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High School Musical 2 Works, Works, Works Out Movie’s Shortcomings

HSM2 Over the past couple of decades, the North Carolina Theatre has developed a reputation as one of the best regional theater companies outside of the New York area. Each season is filled with outstanding up-and coming local and national talent placed under excellent direction.

The current offering, High School Musical 2, continues the tradition of impressive productions by the company. The movie originally premiered two years ago, and was a resounding success for Disney. Their collection of handpicked talent plus a great set of songs equaled the strongest of the HSM franchise. While it is unusual to see a stage adaptation of an original movie, the HSM2 story actually plays better in the theater.

The stars of the production, Chase Peacock (Troy), Renee Albulario (Gabriella), Gretchen Bieber (Sharpay), and Jason Edward Cook (Ryan) all do a fantastic job of adapting the roles for their own talents without distorting their characters. Peacock was strong, but played his role fairly safely. Albulario, staying true to the movie’s portrayal of her character, actually has a prettier voice than the always-sharp, piercingly squeaky Vanessa Hudgens. Bieber’s twist on Sharpay takes the character into a much more spoiled, darker realm than Ashley Tisdale’s more daffy approach. Perhaps that was to be expected given Bieber’s own treatment of her fellow cast members.

The stage is a delicate space where only a few actors truly seem a natural fit. How many American Idol contestants look like they are on a telethon versus the truly talented few that make it to the end? Not one second did Adam Lambert look out of place on the show. The actor that truly stood out as being totally comfortable and believable is Josh Breckenridge. His portrayal of Chad Danforth blows away Corbin Bleu’s, especially in executing one of the show’s most important numbers, “I Don’t Dance”. The song was awkward in the movie, but really shines as one of the best in Act II here.

Edward G. Robinson’s orchestra pit was excellent, though it sometimes overpowered singers during some of the verses, especially in Act I.

Speaking of bands, the major role acting debut of Broughton High School’s band director, “JR” Richardson was fun to see. The director wanted to cast an “edgy” person into the role, and they got it. Richardson plays the role of Mr. Fulton, the drill sergeant, summer-long boss of our heroes. Fulton is much less of a pawn to Sharpay’s family in this production, and stands as his own man late in the show, offering his own consoling wisdom at a key moment before the show’s climax.

Kudos also go to the performance of Jeffrey Scott Vizcaino, who offers comic relief in a role that did not appear in the movie. His knock-out line,”Wow, you guys really sight-read well,” brought the house down. It was a moment of honest, self-realization for a bombastic musical where athletic high-schoolers easily nail new choreography as well as the harmonies in a brand new song.

Where the stage production really shines is in the execution of the plot. There were several times during the movie where I found myself asking questions like ,”How did they all-of-a-sudden become friends? Why is Gabriella leaving? Why is Corbin Bleu trying to dance?” The unabridged story told in this stage production is far superior to the movie’s story.

Director Casey Hushion’s production is a bit slow in mid- Act I, but really takes off just before intermission. The theme of Troy’s over-extension of himself with promises he cannot keep is fully explored, and presented in a very dark, moving mashup of themes presented earlier in the Act. There is no letdown with Act II, either. The production explores the Sharpay’s selfishness  and ultimate misery as well the dreams of Ryan excellently. The production also appropriately deals with the rocky romance between Troy and Gabriella, something sorely lacking in the movie.

There are still four more shows remaining in the show’s run (tickets). Both today and tomorrow there will be 2pm matinees while tonight there is an 8pm show. The final performance begins at 7pm tomorrow night. All performances are in Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium.


Time Nears for A Christmas Carol Auditions

christmascarol This year is the 35th Anniversary of, Ira David Wood III’s A Christmas Carol.  As an additional milestone, the show will also be performed in Raleigh’s sister city, Compiégne, France, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the original international tour of A Christmas Carol

For most people, Christmas is a distant thought, not for Theatre In The Park. The auditions for A Christmas Carol are scheduled for June 25-29th, just next week!  Children and adults of all ages are welcome to audition.

