Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Forbidden Broadway’s Biggest Hits” Strikes Again at North Coast Rep.

“Forbidden Broadway”, Gerard Alessandrini’s (playwright-composer) forty year old spoof on Broadway musicals is baaack again, with the best of The Great Way dating back to “Annie” “Hello Dolly” , “Cats” and up to and including “Dear Evan Hanson, (or Has Been), “The Lion King”, “Frozen and “Once”, to name but a few.  

The show, which I have seen several times is pretty much the same (although it has been rewritten and updated over the years, but that doesn’t take away from craziness of it..) Just off the bat, the “Hello Dolly” spoof with Cathy Barnett as the invincible Carol Channing and the Chita and Rita show is a hoot coming from the stage and movie versions of “West Side Story”. It’s a running joke and not just in “Forbidden Broadway”. 

I was able to identify more shows than I thought I could, they came so fast and furious. Some were in your face easy to identify like “Chicago”, “The Lion King”, “Fiddler on The Roof”, and “Phantom of the Opera” (mask on wrong side if the Phantom’s face). And I did get a kick out of “Jersey Boys” with Selby, Rapier and Staudenmayer. Some might recall it originated at The La Jolla Playhouse. 

You don’t have to be a Broadway maven to get all the inside jokes, but it does help to know something about a show’s content like familiar songs, though skewed, and well -known actors of the past like Robert Goulet.  It also doesn’t hurt to know something about The Book of Mormon or Moron” either. 

It also takes a whole lot of respect that the talented group of four on stage at North Coast Rep. are busting their collective arses to make this show come alive. They include William Selby (who also directs), Cathy Barnett, Tricia Rapier and Edward Staudenmayer. Local conductor extraordinaire and musical director Elan McMahan is on the keyboards throughout the entire show.

The quick costume   changes are enough to spin heads. The costumes Elisa Benzoni (consultant) make up a big part of the show and if you look closely enough you can almost see the star behind the impersonator. 

Trisha Rapier does a marvelous Barbara Streisand impersonation as does Cathy Barnett’s Liza (As a side note, I did feel a pang of sadness when the Liza spoof came out. After seeing her at the Tony’s I thought, why not just let rest. But, I guess that’ show biz.) as she ventures out into the audience just so one of the audience members can chat. She is also spot on as “Hello Dolly’s” Carol Channing. 

With Marty Burnett designing the set, Mathew Novotny the lighting which was excellent, Dustin Cross, costume design and Aaron Rumley on sound, and it was loud and clear, you can’t go wrong with “Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits”. 

When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through May 22.

Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987D Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

Photo: Aaron Rumley

Tickets: $54-$65

Phone: (858) 481-1055

Online: northcoastrep.org


Friday, April 1, 2022

Voices Soar in Gounods’ “Roméo et Juliette” at San Diego Opera

 Counting how many times Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette in the theater as opposed to how many times you’ve seen it performed at an opera company and I’ll guess it’s somewhere between 20 to zero, however now is your chance. Gounod’s "Roméo et Juliette" at the Civic Theatre which has two more performances: Fri. (tonight) April 1st @7:30 pm 2:00pm Sunday. Miss it, and you will have missed some glorious singing by tenor Pene Pati as Roméo and Nichole Cabell as Juliette along with a strong all around dedicated cast.

Death scene

The story of the quintessential star crossed lovers hasn’t changed by a longshot, but hearing and seeing it through a different lens makes all the difference.  Pati, is among the few tenors that yours truly can actually match his soaring voice with ease and magnificence of say a Pavarotti, a Domingo, Caruso (yes, I have one of his recordings) or Bergonzi, Tucker, Peerce or Vickers, are but some of whom I’ve seen in the past.  

Along with the beautifully voiced soprano Nicole Cabell the star crossed lovers break all the rules of the then fighting families, The Capulets and The Montague’s and fall in love.

It’s up against this background that Gounod’ opera of Roméo et Juliette unfolds as they are forced by both family and friends to meet in secret, hide their feelings and pledge their love to Friar Laurent (bass Simon Lim) in a secret wedding ceremony ceremony.

Pene Pati and Nicole Cabell

 Later, it is the Friar who gives Juliette the powerful potent that feigns death in that all too powerful scene where Roméo thinks his lover is dead, and you know what happens from there. It’s quite dramatic yet the two lovers were up to making it look like the real deal. 

The grandness of the opera is displayed in spades as the entire company under the steady baton of Yves Abel, including the energetic staging by director Matthew Ozowa and the robust chorus/ ensemble under the direction of Chorus Master Bruce Stasyna keep the company moving all the time so there is constant motion at the Grand Ball, on Juliette’s balcony, during the fencing scenes (Doug Scholz-Carlson) and the love scenes.  

Hadleigh Adams as Mericutio

Not a weak voice heard from baritone Hadleigh Adams’ Mercutio, Roméo’s best friend, to bass Colin Ramaey as Count Capulet, Juliette’s father and Mezzo soprano Sarah Coit as Stéphano (in the pants role) who gives a feisty performance as Romeo’s page. Another strong tenor Adrain Kramer, is Tybalt, Roméo’s arch enemy and Juliette’s cousin.  Mezzo-soprano Alexandra Rodrick is Juliette’s trusted nurse Gertrude, who is always by her side and bass-baritone Ted Pickell (bass- baritone)is the sturdy Duke of Verona.

Adrian Kramer as Tybalt

Costume designer Sarah Bahr has the Montagues in shades of blue (although I thought Roméo’s costume was very unflattering) and the Capulet’s in shades of red save for Juliette who wore white. Set designer William Bowles settled for roses of all shapes and colors in the background with swords resembling crosses projected against a black backdrop, Paul Whitaker’s, lighting  set the mood and Javier Velasco choreographed the beautiful ballet numbers. 

Let’s face it, Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” has it all, all three hours of it.


When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Friday. 2 p.m. April 3.

Where: San Diego Opera at the San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., San Diego

Tickets: $35 and up

Photo: Karli Cadel

Phone: (619) 533-7000

Online: sdopera.org

Face masks required along with proof of vaccination or negative COVID 19 within 48 hours of showtime.