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BWW Blog: The Best & Worst of the 2014-15 Season at Durham Performing Arts Center!

Since the 2014-15 Season at the Durham Performing Arts Center has wrapped up, I decided to give you guys my top picks for what were some of the best (and the worst) productions I saw this past season. I've seen many quality productions within the past year, with one little exception.

Which was...

Dirty Dancing-Despite a cast of some fine young performers, the most impressive aspects of the show to me were the electrical sets, the video designs, lighting designs, transitions, choreography, and a very energetic onstage band. But overall, I just found the show itself to be very bland and forgettable! As common as criticism gets whenever these classic movies are adapted for the stage, you bring the film's original screenwriter (Eleanor Bergstein) on board to adapt their own material when considering the fact that they have no background in the theatre. Sometimes you're just better off passing the reins off to some more experienced playwright, which is exactly how I felt about the adaptation Bergstein ended up doing for the stage, a carbon copy-and-paste job with dialogue that feels almost non-existent. Not only that, but the songs as used in the show never even feel musical enough to warrant their place onstage, as they're used more as underscore when they should have easily gone for some young new musical theatre writers on scene to write an original score that actually felt more integrated into the plot. And while the classic number '(I've Had) The Time of My Life' was indeed the most impressive moment of the show, it still made for a very anti-climatic climax. Read My Full Review Here!

Now that we've got that stinker out of the way, let's get on with some more of the good stuff I saw...

Honorable Mentions:

Jersey Boys-The book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice perfectly structures the group's rags-to-riches story into four 'seasons'. At the end of the show, it's all up for the audience to decide which they felt was the 'real' story. Not only do each of the four actors playing The Four Seasons shine in their own light, but when they perform as a group, they really bring the house down. With a very talented cast of about 19 actors and 10 musicians, as well as so many hits of the era, Jersey Boys will not only keep you tapping in your seats all night long, but the story will also keep you very engaged from start to finish! Read My Full Review Here!

Wicked-At the heart of the show is a friendship between two girls with very dominant personalities, one blonde and the other green. The rest of the ensemble cast also rise to the top of perfection! Director (and North Carolina School of the Arts alumni) Joe Mantello literally crafts some of the most cinematic staging at such a great pace! Everything is brilliant from top-to-bottom, especially with the end of Defying Gravity leaving some eye-popping visuals! If you are a die-hard fan of Wicked, there is always a good excuse to come back again on the journey to the Emerald City! But for those who've never seen the show, now is the time to find the brain, the heart, and the courage to do so, because this sure is one experience you'll never forget! Read My Full Review Here!

The time has now come for my top 5 highlights at DPAC this past season.

And they are...

  1. Pippin-The end results are truly spectacular all around! The book by Roger O. Hirson very cleverly tells a story that's very relevant in today's world, something I think everyone of us could all relate to. It should almost be a requirement for you to see this production as it is 'Extra-Ordinary', so in the words of The Leading Player, 'Join Us!' Read My Full Review Here!

  2. Newsies-This is a show that audiences will no doubt go crazy over, but for good reasons! The entire ensemble of men playing the newsboys are skillful, youthful, energetic, and convincing as kids. The headline I give you is that Disney has not only given us another theatrical home run, but a very important musical as well, that I think audiences of all ages could take something away from. Read My Full Review Here!

  3. Kinky Boots-At the center of it all is a very funny book by Harvey Fierstein that's filled with lots of heart. This production is very skillfully directed (and choreographed) by Tony-Winner Jerry Mitchell who literally creates some very cinematic staging. Kinky Boots should not only have you leaving the theatre having a great time, but it will also leave you with a heart filled with joy! Read My Full Review Here!

  4. Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella-What playwright Douglas Carter Beane has been able to accomplish is giving the audience a fresh, funny, and relevant approach to the Cinderella story we've all been hearing over the years, even including the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein romantic subplot. As I would describe in the words of Oscar Hammerstein II, this version of Cinderella is 'Some Enchanted Evening'! Read My Full Review Here!

  5. Annie-As I went into this touring production, I was aware that this production was being done the old fashioned way, so I was expecting 'your grandmother's kind of theatre', which for the most part really wasn't. Yes, it is done the old fashioned way, but in a very good way. A very top-notch design team is shown through great display, but what I personally found to be most compelling about this production was the cast consisting of mostly non-equity actors. While this production may be seen to some as dated, they should keep in mind that the original production was successful for a reason! Read My Full Review Here!

Congratulations to the Durham Performing Arts Center on such a great season, and I look forward to the next one!



Fourth Show Added For Trevor Noah at Durham Performing Arts Center, March 27, 2023 Photo
By popular demand, a fourth show has been added for Trevor Noah.  Comedian kicks off world tour by visiting 28 Cities across the United States, including four nights in Durham, NC at DPAC on Friday, March 24, Saturday, March 25, Sunday, March 26, and Monday, March 27, 2023.

