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Cinderella ~ A New Adventures Production ~ The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Jordan Wright
January 17, 2019 

If you’re looking for a Disney princess in a blue satin gown, go elsewhere.  In Sir Matthew Bourne’s ballet, Cinderella, there is nary a tiara-wearing royal – not a tutu nor a toe shoe. A pair of silver glitter pumps is involved, and there is a love story, but that’s where the similarity ends.  This Cinderella has step-brothers and step-sisters, and a step-mother reminiscent of Joan Crawford of “Mommy, Dearest” notoriety.  Bourne places the action in World War II London during the time of the Blitz.

Set to Prokofiev’s sweeping score, this glorious production opens with vintage black-and-white Pathé newsreels of the bombings as told by a cheerful, British reporter.  Buck up, Brits, his delivery suggests, and they did.  Bourne’s three acts take us from Cinderella’s stylish Victorian living room during the blackouts and air raids into apocalyptic scenes with girders crashing and buildings ablaze.  As Brits were urged to “carry on” with life as usual we find ourselves in the Café de Paris, a sophisticated nightclub where the elite forget their troubles in stylized 1940’s dances.  The sets and costumes by Lez Brotherston, in shades of grey with painterly touches of red, are nothing short of stunning.

Most thrilling is the fairy godmother role, here called The Angel.  Danced by Liam Mower (Billy in the original Broadway cast of Billy Elliot the Musical), it is a prominent role unlike your fairy godmother of yore.  Clad in a silver satin suit with slicked-back white hair, and looking more than a bit like David Bowie, he alternately guides and rescues Cinderella as she dreams of her love, Harry, the Pilot, an RAF pilot who is not an actual prince, but is her prince.  Bourne’s choreography for The Angel is mesmerizing and Mower becomes nearly serpentine in Nijinsky-esque movements that are an exquisite blend of both classical and modern dance.

Ashley Shaw (Cinderella) is a marvel.  Known to those who saw her play Vicky Page in The Red Shoes during her US tour in 2016-2017 or in Bourne’s film and TV productions of Christmas, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.   Her beauty and lithe physicality coupled with her expressive gestural movements, make her performance a joy to behold.

With Ashley Shaw as Cinderella; Andrew Monaghan as Harry, The Pilot; Liam Mower as The Angel; Madelaine Brennan as Sybil, The Step-Mother; Alan Vincent as Robert, The Step-Father.  Step-Sister & Step-Brothers played by Sophia Hurdley, Anjali Mehra, Jackson Fisch, Dan Wright and Stephen Murray.  Boyfriends & Girlfriends played by Reece Causton, Ben Brown, Cordelia Braithwaite and Katie Webb.  Harry’s Friends played by Danny Reubens and Edwin Ray.  Café de Paris Bandleader played by Alan Vincent with Guests played by Seren Williams, Stephanie Billers, Joao Carino and Mark Samaras.

ARP Wardens, Spies, Gas Mask Dogs, Airmen & Bombers, Prostitutes & Rent Boys, The Salvation Army, Savoy Guests, Thugs, Doctors, Nurses, Servicemen & Women and their Families, “Brief Encounter” couple and the people of London – played by members of the company.

A perfectly spectacular production!  Highly recommended.

Through January 20th in the Opera House at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org

Elegant Cuisine Solutions Dinner at the French Embassy in Washington, DC Stars Sous Vide Inventor Bruno Goussault

Jordan Wright
January 17, 2019 

Alexandria-based Cuisine Solutions will commemorate International Sous Vide Day on January 26, 2019.  The celebration honors the birthdate of Cuisine Solutions chief scientist Bruno Goussault, the “father” of sous-vide cooking and founder of the Culinary Research & Education Academy (CREA).  Sous vide is the revolutionary cooking technique in which food is vacuum-sealed and slow-cooked in hot water allowing food to cook evenly at a precise temperature.  This process enhances flavors and maintains the moisture, consistency and nutrients often lost during conventional cooking.

An elegant sous-vide dinner (open to the public) will be served on January 26th at the French Embassy at 4101 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20007.  The celebration begins with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres from 6-7pm.  At 7:30pm guests will be seated for a four-course dinner with wine.

