Thriller Under The Big Tent

Posted on: November 15th, 2011 by Quinn No Comments

The Immortal Michael Jackson by Cirque du Soleil

Several Saturdays ago (yes loyal and impatient readers, I have returned) I had the privilege of attending The Immortal Michael Jackson by Cirque du Soleil American premiere at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. This show was comprised entirely of Michael Jackson’s music and filled with the imaginative costumes, exciting acrobatics and great dancing for which Cirque is known. And it was great!

This was my first Cirque show, so in retrospect I’m not sure how qualified I am to write this article, and yet if you look below you see several paragraphs, so I obviously write on anyway. I’ll hang my one claim to legitimacy on the lucky happenstance that I knew several of the performers. Anyhow, several of these cast members had warned me before-hand that there would be significantly fewer acrobatics than the “average” Cirque show, and that I should be more prepared for a lively concert. And, given the show’s slow start, I was at first concerned that even that warning had not prepared me enough, but I have never been so happily wrong. Following a slow “Have You Seen My Childhood?” the show picked up, moving from one spectacular dance number to the next. Although admittedly not an avid Michael Jackson fan–particularly not compared to many of the audience members, for I did not arrive sporting a sequined glove and bunched up socks with loafers, and I certainly could not ever hope to dance half as well as those who did–I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle.

I think my only disappointment was the number for “Beat It.” Although the giant shoes and socks that moon-walked across the stage with performers inside of them were creative, followed Cirque’s reputation for excellent costumes, and paid appropriate homage to the King of Pop, I found the dancing and acrobatics for my favorite MJ song slightly sub-par. It did not help that it followed an excellent “Smooth Criminal/Bad” number, highlighted by 1920s gangster-wear (I’m a sucker for pinstripes, suspenders, and sleeve garters) and a sequin-bikini-clad and very talented acrobat performing on the Chinese Pole (I’m a sucker for flexible women as well).

And in addition to the energy and the excitement of show, I must admit that I also came away genuinely inspired, and inspired on several levels. Although a bit heavy-handed at times, the show’s numbers for “Man in the Mirror” and “Black and White” did carry great messages of hope, peace, and change for a better future. And just as inspiring was the final silhouette of Michael Jackson donning his fedora in that iconic pose, and the realization that one man could, whatever his faults, controversies, and idiosyncrasies, create a world-wide following inspired by music and dance.

Yet with several weeks to look back, it was the interactions I had outside of the show that I found to be the most inspiring. Two nights before the show I got the chance to talk, drink, and hang out with the above-mentioned cast members. Together in our party (and it was a party) there was an Englishman, two Swiss acrobatics, and two Americans, all of whom had lived and trained together for the past four months in Canada and who helped to build the show from the ground up.

At the risk of sounding heavy-handed myself, going out with this group of overwhelmingly kind, fun and worldly people was just as inspiring, and lent itself to just as much hope for better international communication and understanding, as “Black and White” ever could. It made me smile to imagine them spending the next three years traveling across North America, Europe, and Asia, entertaining and inspiring just as many people in all of these venues. Check out the video below about the casting of these passionate artists and their design team.

And it is the memory of seeing my friend perform on the swinging rings during the finale, my friend who introduced me to this fine international group, that truly caps off my memory of the show. For as long as I have known him this friend has wanted to “run off and join the circus” as he put it. He has seen just about every Cirque show ever created, has trained, has worked through auditions and disappointments, and has at last earned himself a contract. Seeing him on stage at a Cirque show was just as inspirational as that closing image of MJ himself, albeit a little less iconic and world-famous.

Best of luck to the whole cast for The Immortal Michael Jackson. And if they come to your city, readers, you should take a trip to Neverland!

J. Ferris Quinn

The other night……………………… with Karen O in DUMBO

Posted on: November 9th, 2011 by Marken Greenwood 2 Comments


I recently saw my friend performing down in DUMBO in a show called “Stop the Virgens” featuring the lead singer of the Ya Ya Ya’s at a space called St. Ann’s Warehouse.  Of course, I wasn’t really aware of any of these specifics when I was heading down there last night.  All I could recall was “Dress rehearsal…free ticket…I swear it’s not a mosh pit…DUMBO…don’t bring Aunt Carlotta…”  So, in the spirit of exploration, I made the journey down the A train decked out in my Brooklyn uniform.  This consists of any plaid piece in my closet paired with ironic jewelry (in this instance it was clock earrings denoting the unavoidable passage of time and eventual mortality that we all must face) and some type of shoe that says I don’t care (in this case my brown boots with a slightly western flare that remain permanently attached to my feet from October to March).  I think you could call the overall outfit lumberjack chic.  So, decked out to blend in, I made my way to Brooklyn ready to explore.

