May 30, 2018 § Leave a comment
Winner of the Tony “Triple Crown” for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, Avenue Q is part flesh, part felt and packed with heart.
Before the “Book of Mormon”, there was “Avenue Q”. Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx created humor, songs and outrageousness with grown up puppets in 2003. Imagine what happened after the next-door neighbors of Sesame Street grew up and moved out on their own. Life after college isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Jobs are hard to find, friends look different than before, and grown up temptations pop up everywhere. Idealistic dreams become muddled when reality hits.
Using bright and catchy songs, filled with racy and irreverent language, puppets and humans explore social issues such as racism, self-identity, uncertainties and the loneliness of living on the streets of New York City.
Although the show addresses humorous adult issues, it is similar to a beloved children’s show; a place where puppets are friends, monsters are good and life lessons are learned on the path to one’s purpose in life.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the organization.
May 29, 2018 § Leave a comment
by Aaron Lockman
My high school was a bit of an aberration in terms of social structure – at least compared to the fictional high schools I saw on TV. In your stereotypical American high school, there is a strict triangle of social hierarchy in place, with the athletics and cheerleaders at the narrow top, and then working its way down through the normal kids, the speech team, winding down through the anime club, finally landing on the wide base of sad, lonely nerds.
I don’t want to say that my high school was completely free of this triangle – we were, after all, a generation raised on John Hughes knockoff movies – but largely, the sheer size of Thornton Academy rendered such a strict caste system unworkable. Instead, a bizarre sort of highly tribal anarchy took over. The jocks, the cheerleaders, the anime club, and the nerds still existed, but each separate tribe just sort of floated along in an uneasy lateral equality, and there was little power that one clique could hold over another. If any Yertle the Turtle figure ever tried to climb on top, they were subjected to what is perhaps a more realistic interpretation of the physical capabilities of turtles than Dr. Seuss’s, and the neat stack of reptiles collapsed into a wet, messy pile.
Of course, each individual clique had its own micro-hierarchies. The clique I found myself in around my sophomore year, the theater geeks (as if you had to guess), valued onstage talent and physical attractiveness above all else. But other factors were considered as well. And familiarity with the musical Avenue Q was one of them.
Ever since my brother and I had stumbled across “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” while listening to Sirius XM radio in my dad’s car a few years previously, I had been a fan of the Avenue Q soundtrack. And so you can imagine my joy when knowledge of these obscure, raunchy show tunes turned out to be precious social capital in my new surroundings – such an occurrence in the district where I went to middle school was highly unlikely. My new friends and I listened to Avenue Q, talked about Avenue Q, and imagined how we would cast ourselves if the school ever got the balls to do it as our spring musical. We ragged on the Avenue Q School Edition when it came out (rightly so, I’m afraid). We memorized the harmonies and sang them together as we swerved through the suburban sprawl of southern Maine in each other’s cars.
I’m not exactly sure why this musical resonated with us so much. There was the artistry of it, sure, and the previously unheard-of combination of bacchanalian humor, Broadway-style music, and Muppet-like voices. Teenagerdom is a strange, interstitial time when you have the brainpower of an adult but none of the emotional discipline to handle that power – and so this music, that juxtaposed the earnestly childlike with the hilariously adult, probably struck something quite deep. But still – none of us were dealing with the central emotional question in the show, the question of how to exist in a meaningless, post-college world. You can’t wish you could go back to college if you haven’t been to college yet. We just thought it was funny.
In the past couple of years, I hadn’t thought about Avenue Q much until I heard about Metropolis’s audition notice. I was cast in this show roughly a year after graduating from college myself, and I am fascinated by the ways it has changed in my mental absence from it.
Some of the comedy, for instance, has not aged well. The way we talk about racism in this country, for instance, has changed so completely post-Obama and post-Black Lives Matter that the jokes in the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” mostly seem awkward now. They’re still quite hilarious, don’t get me wrong (and our cast does a great job with that number), but the song seems to perceive racism primarily as individual people being mean to each other –instead of a systemic issue that is ingrained into every aspect of society. Nowadays, accepting that “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” is just the first step of a much longer and more difficult process, rather than an end unto itself.
