Posts Tagged ‘Durham Performing Arts Center’

I have a confession. I have sinned against Dionysius and Stephen Schwartz. I openly and loudly sang during the performance of Pippin. I loudly and joyfully applauded during musical performances and hooted and hollered between numbers. Once was a mistake, twice was a choice. When Adrienne Barbeau said “Sing along” I listened. I followed her directions to a “T”…after all, I am a trained professional. What makes my sin even more grievous is that I know what it feels like to be on stage, in the moment, only to be stopped by rude or obnoxious audience members. As such, I vowed at the age of 8 to NEVER be that person.

In an effort to be the ideal theatre patron I have developed a bit of a ritual that I stick to when attending a show:

  • First, I conduct research of the show before I go to see it. I try to know, at least, a synopsis of the show before the curtain opens.
  •  Second, I am in my seat promptly when the house opens and I have consumed the amazing, mouthwatering, probably really bad for me, cashews before the house lights dim. I sit quietly and with an open mind waiting for first measure of music to fill my soul.
  •  Finally, I quietly, and inwardly, applaud the musical numbers so as not to break the momentum of action on stage. I laugh at the appropriate moments, and stand for the entire cast during the curtain call.

Last night was very different for me, because, damn it all to hell, I was forced out of my ritual while watching Pippin at DPAC!

After seeing this show, I am torn. I don’t know if I should be praising Stephen Schwartz as a musical genius or if I should be singing the praises of Diane Paulus for the revival and new concept for Pippin.

Director Diane Paulus’ revival of this modern classic has brought Pippin into the present time. She has successfully adapted the show to audiences that are more attracted to spectacle than they are with the plot and the subsequent meaning of the lines. She has created a world that allows characters to interact with audiences who, instead of witnessing the actions, become a part of it. Her new direction adds a combination of raw athleticism, musical talent and a dash of fascinating technology to the original choreography of the late Bob Fosse. Throw in some magic for good measure and you have the stunning staging of Pippin.

Even though the show is written in such a way that modern amenities are available, the storyline of this brilliant musical takes places during the Carolingian Renaissance,

Picture this; the stage is engulfed in an epic battle scene between the Catholic Army of Charlemagne and a group of Non-Believers. Instead of violence of sword and shield this fight is contested through acrobatic feats and other daring moves using hoops large and balls as large as a person. Teams of acrobats were climbing up a red pole that was symbolic of soldiers being cornered. Those same acrobats would perform a maneuver that saw them sliding down the pole at full speed only to stop themselves inches from the ground. The maneuver left the audience loudly gasping and in awe. Once the battle is over, we are left with a distraught Pippin and the illusion of a talking man whose head has been magically separated from the rest of his body.

Kyle Dean Massey plays the title role of Pippin and will not disappoint you in his performance. Every note, laugh, smile, dance move, and breath he takes draws an audience into his internal struggle between good and the perception of evil.

The Leading Player was portrayed by the understudy of the regular owner of the role Sasha Allen, who was out due to injury, Lisa Karlin stepped in and played the role for the DPAC audience. I will admit I was a bit disappointed in learning that I wouldn’t see the originally cast Lead Player. But, holy flying acrobats, Lisa Karlin was AMAZING. If she was that amazing, it makes me wonder if Sasha Allen is as commanding of the stage or was she merely brought in for the namesake. With every line delivery, movement, and song Lisa Karlin takes over the entire stage, demanding the audience to watch every magical move she makes.

Stephen Schwartz has created a masterpiece that literally and figuratively supports the idea that theatre is merely a memory. It is there for the moment, but must move on, leaving us with only the emotions that we felt during the performance. In this day and age we can go onto Google or YouTube and watch the videos of the performances, but that will never replace the joy and raw emotions that are felt “in the moment.”

Schwartz has helped to teach me, with Pippin, that theatre can be an alternative to life. It can serve to blanket us from the unwanted. It allows us to leave our lives of anger, frustration, sadness, and disappointment behind as we travel to a place where none of those things matter. If only for a few hours, the world that exists in our imaginations can be allowed to take place before our eyes…on stage.




GRAMMY® Award-winner and music superstar, Ricky Martin, announced additional dates for the upcoming North American leg of his ONE WORLD TOUR in support of his brand new album, A Quien Quiera Escuchar, out now. The tour, promoted exclusively by Live Nation, will now take the acclaimed entertainer to 24 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada starting on Sept. 15 in Las Vegas, Nev. with shows already lined up in New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, Washington D.C., Chicago, Miami and new dates added in Tucson, Montreal, Durham and Hidalgo.

Ricky Martin will play the Durham Performing Arts Center on October 21.

Tickets go on sale April 11 at, via the Live Nation app, at the DPAC Durham box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, or by phone 800-745-3000.

Ricky also recently debuted his brand new single, “Mr. Put It Down” featuring Pitbull. The song is the first release from his forthcoming English language album due out Fall 2015. To listen to “Mr. Put It Down” featuring Pitbull.


