Say “Hello” to Your New Favorite Musical

California Musical Theatre’s (CMT) production of Hello, Dolly! is brisk, animated, and thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. Hello, Dolly! tells the tale of Dolly Levi, a matchmaker who rediscovers what love is truly about. This classic American comedy is sure to lift the audience’s spirit with fits of laughter. It was so much fun being surrounded by an audience who sang quietly or hummed along to every tune, laughing, smiling, and clearly enjoying every minute of the performance.

Photo by Kevin Graft

Photo by Kevin Graft

Of course, the key to an enjoyable production is the people behind it. Lynne Wintersteller (who plays the matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi) delivers each of her lines with perfect timing. She was funny, ironic, beautiful, and oozes charisma with every song, turn of a phrase, a flick of a hand, and even while comically stuffing food down her face. This is perfectly exemplified in the scene at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant when all the young men fall at her feet. While Winterstellar may have stolen the show, she is raised up by the immense talent that surrounds her.

Photo by Kevin Graft

Photo by Kevin Graft

The casting was also superb across the board; not a single actor felt out of place or unprepared for their role. There is palatable chemistry between Cornelius Hackl (played by John Scherer) and Irene Malloy (played by the stunning Jacquelyn Piro Donovan). The intricate net of crushes and schemers will have you on your tip toes until the play’s end. This group of talented actors, featuring many Music Circus veterans, puts on a show that you won’t want to miss!

Photo by Kevin Graft

Photo by Kevin Graft

While the choreography and staging was exemplary throughout, the performances of “The Waiters Gallop,” and “Hello, Dolly!” were my favorites. As the cast sings and dances across the stage, the members of the audience around me lit up with excitement and cheer. When a production has the power to do this you know it’s a great show.

Cheers to Director Glenn Casale, Choreographer Randy Slovacek, and Musical Director Craig Barna for putting together a fantastic show that did more than just cheer me up on a hot Tuesday night after a long day of work. I can’t recommend Music Circus’ production of Hello, Dolly! enough.

If you’re interested in learning more about this wonderful musical comedy, visit the musical’s listing on Sacramento365.com. The show will run until this Sunday, July 3, so make sure to get your tickets fast because soon Sacramento will be saying, “Goodbye, Dolly!”


***This blog was written by Sacramento365.com’s Content Specialist, Dylan Fisher.

Our Night Out with Elle Woods

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Lauren Zakrin as Elle Woods and Chico as Bruiser in Legally Blonde. Photo by Charr Crail.

In honor of the start of the Music Circus 2016 season, Sacramento365.com is giving you two perspectives of Legally Blonde the Musical. Read up on how two-thirds of our team — Karlee Cemo and Jamila Khan — rate the musical that proves staying true to one’s self never goes out of style.

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15 years ago a little film called Legally Blonde debuted on the big screen and left a big impact on our teenage selves. After watching the hilarious Reese Witherspoon-led comedy, we both became a little obsessed. Karlee wanted to be blonde, a lawyer, and Reese Witherspoon’s carbon copy, while Jamila wore a lot of pink accessories and would respond to her friend’s butchering legal jargon like Ms. Elle Woods. The film was Jamila’s first ever DVD and Karlee’s favorite film on VHS (Jamila’s note: Kickin’ it old school, Karlee!). To this day, it’s each of our favorite movies and we can pretty much recite the script from beginning to end.

When hearing that a musical rendition of the film would kickoff of the 2016 Music Circus season, we were stoked. Music Circus has been a summer tradition for both of our families, so seeing this non-conventional opener piqued our interest. Given that the film wasn’t originally a musical, we both wondered how exactly song and dance would be incorporated into the storyline.

Our excitement and expectations were high, and the luckily, the production did not disappoint. Elle Woods, played by Lauren Zakrin, sensationally channeled her inner Reese Witherspoon with a spunky performance that fantastically captured the perky essence of Elle Woods. We both coveted her chic pink wardrobe and well-trained Bruiser, Elle’s beloved chihuahua, played by two very cute dogs. Bruiser’s few appearances definitely provided for some hearty laughs from the audience; but then again…who doesn’t love a tiny dog “acting” on a live stage?

