“Tootsie” Now Playing at DPAC!

The national touring production of Tootsie that opened at DPAC this past Tuesday night is a fun theatrical adaptation of the 1982 film. While the national views on gender stereotypes have certainly changed quite a bit since the early 8o’s, this updated production and more modern characters reflects these more current views.

The overall story revolves around Michael Dorsey (played by Drew Becker), a talented but somewhat pompous Broadway actor that finds himself blacklisted after being labeled as difficult on set. Out of work and struggling to find a new gig, in his desperation he decides to audition for a new play as a woman by transforming into “Dorothy Michael’s”.  While this plan is initially successful, the ruse leads to a comedy of errors and misunderstandings that although funny at times, also leads to self-reflection. This is a show is a comedy for sure, but it does not shy away from the more serious and timely issues like what it means to be a woman in show business and how to be a better man.

Drew Becker is perfectly cast as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels. As a man his character comes off as a high-maintenance jerk while still being likeable. And when he transforms into playing a woman he is the person in the room everyone, man or woman wants to be friends with.  

Ashley Alexandra is equally wonderful playing actress Julie Nichols in the play within the play. Her character exudes both strength and vulnerability. Her excellent singing and connection with the audience almost steals every scene she is in.

Supporting characters played by Jared David Michael Grant and Payton Reilly are true gems on stage in this production. Jared is terrific as Jeff Slater, Michael’s best friend and roommate who imparts inconvenient wisdom at every turn and scores some of the show’s best laughs, sometimes by saying absolutely nothing.

Payton, who plays Michael’s needy ex-girlfriend, Sandy Lester is loveable in her despair as an equally struggling actress who loses out on a plumb role to Michael’s “Dorothy”. Payton’s rendition of “What’s Gonna Happen,” which is repeated in increasingly shorter versions throughout the show is a fantastic and catchy song about how everything in her life goes wrong.

While Tootsie is indeed a comedy, the show does have its more serious moments near its conclusion once Michael starts looking at the world through Dorothy’s eyes and sees the error of his ways and the pain he has caused. And with that recognition comes understanding.

I found Tootsie to be a wonderfully funny production put on by a stellar cast. Don’t miss your chance to see it while it’s in town through this weekend!

Tootsie is playing now through Sunday, October 24th at DPAC. For tickets visit: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/tootsie

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“The Band’s Visit” Relaunches its North American Tour at DPAC!

The Company of “The Band’s Visit” (photo by Matthew Murphy)

This past Tuesday night the stage at DPAC saw the return of its Broadways Series after a pause of almost 570 days. The night also marked the triumphant relaunch of the national touring production of The Band’s Visit. It was wonderful to be back at DPAC and take in a show again and I can’t think of a more enjoyable show to kick off this latest season of musicals.

The Band’s Visit offers something quite different from most other Broadway musicals. It is just 100 minutes long with no intermission and is more intimate and conversational than most shows. Yes, it has its share of beautiful music and songs drawn from klezmer and Arabic classical traditions, but it isn’t a foot stomping extravaganza – and yet it is still so beautiful in its quiet and understated presentation.

Janet Dacal & Sasson Gabay (photo by Evan Zimmerman)

I’m not surprised at all that this amazing show won the Tony Award for best musical and 2019 Grammy for best musical theater album with its moving songs by David Yzbek and exquisite script by Itamar Moses. The show opens with the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arriving at an Israeli airport led by their straight-backed conductor, Tewfiq. Sasson Gabay is wonderful in this role and portrays the charactor with a dignity and stiffness of someone carrying the burden of a private grief just below their storng exterior. Tewfig and the band board a bus to travel to an engagement at the Arab Cultural Center in the city of Petah Tikva.

However, due to the language barrier and inevitable confusion at the ticket counter, they wind up instead in the small dessert town Bet Hatikva where they stick out like sore thumbs resembling members of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in their powder-blue uniforms.

The show the centers around detoured bands single night in the bleak town where the locals are friendly, but burdened by their isolation and perceived unimportance. Tewfig and his band of musicians find refuge at a local café where frustrated shop owner Dina, played by Janet Dacal, and the locals, in a mixture of pity and curiosity, feed the musicians and open their homes for the night, before they leave for their correct destination in the morning.

The Company of “The Band’s Visit” (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The connections between the Egyptian musicians and the Israeli locals are inevitably incomplete, a theme that carries throughout the story – whether its communicating through broken English, the long wait for a phone call that never comes, or tinkering with an unfinished music composition, each character in their own way longs to find resolution to unfinished business. The revolving set adds to this theme, creating a world in which life seems to spin in an endless circle.

Dacal puts on a masterful performance as the frustrated yet witty café owner stuck in a one-horse town with few prospects of getting out. She has made a lot of missteps in life and owns the fact that she is where she is in life through her own doing. Tewfiq and Dina seem like an unlikely romance and ultimately serve as another incomplete connection, yet you can’t help to feel uplifted by the brief time they share together.

