Posts Categorized: Washington DC

Idina Menzel is Coming Back to Broadway with If/Then the Musical

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Idina Menzel is an idol in the world of musicals, and (even as a pre-teen) I was very distraught at the thought of never getting to see her perform live when she retired from touring shows in 2004 and took to working on television. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce that Idina Menzel is finally returning to Broadway!

After her 10 year sabbatical, Idina Menzel is coming back to NYC to take the lead role in an all new production called If/Then.

Her career kicked off with Rent in 1996, moved on to Aida for a while with the role of Amneris and left the bright lights of Broadway after the tour of Wicked in 2004 after she cracked a rib falling through a trapdoor on the second to last performance. Since she left she has appeared in films and TV shows like Rent, Enchanted, Glee, is currently working on Disney’s newest animated musical, Frozen. She will be playing the voice of Elsa the Snow Queen.

In case you didn’t know, Idina is married to Taye Diggs who was in both the Broadway and film version of Rent as Benjamin Coffin III. I recently read in People that they have opened a performing arts camp for underprivileged girls, where she and her husband personally work with the girls.

Mrs. Menzel has been a very busy woman and it is obvious that she wouldn’t return to Broadway for just anything.

This should be an extremely promising production. She will be working again with director Michael Greif who started her career in Rent, producer David Stone who worked with her in Wicked and working with, for the first time, Brian York and Tom Kitt who wrote the music for both If/Then and Next to Normal. Tom Kitt wrote music for Bring It On: The Musical, American Idiot, Hair and High Fidelity. She will also be joined by LaChanze who won a Tony for her performance in The Color Purple. LaChanze will be playing the role of Kate.

In If/Then, Idina will play a character named Elizabeth who is on the verge of turning 40. As a chance for a fresh start and a new life, Elizabeth moves to New York. She meets Kate who is a new neighbor to Elizabeth and an elementary school teacher. Despite Elizabeth’s attempts to have a perfectly planned out life, the most random occurrences and tiny decisions will impact her life in ways she’s never dreamt possible. Producers say that this is an original, romantic new show about how “choice and chance collide and how we learn to love the fallout”.

There is one song from If/Then available at this point, sung by Idina Menzel, called ‘Learn to Live Without’ which has a different sound to it than I was expecting. It has an earthy feel to it. Seeing it in context to the show should be very moving indeed.

The pre-Broadway premiere will be at the National Theatre in Washington, DC November 5th through December 8th and will officially hit Broadway March 4th.  (I’ll be doing a post about tickets and how to find tickets to this show on sale once I have everything finished.)

For those of you who have not had the privilege of hearing her perform, my favorite performance by her is from Wicked. It is a duet between her and her friend Galinda. The two of them started off despising each other and throughout the story they overcome their differences and a strong bond is built. I took my little sister to see Wicked a couple years ago after we found out she had cervical cancer and we have an exceptional affinity with this song. It is called For Good.

About the Author: Laura Bensen is a freelance writer with a passion for musicals. She spends her free time singing her heart out (when the house is empty) and searching for meaningful connections.


The Book of Mormon at The Kennedy Center Reviews – Is It Worth It?

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Last night I went to a show that combines Darth Vader with Star Wars, Hobbits with Jesus and Gangas Kahn with a modern day Jewish/Christian religion. It’s wasn’t Jesus Christ Superstar, it was The Book of Mormon at the Kennedy Center. If you saw last night’s performance, you probably loved it, I did too…unfortunately you did not get the best of the show…and it wasn’t the cast’s fault. The Book of Mormon at the Kennedy Center reviews are going to be amazing, but I feel ripped off by something, the sound.

At first I was blaming Mark Evans or Elder Price, the lead character, when he looked like he was trying to belt out noted in songs like “I Believe” (which is one of the more loved ones because of their performance at the Tony Awards) and just couldn’t do it. You could hear him, but his volume never increased like the rest of the cast. I was also in the very front row so I could hear his levels and they didn’t go up either like the rest did when they sang out. I don’t know if they have someone on a sound board that forgot all about his microphone and didn’t push the leads volume up, but he was the only one whose voice did not get louder when it was supposed to and it definitely did not sound like he was trying to belt, however, this could have been a combination of three things.

