Review Roundup: Pre-Broadway EMPIRE THE MUSICAL at La Miranda Theatre

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The pre-Broadway engagement of EMPIRE opened at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, with book, music & lyrics by Caroline Sherman and Robert Hull, musical direction by Sariva Goetz, and directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge (Ragtime). EMPIRE runs through Sunday, February 14, 2016.

The Cast for EMPIRE features (in alphabetical order): Michael Baxter, Chassey Bennett, Tommy Bracco, Ricky Bulda, Juan Caballer, Caitlyn Calfas, Kevin Earley, Fatima El-Bashir, Tory Freeth, Stephanie Gibson, Joe Hart, Charlotte Maltby, Tony Sheldon, Michael McCormick, Katharine McDonough, Gabriel Navarro, Rachel Osting, Caleb Shaw,Cooper Stanton, Michael Starr, Christine Tucker, Rodrigo Varandas, Josh Walden and Justin Michael Wilcox.

Let's see what the critics had to say:

Michael L. Quintos, BroadwayWorld.com: ...the show, in its current state, is exceedingly entertaining, charmingly funny, cute and cheesy in a good way, grandiose in significant doses, and has plenty of top-notch, high-caliber theatrics that make for a great, well-spent evening at the theater. The opener---a rousing, tap-tastic dance number called "Heyday"---launches the show with giddy joy, setting up what may be its overall mood and raison d'être, and a wonderful way to lure the audience into the show.

Ellen Dostal, BroadwayWorld.com: The crowning glory of the musical is, of course, the method by which the cast builds the building on stage. Co-projection designers Brad Peterson and David Gallo (who also designed the striking set) give life to the towering construction process, and New York itself, by using vintage black and white moving images that are both breathtaking and a marvel of shifting perspectives.

Eric Marchese, OC Register: Marcia Milgrom Dodge's direction and choreography blend seamlessly on La Mirada's stage, creating a fast-moving show in which even talk of procuring steel, concrete and marble is translated into breathless action and even more breathless dance routines... Dodge's cast soars, from its leads to the 19 versatile chorus members who essay so many supporting roles that the stage seems bursting with humanity.

Bob Verini, Variety: Opening number "Heyday" evokes pre-Crash giddiness, choreographer Dodge expertly adapting Roaring Twenties dance into something fresh and unique. "Patch in Pittsburgh" reveals Frankie's ability to grease a project's wheels. Best of all is Dodge's athletic construction team showing off for the ladies at "Lunch Time," an exuberant reflection of character desires performed so high up it takes your breath away. Through it all, genius orchestrator Michael Starobin provides just enough period flavor.

Margaret Gray, LA Times: The show reaches its pinnacle late in the first act with the number "Lunchtime," in which the laborers show off their acrobatic skills on the girders to impress female passersby. The set and projections work together like clockwork; Dodge's choreography is at its playful and muscular best; Leon Wiebers' period costumes add individuality and color to the ensemble; the song's cheeky energy is irresistible.

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