More information is available at the Theatre In The Park website.


Perren To Play Romeo

Due to scheduling conflicts for the premiere of his new film “Drag Me to Hell”, Justin Long will not be playing Romeo at the Theatre In The Park production of Romeo and Juliet. Instead, Henderson native Kyle Perren will play the role for the sold-out production [via – .pdf]


Jersey Boys Presale Begins Today

jerseyboys Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valley and The Four Seasons, is coming to Memorial Auditorium June 24 thru July 18. The individual ticket presale will begin today at 10:00am. Password is “Frankie”.


IMAX Drowns Drearies

What to do on this rainy day…what to do. Don’t forget that Marbles Museum in downtown Raleigh has a full slate of indoor fun! There are exhibits, play spaces, and the Triangle’s only IMAX theater. Here is a rundown:

IMAX Movies

  • Under the Sea 3D
  • Grand Canyon Adventure 3D: River at Risk – Closes Thursday (3/5)
  • Wild Ocean 3D
  • The Greatest Places
  • The Dark Knight: The IMAX Experience – Closes Thursday (3/5)

See the IMAX schedule for more info

First Fridays Kids Camp – Friday, March 6 (6-9p)

Don’t forget about First Friday coming up next week! First Fridays Kids Camp offers a chance for kids to have a night out without their parents (and vice versa)! While children enjoy the museum, parents have the chance to explore First Friday galleries and restaurants in downtown Raleigh. This program is an exclusive benefit for members of Marbles Kids Museum.

The camp promises an evening of play, discovery and imagination for kids 3 to 10 years old. All kids must be potty trained (this does not include pull ups). The camp includes dinner, activities and time to explore the museum.

Marbles members can register online or by phone at 919.857.1022. Registration for each First Fridays Kids Camp closes at 5:00pm on Thursday, the day before the camp.

Cost: $15 for first child; $10 for each additional child per member family.


Evan Rachel Wood Returns to TIP

Evan Rachel Wood is returning to her roots at Raleigh’s Theatre In The Park to play Juliet in Romeo and Juliet in May. The production will be directed by her brother, Ira David Wood, IV. It will be a welcome break from the 21-year-old’s booming film career. Evan is starring in the upcoming Wood Allen film “Whatever Works” (to be released June 19) and made the tabloids this week with her possibly rekindling romance with Manson. Here is more on R&J:

As a native of Raleigh, Evan spent many hours on stage alongside her brother and her father, Ira David Wood III, Executive and Artistic Director of Theatre In The Park, and best known for his role as Scrooge in the Raleigh holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. Evan has chosen to return to Theatre In The Park after several Oscar nominated films, including Thirteen, Across the Universe, and The Wrestler. Evan will be joined on stage with her father, Ira David Wood III who will play Capulet, opposite Lynda Clark as Lady Capulet.

"Evan’s first major role at Theatre In The Park was as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker," her father explains. "Watching her work, there was no doubt in my mind that she was going to have an amazing career as an actress.  We’re all deeply grateful that she and her brother came to us with this project.  It’s always so important to come home and to give something back to the place and people who nurtured and helped guide you when you were just starting out.  It’s going to be a wonderful production and I’m grateful to have been included."

Ira David Wood IV, an accomplished actor of TV, stage and film, last seen on stage as Malcolm in Shakespeare’s Macbeth at TIP, served as the assistant director of A Christmas Carol this past December, is thrilled at the opportunity to direct Romeo and Juliet.

This production of Romeo and Juliet is scheduled for May 2009, specific dates to be announced. Hollywood and Broadway celebrities are expected to attend. Romeo and Juliet is a fundraising event benefiting Theatre In The Park’s Annual Fund for Arts and Education. Tickets will go on sale mid-March, prices to be announced soon. Watch the theatre’s website for updates.

Auditions for the casting of 14 men and 5 women are scheduled for Tuesday, February 24th and Wednesday, February 25th at Theatre In The Park, starting at 7:00PM.  Auditions will be by appointment only. Scheduling is being managed by the theatre office manager.

