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January 31, 2013

Stephanie Powers fills in for ailing Valerie Harper as Tallulah in 'Looped'

Valerie Harper has departed the national tour of "Looped," the play about late-career Tallulah Bankhead that will be presented at Baltimore's Hippodrome March 5-17. Stephanie Powers is stepping into the role.

Harper, who was nominated for a 2010 Tony Award for her performance in "Looped" on Broadway, was hospitalized during rehearsals for the tour.

The actress, famed as the character Rhoda on "The Mary Tyler More Show" and its spinoff, has returned to Los Angeles, "where she will receive continuing treatment and medical care," according a statement from producers. The tour opens in Fort Lauderdale Feb. 26.

Harper said that the "play has been such a gift and it was my hope and intention to play this role again in the upcoming tour. But given my doctor’s recent recommendations, I must now put all my energy into getting well and renewing my strength."

Powers, whose extensive stage and screen credits include the hit TV show "Hart to Hart," makes a particularly apt choice as a replacement. "Looped" is set in a sound studio, where Bankhead has a great deal of difficulty recording ("looping") a line of dialogue for the film "Die, Die, My Darling." That 1965 co-starred Powers.

HANDOUT PHOTO

Posted by Tim Smith at 9:49 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

January 25, 2013

Re-imagined version of 'Disney's Beauty and the Beast' at the Hippodrome

Judging by the continued obsession contemporary society has with physical appearance, kids and adults alike could use a reminder about the skin-deep, eye-of-the-beholder nature of beauty — and about just how beastly some humans can behave toward those considered inferior.

Those messages are being energetically underlined these days at the Hippodrome, where a pleasant production of the popular musical “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” has taken up temporary residence.

This is a different show than the one that ran on Broadway for 13 years and previously visited Baltimore. For this fourth national tour, the original creative team has taken a fresh look at everything. There’s been some downsizing here, some trimming there, and a lot of re-imagined visuals.

Folks who remember the initial version are bound to notice, especially ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 10:32 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

January 6, 2013

Hippodrome's 2013-14 season to include 'Book of Mormon,' 'War Horse'

The Broadway phenomenon known as “The Book of Mormon,” a musical from the creators of “South Park” that became a runaway hit two years ago and shows no signs of flagging, will reach Baltimore next season as part of the Hippodrome’s 10th anniversary.

Joining “Mormon,” which took the Tony Award for best musical in 2011, will be the Tony winner for best play that year, “War Horse,” a show celebrated for its inventive use of life-sized puppetry. One of last year’s big Tony accumulators, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a play with music based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, is also on the Hippodrome lineup.

“It’s a strong, subscriber-friendly season, appropriate for our 10th anniversary,” said Jeff Daniel, president of the Hippodrome at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center. “It’s going to be hard to beat. We’ve even got a great holiday show to balance it all.”

That would be ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 6:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

December 21, 2012

A few more thoughts on 'Billy Elliot: The Musical'

As someone who loved the 2000 movie "Billy Elliot," I had doubts that it could be turned into a stage musical.

I figured too much of the gritty mining town atmosphere of the original would be lost, for a start.

And I was suspicious that the many touchy subjects in the story -- masculinity, sexual orientation, the value of the arts, etc. -- could survive the transformation.

I feared there would be too much watering down, maybe even dumbing down.

Instead, as I was happily reminded this week ... 

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Posted by Tim Smith at 9:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

December 20, 2012

'Billy Elliot: The Musical' a welcome holiday visitor at the Hippodrome

It’s a particularly appropriate time to see “Billy Elliot: The Musical,” which has leaped into the Hippodrome for a welcome holiday visit. And I'm not just talking about the Christmas scene in Act 2.

Although the principal story in this Tony Award-winning show — a young boy’s unexpected journey into the world of ballet — remains front-and-center, equally compelling plot lines about unions and working-class solidarity jump out with an extra kick right now.

From the opening minutes of “Billy Elliot,” the audience is plunged into the tensions in an English mining town in 1984, when a strike is called to protest moves by Margaret Thatcher’s government against the coal industry.

