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Constantine Maroulis-Led JEKYLL & HYDE & More Set for Broadway Light Series in Charlotte

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I was invited to Duke Energy, Broadway Lights Series at the McGlohon Theater to see the productions coming to the Queen City at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center for 2012-13. As a recent transplant to Charlotte, I must say the entertainment I’ve seen in this town is outstanding! The Light Series title of 'Epic,' 'Unforgettable' and 'Spectacular' suits it.

Mike Collins, radio talk show host, welcomed the audience. We viewed a video lineup of shows. Charlotte was chosen as one of ten cities to premiere “Jekyll & Hyde” on its way to Broadway with American Idol star and Tony Award nominee, Contantine Maroulis in its pre-Broadway run. The other shows include “Sister Act,” “Les Misérables,” “Traces,” “Wicked” and “The Lion King,” with Broadway Extras including “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” and “American Idiot.” The special live presentation was “War Horse,” winner of five Tony Awards, led by ‘Joey.’

I had heard about the production, but I had never seen the puppets. When the eight-foot tall puppet horse trotted onto the McGlohon stage, tears immediately streamed from my eyes. My emotional reaction was that great. ‘Joey’ was life size, lifelike and I could feel my seat vibrate with his weight as he trotted.  A compliment to Handspring Puppet Company, Cape Town, South Africa and to the three puppeteers, Ariel Heller, the head, Ross Green, the heart and Ian Piears, the hind. They brought ‘Joey’ to life. He was inquisitive, shy, strong and apprehensive.

Tom Gabbard, the president of Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, who introduced “War Horse,” sincerely stated, “I can’t think of any [play] that has moved me more than this production.” Quite a testament, as Gabbard hosts 1,000 performances annually through Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

After the presentation, I met the puppeteers. I asked them about their training in puppetry. “Ariel and I come from acting backgrounds,” explained Green. Heller picked up, “And Ian comes from a dance background.” He continued, “People with strong puppetry skills don’t take to this puppet easily. We find it takes strong acting ability to get to the ‘core’ character of the horse, and it takes great physicality.” Piears added, “Even from the back of the horse, I can see the whole horse. I am aware of the character of the horse and what my body is doing, the head and heart, because of my dance background.” I could tell these men have been working together tightly, they relate in a ballet of sorts, even off stage.

Later, I caught up with Gabbard and asked him more about his thoughts on “War Horse.” “My wife, after seeing War Horse, said every member of Congress should be made to see this production before making a decision to go to war and sending our soldiers into harms way.” Gabbard continued, “ This play makes a very strong antiwar statement.”

The lineup of shows coming to the Blumenthal is spectacular. It starts in November. “War Horse” is one, I’m not going to miss. I wonder what happened to “The Book of Mormon”? I guess we’re just going to have to wait a little longer for that one.

The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center Shows for 2012-13: “Jekyll & Hyde,” Belk Theater, November 6-11, “Sister Act,” Ovens Auditorium, January 8-13, “Les Misérables,” Belk Theater, February 12-17, “Wicked,” Ovens Auditorium, March 13-31, “Traces,” Knight Theater, May 7-19, “War Horse,” Belk Theater, May 28-June 2, “The Lion King,” Belk Theater, Aug. 6- Sept. 1, Broadway Extras including “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” Knight Theater, December 18-23 and “American Idiot,” Belk Theater, March 8-10. For tickets and more information: www.blumenthalarts.org.

 

 


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