Special effects seem to be at a the crux of human entertainment these days, doesn’t it? Every episode of almost every studio made episodic drama, situation comedy and major motion picture is loaded with some flavor of special effects. Even shows like, “Big Bang Theory” or “How I Met Your Mother” have increased their effects budget with effects of dream sequences, stunts or layered images to help draw in the audience.
Pop-culture does not seem to have room for TV shows, movies or even plays that have to completely depend on the integrity and talent of the performers.
This was evident as I walked into the Carol Marsoni Hall of the Straz Center for the opening night performance of STOMP last night.
The house was littered with empty seats. The mezzanine and balcony were completely empty.
All I can say is to the lovers of music and theatre that decided to skip out on this performance, it is your loss. The simplistic cohesiveness of this ensemble show is something that does not come around all that often.
STOMP is a percussive music, comedy and movement performance that is matched by nothing I have ever seen. This group of seven performers make music without the use of musical instruments as we would define them. They basically use junk you may find in a dumpster in New York City. Garbage can lids, plastic tubs, match boxes, zippo lighters, are just a few of the items these talented performers use to make a beat come alive in a way that I was not only riveted, but I couldn’t help but want to move my feet with the beat.
The use of the artifacts along with their feet and the movement was visually stimulating as well. Within the first few numbers, all I could think of, was this group is making music with everything except the kitchen sink, and of course in the very next number four of the performers came out with kitchen sinks strapped to their torsos. Water in the sinks plus, cups and utensils seemed to come alive as the ensemble mixed their sounds together in one cohesive unit.
There is no special effects, no extra special lighting, no words, no special costumes just the performers and their props. Simple entertainment at it’s finest and extremely riveting.
Percussion was not the only thing used for entertainment. There was many parts of each number where comedy was used to infiltrate the performance with the laughter of the audience. Comedy alone is not easy, but comedy without one audible word for the entire show is extremely difficult and this group pulled it off with precision and ease.
This was one of the most entertaining ninety minutes I have had in a long time. What made it even more fun was the ensemble incorporated the audience within the show. Patterns of clapping, foot stomping, and finger snapping made for an interactive experience that just compounded on the immense fun this show had to offer.
In simple terms, STOMP was outstanding and I highly recommend everyone take the opportunity to go see it.
STOMP is playing at the Straz Center of the Performing Arts April 30 – May 3. Please visit the Straz Center website for more information.
I was courted to review Flashdance: The Musical at the Straz Center for their opening night on Tuesday, but other commitments kept me from attending. Rather than give up my tickets and sacrifice a review I sent volunteers, Mrs. Miranda Lessie, Mrs. Amy Eck and Bennett Eck in my place.
This is my first Guest Blog as it is written by Miranda Lessie.
Flashdance: The Musical – Straz Center for the Arts, Tampa Florida. 19 Feb 2013
Move over Las Vegas, there is a new party in town and it’s called Flashdance. Can you remember the iconic water works scene in the original movie? You won’t have to imagine it for long once you sit down for this new musical.
Flashdance The Musical
If you love the 80’s music, hair styles, dancing and most of all the legwarmers, you will be right at home with this production. Even if you don’t adore these things, you will find yourself moving to the live orchestra which sounding more like an 80’s hair band than an orchestra. Perfect for this play.
The play starts off with a running start and gets right into the story line. It was a fast start for me who prefers more of a background building and character development. Once all the characters were introduced throughout the play, the story line begun to come alive and I fell in love with each character. Kudos to the Casting director who found the perfect character for each performer whom seemed to have been born to play their particular part. The leading lady Emily Padgett was a dead ringer for the original movie character.
I found some characters had a shaky start with their first song but each ended with a bang. The singing in the play was equal to, if not better than, the dancing. All the performers were superb singers, dancers and actors.
The set and lighting was a plus for this play. I never questioned what location we were at in the play because there was a huge display at the top of the stage at every scene change. My only question about the set is “just how did they do that water dance scene?” It was so perfect.
Costumes were exquisite but not over the top. They were very believable for the time period. They were also just on the edge of being rated a little more than PG-13. The language was appropriate for this type of play and slang was kept a very minimum.
As I walked out of the playhouse, I wondered why I didn’t attend more productions. I absolutely fell in love with this medium and will be back soon. The actors made this play but the scene and music made the actors. ~ Miranda Lessie
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It was apparent this was coming, right? This woman was all over my Rock ‘n’ Roll recap, so the inspiration was already foreshadowed and if you didn’t read the last post, then prepare to be inspired.
Jessica and I met on a set of commercial we were doing for some insurance company. I never actual saw the final cut, but then again, that happens quite frequently. We were actually placed in the roles of runners, which is why it made so much sense. I was in a conversation about running and all of the sudden, I heard this upbeat, sultry voice from behind me enter into the conversation. I turned around to see this tall, athletically thin, beautiful blond woman behind me. Her hair in a ponytail, wearing a Newton visor and radiating the intense positive aura all around her. There was more to this attraction then the minimalistic pure blood American male to the tall, stunningly gorgeous, platinum blond female(See? I am not denying the obvious). The energy radiating from this woman was intense.