That tension, which generates some of the most visceral music in Elton John’s score, seems uncomfortably relevant, given the emotional battles just fought in Michigan over legislation targeting unions. And when, by the musical’s close, the defeated strikers sense the extent of their loss, Baltimoreans may well find themselves thinking about the depressing saga of Sparrows Point.

The ability to touch multiple nerves is ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 5:26 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

December 18, 2012

Hippodrome pursuing collaboration with Pennsylvania Ballet

The much-respected Pennsylvania Ballet may travel to Baltimore for a couple weeks every year for a residency at the Hippodrome Theatre. This collaborative project, which could start as early as next season, is being pursued by Hippodrome president Jeff Daniel.

"We should be doing more collaborations," Daniel said. "We should be an arts chamber of commerce for Baltimore. But this is not a done deal. I think I'm ahead of my skis. It is going to take ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 3:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

October 30, 2012

'Wicked' performance Tuesday night at Hippodrome canceled

Another performance has been placed on the post-storm casualty list: "Wicked" will not go onstage Tuesday night at the Hippodrome as scheduled.

Ticket-holders may exchange for Wednesday or Thursday performances this week, or receive refunds, via Ticketmaster (410-547-7328) or other point of purchase.

PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS

Posted by Tim Smith at 11:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

October 12, 2012

'Wicked' cast members in benefit for Moveable Feast, Broadway Cares

Cast members from the dynamic national touring production of "Wicked" running through Nov. 4 at the Hippodrome will head across town one night next week after a performance to take part in a great cause -- a fundraiser for Baltimore's Moveable Feast and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

The cabaret, "Witches' Night Out," is set for at 11:30 p.m. Thursday at Grand Central in Mount Vernon.

Company members have a long history of lending their support to charitable causes, raising more than $2 million for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and local community AIDS charities during the seven years "Wicked" has been touring.

With "Witches Night Out," the performers have devised a showcase to display their beyond-Oz talents.

Admission to the Grand Central show is $20 ($40 for front row "VIP" seating), available at the door, which open at 11 p.m. Tickets are tax-deductible; all proceeds will benefit the charities.

A live auction will also be part of the event. Goodies being auctioned off include backstage visits to the Hippodrome to see Elphaba get her green coating applied, and a chance to be have your very own green-over from a "Wicked" makeup artist.

Posted by Tim Smith at 10:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

October 5, 2012

Review: 'Wicked' tour features strong cast in its return to Baltimore

Equal parts nostalgia and hipness, satire and sentiment, one-liners and philosophy, the hit musical “Wicked” remains a potent brew. Bewitching, even.

This tale-spin about life in Oz, before that rude girl from Kansas crashed the place, is neither quite as profound as its most ardent champions would aver, nor quite as empty as its detractors have charged. But the work’s component parts certainly come together snappily in ways that create entertainment writ large.

“Wicked,” which has been aging nicely on Broadway for nine years and touring almost that long, first visited Baltimore in 2007. The second national tour has settled into the Hippodrome for a month-long residency, giving off remarkably fresh vibes.

Nothing screams “road show” here. Newcomers should find this production a worthy introduction; “Wicked” groupies ought to find plenty here to keep them engaged one more time.

The plot, adapted by Winnie Holzman from the Gregory Maguire novel, presents a back-story for the peculiarly green woman we last saw in a puddle — the Wicked Witch of the West, who tried so darn hard for the return of those jeweled slippers in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.”

Various details we accept as gospel from that movie get some interesting twists (better to ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 5:27 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

September 27, 2012

Hippodrome announces lottery for $25 tickets to 'Wicked'

The Hippodrome will set aside "a limited number of orchestra seats," priced at $25, for the hit Broadway musical "Wicked," which rolls into Baltimore Oct. 3 for a month-long visit.

Regular prices for orchestra seats range from about $65 to $143, so we're talking a bargain here.

The catch: The tickets will be available only on the day of performance and will be distributed by lottery. You have to go to the Hippodrome to participate.

Starting two and a half hours prior to each performance, anxious "Wicked" fans will have 30 minutes to submit their names at the box office, where said names will be placed in a drum.

Two hours prior to the performance, names will be drawn. Winners can buy up to two tickets at $25 each, cash only.

