Friday, August 16, 2013

Mark Your Calendar for SAVE THE DATE

I can't say all that I want to about fellow Crazytown blogger Gregory Jacobs-Roseman's wedding-themed musical, Save the Date, because I need to wake up early tomorrow to embark on my own weekend wedding adventure, but I did need to express how wonderful this show is. While the premise is simple -- a story of almost-thirty somethings making their way through wedding season, which hits an especially rocky time when one of their exes announces his engagement -- there is a lot of heart and warmth here. Save the Date is not a parody of young people rejecting the traditions of love, rather it's an empathetic examination of the pressures felt to grow up and what that means when everyone else seems to be on a timeline of life milestones. The four central characters are really well drawn with a believable dynamic, and the plot twists manage to negotiate rom com territory with some real sincere moments.

Clips from first developmental reading presentation at the NYU GMTWP

The strength of the show definitely comes from the strong cast that embraces its roles with energy and feeling of cohesiveness. Greg's script and score are also wonderful, both infused with wit and humor. His lyrics especially soar in many of the numbers, drawing great parallels between characters and always moving the plot forward. I thought the direction also helped the production feel very full-bodied, transitioning rather seamlessly and balancing all the characters in any given scene.

Ultimately, something I really treasured about this show was how much it was a story about dreams and fantasies unfulfilled. There are a lot of great fantasy sequences that have real world impacts on the characters in how they view the world. Perhaps I also read into it my own feelings as I prepare for a wedding ceremony, but I thought a lot of the ideas it presented were accurate to the many emotions these traditions can bring about. Save the Date is a great show, and a wonderful value for a Fringe show. Catch the rest of their performances by buying tickets here.

Friday, August 9, 2013


I'm not really one for audience participation, but the recent trend of really excellently integrated transmedia/immersive theatre experiences has gotten me to come out of my shell a little more. I let Macbeth cry on my shoulder at Sleep No More. I wanted to dance with Imelda at Here Lies Love. It's enough to lull someone into a false sense of interactive theatre security.

Still, I was a bit wary when I decided to dive in and experience The Orion Experience, an interactive dance party/theatrical experience at XL Nightclub. All I knew going in was there there would be aerial acrobatics, some space jams, and space vampires, whatever those were. Luckily, there was a bar and I had the perfect companion to enjoy the night with.

And even with some skepticism at first, The Orion Experience proved to be a fun night on the town. It's pure technicolor camp, a kind of PeeWee's Play House in space with whacky characters, low stakes, but really delightful atmosphere. There's very little by way of plot: the band basically takes you through space adventures, introducing a slew of beautiful and fierce creatures who parade through the stage in a series of acrobatic acts and dance numbers. There were ribbon dancers. There were lasers shooting out of an evil queen's fingers. There were trumpets and giant metal hearts and an infectious Gaga-esque music set that will get even the biggest grump's toes tapping.

The show fits into the space rather seamlessly. When all was said and done, I was surprised how easily the club slipped back into its lounge setting, simply moving from techno to pop hits. In that way, I would even say The Orion Experience is less of a show and more like an even more entertaining club experience, an elevated dance party with just the slightest hint of story to get you on your feet.

Get your tickets here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Inside Out, Outside In: A look at Jeannette Bayardelle's SHIDA

The one-woman musical is an intriguing idea, if not nerve-wracking one. Solo shows are hard enough to pull off without a musical element, but when you consider that Jeannette Bayardelle not only performs all the parts in her new musical, Shida, but wrote the book, music and lyrics, you start to wonder how it will all come together.

Shida is the titular character of this harrowing journey, which details the tragedies of this young girl's past that lead her from a promising future as a writer to a cocaine addict on the streets on New York. Ultimately a redemption tale, this character-focused show gives Bayardelle lots of places to shine as she embodies heartfelt characters that allow Shida to eventually find her way back home.

The piece is a great platform for Bayardelle, as her voice takes on difficult notes without abandon. She's got some powerful pipes, for sure, and total commitment in tackling the show's tougher scenes. The lyrics to the songs have some really poignant moments with some nice motifs weaved throughout. The characters also have distinct voices and populate the story with lovable people.

Perhaps most of all, one thing I've noticed with a lot of new musical theatre is that there's not a lot of diversity in the types of stories it tells, especially if it's not a period piece. Watching Jeannette Bayardelle do her thing, I couldn't help remembering a friend talking about how often you just have to create the parts for yourself if they're not out there. Bayardelle has certainly done that and given herself a meaty role to tackle. She definitely has a voice, both in performance and on the page, and it's worth checking out if you want to explore something new.

Shida plays at Ars Nova until the end of August-- buy your tickets here.