The cocktail hour takes guests around the world with artful drinks and perfectly paired hors d’oeuvres at four stations including a USA, France, Thailand and a Dr. Goussault station.  One might try the Sous Vide Buttermilk Fried Chicken with braised greens and spiced maple syrup from the USA station; a Smoked Salmon Terrine Wasabi Arugula Salad at the French Embassy station; a Crab Cake with green curry sauce and fresh young coconut slaw; from the Thailand station; and a Sous Vide Pot au Feu and 3 bone short rib, small can, vegetable and broth made with siphonat Dr. Goussault’s station.

Dinner Menu

Course 1 – Salad Trio, Sous Vide Beets with Goat Cheese, Beluga Lentil Salad, Sirloin Carpaccio
Course 2 – Seared St. Pierre with Cucumber Beurre Blanc, Sous Vide Baby Fennel
Course 3 – Duo of Beef Bone-In and Boneless Short Ribs, Celery Root Puree and Pickled Chanterelles
Course 4 – Crème Brulée with Napoleon Caramel Sauce, provided by Le Café Descartes

*Alternatives for vegetarians and GF will be available upon request

Suggested Attire: Cocktail Chic

Top chefs from major culinary cities will share their love for sous vide via short, filmed interviews that will be featured on www.internationalsousvideday.com on January 26.  From New York City one can watch Wylie Dufresne, David Arnold, David Bouley, Jean-Louis Dumont, Brad Farmerie, Matt Lambert, Herve Malivert, Brian Berger, Nils Norén, and Jamie Simpson; from Washington, D.C., Edward Lee, Kevin Tien, Kwame Onwuachi, Ryan Ratino, Russell Smith, K.N. Vinod and Vikram Sunderam; from Chicago, Phillip Foss, Paul Kahan, Matthias Merges, Micah Melton, Jenner Tomaska, and David and Anna Posey; from San Francisco, Erik Anderson, Kyle Connaughton, and Kathy Fang; from Los Angeles, Marcel Vigneron; from Miami, Brad and Soraya Kilgore, and Douglas Rodriguez; from Austin, Phillip Speer and Nik Yanes.

Additionally, the evening will feature a number of celebratory giveaways, including sous vide circulators and equipment, Cuisine Solutions Premium Sous Vide Cooked Products, Sous-Vide magazine subscriptions, and more. And, of course, each guest will receive a luxe, complimentary International Sous Vide Day swag bag.

All-inclusive tickets are $100 pp.  Proceeds benefit the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program, a national non-profit program that educates and guides underserved high school students.  Tickets are open to the public.  For more information and ticket purchase visit https://franceintheus.org/spip.php?article8955.  To learn more about International Sous Vide Day visit http://www.internationalsousvideday.com/.

The Fantasticks ~ The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
January 15, 2019
Special to The Alexandria Times

Back row left to right: Ilyana Rose as boy Mute & Lauren Sutton as girl Mute Front: Rachel Hogan as Luisa & Luis “Matty” Montes as Matt. Photographer: Michael deBlois

The greatly beloved The Fantasticks has been taken on by Director Eleanore Tapscott as LTA’s latest endeavor.  This quirky musical with a dreamy score by Harvey Schmidt has a long and storied history.  Its first New York incarnation was off-Broadway at the now shuttered Greenwich Village’s Sullivan Street Playhouse in 1960 where it lured avid theatregoers to venture far beyond the Great White Way to enjoy its charms.  Loosely based on the play, The Romancers (Les Romanesque) by Edmund Rostand, the musical incorporates a number of theatrical styles.  Thanks to its enduring popularity, in 2006 it enjoyed a revival, later drifting uptown to the Theater Center where it saw its final performance two years ago.  Notably, it is the world’s longest-running musical.

