Stage Notes is a weekly aggregate post about theater, classical music and stage news, events, reviews and other pertinent information.
Review: Mean Girls is fetching fun
Based on the 2004 film, Mean Girls as a musical checked off all the boxes it needed to to meet expectations. Radio pop showtunes: check; thrilling choreography: got it; technical innovation: done and done. There was much to like about the show that opened Tuesday at Music Hall in Fair Park particularly the satisfaction the show’s energy emanates.
The story of teenage girl Cady (English Bernhardt) who lived in Kenya because her mother works there for some reason is uprooted to Chicago where she has to deal with paved streets, smartphones and high school fashion. There she meets the gay boy Damian (Eric Huffman) and outsider chick Janis (Mary Kate Morrissey) who welcome her with open arms and genuine interest. Cady also eventually meets the Plastics, Gretchen (Olivia Renteria) and Karen (Morgan Ashley Bryant), who serve under the queen bee Regina George (Nadina Hassan). As Cady begins to spy on them for Damian and Janis and as she navigates her feelings toward Regina’s ex Aaron (Adante Carter), Cady loses sight of who she is as well as loses friends and ultimately trust.
The musical is high energy throughout and visually an extraordinary site. Primarily using a digital backdrop screen, the scenes and locations come up quick with few props rolled in and off stage. The efficiency of this kept up with the numerous dancey musical numbers and punchline zingers. While the message of the show may be about female empowerment (or just empowerment), that did suffer a bit in lieu of the high production. Yay, girl power, but what was more memorable were the big dance extravaganzas.
A strong cast carried the show with might. Bernhardt, Huffman and Bryant all had big songs with vocal runs for days. Each actor moved in and out of dance numbers and songs with ease. Huffman stood out the most, however. He played Damian with just enough flamboyancy to be fun but not distracting. Plus, that man danced and sang like his life depended on it and he was a remarkable to watch. The diversity in the cast was also refreshing thanks to the casting of Carter as the high school heartthrob and Hassan as the spiteful ruler of the school.
If anything suffered was its lasting impression. Mean Girls isn’t a show that sticks. The songs, while infectious, were never memorable and similar enough to run together. But Mean Girls was certainly an escape that was about two hours of bubbly fun and sheer joy.
Mean Girls runs through May 15 at Broadway Dallas and July 26-31 at Bass Hall. For Dallas tickets or more information, visit BroadwayDallas.org.
Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas announces new season of shows
MainStage Irving-Las Colinas is celebrating 50 years of live theater with the announcement of Curtain Up! Light the Lights!, its 2022-23 season. The 50th anniversary season includes three plays and two musicals along with a brand-new look for its annual holiday fundraiser. The company will also host continued programming at its downtown Irving venue, MainStage 222.
MainStage Board of Directors President Steven Merritt said in a press release, “Our 2021-2022 season was an incredible reminder of just how much live theater means to this community. We are so thankful for the generosity of our patrons, donors and the Irving Arts Board as we returned to in-person performances. We’re excited to bring you five powerful pieces of theatre as part of our 2022-2023 season. From classic musicals to modern comedies, there’s something that everyone will enjoy. We hope you’ll join us for our spectacular 50th season entitled Curtain Up! Light the Lights!”
Season tickets and flex passes will be available for purchase on July 10 at the Irving Arts Center Box Office. Single tickets to all performances on the 2022-2023 season will go on sale at the center on Sept. 15.
MainStage’s Curtain Up! Light the Lights! 2022-23 season includes the following shows (from the company):
Nov. 4-19: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” this fall with Gypsy, the classic American musical about an ambitious stage mother fighting for her daughters’ success while secretly yearning for her own. This jewel of Broadway’s Golden Age will open the season. Directed by Michael Serrecchia
Date TBA: MainStage’s annual holiday fundraiser, “Have Yourself a Broadway Little Christmas” will take on a brand-new look this December. More details will be released in the coming months.