To play in this lottery, bring a valid photo ID., which will be checked when you submit your lottery entry and again if/when you win.

Happy winners may then face another test: How to spend the remaining two hours before curtain time.

PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS

Posted by Tim Smith at 11:34 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

August 23, 2012

'Looped,' starring Valerie Harper, headed for Hippodrome, replaces 'Lombardi'

There is a change to the lineup for the Hippodrome's 2012-2013 Broadway Series -- from Lombardi to Lombardo.

The originally announced play for March 5-17, Eric Simonson's "Lombardi," about the famed football coach, is not going to be touring after all.

It will be replaced during that same time slot by Matthew Lombardo’s "Looped," a play about legendary actress Tallulah Bankhead starring multiple-Emmy Award-winner Valerie Harper.

"Looped," which had a brief run on Broadway in 2010, was inspired by a true incident in Bankhead's twilight years, when she had to ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 10:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

July 27, 2012

Hippodrome confirms 'Book of Mormon' for 2013-2014 season

First, the good news:

The Hippodrome Theatre has confirmed what could only be vaguely hinted at before, namely that "The Book of Mormon," the hottest Broadway musical in years, will play Baltimore.

The bad news:

Those singing, dancing Mormons will not hit the Hippodrome stage until the 2013-2014 season. But, hey, that's really not so far off.

The musical, which was created by the folks behind "South Park" and which won nine Tonys, starts its national tour this coming season. It will reach the Kennedy Center next July.

The dates for the Baltimore visit have not yet been finalized. Subscribers to the 2012-2013 Hippodrome Broadway Series will be first in line for the 'Mormon'-spiced 2013-2014 season.

REUTERS PHOTO

Posted by Tim Smith at 1:14 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes, Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

June 10, 2012

Kristin Chenoweth casts spell in concert for Hippodrome Foundation

If you ever wondered why there's so much fuss over Kristin Chenoweth, you need only to have been at the Hippodrome Theatre Saturday night.

This stop on her first national concert tour found the physically diminutive, artistically towering singer/actress in brilliant form.

The event, a benefit for the Hippodrome Foundation's valuable education and outreach activities, drew a big, happy and clearly Chenoweth-devoted crowd.

(Not sure why Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley was wearing what appeared to be an 1812-era military uniform -- bicentennial fever? -- but he sure looked dashing.)

The Chenoweth vehicle is more a two-act show than a mere concert.

Directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, the mostly well-paced production features the star in a hefty sampling of repertoire from her career and her current country-flavored album, along with a whole lot of humor -- much of it self-deprecating ("When I was little" -- pause "--er").

Saturday's performance found Chenoweth in sterling vocal form. I was reminded more than once during the evening of ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 8:42 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes, Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

April 27, 2012

'Mary Poppins' makes a pleasant landing at the Hippodrome

It easy to wish for more from “Mary Poppins,” the hard-working musical that has landed at the Hippodrome — a more layered story, more fleshed-out characters, more sparkling dialogue, more imaginative songs.

Then again, it’s easy to see what has kept the show running on Broadway for six years and has kept a national touting production racking up the miles and the audiences for three (two million theater-goers served in more than 30 cities so far).

For one thing, “Mary Poppins,” created in the 1930s by Australian novelist P. L. Travers, continues to be a beloved character with kids, not to mention adults who retain fond memories of childhood.

There is a lot of appeal in ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 11:15 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

April 4, 2012

'Memphis' heats up the Hippodrome

Maybe it’s the timing.

“Memphis,” the 2010 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, is not the deepest or most original of works. But this exuberant tale of race and music in the 1950s seems to take on added substance at the Hippodrome this week, given how freshly divided the country is right now over the Trayvon Martin case.

And maybe it’s the location.

Given Baltimore’s own history of strained race relations and gaps between “white” and “black” pop music back in the day, “Memphis” can’t help but provide extra resonance and relevance. The show is, in many ways, a pretty close cousin to the endearing “Hairspray,” right down to scenes of a TV dance program where taboos are shattered.

However it’s considered, this national touring production of “Memphis” sure does hit the spot. It provides a hefty serving of entertainment as it gives you a little extra to chew on.