Karlee’s highlights:
– The clever and upbeat song lyrics lyrics incorporated a mixture of lines from the film, modern day references, and a pinch of adult humor. A few of my favorite numbers were “There! Right There!”, “Bend and Snap” (obviously), and “Whipped Into Shape,” which had fitness phenom and defendant Brooke Wyndham (Grace Stockdale) singing while jumping rope. Very impressive.
– The exaggerated mannerisms of hairdresser Paulette Bonafante’s (Ryah Nixon) love interest Kyle the UPS guy (Seth Danner) make him an unexpectedly entertaining and hilarious addition to the show.

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Seth Danner as Kyle in Legally Blonde. Photo by Kevin Graft.

Jamila’s highlights:
-Female empowerment and sisterhood is even more front-and-center in the stage production than in the film. Without spoiling the revised plot, let’s just say that mousy Vivienne Kensington (Shannon O’Boyle) is a little less witchy…
-Added to the story is a hilarious subplot related to Paulette’s Bonafante’s obsession with Ireland. I now will use the line “give my love to the leprechauns” whenever I can.

Were you a fan of the original Legally Blonde, too? Then make sure you grab a ticket to the pop-culture musical before it’s too late. Production runs through Sunday, June 19. Tickets start at $45. For times and ticket information, visit Legally Blonde’s Sacramento365.com event page.

***This blog post was written by Sacramento365.com’s Content and Marketing Manager Karlee Cemo and Content and Social Media Coordinator Jamila B. Khan.

Hitsville, USA Comes to Sacramento

Motown the Musical CLIFTON OLIVER (Berry Gordy) Clifton Oliver is honored to be a part of the Motown family. Broadway: The Lion King (Simba), In The Heights (Benny opposite Jordin Sparks), Wicked (Fiyero). Nat'l Tours: The Lion King (Simba), Rent (Benny & Collins), Ragtime (Ensemble). Regional: Pal Joey (Arkansas Rep.), Kinky Boots (Lola's standby for Bill Porter), West Coast Tour of The Scottsboro Boys (Charlie/Victoria), Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Victor), Godspell (Judas) MUNY. Television: "Law and READ MORE ? ALLISON SEMES (Diana Ross) Chicago native. B.M. Opera at UIUC, M.M. from NYU-Steinhardt. Broadway credits: Motown the Musical, Florence Ballard & The Book of Mormon, Nabalungi U/S, Swing. Other credits include: The Color Purple National Tour, Dreamgirls, Bubbling Brown Sugar, The Wiz, Candide. I want to thank you Bethany and everyone at Telsey, Renee, my CCC/ KACC/ GIAME families, Momma & Poppa Bear, Emile, QVD, and my friends for the unconditional love and support! READ MORE ? NICHOLAS CHRISTOPHER (Smokey Robinson) Born in Bermuda and raised in Boston, MA. Studied at both The Boston Conservatory and The Juilliard School. 1st National Tour: In The Heights. Off-Broadway: Rent, Hurt Village. Thank you family, friends and SMS for your lurve and support. JARRAN MUSE (Marvin Gaye) A native Jersey boy couldn't be happier living his dream. God is good yall. Broadway/NYC: Motown The Musical, Irving Berlin's White Christmas, Dreamgirls; International Tours: American Idiot, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, 42nd Street. Regional Theater: Marriott Lincolnshire, Portland Center Stage (Will Parker in Oklahoma!), Goodspeed, Fulton Opera Houses, Pittsburgh CLO. Thank you to Mr. GORDY, Charles, and Telsey for this new opportunity to bring Marvin to stage READ MORE ? ERICK BUCKLEY (Ensemble) Broadway/National Tours: Valjean in Les Miserables, Uncle Fester in The Addams Family, Dave in The Full Monty, Piangi in The Phantom of the Opera, Gangster #1 Kiss Me, Kate, Roger in Grease

Photo by Joan Marcus.

“To get to [the people’s] heart, you have to get to their feet.” – Berry Gordy

And that’s what Motown Records and its hit-making artists did. Despite operating during the time of overt de facto discrimination, the black-owned powerhouse and its iconic Motown Sound persevered and, quite literally, moved a generation. Broadway Sacramento caps off its successful 2015-2016 season retelling the company’s vibrant origin story with Motown the Musical.