The multi-platinum award winning artist’s highly-anticipated 10th studio album, A Quien Quiera Escuchar, available in all distribution formats, and in two versions – original and deluxe – is possibly the most personal and intimate to have been released by the acclaimed singer, philanthropist, author, actor and businessman.  The lead single, “Adios,” has already amassed over 14 million views on Vevo since its release in October. Produced by Colombian composer, arranger, and pianist Julio Reyes Copello and recorded between Australia, Puerto Rico, Los Angeles and Mexico City, A Quien Quiera Escuchar showcases his vocal maturity and depth of artistry.

Ricky Martin has sold nearly 85 million albums worldwide including six Billboard #1 albums, launched several world-spanning tours selling out shows in nearly 60 countries and has won numerous accolades including six GRAMMY Awards, ten Billboard Music Awards and has earned worldwide recognition for his humanitarian work.


In 2003, the musical Wicked premiered at the Gershiwn Theatre on Broadway. From the start, this show was a success. It quickly became a true phenomenon of fan dedication with crowds filling the theatre on Broadway, and many others all around the world, steadily for the past 12 years. In 2004 the show was honored with three Tony Awards and with 7 other nominations. The Durham Performing Arts Center is the latest in a very long line of venues to play host to this juggernaut of stage success as they welcome the Munchkinland Tour to their stage for 2 weeks of shows.

My tour of Munchinkinland began under the watchful eyes of a dragon that was omnipresent throughout the show. A giant map of The Land of Oz was projected on the screen. I studied it closely and I memorized all the local attractions listed. I even deciphered the map legend.

From the program, I reviewed the bios of each member of the cast so that I knew who I would be traveling with. My excitement grew to the point where it bordered on frustration that the show would not begin when I wanted it to.

Having been a fan of the original Broadway production, I had set some very high expectations for the performance that I was about to see. On the other hand, I knew going in that I wouldn’t be hearing or seeing the originals that I have pictured every time one of those memorable songs comes across my Pandora station. To be honest, of course I would have preferred to see Kristen Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, and Joel Gray in the performance. But I put that aside in hopes of seeing the beginnings of a new generation of Broadway caliber performers; I was not disappointed.

Each actor that took the stage brought new, fresh qualities to characters that I already loved. Carrie St. Louis, Laurel Harris, and John Davidson took on the roles of Elphaba, Glinda, and Oz respectively. As high as my expectations were, I didn’t leave wishing I could erase the performance from my memory. Quite the contrary, I played their scenes over and over in my head all the way home. Now, with an even more enhanced love of the characters and story.

It is very difficult for any actor to step into the character shoes of a previous actor. Harris and St. Louis had some very large character shoes to fill. Each woman brought their own interpretation of the character’s personalities to their respective roles. While they were not able to change the music or movements, the two added their own original characterizations and vocal tones that garnered them a much deserved standing ovation for their phenomenal performances. While the performance of John Davidson did not jump out at me in a positive way, he also did not take anything away from the show; his performance was solid.

From the performances themselves, there is no way to find one musical number that stands out on its own. Each song is beautifully written by Stephen Schwartz and performed with such conviction by all cast members. That being true, one number in particular brought me to tears.

For Good is a gut wrenching song that describes a moment that all of us can relate to; thanking a dear friend that has created the biggest impact in our lives. The lyrics “Because I know you, I have been changed for good” describes my small obsession with this musical. The tears that I shed during this song were close to sobbing like a little girl who has found lost her puppy.

Costume Designer, Susan Hilferty is a genius! The spectacular costuming brings to life the odd, magical, mysterious, illusionary characters from the land of Oz. Hiferty uses strange angles of hair, crazy uneven hemlines, over the top colors, and cute preppy clothes to create distinct visual personalities of each character.

Nowhere is the impact of the costuming more apparent than with Elphaba and Glinda. As the play opens you soon feel the anguish of a person who is different, who doesn’t fit in, and who is a social outcast. In the world of Oz the costumes feed the irony of what is “normal” and what is not.

Set Designer Eugene Lee creates a beautiful city that all audience members wish to travel to. Each scene change was a flawless transition that offered audiences a spine tingling representation of what the other side of the rainbow could be. There is never any doubt about where you are, and there is never any doubt about how this musical ties into the Wizard of Oz storyline.

Kenneth Posner served as the Lighting Designer. The scenes featuring Shiz University, Ozdust ballroom, the vacant castles, and the cornfield are beautifully illuminated by a phenomenal light design. The lighting also is a crucial element in creating the most spectacular of all scenes; Elphaba’s first flight during the song Defying Gravity.

James Lynn Abbott brings a new and fresh dance arrangement to the tour. The unique and innovative dance moves are reminiscent of Bob Fosse, with leaning poses and no straight lines. The well-choreographed dancing number Dancing through Life is fun and carefree, clearly demonstrating the laid back and fluid movements of Fieryo.

There are a lot of thought provoking ideas woven through the story and in the way they are presented:

What is normal?

How can you truly interpret someone’s actions?

One must listen and watch to have a true understanding of what is going on around them.

Don’t pass judgment, because things aren’t always as they appear.

The most unlikely combination of personalities can result in a most rewarding relationships.