With a book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music and lyrics by Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan, “Memphis” centers around a white, gangly high-school dropout named Huey Calhoun who manages, in record time, to break racial and musical barriers in his hometown.

Of course, Huey nearly ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 3:33 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

March 9, 2012

'Addams Family' shows its kooky stuff at the Hippodrome

It has all the weight and nutritional value of cotton candy. But “The Addams Family,” the Broadway musical that has taken up temporary residence at the Hippodrome Theatre, adds up to a mildly entertaining package of song and shtick.

Revised since its New York premiere, which received a drubbing from the press, the show provides a workable vehicle for the characters first immortalized by the Charles Addams cartoons and memorably brought to life by the 1960s TV series.

Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who wrote the book, borrowed a well-used device to frame the musical — the comic collision of opposites. On one side, the ever so odd, but loving, Addams clan. On the other, the Beinekes, a white-bread family from Ohio that comes for dinner.

Although that would have been enough to fuel a 30-minute episode of the TV show, it feels padded here.

The big new idea fashioned for the national touring production is a bit creaky, too. Gomez Addams reluctantly agrees to keep from his wife Morticia a secret, something neither ever does. It’s about daughter Wednesday, who, in addition to torturing her brother — and I do mean torturing — has found time to fall in love and make marriage plans.

It’s just a little too convenient that Morticia insists on playing a “truth game” even before she knows just how much has been kept from her, but this set-up does pay some theatrical dividends in the Act 1 finale.

Even though nearly every little turn in the plot is apparent before it arrives, just as nearly every rhyme in Andrew Lippa’s generic songs gives itself away before the next downbeat, the production manages to hold together.

For one thing, ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 6:34 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

February 2, 2012

'Wishful Drinking' makes rough landing at the Hippodrome, but still flies

As she is the first to tell you, Carrie Fisher has had an eventful life. Since a lot of those events involved drugs, alcohol, rehab, and battles with bipolar issues, you might not think that it could be such a funny life, too. But funny it is. Pretty endearing, too.

Fisher happily shares her experiences in “Wishful Drinking,” a solo theatrical vehicle the actress/writer introduced in 2006 with considerable success. The show, which arrived at the Hippodrome this week, still has legs. The level of sturdiness, though, can vary from performance to performance. (Video from an earlier production -- pre-weight loss -- is posted below.)

There’s no use pretending that opening night on Tuesday went smoothly. Fisher, who could not have been more unflatteringly attired (surely her weight loss since becoming a spokesperson for Jenny Craig deserves a better outfit), often sounded halting, even with a teleprompter.

The uneven pacing made the show’s length more problematic, underlining the fact that ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

January 26, 2012

Soulful Symphony's first Hippodrome season to open with Michael Jackson tribute

The Soulful Symphony, dormant for more than a year, will be back in the spotlight on Saturday.

The orchestra, founded in 2000 by composer, pianist and conductor Darin Atwater and made up predominantly of African American musicians, had an affiliation with the Baltimore Symphony for most of its first decade.

Thanks to the recently launched Hippodrome Arts Fund, Soulful Symphony is now a partner with the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center.

"We're ready to launch this thing again," Atwater said. "It's a new chapter, a new home -- but the same soul."

One aspect of that new home is the possibilities it offers to have a more ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 6:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Hippodrome
        

January 4, 2012

Hippodrome breaks box office record with 'The Lion King'

The national touring production of "The Lion King" that winds up its five-week run at the Hippodrome Theatre on Sunday, has already broken a box office record.

For the week ending Jan. 1, which included nine performances, the theater grossed $1,531,590, the highest for a Broadway show there.

The final tallies for the engagement will show over $6 million in gross ticket sales and more than 62,000 people attending.

"'The Lion King' truly reigns in Baltimore, and we look forward to our next return engagement," said Jeff T. Daniel, president of the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, in a statement.

The Hippodrome estimates a ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 6:16 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

November 2, 2011

Outtakes from George Hamilton's promo for 'La Cage'

For those enjoying "La Cage aux Folles" at the Hippodrome this week -- and you should catch this production if you can (my review:http://http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/arts/bs-ae-arts-story-1104-20111103,0,3319263.story) -- I thought you might enjoy these outtakes from a promo George Hamilton shot recently for the tour.

