Posts Tagged ‘Proctors Theatre’

Cynthia Erivo as Celie in the Broadway revival

I never finished reading Alice Walker’s powerful 1982 novel The Color Purple, though I had read good chunks of it.

The movie came out in late 1985, so I would have seen it in the first three months of the following year. I thought it was strong, powerful, and occasionally difficult to watch. Danny Glover played Mister/Albert, who was a brute. Whoopi Goldberg as Celie Johnson, Margaret Avery and Shug Avery, and, surprisingly, Oprah Winfrey as Sofia were quite good, as was the rest of the cast.

The film garnered 11 Academy Award nominations, including for those three women, winning zero, making it the film with the most noms with no Oscars. Goldberg and director Steven Spielberg did win the Golden Globes, and the film was named best drama.

Then there was the first Broadway production which ran from December 2005 to the end of February 2008, nominated for 11 Tonys, and winning one, LaChanze as Celie. Renée Elise Goldsberry, later of Hamilton fame, played Celie’s sister Nettie. The touring company production ended a couple years later.

The musical was revived at the end of 2015 and closed early in 2017. It was nominated for four Tonys, and won Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, Cynthia Erivo as Celie.

The touring show started on October 17, 2017 in Baltimore. But wait. What did I see on October 8 at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, featuring “director John Doyle’s deceptively simple set design, a towering array of angled, broken barn boards and mismatched wooden chairs that rise up from the stage to the overhead fly-space”?

Technically, it was a preview show, working out the bugs in the story and technical problems. I’m told the cast in the earlier production was quite large, but only 17 in this iteration. The story is strong, especially in the first half. The songs are very inspirational, especially in the second half, and performed well throughout.

A couple actors weren’t miked well, and I couldn’t really make out what they were saying.

A bigger problem for me, though, was the transformation of Mister/Albert from Act 1’s bully to Act 2’s saint. It didn’t feel earned, and as my wife noted, when a child is left in hs care, she worried about the baby’s welfare, unnecessarily so, as it turns out.

I’m sure that the technical issues will be fixed. Whether the storyline will be, I don’t know. Still, even with that caveat, it was well worth seeing.

We go to the theater a fair amount, but the first half of April 2017 was quite the outlier.

Sunday, April 2: The Little Mermaid – Catskill High School (three of us)

One of my nieces was in her fifth production, and the three of us have seen them all. This was her largest role yet, playing Flounder. She was quite good, actually, and I say this not out of familial loyalty.

In general the girls were better singers than the boys. Ariel’s sisters were fine as were Ursula’s assistants. But the hits were Sebastian (Edward Donahue), Ariel (Ade Spencer) and especially Ursula (Anna White).

Thursday, April 6: The Sound of Music – Proctors Theatre, Schenectady (three of us)

Proctors has had Broadway-quality productions for a number of years, and this was no exception. The trick with the musical is that the movie is so imprinted in the brain. My Favorite Thing is sung at the abbey, Do-Re-Mi at the Trapp villa, and The Lonely Goatherd in Maria’s bedroom, when she calms the children freaked out by the thunderstorm.

While the two leads (Charlotte Maltby, Nicholas Rodriguez) are fine, and the children are amazingly good, the largest applause went to Melody Betts as Mother Superior after she sang Climb Ev’ry Mountain.

We bought tickets for next season’s shows, including Fun Home, The Color Purple, Finding Neverland and On Your Feet! (the Gloria Estafan story). Buying a subscription THIS year will mean getting dibs on buying toicxkets for Hamilton in 2018-2019.

(Only somewhat off topic: Alison Bechdel is Vermont’s cartoonist laureate. She created Fun Home.)

Saturday, April 8, 2017: They Built America: The Workers of the Erie Canal – local school (two of us)

This is a Capital Rep show commemorating the 200th anniversary of the groundbreaking of the engineering feat that went from Albany to Buffalo. “Meet the real men, women and children, the politicians, farmers, merchants and laborers who…[built] the Erie Canal.” There are four actors, and three of them, the two men and one of the women, play multiple parts. It was quite good, about an hour long and suitable for children.