I was a DUMBO “virgen”. 

I definitely had the impression that I’d arrived at Brooklyn Disney as I wandered the streets with names like “Cranberry” munching on a piece of Frescati’s Pizza and guiltily averting my eyes from the Vegan restaurants on each block.  I found a street called “Poplar Street” that greatly perplexed me as it had actual oil burning street lamps (the kind only found in New Orleans to my knowledge) and a woman casually walking home dressed in a sort of Mary Poppins outfit from puffy sleeves to a real bustle.  For a moment, I was convinced that DUMBO was magical and I was actually going to walk to the end of the street and end up in Brooklyn circa 1890.  Unfortunately, I just found the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway for all you outta townas).

So, I trudged on.  The newly refurbished industrial buildings took on hulking comic book proportions and the Brooklyn Bridge sat perched like some gigantic creature with legs rooted into the street in unexpected places.  There was a babble of voices growing as I approached, and I noticed that other young people were trudging beneath the freeway in the same direction as me.  Suddenly, I saw a long snake of a line wrapping around a building.  It looked like there was some sort of rock concert.  I planned to continue walking to find some shadowy little theatre, and then I saw the words “St. Ann’s Warehouse” painted quite clearly on the side of the building.

Luckily, I happened upon a theatre company I know (yes, I now have acquaintances that are not one person, but twenty – all connected in my mind like the double helix nerds in “Never Been Kissed”). I deftly slipped into the line with them.  We waited in the lobby for a long time, allowing the room to grow uncomfortably stuffy with the combined body heat and everybody’s hot air.   The group was very young, very cool, and very Brooklyn.  Again, I couldn’t help but appreciate my choice of dress.  We were finally herded, cattle-like, through sort of haunted house meets the Alexander McQueen exhibit, full of unpaid actors writhing and moaning in all white behind mosquito nets.  We ended up in the performance space where we waited another half hour in an inferno filled with even hotter, stuffier air and loud grinding and crunching sounds.

Oh, art.

Karen O came on stage at long last and sang a sad, world-weary song surrounded by moaning, writhing girls in white.  Essentially, that was the show – about eight ten-minute long sad, world-weary songs with Karen O in different costumes wearing the same expression and the girls either physically exploding with ecstasy or crumbling with rage and sadness. Fans of Karen O seemed to eat it up.  As I stood staring at the haunting tableaux, I admired her for getting up there and seeing her vision through.  Less so as my feet started to hurt, my mind started to wander, and I realized how many fans she had who would eat anything she produced out of the palm of her hand.  The girls who were her greek chorus, the Virgens, I admired much more.  The main 7 were working long hours and throwing there bodies around willy-nilly for a small stipend.  The actresses who played the other 30 virgens were doing this for no pay at all.  As I watched this one woman rock concert in experimental theatre clothing, I got a little worked up about the Actor Abuse taking place here.  Especially when I saw the incredibly expensive movie quality cameras that were swooping over our heads on hydraulic, robotic dollies…and the 20 foot digital screen showing an array of beautiful and cheesy images…And the mirror-clear, black stage that reflected Karen O in all her Gaga-like glory. And they couldn’t find the money to pay their actors?

Cut a freaking camera, Karen.

Bringin Swaggah Back…. Langella in MAN AND BOY

Posted on: November 2nd, 2011 by Patrick Fromuth No Comments

Somebody get this man another Tony…

his other three are lonely

Frank Langella returns to Broadway in a blaze of flaming financial destruction as Gregor Antonescu in MAN AND BOY. We all know – or wish we knew – that certain badass tryrant who you just can’t help but adore. Langella is THAT beast; an absolute powerhouse that carried himself – and the show – with the kind of old Broadway swaggah that is rarely seen these days. Antonescu was based on the lives of Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish Match King and Samuel Insull the Anglo-American investor.