Stephen Schwartz weaves subtle hints throughout the script and music that creates the bond between Wicked and The Wizard of Oz. Secrets are shared that only a Wicked audience will learn. Several audience members let out a collective “Ah” when the biggest secret was revealed at the end of the show. It is awesome that a new group of “Wicked Geeks” were born last night

All things considered, the night lived up to every expectation I had. Well except for one…I wanted to be cast as Glinda the Good Witch so I could wear that amazing gown

Peace, Love, and Broken Legs


The stage musical genre has crossed paths with popular music on a few occasions over the last 30 or so years. When that inter-mingling of styles occurs, it is often met with praise and varying degrees of success. Mamma Mia, from Abba, was a resounding success on Broadway and as a touring show. American Idiot, by Green Day, was also a success, albeit a more subdued one; finding most of its acclaim as a tour after a short Broadway run.

The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is the latest entry into the world of stage musical by an artist, or artists, known more for their work on other types of stages. Which artists have taken the leap into the world of Broadway theatre now? Stephen King, John Mellencamp, and T Bone Burnett. These three men; King, Mellencamp and Burnett, have combined their distinctive talents to venture into a world where none of them can claim any past experience or success.

The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is described by Mellencamp and King as a “haunting tale of fraternal love, lust, jealousy and revenge.” The trio, including Burnett, called the show a “southern gothic, supernatural musical.”

The show has just begun a national tour that will cover 20 dates coast to coast. On November 14th the show made its 4th stop in Durham, NC at the wonderful Durham Performing Arts Center. When the curtain opens at DPAC, the cast was met with a nearly packed house that was curious to see what King, Mellencamp, and Burnett had done.

The story, as written by the master of the genre, Stephen King, is full of emotion that rarely, if ever, transitions to anything even close to “happy.” The story is full of anger, hatred, remorse, sadness, and ultimately vengeance.

When I walked into the theatre and got my first look at the stage I knew that this show was different. On stage there was a single old style microphone on a stand, front and center, with a spotlight shining down on it. There did not appear to be any tradition set pieces at all; merely a semi-circle of older style wooden folding chairs. To the left was a section of the stage set up with instruments waiting for musicians to pick them up and put them to work. To the right was a table with a set of common items that were to be used to produce specific sound effects to add to the story. There was a backdrop hanging from floor to ceiling at the back of the stage with the image of a creepy looking old shack of some kind. Overall, a truly minimalist approach to a set design that was very reminiscent of a 1940s radio broadcast studio.

As the show started my initial thoughts of, “this is different” were immediately affirmed. A harsh red light blanketed the stage as Jake La Botz performed the opening number, It’s Me. Drastic swings in the light design took the place of set changes. The ghosts were always bathed in a heavy white light with the living were all drenched in sepia tint that aged them.

Once the music starts, you find yourself on an emotional roller coaster of a story that takes you up and down and pays off at the end with a set of twists that will leave you with a nearly dislocated jaw. Each set of brothers would hit you with lines and lyrics filled with high energy based in anger and hatred. Each of the female characters would bring you emotionally down with songs and lines riddled with such depression and despair. To balance the angst and dreariness, The Shape and The Zydeco Cowboy would interject unexpected laughs in the middle of it all.

The cast itself was also a bit of a roller coaster when it comes to their individual talents and how they were used. Billy Burke and Gina Gershon are both powerhouses on stage when comes to delivering the emotions of their respective characters; Joe and Monique McCandless. But, they are also, clearly, not stage singers. Neither of them delivers a musical performance that is going to make you want to cover your ears to spare them from harm, but they are also not anything you will look back on and think of as something noteworthy.

A similar, albeit reversed, statement can be said for each set of brothers in the story; Drake and Frank McCandless (Joe Tippett and Lucas Kavner) and Andy and Jack McCandless, (Travis Smith and Peter Albrink). These four men all deliver solid performances vocally in song, but their spoken elements often come off as insignificant.

Where the cast gathers steam is in the supporting cast members. Kylie Brown, who plays Anna Wicklow, delivers a vocal performance in A Rose for Poor Anna that will make you sit up in your seat and listen. Jake La Botz as The Shape is dynamic in the way he takes over the stage and in the dark gravely vocals that he pairs perfectly with his songs It’s Me and Lounging Around Heaven. The absolute strongest performer has to be Eric Moore, who plays Dan Coker. His soulful solo, Burn This Cabin Down, at the end of Act 1 completely steals the show.

The trio of unique talents that is King, Mellencamp, and Burnett have created a story, a story-telling style, and music that is different and refreshing. They have started out on a venture that could possibly open them up to new avenues to showcase their individual talents. Is this show going to garner any of them even a sniff at a Tony Award? Not even close. What it will get them is night after night of packed houses of audiences that walk out of various theatres impressed by and shocked at what they have just experienced.



By Alisha Zygmuntowicz

When the movie Dirty Dancing came out in 1987, I was starting my sophomore year of college. I found myself drawn to Baby Houseman’s idealism and desire to make the world a better place. Fast forward twenty-seven years and I find myself reminiscing of how carefree my life was and how anxious I was to get my grown up life started, much like Baby. As I was preparing to attend Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage at DPAC, I was thrilled with the prospect of getting to see the story unfold in person. Eleanor Bergstein, the screenwriter for the film and book writer for the musical, was able to enhance the original movie experience by adding “more Baby and Johnny scenes, more about the family, more songs I couldn’t afford the last time, and, most exciting of all-more dancing.” She recognized the audience’s desire “to step through screen and be there while the story was happening.” She hit the target.