1. They played a recorded version during hard songs which is actually very common with some shows. The recording could have gotten louder because it is pre-done, unless the sound person needs to make it louder manually. 2. He was perfectly on key and pitch which was amazing, but his microphone wasn’t working and when he got louder, it could have overloaded and not taken his voice with it. 3. He can sing very well, but he can’t belt. My guess is that it is 2 or 3 or a combination of them. In his defense, although the songs he sang were ruined for me and took away from what would have been a 100% perfect show because I wanted to hear belting with these new Broadway Anthems, they just got to DC and many cast members still had their luggage from traveling. To get up on stage and perform a high energy show with a lot of high notes after traveling is insane. I give them all credit for an awesome job which is very rare. The Book of Mormon Kennedy Center reviews are amazing, especially because of this, however, with that said, here is what I’m confused about.

They just got there so there are going to be some sound issues during the first few shows. But the lead in the show’s microphone doesn’t work or pick up his voice so that he can belt during both acts? They could have easily changed his microphone and run a test before the second act. He is an amazing actor, has a great voice, but I honestly believe he just couldn’t belt out his numbers last night which is a shame because it took away from the show for me. All of the supporting Actors and the real lead Christopger John O’Neill or Elder Cunningham’s voice rose and lowered perfectly, it was just Elder Price. Nabulungi or Samantha Marie Ware had a couple of smaller sound issues but she belted out instead and you could hear perfectly. She was able to fix the sound issues and give everyone an amazing performance. It was only Mark Evans who you couldn’t hear and he had the lead in a lot of the most popular songs which killed part of the show for me. I still loved and my reviews of The Book of Mormon at the Kennedy Center are positive, but I still can’t get over not enjoying his numbers because he didn’t want to or couldn’t belt because of the sound. I really think it was the sound guy’s fault and not the Actor, but something tells me it had to be a combination of travel, the Actors ability to belt night after night and the sound system. It definitely ruined one of the most loved songs vocally, but the acting during it was awesome and he still did a great job! If you are looking for reviews of The Book of Mormon at the Kennedy Center, then we say go!

If you read other sites that have The Book of Mormon at the Kennedy Center reviews, I have no doubt that they are going to be amazing and I don’t think I have ever given anything this high. The Book of Mormon at the Kennedy Center gets 4 and a half out of 5 stars. The dancing was perfect, routines well done, the cast was amazing, the characters kept it together, but the lead couldn’t belt out his songs or only his sound was off which takes a half star away. I wanted to do 4 out of 5 stars because a couple of my favorite songs were lacking because of sound issues, however I couldn’t do that because everyone did an amazing job. I can’t believe I just said that! The only other shows I think that have come close was Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and Absinthe in Las Vegas. The cast was amazing, especially the lead female and Elder Cunningham. Unfortunately I’m not going into the plot or jokes with my The Book of Mormon at the Kennedy Center reviews because I don’t want to spoil it, but if you are sold after reading the reviews of The Book of Mormon at the Kennedy center, you can buy broadway tickets for this show by clicking on the link that says broadway tickets. The reviews of the Book of Mormon at the Kennedy center should all be amazing. I’m probably the most critical in DC so if anyone else is writing about it, expect it to have at least 4 or 5 stars out of 5. The show was awesome and a must see. You can still buy tickets to Book of Mormon at the Kennedy Center through this link and then come back here and let us know what you thought.

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Hello Dolly at Fords Theatre Reviewed – Discount Tickets Here!

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discount broadway and local tickets

Discount Broadway and local tickets

I went to see Hello Dolly at the Fords Theatre in Washington DC the other night and absolutely loved it.  You expect Carol Channing to take the stage or Barbara to sing in her NY accent, but instead of having a lead that you would expect, Broadway Veteran Nancy Opel took on the role of Dolly Levi and absolutely killed it!  She was amazing!  When you have a show where there are no special effects and just props and place it in a small theatre where the lights are basically always on and you can see the audience, you have to rely on acting and talent.  That is exactly what Nancy Opel and the rest of the cast did.

