When we see a show so amazing that it draws us in and makes us forget there are real people onstage, it’s so easy to not think about what performers like Isabella Abuan go through every single day to make that magical performance happen.
In a small doughnut shop in Uptown Chicago, two unlikely friends form a bond and find out not only what sets them apart, but more importantly, what they have in common.
Last year, we removed the whole Cultural Arts category with the idea of doing an extended Best of the West that was JUST for arts organizations. Only flaw in the plan: We never ended up doing that. Oops!
The turn of the 21st Century brought, among other things, a proliferation of stage adaptations from film, and the trend has continued, to varying degrees of success. “Shakespeare In Love,” the 2014 adaptation based on the Oscar-winning 1998 romantic comedy, is one of the rare examples of a movie-turned-play that actually works better on stage, and the current production directed by Cameron Knight at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre glorifies its many successes with a brilliant cast so good, they’re not even upstaged by their gorgeous period costumes and impressive set.
The wickedly funny and smart “R-rated puppet show” “Avenue Q” closed in New York last May after multiple runs off and on Broadway, delighting audiences and winning Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score Tony Awards in 2004. Considered by critics a “breakthrough musical” with long-term influence, the show remains shockingly fun, even for those among us who have seen it in various iterations over the years.
Children long to be grown before their time, yet adults wish to be young again is the truism at the heart of the beloved 1988 film “Big,” starring Tom Hanks, and its themes, characters and story are just as delightful 31 years later translated into the 1996 musical adaptation at The Barn Theatre where children get a peek at what it is to be grown and adults get to be children again — both on and off stage.
“The Old Man and The Old Moon” is an imaginative quest tale about, yes, an old man who has tasked himself with filling up the moon with liquid light when it begins to wane. When one night his wife tries to cash in on his promise to take her dancing and he curmudgeonly refuses, she takes off. Of course he follows, through adventures rife with storms, civil war, strange encounters in the belly of a whale, ghosts and memory, only to discover truths even larger than that which makes his wife happy.
If ever there were a terrifying piece of musical theater, it’s Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Terrifying for its gruesome storyline about murder, revenge and cannibalism, yes; and terrifying for its sheer magnitude for the artists who put it together.
In the canon of American musical theater, “West Side Story,” utterly groundbreaking in its time, remains close to perfection. And the opportunity to see a truly excellent production, such as the one currently running at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, should not be missed.
Over the past 25 years, much has changed in Grand Rapids. New buildings and businesses, new art and new ideas are emerging at every corner of the city. Even longstanding institutions have been shaped by the changing times.
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