Thoughts on Cooper Grodin

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Cooper Grodin

The current Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera” U.S. tour, Cooper Grodin has had mixed reviews since the moment he stepped on stage. Having seen the new tour twice, here are my thoughts.

Cooper Grodin has a good voice and I will not deny that the first time I heard him sing “Music of the Night” I got teary eyed. A majority of the problem was his acting and blocking. His acting was meh, to say the least. His Phantom is violent, throws Christine to the ground and in the “Final Lair” when he is putting the dress on Christine it looks almost like he is raping her. He slightly reminds me of book Phantom with the violence, just a bit more intense.

Regarding another acting problem, there was NO chemistry between Grodin and Julia Uldine (Christine). The Phantom is supposed to have chemistry with Christine, especially in the musical, and I did not feel that. Not feeling any chemistry means that I could not sympathize when the Phantom says “Christine, I love you,” at the end of the musical. Sure Cooper sings it beautifully, but the whole time his Phantom is violent and distant, so how was I supposed to sympathize and feel bad for him? The truth is, it is shocking and people might think “Really? You love her?”

For some people Grodin was their first Phantom and they absolutely love him and think he did a good job. Understandable, we cannot compare him to Ramin Karimloo or Michael Crawford. For those who love Grodin, that is great and he has a good voice. For those who have seen various Phantoms over the years, he is not the favorite, but we wish him well and that he improves over time.

Samantha Barks’ scenes cut from “Dracula Untold”

Samantha Barks fans everywhere are upset that the “Les Miserables” stage and film actress will not be appearing in the newest film “Dracula Untold.” The movie is set to premiere in October and while there were rumors of Barks’ scenes being cut, “Sprouts” everywhere kept hoping that they were not true. In the end the scenes for Barks’ character, Baby Yaga, were cut in the final edit. Director, Gary Shore said that Barks’ character did not fit in with the storyline. Bad move, Shore.

Since the announcement Barks’ dedicated fans called “Sprouts,” have not hesitated to announce their anger and disappointment on social media. Samantha Barks is a role model to many and has been widely known for her stage acting and portrayal of Eponine.

Barks got her start in the British TV show “I’d Do Anything,” where she and several other girls sang to compete for the role of Nancy from “Oliver.” Barks may not have won first (she got third), but she won the hearts of many. Since then she has gone on to portray Eponine in “Les Miserables” on the West End stage in London, the 25th anniversary concert at the O2 and the 2012 movie for which she is widely known. Barks went on to portray Nancy in the UK tour for “Oliver” in 2011 and finished the tour in 2013 after filming “Les Miserables.” In December she will be in the new musical “City of Angels” in London alongside former “Les Miserables” co-star, Hadley Fraser.

It is no wonder that “Spouts” are upset Shore cut Barks’ scenes in “Dracula Untold.” For many “Spouts” she was the reason to go and see the movie. Every theatre fan loves to see Broadway stars shine on the big screen, so Shore cutting Barks from the movie was not a smart move. Barks spent three months working on the film, impressed everyone with her performance and the director cuts her scenes. How is that fair to Samantha Barks? The answer, it’s not.

I personally hope that the producers or director will see their mistake, because they just lost a lot of moviegoers with the news of cutting Samantha from the movie. Good luck “Dracula Untold,” you’re going to need it.

Source on Samantha Barks being cut from the movie: here.

“The Phantom of the Opera” US Tour 2014

 

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Cooper Grodin and Julia Udine

I saw “The Phantom of the Opera” US tour on August 30, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Okla. The cast stared Cooper Grodin as the Phantom, Julia Udine as Christine, Nick Cartell understudying as Raoul, Linda Balgord as Madame Giry and Tara Sweeny understudying as Meg Giry. The US tour, as most “Phans” know, is different from the original. It has different sets, the blocking is different, a few different costumes and a few different lyrics in a few songs.

Grodin, despite having mixed reviews, did a good job as the Phantom. He has a beautiful voice, but he does need to work on his blocking, he was difficult to hear at first during “The Mirror,” but his “Music of the Night” made up for that. His Phantom speaking voice needs a bit of work because it did not sound completely intimidating and his portrayal of Phantom was a bit rough, and he would throw Christine to the ground. During the “Final Lair” he was purposely hurting Christine and forced her into her wedding dress, but Grodin’s portrayal of the Phantom did love Christine.