The musical’s book, penned by Motown’s founder Berry Gordy, begins and ends with Motown 25th Anniversary Show. Filling most of the 160 minutes of stage time are a series of flashbacks, highlighting the trials, tribulations, and artists that shaped the legendary independent record company. (You’ll see everyone from Marvin Gaye to Rick James.) Of course, Berry Gordy’s love affair with Diana Ross is examined as well. Projected TV clips and the company’s changing fashions give temporal clues for the 45 years covered during the show.

Lean on character development, the musical instead makes room for the legendary Motown catalog to shine; of the over 180 hits produced under Gordy’s leadership; 66 Motown songs were infused throughout the production. Diana Ross’s campy, interactive solo debut at the Frontier Hotel and any The Jackson 5 number were the hands-down highlights of the already spectacular show. Also impressive was the fact that many cast members played up to five different characters, makes sense given Motown’s revolving door of talent.

Motown the Musical CLIFTON OLIVER (Berry Gordy) Clifton Oliver is honored to be a part of the Motown family. Broadway: The Lion King (Simba), In The Heights (Benny opposite Jordin Sparks), Wicked (Fiyero). Nat'l Tours: The Lion King (Simba), Rent (Benny & Collins), Ragtime (Ensemble). Regional: Pal Joey (Arkansas Rep.), Kinky Boots (Lola's standby for Bill Porter), West Coast Tour of The Scottsboro Boys (Charlie/Victoria), Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Victor), Godspell (Judas) MUNY. Television: "Law and READ MORE ? ALLISON SEMES (Diana Ross) Chicago native. B.M. Opera at UIUC, M.M. from NYU-Steinhardt. Broadway credits: Motown the Musical, Florence Ballard & The Book of Mormon, Nabalungi U/S, Swing. Other credits include: The Color Purple National Tour, Dreamgirls, Bubbling Brown Sugar, The Wiz, Candide. I want to thank you Bethany and everyone at Telsey, Renee, my CCC/ KACC/ GIAME families, Momma & Poppa Bear, Emile, QVD, and my friends for the unconditional love and support! READ MORE ? NICHOLAS CHRISTOPHER (Smokey Robinson) Born in Bermuda and raised in Boston, MA. Studied at both The Boston Conservatory and The Juilliard School. 1st National Tour: In The Heights. Off-Broadway: Rent, Hurt Village. Thank you family, friends and SMS for your lurve and support. JARRAN MUSE (Marvin Gaye) A native Jersey boy couldn't be happier living his dream. God is good yall. Broadway/NYC: Motown The Musical, Irving Berlin's White Christmas, Dreamgirls; International Tours: American Idiot, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, 42nd Street. Regional Theater: Marriott Lincolnshire, Portland Center Stage (Will Parker in Oklahoma!), Goodspeed, Fulton Opera Houses, Pittsburgh CLO. Thank you to Mr. GORDY, Charles, and Telsey for this new opportunity to bring Marvin to stage READ MORE ? ERICK BUCKLEY (Ensemble) Broadway/National Tours: Valjean in Les Miserables, Uncle Fester in The Addams Family, Dave in The Full Monty, Piangi in The Phantom of the Opera, Gangster #1 Kiss Me, Kate, Roger in Grease

Photo by Joan Marcus.

In Motown the Musical you’ll learn the lessons of loyalty, pride, competition, but most importantly, never giving up on your dreams.

Don’t miss your chance to hear the music and magic of Motown the Musical. The Motown Sound takes over the Community Center Theater stage now through Sunday, May 29. For ticket and show details, click here.

Disclaimer: While this is an all ages show, the “n-word” is used briefly in during the traveling Motortown Revue scene. There is also an implied (though hilarious) sex scene.

***This blog post was written by Sacramento365.com’s Content and Social Media Coordinator Jamila B. Khan.

NEWSIES Gives You Something to Believe In

Newsies, a Disney Theatrical Production under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Newsies, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, book by Harvey Fierstein, starring Dan Deluca (Jack Kelly), Steve Blanchard (Joseph Pulitzer), Stephanie Styles (Katherine Plumber), Angela Grovey (Medda), Jacob Kemp (Davey), Zachary Sayle (Crutchie), Anthony Rosenthal or Vincent Crocilla (Les) and Matthew J. Schechter (Les) under the direction of Jeff Calhoun, choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, North American Tour premiere Thursday October 30 Philadelphia

Newsies, “the ragtag raggamuffins” with heart. ©Disney. Photo by Deen van Meer.