Dirty Dancing opened in November 2004 at the Theater Royal in Sydney, Australia and toured throughout Australia and New Zealand, boasting eighteen months of sold out performances. A new performance followed in March of 2006 at the Theater Neue Flora in Hamburg, Germany. The production was a huge success achieving the highest advance in European history. In October of 2006 performances opened on London’s West End and become the longest running show in the history of Aldwych Theater, closing in July 2011. It went on to tour UK for an additional two years. The world tour has performed on stages from Toronto, Canada to Cape, South Africa. DPAC is the stop after the official opening at The National Theater in Washington D.C. for the current US tour.

The story follows Frances “Baby” Houseman’s family vacation in the Catskills the summer of 1963. You experience a love story, sexy dancing to everything from rock and roll to R & B, and the clash of two very different worlds. Baby is drawn in by the Kellerman’s staff’s boisterous after hour’s activities and the resort’s dance instructor, Johnny Castle. As she becomes involved in their personal lives, you see her idealism and naivety drive her choices. She falls in love, fights with and grows closer to her family, all while learning to dance to help out the female dance instructor, Penny.

As the first act opened I found myself absorbed by the music. The echo of This Magic Moment sung by Jennlee Shallow is still in my mind, where I am sure it will stay for a while. The music, as iconic as it is for the movie, was chosen by Eleanor Bergstein before writing the story so it fit the stage even better than it did the screen.

Much like Baby, played by Jillian Mueller, I was enthralled by the dancing. To add to the overall nostalgia of seeing the dance routines was Mueller’s striking resemblance to Jennifer Grey’s as Baby in the original film. Johnny and Penny, portrayed by Samuel Pergande and Jenny Winton, made ballroom dancing look as easy as walking for you or me. The ensemble’s dirty dancing in the staff quarters was raunchy but fabulous.

To add to her uncanny resemblance to Grey, Mueller portrayed the role of a girl blossoming into a woman, pushing the limits while seeking her father’s approval in a way that would have made even the toughest of movie fans happy.

Doug Carpenter, portraying Billy Johnny’s cousin, caught my attention as well as the rest of audience’s attention in the second act. His performance of In The Still of The Night was stirring. The audience cheered with the “No one puts Baby in the corner” line. Shallow and Carpenter stole the final act with The Time of My Life confirmed by the standing ovation during the final bows.

An aspect of the show that I truly appreciated was the clever set changes, props and projected backgrounds. Positioning the orchestra above the stage moved them from an unseen support role to at times a more central focus to add to the flow from scene to scene. The props used were just enough to set the scene and not distract from the actors; a bed and chair in Johnny’s room, barn doors, stairs and small stage for the staff quarters. The projected backdrops completed the scene.

Another positive was the lighting. The design kept you focused on the action, created the ambiance of the scenes. At the end of Act 1 the lights moved to the audience, it was like starlight moving across the crowd, a nice touch.

Throughout the show, the crowd was absorbed and engaged erupting into applause at all the big scenes in the story; Carpenter’s In The Still Of The Night, Rice’s Lisa’s Hula, and the unforgettable line “no one puts Baby in the corner.” Carpenter and Shallow also got a huge applause at the end.

In the end, I left DPAC feeling that this was a wonderful show that left me wanting to see it again, soon. It allowed me to leave real life for two hours and get lost in wonderful music and dance.









When I go to the theatre for a show I arrive with a set of expectations that comes from decades of Broadway show patronage. I expect to see a show that has an established story; musical arrangements that progress and add to the story are also a must. I also appreciate a well thought out visual experience made by dynamic sets and lighting. The most important aspect of the experience has to be the performers that take the stage. A good cast can bring even a mediocre show up to new levels, most of the time.

My most recent Broadway show experience was with Mamma Mia at DPAC. The show is the product of playwright Catherine Johnson with music composed by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of the 70s and 80s Pop group Abba. The show is comprised of the international chart topping music of the band. Since the show debuted on London’s West End in 1999 it has gone on to be performed around the world to much fanfare and acclaim even receiving 5 Tony nominations in 2002. In 2008 the musical was adapted into a feature length movie starring Amanda Seyfried.

As I waited for the show to start, I found myself “people-watching”. I surveyed the audience as they came in and attempted to figure out just who they were. I saw, numerous young fans that I called Teenie Boppers, a few fans that felt the night was right for full length feather boas, and I was even graced by the presence of a local drag queen. To call the audience an eclectic mix would be an understatement, maybe that should have been a warning to flee.

I admit, I went to DPAC as a Mamma Mia virgin, I had never seen the stage version or even the movie. I knew the ABBA songs; my mom would sing them while working around the house during my childhood. What I did know, I liked the songs and I loved theatre. There was a great potential for me to have a good night.