Instead of worrying about having a giant flying gown or flying monkeys, they used their ability to act, sing and dance to take an audience of all ages and make everyone pay attention for the entire show.  Some of the best characters were Barnabe or Zack Colonna who was perfect at playing a dumpy but cute dimwit and his facial expressions and presence were amazing.  You have Nancy Opel who completely stole the role of Dolly Levi and gave it her own twists and made it unique.  One thing she also did was take some of the songs and add in her own drops, notes and belting and it sounded perfect.  It’s rare to get the sound working perfectly during an entire show, but somehow they did it and pulled it off so that everyone sounded amazing, no one’s voice took over and the entire cast interacted perfectly with each other vocally.  One last mention was the taller dancer.  You hit every step and did a great job, but you were showing off a bit to much and sort of took away from the other dancers.  You were amazing, but you also ruined the routines by trying to hard and really overdoing it with your hands, arms and lines.  You should try to fit in so people don’t keep looking over and so that you don’t ruin the routines which were actually extremely well done.  Especially when they are at the restaurant in the end.

When I was a little kid I got to see Hello Dolly with Carol Channing in it.  Although I didn’t get most of the show, Carol kept me entertained the entire time.  Although Nancy did an amazing job as Dolly, I did notice the kids would get slightly bored, but she did eventually bring them back with the added comedy to the show.   If you are thinking about going to see Hello Dolly at Fords Theatre and need tickets, don’t pay full price for them.  I was able to find discounts at almost 50% off on tickets to Hello Dolly at the Ford’s Theatre by using one of my advertisers.  I included a link in the top right section of this post.  Just click on the banner and you’ll go to their site.  Enter a new username, create a password and enter your zipcode and you’ll instantly have access to discounts on a ton of tickets including shows at the Kennedy Center, Spamalot at the National Theatre, Miss Saigon at Signature theatre and Discount tickets to Hello Dolly at the Fords Theatre.  If you don’t live in DC, they have discount broadway tickets in almost every major city and some smaller cities to so check it out to see if they have your city listed.

les miserables touring cast

Les Miserables Touring Cast Washington DC Reviews – Get Tickets Here

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les miserables touring cast

les miserables touring cast

I just went to see the 25th anniversary touring cast of Les Miserables at the National Theatre in Washington DC and was absolutely blown away!   I was nervous about seeing it because the movie comes out on Tuesday, but I am extremely happy I went, besides the overweight guy next to me elbowing me during the first half and the rude guy snorting behind me, I don’t think I’ve teared that much since I saw Phantom which is one of my favorite shows.  Overall the 25th anniversary touring cast of Les Miserables reviews should be amazing.  They did an awesome job.  Here’s my full Les Miserables Review.

Buy les miserables tickets here.

The only negative things I had to say about the show were that the grown up Cosette was not memorable.  You didn’t remember her, you don’t think of her and she just didn’t exist.  The same could be said for Marius.

The difference between Marius and Cosette is that Marius had an awesome voice.  Unfortunately he lacked any and all stage presence.  On the barricade, you didn’t see him, even when they called him out.  Instead you watch other people.  At his wedding with Cosette, you were watching other characters and they both disappeared.  You enjoyed watching him as Eponine died, but that is only because Briana Carlson-Goodman was holy sh*t amazing!  If she was the Eponine I saw in the London cast of Les Miserables,  the scene would have died, not the characters.  In his defense, his microphone didn’t seem to be working correctly during the first act, but his acting and his voice were solid, he just lacked the ability to grab your interest and stand out.  The blond guy and the guy with the brown hair that was combed to one side caught your eye the entire time, even when the spotlight was on Marius. The last weak cast member was Jean Val Jean.

He acted like he didn’t want to be there.  He walked on stage, sang his song and left.  He honestly looked like he didn’t care.  I don’t care if it’s the holidays and you might want to be with your family, or if you’re just having a bad day and wanting to be a diva.  People are paying over $100 per ticket to see this show and for the person playing Jean Val Jean to give a performance like he was annoyed and didn’t care about being there is offense to every actor, every person who paid for the show and everyone around me commented that he was very good.  If you don’t want to be there, quit the show and let someone else have your part.  I was offended by his performance.  With that said, lets go into the good stuff.

Javert was amazing!  Andrew Varela completely stole the show.  He was the only thing you could see, here and look at when he was on stage.  He stole the show and completely showed that he really was Javert and made you hate and fall in love with him.  His voice was strong, his presence was insane and he absolutely brought everyong to their feet, even before the cast took a bow.  He was incredible and it was amazing to get to see him perform.  I would gladly attend another show only because he is in the cast.

