Last night I was treated to an evening of British surreal and slapstick humor at the Straz Center’s Jaeb Theatre.
The Jaeb is a laid-back theatre with tables and chairs instead of traditional theatre seating. I had a great center seat about three rows back, and came ready for an evening of laughter. I received two free tickets from The Straz Center in exchange for my honest review as a member of the Tampa Bay Bloggers.
“Hysteria” has a bit of mystery, a dash of song and dance, a spooky mansion, a lot of slapstick comedy and a touch of nudity. It has been running for nearly 20 years in the UK under the name “Cooped,” and the Straz Center in Tampa, Florida, is hosting its American premiere.
I thought I knew British humor from the likes of Mr. Bean and Monty Python, but this show was a bit more like the seventh grade hallway my office happens to be located in.
In “Hysteria,” Laura du Lay arrives at a remote mansion in Northumberlandshirehampton and uncovers murder, love and mistaken identity. Is the handsome Forbes Murdston insane? Is his mysterious manservant Klaus who he says he is? Are Laura’s terrible dreams a warning of further tragedy?
The crowd around me often roared with laughter during this show. You can expect crazy costumes, stupid injuries, physical comedy, fart jokes, incongruity, absurd situations and the like.
The 10th Anniversary tour of the ’80s rock show “Rock of Ages” is playing June11 – 15, 2019, at the Straz Center in Tampa, Florida. You may have seen the movie with Julianne Hough, Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise, but the Broadway show came first! It’s a boy meets girl story that takes place on L.A.’s Sunset Strip in the late ’80s and is sprinkled with ’80s rock tunes and ballads you’ll want to sing along with from your seat.
I love that the show doesn’t take itself seriously, it ain’t nothing but a good time. Bands featured include Whitesnake, Pat Benatar, Poison, Journey, Starship and REO Speedwagon – among others. The story is light, humorous and shallow, and it’s OK to sing and clap along. You may find jazz hands are encouraged. It’s not quite as boisterous as a rock concert – this is the Straz after all – but most of the audience is over 45 anyway, so they have some decorum.
This is a restaging of the show, so if you have seen it before don’t expect the same production. The set is multi-leveled, and concert road boxes are used in fun ways – making rooms pop up out of nowhere. And then there’s the bathroom scene…
Feel free to come in costume or your old Bon Jovi concert T-Shirt with a leather mini skirt. There’s a lot of 80s cosplay going on in the audience.
The singing in this production is fantastic! Every side character seems to be able to belt to the hills. I was especially astonished by the voice on Kristina Walz as Regina and the hysterical performance by Sam Harvey.
My only warnings for you are that there is adult language and strobe lights – but, like, whatever. The only thing I would have changed was Sherrie’s wig.
And because I know you want it, here’s a video montage of the show so you can see and hear for yourself:
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!