As far as the show goes, I had a hard time with it. As I have felt with other shows like this, American Idiot comes to mind; it felt much more like a rock concert than a Broadway show. The story seemed like it was a bit underdeveloped with some details overlooked. The lack of emphasis on actual story led to some awkward moments. She mails letters to her dads to invite them to her wedding the day before the wedding? Wait Huh?

Much like you would expect at a live rock concert, the volume of the music was set at a level that was bordering on “too damn loud”. It was a reprieve for the show that the audience knew all the words to the songs and sang along, because hearing the singing voices of the actors onstage was not possible. At the start of Act II the music hits so fast and so loud. It is unpleasantly alarmed you and pins you in your seat as you try to figure out if someone messed up or if that was supposed to happen.

In contrast to my auditory experience, the visuals were quite nice. The lighting design was simple yet effective. A very simple Greek style beach inn is the only set piece used. The revolving set pieces help travel between interior scenes, courtyard scenes, and straight to the front door of Donna’s Inn. Well-choreographed set changes utilized the ensemble to help the transition from scene to scene. Simple white stucco walls, small rust stains from metal meeting sea breezes, and a beautiful teal backdrop completed the set. A huge moon was projected to appear and fade giving us the appropriate time changes.

The cast had its highs and lows as well. Chelsea Williams carried the role of Sophie well. Her performance of “I Have a Dream” was impressive. Donna, played by Georgia Kate Haege had a decent singing/acting moment halfway through act II. Her performance of “Slipping Through my Fingers” in Act II had me thinking I was actually in a Broadway show, if only for that moment. The roles of the male characters would have to be the lows. Michael Colavolpe, who played Bill Anderson, had this creepy quality to him that really just made him hard to enjoy.

I know I’m not alone in this opinion, but I believe that the reason this show does well in so many different locations is merely because the audience is coming to an ABBA rock concert. There is a very shaky plot that attempts to weave the songs together, but it was clearly evident that this was just for show. It is impossible to have the words of the songs match 100% to the plot that we are provided. To me, that detail just kills the idea that this show is a true Broadway show. I can hear the audience at the water cooler at work saying, “I went to this ABBA concert” and a Broadway play tried to break out.” DPAC was able to bring a concert to North Carolina that many seemed to enjoy, but is it a true Broadway musical just because there are lines that attempt to connect the songs together? I don’t believe so.



 Ace Young as Joseph and Diana DeGarmo as Narrator. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat National Tour 2014. Photography by Daniel A. Swalec

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat National Tour 2014. Photography by Daniel A. Swalec


As the audience waited in great anticipation for the 2 millionth visitor to enter DPAC last night, I quietly sat in my seat. I sat mesmerized by a smoke screen shielding the view of center stage; behind it was the colorful production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  As the 2 millionth visitor award was presented, I watched a lifeless smoke stack begin to take on recognizable shapes; shifting shapes from giant ships to trains to crayons.  The journey through the biblical story of Joseph and his 11 jealous brothers begins with a simple alarm clock, jolting Joseph out of bed.

When I found out that the roles Joseph and The Narrator would be played by the husband and wife team of Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo I was anxious.  I found solace in the thought that, “If their fellow American Idol alumni Clay Aiken, Fantasia, and Carrie Underwood can do Broadway…so can Ace and Diana.”  I was half right, sorta kinda.

Diana DeGarmo brings a high energy character to life on the stage, keeping us informed of the story through her narration and song. However, I do question the use of a handheld microphone for her character. Yes, it gave her a prop, but it reminded me of when she competed on American Idol.  I wish she could have had both hands free to use to interact with the cast. All things considered, Diana DeGarmo is the anchor of the cast; she also carries the duo of leads onstage with a powerful personality, energetic smile, and phenomenal voice.

Ace Young has his strengths and weaknesses; he is an amazing dancer, but only an average actor. That dichotomy made me question the casting of him as Joseph.  He would have been able to “rock out” in one of the brother roles.  It is easy to see him as the lead in Rock of Ages or maybe even Roger from Rent. That being said, I don’t believe Ace’s style of singing was what Sir Webber had in mind for Joseph. His voice was once described by, former American Idol judge, Simon Cowell as “nasal”. I have to agree, he voice sounded very nasal in all of the songs he performed.

Andy Blankenbuehler takes the beautiful music from Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics of Tim Rice and creates a new production for the Broadway Tour.  His directorial concept takes the Book of Genesis story from clothing of the biblical times to clothing of the modern age.  Mix in some amazing Technicolor lighting, simple yet wesome moving set pieces and the journey is set. And thank you Andy for making the opening overture not boring and the curtain call the most amazing one I have ever experienced!

It is impossible to write about the show without mentioning the high energy choreography.  For the final number of Act 1, I felt that I was watching a high impact jazzercise video. I found myself I was waiting for Richard Simmons to prance on the stage to begin Sweatin’ to the Oldies.  Heck, I wasn’t even on stage and I was out of breath and sweating from their routines!

The words on this page will never be able to do justice to the set and lighting design.  Such great detail was put into the backdrop. Much thought was put into the multiple uses of the muslin curtains hanging from the fly system.  The quick transitions from one scene to the next were flawless and created beautiful scenes.

