I got a coupon through Influenster.com for Freeman Beauty’s Barefoot Bliss Spa Professionals Collection, redeemable at Wal-Mart. So I redeemed it and I have tested it out. I’ve posted a couple of pictures below, and then the video I uploaded to YouTube :).
This past Saturday I went up to Wilmington, NC to see a show again. This time it was the delightfully old fashioned City Stage instead of Thalian Hall. City Stage is also home to Level 5 @ City Stage, which is a bar/night club on the roof. This meant Vodka Cranberries DURING THE SHOW! YAY!
It seemed vastly appropriate to be drinking at this musical, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” Not only was there a saloon on stage, but one of the questions asked by this amazing show is; is wanting to have a beer with someone enough of a reason to elect them? If you don’t already know the basic story of Andrew Jackson’s life, go to wikipedia, and then come back. I’ll wait.
Done? Okay great. So this musical basically spans his life, from his childhood where he was orphaned, up to his death and legacy. It’s facts are historically accurate, it’s staging is NOT. This show drags the early 19th century kicking and screaming into current pop culture with references abound! The cast is amazing and gels together really well. I’ve always held fast that the talent pool for community theater in Wilmington is significantly better than most other communities. These guys just go out there and prove it for me (so thanks guys!)
Jackson, the man, is an exercise in contradictions. He’s been called one of the greatest Presidents we’ve had, and he’s been called an American Hitler. Paul Teal portrays this walking, talking, eye-liner wearing, emo-rocking enigma in this particular production. I already knew he’d be good, because I’d seen Paul in Rocky (Check out that review here!) and of course on the CW show One Tree Hill. However he wasn’t just good, he was GREAT, amazing! He brought Jackson to life in a big way, strutting that line between good and “evil” all while educating and making us empathize with his character. It almost seemed this character was made for him, because I was far more appreciative of his chops in this show than in Rocky, and I gave him an amazing review there too! But he had me from, “I’m wearing some tight, tight pants and we’re going to delve into some serious, serious shit.”
Of course, behind every great man is a super woman, this time it’s Rachel Jackson, his wife. A daring woman she was the first woman in Tennessee to get a divorce, and follow her heart despite the stain of bigotry. Rachel is played by the fabulous Anna Gamel in this, looking like a punk rock pinup girl. And boy does she run the gamut of emotions, from falling in love with Jackson, to feeling angry and betrayed (Expressed in rock anthem “The Great Compromise”) One of my favorite lines? “I didn’t leave my other husband and risk people calling me a whore to have an even more fucked up marriage with you.” Rachel’s death actually hit me almost as hard as Jackson which is a tribute to Anna making us love her with absolution in such a short time.
The wonderful cast is rounded out by Alex Wharff (Henry Clay/Black Fox), George Domby (James Monroe), David Heck (John C. Calhoun), Patrick Basquill (John Quincy Adams), Erik Maasch (Martin Van Buren), Michelle Reiff (Storyteller), Beck Hanner (Lyncoya) and the ensemble: Caitlin Becka, LaRaisha Burnette, Chris Connor and Robin Heck. All of these cast members (except Beck Hanner) play multiple roles from Jackson groupies to Indians to tourists at the white house. Each and every one of them did amazing and had a chance to shine.
Enough about the cast though, lets talk about the music and the direction. For starters the music director was Chiaki Ito, a Wilmington legend in her own right. The band shared the stage with the cast all night, and even had a bit part as Jackson’s cabinet. Best of all they held down the amazing soundtrack. It is catchy as all heck and 3 days later I am still singing snippets of songs like “I’m Not That Guy,” “Rock Star,” and “The Corrupt Bargain.” I also must give a special shout out to the rock ballad “Second Nature.” Ms. Ito’s decision to change the arrangement and singer from a white man with a guitar to an Indian girl with a full band was a stroke of genius. The song oozes emotion and LaRaisha Burnette keeps that fury on a delicious simmer throughout.
The production is directed by Shane Fernando, and it is his directorial debut! A very strong opening sir and I hope to see more “Directed By” lines in front of your name! Mr. Fernando is also the director of the new Humanities and Fine Arts center at Cape Fear Community College. Which makes me a little… conflicted. I was going to attend that college with the goal of getting into film. But I wanted to wait until I qualified for in-state tuition. Then I did but I was working a good job. Now I’ve moved back out of state and I feel a tiny slice of regret. But I digress, because the direction on this was amazing. The choices to have the set integrated with the theater to make one large cohesive area was wise, as was the mix of modern and old fashioned elements in both props and dress. The only difference I would have made is with the Storyteller. In the original treatment she rides an electric wheelchair, which is what they have her doing in the show. But it seemed kind of clunky and dated, in a bad way. I actually would have swapped it out for a Segway, like those seen all over Downtown Wilmington.