Left to right: Matt Liptak as Mortimore & Fred Lash as Henry. Photographer: Michael deBlois

This is a tender story of two young lovers who meet in secret outside the prying eyes of their respective parents – the boy’s mother, Hucklebee (Janice Zucker), and the girl’s button-maker father, Bellomy (Stephen P. Yednock), who have forbidden them to see each other.  Unbeknownst to the children, this denial of their love is a ruse concocted by scheming parents who are secretly plotting their nuptials.  The story cribs from the classics with a pair of mute harlequins, an idiot Indian (this characterization should be jettisoned ASAP), a criminal narrator, a Shakespeare-quoting actor for hire (Fred Lash), a swash-buckling bandit (Christopher Overly), the father who is pure schtick, and a dotty mother whose pastime is clipping hedges.  For an added note of whimsey, this hodge-podge of characters is joined by a band of traveling performers known as the Compagnia Gelosi Zanni.

Ilyana Rose as the boy Mute & Lauren Sutton as the girl Mute. Photographer: Michael deBlois

As Luisa (Rachel Hogan) and Matt (Luis “Matty” Montes) woo and squabble, it becomes clear that, despite their parents plans for them to wed, they are on the verge of breaking up.  Bellomy and Hucklebee cook up an abduction of Luisa so that Matt can appear to be her hero.  But their nefarious scheme awry in a heartbeat when it is revealed to be a ruse, and Luisa falls under the spell of El Gallo, the bandit.

Christopher Overly as El Gallo. Photographer: Michael deBlois

The music is unforgettable, lyrical and off-beat with some of the better-known tunes, “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” and “Try to Remember”, all-time classics.  Unfortunately, the performances are uneven at best and the staging is uninspired, despite the vocal chops of Montes and Hogan, the wonderful character interpretations of Matt Liptak, and the clever comic talents of Yednock who milks his vaudevillian character for all its worth.

In front: Rachel Hogan as Luisa & Luis “Matty” Montes as Matt. Photographer: Michael deBlois

With Ilyana Rose and Lauren Sutton as the Mutes, Paige Rammelkamp as The Pianist, Kristen Jepperson or Laura Stokes as The Harpist, and Marque Nelson as The Percussionist.

Book and Lyrics by Tom Jones, Choreography by Jason A. Ellis, Set Design by Michael deBlois, Lighting design by Marzanne Claiborne, Costume Design by Juliana Cofrancesco, and Sound Design by Alan Wray.

Through February 2nd at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com

Miss Saigon ~ The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Jordan Wright
December 26, 2018

With the Vietnam War as dramatic backdrop, Miss Saigon is a poignant tale of star-crossed lovers amidst the horrors of war and its aftermath.  Under the direction of Laurence Connor of Broadway’s School of Rock and Les Misérables fame, this well-known interpretation of Puccini’s classic opera, Madama Butterfly, with music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Alain Boublil, has become one of the longest running shows on the American stage, and it remains indelibly powerful through its ability to capture love and loss.

Photo credit Matthew Murphy

Saigon in the spring of 1975 near the close of the great undeclared war brings together Chris (Anthony Festa), a young Marine, and Kim (Emily Bautista), a beautiful teenager forced into a life of prostitution in a seedy strip club called Dreamland.  Chris’s buddy, John (J. Daughtry), buys her attentions, gifting her to Chris who is searching for meaning in a country gone mad.  The club’s owner, a crafty con artist called The Engineer, senses the men’s keen interest in the innocent girl and ups the price.  “Men pay the moon to get fresh meat,” he snickers.

Red Concepción plays the sleazy Svengali to the hilt, delivering a phenomenal performance with equal parts charm, smarm and swagger.  “The Heat is On in Saigon” is a number a-swirl in strippers, pole dancers, beefy Marines and hustlers, especially notable for the introduction of Gigi, known as “The Sex Toy from Hanoi".  When Gigi (Christine Bunuan), Kim and the other bar girls commiserate in “The Movie in My Mind”, we sense their despair for an inescapable life ruled by men and their whims.

Photo credit Matthew Murphy

In one fateful night, Chris and Kim find love amidst the ruins and pledge to wed marry despite her father’s insistence on her marriage to Thuy (Jinwoo Jung) who has since become a high-ranking commissar under Ho Chi Minh and his torturous reunification program.  Through 28 glorious numbers, the musical takes us from the fall of Saigon and the chaos that became Ho Chi Minh City, to Chris’ new life in Atlanta with Ellen (Stacie Bono) and Kim’s escape to Bangkok where the glitz and glamour of the privileged few coexist with war's forgotten ones.  While awaiting Chris’ return, Kim falls into the clutches of the Moulin Rouge’s fearsome owner played by Eric Badiqué.