The show’s final number, “For Now,” faces a similar problem. There’s a spot in that song where we shout “TRUMP. . . is only for noooooww!” as we sing about the many things in life, good and bad, that are temporary. The original Broadway cast shouted “Bush!” of course, and various casts in between have shouted various political references. Our audience in Arlington Heights always goes crazy for that joke, and I won’t pretend it doesn’t depress me a little. The truth is, we are living in the aftermath of George Bush as we speak – and the damage wrought by Trump’s presidency could take decades to unwind. Politics, sadly, is rarely “For Now.” Things do have lasting consequences. Satire is important, of course, but so is perspective.
Other aspects of the show, however, have only grown in meaning since my high school days. I am now essentially Avenue Q’s target demographic – a broke, twenty-something college grad fumbling for meaning as I try to find my purpose in life. Since my teenage years, I have gained experiences like pining for a same-sex roommate whom I knew could never reciprocate (like Rod), engaging in a swift, ill-advised relationship in order to stave off loneliness that ended up making it worse (like Princeton and Lucy), and having my various dreams crushed over and over again as Kate does.
And the realization the characters get in the final number is something that I’ve been trying to internalize since. . . well, honestly, ever since I started going to therapy last year:
Nothing in your life is too terrible to bounce back from. But also, your life will never be as meaningful or happy as you want it to be. And that’s. . . okay?
Life, I’ve observed, is better when you accept that it’s mostly gonna be a whole lot of medium. And what Avenue Q does so well is making that medium feel miraculous by bringing it into razor-sharp focus. No character really gets what they want. Not everyone is happy or fulfilled by the end. But they have each other, and they have the music, and they have themselves.
There is palpable joy to be found in the tiniest, simplest things. And those are what let you soldier on.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the organization.
October 10, 2017 § Leave a comment
Hi friends of Metropolis –
Hope you’ve seen, or plan to see, our spectacular production of Into The Woods! I’m Kim Buck, one of the understudies, so you won’t see me – unless Cinderella’s mother or stepmother gets sick (don’t want that) or gets a too-great- to-pass- up audition (that’d be OK).
Waiting to be called to understudy gives you lots of time to focus on other pursuits. One of mine is mixology! I especially love to customize cocktails for people and events. This Into The Woods cocktail practically created itself – as if by magic! It’s called “Last Midnight,” and it’s based on a potion that you will recognize if you’ve seen the show:
1. A base as white as milk
(Baileys® Almande almond-milk liqueur)
2. Cherries, red as blood
(Cherry simple syrup)
3. Whiskey, made from corn
(Jim Beam® Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey)
4. A brew as pure as gold
(Cold Brew coffee with almond milk)
Shake the ingredients (in a shaker over ice for a single drink; in a pitcher/bottle/container for a bigger batch) and pour – straight or on the rocks. Serve right away, or prepare and refrigerate a few days ahead of time (the flavor blend gets even better over time). It tastes like a cross between an Irish coffee and a chocolate martini – definitely desserty, but not overly heavy or sweet. It makes a nice post-show nightcap, and it’s easy to make enough to share with friends!
1 drink–Sm.batch (4 drinks)–Lg. batch (8 drinks)
Baileys Almande 2 oz–8 oz (1 cup)–16 oz (2 cups)
Cherry simple syrup* 1 oz–4 oz–8 oz
Bourbon 1 oz–4 oz–8 oz
Gold brew 3 oz–12 oz–24 oz
* Equal parts black cherry juice (black cherry, not tart cherry), and simple syrup or sugar.
** Equal parts cold brew coffee and original sweetened almond milk (sweetened, not flavored – no vanilla, etc.). You can buy the brew pre-mixed (e.g. Califia Farms® Black & White Cold Brew Coffee) or mix it yourself.
Play with the balance of ingredients to suit your taste.
Cheers! Enjoy! Hope to see you in the woods!
September 18, 2017 § Leave a comment
Organized theater is about 4500 years old and despite its age, live theater is more relevant and necessary today than ever before. As screens and faceless media intrude more and more on our lives, personal, intimate, human shared experiences take on even more significance, comprising the moments we truly cherish – our memories.
These intimate shared experiences, wonderful moments of memory and discovery, are the basis for Into The Woods, a touching, funny, spooky and quirky retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales set to Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant words and music, backed by James Lapine’s book. While the shows illuminates Grimm’s tales, it is very much a show for adults with themes we all share: the unforeseen consequences of our hopes, dreams and wishes fulfilled.
The re-imagined stories, at the same time pleasant and ominous, are the cautionary tales that became our first lessons and our elementary entertainment. The Wolf pursuing Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and his magic beans, Cinderella and her Prince – these stories are brought to strange life through subtle humor, witty torment and wonderful music.