Theatre In The Park, currently celebrating its 61st season, is located in the northern end of Raleigh’s scenic Pullen Park adjacent to North Carolina State University. The theatre is acclaimed for its many outstanding theatrical achievements. Each season Theatre In The Park presents an exceptional series of productions including the very best in comedy, original musicals, Shakespeare, and contemporary drama. Theatre In The Park is North Carolina’s largest non-profit performing Arts organizations and is second in the region only to the celebrated Actor’s Theatre of Louisville in original works premiered. Theatre In The Park truly offers something for everyone.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.theatreinthepark.com or call (919) 831-6058


“Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me” Hits Home Stretch

Someone-Wholl-Watch-Over-Me The current Justice Theater Project production of Frank McGuinness’ play “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me” is about to close. The show which explores the relationship of three men trapped as hostages in a Lebanon basement has gotten rave reviews (Indy, N&O). It features Ryan Brock, David Henderson, and Byron Jennings.

The show is being held at Saint Mary’s Pittman Auditorium. Shows are on Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm. General seating. Call (919) 264-7089 for more info

map it (.pdf. Pittman is #19)


Santaland Diaries Returns to Theatre In The Park

SANTALAND_POSTER Automatic Vaudeville returns with its Christmas comedy, The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris, for one weekend only. This year, Automatic Vaudeville has been fortunate enough to partner with one of the Triangle’s leading producers of Christmas cheer, Theatre In The Park. The production will run December 11-14, 2008 at the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre. 

The Santaland Diaries, originally an essay in David Sedaris’ “Holidays on Ice” collection, was adapted into a one-man piece by Joe Mantello (Angels in America, Wicked). It tells the tale of Sedaris’ brief stint working as an elf at Macy’s “SantaLand” attraction in New York City. The play chronicles the holiday season and is filled with charged, politically incorrect, irreverent commentaries of fellow elves, Santa’s true colors, and the raucous adults and children who come to sit on St. Nick’s lap. 

Automatic Vaudeville presents The Santaland Diaries for a third time, having mounted the show in 2005 and 2006 previously. The show teams directors Maggie Rasnick, actor Jesse R. Gephart, and stage manager Laura Jernigan. 

Tickets are for $15 Adults and $10 for Students/Seniors/TIP Season Subscribers. Advance tickets will be available online soon at Theatre In The Park’s website. Reservations can also be made by calling 919-831-6058.  Seating is general admission.


‘Vanities’ Sets A Date

kennedy-laurenVanities: A New Musical“, the new Broadway musical featuring Raleigh native Lauren Kennedy, will open on February 26 at the Lyceum Theater (map it) in NYC. Previews of the production will begin on February 2.

The musical features music and lyrics by David Kirshenbaum and chronicles the lives of three friends from the 1960s to the 1980s. The show also stars Sarah Stiles and Anneliese van der Pol.


Jeff Dunham Coming to RBC Center

jeffdunham The RBC Center will welcome ventriloquist Jeff Dunham on Sunday, May 17. Tickets are $42.50 and go onsale to the general public on Friday, 11/21 at 10am. There is an internet presale beginning tomorrow (11/19) at 10am.

<headscratch>I hope the event sells well, but is anyone scratching their heads about whether or not a prop comic (that even I haven’t seen) can sell 18,000 seats at $43? The ticket link shows the arena configured to full capacity/end stage. Somehow I was thinking of the Twilight Theater arrangement…or even Meymandi! </headscratch>


Dora the Explorer Coming to Memorial Auditorium

DORA-WEB Dora the Explorer Live will come to Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium for 7 shows, beginning Friday, February 20. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Also, don’t miss Annie, beginning November 18th.


Robin Williams Coming to Durham

The Durham Performing Arts Center will welcome Robin Williams on Friday the 13th…of March 2009. Tickets are $75 – $100 and go on sale tomorrow at Ticketmaster outlets at 10am.


Stallions Returning to RBC Center

stallion The World Famous Lipizzaner Stallions will be returning to the RBC Center on Friday, December 5.

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