Udine was amazing as Christine. For a woman of 21 years of age she has a lot of power in her voice and was a phenomenal actress as well. Cartell did an amazing job as Raoul; he really showed that he was protecting Christine and that he did love her. Cartell had a great voice as well, hard to believe he is an understudy. Balgord did a great job as Madame Giry. She really seemed like a motherly type of Madame Giry, which was nice to see. Sweeny did a great job as Meg and has a great voice. Hard to believe that she is an understudy. Jacqelynne Fontaine did a great job as Carlotta, great voice and a great actress. Frank Viveros did a great job as Piangi, definitely brought some humor to the character. Brad Oscar did a great job as M. Firmin, great voice and humorous in the role. Edward Staudenmayer did a great job as M. Andre’, great portrayal of the role.

The set itself was amazing. The set actually looked like an opera house and the new set is amazing, right down to the chandelier. Great use of the stage, it looked like a revolving and sliding stage. The choreography was different, especially in “Music of the Night” and “Point of No Return.” Even the “Final Lair” was staged differently with the Phantom and Christine, but the Phantom especially.

Having seen the original twice on tour and once on Broadway, the new set actually did impress me, as I was expecting it to be mediocre. Several different things in the tour involved the Phantom dancing with Christine while she was blindfolded during “Music of the Night” and danced with her again during “Point of No Return.” The Phantom can dance who knew? However, I miss the bridal doll, the Phantom’s throne chair and the red death costume from the original, as the red death costume in the tour made the Phantom look like a solider from the army. The “Wandering Child” was fairly good, but the blocking and choreography could use some work. Regarding Cooper Grodin, I will say that he has a beautiful voice. I got teary during “Music of the Night,” and I never get teary during that song. Overall the new tour is a must see for any “Phan.”

Meeting Ramin Karimloo

It was April 26, 2014 and I was at the crowded stage door at the Imperial Theater in New York at the spot that my stepdad had rushed to get to right after seeing “Les Miserables.” The actors started to come outside after 30 minutes or less and I was in awe. I saw Jason Forbach, who was the first Enjolras I saw live in the US Tour of “Les Mis.” They came out one by one, Caissie Levy, Keala Settle, Cliff Saunders, Nikki M. James, Andy Mientus and Kyle Scatliffe, all of them. Then the moment I was waiting for happened. The one and only Ramin Karimloo came outside to greet his fans. When he came out, I cheered like everyone else did.

Oh my gosh, my dream was coming true. He signed the poster my stepdad was holding that the rest of the cast had signed. I was in awe, because he was the main reason that I wanted to see “Les Mis” in New York.

Then the unthinkable happened, he started talking to me. He asked a few questions, if I had seen the musical before, if I had seen the movie and if saw the 25th anniversary. After those few questions my stepdad took a picture of us and then Ramin Karimloo asked my stepdad where we were from and shook hands with him. He was the nicest guy I have had the pleasure of meeting that is a Broadway and West End star. I was overwhelmed that I had a conversation with him.

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Oddly enough the next day when my parents and I were on our way to dinner we were turning around the corner and he was pretty much right in front of us. He had recognized us from the night before and greeted my stepdad. I was not paying much attention until I looked up and saw him. I jumped I was so shocked. He took the time to talk to us, ask what we did that day and talked to my parents. He was nice enough to take a picture with my parents and I. We were pretty shocked after we had met him again. I know I was.

 

It was an unforgettable trip to New York and I got to meet Ramin Karimloo twice. It was a dream come true.

“Hamlet” 2010 movie review

 

 

In 2010 the DVD version of “Hamlet” starring David Tennant and Oliver winner, Patrick Stewart, made its way to the United States. It was filmed in 2009 in England with an 18 day filming schedule. This version of “Hamlet” has the same dialogue as the play, but with modern dress, props and set.

David Tennant as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart as Claudius

David Tennant as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart as Claudius

Film, Stage and TV actor, David Tennant (“Doctor Who,” “Harry Potter,” “Broadchurch”) stars as the main character Hamlet. Tennant did a great job with his portrayal of this tragic, revenge seeking character. His portrayal made it easier to tell the difference between “mad man” Hamlet and “normal” Hamlet. Tennant’s “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy was one of his most powerful moments in the movie. The only thing that is bothersome is that he seemed to break the forth wall in a few of his soliloquies, though he did it as if he was speaking to the audience. Overall his acting and portrayal of Hamlet was amazing.

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David Tennant as Hamlet

Patrick Stewart (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”) portrayed two roles in this version of the movie, the ghost of Hamlet Sr., and Claudius, which won him the Oliver for “Best Supporting Actor.” His portrayal of Claudius was amazing and it is easy to tell from the start that Claudius is the villain due to very subtle hints on Stewart’s part. He does not appear as the Ghost very much, but he is haunting when he does. Stewart did a great job portraying two opposite characters, one the victim and the other the villain. Stewart was worthy of that Olivier award.

