I’ve seen two more fringe shows in the last few weeks. The cool thing about that is that they were shows from two different fringe festivals. Last weekend I went to see Zac’s show in Philly Fringe. It was called King of Ghosts. It was a small time drug dealer who was anxious to get out of his profession and start a new life with his girlfriend. However, an old associate has gotten out of jail and is forcing him back in for another big score. Philly fringe is a little different than New York in the fact that you have to find your own location. When I asked Zac what the benefit was, he said that it was predominantly a co-marketing one. I will admit that it seemed a pretty big benefit. They had four performances, and from what I know at least three sold very well. However, the performance took place in a church sanctuary. It allowed for some creative staging at the front of the floor with the band being set up on the raised area behind. Because of the layout, there was very little to be done in terms of any kind of set. It felt more like a staged reading. The blocking was of course very light. There were merely a few sets and props – and a very fun priest’s costume.

So ultimately this felt very much as if it was still in the workshop stage. That said, it felt in pretty good shape for a workshop. I thought a lot of the songs were good and the lyrics too. As a whole, the whole thing felt a little jumpy. Without getting too far into plot synopsis, I felt that the show was tugging at itself in two directions. I saw this reveal itself in all of the writing both book and music. There was a central plot element that to me as the plot went on seemed rather unimportant actually. This plot point was often returned to in flashbacks and songs, but there was a lot of other plot going on, and it didn’t seem to be the crux of the show that the team intended. As a result I felt that in many respects I was watching two shows unfurl at the same time. They were definitely running parallel and crossed a few times, but they didn’t quite run on the same path. This was evident through musical styles as well as with the book. Though on one hand I applaud the variety of genres, on the other, the package didn’t settle in completely. Though I admit, it might have been the minimalist design of the show. Congrats to the lighting designer who pulled off anything at all in a church sanctuary. I also felt the talent to be a little lopsided. The cast for the most part was a group of very talented singers, who again for the most part navigated the style, from classic ballad to hard rap very well. For some the singing was so obviously their strong suit, and their acting left much to be desired.

Zac expressed that they are interested in remounting the show in New York after letting it marinade for a bit. I think that’s a great idea. I am excited to see the show’s development after some structural repairing and casting changes.

Back in New York, I was lucky enough to catch the Encore Fringe production of Jurassic Parq: A Broadway Musical. It was enormously clever! I absolutely loved it. It was the Jurassic Park story told from the perspective of the dinosaurs. They were forced to reckon with their creation and the sudden shift in their sexuality (they were all women remember – until they weren’t!)… it was very deep. This led of course to the eternal struggle between faith and science, dinosoified (that’s personified for dinosaurs) by the Velociraptor of Science (played by a 70 year old woman) and the Velociraptor of Faith (played by John Jeffrey Martin – who is kind of famous and bought me McDonalds a few years ago – he totally wouldn’t remember but thanks!). This is mirrored by the struggle of our narrator Morgan Freeman, or is it (Samuel L. Jackson) going on his own voyage of self discovery. Though I do think there is some polishing to be done (some of the individual jokes go on a little too long, which I think the team knows) and the musicality of the songs are not the strong suit of the show. But I know that wasn’t really the point. The point was to be goofy as hell. But the dancing was incredible! And the cast sold it within an inch of its life. I have no doubt there will be a future to this piece. Hey, it might even be true to its name.

Just one highlight – sheer poetry from Velociraptor of Science (70 year old woman mind you – during her rap): The “S” in Science is for suck my dick.

And that’s all for my 2010 Fringe experience. Only 300 some odd days to prepare for next year!

I have to begin with some big news. On October 8th and 9th a dream will come true. I will be performing at Radio City Music Hall (my first rehearsal is tonight!). But that’s not even the big news. I will be singing in the choir for the live orchestration of the Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers. Very little could make me happier. I have to give Vince Peterson for recommending me and my training with his organization Choral Chameleon a big thank you for that. My biggest regret is I won’t be able to watch the experience. But from the pictures from the first installment which they did last year, I can tell its going to be epic. I had the first rehearsal last night – it sounds unbelievable! It’s a choir of 100 members, and the choir director is no nonsense, but he’s really getting an amazing sound out of us.

In other news, I have agreed to sign on as an Associate Producer for the NYMF musical I Got Fired – A Semi-Autobiographical Sort-of-True Musical (
www.igotfiredmusical.com).  I am going to be helping my good friend Steve Wargo tie up loose ends before the production – it opens October 1st at one of my old stomping grounds The Barrow Group. We had our first production meeting this weekend (or at least MY first production meeting – they’ve been going for a while.) and it seems like its going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to be doing some of the ad sales and liaising with the cast.

To catch up - I’ve seen a few shows recently. I had a great vacation a few weeks ago, where I spent a week doing NOTHING at a beach house in Ocean City, MD. For that I must thank my friend Maureen. But at the tail end of my long week off I went up to Woodstock just to wander around for the day. I happened upon a sign advertising a Shakespeare production that was starting in just fifteen minutes. Of course I had to go. I walked up a big hill to a beautiful outdoor globe-esque theater. It didn’t have all the trappings, but it definitely gave a very similar feel. They were performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I have directed before. I know it to be fairly short (for Shakespeare) and not too painful even if its botched. And though it was a little bit late-summer and a little chilly actually, I decided to stick around. There were a few good choices and talent, but the experience for me was paramount. Shakespeare in the outdoors (see blog from earlier this summer.) They cheated a bit and used mics, but it was a big field. Unfortunately it began to rain a few minutes before intermission so though the show went on – I didn’t…I knew how it ended. But I do think that I may try my hand at doing a master class up there. I think it would be a great thing for both me and them. And its an artist community. I would love to sit around and love nature and do theater. So look out Woodstock!

Totally on the other side of the scale, I saw Promises Promises last week as well. Of course Ms. Chenowith and Sean Hayes were both amazing, but the show as a whole left me wanting. The songs were just a series of slightly hopped up lounge numbers. Most of them ended with Kristin ending center stage and belting a not-unbelievably high note. Sean Hayes played pretty good “straight” man, (in that I mean Average Joe as well as heterosexual), but some of his best moments were where Jack poked through. But I completely agree with Ben Brantley – the standout performance was really Katie Finneran as Marge. The explosive energy of the show beginning and ended with her. From a technical standpoint, the design was really great. Very well lit, the set wasn’t too much, which is a compliment, especially for today’s Broadway. I also especially impressed with the way the choreography was integrated into the set. I felt that Rob Ashford’s choreography and a few of Kristin’s numbers were definitely the highlights of the piece. As a friend of mine says about this style of theater – its like eating Peeps. They’re sweet and fun but if you get too much you feel a little woozy. And at 2 ¾ hours, I was a little bit by the end. But come next Easter, you’ll do it all again…

 All in all, it was a wonderful vacation that ended on a wonderful note. Thanks to Mike and Sandi for the trip to Woodstock and the tickets!