Bautista’s formidable vocal range and emotional tenderness gifts us with a compelling portrayal of a young woman fighting for her dignity and a hoped-for future for her son.  Her delivery of “Sun and Moon” to their tiny son, Tam, will pull at your heartstrings.  She is well-matched by Festa whose voice proves a perfect complement to hers.

Photo credit Matthew Murphy

Theatergoers will be wowed by this new production with a cast that delivers in spectacular synch.  Kudos to Sound Designer Mick Potter for the rhythmically clanking and stomping, devil-masked dancers and dragon acrobats, and the thundering helicopter rotors in the iconic scene of the last plane out of Vietnam that coordinate seamlessly with Lighting Designer Bruno Poet’s blood red expression of Communist rule juxtaposed against B-girls cavorting erotically on multiple staircases.  Special effects and video projections help to envelop the audience in a sensory explosion of a sexier, raunchier, more emotionally tender production than ever before.

Highly recommended.

Through January 13th in the Eisenhower Theater at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.

Photo credit Matthew Murphy

The Play That Goes Wrong ~ Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Jordan Wright
December 22, 2018 

Take a deep breath – or two – then prepare to fall down laughing.  From start to rollicking finish this steroidally hilarious play-within-a-play never misses a comedic beat as this splendid twelve-member cast proves that anything that can go wrong, will.  You know the old chestnut of Murphy’s Law, well, its tidy aphorism is cheekily born out here.  Someone must have said the forbidden word, “Macbeth” backstage, because the Cornley University Drama Society proceeds to offer up a shining example of the ineptest group of actors to ever tread the boards.  And it’s just delicious!

Peyton Crim, Yaegel T. Welch and Jamie Ann Romero ~ Photo by Jeremy Daniel

In trying to stage “The Murder at Haversham Manor”, this cockeyed amateur troupe shows that the play’s the thing – until it isn’t.  Pratfalls, mishaps, blown cues and botched exits abound, dead bodies won’t stay dead and malapropisms are the order of the day, all done with a straight face and a stiff upper lip.

Angela Grovey, Yaegel T_ Welch and Jamie Ann Romero ~ Photo by Jeremy Danie

It is the night of the engagement party of Florence Colleymore to Charles Haversham who has been found murdered. When Inspector Carter shows up to interrogate the estate’s fashionable guests, he doesn’t know whether to point the finger at Florence the sexpot, her supercilious brother Thomas, Charles’ cuckolding brother Cecil, Perkins the bumbling Butler, or Arthur the absent gardener.  But it hardly matters in this whodunnit.  With all the mayhem and mischief, everyone is under the microscope.

Ned Noyes and Scott Cote ~ Photo by Jeremy Daniel

The only ones who remain relatively unscathed in this twisted mystery are the unnamed Stage Manager and the Duran Duran fanboy whose miscues and mishaps on lights and sound add to the cast’s confusion and the audience’s delight when they too wind up on stage to fill in for cast members who have been knocked unconscious by falling portraits or secret revolving doors.  If you’ve ever acted in or staged a production, you’ll commiserate with props that aren’t where they’re supposed to be, actors who are self-absorbed hams, sets that fall apart, and doors that won’t open.  Especially funny is a dueling divas’ scene when Florence revives from an accident only to discover her role has been taken over by the lowly Stage Manager.  Meow!

The Play That Goes Wrong Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Highly recommended.  A clever goofball sendup that’s guaranteed to keep you guffawing long after you’ve left the theatre.

Presented by Mischief Theatre and written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields with Scott Cote, Peyton Crim, Brandon J. Ellis, Angela Grovey, Ned Noyes, Jamie Ann Romero, Evan Alexander Smith, Yaegel T. Welch, Blair Baker, Jacqueline Jarrold, Sid Solomon and Michael Thatcher.

Through January 6th in the Eisenhower Theater at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information for future shows call 202 467-4600.