I am always down to see a musical, but I must admit when first getting the assignment to see Disney’s NEWSIES, I was a little confounded. The premise of the musical from outward appearances is odd; what would compel someone to write a musical based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899? Having not seen the cult 1992 movie of the same name, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Was the musical going to be Les Misérables set in NYC? Did I need to brush up on my history to understand its plot? Luckily, having an open mind paid off. Using my best Brooklyn accent, I can say that Disney’s NEWSIES was a delight “for shoire.”

The family-friendly musical is evergreen, detailing a feel-good story of David versus Goliath. Inspired by New York’s trolley strikes at the time, newsboy Jack Kelly and his gang of friends, affectionately called “newsies”, form a union when New York publishing kingpins raise distribution prices at their expense. Through rallies, a few fights, and the power of words, the boys successfully defeat corporate greed.

Along with touching upon the subjects of child labor laws and workers’ rights, the musical pokes fun of fame, the one-percent, and what today we call “clickbait” news. (There was even a musical number on the writing process, something to which I can relate!) It turns out, as mentioned tongue-and-cheekily by the youngest newsie, “theatre is entertaining and educational!”

The musical also shines because of its cast. While characters Jack Kelly (played by Joey Barreiro) and Katherine (played by Morgan Keene) give us “Something to Believe In,” the entire company blows you away with its talent; these young actors carry a tune through flips, tap dance numbers, playing the spoons, and even when swiveling on newspapers. Adding to the theatre magic was its impressive set. The stage, consisting of large maneuverable steel stairwells grew in size, replicating tenant homes, rooftops, and skyscrapers at the change of a curtain.

See this underdog story now through Sunday, April 17. A limited number of tickets are still available. For ticket show times and prices, visit the show’s Sacramento365.com page here.

Want more musicals in your life? Season tickets for the 2016-2017 Broadway Sacramento season are now on sale. For more details, click here.


***This blog post was written by Sacramento365.com’s Content and Social Media Coordinator Jamila B. Khan.

Let the Doorbells Ring!

The Book of Mormon makes its first appearance in Sacramento with an overwhelming sold out welcome!

Book of Mormon

Billy Harrigan Tighe in the Broadway Sacramento presentation of The Book of Mormon at the Sacramento Community Center Theater March 9 – 20, 2016. Photo by Johan Persson.

It was years in the making, but my mom and I finally got to see The Book of Mormon, and it did not disappoint. The hype of this nine-time Tony Award-winning Best Musical is the real deal.

My abs got a workout from the continuous laughter and there were many moments where my hands were on the side of my face in an “OMG — did they just go there? Yes, yes, they did” manner.

This politically incorrect production, written by South Park co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Avenue Q songwriter Robert Lopez, pokes fun at the institution of the Mormon Church. Throughout the production, the religion’s origin story is continuously skewered in enactments, which include Jesus in a light-up costume, Joseph Smith with a heavy spray tan and platinum blonde wig, and Brigham Young depicted as a stern and silent character.

The missionaries themselves are portrayed as good-natured, family-oriented young men that are faithful to their religion.

The remarkable 32-member cast is led by Billy Harrigan Tighe as Elder Kevin Price and A.J. Holmes as Elder Arnold Cunningham. Tighe’s character is the handsome and popular young man who experiences a spiritual crisis when he’s sent for missionary work to the violent and AIDS-plagued Uganda rather than his dream city of Orlando, Florida. His missionary partner, masterfully played by Holmes, is a socially awkward and truth-challenged individual, whose flawed personality makes him weirdly lovable.

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Company of the Broadway Sacramento presentation of The Book of Mormon at the Sacramento Community Center Theater March 9 – 20, 2016. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Another standout with a powerful voice is Alexandra Ncube, who plays Nabulungi, the sweet and genuine Ugandan girl who falls in love with both Mormonism and Arnold. Make sure to pay extra attention to their interactions, Arnold is always calling her by a different name (“Nancy Pelosi”, “Neutrogena,” etc.) because he can’t pronounce her actual name.

