Tag Archives: DPAC

The Little Mermaid Brings Magic of The Sea to DPAC!

Cast of Disneys THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo by Mark & Tracy Photography.jpg

Cast of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”
(Photo by Mark & Tracy Photography)

The Little Mermaid opened this past Tuesday night in Durham and brought a wave of Disney Magic to the stage at DPAC. I haven’t seen the animated film in quite a while but watching this touring production stirred up a strong dose of nostalgia as the story of the world’s most famous mermaid was brought to life on stage.

The show tells the story of Ariel, a mermaid princess (played by Diana Huey) who longs to leave behind the aquatic kingdom along with her life under the sea to join the humans on the surface. Ariel’s love for the land leads her to make secret journeys to the surface and on one such trip early in the first act she encounters Prince Eric (played Eric Kunze). Ariel ends up rescuing the Prince when he is thrown overboard the ship he is sailing and immediately falls for him further cementing her desire for a life on land.

Ariel’s dad, King Tritan (played by Steve Blanchard) is not pleased with Ariel’s fascination with humans as he blames them for the untimely death of Ariel’s mother. Ariel, being the headstrong mermaid she is turns to the sea witch Ursula in her desperation to make her human. But it comes at a heavy cost – her voice and her soul if she can’t get Prince Eric to kiss her before sunset on the third day.


Diana Huey in Disneys THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo by Mark & Tracy Photography.jpg

Diana Huey in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”
(Photo by Mark & Tracy Photography)



The show is faithful to the movie with a few adjustments for the stage. These changes add to the story and allow us to learn a little more about the relationship between King Tritan and Ursula (they are brother and sister).

The cast was a lot of fun to watch in this production. Huey does an excellent job as Ariel and her voice shines in several of the numbers.  It is truly amazing the job she does with vocals considering she is almost in constant motion gracefully swimming across the stage suspended high above the ground in a harness.

Sebastian, played by Melvin Abston, also gave a notable performance and almost stole every scene he was in. Abston is full form during the iconic songs “Kiss the Girl” and crowd favorite “Under the Sea”. Equally impressive was Ursual, played by Meredith Inglesby joined by her glowing minions Flotsam and Jetsam.  And of course, the Chef Louis scene in the second Act was an absolute crowd favorite and had people singing along in their seats.

While I’m sure for many in the audience their favorite part of the show was the iconic songs, I was equally amazed at the sets and flight choreography is breathtaking as the characters float/swim across the stage. The cast and crew’s ability to seamlessly work between the stage and the rails deserves high praise for its fluidity and perfection in timing.

Another truly impressive aspect of the show was the sets, while simple in nature, use colors and lighting so well that you truly do feel like you are experiencing life under the sea. This production of “The Little Mermaid” feels like a storybook fantasy come to life on stage and is sure to be a crowd favorite for children and adults alike. There are limited seats available for the remaining shows, but worth trying to catch one if you can!

“The Little Mermaid” has performances at DPAC  through Sunday, October 22nd. For tickets visit https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/the-little-mermaid.

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Now Showing at DPAC: ‘If/Then’ Explores The Road Not Traveled

If/Then.Winspear Opera House

National Tour of If/Then
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

Do you ever find yourself wondering what might have been? Is your destiny bound by fate, or are your daily decisions constantly creating potential new outcomes for your future? Tuesday night’s opening of If/Then, which runs through Memorial Day weekend at the Durham Performing Arts Center left me pondering these very questions. Based on a book by Brian Yorkey, this original Broadway musical follows two possible life paths of Elizabeth (played by the fantastic Jackie Burns), a  thirty-something urban planner who has relocated to New York City for a fresh start after a failed marriage and dead end job in Phoenix.

The show explores how sometimes even seemingly minor decisions can have ripple effects taking your life into different possible directions. In the opening scene Elizabeth’s choices in the span of just 30 seconds set two possible futures into motion. Does she answer a call from an unknown number and land her dream job as director of city planning or let it go to voicemail and instead become a teacher? Does she go with her friend Kate (Tamyra Gray) to listen to music in the park, which leads to a chance encounter with Josh (Matthew Hydzik) her future husband and father of her children, or does she go with her old college friend Lucas (Anthony Rapp) to attend a protest and remain single?

If/Then.Winspear Opera House

Jackie Burns & Matthew Hydzik
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

Every choice has a consequence and If/Then takes the audience down that road of what might have been. You might think it would be confusing to follow, but the producers use little tricks like having Elizabeth adopt two different nicknames ‘Beth/Liz’ or having her character wear glasses in one potential future to help distinguish the alternate timelines. Jackie Burns strong singing voice and acting are well suited for in the center role and she handles it masterfully.  My favorite number of the night was the funny “What the Fuck” when Elizabeth is struggling with her indecision over whether or not to have a one night stand. While there are plenty of funnier moments like this one, the show has its fair share of songs rife with tension and regret about chances not taken like the somber “You learn to Live Without”.

I think the most impressive aspect of If/Then is the sheer number of musical numbers performed. With 22 songs there is a lot of singing squeezed into two acts. Fortunately the show has strong cast that is up to the task of delivering impressive vocals. The set design is also top notch. While the setting of New York City isn’t really integral to the story it makes for the perfect backdrop offering life changing decisions around every corner. The sets are smartly done and did a wonderful job of capturing the city environment from riding the subway to watching a game at Yankee stadium.

