by Jan Davisson
Magic in the Air with the Best of Broadway at Palm Beach County Theaters
Absolutely stunning from technical to music and cast, it’s the whole package for theater lovers. The Cameron Mackintosh’s updated and streamlined production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera is part of the Kravis on Broadway Series. This longest running musical in Broadway’s history is still bringing audiences to their feet for standing ovations. The technical aspects are phenomenal. This is a national tour; so, timeframe for set up is limited but, amazingly, it has been accomplished. The crystal chandelier is magnificent along with the pyrotechnics throughout the production. How they were able to create the dark, dingy Phantom’s Lair, including a canal within the labyrinth, is beyond me. It is located under the opera house. He roams the twists and turns of the theater; so, the Phantom sees and hears everything. The story line remains the same with the Phantom’s obsession with young opera singer Christine. He tries to dictate what will be performed at the opera house, including his own creation. Either it stars Christine or there would be dire consequences. Christine’s love interest Raoul attempts to save her from the Phantom.
I haven’t even mentioned the music and the outstanding talent. If ever there was a song that you could listen to all night…it’s Music of the Night. When it’s performed by Derrick Davis as the Phantom, it’s breathtaking. Christine (Katie Travis) and Raoul (Eric Ruiz) duet, All I Ask of You, certainly challenged the Phantom’s performance. What is amazing is that Eric Ruiz is the understudy for the part and is certainly up to the task. His voice is magnificent.
If you were a fan of the lilting soprano voice of movie actress, Kathryn Grayson of Show Boat and numerous other films, you’ll adore Katie Travis. Her voice has a trill that reminded me of Grayson. To take a national treasure like Phantom of the Opera and streamline it is a gutsy thing to do. Cameron Macintosh wanted to do something new. He certainly accomplished his goal without destroying the integrity of the original show. He wanted to take it on the road and did a masterful job of accomplishing it.
Unfortunately, Phantom of the Opera only runs through April 1. This will be followed by a complete change of pace when Kravis on Broadway brings in Kinky Boots, April 18-23. A lighthearted musical with some quirky characters. Winner of the Tony Award (2013) for Best Musical and Best Score, written by Cyndi Lauper. An unlikely pairing with Harvey Fierstine, the writer of the book. Fun and great music.
Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach Tickets (561) 832-7469 or (800) 572-8471; www.kravis.org.
March has been a golden month for theater, starting with Gypsy the final season production at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. A high-energy play by Arthur Laurents, suggested by memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. For those not acquainted with the story, it involves a very pushy stage mother, Mama Rose, who tried to create for her two daughters, the vaudeville life she had always wanted. Actress Vickie Lewis returned to the Maltz to capture the wants and needs of Mama Rose. Lewis, who seems to have a monopoly on playing over the top aggressive women, previously appeared in Hello Dolly for which she received a Carbonnell. For a small woman, she has a voice that rocks the house and the stamina to deliver her songs like a tiny Ethel Merman, the original Mama Rose. Her ability to manipulate everyone from her cast of kids to theater managers or anyone else who stands in her way, is masterful. Of course, the highlight of the show is the final number, “Rose’s Turn,” when you learn of her frustrations. I was exhausted just seeing Lewis perform it. Fantastic. I think another Carbonnell is waiting! The cast is outstanding, even the kids as the young daughters and young boys as dancing backup. Jillian Van Niel as Baby June and her sister, Emma Stratton as Baby Louise are excellent, especially Emma when her mother pushes her into filling in for a “stripper.” She is sheer elegance as Gypsy Rose Lee. John Scherer as Herbie, Mama Rose’s love interest, is wonderful. Never overplaying the part, he still managed to make every scene his. His number with Mama Rose, You’ll Never Get Away from Me is charming. As usual, the scene stealing comedy number is You Gotta Get A Gimmick featuring Kirsten Wyatt as Tessie Tura, Katie Thompson as Mazeppa and Jeanne Bennett as Electra. Their song to teach Louise how to strip brought the house down. You can hardly go wrong with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and original choreography by Jerome Robbins. As usual, this show is completely staged at the Maltz Jupiter theatre…very impressive. It runs through April 9. It will be followed by a great schedule of musicals for a younger audience.
Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 E. Indiantown Rd, Jupiter. Tickets: (561) 575-2223; www.jupitertheatre.org.
Enjoying the wonderful words and action of playwright Tony Stoppard is a treat. The Tony and Academy Award (Shakespeare in Love) winner is indeed a winner with his latest masterpiece, Arcadia, now on stage at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre in West Palm Beach. Presented by Palm Beach Dramaworks and under the direction of J. Barry Lewis, it runs the gamut of emotions from funny and romantic to an exploration of great mysteries of science and art.
Featuring a great cast of some of South Florida’s top actors including Cliff Burgess, Dan Leonard, Gary Cadwallader and Margery Lowe, who you no doubt have seen in other area theaters including the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.
Now through April 30, 2017 followed by The Cripple of Inishmaan opening May 19 through June 11. A quirky dark comedy by Martin McDonagh. It’s just another of the outstanding plays presented by Palm Beach Dramaworks. To explore the show by examining the character and discussing the playwright viewpoints, check out Dramawise on May 18 from 10 am to 2 pm with time out for lunch with fellow enthusiasts.
Palm Beach Dramaworks 201 Clematis Street West Palm Beach FL 33401 Tickets: (561) 514–4042 Ext. 2; www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.