We conversed in detail all the while waiting for the lighting to be rigged, and shots set up. I came to find her life as intoxicating as Jessica herself. This woman is an Elite Runner holding course records in the Gasparilla Half-Marathon, St. Pete Women’s Half-Marathon and the St. Pete Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon. As of last year she began competing in triathlon only to make it to Las Vegas for the 70.3 World Championships her first year. If that wasn’t enough, she also coaches other elite athletes, has her own marketing company, and recently created her own Not-for-profit. She is committed to giving back.
As I have continued to attempt climb inside her head and soul to try and understand what drives her, I have yet to hear her utter a negative word about anything or anyone. She truly believes in winning not only the race, but in life itself. If there is ever the opportunity to meet this unbelievable athlete and woman, do so. Before you know it, you will be winning to. Let me introduce you to my good friend, Jessica Crate.
Place of Birth:
Victoria, British Columbia CANADA
Place growing up: Lived all over the US…. Oregon, California, Wisconsin, NY during Elementary School years.
High School: Sarnia, Ontario CANADA
High School sports: EVERYTHING! Lol…. I think I tried out for and was on every team! Basketball, Volleyball, Soccer, Softball, Gymnastics, Swimming, Dance, Cheerleading, Track & Field, Cross-country, I even dabbled in Girls Rugby (big mistake-haha).
College: Arizona State for 2 years studying Exercise Science and Kinesiology and was Academic and Varsity Scholar athlete for Track and XC(Cross Country) both years.
College Sports: Track and XC, but also dabbled in Soccer, Yoga, Strength training and swimming.Transferred to Florida State University for my last 2 years to pursue Pre- Medical Studies and continued my Minors in Psychology and French. Also ran on the Varsity Track and XC Teams and made it to National Championships all 4 collegiate years. 🙂
Other Sports: I currently work out 2-3 times daily and mix up my training with cycling, running, swimming, yoga, P90X, SUP (stand up paddleboarding), surfing, adventure/mud racing, volleyball, waterskiing, snowboarding…. You name it!
When was it you started competing and why?
I was born a competitor and my Mom tells me I literally came into this world “running” as I was born 1 month pre-mature. Clearly I was eager to get moving at an early age 😉
I grew up in a very athletic family, so “friendly competition” has been a part of my life since my early years. I love to win and have a burning desire for change for the better. Thus, I’m always looking to improve and hone my skills.
What is it that keeps you running after all of this time?
I absolutely LOVE a challenge, I love growing, running is a part of me, and a HUGE part of my life, friendships, relationships and what I do. Others inspire me to KEEP running and in return I hope to inspire others in the process.
In our private conversations you have basically told me that this year you have decided to give back. How did that come about?
I have been overseas on several missions trips and have had the privilege of traveling the
world for racing, training and competing. Being awarded a full-ride scholarship to two D1 Schools for both athletics and academics was not only a blessing, but I felt it a responsibility to essentially “Give Back” all that had been given to me. Upon graduating from college, I partnered with Olympic athlete, Jon Rankin, to launch our own Non-profit organization entitled “Giving Athletics, Inc”, who’s mission is to “Inspire Social change through athletic participation.” It has been so rewarding to help others by fitting them with clothes and shoes that allow them to participate in sports and gain an education. 🙂
If you could give me one adjective to describe the feeling you get when you are working what would it be?
Exhilaration, FREEDOM, accomplishment, energy!
When and why did you start competing in triathlon?
Back in April 2011, I had been training hard to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the Marathon. I
had raced several marathons already, but my coach believed I was ready based on my workouts and marathon times. However, at mile 14, I side- stepped around some runners at a water station and snapped my foot. The adrenaline, high pain tolerance and my will to finish wouldn’t let me quit, so I ran the last 12.2 miles on a broken foot. I requalified for Boston, but obviously did more damage to my foot by continuing the race. My Olympic Trials dreams were shattered and I was now in a boot, unable to run. I began physical therapy and realized that I was going to go crazy if I couldn’t run, so I picked up swimming and cycling. Long story short, I started sprint triathlons, qualified for USAT Age Group Nationals in the ITU distance and soon I was embarking on tri training. I ended up qualifying for the USAT ITU World Championships and setting new goals, like Ironman 70.3. Now, here I am! Runner turned Triathlete 😉
What projects are involved with besides running races?
I currently own a marketing company “CRATE, Inc.”, coach and train athletes in addition to my training, while working with a neutraceutical company, LifeVantage. I have found my purpose and passion in life and live to lead a legacy by coaching, training and inspiring others to achieve their goals and dreams.
