Author: DIS

Allwayz On Stage’s Pinocchio a Hit!

Special troupe stages charming show

PLAY REVIEW /// ‘My Son Pinocchio Jr.’


WOODEN IT BE GRAND—Sammy Costanzo, left, as the puppet and Breezy Johnson as Geppetto in “Son of Pinocchio Jr.”

WOODEN IT BE GRAND—Sammy Costanzo, left, as the puppet and

Breezy Johnson as Geppetto in “Son of Pinocchio Jr.”

Allwayz On Stage delivered a heartwarming theater experience earlier this month when it presented its latest production at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts.The company, launched a year ago by Laurie Johnson and Tracy Costanzo, offers stage opportunities for young adults ages 16 and over with special needs. Johnson and Costanzo’s daughters, Breezy and Samantha (Sammy), who have been friends since kindergarten, regularly put on shows in their backyards. But with last year’s successful “Beauty and the Beast,” their personal fairy tales came true as they starred in the fully staged production, complete with sets, costumes, music and choreography.

Now 25 and 24, respectively, the pals headlined the cast in the company’s second production, “My Son Pinocchio Jr.,” which had a three-day run ending on Aug. 13.

“My Son Pinocchio” was penned by screenwriter David I. Stern, the adaptation based on the Disney live-action TV movie “Geppetto.” The score has new songs by Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked,” “Pippin”) and two numbers (“When You Wish Upon a Star” and “I’ve Got No Strings”) from the legendary 1940 animated Disney film, “Pinocchio.”

As they did last year, Johnson (director) and Costanzo (choreography) joined forces to stage the show, with their daughters playing the principal roles: Breezy as Geppetto and Sammy as Pinocchio.

The production traces the familiar story from Geppetto’s perspective, beginning when Pinocchio becomes a real boy and taking us through flashbacks. To Geppetto’s dismay, Pinocchio engages in behavior not unlike that of real live boys: He’s incorrigible and uncooperative, leading Geppetto to call the Blue Fairy and ask for a refund on his wish, claiming Pinocchio is defective.

Breezy and Sammy’s friendship is palpable, even when they are disguised by wigs and makeup. It was evident they heartily enjoyed the whimsical dialogue during their scenes together: Geppetto: “Did you sleep well?” Pinocchio: “I slept like a log!” Geppetto: “You are a log!”

The Blue Fairy (played by Abigail Arnal) is one of two characters from the fable whose roles are expanded. Stromboli, the bombastic carnival owner and puppeteer (played by one of the company’s many adult mentors, Ben Deschaine, who also built the set), is the other. The Blue Fairy heads up a school of fairies in training (Brooke Baldauf, Amanda Counts, Erin Schleich and Megan Tresback), boasting about her “perfect record” of successfully granting wishes.

Allwayz On Stage also provides initial acting opportunities for younger performers, and the show featured debuts by Isla Burditt, Owen Sayles, and sisters Siena and Eden Judovits.

Eden, the smallest of the newcomers, was adorable as well as adept as she sang on key, nailed her lines and executed her dance moves with the rest of the cast. (The sisters were joined onstage by their parents, Danielle and Kevin, who played ensemble roles.)

The Allwayz On Stage mentors are professionals who’ve been working with the challenged actors since April. Onstage, many serve as guiding partners to make sure the special needs actors hit their marks and prompt them if they forget a line. The latter instances were few and far between, as everyone performed admirably and professionally, encouraged by the enthusiastic audience.

Of special note in the cast are mentors Julia Marley, a Cabrillo Music Theatre performer, and Ezra Shipin, an accomplished dancer who choreographed her own stunning ballet tableau during the song “Geppetto and Son.”

Others included Emalee Burditt, Katie Gill, Chrys Ryan Johnson, Meghan Pool and Ryan Satterfield, who played Professore Buonragazzo, inventor of the “perfect child” machine, which produces “Body Snatcher”-like obedient children. Hmm. Not a bad idea.

