Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Lauren Van Hemert

Lauren Van Hemert

Lauren Van Hemert is a graduate of Indiana University-Bloomington, where she majored in Journalism with a minor in Theater. Prior to graduation, Van Hemert hosted her own weekly talk show on Public Radio WDNA Miami and worked as a production intern for As The World Turns. A native of Miami, Florida, Van Hemert’s love of theater started at an early age during a New York trip when her father took her to see the revival of 'Oklahoma,' 'The Music Man' starring Dick Van Dyke, and 'Peter Pan,' starring Sandy Duncan. She currently lives in Cary, North Carolina with her husband and two children, where she has been an advocate for arts education in the schools and sensory-friendly experiences. She is a member of The American Theatre Critics Association and host of the RDU on Stage podcast. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram @onlylaurenart.


BWW Review: CATS is a Memory that Lingers On and On and On
June 6, 2019

It seems fitting that the last show I'll cover for Broadway World is CATS. I've seen this show at least a half-a-dozen times, and for me, it's a time capsule of sorts. The first time I saw it was in its original home at the Winter Garden Theater during a high school class trip to New York. A few years later, I returned to the Winter Garden to see the show with my sister who admittedly hates the theater. Consequently, I bought the cheapest tickets possible, partial view I was told. They were indeed partial view, but that was only because we were sitting on the stage in the set. Again, it was an experience that neither my sister nor I will ever forget.

BWW Review: Some Magic Moments Make Theatre Raleigh's BEEHIVE Worth the Time Traveling Trip
May 13, 2019

Fans of American Bandstand will revel in the nostalgia of it, while baby boomers may be more reflective on the counterculture of the time. Either way, the Theatre Raleigh production of Beehive: The 60's Musical is an entertaining retrospective of the women, the music, and the movements that defined a generation. Director Tim Seib is no stranger to Theatre Raleigh or this genre for that matter, having directed the Theatre Raleigh production and the current national tour of Million Dollar Quartet. This production, however, lacks some of the focus, polish, and finesse of last season's irreproachable production of Once, which Seib also directed. And unlike Million Dollar Quartet, this production only alludes to the iconic singers and girl groups of the 60s through the eyes of six fictitious female characters, none of whom are all that distinctive or interesting until the second act when their rock goddess personas are clearly identifiable.

BWW Review: BEAUTIFUL Continues to Delight and Entertain, But Can We Just Get Past the Jukebox Musical, Please?
May 8, 2019

n the realm of jukebox bio-musicals, BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL is probably better than most. And a lot of that has to do with King's rich repertoire of music, not to mention the fact that her story runs parallel to the story of the songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Their collective mark on pop music is undeniable. King began her songwriting career at the age of 16 in the hallowed halls of an office building located at 1650 Broadway, a music warehouse of sorts located just blocks away from the infamous Brill Building. In 2013, Weil told The New Yorker that the rents were cheaper at 1650 Broadway than in the Brill Building and newer publishers, like Aldon Music, had their offices there. Weil describes the Aldon Music office as having four cubicles wherein she and her writing/life partner Mann, along with King and her writing partner and husband at the time Jerry Goffin, all worked. The foursome became friends and even vacationed together. But in 1968, King moved from New York to Los Angeles, divorced Goffin, and began her solo career. Her solo album Tapestry sold over 25-million copies worldwide, won four Grammy Awards, and has been hailed as one of top albums of all time. Shortly after Tapestry was released in 1971, King played Carnegie Hall, which is where the musical BEAUTIFUL begins and ends.

BWW Interview: BEAUTIFUL's Danielle Summons Reflects on Family, Carol King, and Coming Home
May 5, 2019

When BEAUTIFUL opens at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) Tuesday, it will be a homecoming for Danielle Summons. That's because Summons, who plays one of The Shirrelles, as well as Janelle Woods in the show, is from Raleigh. And for Summons, returning to the DPAC stage, is a dream come true. Woods performed at DPAC last year in the touring production of LES MISERABLES as the understudy for Eponine, but says this time, it feels different. "I feel like I've arrived a little bit," she says. "To be able to come back and be performing at this magnitude in front of people that always supported me my entire life is magical."

BWW Interview: Jason Robert Brown Reflects on His Music, Working with Lauren Kennedy, and More in Advance of Theatre Raleigh's Upcoming Concert
April 22, 2019

Jason Robert Brown has been hailed as one of Broadway's smartest and most sophisticated songwriters. In fact, The Chicago Tribune referred to his work as 'extraordinary, jubilant theater music.' But Brown, who wrote the book and score for THE LAST FIVE YEARS and the music and lyrics for the stage adaptation of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, as well as the music and lyrics for PARADE for which he won the 1999 Tony Award, isn't one to pontificate. In fact, he says, it's all about looking ahead. 'I think I'm just running forward,' he says. 'There's more work to do.'

BWW Interview: Jeffrey Kringer Talks CRUEL INTENTIONS in Advance of DPAC Show
April 22, 2019

'It's just been the most exciting whirlwind of a ride to get to do this,' says Jeffrey Kringer. And it has been a whirlwind for Kringer who just graduated from Fredonia State University last May. Kringer is playing the role of anti-hero Sebastian Valmont in the musical CRUEL INTENTIONS. It's his first national tour, and he says it feels like the right fit at the right time.

