to 5 visit, 9to5TheMusical.com. In any case, both shows will live on in Touring versions. Avenue Q is currently on tour and 9 To 5 will launch on tour in Nashville in September 2010.

Busy Week Full Of Pride In San Diego

Pride FlagAfter having attended the last two San Diego Pride Parade’s in the last couple of years and having to work, I decided this year I was going to make sure I saved a few days of time off so that I could take part in the festivities this year. And with the Chantal Kreviazuk concert in Los Angeles last week, I decided to add a few more days to my time off request and as a result I was able to take part in quite a few activities.

On Tuesday night, after I had stopped by Jorge Cruise‘s office to say hello and show off the results of my 47 pounds of weight loss using his incredibly awesome Belly Fat Cure program, I treated myself to a late lunch at Which Wich sandwich shop in Hillcrest and then because I was in the area, I saw The Center for San Diego’s LGBT community was hosting a Bear Pride Bingo event that a lot of my local friends were attending, so I quickly sent in an RSVP and headed on over to the event. For $15 for a packet of bingo sheets, $2 for a dabber, and $1 for an optional game, I was set. I didn’t win any of the games but came very close on a few occasions. I did happen to know a couple people who did win, namely Vito Grandolfo and Tim Palmer. I even went with Vito and his friend Earl Shearin over to Brians’ American Eatery for a post-Bingo bite to eat. (Many thanks to Earl who wouldn’t let me pay for my meal.)

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CHESS In Concert DVD & CDs Available Tuesday

Chess In ConcertIf you think the only musical theatre entry of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA is MAMMA MIA!, you’d be wrong. Shortly after the last songs of ABBA’s catalogue were completed, the members of ABBA decided to take a break from the group, and Björn & Benny decided to try their hand at writing a musical. Tim Rice, well known for his collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, was in the market for new composers to work with for his idea of building a musical around the idea of a Chess championship. After having met Björn & Benny and deciding to work together, the process of bringing Chess to life was born.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice established a successful formula of trying out the songs from shows they wrote in a “Concept Album” format that got released to the public long before a staged version of the show got made. This methodology was an invaluable way to see if the songs were good enough to warrant the time and expense of launching a full scale musical. Instead of going to the expense of launching a full show, it’s a chance to release the album to the public and see if it generates enough interest. If the album tanks, a fortune has been saved, and if it succeeds, then it creates an audience for the show when it gets launched.

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Dame Edna As Vicious As Ever At San Diego’s Civic Theatre

Dame Edna - My First Last TourDame Edna, the International “Gigastar” (upgraded from “Megastar”) from Moonee Ponds, Australia brought her fantastic show to San Diego’s Civic Theatre for the week of June 2nd through the 7th. I, along with a couple of friends, caught the performance earlier tonight. Dame Edna’s brand of comedy usually stems from the random selection of various audience members usually in the first couple of rows and interrogating them, or pretty much picking on them. And tonight San Diego proved to be a goldmine at the expense of the individuals selected to spark the comedy of the show.

One woman in particular, Beverly, seemed to bear the brunt of the bitchy humor, from the delightfully comedic answers she gave in response to Dame Edna’s line of inquiry. It started with her description of her home as being an “ethnic” home in Carlsbad, to which Dame Edna inquired if that was like a shopping cart. When asked what the home is made of, Dame Edna had a field day out the response which was bricks and tiles and the home is on stilts. Dame Edna first wanted to know if the stilts were to keep the vermin away and then wanted to know if Beverly’s home was a tourist attraction. It was a riot witnessing a comedy legend at work with such interesting and out of left field answers.

A few others in the audience were picked on throughout the evening, but Beverly proved to be the most entertaining of the bunch. At one point in the show, Dame Edna had a couch and a chair brought out to resemble a talk show stage and under the premise that the evening was being filmed for an HBO pilot, Dame Edna invited the people she picked on during the evening up on stage to be interviewed. She even had Carolyn, another woman she chose to pick on during the evening, sing a song to the audience proclaiming it to be a Susan Boyle moment.

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Working By Stephen Schwartz Feels Like A Chore

Working MusicalSan Diego’s Old Globe Theatre is running a revival of Stephen Schwartz’ musical “Working.” The source material for the musical “Working” is unusual in that it draws it’s inspiration from real life as opposed to a novel, a non-musical play, or film. The material is based on a 1974 non-fiction book by Studs Terkel entitled, “Working People Talk About What They Do All Day And How They Feel About It.” The songs are written by a number of songwriters most notable of which are Stephen Schwartz and James Taylor.

This new revival combines original material with new interviews to help modernize the show for the twenty-first century. The show progresses like a music review as the cast trade costumes and personas to take on different careers to highlight. In some cases the costume changes are even done on stage to highlight how even acting is a job too. One such change by Danielle Lee Greaves transforms her from a housewife into a prostitute with the aid of a couple of backstage people, a wig, and the loss of the housewife costume that was already concealing the prostitute outfit.

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