Buffy the Vampire Slayer- “Once More, with Feeling” review

Music, singing, dancing, vampires and demons. Must be the musical version of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is a show about a girl with powers to hunt and kill the evil supernatural forces, while struggling with her everyday life. Add a bit of music and you have, “Once More, with Feeling.”

“Buffy” cast

“Once More, with Feeling,” originally aired November 6, 2001. It aired for 50 minutes, which is seven minutes longer than any other episode. The songs were written by creator of the show, Joss Whedon. 

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” starred Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, Nicholas Brandon as Xander, Emma Caulfield as Anya, Michelle Trachtenberg (“Ice Princess”) as Dawn, James Marsters (“Torchwood”) as Spike and Alyson Hannigan (“How I Met Your Mother”) as Willow. This episode guest starred Anthony Head as Rupert Giles, Amber Benson as Tara and Broadway actor, Hinton Battle as the demon, Sweet.

As with most musicals, thoughts are sung, secrets are revealed and love is in the air. Since the characters are forced to sing and dance because of a demon that was mysteriously summoned, they are living a musical nightmare. Buffy and her friends must find a way to stop the “fun” before the people of Sunnydale sing and dance themselves to death.

The people who stood out as the best singers in the episode were Emma Caulfield who was pleasant to hear. James Marsters, has a career in singing and has an amazing rock and roll voice.  Amber Benson has an incredible voice and sang very beautifully. The one person who was not surprisingly outstanding was Anthony Head, who had sung before in previous episodes. Hinton Battle exceeded in both singing and dancing and was easily the best out of the of the entire cast.

The cast members who were decent enough, but not fantastic were Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brandon and Michelle Trachtenberg. While Gellar is a phenomenal actress, she is not the best singer. According to Wikipedia, Gellar did not like dancing or singing for this episode, but was glad she did it. Brandon was a fairly good dancer, but his voice was average. Trachtenberg had a pretty good voice but was a better dancer.

Alyson Hannigon danced and sang the least in this episode with a couple of short solo verses, so it is not fair to critic her singing based on a few sentences. The other time she sang was with the rest of the cast.

“Once More, with Feeling” is my favorite episode in the entire “Buffy” series. As a musical theatre fan, I cannot help but love it. However, it is very obvious that the songs are not sung live and everything is pre-recorded, which is expected, but it bothers me because I am used to live theatre, or at the very least, musical made movies that take at least a year to film and perfect.

While the episode is fun and hilarious, it does deal with revelations and the upcoming drama for future story lines. A very well done episode with a musical twist.

69th Tony Awards review

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Another Tony night has come and gone. It was an evening filled with laughter, great hosts and fantastic performances. The 69th Tony Awards aired on June 7, 2015 on CBS and was hosted by Tony winners Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth.

This years Tonys were especially interesting to me because two fellow women from Oklahoma, Kelli O’Hara and Kristin Chenoweth, were nominated for Tonys in the same category for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. O’Hara was nominated for “The King and I” and Chenoweth was nominated for “On the Twentieth Century.” Both went to Oklahoma City University and had the same teacher. I was definitely a proud “Okie.”

To kick off the night, “Something Rotten” performed with “A Musical.” Quite fitting for the Tonys. The cast of “The King and I,” performed and were absolutely wonderful. However, the performance that stole the show was “Fun Home.” 11-year-old Tony nominee, Sydney Lucas won the hearts of many with her phenomenal voice.

Other fantastic performances included Lisa Howard in “It Shoulda Been You,” which left everyone wondering why she was not nominated for a Tony. Josh Groban sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” for the memoriam, which was very beautiful and touching. “Gigi,” starring Vanessa Hudgens was really good and “Finding Neverland,” starring Matthew Morrison was fabulous. Morrison’s still got it. All of the other performances of the night were great as well.

“Fun Home” won five Tonys this year, including Best Musical. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” won 5 awards as well, including Best Play and Best Leading Actor, which went to Alex Sharp.

“The King and I” won four awards including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Featured Actress in a Musical, which went to Ruthie Ann Miles. She also had the longest acceptance speech and gave a side eye when she was given the cue to hurry up.

Finally, on her sixth Tony nomination, Kelli O’Hara won her first Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. She had the best acceptance speech of the night and the best exit.

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Kelli O’Hara

attends the American Theatre Wing's 69th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, 2015 in New York City.

Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth

Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth were hilarious and talented hosts. From entering in style for their opening number and other jokes, to Cumming fanboying over Josh Groban and finally closing the show by introducing “The Jersey Boys” in “Oh, What A Night.”

For the full list of winners click here.

“Love Never Dies” U.S. Tour Dream Cast

With the announcement that the “Phantom of the Opera” sequel “Love Never Dies” is touring in the United States in 2017, I thought that I would list a few people who would fit the roles for Phantom and Christine. There are many actors and actresses who would be great for the two main leads and these people named are just a few.

 

Phantom:

As most fans know, Ramin Karimloo who was the original Phantom in “Love Never Dies,” during it’s run in London will not reprise his role. He has stated this multiple times in interviews and his “Les Miserables” vlog. Also in a video of the last time he sang “Til I Hear You Sing” live, he looked like he was struggling from start to finish.