BWW Review: For Fans Looking for a Redemptive Adaptation After the Disastrous Movie, THE LIGHTNING THIEF Musical Delivers
April 10, 2019

I can see where The Lightning Thief musical might be compared to a cross between Harry Potter and Dear Evan Hansen. Based on Rick Riordan's book of the same name, the musical tells the story of Percy Jackson and friends, a group of half-bloods who straddle the line between being half-God and half-mortal, and their quest to become heroes of their own story. In short, the Gods are real, they have kids, and their kids have issues.

BWW Interview: Izzy Figueroa Reflects on THE LIGHTNING THIEF, Being a Role Model, and More
April 6, 2019

The Lightning Thief musical, based on Rick Riordan's book, has been called a cross between Harry Potter and Dear Evan Hansen, which may be one of the reasons why legions of fans are flocking to see the show as it makes away across the country. Initially developed as a one-hour musical in 2014 by Theatreworks USA, a full-length expanded version opened at The Lucille Lortel Theatre in 2017 for a limited run and was nominated for three Drama Desk Awards. Earlier this year, the show launched a national tour. The tour will stop at the Durham Performing Arts Center this week. 'It's a wonderful experience because it stays so true to the book, which is the biggest thing for me and what most fans who come to see the show appreciate,' says Izzy Figueroa. 'It doesn't fall far at all from what you've already read.'

BWW Review: In the National Touring Revival of THE KING AND I, Women Reign Supreme
March 20, 2019

There is something wonderful about seeing a classic musical. Perhaps it is the familiarity of the story or the well-known songs that just feels like home. And in terms of that, the national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein's THE KING AND I, based on the Tony Award-winning 2015 Lincoln Center revival, does not disappoint. In this production, Mongkut may be the King of Siam, but the women reign supreme. That may be because Director Shelly Butler based her vision for this new production on Bartlett Sher's original direction for the Lincoln Center production. Sher was hailed for taking the emphasis off any potential love story between Anna and the King, as has been told before, and instead told the story through the lens of three very strong female characters, namely Lady Thiang, Tuptim, and of course, Anna.

BWW Review: DEAR EVAN HANSEN Spins a Telling and Cautionary Tale for a Digital Age
March 14, 2019

Dear Evan Hansen, today's going to be a good day and here's why... That's how the juggernaut of a little show that could, opens. Nearly 427,000 hashtags later, DEAR EVAN HANSEN is not only a phenomenon but literally part of America's cultural heritage. Artifacts from the show, still running on Broadway, were accepted into The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History collection last fall, a decision which Curator Ryan Lintelman says was a no-brainer. 'It has this freshness to it that helps people to connect to these issues of social media and the internet, of depression and anxiety, and how you present yourself in a world that's increasingly digital,' he said. DEAR EVAN HANSEN tells the story of Evan, an awkward, self-conscious, and lonely teen. He is encouraged by a doctor to write affirmation letters to himself, one of which is intercepted by an outcast named Connor in the school computer lab. After Connor commits suicide, Connor's mother finds Evan's letter. Evan then finds himself entangled in a lie that was never meant to be told, living a life he had only imagined. DEAR EVAN HANSEN opened on Broadway in 2016 and won six 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. And rightfully so. This is the right show for right now, a commentary on a media age that connects us virtually, but often, imprisons and cripples us socially.

BWW Review: Time is the Real Star of Bartlett Theater's Production of CONSTELLATIONS
March 11, 2019

Boy and girl meet. Boy and girl meet again and fall in love. Boy and girl meet again, fall in love again, and break up. In fact, boy and girl meet, fall in love, fall apart, time and time again, in Nick Payne's two-person play CONSTELLATIONS. The play is part of Bartlett Theater's current season, a season which finds the company partnering with Northgate Cinema Stadium 10 in Durham. And for the most part, this venue, which worked so excellently for Bartlett's last production THE FLICK, also works for this production. This time around, ethereal projections are cast across the screen, setting the stage for a play that defies both time and space.

BWW Review: PlayMakers' Heavenly Production of LIFE OF GALILEO is One for the Ages
March 6, 2019

Between January 2018 and August 2018, the federal government attempted to censor, misrepresent, and otherwise silence science over 150 times. That's according to the Silencing Science Tracker (SST) launched by Columbia University's Sabin Center and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. While most of the 150 plus SST entries involved attempts to stifle climate science, 24-percent of the entries targeted scientists working in other fields. But the government assault on science is nothing new. In fact, nearly 400 years ago, Galileo Galilei was forced to recant some of his scientific views after the church found him guilty of heresy. Subsequently, his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was placed on the 'Index of Forbidden Books' by the Sacred Congregation of the Roman Inquisition, and he was placed on house arrest. Galileo's life is the subject of Bertolt Brecht's 1938 play LIFE OF GALILEO, which explores the ups and downs of going from being a celebrated scientist to a convicted dissident. More importantly, the play provides a 'big brother' commentary on humanity and the delusion of blind faith in an era of alternative facts.