One of the most entertaining musical numbers is “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.” I mean, where else are you going to see Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Johnnie Cochran, and a pair of life-size “Starbucks-looking” coffee cups kick-stepping in Hell?

From the opening number, “Hello” to “Turn it Off” and “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” the lyrics of all the songs are provocative, sometimes unrefined, but always hilariously brilliant.

This production is not for everyone and not suitable for children. It contains explicit language throughout its entirety.

The Book of Mormon runs from now through Sunday, March 20 at the Community Center Theater. While the production is sold out, there’s still a chance to get your hands on tickets through the pre-show lottery, which takes place 2.5 hours prior to each performance at the Community Center Box Office. For more lottery information, click here.

**This blog post was written by Sacramento365.com’s Content and Marketing Manager, Karlee Cemo.

Get to Know March Featured Artist Benjamin Ismail

Profile ShotFor our March instalment of our Featured Artist series, Sacramento365.com wanted to learn more about one of the region’s rising theatre powerhouses, the Big Idea Theatre. On the heels of its highly acclaimed and sold-out Motherf***er With a Hat, a seat at the intimate Del Paso Boulevard playhouse is quickly becoming the most coveted ticket in town.

The key to Big Idea’s big success? The passion and razor-sharp focus of its Artistic Director, Benjamin Ismail, just might have something to do with it. We were lucky enough to chat with the company’s fearless leader to learn more about his passions and Big Idea Theatre’s bright future here.

The Little Mermaid: The “Under the Sea” World Vibrantly Graces the Live Stage

I grew up on Disney movies. Now that I have a four-year-old daughter, I thoroughly enjoy watching them with her and impressing her with my song knowledge. One of my favorites is The Little Mermaid. For those unfamiliar with the plot, the story follows a headstrong young mermaid whose dream is to live as a human on land. She falls in love with a human, Prince Eric, and will do anything, even go against her father’s warnings, to be a part of the prince’s world and follow true love.

Photo by Bruce Bennett

Photo by Bruce Bennett

Most of the movie takes place underwater and I was curious to see how they were going to portray an underwater world on stage. I was fascinated by the quick and realistic scene changes from ocean to land. The underwater swimming scenes were impressive and I was surprised with how the use of lighting, props, and flying ropes truly gave the effect of them swimming with the greatest of ease! I noticed right away that even when the sea characters were standing, they were moving their bodies in a way to show they were staying afloat in water. I appreciated the attention to even those small details. The cast was amazing, especially Alison Woods as Ariel, Jennifer Allen as Ursula, and Melvin Abston as Sebastian.

Photo by Bruce Bennett

Photo by Bruce Bennett

There were some significant changes from the movie, but they added to the experience in a positive way. There is a part about Ariel’s mother and her death that is completely glossed over in the movie. It helped to make more sense of the over-protective, King Triton. Another major change was that Ursula, the evil sea witch, is actually King Triton’s sister and Ariel’s aunt in the play. They also played up the fact that Flounder, Ariel’s best friend fish, has a major crush on her. There is a certain animosity between Ariel and her six sisters in the movie, but they were a lot more vindictive and jealous of Ariel in the performance, which made for some amusing scenes.

Theatre Under the Stars - Disney's "The Little Mermaid" at TUTS, September 2015.

Theatre Under the Stars – Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” at TUTS, September 2015.

One of the most memorable acts was the “Under the Sea,” performance. The vibrant visual perfectly matched the upbeat classic, which called for audience participation to help sing-along. Sebastian led the chorus of brightly colored characters as they tried to persuade Ariel why the ocean life is the best life. There were giant “floating” jellyfish, vibrantly colored sea creatures, and whimsical fish! Another brief, but extremely memorable and hilarious act was “Les Poissons” with Chef Louis (played by Jeff Skowron).

All in all, The Little Mermaid, was an entertaining experience. It’s a great show for adults and children alike. It’ll have you singing out loud or, at least, wanting to learn the words so you can join in. The show will only be running until this Sunday, so don’t miss your chance to see this Disney classic live!

***This post was written by the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Lindsey Adams.