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.
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...
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...
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!