STAGE BRIEFS – WICKED, SF FOLLIES, TENNESSEE IN THE SUMMER

Some go this way, some go that way

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

WICKED, now at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theater, is the very best of composer Stephen Schwartz and a dazzling Broadway dream come true. Cult followers of the musical will no doubt debate the excellence of the current cast – comparing even the monkeys that flew around the Curran during the 2003 pre-Broadway try-out, or the roster of the 2005 National Tour that played the Orpheum, and every other assemblage casting its spell from coast to coast and around the globe since then. As with the vast majority of Broadway’s corporate musicals of the past two decades, there is an absolute way to present the show and an absolute style in which the performers sing. The energetic ensemble includes performers assigned and ready to step into the major and supporting roles. Lasting two hours and 45 minutes and looking far over the rainbow for an open-ended engagement – die-hard fans of Stephen Schwartz’s WICKED will agree that when it comes to San Francisco – “Other places only make me love you best.”

CAST OF WICKED, 2009. Photo, Joan Marcus
CAST OF WICKED, 2009.
Photo, Joan Marcus

At New Conservatory Theatre Center (25 Van Ness near Market) is playwright Joe Besecker’s infatuating drama, TENNESSEE IN THE SUMMER. The play is a fearless leap through the looking glass of Tennessee Williams – a not-so make believe trip into the psyche and psychoses of the author who gifted the world with The Rose Tattoo, Night of the Iguana, Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Streetcar Named Desire. Director Christopher Jenkins maintains a clear line of vision along the fractured paths and gothic tunnels of Williams’ fear of insanity, his meandering frenzies induced by hard liquor and pills, and stumbling confessions of sexual bravado. Dale Albright is perfectly cast as the imagined “Tennessee”. Alex Alexander as “The Woman” – the female side of the author, in the iconic guise of “Maggie (the cat)” – embodies the lilt and conflicting energies of his major female figures. Jeremy Forbing is persuasive and convincing in his triple assignment as an oily hustler, as “Frankie” the devoted companion, and as Williams’ conniving brother, “Dakin”. Annamarie MacLeod, also in multiple roles, captures the mysterious essence of Tennessee’s disturbed sister, “Rose” – revealing traces of “Laura” in The Glass Menagerie. As the 90+ “Edwina”, Ms MacLeod points to the overbearing self-centeredness of “Amanda” (The Glass Menagerie) and the insisting domination of “Violet Venable” (Suddenly Last Summer). Scenic designer Michael Fink transforms the neat and lofty Walker Theatre into the confining mugginess of a Manhattan hotel room for Williams’ final exit. TENNESSEE IN THE SUMMER plays through Sunday, March 1st.

TENNESSEE IN THE SUMMER. Photo, Lois Tema
TENNESSEE IN THE SUMMER.
Photo, Lois Tema

BISCEGLIE'S SF FOLLIES. Going green in recycled haute couture
BISCEGLIE’S SF FOLLIES.
Going green in recycled haute couture

John Bisceglie’s SF FOLLIES is the most refreshing musical revue to inhabit the City in a very long time. Playing now in the off-Broadway-type environment of Actors Theatre (855 Bush Street at Taylor), SF FOLLIES sits in the proverbial “All Talking/All Singing/All Dancing” category and boasts a sparkling group of Bay Area performers who will soon become the talk of the town. The show is packed with charming banter and witty songs that take a crack at everything and every-type-of-body from street pigeons to the (duck!) Mayor’s Desk at City Hall, then across the street to “Swan Lake” at the Opera House, on over to the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. (Check out the Hit List on SFFollies.com) Viewed close up and personal, a multi-talented and detail-oriented crew gives Bisceglie’s set and costume designs the classic Star Treatment. Choreographer Kayvon Kordestani has collaborated on 15 projects with Bisceglie. The high-toned perfectly matched kicks of the ensemble’s opening number let us know this ain’t your grandma’s beach blanket party. Based on the decibel level of the response to last weekend’s opening performances, John and his co-author Jason Tarshis should start making plans for a First Anniversary Bash. Given the state of the City and how its leaders will strut its stuff – there will be plenty to punch-up, poke-at, perforate-through, and meet with the pitter-patter of dancin’ feet come 2010. Affordably priced and conveniently located, SF FOLLIES is the biggest bang of Season 2009.

BISCEGLIE'S SF FOLLIES. Cash not care for a homeless mermaid
BISCEGLIE’S SF FOLLIES.
Cash not care for a homeless mermaid

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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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