Beloved Les Miserables Musical Comes to Austin’s Bass Concert Hall

lesmis_1060Les Miz is a must see on any musical lover’s bucket list. UT’s Bass Concert Hall and Texas Performing Arts are bringing this fabulous Tony-winning Broadway show to Austin. Even if you’ve seen Les Mis many times before, the new staging and dazzlingly reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo make this one different and well worth another look.

07_LES_MIZ_TOUR_2_18_1655_1670_Mary Kate Moore as Fantine.jpg(photos by Matthew Murphy)

Seen by more than 70 million people in 44 countries and in 22 languages around the globe, Les Misérables is still the world’s most popular musical, breaking box office records everywhere in its 32nd year. Cameron Mackintosh presents the new production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Les Misérables direct from an acclaimed two-and-a-half-year return to Broadway. View the playbill.

05_LM_TOUR_One Day More - Photo Matthew Murphy.jpgSet against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Featuring the thrilling score and beloved songs “I Dreamed A Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” and many more, this epic and uplifting story has become one of the most celebrated musicals in theatrical history.

Two years after the Revolution of 1830, France is on the brink of violence once again. Dismayed that one king has been replaced by another, a group of rebels are plotting to overthrow the monarchy and lay claim to the throne for the common people.

The musical follows the story of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict who manages to build a new life for himself and his adopted daughter Cosette. Yet his new found happiness cannot last for long, because the unrelenting police inspector Javert, who has been hunting Valjean for two decades, is close on his tail. As Valjean’s past finally catches up with him, all of the characters are swept up in the chaos that breaks out on Paris ‘streets, in an epic story of thwarted love, forgiveness and the enduring strength of the human spirit.

The show runs for a short time in Austin from September 10th to 15th with a variety of show times and ticket prices. Check out all the information.

Hamilton in Austin Is Worth the Wait- Playing Through June 16th

Nik Walker - HAMILTON National Tour - (c) Joan Marcus 2018.jpg(Nik Walker, photo by Joan Marcus)

The long wait is over- Austin fans can finally see Hamilton- one of the top musicals in history -some say the best of all time-winning countless awards around the world including Tony Awards and Pulitzer Prize. Lin-Manuel Miranda is now a household name for bringing modern pop culture into historical theater. It’s broken rules, boundaries and records. For the last few years, people outside of NYC and Broadway couldn’t fathom actually seeing the buzz-worthy show in person. Even in New York, tickets were scarce and often resale prices were in the thousands and out of reach for most. Yes it is worth the price and lives up to all the hype.

Joseph Morales and Nik Walker - HAMILTON National Tour - (C) Joan Marcus 2018.jpg(Joseph Morales photo by Joan Marcus)

The entire ensemble was brilliant in acting and choreography. Morales is flawless and feels like Miranda. Of importance is the fact that the all white founding fathers are played by non-white actors. Fans will be happy to know that many cast members on the touring show in Austin are from the original cast including lead (Alexander Hamilton) Joseph Morales (Chicago) who looks and appears like Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator/actor). The actors were so well cast and such a fit that one would assume Miranda hand picked each of them. The other lead characters are Burr (Nik Walker), then two sisters- Eliza (Erin Clemons) who eventually marries Alexander-and Angelica Schuyler (Ta’Rea Campbell). These actors were phenomenal and believable and worked cohesively to tell the story of Alexander. The actors in the great supporting, almost lead group were actually standouts and included John Laurens/Philip Hamilton (Elijah Malcomb), Lafayette/Jefferson (Kyle Scatliffe), James Madison (Fergie L. Philippe), George Washington (Marcus Choi).

There were bits of comedy relief throughout and at times King George (Jon Patrick Walker) stole the show with appearance, facial expressions, and the mannerisms that accompanied the comedic lyrics. He exuded jealousy and anger like an obsessed lover (Great Britain) who is losing his grip on his woman (America) as she slips away from his power and control. He says “You’ll be back-Remember despite our estrangement, I’m your man, You’ll be back, Soon you’ll see, You’ll remember you belong to me, You’ll be back”.Jon Patrick Walker - HAMILTON National Tour - (c) Joan Marcus 2018.jpg(Jon Patrick Walker photo by Joan Marcus)

The story dives deep into the mastermind of Hamilton who came from nothing as an immigrant from the Caribbean to going to Columbia University (then King’s College) and becoming a lawyer to becoming the president’s right hand man and then the first American Treasury Secretary after proving his worth on many occasions during the great war with Britain. He’s responsible for the financial systems and Wall Street today. The show covers all his flaws including his irrational decisions, stubbornness, and his indiscretions during his marriage and the tragic loss of his son Philip in a duel-perhaps giving him bad advice to attend. Hamilton had 8 kids but Miranda focused on Philip. Sadly the show ends with him losing his life too soon in a duel (repeating the exact tragic end his son went through) via a bullet from Burr. It didn’t have to happen which is what makes it so tragic. Stubborn competitiveness/ego is to blame. The show ends with Hamilton being rowed back to Manhattan lifeless and his wife looking into the light of heaven in despair.