Jan. 20-Feb. 4: Lauren Gunderson’s music-laced play, Ada and the Engine, about young Ada Byron Lovelace and the invention of the first computer. Jane Austen meets Steve Jobs in this poignant pre-tech romance heralding the computer age. Directed by Raven Lawes
March 10-25: A story of self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century New York. Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel centers on an African-American woman named Esther who learns that only her self-reliance and certainty of her own worth will see her through life’s challenges.
May 5-20: Audiences will be whisked away to Italy with The Light in the Piazza. Featuring a book by Craig Lucas and music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, this sweeping musical is a story about mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and the deeply intertwined emotions of love and loss. Directed by Bruce R. Coleman
July 14-29: The season will conclude with comedian Steve Martin’s farce, The Underpants. Will a public wardrobe malfunction cost an uptight bureaucrat his reputation…or will the bloomer faux pas bloom into an unexpected blessing? Directed by B.J. Cleveland.
Coppell Arts Center announces 2022-2023 season:
The CAC announced its 2022-2023 presentation season which will feature nine diverse productions. Following its opening year, the Center’s second series will offer a variety of shows for all tastes.
Season tickets can be purchased online. The Arts Center also offers a customizable Flex Ticketing Package, allowing purchasers to build an ideal subscription featuring just their desire shows. Season subscriptions and Flex Ticketing Packages will go on public sale on Tuesday at 10 a.m. Single tickets will go on sale on June 3 at 10 a.m.
CAC’s new season includes the following (from the center):
Sept. 7: Rescheduled from the 2020- 2021 season, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra performs for the CAC.
Oct. 1 and 2: The Gazillion Bubble Show. After 20 years as a Master of Bubbles, in 2007 Fan Yang brought his unique brand of bubble artistry to the Big Apple and has since wowed bubble lovers of all ages. The Gazillion Bubble Show truly is a family affair for Fan: his wife Ana, son Deni, daughter Melody, and brother Jano all can be found on stage in New York and around the world performing their bubble magic. Audiences are delighted with an unbubblievable experience, a washed with a bubble tide, and some even find themselves inside a bubble. Mind-blowing bubble magic, spectacular laser lighting effects, and momentary soapy masterpieces will make you smile, laugh, and feel like a kid again!
Nov. 4 and 5: Spamilton: An American Parody. Gerard Alessandrini, the comic mastermind behind the long-running hit Forbidden Broadway, has created the fictitious story of a very famous writer / director / star trying to save Broadway from mediocrity and oblivion. Along the way, this sharp and lovable genius not only takes aim at Broadway’s current mega-hit but manages to make hysterical mincemeat out of many classic and new Broadway shows. Countless film and stage stars drop by to add to the fun and mayhem, making this spoof a multi-generational delight for everyone!
Dec. 15-18: A Merry Cirque Holiday Spectacular. Let the holidays begin in with this holiday event presented by Lone Star Circus. Audiences will witness thrilling daredevils, electrifying jugglers, mesmerizing acrobats, hilarious clowns, and endearing four-legged performers. A holiday show packaged for the whole family to enjoy.
Jan. 28: San Jose Taiko has been mesmerizing audiences since 1973 with the powerful and propulsive sounds of the taiko. Inspired by traditional Japanese drumming, San Jose Taiko performers express the beauty and harmony of the human spirit through the voice of the taiko as they create new dimensions in Asian American movement and music. This presentation features an interactive educational matinee and an exhilarating evening show!
Feb. 11: Forever Young follows one unforgettable group of friends as they discover the greatest hits of all time! Set in a music-filled suburban basement, this unbelievable heartfelt true story is guaranteed to take you back to the first time you pushed play, tuned in, and set the needle down. Featuring songs by Billy Joel, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Huey Lewis & The News, Styx, Queen, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Brooks & Dunn, The Black Crows, Bon Jovi, and many more, this multi-award-winning production is jam-packed with powerhouse vocals, dynamite choreography, and one sensational true story.