Triangle Performance Ensemble Returns To The Stage Celebrating 16 Years Of BLACK NATIVITY  Photo
Black Nativity Durham, presented by Triangle Performance Ensemble, returns to the stage after being virtual for two years due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Durham Performing Arts Center Adds Third Show for Comedian Trevor Noah, March 26, 2023 Photo
By popular demand, a third show has been added for Trevor Noah.  Comedian kicks off world tour by visiting 28 Cities across the United States, including three nights in Durham, NC at DPAC on Friday, March 24, Saturday, March 25, and Sunday, March 26, 2023.

Review: HAIRSPRAY National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center Photo
Based on John Waters' 1988 cult film of the same name, Hairspray takes place in Baltimore, Maryland in the year 1962. The story centers on a plump teenage girl named Tracy Turnblad, whose lifelong dream is to dance on the local TV dance program known as The Corny Collins Show. When Tracy wins a role on the show and becomes an overnight sensation, she launches a campaign to integrate the show.


From This Author - Jeffrey Kare

Jeffrey Kare currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina. Having been born and raised in Northeast Ohio, Jeffrey took interest in live theater at age 11. He also had the great pleasure of seeing s... (read more about this author)


Review: HAIRSPRAY National Tour at Durham Performing Arts CenterReview: HAIRSPRAY National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center
November 17, 2022

Based on John Waters' 1988 cult film of the same name, Hairspray takes place in Baltimore, Maryland in the year 1962. The story centers on a plump teenage girl named Tracy Turnblad, whose lifelong dream is to dance on the local TV dance program known as The Corny Collins Show. When Tracy wins a role on the show and becomes an overnight sensation, she launches a campaign to integrate the show.

Review: North Carolina Theatre's STEEL MAGNOLIASReview: North Carolina Theatre's STEEL MAGNOLIAS
November 6, 2022

Set in Chinquapin, Louisiana during the late 1980s, Steel Magnolias takes place in Truvy's beauty salon where all the ladies who are 'anybody' come to have their hair done. Helped by her eager new assistant, Annelle (who is not sure whether or not she is still married), the outspoken, wise-cracking Truvy dispenses shampoos and free advice to several of her friends.

Interview: Kathleen Garrett of North Carolina Theatre's STEEL MAGNOLIASInterview: Kathleen Garrett of North Carolina Theatre's STEEL MAGNOLIAS
November 2, 2022

From November 4th-13th, North Carolina Theatre will be launching their 2022-23 season with a production of Robert Harling's STEEL MAGNOLIAS at A.J. Fletcher Opera Theatre, which is located inside Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Actress Kathleen Garrett is taking on the role of Ouiser Boudreaux. She has most recently appeared as Laura Bush on the Showtime series, THE FIRST LADY, as well as Netflix's Emmy nominated miniseries, INVENTING ANNA. Next, she'll be seen on NCIS: LOS ANGELES. She has countless other screen credits which includes appearing on episodes of different TV shows such as HOME IMPROVEMENT, ER, MURDER, SHE WROTE, MURPHY BROWN, THE WEST WING, BEVERLY HILLS, 90210, MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, LAW & ORDER, and many more. She's also appeared in Oscar nominated films such as 2007's AMERICAN GANGSTER directed by Ridley Soctt and 2020's THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 directed by Aaron Sorkin. I had the great pleasure of interviewing her about a lot of this and more.

Review: FROZEN National Tour at Durham Performing Arts CenterReview: FROZEN National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center
September 16, 2022

Based on Disney's 2013 Academy Award-winning animated movie musical of the same name as well as Hans Christian Andersen's 1844 fairy tale, The Snow Queen, Frozen follows two royal sisters named Anna and Elsa. Read our review of the stage show, based on the blockbuster film, which eventually became the highest-grossing animated movie of all time at the worldwide box office (before it was eventually dethroned by Frozen II six years later).

Review: Theatre Raleigh's YELLOW FACEReview: Theatre Raleigh's YELLOW FACE
July 1, 2022

What did our critic think? Yellow Face follows Asian-American playwright DHH. Fresh off his Tony Award win for M. Butterfly, he leads a protest against the casting of Jonathan Pryce as the Eurasian pimp in the original Broadway production of Miss Saigon, condemning the practice as 'yellowface.' His position soon comes back to haunt him when he mistakes a Caucasian actor, Marcus G. Dahlman, for mixed-race, and casts him as the lead Asian role of his own Broadway-bound comedy, Face Value. When DHH discovers the truth of Marcus' ethnicity, he tries to conceal his blunder to protect his reputation as an Asian-American role model by passing the actor off as a 'Siberian Jew.'