Review: On Your Feet!

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This is a solidly made, adequately entertaining jukebox musical. The Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine songbook is sturdier than I realized, and is more than enough to fill a musical, even to slightly over-stuff a musical (we hear all the verses of only a handful of songs, mostly ballads). Not only does On Your Feet follow the romantic and musical partnership of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, it also gives a peek into the energetic and glamorous music and dance of Miami’s Cuban-American subculture.

It certainly helps that the show has been crafted by some of Broadway’s steadiest hands. Director Jerry Mitchell’s already impressive ability to calibrate the perfect pace for a show grows more precise each time out, and On Your Feet is another step in that trend.

Choreographer Sergio Trujillo is also known for that jukebox juggernaut Jersey Boys, and his work here is even more soulful and energetic, injecting a whole lot of hot salsa into the mix. It doesn’t hurt that the band is incredibly tight – not surprising given that about half of it is made up of long-time members of Miami Sound Machine.

Bookwriter Alexander Dinelaris faces the biggest challenge. While the Estefan’s rise to fame did involve a lot of struggle, it’s a fairly familiar kind of struggle: fighting the system, trying to balance family and ambition, working hard until the big break happens, and then going from strength to strength. To Dinelaris’s credit, he makes these problems feel fresh, largely by focusing on the details and the emotional truths behind individual moments. And the one major unusual problem they did face – Gloria being horribly injured in a traffic accident – Dinelaris narrates in a way that respects the trauma it caused, but doesn’t descend into melodrama.

Just as Jersey Boys requires a charismatic and convincing Frankie Valli, so this show needs a powerful Gloria, and Ana Villafane more than fits the bill. She sounds eerily like Gloria, and is a compelling triple threat in her own right. Broadway has collectively figured out the way biographical jukebox musicals ought be done, and On Your Feet is a thoroughly satisfying example of the form.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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News: Opera I’m directing – “Goyescas” – opens TONIGHT

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I’ve directed a new production of Enrique Granados’s 1916 opera Goyescas, which opens tonight and runs through November 22. Tickets available here.

Here’s a promotional video:

Love, death, seductive music, and fiery dance come together this November in the opera Goyescas. Bare Opera presents this bohemian opera by Spanish composer Enrique Granados, inspired by the lush paintings of Goya. Set in the vibrant urban landscape of 1980s Madrid, this tragic romantic tale features rapturous songs and flamenco-inspired dance.

The opera will be paired with charming selections from Isaac Albéniz’s Suite Española, specially arranged for orchestra and dance for this production.

This bold new production is directed by Jonathan Warman, choreographed by Liz Piccoli, and features costumes by fashion designer Laura Kung. Bare Opera’s principal conductor, Sesto Quatrini, leads the performances.

Review: King Charles III

King Charles III Music Box Theatre Production Credits: Rupert Goold (director) Tom Scutt (design) Jon Clark (lighting) Paul Arditti (sound) Other Credits: Written by: Mike Bartlett - See more at: http://www.playbill.com/events/event_detail/king-charles-iii-at-music-box-theatre-346670#sthash.t55FWIA1.dpuf

This is an engaging, thought-provoking play, that falls a bit short of the goals it sets for itself. King Charles III is set in an indeterminate “near future” just after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, as Prince Charles prepares to take the throne. But is he truly prepared?

On the upside, playwright Mike Bartlett delves very intelligently into the paradoxes of being a monarch in a 21st Century constitutional monarchy. He thoroughly probes the question of how a monarch can wield power at all now, without seeming like – or actually being – a dictator.

The problem is, Bartlett has to really push credibility to make his points. The first bill for the new king to sign is a significant curb on freedom of the press, submitted by a Prime Minister from the Labour party – not a likely scenario, no matter how skeevy the British press is. And the MacGuffins just pile on from there.

I’m not complaining a lot, I’m actually happy to be generous in suspending disbelief to look into the very interesting problems that Bartlett poses. It would be a lot easier to do if Bartlett had set the story in a fictional country, with a fictional royal family. That, however, would probably not sell nearly as many tickets.

Director Rupert Goold has done a good job of evoking these familiar personages, particularly in the work he has done with Tim Piggott-Smith, who captures both the world-weary Charles that we’re familiar with, and the firebrand Bartlett imagines him becoming (or more accurately requires him to become to pose the pertinent questions). All in all, King Charles III is expertly put together, and well worth seeing.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.