Eponine – Amazing!  Briana Carson-Goodman has a holy sh*t amazing voice, more presence than Carol Channing and is now almost one of my favorite people to watch at a level of Kristin Chenoweth.  I had never heard of her before, but after seeing her, Lea Salonga got taken on a run for her money.  This girl can sing, she can out act anyone else but Andrew Varela (close tie on those two, she wins though) and her stage presence was incredible.  When she was hiding behind the wall and not supposed to be seen, you actually kept trying to look to see her.  Her performance was amazing and her voice was incredible.  I would love to see the next show she is in and cannot wait to hear her again as well.  She took the song On My Own and absolutely brought it above and beyond what people were expecting.

Fantine was ok.  I enjoyed her voice, but I don’t like how they sped up the intro’s in some of her songs.  Her acting was good and she did a great job.  The Inn Keeper (Thenardier) and his wife were absolutely what you wanted to see and his wife completely stole the show when the two of them were performing.  The two made an awesome team that you loved to watch.  The two kids in the show were amazing and over performed their counterparts in the London cast and the rest of the cast gave a perfect show and performance.

The show was a shorter version of Les Miserables with a new staging.  They shrunk it down by speeding up some of the songs, which normally I would be pissed off about, but I actually enjoyed it.  I also like how they changed the set because of the size of the National Theatre vs. a larger theatre that could handle elaborate sets.

Instead of a rotating gate to Jean Valjean’s house, it was stationary.  The baricade took up the entire stage which was cool and the entries and exits were all done differently.  Instead of using a trap door to take Marius into the sewers, he dragged him off stage.  Instead of a blue light on Fantine when she died, they used white lights which was actually pretty cool.  They also had Jean Valjean sitting on the Baricade to sing Bring him Home instead of on the stool or at least by the floor and away from the other cast members.  It was a pretty cool way to do the show.

The 25th anniversary touring cast of Les Miserables is amazing.  I highly recommend you see it and you can buy broadway tickets for the show in your own city by clicking on the link above.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars because the show was amazing, but the person plating Jean Valjean ruined the role for me by looking bored like he didn’t want to be there and because the roles of Cosette and Marius weren’t as good as they should have been for the show.  If you are going to give someone lead roles, make sure they have a huge stage presence and that they can keep up with the other characters and cast members.  There is no reason you should be watching the supporting cast when they are singing solos and are supposed to be the focus.  Overall the show is amazing and I highly recommend you see the touring cast of Les Miserables.  Feel free to leave a comment below if you’ve seen the cast and what you think.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the Kennedy Center Reviews

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I just dumped the guy I was seeing so it was the perfect night to get to see Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Unlike Jekyll and Hyde which was just at the Kennedy Center, I was tearing and balling because this show was absolutely amazing. Even when the dancers were a bit out of sync, they were smiling and everyone was loving it. The show was phenomenal and is one of the only ones I will ever give 5 stars to.

From the minute the show starts in World War 2 when the characters are talking about Christmas and performing for their troops, you fall in love with the show. From the whistles, the singing and the bad jokes that make you laugh, you are instantly drawn in. Shows like Wicked or Spiderman need a ton of special effects to make an audience fall in love with them. Shows like Irving Berlin’s White Christmas rely on quality acting, dancing and a cast that can bring you into their own time and make you feel everything they are feeling.

From the songs like “Falling out of Love Can Be Fun” to “White Christmas”, you are instantly brought to Vermont in the 1950’s.  The characters are perfect, the Actors are all amazing and everyone continued to feed off of each other and make the show amazing.  Whether you love Bob and Betty or the sisters or anyone else, you will feel like you are part of the cast.  Everyone did an amazing job, the dancing was perfect, the singing incredible and the show is the perfect thing that can help you cheer up if you’re feeling depressed.  Even if you’re lonely or just broke up with someone, this show is perfect for you and you’ll leave feeling amazing.

I couldn’t pick which song to put a video for from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, so I found a trailer about the making of the show.  The video actually describes what I am thinking in that it is almost impossible to put shows like this together, but when you have someone like Irving Berlin whose music is amazing and you combine it with a talented cast that is all able to work with each other, the show is incredible and everyone was tearing at the end.  I actually teared more at this show than I did when I saw Les Miserables.  If you get a chance to see Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the Kennedy Center, go.  The show is amazing and you will definitely love it.