Joseph Morales and Company - HAMILTON National Tour - (c) Joan Marcus 2018.jpg(cast photo by Joan Marcus)

The star of the show is of course the music- as it’s sung and rapped and seamlessly combines old with modern worlds. It’s a testament to Miranda that millions of young new theater fans have jumped into attending musicals because of him. The blend of hip hop and history has proven to get more people excited to learn and attend. The show has attracted all ages, races, and cultures because of the songs and the relatable lyrics-taking an old topic and making it new and interesting like a good teacher would. Highlights include:  ‘My Shot’, ‘Wait For It’, ‘The Room Where it Happens’, ‘Alexander Hamilton’, the hilarious ‘You’ll Be Back’, ‘Satisfied’, ‘The Schuyler Sisters’, ‘Yorktown’. There are 51 total numbers and it often feels like there’s only a split second between any two songs. The show runs at a quick pace so at times you feel you can’t keep up. It runs through 30 years of history and over 20,000 words so it has to be continuous.

Part of what makes Hamilton so powerful and inspiring is the fact that it’s a political story that includes gun violence, hate, and racism that often mimics what our country is facing today.  Manuel is a genius in how he blends rhyme and wordplay. The lyrics are familiar and powerful. “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”, “How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower somehow defeat a global superpower?”, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, “We fought for these ideals; we shouldn’t settle for less” and “How you say, no sweat, we’re finally on the field. We’ve had quite a run”- Immigrants: “We get the job done”.  Other modern/relatable (often direct quotes) and often hilarious one liners in the show are highlights: “I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry”. “Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!” “Why do you write like it’s going out of style?”.”When I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m’a compel him to include women in the sequel!” “Wait for it”. “Being a self-starter”. “But my God, she looks so helpless, and her body’s saying, “hell, yes”.

The choreography was also superb. Mixes of ballet and hip-hop dominated and often had the ensemble both singing and dancing. Andy Blankenbuehler, choreographer, has talked about the importance of bringing the lyrics to life and slowing down time by creating the appearance of slow-motion sequences throughout. He uses poses and movements from baseball to illustrate important lyrics and emotions. Stopping time to magnify Hamilton’s thoughts was evident while often including modern hip-hop moves with the modern lyrics. There are huge sequences that are repeated over the course of the show due to their importance; you’ll notice these for example during ‘My Shot’, ‘Right Hand Man’, and ‘Room Where it Happens’.

The production is incredible and is the same production that’s on Broadway. It’s a simple set–or appears so at first– made of mostly wood (or faux)- with wood floors- with a rotating circular center-or turntable stage piece that the cast must artfully and carefully dance across and through- massively tall side brick walls and wood scaffolding staircases that move, long beams on the ceiling, second-level catwalk, and loose ropes used in a variety of scenes (apparently designed to resemble the inside of a boat). The lights were important and often single spotlights but many numbers included drop down candle lanterns that created a romantic ambience and are historically accurate due lack of electricity (was invented later).

bronze metal texture with high details; Shutterstock ID 115354759(Joan Marcus)

More about Hamilton: Creator, writer, actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. Hamilton is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton runs through June 16th at Bass Concert Hall on the UT campus. The show runs about 3 hours total including one intermission. Tickets are available but limited. You can also try the Hamilton app to win $10 tickets.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch Review

by Tina Berard
As you enter the Zach Theatre for an evening with Hedwig and the Angry Inch, you realize that you are in for something a bit out of the ordinary. Guests are donning boas, wigs and knee-high boots while a lounge singer croons and a gallery of women and men in drag line the walls. “This is going to be fun!” is my first thought.
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After a glass of wine and chit-chat we are escorted to our seats and a bit confused as to why the set was that of the popular children’s book, Goodnight Moon. We were soon to discover that elements of that juvenile scene were morphed into hilarious visuals for Hedwig, played by Daniel Rowan. And speaking of visuals, the costumes that Hedwig wore were very entertaining and colorful throughout the show. The legs on Hedwig were beyond compare! WOW!
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is based on the life of Hedwig, an East German boy who underwent a botched sex-change operation. Hedwig tells us of her sad and lonely upbringing, her stern mother, and how a marriage to a man brings her to the United States. As a child she loved music and became a rock singer in America among other occupations that forced her to sell her body.
Part of what makes this special is that it’s a cast of only two! Hedwig is accompanied by her band The Angry Inch and her current husband Yitzhak, played by Leslie McDonel, throughout the show. As Hedwig maneuvers through heartbreak and the promise of stardom, she performs wild tunes and dance moves that are sure to stir up a variety of emotions. One of the pleasant surprises of the night was the amazing voice of Yitzhak. The songs he/she sung and beauty of his/her voice were beyond compare during the show.