Hamilton is a hoot offstage, as I can attest from a nearly hour-long phone interview the other day, and this short video clip ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 9:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

October 7, 2011

One more 'South Pacific' item: The absolute ultimate version of a great song

OK, I know I should stop with the 'South Pacific' stuff, but I just couldn't resist one more post.

As I said previously, the songs from this show have been stuck in my head since Tuesday night's opening performance of the production at the Hippodrome -- just as those songs were stuck for ages after I saw the original Broadway revival.

To tell the truth, my tastes were always a little more Rodgers and Hart than Rodgers and Hammerstein, but I have found, over the years, a greater and greater appreciation for the musical scores by the latter duo.

The song from "South Pacific" that really, really moves me is "This Nearly Was Mine." The melody, with its elegant harmony, is top-drawer; the words are exceptionally effective. The structure is terrific, too.

I have admired how this song was delivered by Paulo Szot in the 2008 New York staging; in Washington last year by David Pittsinger in the first national tour of the wonderful Bartlett Sher revival; and this week in Baltimore by Marcelo Guzzo in the second national tour. And, of course, I love the classic performances by Ezio Pinza and others who starred as Emil de Becque.

But there's a version of this song, removed from its theatrical context (and from the original bass/baritone realm), that's in a class by itself. The first time I heard ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 8:55 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Clef Notes, Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

April 27, 2011

George Hamilton to star in 'La Cage aux Folles' at Hippodrome

The much-admired revival of the Jerry Herman/Harvey Fierstein musical "La Cage aux Folles" heading to Baltimore's Hippodrome next season will star movie/TV veteran George Hamilton.

The actor, whose perpetually bronzed skin had no rival until the emergence of House Speaker John Boehner, will have the role of gay nightclub owner Georges. Hamilton is not known for having a great singing voice, but he's likely to bring other attributes to the show, a comic clash of sexual, social and political forces.

As for the role of Albin, Georges' longtime partner who appears as the drag queen Zaza at the club ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 5:53 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

April 19, 2011

Wondering why the wow factor eludes 'West Side Story' revival

Since attending opening night of "West Side Story" at the Hippodrome last week, I've been wondering why there was so little of a wow factor in the performance.

(I don't usually mull over such things for so long, but, hey, I'm technically on vacation, which means I get easily distracted. It's actually the same when I'm not on vacation. I just have an excuse now.)

If you missed my review, make your life complete and catch up with it here.

First, let me hasten to say that "West Side Story" virgins would do well to catch this national touring production. Revivals of the brilliant musical don't come around every day, given how big a show it is in terms of personnel and technical requirements.

And this one, which started out in D.C. three years ago and had a respectable Broadway run thereafter, provides a welcome opportunity to reaffirm how much gold is in this work -- the sizzling Bernstein score, the brilliantly athletic Jerome Robbins choreography. There's certainly enough quality in the production to make for an entertaining experience. But it just doesn't pack the punch it should. For all of the high-flying dance routines, the show doesn't soar high enough.

Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book for the musical, directed the original in 1957 and directed this revival, has a lot to say about revisiting "West Side Story" in his most recent book, "Mainly on Directing." He is especially proud of ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

December 3, 2010

In today's Sun: 'Rock of Ages' rockin' the Hippodrome

This morning, I'm still recovering from a mortifying experience during last night's festive lighting of the Washington Monument.

For the benefit of any non-Baltimore readers of this humble little blog, I should point out that our fair city's monument to the first president pre-dates the one in DC by many a year and is located in one of Baltimore's most picturesque spots.

As for the mortification, let's just say that the best way to make an impression on one's editor when you're invited to his first holiday party -- his fabulous apartment overlooks the Mount Vernon Place and the Monument -- is not to spill half a large cocktail shaker's worth of Gimlets all over the place. (Robert and I brought said shaker, pre-filled, to the party; not one of my brighter ideas.)

Never did see the lights being turned on by the Mayor or the fireworks afterward, as we were too busy trying to clean up the spill -- how it managed to coat a wall, as well as the floor, I'll never know -- while all the other guests were glued to windows or out on the balcony.