Although the characters of the 11 brothers are inherently bad because of their actions in selling Joseph into slavery, I still I fell in love with each and every one of them.  I wouldn’t mind if those cast members had a spin-off musical entitled 11 Cool Brothers and a Dude with a Coat.  The contrasting styles of song that each brother brings are unique; the audience is left wanting to hear more of their tales.  From back-woods country, to Parisian flair, to the Reggae beats; we witness the unique contrasting personalities that the family members possess.

One of the fascinating things about seeing and performing in live theatre is the ability to escape reality, and Joseph helped create that parallel universe.  Random singing, dancing, flashy costumes, and an Elvis sighting help me forget that I was sitting in Durham, NC and transplanted me to ancient Egypt.  I’ve known the music, known the story, but had never experienced a live performance of Joseph and the amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  I’m truly glad that I went and witnessed this Webber classic.




What do you get when you mix punk rock with Broadway? That question sounds like the setup of a cheesy joke that you might hear on an elementary school playground. Taking the question at face value, it couldn’t sound much more ridiculous as a premise. The two styles of performance art are almost never mentioned in the same breath. The audiences of each style also could not be any more different either. All that being said, What DO you get when you mix punk rock and Broadway?

I went into DPAC with a set of expectations for the show that were rooted in my love of Green Day and my inexperience with Broadway. I was of the mindset that the music from Green Day’s American Idiot album would be watered down or otherwise dulled to make it fit Broadway. I knew that Billie Joe and the guys all got music credits for the show, but I felt that there was no way that the power and angst of such an angry album could be turned into a musical and still retain its original traits.

I had also been told by others who are more versed in the world of Broadway that this show was, “not going to be very good.” That sentiment was followed up with, “it’s a concert pretending to be a musical.” Needless to say, I was not expecting very much as I sat in my seat waiting for the show to start.

When the show begins, the first of the senses to be engaged is your hearing. Before the curtain goes up you can hear the sounds of someone aimlessly channel surfing. The sounds are of the nightly news, cartoons, reality TV, and anything else that can be found. Whoever has the remote control is clearly bored and searching for something to excite him.

Once the curtain rises your sense of sight is then aggressively engaged. The set is almost more than you can take in at a glance. There is the façade of a building complete with a functioning fire escape. Mounted to the façade are 20 or more television screens of varying sizes all jumping from image to image. There are lighting trusses that are aimed directly at the audience that are flashing with colors that complement the sounds and images on the screens.

The cast is seen milling around the stage almost aimlessly. Center-stage sits a bed with a young man sitting on the edge; he appears to be the channel-surfer. After about 10 more seconds of surfing, the man on the bed jumps to his feet and the band immediately starts playing some of the hardest punk rock you will ever hear.

The young man, Johnny, is now jumping around the stage thrashing like he is in the most intense mosh pit ever. The lead guitar is screaming, the bass guitar thumping, the drums are thunderous. The music is as hard and as intense as any concert that you would ever want to go to. The screens that are built into the set are all showing images that are almost too fast to appreciate. The light effects from the trusses are as intense and rapid fire as the music, almost blinding to the unprepared. All of this stimulation bombards you before you ever hear the first lyric.

Once Johnny belts out those first lyrics, “Don’t want to be an American idiot” you realize that this Broadway musical has some very real edge to it. As the rest of the cast joins in on the performance of the song you feel the power and angst of the music. Each delivers their individual part with strength and a rage. The ensemble takes the stage and begins a set of choreographed moves that is probably more appropriately called, synchronized moshing and head-banging.

After the first musical number was complete all of my fears about a dulled or weakened American Idiot were gone. The first number was no fluke either, the remainder of the show ran with the same intensity and power all the way through. Songs that were favorites from the album like; Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Know Your Enemy, 21 Guns and Holiday are performed in a way that added to the songs and, dare I say, improved on them. Songs like Are We the Waiting, Give me Novacaine, and Letterbomb were given real emotional depth that will be hard to forget as well.

The central lead of Johnny was played by Alex Boniello. He was making his tour debut on this particular night. That should mean there is some drop-off in ability since he is an understudy right? Dan Tracy was in the role of Tunny and Casey O’Farrell played Will. The central cast was rounded out by Olivia Puckett as Whatsername, Mariah MacFarlane as Heather, Carson Higgins as St Jimmy, and Taylor Jones as Extraordinary Girl. All of them gave justice to the music they were performing and stayed true to Green Day’s work.

As amazingly powerful as the music is, American Idiot is a show that relies more heavily on seeing the story instead of hearing the story. Hearing the music of the show on its own can tell a story that is at times compelling and emotional, but on its own is shallow. The light design by Kevin Adams, scenic design by Christine Jones, video/projection design by Darrel Maloney, and choreography by Steven Hoggett add a visual experience that makes the story feel significantly deeper than what the lyrics of the music provide on their own.

The light design invokes so much emotion as you hear the music that it accompanies. As the colors change and the strobes flash you are given a sense of what the song wants you to feel through the eye. During the song Give me Novacaine, the lighting is dimmed and a strobe is used to compliment the choreography meant to depict Tunny, Dan Tracy, being severely wounded in battle. As the scene comes to its completion and you see Tunny being carried from the battlefield a feeling of fear and loss is hard to escape.