Dear Evan Hansen Wins 6 Tony Awards!

• “Dear Evan Hansen” was the big winner of the night, winning best new musical at the 2017 Tony Awards on Sunday.

• “Oslo,” a crackling drama about the little-known back story behind the 1993 Middle East peace talks, won the hard-fought competition for best new play.

• The new musical “Come From Away” won a prize for its director Christopher Ashley, while Rebecca Taichman won a directing award for the play “Indecent.”

Cynthia Nixon, of “Sex and the City” fame, was recognized for her role in “The Little Foxes,” while Laurie Metcalf, best known for “Roseanne,” won for “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

• The best musical revival prize went to a nostalgic revival of “Hello, Dolly!” starring Bette Midler, who won the best actress award and gave a stem-winding speech in accepting it.

‘Dear Evan Hansen’ wins big

Dear Evan Hansen,” a daringly unflinching exploration of loss, lies and loneliness in a high school community, on Sunday won the 2017 Tony Award for best new musical, completing its journey from improbable idea to theatrical triumph.

The challenging and cathartic show, about an anxiety-racked adolescent whose social standing improves when he insinuates himself into the grieving family of a classmate who has killed himself, picked up six awards over the night, including a best leading actor Tony for the twitching-and-tender talk-of-the-town performance by 23-year-old Ben Platt in the title role.

Ben Platt won a Tony for best leading actor in a musical. CreditSara Krulwich/The New York Times

“To all young people watching at home, don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful,” Mr. Platt said while accepting his award.

The victory by “Dear Evan Hansen” capped a night when Broadway, which has been booming, spread its top honors across several plays and musicals, in contrast to last year, when “Hamilton” swept the board. The ceremony, at Radio City Music Hall, was hosted by Kevin Spacey, who generally stayed away from politics, instead choosing to make fun of his own status as a late-in-the-game and unexpected choice as host.

An exuberantly nostalgic production of “Hello, Dolly!” won for best musical revival, and its adored star, Bette Midler, won as best leading actress in a musical — her first competitive Tony — 50 years after she stepped onto a Broadway stage in the original production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Stacey Mindich, center, accepts the award for best new musical for “Dear Evan Hansen.” CreditSara Krulwich/The New York Times

But the night belonged to “Dear Evan Hansen,” which has already made stars not only of Mr. Platt, who previously was best known for appearing in the “Pitch Perfect” films, but also of its young songwriters, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who are already at work on multiple Hollywood films, and book writer, Steven Levenson, who recently inked a development deal with 20th Century Fox Television.

In an era when Broadway often means big, “Dear Evan Hansen” is intentionally, insistently intimate — the show has just eight roles and an eight-piece orchestra, and it is being staged in a cozy 984-seat theater. Directed by Michael Greif, “Dear Evan Hansen” is also wholly original — not based on a film, a book or a song catalog — and is one of the first shows on Broadway to integrate social media into its depiction of communication and community.

The musical, with Stacey Mindich as its lead producer, was also budgeted tightly — it cost just $9.5 million to bring to Broadway, which is significantly less than most, and should speed its path to profitability.

Since beginning performances at the Music Box Theater last fall, the show has been doing well at the box office — it is grossing over $1.2 million a week, thanks in part to an average ticket price of $157, and it has succeeded in attracting a relatively youthful audience, which is a rarity on Broadway. A national tour is scheduled to begin in Denver in October 2018.

Rachel Bay Jones, who plays the title character’s worried single mother, took the Tony as best featured actress in a musical. Gavin Creel of “Hello, Dolly!” won best featured actor.

Other musicals came up short. “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” the most nominated show of the season, won just two awards, for set and lighting design. “Come From Away,” the Canadian musical about the welcome Newfoundland extended to diverted air travelers after Sept. 11, 2001, won just one: for best direction, by Christopher Ashley. And “Groundhog Day,” an adaptation of the film, was shut out.