musical

“Come From Away” now in Tampa, Florida

Thanks to a wonderful partnership between the Tampa Bay Bloggers and the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, I receive two free tickets to see “Come From Away.” All opinions are my own.

Raffi and Brian at Straz Center

Last night my husband and I enjoyed watching the opening night of “Come From Away” in Tampa, Florida. The show opened on Broadway in March 2017 and has been performing to standing-room-only audiences. The North American tour of Broadway’s Come From Away started in October 2018. The heartwarming production is full of true stories and human emotion.

“Come From Away” is a musical about events immediately following 9/11. Many planes in flight were diverted for safety purposes to a small town in the province of Newfoundland, Canada. Thousands of people nearly doubled the population of the town, and while scared and confused needed places to eat, sleep, mourn, etc.

Map of USA and Newfoundland

I first heard of the show last year when the Straz Center had a preview night of their upcoming Broadway season. We were lucky enough to be treated to a song from the show sung from the perspective of Beverly Bass, an American Airlines Pilot who really lived through these moments. Beverly was the third female pilot hired by a major commercial airline in American history. She was the captain of the first all-female crew in aviation history. Not only did we witness a spectacular Broadway rendition of the song, but Beverly Bass actually came on stage and introduced herself and the show. When she was asked to divert her landing to Gander, Newfoundland – she didn’t know why. She wasn’t watching TV footage of the Twin Towers like many of us, she was busy flying a plane full of people from Paris to Texas.

Come from away cast singing

The show focuses on stories like these – the people who were stranded and the compassion (and sometimes lack thereof) shown to them. It has simple sets of mis-matched chairs and tables you might find in a thrift store, fast-paced music with some Irish rock influences, and a cast of average, middle-aged people who might live right next door to you.

I love that the show started with the number “Welcome to the Rock.” (The rock being their island.) It was upbeat and catchy and apropos to greet audiences with the actual word WELCOME. I liked the particular verbiage, such as calling the thousands of passengers “plane people” and the locals “islanders.” I laughed and cried and danced in my seat (and on my feet during the curtain call.)

This show is 100 minutes with no intermission. It is recommended for ages 10 and older. At the 71st Tony Awards, it was nominated for 7 awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Featured Actress in a Musical, ultimately winning for Best Direction of a Musical for Christopher Ashley. 

It is only showing in Tampa through June 9, 2019! Get your tickets here. Watch a quick montage here.

View more photos on the show’s Facebook page here.

A Bronx Tale at Straz Center

This week I got a special treat as part of a partnership between Tampa Bay Bloggers and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida. I received two tickets to see “A Bronx Tale” in exchange for this post.

“A Bronx Tale” started their national tour in fall 2018 and is currently in Tampa, Florida. But get your tickets fast! The show is only in town through February 3!

(And I know February sounds like it’s a long way off, but it’s tomorrow…)

The show’s book is an autobiographical tale by Academy Award nominee Chazz Palminteri (who has been in over 55 movies, so you know him from something), with music by Oscar, Grammy, and Tony Award winner Alan Menken (As in Disney’s Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Aladdin, Little Shop of Horrors, Enchanted, etc…) and lyrics by Grammy Award winner and Oscar and Tony Award nominee Glenn Slater, directed by two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro (you know who he is!) and four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks, with choreography by Tony nominee Sergio Trujillo.

I believe this was my first time going into a Straz show without knowing anything about the production, nor having seen the film. It was just date night with my husband and anything could happen. So imagine our surprise when this guy’s tale about being raised by a loving family in the home and the MOB outside the home told one of OUR stories in the middle of it!

The lead character, C, based on Chazz Palminteri, is told if he picks up a girl in a car and opens the door for her, she should unlock his door from the inside while he walks around to his side of the car – or she’s too selfish to bother with. Brian totally tested me that way on a date 22+ years ago! When we first started dating he was in college living in a dorm without a car, and I drove us around in my mom’s Toyota Camry, which had power locks. But when he was home on spring break or summer break, he’d have his dad’s car (Bessie) and she did not have power locks. So he used that test on me the first time he picked me up in the burgundy Pontiac.