“When Frank Langella plays good, he’s fine;

                          but when he’s bad, he’s a wonder” – NYT

The plot centers on a corrupt financier in the 1930′s whose musician son rebels against his greedy ways by becoming a socialist. Set at the height of the Great Depression, Gregor Antonescu’s business is dangerously close to crumbling. To escape the wolves at the door, Gregor tracks down his estranged son Basil in the hopes of using his Greenwich Village apartment as a base to make a company-saving deal. The tension increases as the reunion takes place. A gripping story about family, success and what we’re willing to sacrifice for both.

I had the privilege to see Roundabout’s production last week at the American Airlines Theatre and was surprised to find that the topical MAN AND BOY was first performed in 1963 in London at The Queen’s Theatre and in New York at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Despite being written almost fifty years ago, the relevance and timing of Terence Rattigan’s book to the “Occupy Wall Street” contemporary audience is smart and spot on. Take a look at what the cast has to say about the show:

With a Rick-Perry-like Ponzi Scheme front and center in this epic drama, I encourage everyone to see this classic masterpiece – aged like fine wine just like Frank…

Just Drink ‘Em In…

Occupiers on Wall Street would love to see this guy go down.


Runs until November 27th

American Airlines Theatre

227 West 42 Street (between 7th & 8th Aves)

Ticket Services: 212.719.1300

8pm from Tuesday through Sunday

with 2pm shows on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays

Meet the Blogger ……………….. Marken Greenwood, Actress

Posted on: October 24th, 2011 by Marken Greenwood No Comments

You will soon learn that I have a little problem with lateness – See Above…

KIDDING! This little gem was a promo shot for a cabaret that Patrick and I were in during our time at Michigan with Joan Morris called, “The Morning After” – my mother is so proud. But seriously, when I make it to a show, it’s usually the closing.  When I have a deadline, I’m pulling an all nighter to meet it.  When I hear a joke, I’m laughing a few seconds after everyone else.  Not kidding – hang out with me and you’ll see.  I swear, I don’t have a learning disability; I’m just the last to cotton on to everything.

Guilty pleasures: Netflix bingeing, pretending to be a normal commuter during rush hour, Prince William fantasies, ridiculously expensive coffee, planning to exercise (but rarely doing it)

What Im About: I want to hold a mirror up to life for myself and others.  I think that theatre, literature, music and art have the power to assist us in living better, fuller, more stupendous lives.  If I were Machiavelli, I’d say it’s the most palatable way of making sure history doesn’t repeat itself.  If I were Marken, I’d say it’s a way of reaching life-altering, mind-bending, heart-wrenching catharsis which allows you to gain compassion and wisdom beyond your years.

Be great in act as you have been in thought.  ~Shakespeare

So, back to the other night.  I’m trying out a new format, or if I’m gonna go all Carrie Bradshaw on ya’ll, a column.   I’m going to reflect on the theatrical, cultural, artistic, scientific, culinary experiences of yesterday.  New York locals, you may not catch that particular event, but what I hope you’ll catch the artist next time or remember that theatre company for the future.  Nonlocals, it doesn’t matter because you can’t see it anyway!  You just get to experience it through my ultra-descriptive, artfully-crafted prose.

Favorite board game: Scrabble

Favorite 90s TV show: Buffy

Theme song to your life:  Uncharted by Sara Bareillis

Idol(s): Katherine Hepburn, Anderson Cooper, Linda Goodrich, my cousin Carolyn, Charlotte Bronte

Favorite Movie:  Gone with the Wind

Favorite Disney Movie: Beauty and the Beast

Country you would do inappropriate things to get to… Why: Norway…because it’s the land of my ancestors.

Favorite Artist: Gustav Klimt

Favorite CD: Parade by Jason Robert Brown

If you were a vegetable, what would you be and why?: Cauliflower…because no one would want to eat me.

Do you have a horse named Whisper living in Central Park?  No.

You could say I’m a Late Bird.  Remember in Kindergarten when everyone was divided into two groups the Early Birds who went to school the first half of the day and the Late Birds who went the latter half?  Well, it’s obvious which one I was and I’ve stuck to the moniker faithfully.

And now I have effectively made my lateness work for me                     Let the blogging begin!