While it would be great to see him portray the Phantom once again, most fans know that it would not be possible., especially since he lives in London and will finish his role as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” on Broadway, Aug. 30.

Hugh Panaro – Panaro is a fan favorite for many who got the chance to see “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway. His portrayal of the Phantom was not only amazing, but also hilarious. Panaro has a fantastic voice, so his “Til I Hear You Sing” would sound great if he was offered the role.

Tam Mutu– Mutu was the understudy for Phantom in the original “Love Never Dies” London run, so it would be nice to see him as principle for the tour. He is an amazing singer and his version of “Til I Hear You Sing” is amazing. I have heard good things from when he went on in the London run.

Gary Mauer– Mauer is a popular Phantom, who was on Broadway and the third national tour. He would be a wise choice for the role. His portrayal of the Phantom is great and he has a good voice.

Jeremy Stolle– Stolle is a popular former “Phantom” understudy for both male leads. He is a Broadway actor and his last role was Jehan Frollo in the off-Broadway production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” His cover of “Til I Hear You Sing” is amazing and he would fit the role quite well.

John Barrowman– Barrowman is a singer and former musical theatre actor, one of whose credits includes Raoul in “The Phantom of the Opera.” Barrowman was originally involved in the London cast for “Love Never Dies,” but backed out due to a few conflicts with the creator of the musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

It is highly unlikely Barrowman will ever portray this role, mainly due to the fact that he is currently playing Malcolm Merlyn/Ra’s Al Ghul in the TV show “Arrow.” Even if he cannot portray the Phantom, his “Til I Hear You Sing” would be amazing.

Christine Daae’:

Sierra Boggess– Boggess is every fan’s first choice. She portrayed Christine in the original London cast and is well known for the role of the same name in “Phantom of the Opera.” Andrew Lloyd Webber has also stated over a year ago that he would wish to see Boggess reprise her role. It is unknown if she would accept or not, but it would be a dream to see her back in “Love Never Dies.”

Jennifer Hope Wills– Wills is a well-known “Phantom of the Opera” Christine, having played the role on Broadway and on tour. It would be great to see her take the reigns in “Love Never Dies.”

Mary Michael Patterson– Patterson was a popular understudy for the role of Christine in “Phantom of the Opera.” She is a great actress and has a fantastic voice. I would love to see her take on the role of Christine in “Love Never Dies.”

Samantha Hill– Hill portrayed Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway and is a popular musical theatre actress, especially since she took on the role of Cosette in “Les Miserables.” She has performed at the Tonys for both shows and has a beautiful voice. I would love to see her in “Love Never Dies.”

Gina Beck– Beck is one of the most popular “Phantom” Christines on the West End in London. While she was never in “Love Never Dies,” her cover of the title song is absolutely beautiful.

She was in the United States in 2013-2014 as G(a)linda in the “Wicked” U.S., tour. It is unknown if she will ever return to the states, much less tour again, but she would be a treat for audiences to see as Christine.

“If/Then” tour and “Les Miserables” Casting Announcements 2015

Idina Menzel and Alfie Boe are reprising their former roles. While one is “always starting over,” for the other “another story must begin.”

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Idina Menzel as Liz/Beth

Idina Menzel is joining the “If/Then” tour. It was announced on May 7, 2015 that Menzel would reprise her role as Liz/Beth in the Tony nominated musical, starting in Denver, after her world tour. The tour takes off Oct. 13.

All of Menzel’s fans have expressed their excitement on social media and they “couldn’t be happier” (“Wicked” pun intended).

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Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean in the new production photo

It was announced on May 8, 2015 that West End and Broadway actor, Alfie Boe is coming back to Broadway to reprise the role of Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” on Sept. 1. He will be succeeding current Jean Valjean, Ramin Karimloo. Boe will also reunite with Earl Carpenter, who is currently reprising his role as Javert.

Carpenter and Karimloo both co-stared with Boe in the “Les Miserables” 25th anniversary concert, which took place at the O2 in London in 2010 and is available on DVD. Boe portrayed Jean Valjean, Carpenter was the Bishop and Karimloo portrayed Enjolras.

Once it was announced that Boe was taking over as Jean Valjean, fans showed their enthusiasm on social media. For some, like myself, Boe may have been their introduction to the character. Fans are incredibly happy to hear he is taking over the role on Broadway.

I personally have mixed feelings about Menzel reprising her role. When “If/Then” was on Broadway, it seemed to revolve around her and she was the reason it ran as long as it did. I am happy that she is touring with the show and I am a fan, but I wanted to see the show without Idina to see what the big fuss was about. Fans used to throw a FIT when Menzel was not on as the lead, so I thought the tour could give fans a chance to see it without it’s biggest star and give another actress a chance to play the lead.

I am very happy that Alfie Boe is reprising the role of Jean Valjean. He was the actor who introduced me to the character when I watched the 25th anniversary concert on DVD. Plus he is co-starring with Earl Carpenter and it cannot get any better than that.

“Phantom of the Opera” photos. Can you even dare to look?