If/Then.Winspear Opera House

Nationals Tour of If/Then
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

Local theater fans take note. Make sure you keep an eye out for North Carolina Native English Bernhardt on stage. She grew up right here in Raleigh and returns to DPAC playing supporting cast member Paulette in her first national tour debut.

If/Then isn’t about telling a story of Elizabeth so much as it telling the story of the road not traveled. It is a good reminder that we shape our futures with seemingly random choices. I enjoyed this performance and think you will too. If you don’t go, then you’ll never know what might have been.

If/Then  continues through May 29th at the Durham Performing Arts Center. For more information and to order tickets visit http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/ifthen.





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42nd Street Dances into Durham!



Lamont Brown as Andy Lee (center in yellow) and Company in Audition
(Photo by Chris Bennion)

Growing up in New Jersey just a short drive from Manhattan it was common to see television commercials for popular Broadway shows when I was a kid. I have fond memories of watching clips of the dance numbers from the Tony Award winning 42nd Street on my old tube TV picking up the stations out of New York. I never did get the chance to see it growing up, but as luck would have it the traveling production is in town this week at the Durham Performing Arts Center running through Sunday, May 8th. I caught the show last night after a quick dinner at Bar Virgile and still have the catchy tunes stuck in my head.

Based on Busby Berkeley’s 1933 movie adapted from a novel by Bradford Ropes, 42nd Street is a classic Broadway show filled with amazing tap-dance routines and a story dripping with nostalgia. Set during the throws of the Great Depression when Americans had to foster the old “can do” attitude to survive, big-named theater director Julian Marsh (played by Matthew J. Taylor) is trying to mount a comeback with his latest stage production.


The Company of 42nd Street in “Lullaby of Broadway”
(Photo by Chris Bennion)

The musical opens to the scene of aspiring dancers auditioning for Marsh’s “Pretty Lady” under the instruction of choreographer Andy Lee (played by Lamont Brown). Peggy sawyer (Caitlin Ehlinger) is a Broadway hopeful fresh off the train from Allentown Pennsylvania. She may have missed the audition but she soon gets an impromptu chance to impresses with here clever dance steps and earns herself a last minute spot in the show’s chorus.

Kaitlin Lawrence plays stage diva Dorothy Brock. She’s the star of “Pretty Lady” but only because her rich boyfriend is bankrolling the production. On opening night Dorothy breaks her ankle and Peggy is blamed and promptly fired. Realizing they will all be out of a job if the show does not go on,  the cast catch up to Peggy just moments before she gets on a train headed home and convince her to take over the lead role to a fantastic rendition of the classic “Lullaby of Broadway”.


Caitlin Ehlinger as Peggy Sawyer (center) and the Company of 42nd Street
(Photo by Chris Bennion)

Though nervous the show is a tremendous success all but ensuring Peggy will become a star. She hasn’t forgotten where she comes from though. Rather than going to the high society official opening party, the final act closes with Peggy instead opting to join her dancing friends at the chorus party instead.

42nd Street has all the glitz and glamour of Broadway days gone by. The skillful tap-dancing routines and flashy costumes coupled with the popular upbeat music directed by J. Michael Duff in the orchestra pit make for the highlight of the show.  This production will put a smile on your face and have you tapping your feet right down to the final number.

42nd Street continues through May 8th at the Durham Performing Arts Center. For more information and to order tickets visit http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/42nd-street.


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The Durham Performing Arts Center DPAC

If you are looking to see a Broadway musical, concert, or comedy act check out the event schedule for the new Durham Performing Arts Center known as “DPAC”. Since opening in November 2008 the art center has presented more than 150 with over 250, 000 guests in attendance. Last year the DPAC sold out over 30 shows including musical acts Leonard Cohen, Steely Dan, and Harry Connick Jr., comedians Bill Cosby and Robin Williams and an entire week of Oprah Winfrey’s The Color Purple. Their schedule this year includes over 175 events throughout the upcoming year.

The venue is 100,000 square feet and has 2,700 seats. There are currently 10,000 season ticket holders and gets a lot of popular shows. Recently I purchased tickets for my wife and I to see Wicked there later this spring. Although the tickets went fast and it took a lot of tries through Ticketmaster online we were finally able to nab some tickets for the upper balcony. Fortunately the layout of the theater was designed to put you close to the stage, with no seat further than 135 feet away from the action. I am looking forward to both seeing the show and getting a look at the interior design of this modern theater. Some other interesting acts coming to PAC thsi year include Chicago, Paula Deen, The Ringo Star All Star Band, and Harry Connick Jr.

If you are in the Durham area and want to take a free tour of the venue, DPAC offers a public tour the first Monday of the month. The public tour will be given by DPAC staff and begin at 11:00 am. Tours include sights of the theatre from all levels, an extraordinary view from the Mildred & Dillard Teer Stage, and a city skyline panorama from the star terrace lobby. Tours will also get a chance to see where the stars prepare for show time. For more information, check out the DPAC website here: Link


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