Overall this production was an absolute smash and a joy to see and I’m actually trying to figure out if I can go again before it’s run is over.
Last night I drove up to Wilmington, NC to see the last showing of Rocky Horror at Thalian Hall. It was a true example of the above statement as you could find both sides: those doing it right, and those who shouldn’t have done it at ALL.
First of all, the actual show was amazing. The cast was wonderful, and the set, music, and choreography were spot on. It was fresh and funny, the updated costumes were perfect, and the director made some key decisions that made it absolutely wonderful. I particularly enjoyed the following:
- The decision to have the Phantoms (ensemble) mingling with the audience before the show. It made it a party atmosphere and got me shivering with antici-
pation. That was such a smart choice, and sadly the most action I’ve seen in a while.
- The usage of the ensemble to make Brad & Janet’s “car” including “headlights” on 2 girls’ bums.
- Riff Raff’s (Leo Grinberg) hysterical faces behind Frank’s (Justin Smith) back regarding Rocky.
- The interaction with the audience, in particular from Riff Raff, Frank, and Brad (Sam Robison)
The entire cast was amazing, I had seen Sam Robison as Mark in Rent back in 2009 (I saw that with my then neighbor George Domby whom actually played Dr. Scott in this production) and he was very memorable as I found myself nearly 4 years later going “Hey, isn’t that the guy who played Mark when we saw Rent?” Rocky Horror also had the same music director, Chiaki Ito and actress Amy Tipton whom played Maureen rejoined Sam as Janet.
She was AMAZING, he was AMAZING. I can’t even say enough. Amy was perfectly innocent but with that sensual undercurrent that was teased out, and the voice of a fallen angel. Sam was adorkrable as Brad, nerdy as heck, especially in physical mannerisms, but able to pull off enough sex appeal to make the audience see what Janet saw in him.
Also amazing were Paul Teal and Justin Smith as Rocky and Dr. Frank-N-Furter respectively. Justin towered over the cast in those heels, and absolutely brought it, to the point where at the wrap party I thought to myself “Who is this random dude in the sweater???” According to the program, Paul played Noah in The Notebook Musical (which I auditioned for once upon a time!) so as soon as I got home I sent Bethany Joy Lenz (who wrote the libretto for The Notebook Musical and I knew sort of kind of vaguely when we both lived in Wilmington during One Tree Hill’s reign) a tweet telling her how absolutely fantastic he was as Rocky! Which he was. Usually Rocky is kind of a lunk, a little dense even for having just been born. Paul’s Rocky was smart, savvy, and sensitive! I felt much, much more for the character with his interpretation than I did for even the movie one!
Now that I’ve waxed poetic about the amazing talent (amazing enough I was too awed to say a word to any of them at the wrap party.) Although before I move on to those who shouldn’t have I must mention that this fabulous display made me regret moving from Wilmington. These were my people! Well, they could have been if I’d not moved.
Now, those who shouldn’t have. Sorry kids, gonna call you out by name here: Pineapple Shaped Lamps Comedy Troupe. They provided the shadow-casting and audience participation. I heard they were hired to. That’s sad. Maybe it was different with larger audience, but this go round was awful. At one point, I believe it was during “I’m Going Home” they got going on a black tar heroin gag that almost had me yelling back “GET NEW MATERIAL.” So here is my advice to them:
- Timing. Work on it. Ya’ll were so damn out of sync talking over one another. Maybe stick with the classic call backs until you got that down. In addition to timing of call backs work on the length of the call back. This was the black tar heroin thing again. Attempting to spit all of that out in the tiny bit of space made it run together “aboutblacktarheroin” until it was almost indistinguishable. It would have been far more beneficial to find something shorter to put in that spot, ie. “I’m a plushie.” or “about bath salts.”
- New stuff: While some stuff is classic (asshole!), and some new stuff was funny (that Miley Cyrus jab in particular comes to mind) some of it was a bad idea (Obama slam???? IN A THEATRE? REALLY?! Even I know better.) maybe update some stuff but be careful. Don’t sacrifice the art of the call back just for the sake of the pop culture joke.
- I did dig the costumes though!
All in all it was an enjoyable night and I could go on and on but I’m too fucking tired for that shit. MWAH! Love to the entire cast!