Penny Downie as Gertrude was great. She portrayed Gertrude as a concerned mother, who was terrified for and possibly of her son. Oliver Ford Davis did a fairly good job as Polonius, and like Tennant when he spoke at times, broke the fourth wall. Mariah Gale did a great job as Ophelia, especially when the character goes mad with grief and confusion. This movie had great casting overall.

What impressed me was the use of modern dress and props while the actors spoke the Shakespearian lines of the play. David Tennant really impressed me especially because I could tell when Hamlet was acting crazy and when he was himself. Tennant also used great facial expressions and body language that made it easier to tell what Hamlet was saying and thinking. Personally I think Tennant’s years in “Doctor Who” paid off to help his portrayal as a mad man and a man overcome with grief.

Earl Carpenter is back as Javert

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Earl Carpenter

Legendary Javert, Earl Carpenter, is coming to the United States to take over for current Javert, Will Swenson, in the musical “Les Miserables” on Broadway. Carpenter will also be reuniting with former co-stars Ramin Karimloo (Jean Valjean) and Samantha Hill (Cosette).

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Earl Carpenter as Javert

Carpenter was recently Javert in the revival of the Toronto production, of “Les Miserables,” which he co-stared with Karimloo and Hill in their respective roles. He has also been Javert in London, including the 25th anniversary UK tour. He has also had a small part in the 25th anniversary concert of “Les Miserables” as the Bishop and the 25th anniversary of “The Phantom of the Opera” as the auctioneer.

Fans of “Les Miserables” could not be happier to hear that Earl Carpenter will be taking over, even if only for a short matter of time. Will Swenson will be missed, but fans know that Carpenter has experience with the role of Javert and will do a great job.

Swenson’s absence is due to staring in the new show “Bill Durham” in Atlanta. Swenson will be absent from “Les Mis” starting July 22 and will return on October 5. Carptenter will take over the role starting August 12 and will leave October 3. Swenson’s understudy, Adam Monley, will take over from July 22 until Carpenter begins.

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Will Swenson

 

68th Tony Awards review

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The 68th Tony Awards have come and gone, leaving behind legendary performances and a win that made history. The Tony Awards were on June 8, 2014 and hosted by former Tony host, also stage, movie actor and Tony winner, Hugh Jackman.

The Tonys this year consisted of many nominees for plays, musicals, actors and actresses, including Idina Menzel and former Tony host, now back on Broadway, Neil Patrick Harris. The revival for “Les Miserables” was nominated, as well as its leading man making his Broadway debut, Ramin Karimloo.

The performances were pronominal to say the least, except for the musical “Rocky.” There was almost no singing and all it showed was the fight and the fighting rink. The Cast of “Les Miserables” was amazing. The cast gave an excellent performance of “One Day More.” Nikki M. James as Eponine was not the best, but she gave it her all. Broadway star Idina Menzel sang “Always Starting Over” from the new musical “If/Then” and did a spectacular job. The performance from “Aladdin” was amazing. The performance for “Violet” was nothing short of amazing and Sutton Foster nailed her singing part. The performance from “Hedwig and the Angry Itch” was spectacular. Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall were amazing. The cast of “Wicked” performed in honor of running on Broadway for ten years and the two ladies did a great job. These are just some of the phenomenal performances of the night.

One of the many highlights of the night was Audra McDonald winning the Tony award for “Best Leading Actress in a Play” for her performance in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar Grill.” This makes her sixth Tony win and history was made.

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Of course all of the fans of Ramin Karimloo were disappointed that he did not win the Tony, but Neil Patrick Harris did deserve it. Idina Mezel and Sutton Foster who were nominated in the same category did not win the Tony, but rather Jessie Mueller. All in all, everyone who won their Tonys deserved them.

Jackman did a good job hosting, but I personally felt like he missed some opportunities to make the night more entertaining. His opening was a bit confusing to say the least, because he hopped, but I did enjoy seeing some of the performers backstage. He was in the 2012 movie “Les Miserables” and he made no reference of “Les Mis,” there was no Jean Valjean face off with Karimloo, or even a joke about “Les Mis.” Most of his puns were directed at Harris, given they have both been Tony hosts in the past. Most of all I wish he had shaved his beard. I did, however, love his dance with all of the actresses nominated for “Best Actress in a Musical.”