COME FROM AWAY

****1/2

First, let me put your mind at ease; although this musical takes place on 9/11/01 and the days following, this is NOT a musical about painful memories. It IS a joyous, good-will musical about 9,000 stoic, weather-beaten north islanders defrosting their hearts and opening their homes to give 7,000 displaced people accommodations and hospitality for a few days, and changing their lives in the process. This is the definition of a feel-good musical.

The music ranges from Celtic to pop show tunes. The stories are interesting and honest. The cast of 12 (not a chorus boy among them) play multiple roles as townsfolk and their stranded guests. Plus, it’s always a pleasure to see Jenn Colella and Chad Kimball perform. The Book, Music and Lyrics for COME FROM AWAY are by the husband & wife writing team Irene Sankoff and David Hein, based on their own experience and interviews. (See if you can spot their on-stage doppelgangers.)

This show had MANY out-of-town performances leading up to the Broadway run and it pays off with clockwork precision both in the delivery of the lines and songs. Under Christopher Ashley‘s direction, this cast knows what works and exactly how to milk it.

Clips from the Show

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SWEENEY TODD

Jeremy Secomb and Siobhan McCarthy in The Tooting Arts Club production of Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Photo by Sara Krulwich.

****

A friend recently said to me “Oh, God! Not another SWEENEY TODD!” And I understand. I couldn’t sit thru another GYPSY. But aren’t we all waiting for that one SWEENEY that really terrifies us?

This SWEENEY may be teeny with only 8 Actors and 3 Musicians, but it is the first one that truly creeped me out. I found myself looking all around so I wouldn’t be startled at Mr. Todd’s final entrance. Not that this production is gruesome. There is actually less blood than most, but Jeremy Secomb and Siobhan McCarthy are such a lethal pair, I found myself wondering which one was responsible for “breaking down” the corpses.

This production was site specific in London, but we have to settle for “immersive” at the Barrow Street Theatre, which is gutted to create a pie shop. Pies are available pre-show and the dinner tables double as playing space. There are no mics, which is both irksome and exciting.

So this SWEENEY delivers on meat pies and mayhem, and when Norm Lewis and Carolee Carmello take over on April 11th, I may need to sit thru yet another performance of SWEENEY TODD. ; )

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Video about the production

AMELIE, A New Musical”

L-R: Savvy Crawford and Phillipa Soo in “Amélie, A New Musical” at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre. “Photo by Joan Marcus.

** 1/2
“Amélie” is a 2001 French film starring the enchanting Audrey Tautou in a hyper-fantastical tale of a sheltered young woman with a unique vision of the world.  The film is nonstop eye candy with a tender heart. AMELIE, A New Musical”, is based on the movie, and has the equally enchanting Phillipa Soo, scenery and costumes that are eye candy and a heart that begs to be loved.  And that distinction weighs negatively on the delicate nature of this sweet story.

Craig Lucas has boosted the romance in the story and lost its originality. The opening is a little too coy and in trying to recreate the whirlwind feel of the movie, it becomes only marginally coherent. Once the show hits its stride it regains intelligibility and loses its uniqueness. Amélie’s young self/ confidante feels hackneyed and the ancillary characters are underused. The music and lyrics are pleasant and could use more varied arrangements.

Phillipa Soo‘s Amélie gives Audrey Tautou a run for her money. Charismatic, bewitching and sly, she sings from her guarded, creative heart and almost makes this 1:40 minute musical worth seeing.

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A Clip From The Show