“A Bronx Tale” is full of real life stuff like that – only the guy had mob ties, so for him that was also part of real life stuff. But so was learning about following his heart and passion from his dad, and standing up for what he believed in when he went against the status quo – natural parts of many lives.

The song was touching at many moments, racially charged, funny, relatable, shocking and sad at other moments. The singing ties everything together, although the dancing is athletic and wonderful when it pops up!

“A Bronx Tale” started as a one-man show, so this musical adaptation is guided heavily by C’s narration. This let’s audiences frequently know what was going on in his head. It is set in the 1960s, so the score is heavy on doo-wop style music. The show reminded me more of “Jersey Boys” than of my own time living in New York City because of the period it was set in. There are a couple of video clips on the backstory on the Straz’s website. You can also see more on the show’s YouTube channel, I like this one highlighting the kid who kicks off the production with chops. Frankie Leoni was great as young C, and another standout singer was Richard H. Blake as Lorenzo, C’s father.

I really did laugh and cry, I also was shocked into gasping a couple of times. It may not stick with me forever, but it was entertaining for a great date night! I found it very interesting that Oprah and Deepak Chopra taught me lessons about how to follow love vs. fear, but I could have learned that while watching “A Bronx Tale” in a plush velvet seat in Carol Morsani Hall for $65+ right here in Tampa!

Get tickets while the show is still around on the Straz’s website, here.

Chicago the Musical at the Straz

As part of their Broadway series, the Straz Center in Tampa, Florida, is welcoming the razzle-dazzle smash “Chicago” this week.

Chicago is slinky and sexy, it’s funny and brutal, and it makes you think twice about what you hear and what you read. It’s actually all about SEX, CRIMINAL JUSTICE and FAKE NEWS. And I’m not kidding. It is intended for mature audiences, and they should wear their black fishnets. (That said, on Thursday, September 20, deeply discounted tickets are available for teens, plus a free pre-show event with live entertainment, games, raffles and refreshments.)

This jazz-era hit musical is the recipient of 6 Tony Awards®, 2 Olivier Awards, a Grammy®, and is now the No. 1 longest-running American musical in Broadway history. The 2002 film version of the musical won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It must be the hot dance moves from Bob Fosse!

So here’s the setting. Think back to the 1920’s. It was lewd and lascivious for a woman to roll her stockings down. Rouge was the devil. Booze and jazz music were corrupting people right and left. Suddenly there was a string of murders committed by women, and rumor had it that in the city of Chicago a pretty woman would not be convicted. The world was just too bamboozled by the right hair curls, the bat of an eyelash, and some cleavage.

There are real women and real cases the show is based on, and most of the events are very plausible. It makes consumers of journalism (us) think twice. And that’s all I will tell you.

However… there’s more to my story…

I hear only 5% of theatres who ask for the rights to perform Chicago receive those rights. And somehow a few years’ back my kids’ school managed to buy rights and perform Chicago. It is a little odd to see 17 year olds who babysit the little ones suddenly turning cartwheels and cha-cha’ing in fishnets and black lingerie. But it was so well done and very, very FOSSE.

Chicago at Shorecrest, 2014

My son auditioned and came home with his role on a piece of paper. It said, “one actor to play the jury.” We didn’t know what that meant. I said he probably had to sit in a jury box in a courtroom scene and do nothing. Boy was I wrong. He was ONE actor playing all 12 members of the jury! It was pure comic relief… He had little bits of costuming pieces in the jury box and would duck behind the box and pop up real fast as a cowboy, or an old lady, or someone crying into a tissue with a rosary. He played all 12 jury members in succession and the audience never knew what he’d pop up as next. (In addition he was a reporter and an ensemble singer/dancer.)

My favorite part of their production was the opening number, “All That Jazz.” It really sets the tone and shows off the singing and dancing. So when you go see Chicago at the Straz, don’t be late! It would be criminal to miss it! The show runs September 18, 2018 – September 23, 2018 and ticket prices start at $31/ea. (Except the teen special I told you about.)  The Thursday, September 20, 7:30pm performance will be American Sign Language interpreted.

BUY TICKETS NOW

Thanks to my relationship with the Tampa Bay Bloggers I received 2 free tickets to see “Chicago” in Tampa, FL, in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.

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