The new “Phantom of the Opera” photos with current Phantom, James Barbour, were released yesterday. While some are not completely supportive because of Barbour and his past, I love the new photos. They are beautifully shot and look better than the photos from the last few years.

I took one semester of photography class, which I was required to take for my college major, during the 2014-2015 school year and these are a few of my views from what I have learned. I am not an expert, but I have a higher appreciation for this type of work than I did before. Never forget that photography, like theater, is an art and tells a story.

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James Barbour as the Phantom and Julia Udine as Christine. Photograph by Matthew Murphy

First of all, the poses look very in the moment compared to past photos, which is part of the beauty. Just look at how beautiful the poses are. Not only that, but you can see both of the characters and Christine (Julia Udine) isn’t blocking the Phantom’s (James Barbour) body from view. The angle which the photographer, Matthew Murphy, shot it is just perfect.

You can clearly see the Phantom’s mask, hand and body. You can also see the chemistry between the two characters, which is the part of photography that tells the story.PHANTOM6

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phantom3One of the things that I absolutely love about these photos is the background.  You can really see inside the Phantom’s lair.

I especially love the candles and the gate in the photos. The detail of the Phantom’s suit is shown and the angles which the photos were taken are perfect.

I also love the Phantom’s poses. In the past, fans have seen what appears to be the same pose, but with a different actor and actress. So these new photos are refreshing.phantom2

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If the fans pay attention to the photos and not just James Barbour, then they can see the beauty that the pictures bring and appreciate the work of Matthew Murphy. Photographers work VERY hard. It is not easy to take photos like this and he most likely had to take hundreds before going through his photos and choosing these.

“Phantom” US tour: Old Cast vs New Cast

I saw “The Phantom of the Opera” U.S., tour three times, twice with the old cast and once with the new cast. I have noticed some differences between the way the characters are portrayed by the actors and actresses.

I saw Cooper Grodin twice as the Phantom and while he had a good voice, it was not very strong. He did not have a great presence for the role and his portrayal was violent, much like book Phantom. He also had terrible blocking.

There was also no chemistry between him and Julia Udine (Christine), which made it impossible to feel any compassion for him when he sang, “Christine, I love you,” at the end of the musical. It made it seem surprising that the Phantom loved her at all.

Chris Mann had a great and powerful voice. When he walked on stage he had the presence of the Phantom and he was not as violent as Grodin. However, I did not see the love he had for Christine until the second act, which is better than showing no love at all.

I saw Julia Udine twice as well and she was a fantastic Christine. She had a great voice and I could understand her perfectly. I really have no complaints about her at all.

Katie Travis was a great singer, in the words of Raoul “no doubt of it.” However, she was hard to understand at some points. She was a good Christine though.

I saw Nick Cartell as Raoul twice, once with each cast, and I notice a difference with both.

While with Julia Udine and Copper Grodin he sounded louder than he did with Chris Mann and Katie Travis. I am assuming that this is because Grodin did not have a strong voice and presence, while Mann did. Mann is also the more experienced singer, having been on “The Voice.”

Cartell sounded a bit quiet with Travis and Mann. Overall he was a great Raoul.

“Phantom of the Opera” 2015 tour review

I saw “Phantom of the Opera” on tour again April 24, 2015. The cast included Chris Mann as the Phantom, Katie Travis as Christine and Nick Cartell as Raoul. This was my third time seeing the new tour, but my first with the new cast and I loved it.

Taking place in an opera house in the late 1800s, the Phantom (Mann) is a man who haunts the opera house and terrorizes everyone in it. He is love with and tutors the young Swedish soprano, Christine Daae’ (Travis), who is in love with childhood sweetheart Raoul de Chagny (Cartell). This is a story with love, revenge and chandeliers.

The set is amazing and looks like an opera house. The stairs during the title song are one of the best parts of the set and never cease to amaze me. Of course nothing can beat the original.

Mann was great as the Phantom. He had a great presence, voice and look for the part. His Phantom was a bit sassy at times and a tad violent. His chemistry with Travis was more teacher-pupil, but more loving in act two. It was not until the last line he sang that Mann really showed how much power is in his voice.

Travis did a good job as Christine. She had a great voice, but it was a bit hard to understand her at some points. She really showed her fear for the Phantom and how much weight was being held on her character in the second act.

Cartell was understudying for Storm Lineberger as Raoul and he did a good job. He was a bit hard to hear, but he made up for that in “All I Ask of You.” However, he cut Travis off a bit to soon on the last line, but during the song they acted like two young adults in love for the first time. It was cute.

The rest of the cast was amazing as well. Edward Juvier was a good Piangi, it is hard to believe he is an understudy. Edward Staudenmayer was great as Adre and Davis Benot was a hilarious Firmin. Jacquelynne Fontaine was fabulous Carlotta she had a beautiful voice.

Anne Kanengeiser was amazing as Madame Giry, it is no wonder she played the role on Broadway. She had that intimidation that the role should have. Morgan Cowling was great as Meg, she had a powerful voice and it really showed in “Angel of Music.”

Overall it was a “Phantastic” performance with all of the magic that the show brings to the stage. If you get the chance to see this cast I recommend it.