The show was rather short with no intermission but packed with hilarity and raw emotion. The actors left it all on the stage and put their whole selves into their roles. By the end of the show you feel the message of struggle, hope, and growth very intimately. This production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch is one of many since it’s 1998 debut and the first Broadway appearance in 2014. It’s strong, fun and poignant and I highly recommend seeing it before it leaves Austin on March 3.

Created by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is “the most exciting rock score written for the theatre since, oh, ever” says Time Magazine. Winner of two Obie Awards and four Tony Awards®, Hedwig tells the story of “internationally ignored song stylist” Hedwig Schmidt, a fourth-wall-smashing East German rock ‘n’ roll goddess . See “The Angry Inch” for a rock concert and stand-up comedy event that will inspire you.

Band members:

Luke Linsteadt………………….Guitar/Keys
Chris Tondre…………………….Guitar
Beau Moore………………………Bass
Harrell Williams, Jr……………..Percussion

WHAT: Hedwig and the Angry Inch directed by Dave Steakley

WHERE: The Topfer at ZACH Theatre

Age Recommendation: 17 and up for strong language and adult themes

For more information and tickets visit Zach Theater

Preview: The Book of Mormon is Back by Popular Demand at Bass Concert Hall

Monica L. Patton, Kevin Clay, Conner Peirson - The Book of Mormon (c) Julieta Cervantes 2017.jpgTHE BOOK OF MORMON is back in Austin by Popular Demand

THE BOOK OF MORMON features book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Parker and Stone are the four-time Emmy Award-winning creators of the landmark animated series, “South Park.” Tony Award-winner Lopez is co-creator of the long-running hit musical comedy, Avenue Q.  The musical is choreographed by Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw (Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone) and is directed by Nicholaw and Parker.

This outrageous musical comedy follows the misadventures of a mismatched pair of missionaries, sent halfway across the world to spread the Good Word.The Book of Mormon follows two young missionaries who are sent to Uganda to try to convert citizens to the Mormon religion. One missionary, Elder Price, is an enthusiastic go-getter with a strong dedication to his faith, while his partner, Elder Cunningham, is a socially awkward but well-meaning nerd whose tendency to embroider the truth soon lands him in trouble. Upon their arrival in Africa, Elders Price and Cunningham learn that in a society plagued by AIDS, poverty and violence, a successful mission may not be as easy as they expected. More information on the show at Broadway.com

It’s the winner of nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Book (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Direction (Casey Nicholaw, Trey Parker), Best Featured Actress (Nikki M. James), Best Scenic Design (Scott Pask), Best Lighting Design (Brian MacDevitt), Best Sound Design (Brian Ronan) and Best Orchestrations (Larry Hochman, Stephen Oremus).

The music is a critical part of the success of this show. Read this interesting story on the music synopsis

The New York Times says “THE BEST MUSICAL OF THIS CENTURY. Heaven on Broadway! A celebration of the privilege of living inside that improbable paradise called a musical comedy.” (Ben Brantley)

The show runs 2 hrs 30 minutes with one intermission. More info and ticket info can be found at Texas Performing Arts

UT Students get exclusive access to $10 tickets to Broadway shows, concerts, comedians, and fine art performances. Buy the Bass Pass online today at basspass.org

Bass Concert Hall at UT is one of the premiere venues in Austin for the arts. Broadway in Austin presented by Texas Performing Arts brings to Austin THE BOOK OF MORMON. Broadway Across America provides production services for Texas Performing Arts.

School of Rock- The Musical Comes to Bass Hall Austin

Lexus Broadway in Austin presented by Texas Performing Arts brings School of Rock- The Musical Feb 13-18 at Bass Concert Hall at the UT campus in Austin.

school_of_rock_1060x563_1SCHOOL OF ROCK is a New York Times Critics’ Pick and “AN INSPIRING JOLT OF ENERGY, JOY AND MAD SKILLZ!” (Entertainment Weekly).

With a book by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey), music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Glenn Slater, the show is based on the hit film, this hilarious new musical follows Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star posing as a substitute teacher who turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. This high-octane smash features 14 new songs, all the original songs from the movie and musical theater’s first-ever kids rock band playing their instruments live on stage.

Directed by Laurence Connor, School of Rock was nominated for four 2016 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. The top songs include “When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock,” “You’re in the Band,” “Stick It to the Man” and “School of Rock.”

Rave reviews around the country – a must see for all ages (especially music lovers)!

Tickets are available at Texas Performing Arts