Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Improvisational Repertory Theatre Ensemble Presents a Comedy of Terrors with "The Scary"

Poster for "The Scary"
Re-printed with permission
The Improvisational Repertory Theatre Ensemble (ITRE) has taken up residency at The Producers' Club (358 W. 44th St) for a series of five improv shows running through August 2014.

This past weekend, WGINY attended the currently-running show, "The Scary," directed by Pat Shay, in which the cast created an hour-long improvisational sketch inspired by Stephen King. Rather than solicit cold ideas from the audience, IRTE invented various ways to have audience members choose common themes from the master of horror's psyche. The show needed a hero or heroine, so after having an audience-member reach into a dirty box of ideas, Alex Decaneas became the "unpopular girl with paranormal abilities, while Nannette Deasy, IRTE's Artistic Director, traded her founder's hat for an "evil clown" wig and makeup. In true terrifying fashion, two masked twins then came out to accost an audience member into selecting a scene location by way of a large Origami fortune teller. The chosen location was a creepy hotel in Maine.

Together with their comical colleague, Curt Dixon, Deasy and Decaneas are familiar from their raucous stint together in Gotham City Improv's "Off the Top of Our Heads." Also with a Gotham City Improv history, IRTE member Marcia Sofley has a clear knack for character acting. Read about the full 2014 ensemble here. Together they draw from a wealth of credits including off-Broadway, national tours and feature film.

L to R: Jamie Maloney; Marcia Sofley; Nannette Deasy; Graceann Dorse; Alex Decaneas; Robert Baumgardner; Curt Dixon.
Not pictured: Guest performer Evie Aronson.
Photo provided by IRTE
As for "The Scary," the wacky cast of characters in this dark comedy improvisation utilized various props to keep the storylines alive - hats, wigs, masks, silly string, fake blood, alcohol bottles - as they created sketches within their sketch, improvising scenes at a truck stop, an automobile shop, and a prom, eventually resolving all storylines at the creepy hotel. It was clear that the creative ensemble members were having a blast, although their interactions appeared a bit rough around the edges. There's definitely potential here.

During a short intermission, IRTE welcomed musical guest Pablo Blues Boy, who struck a chord with WGINY as an introspective, John Mayer meets JJ Grey singer-songwriter. His short set was extremely entertaining. All of IRTE's shows at The Producers' Club include live musical interludes, with rotating performers from the NYC indie music scene.

Watch ITRE's "The Scary" promo video here, and read more about the improv group on ITRE's website. "The Scary" closes on Saturday, April 26, with musical guest Gift of TonguesTickets for "The Scary" are $10, or you can purchase a $40 season pass for access to the entire 2014 season of shows.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Disney's Aladdin on Broadway Will Make You Believe in Magic All Over Again.

It's been nearly 21 years since Disney first released its animated feature film, "Aladdin," and took us all on a magical ride through the enchanted city of Agrabah. Now, following the success of several movie-musical turned Broadway-musical shows such as "Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast," Disney is at it again with "Aladdin on Broadway". Drawing from the 1992 film and fabled Aladdin stories from hundreds of years earlier, with a few new twists and turns, Disney's latest production of "Aladdin" will awe you with its charm, mysticism and explosive special effects.

Our favorite "street-rat," the noble thief Aladdin himself (Adam Jacobs), begins his tale by getting into trouble in town. Because Disney presumably could not actually train a live monkey to speak and sing, film-favorite "Abu" is noticeably absent from Aladdin's side, but in his place Aladdin pals around with a sort of merry band of misfits -- his friends Babkak (Brian Gonzales), Kassim (Brandon O'Neill), and Omar (Jonathan Schwartz). Though they tend to overuse one-liners, the addition of these sidekicks for Aladdin provide an ongoing comic relief and gives more cohesiveness to his character. The new Broadway production also adds a nostalgic element of a deceased mother whose spirit Aladdin sings to and seeks approval from. Disney certainly found a "diamond in the rough" with Jacobs, a talented singer and performer who is also known for playing the lead role of "Simba" in Disney's "The Lion King" on Broadway.

Across town in Agrabah, the beautiful Princess Jasmine (Courtney Reed) dazzles inside of her heavily-guarded palace walls, but dreams of a life outside. Meanwhile, Jasmine's father, the Sultan of Agrabah (Clifton Davis), struggles in vain to find a suitor that Jasmine can tolerate. Unbeknownst to them, the Sultan's own trusted advisor, Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), waits in the proverbial palace wings for an opportunity to marry Princess Jasmine and become Sultan himself one day.

The smart-aleck parrot, "Iago," is as absent as Abu, but the audience barely notices as the writers created an actual "Iago" character (Don Darryl Rivera). Although debuting on Broadway in this role, Rivera owns his character as he banters with Jafar, delivers unexpected quips with quintessential comedic timing, makes relevant references to modern pop culture, and displays an overall self-deprecating humor in which the audience recognizes he really is just like a parrot to Jafar.

Enter the renowned "Genie" (James Monroe Iglehart), who some might say is really the main attraction in the show. As Jafar and Iago seek out Genie's enchanted lamp, their magical incantation eerily reveals a smoky phantom who instructs them to find Aladdin, the "diamond in the rough," and send him into the Cave of Wonders to retrieve the lamp. As Iglehart belts out the number the audience has been waiting for, "Friend Like Me," it is nearly impossible to take your eyes off of him. Iglehart's wit and versatility lights up the stage, and that's not just because of pyrotechnics.

Other beloved songs from the 1992 film lead the cast on their journey, from "Arabian Nights" to "A Whole New World," and there are some new additions to carry the added story-lines, such as "Proud of Your Boy," an insightful song Aladdin sings with his mother in mind, and "High Adventure," a fun, upbeat song Aladdin's sidekicks sing as they travel to rescue him when he finds himself in a bind.

Rest assured, just like in the movie, there is also a flying carpet in the musical production, and the Disney set designers really outdid themselves in creating the starry scene in which Aladdin and Jasmine take their first romantic ride together. "Aladdin" is a great, magical journey on Broadway, and it should not be missed.

Find ticket information here.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Newmindspace Presents The Latest New Weapon for Superheroes and Villains ... Fluffy Pillows?

Yesterday, Newmindspace commemorated a 9th annual International Pillow Fight Day. Around the world, thousands of pillow-fighters converged on popular public places in more than 50 cities.

Caped Crusaders Prepare for a Fluffy Fight in Wash. Sq. Park
In New York, the theme was Superheroes vs. Villains and the locale was Washington Square Park. It all started back in 2005 when creators Kevin Bracken and Lori Kufner became engaged in a massive pillow fight in Dundas Square, Toronto, Canada, while participating in an anti-gun rally. Today, it has grown into a worldwide movement. The Newmindspace creators have explained on their website, "[t]hese events are part of the larger urban playground movement, a loosely-knit group of event organizers around the world who share a common goal: to promote free events in public space, bring people together and create community." Newmindspace also works to raise money for charity as well as awareness of "massive public art".

In New York, crowds converged onto Washington Square Park dressed in everything from Superman and Superwoman costumes, Catwoman, and Dr. Doom, to Pokemon and just plain pajamas. For WGINY, it was a fun-filled day that served a good cause -- participants were asked to leave new and gently used pillows behind at the end of the event so that they could be donated to homeless shelters. In 2013, Newmindspace collected 1,000+ pillows for homeless New Yorkers. 

This is just one of many epic events Newmindspace promotes. "Like" Newmindspace on facebook and "follow" them on twitter to find out about upcoming events such as bubble battles, lightsaber battles and so much more.