Disnification that Matters?! —-NEWSIES: The Musical—–

Posted on: October 23rd, 2011 by Patrick Fromuth No Comments

High School Musical…eh. Glee…PSH!

Kids these days are growing up with a lot of song and dance in their lives, but whatever happened to some good old fashion DISNEY!

A week ago today I found me some Disney… and it was about time! For the past week I have been networking and interviewing in NYC and was able to steal away for the afternoon over to the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. to see NEWSIES: The Musical. The Newsie NAILING IT on the left of the poster above is Jordan Barrow from Fromuth Production’s STRIPPED. Click to hear Jordan’s “Nobody’s Perfect” by Jessie J

As a child growing up Alan Menken was the SOLE reason I started to sing. From Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, etc. he composed the score to my childhood. It made me raise my voice and become gay. Wait?! I didn’t mean that! Well…maybe. Nevertheless, NEWSIES was never on my radar. The first time I heard of it was when my voice teacher Johnny Steiner thought I should sing Santa Fe from NEWSIES at my Senior Voice recital/Graduation/Birthday Party at my house (as you can gather, I wanted to be the center of attention that day).

Watch at your own risk… Over acting & memory loss abounds! 

After being assigned the song, I rented the movie and was absolutely enthralled: the story, the dancing, Christian Bale’s attempt at speak-singing. Why hadn’t I ever heard about this film before? The answer is simply because the 1992 film flopped. Alan Menken’s venture away from Disney animation did not pan out so well; the plot centers around the 1899 NYC Newsboy strike against the tyrant newspaper publishers of the day (Pulitzer and Hearst) who supposedly raised the Newsies distrubution price to increase profit. Despite its troubles on the silver screen, NEWSIES: The Musical might just have exactly what it takes to make its way to Broadway.

Check out how it is REALLY done. (When you see the end of this clip you will TRULY know why I leave the singing to the professionals. Jack’s Santa Fe Act I closer and his PERFECT DISMOUNT of a last note moved me to my core. I verbally gasped as did many around me.

They were able to go back and fix a lot of issues with the movie – Christian Bale’s voice being top on my list. They added charm and heart to the characters especially to Jack Kelly, the 17 year old Manhattan Newsie leader played by the talented Jeremy Jordon. They made Jack an artist who sought escape during the storyline in the refuge of a New York Theater – making his dreams of Santa Fe grounded and believable. In addition, they added Katherine Plumber, a smart and spunky love interest for Jack, played to perfection by Kara Lindsay.

Jordan and Lindsay both gave epic performances. Their voices, comedic timing, and chemistry were terrific. Check out this clip of Lindsay tearing up the sitzprobe:

These were just some of the changes that were made making the stakes higher and accurately conveying the heart and soul of this important piece.

The show still has a bit of work to do, but I’d say the show is about 95% ready for Broadway. In my opinion, the ending was a little bit too tidy and lacked suspense. The plot needs a better build, which could be helped by easing into the full throttle choreography. The dancing, while mind blowingly athletic, is constantly at 150% from start to finish, which sadly looses its epic, awe factor toward the end. More importantly, I believe the creative team can – and should – strengthen the overarching message against child labor. The show focuses on the oppressive Child Labor issues in America and specifically in New York City at the turn of the century. However, they fail to bridge the domestic battle to the global atrocities that still continue today. With a simple and appropriate mention of the detrimental effects that these practices have on our foreign brothers and sisters, I believe Disney can make more of a contemporary impact on the horrible treatment of youth workers that still persists today.

I truly LOVED this show and hope the best for its future. It is the kind of show I wish Disney produced more often. One with heart, power, and impact. I see this show – due to its large size and, therefore, high costs – to have a limited engagement on Broadway, but I hope that I am wrong. So when it does get to Broadway…GO SEE IT! The voices, the dancing, and the passion of this story will have you remembering the magic of our Disney childhoods.

Check out this “Deleted Scene” from the Musical created by Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Michigan Alum) playing “Crutchie” and the cast of NEWSIES. Andrew explains , “A special thank you from the Papermill NEWSIES to the Fansies!
Julie Foldesi & Company perform that random/amazing part from the film where “Patrick’s Mother” serves up a voice lesson in 16 bars.”

I hope they put this pack into the show!