March 4: Dragons and Mythical Beasts. Enter a world of myths and legends in this fantastical new interactive show for all the family. Unveil myriad dark secrets and come face to face with some of the most magnificent monsters and terrifying beasts ever to walk the earth. Discover the colossal Stone Troll, the mysterious Indrik and Japanese Baku; the Tooth Fairy (not as sweet as you’d think), an adorable Unicorn and majestic Griffin. Take your place among legendary heroes, just don’t wake the Dragon…From the creators of the West End smash hit Dinosaur World Live.
April 21 and 22: Music City Hit-Makers. These award winning songwriters offer acoustic performances of songs they penned for Nashville’s most notable stars and household names such as Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, The Chicks, Tim McGraw, Wynonna Judd, Brad Paisley and Chris Stapleton. In addition to musical performances, these artists will share the unique, entertaining, comical, and surprising tales of how these hits were made with each country star, bringing the audience back to the moment they first heard these songs.
July 21-23: Theatre Three presents Next to Normal. Dad’s an architect; Mom rushes to pack lunches and pour cereal; their daughter and son are bright, wise-cracking teens, appearing to be a typical American family. And yet their lives are anything but normal. Winner of three 2009 Tony Awards, including Best Musical Score, and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, Next to Normal explores a family’s raw and emotional journey with a mother struggling with chronic bipolar disorder as they navigate a world of therapists and medication. With its stunning score and poignant lyrics, this dynamic musical takes audiences into the minds and hearts of each character, presenting their family’s story with love, sympathy, and heart.
Review: Wait Until Dark misses its mark
Frederick Knott’s thriller is one of the few plays that can make an audience jump out of their seat. Centered on Susy, a blind woman in 1960s New York, she comes into contact with three dangerous men in search of a doll filled with narcotics that may or may not have been hidden in Susy’s apartment. The idea is quite clever, but in Garland Civic Theatre’s current production of Wait Until Dark, the thrill was gone.
The setting is a basement apartment where Susy (Alexzandria Smith) and her photographer husband Sam (Chima Collin Akanno) live in New York’s Lower East Side. Their neighbor is the pesky young Gloria (Bella Brown) who helps Susy with errands and around the house. We’re first introduced to Harry (Brian Hokanson), the mastermind behind a scheme that involves Mike (Jonathan Luce) and the fake policeman Sgt. Carlino (Adam Anthony Vigil) to retrieve the doll they think is hidden in the apartment.
With the central character being blind, this lent itself to clever use of lighting and not-lighting through flashlights, streetlights and even household appliances. Those often succeeded in the visuals of the play. But they don’t save the show.
The first half of exposition about the doll and backstories felt drawn out which drowned out any building tension. The pacing moved clumsily forward which then missed the needed cliffhanger feeling at the end of the act. The second act fared better as the action and drama kicked up a notch. That being said, staging of the physicality throughout the act when characters had to fight for their lives suffered from odd blocking.
The ironic thing is the show had strong elements. The set design really created the environment of this rundown but charming apartment in New York with impressive detail. The lighting, particularly in more dramatic moments, had impact. The cast itself was strong in each of their performances. However, nothing seemed to gel together.
Smith carried the show nicely but often felt too peppy in times when her character was clearly in danger. Luce’s performance was nicely layered as an ex-con with ill intentions who had to befriend Susy. Of all the missing chemistry, Luce and Vigil worked well together. Vigil played his part with a hefty amount of caricature that balanced Luce’s understated performance. These two could do a buddy movie or show anytime. Vigil sometimes went too much with the character that words and dialogue were lost amid his frenetic energy. It was hard to determine if he was going for laughs which sometimes disrupted the tone of the show.
As the show’s ultimate villain, Hokanson embodied the menace he needed but character choices pulled back from ever making Harry as frightening as he should be.
The lacking chemistry among the cast would seem to work being that all the characters are in conflict with the others, but their vibes simply didn’t mesh and often seemed like each actor was in a different play all at the same time.
Wait Until Dark runs through May 15. For tickets and information, visit GarlandCivic.org
Opening this week:
On stage now:
— Rich Lopez