Needless to say, the newsroom is already abuzz today with the story of my sensational faux pas. I'm just glad it's not on YouTube.

Anyway, I mention all of this by way of trying to divert you from the fact that I don't have a fresh blog post yet, as I've got to finish a story for Sunday's paper. Meanwhile, I can

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Posted by Tim Smith at 9:47 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

November 3, 2010

Blue Man Group rocks the Hippodrome

From the opening electronic ticker-tape messages, relaying birthday greetings and instructions on audience behavior (texting is banned, so older people “won’t feel inadequate”), to the deliriously multi-sensory finale, the Blue Man Group show at the Hippodrome Theatre packs a wallop.

The celebrated troupe, created by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink, has entertained some 17 million people across the globe since debuting nearly 20 years ago. This Baltimore appearance -- performances run through Sunday -- marks the first national tour of the theatrical version that has been a fixture in New York, Las Vegas and other places. It’s a big, loud, funny, silly, visually arresting production.

Tuesday’s opening night crowd, which gave every indication of arriving fully prepared and stoked for the experience, enjoyed superbly timed performances by Kalen Allmandinger, Josh Elrod and General Fermon Judd as the blue men. (Four players, including Mark Frankel, take turns in the lead trio roles during the run.)

There’s no point in trying to classify what these performers, with their trademark blue faces and bald, ear-less heads, do onstage for the better part of 90 minutes. It’s much easier to go with the flow — and duck down in your seat when those guys start roaming the aisles in search of audience volunteers. (Late-comers may have a much harder time remaining incognito.)

In a way, you could say that Blue Man Group represents

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Posted by Tim Smith at 2:32 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

October 7, 2010

Surprise marriage proposal goes according to plan at Hippodrome

The surprise onstage marriage proposal went off without a hitch Wednesday night during the performance of "Cirque Dreams Illumination" at the Hippodrome.

Although some readers fretted that I spoiled the surprise by reporting the event early on Wednesday (if only I were that widely read), the plot was not uncovered.

The solider, Sgt. Phillip Clark, an Army medic and Iraq War veteran now stationed at Ft. Meade, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Baggett, were called up to the stage as volunteers for a regular portion of the show, involving the making of a silent film. The couple played their parts perfectly -- they depicted illicit lovers being surprised by the woman's husband, who starts shooting. On cue, the soldier did his death scene and the girlfriend tried to revive him. Then he sprang into action on one knee.

Although un-amplified, the audience quickly realized what was happening and cheered. Here's a video clip (courtesy of the Hippodrome and Kit & Kaboodle Productions):

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Posted by Tim Smith at 11:25 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        

October 6, 2010

Iraq veteran will propose to girlfriend during Cirque Dreams performance at Hippodrome

UPDATE 10/7: The surprise worked like a charm (but thanks to all you snarky people who offered comments, thinking this blog was so darn powerful it would derail everything). You'll find video of the event elsewhere on the blog.  

Audience participation is a regular part of the Cirque Dreams Illumination show that opened at the Hippodrome Theatre on Tuesday. But Wednesday night's performance will add a twist.

Two of the people picked from the house to go up onstage this time will know each other -- a U.S. solider stationed at Ft. Meade, just back from his third tour of duty in Iraq, and his girlfriend.

The skit they will be involved in concerns the making of a silent film (assuming it's the same as Tuesday's performance, the 'plot' will be about illicit lovers being surprised by the woman's husband).

When the skit ends, the solider will assume the bended-knee position and propose to his girlfriend in front of the entire company and audience.

The idea of the very public proposal came about after Cirque Dreams creator and founder Neil Goldberg learned that a solider wanted to buy VIP seats to the show and was planning to pop the question while at the Hippodrome.

No point wasting such a momentous event out in the house, when everybody could get in on it. Goldberg invited the couple to Wednesday's performance as his guests (names are being withheld until showtime) and organized the onstage surprise.

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF CIRQUE PRODUCTIONS

Posted by Tim Smith at 10:09 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Drama Queens, Hippodrome
        
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Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at baltimoresun.com/artsmash. This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
View the Artsmash blog
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