Disney’s Aladdin, the musical, is currently at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Performances run until July 1, and I highly recommend that you go. I went to a performance last night and the nearly sold-out crowd ate it up from beginning to end. Having watched a clip of this show from the Tony Awards a few years back, I knew that the Genie was going to be the star of the show and he was. Michael James Scott, who plays the role of the Genie and was the understudy for the Genie during the original Broadway run, is fantastic. Just watch him sing and dance to “Friend Like Me” and you’ll be blown away by his stamina and unending charisma. He’s the heart and soul of the show and made it a blast to watch.
Five-time Barrymore Award winner Mary Martello and two-time Tony award nominee Anthony Heald are currently starring in a fabulous production of Gypsy at The Arden Theatre in Philadelphia. Widely considered one of the greatest American musicals of all time, Gypsy has been dazzling audiences since its inception in 1959. Nearly 60 years later, Gypsy’s narrative and infectious music are as potent as ever.
A couple days ago I saw my favorite musical, Beauty and the Beast, for the fourth time. The first time was on Broadway in 1999, the second was at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, followed by a production at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia several years later. This time, once again, I returned to the Academy of Music. As expected, it was as brilliant and spine-chillingly good as the previous three times I’ve seen it. But let me take a minute to explain why I love this musical so much.
Evil Dead: The Musical, a show that made its debut in Toronto in 2003 and has had many successful productions around the world since, has just come to Philadelphia. It will be at The Prince Music Theater from September 25-October 20, 2013, so be sure to get your tickets now. I had the pleasure of seeing the musical last night, and I can confidently say that whether you’re a fan of the film franchise or someone who loves fun musicals infused with irreverent humor, Evil Dead: The Musical delivers.
When I approached the box office to get my ticket, I was asked if I’d like to sit in the “splatter zone.” After asking what she meant, the woman behind the glass partition explained that at the end of the show the first few rows get “blood” on them. While the fake blood washes out pretty easily, I decided to sit a few rows back. I must admit, at the end of the show, watching people get squirted, misted and splattered with blood was very amusing; a handful of them wore ponchos, while the others took it in stride.
While waiting for the show to begin, I was treated to mix of classic 1980’s rock music – which I love – including, KISS, The Scorpions and Twisted Sister, among others. It was a great way to set the mood for a fun show based on a horror franchise born out of the same era. And the music was reflective of the jovial mood in the room. The fans were eagerly awaiting the dimming of the lights and the rising curtain.
The musical kicked off with a fun, infectious song, “Cabin in the Woods,” that did a great job of setting the tone for the show. It also provided the shows’ five central stars with the perfect opportunity to showcase their chemistry with one another and vocal prowess.
The next musical number, “Housewares Employee,” was easily my favorite. Ryan Ward, who plays the lead character, Ash, stole the show and this song illustrates why he was the perfect person for the role. He’s funny, has an impressive voice and can convincingly sing wonderfully absurd power ballads. What’s not to love?
Another fun song that stuck with me was “What The Fuck Was That.” After a character becomes possessed by the Evil Dead, Ash and Scott sing and, eventually, tango to this number. It made for a fun and humorous break in the action.
Other than Ash, my favorite character was Jake. This role was masterfully assumed by Daniel Williston, who did a terrific job both with his lines and body language. At one point, his ear piece came out, in the middle of a dance number, but he quickly tucked it into his pocket and kept dancing, undeterred. In addition to being light on his feet, Williston turned in an impressive vocal with “Good Old Reliable Jake” that conjured up visions of Meat Loaf. This song, along with the others I mentioned, make listening to the full album worth your while.
In case it’s not already abundantly clear, Evil Dead: The Musical is a lot of fun. If you live in Philadelphia and you’re looking for something unique and exciting to do, make sure to see the show. It’s a great tribute to the films that inspired it, as well as an impressive musical production.
Today, I finally saw Les Misérables. Being a fan of plays and musicals, I wanted to see this film for quite some time. While I was aware of the general premise behind the film, I never read the novel or saw the musical. I’m glad to say that it was a terrific film, filled with glorious music and a stellar cast. To me, what was most interesting about the movie was that Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean, passed the torch to Hugh Jackman.
Wilkinson’s presence in the film was a smart way to pay homage to the original musical, and the message behind the scene where he handed candlesticks to Hugh Jackman’s character was clear: The torch has been passed. Wilkinson, a fixture of Broadway, lent his voice to an extensive list of musicals, including: Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Man of La Mancha, and Jekyll & Hyde, just to name a few. Now it’s Hugh Jackman’s turn. As you’ll see from the video below, this symbolic passing also took place off the screen.
For those yearning for Colm Wilkinson’s Jean Valjean, below is a video of him performing “Bring Him Home” at the Les Misérables 10th Anniversary Concert.
Yesterday I decided to drop my pseudonym from my blog, and buy a domain in my real name. Why? Well, I originally wanted to write under the name M.C. James because I thought it would be more easily searchable than Michael Cavacini. However, I realized that David Baldacci and Lisa Scottoline became bestselling authors with their Italian last names, so why can’t I?
Of course, this reminded me of a song: “I Am What I Am,” from La Cage aux Folles. This song seems apropos because, beyond its original meaning, the lyrics can speak to anyone questioning his or her identity in an artistic medium. It’s not always easy figuring out who one should be or what works best. But sometimes simply saying, “I am what I am” and going with it makes the most sense. Many people have covered this song, but one of my personal favorites is by Dame Shirley Bassey. Below are the lyrics as well as a video of Bassey performing it live. Enjoy!
I Am What I Am
I am what I am
I am my own special creation
So come take a look
Give me the hook or the ovation
It’s my world
That I want to have a little pride in
And it’s not a place I have to hide in
Life’s not worth a damn
Till you can say
I am what I am
I am what I am
I don’t want praise, I don’t want pity
I bang my own drum
Some think it’s noise, I think it’s pretty
And so what if I love each sparkle and each bangle
Why not try to see things from a different angle
Your life is a sham
Till you can shout out
I am what I am
I am what I am
And what I am needs no excuses
I deal my own deck
Sometimes the ace, sometimes the deuces
It’s one life and there’s no return and no deposit
One life so it’s time to open up your closet
Life’s not worth a damn till you can shout out
I am what I am