The scenic and the video/projection design complement each other in a way that makes the world on the stage feel huge. The building façade that is primary set piece, with the embedded TV monitors, is dynamic and moving when it needs to be active and engaging. The same backdrop effectively portrays a rundown apartment, peaceful suburbs and a violent warzone, at times simultaneously. When the physical structures on stage were not able to support the song effectively, dynamic projections took over. During Holiday and Boulevard of Broken Dreams, the projections that are used give the stage performance a truly cinematic feel. The building façade that was so engaging and powerful seconds earlier was virtually invisible and subservient to the projection of a city street or skyline.

Another area where the show really makes a mark is in the choreography, blocking, and physical acting. None of the choreographed movements or routines are overly complicated, or even rhythmic. What they are is eye-catching and emotional. As you watch each cast member move about the stage you can see the anguish, anger, and frustration that each character feels. The realism that is used is also a major point in the overall visual impact of the show. The two sex scenes will the cross the line for some viewers and the blunt depictions of heroin use will also catch some off-guard. But as a whole, when the musical and visual acting components are working together the story is instantly deeper and richer.

My original question was, “what do you get when you mix punk rock with Broadway?’

The answer:

You get Green Day’s American Idiot, a musical that has all the grit and balls of the hit album that spawned it. You get a show that is almost cinematic in its visual appeal and close to overpowering with its musical punch. You get an emotional roller coaster than travels the spectrum of negative emotions felt by the youth of today. You get shocked and enthralled at the same time.

If you are a “theatre snob” that thinks that the only form of Broadway shows that are worth seeing are golden-age style musicals, which American Idiot is not, then PLEASE carry on with your ignorance. I am begging you, skip this show! The rest of us that are open to seeing and experiencing new things will gladly snatch up that ticket you are leaving behind! I plan to see American Idiot over and over again!


Dan Tracy (Tunny) in AMERICAN IDIOT (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)Dan Tracy (Tunny) in AMERICAN IDIOT (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Billie Joe Armstrong is the lead guitarist and front-man of one of the most successful rock bands of all time, Green Day. Armstrong is accompanied in Green Day by childhood friend, co-founder, and bass guitarist Mike Dirnt, drummer Tre Cool, and guitarist Jason White, who officially joined in 2012.

As a group, Green Day is one of the best-selling musical groups of all time having sold over 75 million albums worldwide. The band has released a total of 11 studio albums and has been RIAA certified Platinum over 20 times. Their 1994 major label debut album, Dookie, is listed as one of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine. The group has been honored with 5 Grammy Awards and is one of VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

As impressive as their list of musical accomplishments is on its own, there is one additional piece of acclaim that Armstrong and Green Day can lay claim to that VERY few other rock musicians can. The members of Green Day created and produced a show that made it from a small regional theatre in Berkeley, CA all the way to Broadway. That show was eventually nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical and won two Tony Awards for Scenic and Lighting Designs.

Green Day’s American Idiot, which is based on the Green Day album of the same name, is the story of three young men, Johnny, Will, and Tunny, who attempt to escape the confines of suburbia. Johnny flees to the city and embraces drugs, Tunny chooses the military life, and Will has to accept the role of father. The three young men are forced to face the lives they have and the lives they have lost.

American Idiot opened at the St. James Theatre on Broadway in the spring of 2010. The show ran for almost exactly one year with 400+ shows when it closed on April 24, 2011. It was directed by Tony Award winner, Michael Mayer with music composed by Green Day and lyrics by Armstrong. The cast of the original Broadway production included members of previous Broadway productions Spring Awakening, A Man for All Seasons, Journey’s End (2007 Revival), Avenue Q, and Rent.

After American Idiot closed in 2011 it almost immediately went on tour and has since spanned the globe.The touring cast has changed over the years as the various tours began and ended. The current cast has been together since October of 2013 and will be making a stop on April 29th at the Durham Performing Arts Center for two nights. After the Durham, NC show, the tour will move on to Atlanta, GA and then to the west coast for a series of shows in California. The current tour is scheduled to conclude at the end of May in Denver, CO.

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In advance of the show Eastern Carolina Style’s Michael Smith spoke at length with Dan Tracy. Tracy plays one the three leads, Tunny, and gave some poignant perspective and insight on the show…

MAS – This show is so different from traditional musical theatre in so many ways; why not try something, “safer” as your first?

Dan Tracy – I think that taking risks is one of the most exciting things about doing this. And having the taste of what it is like to be a member of Green Day also doesn’t hurt.

MAS – The show has won so many awards and has been loved by so many since it opened back in 2009, did that acclaim add any extra pressure?

Dan Tracy – No, any good show is going to have won awards. You definitely do your homework and put the time in to give the detail that it deserves. That is a big part of my job; it doesn’t add any pressure at this point.

MAS – How do you ready yourself for a show? Touring shows have to take a lot out of you, what do you do to make sure every performance is the best it can be?