Into The Woods thrived in a two-year run on Broadway and has become a touring and regional theater staple. We have nurtured it at Metropolis for the richness of its words and music, the quirky retelling of classic tales, while featuring a cast of excellent voices and characters. As with all our shows, the cast is what I devotedly call our “All Stars”, the best young talent in the Midwest.
If you’re even a casual fan of musical theater, Into The Woods is a show for you: rich in texture, quirky in telling, funny when needed and a glorious night of story, words and music. Join us for a great night of this theatrical classic.
September 14, 2017 § Leave a comment
Into the Woods actor Kent Joseph
August 16, 2017 § Leave a comment
“The thing you did,” Lord Aster posits, “against impossible odds, that’s something you two will always share.”
I’ve always been pretty good at endings. Or I guess I should say, I’ve always placed myself decidedly above endings. While my high school cast-mates clung to each other sobbing on the final night of a marathon five-performance run of Fiddler on the Roof or The Music Man or Annie, I hung back by the fly lines and looked on with confusion and mild embarrassment. What were they so upset about? We did it! We curated this awesome experience that will be immortalized in our teenage memories (and undoubtedly somebody’s father’s video camera) forever. And plus, we were all going to see each other tomorrow at school anyway. It was an end, not “the end.”
In the real world, of course, softly-edged endings solidify into cut offs that hold more weight, feel more concrete. You move away. You lose someone or something that you can never get back. People you love scatter to follow their own paths, and “See you tomorrow!” quickly becomes “See you…?” Still, the shared experience remains; despite time and distance and all the jostles of life, the beauty of the thing we did together crystallizes, suspended and sparkling in memory.
My favorite moment of Peter and the Starcatcher happens toward the end of the show, which feels very meta now as we enter our final weekend of performances. In an attempt to salve a broken-hearted goodbye, Lord Aster tells Peter not to worry, that soon he will forget everything and the pain will go away, to which Molly ferociously counters “No! It’s supposed to hurt! That’s how you know it meant something!” I’m eternally grateful for this story and the wonderful people alongside whom I get to tell it. They’ve made me realize that perhaps my attitude toward endings, while definitely less blubbery, skims over a deeper understanding of what losing something means. It hurts because it was good; the pain means that it meant something to me, something big and important and beautiful. Allowing that pain to surface is beautiful. Grieving and learning to love an ending for the time it represents is one of the most beautiful things I can imagine.
June 29, 2017 § Leave a comment
Imagination – the ability to form new ideas within one’s own mind – is a quality sorely lacking in the world around us. We surrender our imaginations to numbing fillers like video games or reality television, wondering why we just watched the very thing we just watched – a bit like regretting the bowl of Cheetos we just inhaled.
Great theater, on the other hand, engages audiences on many levels – sensory and tactile, conscious and subconscious interactions – while rousing that underused talent that we’ve parked on the couch: our imaginations. Nowhere is that stirring quality of inspiration more apparent than in the wonderful show Peter and the Starcatcher.
A “prequel” to the classic tale Peter Pan, Peter and the Starcatcher kicks off as Molly, a young teen girl and precocious “starcatcher”, is sent on parallel secret missions by her father, Lord Aster. Molly and her father must protect precious star-stuff intended for her Majesty, Queen Victoria through trials across the ocean.
Pirates and plots, storms and high seas, comedy and intrigue abound as trunks are switched, boys are lost and found, a Captain gets a Hook and Peter becomes Pan. Imagination overflows as each moment unfolds from the prior one, a jumbling tumble of funny and fearsome tales.
Peter and the Starcatcher is the perfect conclusion to our 2016/17 season especially as it follows the hit musical HAIR. When we plan our seasons we strive to strike a balance of interests, subjects and tastes. In this case, we wanted to follow HAIR – a show noted for its adult and counter-culture themes – with a show that is more family-oriented, a show that grandparents can enjoy right along with the grandkids. Peter and the Starcatcher fits that bill perfectly.
Having said that, it should be noted that while “Peter” is certainly a family show, it is definitely not a “kid’s show” like Seussical or Cinderella. Similar to the classic Peter Pan, Peter and the Starcatcher appeals to adult audience members right along with the tween-agers and teens, awakening imaginations in anyone who has ever heard a tall tale or have been told a fabulous yarn.
Join us on the funny and fierce journey of Peter and the Starcatcher. Your imagination will be glad you did.
Joe Keefe – Metropolis Executive/Artistic Director