BWW Review: Ten Years Later, ROCK OF AGES Rocks On
February 23, 2019

Decadence and dreams, Hollywood nights and hair bands, and Journey and jazz hands, it could be said that ROCK OF AGES is a party almost 40 years in the making. The Tenth Anniversary Tour of ROCK OF AGES opened at the Durham Performing Arts Center last night, marking the tour's 100th performance. The show tells the story of a wannabe rocker/barback named Drew and aspiring actress from the Midwest named Sherrie who meet, fall in love, break up, and live happily ever after in la-la land. While the whole storyline is formulaic and predictable, what makes this show work is the mashup of 80s music and some powerhouse vocals.

BWW Interview: ROCK OF AGES' Katie LaMark was Born Ready to Rock
February 20, 2019

You could say that Katie LaMark has been ready to rock from the time she was a little girl. That's because she is a self-described 'studio kid' whose parents were both musicians. 'My mother is really the rocker of the two of them and my father is a much more disciplined, jazz piano player,' she says. 'I have a little bit of the discipline and a little bit of the edge.' And that diverse range has helped LaMark in her career. Her first big show was the 20th Anniversary Tour of RENT, in which she played Maureen. That production played the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) in 2016.

BWW Review: Oozy, Saccharine Sweet National Tour of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY Just Might Be One Concoction Worth Trying
February 13, 2019

Sometimes a show completely defies expectations. And in the case of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, that's a good thing. I settled into my seat at the Durham Performing Arts Center Tuesday night and drew forth my pen, my weapon choice, completely prepared to obliterate this production. Then the music started. Cue the ensemble. "Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew…" Suddenly there I was, smiling, strangely finding comfort in the familiar, when I heard a sound that would completely disarm me. A nine-year-old kid behind me named Blake laughed, an infectious sort of laugh that served as a bit of a wake-up call that this show wasn't calculated for me. This show, this moment, and this performance belonged to him and every other dewy-eyed kid in the audience.

BWW Review: Theatre in the Park's A LIFE IN THE THEATRE Celebrates a Life Lived in the Theatre
February 11, 2019

If the Theatre in the Park production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL can be compared to a Christmas gift for Triangle families, then it might be said that the company's pre-Valentine's Day offering of A LIFE IN THE THEATRE is like a love letter to the sanctuary of storytelling and art otherwise known as the theater.

BWW Interview: CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY'S James Young Talks about Grandpa Joe and the Importance of Theater for Young People
February 7, 2019

James Young has been singing and dancing in Broadway shows for over 40 years. These days, he spends his time playing Grandpa Joe in the national tour of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. The show plays the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) next week. Hear what Young has to say about the production, the importance of exposing kids to the theater, and the excitement he still feels taking a show on the road.

BWW Review: A Mother's Observations of Honest Pint Theatre Company's Production of THE HERD
January 30, 2019

I was going to begin my review of Honest Pint Theatre Company's production of THE HERD with this sentence. As the mother of a child with special needs, I related to THE HERD. Then, I was going to amend my opening sentence to read, 'As a parent, I related to THE HERD.' Yes, it's true that Rory Kinnear's THE HERD is relatable whether you are a parent of a child with special needs or not. But the fact that I am the parent of a child with a 'disability' makes me perhaps less objective and therefore, unqualified, to offer a fair assessment or review per se.

BWW Review: Exquisite Storytelling Makes the PlayMakers' World Premiere of Charly Simpson's JUMP a Must-See
January 29, 2019

How many articles have you read in the last four years about high-profile celebrity suicides wherein family members and friends said, 'I had no idea'? And out of the 47,173 people in the United States who died by suicide in 2017 (according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention), what, if anything, could've kept these beloved fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters from taking that leap or wanting to disappear? Depression, grief, suicide, and mental illness are just some of the themes Charly Simpson explores in her new play JUMP, which opened at PlayMakers Repertory Company last weekend. The opening is part of a New Play National Network rolling world premiere that includes Milagro and Confrontation Theatre (Oregon), Shrewd Productions (Texas), and Actor's Express (Georgia). However, this is the first time the play has been fully staged, and this production sets the bar high for future productions.

BWW Review: Burning Coal Theatre's ASHE IN JOHANNESBURG, Good Story but Needs Some Work
January 28, 2019

In 1973, tennis champion Arthur Ashe traveled to Johannesburg to compete in the South African Open amidst the oppression of an apartheid-based government. He had applied for a visa to play in the tournament three times prior but was denied. His presence at the 1973 event sparked some outrage but was the catalyst for change, not only for Ashe as an activist but also for the South African people. This story is the impetus for Hannah Benitez's new play, ASHE IN JOHANNESBURG. Burning Coal Theater commissioned Benitez to write the play, and it is a compelling story to tell. However, the show, which opened this weekend, needs further development before it achieves the same level of polish and flair as other historical dramas like David Hare's STUFF HAPPENS, which opened Burning Coal's current season.