Dan Tracy – I do a lot of reading to keep my brain excited and learning about the craft of acting. I keep researching different things. I stay up to date with the news to try and get myself in the mindset for the political side of the show. From there it is about keeping my body, voice, and mind clear and open and executing what I know is supposed to be the show.

MAS – Tell me about you character, Tunny. What does the audience need to know about this young man?

Dan Tracy – Tunny is a confused guy; he grew up in a tough family situation in suburban California. He is looking for an answer to make the pain go away. He’s got a rich emotional rift that he tries to hide from everyone. He decides after taking a trip to New York with his best friend Johnny to enlist in the military. He persuaded by this character called the favored son. The military poses that answer for him, kind of giving him a purpose. He has a difficult time with that too; he can’t seem to catch any breaks. He ends up seeing through all of the darkness into more positive light.

MAS – What do you want the audience to leave the show with, in regards to Tunny?

Dan Tracy – It’s about a person who has almost everything taken away from him and then still be able to move on and find the good. I think that a lot of people can relate to that in whatever way they personally see that story. Not many people have experience losing a limb in the middle-east during a very violent war. But, a lot of people have lost loved ones or they are dealing with addiction or the other themes that this deals with. My character can help contribute to that; as does Will and Johnny.

MAS – How do you, and the rest of the cast, handle questions and criticism from people that come to this show thinking they are getting something closer to the album than what it is? Considering the album has sold 15 million copies worldwide, there is a lot of room for lofty expectations from audiences.

Dan Tracy – There is a pressure on us, at the back of your mind. Every time I stand out and look at the audience when I am singing “Are We the Waiting” there is a lot of my emotional journey, my actions through the story of the show that are on the forefront of my mind. In the back of my brain is that fact that this song could very well be the favorite song of somebody out there in the audience. You try and think of that so that you know that you are putting in the work that you should. It is another way to motivate yourself to do your job every night when you have to do it 150 times in a row.

I have never heard anyone say that they didn’t like the changes that have been made from the original album to what you hear now. They are not even really changes. It is not like anything is gone, nothing is missing they have only added things. I think some of the orchestrations have really added significant richness to certain songs.

People had no idea of what they were going to get, they come to the show, they don’t know what it is about, and they are just taken aback.

MAS – To build on the criticism that I have seen and heard. Some people have said that this type of show is really just a concert trying to be a musical, how do you respond to that?

Dan Tracy – It doesn’t look like a golden-age book musical; it has the form of something you would see in an avant-garde movie. It is not very linear, there are so many things happening at once, there are so many pieces, there are a lot of metaphors happening, there is a lot of interpretation of different moments and there are a lot theatrical devices being used. Some people don’t see the richness when they walk in and see it the first time.

It is the type of show that every time you watch it you see something deeper and more complex. It is a lot for people to take in on their first watch

The cast of the show that will be appearing in Durham:

Main Cast:

Jared Nepute Johnny
Dan Tracy Tunny
Casey O’Farrell Will
Olivia Puckett Whatsername
Taylor Jones Extraordinary Girl
Mariah MacFarlane Heather
Carson Higgins St. Jimmy

Ensemble and Understudies:

Alex Boniello
Liam Fennecken
Sean Garner
Francesca Granell
Antwaun Holley
Andrew Humann
Alison Morooney
Johnny Newcomb
Michael Pilato
Eric Presnall
Turner Rouse, Jr.
Josephine Spada
Chelsea Turbin


Back By Popular Demand
First Triangle Appearance with Large Band in 4 Years

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band

Durham Performing Arts Center
August 27, 2014

Since his self-titled debut in 1986, Lyle Lovett has evolved into one of music’s most vibrant and iconic performers. His music, rich and eclectic, is one of the most beloved of any living artist working today. On August 27, 2014, DPAC welcomes him back, marking Lyle Lovett’s third appearance at DPAC.

Tickets go on sale Friday, April 25 at 12 p.m.:

Online at

DPAC Ticket Center: 919.680.2787, 123 Vivian Street, Durham, NC / Ticketmaster Charge by phone at 800.745.3000

“There is a closeness and intimacy when Lyle Lovett performs here,” said Bob Klaus, GM for DPAC. “His connection to our audience is immediate, no matter what he offers from his extensive songbook.”

A singer, composer and actor, Lyle Lovett has broadened the definition of American music in a career that spans 14 albums. Coupled with his gift for storytelling, the Texas-based musician fuses elements of country, swing, jazz, folk, gospel and blues in a convention-defying manner that breaks down barriers. Among his many accolades, besides four Grammy? Awards, he was given the Americana Music Association’s inaugural Trailblazer Award, and was recently named the Texas State Musician.

Lovett’s most recent album Release Me was released in February, 2012. The album was #1 for several weeks on the Americana charts. Produced by Nathaniel Kunkel and Lovett, Release Me represents the end of an era as it was his last record for Curb/Universal Music Group, having been on the label for his entire career. Release Me is quintessential Lyle, mixing a smart collection of originals and songs written by some of his favorite songwriters that show not only the breadth of this Texas legend’s deep talents, but also the diversity of his influences, making him one of the most infectious and fascinating musicians in popular music.

Lovett has appeared in 13 feature films, and on stage and television.