The Daughter should have come.

Sunday, April 9: Oliver! – Albany High School (two of us)

This was, aside from some occasional sound problems, extraordinarily good. I was’t familiar with the story, though I sang Consider Yourself in glee club in high school. It’s a dark, sordid, violent tale.

The standout were the terrifying Bill Sykes (Ackazemas Myers), the show-stopping singer Nancy (Williemae Fiddemon), and the shifty Fagen (Raphael Cohen), who had a fun bit with the violinist in the orchestra. Oliver was played by sixth-grader Hassan Laing who was good, but occasionally miked badly.

Saturday, April 15: Beautiful: the Carole King Story – Proctors Theatre, Schenectady (two of us)

I saw this on the calendar months ago and said, Who scheduled this for Holy Week?” It’s only on the Wednesday through Sunday. I have to sing or rehearse or travel the other days. Based on the packed house for this matinee, many folks wee in the same boat.

Just from casual conversation with the folks around the Wife and me, it was clear that almost everyone knew the Tapestry album from 1971 but few were familiar with the songwriting of Carole King (the wonderful Julia Knitel) with husband Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin) well before that, competing to get their songs pitched to the right singer or group that might make their songs #1.

As Greg Haymes noted in Nippertown: “‘Beautiful’ could have easily been nothing more than another cliched jukebox musical gathering together the hits by songwriters of the Brill Building era, i.e., ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ (Leiber and Stoller) or ‘Leader of the Pack’ (Ellie Greenwich). But thanks to some smart, comic dialogue by Douglas McGrath, deft direction by Marc Bruni and strong, all-around performances by the cast, ‘Beautiful’ is a snappy musical that rises above the level of the usual jukebox musical expectations.

“But it’s not all about King, and the title of the show is something of a misnomer. The secondary couple – portraying the songwriting team of Cynthia Weil (Erika Olson) and Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) – and their music is crucial.”

Yes, it wasn’t just a Kingfest, as the early “1650 Broadway Medley” had songs from Neil Sedaka (singer of “Oh, Carol”), Leiber and Stoller, Phil Spector and many others. The Mann/Weil hit You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling was a standout.

But Act 2 belonged to the former Carole Klein. I LOVED this show.

snow.wnyt
The first time I wore boots in the winter of 2015-2016: April 5, 2016.
The first time I SHOULD have worn boots in that period: April 4, 2016, which ended up generating four inches, about 10 cm. I should have worn them mostly because people seem to have forgotten how to shovel snow. This includes, BTW, the building I work in. With temperatures hitting 70F (21C) in the past couple weeks, temperatures in the 20s F (just below zero C) is a shock to some.

But it was a non-event winter here, so I’m not complaining about a little April snow. It has snowed in Albany in April before Read the rest of this entry »

pippinI’d been waiting to see Pippin, the Stephen Schwartz musical, for the last forty-plus years, ever since I was living in my college town of New Paltz in the mid-1970s, and saw the “first TV commercial that actually showed scenes from a Broadway show” on the New York City TV stations.

“The commercial, which ran 60 seconds, showed Ben Vereen [as the Leading Player] and two other dancers, Candy Brown and Pamela Sousa who were in the chorus of the show, in the instrumental dance sequence from ‘Glory’. The commercial ended with the tagline, ‘You can see the other 119 minutes of Pippin live at the Imperial Theatre, without commercial interruption.'”
Read the rest of this entry »

skd283131sdcIt’s peculiar that I hardly ever write about plays and musicals, given the fact that I go to them quite often, at various venues.

One great location is Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, pretty much the next city over from Albany, in the once a rundown vaudeville house that’s now a refurbished gem. Shows that had been on Broadway and are now touring show up here. It holds about 2700 patrons.

The Wife and I saw at least two shows in the 2010-11 season:
February 2011: Lion King. Astonishing, starting with the entrances from throughout the theater
May 2011: Hair. The story doesn’t age well, but it was still fun, with a lot of talented vocalists.
Read the rest of this entry »

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