The Band’s Visit is a special show and I can see why it is loved by so many. At its core this is a story of reflection and the painful realities of life as we age and make our way through stages of longing, settling, and acceptance. It isn’t flashy or fast, but uses the power of music to inspire and show how even when we find ourselves out of place or out of step in life, we can always find our way back and connect with one another and feel alive again.

The Band’s Visit takes is playing now through Sunday, October 10th at DPAC. For tickets visit: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/the-bands-visit

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“Wings of The City” Now at Dix Park!

Dorothea Dix Park is currently hosting “Wings of the City”, featuring nine bromze sculptures from world-renowned Mexican artist Jorge Marín. The exhibit which has been travelling from city to city around the world for the past 8 years will be in Raleigh at Dix though March 2022.

The collection features nine larger-than-life bronze sculptures installed in the historic Grove area of the park which is easily accessible from Umstead Drive. This wonderful visiting art exhibit is the perfect excuse to explore the park. I paid a quick visit yesterday to snap the picture above of “Alas De Mexico”, which is scupture #4 on this map of the park.

This Saturday, October 9th is the opening celebration from 10 am – 4 pm with live music and food trucks. For more information and a map showing the sculpture locations throughout the park visit https://dixpark.org/wings.

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STOMP Opens The Broadway Season at DPAC This Labor Day Weekend!

STOMP – Created by Luke Creswell and Steve McNicholas

This Labor Day Weekend the stage lights at the Durham Performing Arts Center will shine once again as the touring production of STOMP returns to the theater with three exciting shows this Saturday and Sunday (September 4th and 5th). After an almost 18-month pause of the Broadway Series at DPAC due to the pandemic, STOMP is poised to be the perfect high-energy filled show to launch DPAC’s 2021/2022 Broadway season!

STOMP has remained a fan favorite among theater goers of all ages around the world since its inception in the United Kingdom back in the early 1990’s. The show is a unique and explosive experience featuring a talented cast of eight performers that use a variety of everyday objects as percussion instruments, everything from matchboxes, wooden poles, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters and hubcaps – to fill the stage with magnificent rhythms. The show is a 90-minute journey that combines elements of music, dance and humor that will fill the audience with a constant sense of wonder how the troupe can find sound and create such unique rhythms from so many objects.

STOMP – Created by Luke Creswell and Steve McNicholas

In preparation for the show I spoke with dancer Riley Korrell, a Maryland native and current cast member of STOMP. We chatted about what it’s like to be back on stage and what audiences can expect during the show at DPAC this weekend. Korell is an accomplished tap dancer who has competed in tap competitions all over the country. Landing a spot in the cast of STOMP three years ago is a “dream come true” for him. In many ways, he views the 2021 tour as something of a “redemption tour” because it allows him and his cast mates to pick up where they left off when the show were paused back in 2019 due to the pandemic.

For his part, Korrell used that time away from the stage to work at his mother’s dance studio back in Maryland where he kept in dancing shape by creating instructional dance videos for the students. While he loves to teach he couldn’t be happier to be back on tour and performing with the cast of STOMP.

When asked what the audience can expect, Korrell was quick to point out that there is something for everyone in this show as it provides a unique marriage of sound, rhythms, dance and lighting that connects with the senses and core emotions. There have been some updates to the show over the years so even seasoned theater goers are sure to pick up on moves and rhythms they may have missed last time.

STOMP – Created by Luke Creswell and Steve McNicholas

In Korrell’s opinion, one of the most beautiful things about the show is that when the viewer takes a step back – everybody on stage is really just doing their own, creating their own sounds and rhythms, but these individual actions all merge together seamlessly into an “experience” as they all add up into a visual spectacular. The result is a hypnotic and positive energy filled show that takes hold of the audience’s imagination and emotions through the inventive mixture of rhythms, tempos and sounds that communicate feelings the talented troupe on stage.

With STOMP the experience is the unique beauty of the sum of all the parts.

STOMP takes the stage this Saturday and Sunday at DPAC. For tickets visit: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/stomp-2021

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Raleigh Sunflower Field ~ 2021

The sunflowers at Dix Park started blooming last week. The combination of rain and sun in June and July have resulted in a lush crop this year. I expect the field to be filled with blooms by this week and in peak bloom by the weekend.  

Visitors are welcome to check out the sunflowers all month long from dawn to dusk. The fields can be a little muddy if it has been raining and it is always a good idea to wear a hat and bring some bottled water. There isn’t much shade out there and it gets super hot under the July sun!

The sunflower field at Dix Park is located off Hunt Drive near the soccer fields and the historic cemetery. The best way to find them is to enter the park on Hunt Drive off Western Boulevard. Once on Hunt Drive you will quickly notice signs for parking in a large soccer field and gravel parking lot on your right. You can park there and easily access the field from the gravel lot.

Click here for a google map of the field location (or just punch in the address 75 Hunt Drive into your GPS. For more information visit https://dixpark.org/sunflowers.

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