What would you say is your greatest obstacle you ever overcame
Breaking my foot in the Boston marathon, overcoming that injury and breaking onto the triathlon scene to qualify for 2 World Championships last year as well as set 3 course records in half marathons throughout the state of Florida.
What is your greatest victory?
My greatest victory is overcoming so many failures to continue succeeding. I firmly believe, and as the most successful people will tell you, you have to fail FORWARD. The faster you fail, the quicker you’ll succeed.
What are you favorite quotes?
My business partners and teammates know my favorite slogans, amongst many “Jessica-isms” are: “K.I.S.S.” (Keep it simple silly), “Relax, Smile and Breathe”, “Live life to the fullest”, “Go BIG or go home!”
If you’d like more information on where she will be next or to sign up for a training session, contact her at [email protected]
The Tampa Bay Bloggers had an opportunity to see Elf the Musical on opening night and as a new member I was thrilled at the chance to take part. Now as I am a new member I am not sure of the background of my fellow bloggers, but I do have a modest amount of training and experience in theater (www.bradminus.com), so I may be just a tad more specific especially on the acting, but nevertheless I hope my review will be informative enough to help you decide whether to see it or not. Just a little foreshadowing….go see it.
Elf the Musical is based on the 2003 holiday movie Elf starring Will Farrell about a human baby who found his way into Santa’s bag during his Christmas visit to a local orphanage. Since the boy was already an orphan, Santa and his elves decided to raise the child at the north pole just as they would any elf child. The problem was Buddy, the human boy, grew to be over six feet tall. After a small slip of the tongue by one of the other elves, Buddy learns that he is indeed human and asks Santa about his parents. It is then that Buddy decides to go and find his father in the big city of New York.
NETwork Presentations LLC’s production of this family Christmas musical was alive with high energy musical numbers, colorful set pieces and smooth transitions from scene to scene. In the past decade or two, Broadway and national tours have started to move toward high tech sets and stage work which include hgh intensive set changes, creative light and sound effects, and even some pyrotechnics. Very recently I have noticed a small shift back to a more classical route where the set pieces are simple but painted well, the lighting is simple and the music and sound are achieved by a live orchestra instead of musical tracks. This musical is a perfect example. This simpler style has shifted the responsibility of the quality of productions back to the performers and less to the designers of sets, sound and lighting. In my opinion it makes for a better show, but I may be a little biased.
The play opens up with Santa (Gordon Gray) sitting in his living room fighting with his television set. He opens the fourth wall and greets the audience as if we were sitting on the floor right in his living room. After subtly turning off his cell phone, he opens a book and prepares to tell us the story of Buddy the Elf. At the point the living room is whisked away to Santa’s workshop where the elves are preparing for Christmas. Gordon’s depiction of Santa throughout the play is wonderful. His energy and boastfulness helped me to get lost in the show and actually believe I was at the north pole.
Matt Kopec’s characterization of Buddy is spot on as his high energy, child like characterization makes the audience believe this six-foot boy really does believe he is an elf and is horrified when he finds out he is actually human. Matt’s singing voice is pure musical theater and was a joy to hear every time he opened his mouth. I found myself waiting impatiently for his next number.
The real treat came from the character of Jovie (Kae Hennies), who captures Buddy’s heart the moment he sees her in the office of his biological father, Walter Hobbs (Drew Culver). Jovie has to be coaxed in to singing during the number “A Christmas Song”, but when she finally decides to sing out, her voice beautifully resonates throughout the theatre and when paired with Buddy’s the duo create pure musical brilliance for any ear.
Other notable performances were by Michael, Buddy’s half brother played by Connor Barth who even as a young actor, had a mature voice for his age. He tended to get a little pitchy in the upper registers, but because of his characterization was easily missed and forgivable. Julia Louise Hosack played Emily Hobbs, Buddy’s step mother, also had a fantastic musical voice and she was able to lead Michael into musical duets that gave me the “warm fuzzies”. The connection and chemistry between these two well trained actors allowed me to believe they were really mother and son.
The only drawback of this production that tugged me out of my holiday nirvana, was the voice of Drew Pulver whom played Walter Hobbs, Buddy’s father. His performance was not inferior, it just did not mix well the rest of the ensemble in my humble opinion. It was obvious to the audience that most of the ensemble were trained in contemporary music or musical theater When Walter sang it was clearly operatic, to a point where the words were garbled and I couldn’t make out the lyrics. Unfortunately, every time he sang it was distracting and his voice did not meld with the rest of the ensemble.
This show is classical musical theatre with simply painted sets, wonderful acting, and is sure to bring a smile to you and your family should you decide to see it. It is a true Holiday treat.
Elf the Musical is playing at
Straz Center for the Performing Arts
1010 North W.C. MacInnes Place
Tampa, Florida 33602
Wed. 7:30 p.m.
Fri. 2 and 8 p.m.
Sat. 2 and 8 p.m.
Sun. 1 and 6:30 p.m.