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Movie Review: “Dear Evan Hansen” Plays a Powerful Song

“Dear Evan Hansen” is the Tony Award winning Broadway musical that’s been adored by millions. But for some reason, the film adaption doesn’t seem to be translating to audiences.

Sadly, I have yet to see this musical on Broadway, but look forward to one day hearing the soundtrack performed live. I am clearly in the minority of my colleagues, but I enjoyed this movie. I went in completely blind. I didn’t know the storyline or a single song beforehand; maybe that’s why it was easy for me to fall for this film.

For those who also might not know anything about this premise, “Dear Evan Hansen” follows Evan (Ben Platt) – a socially awkward High School senior with an absentee father, a loving mom (Julianne Moore) who is constantly working, and not a single friend to sign the cast on his broken arm. In an effort to help with his anxiety, Evan’s therapist suggests he write a letter to himself, encouraging himself throughout the day.

On a random day at school, the brooding at times hostile student, Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan) decides to sign Evan’s cast. The sweet moment is short lived because he finds one of Evan’s letters in where it mentions Connor’s sister, Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever) – Evan’s crush. He angrily pushes Evan, steals the letter, and keeps it in his coat. The next day, Evan is called to the principal’s office where Connor’s parents (Amy Adams and Danny Pino) are waiting for him. Connor has committed suicide. The only note he had on him was Evan’s letter, which they believe Connor wrote for him. The letter paired with his signature on Evan’s cast convinces his parents that this was his one true friend. In that moment, Evan can’t help but go along with the lie. He has good intentions, but the events that follow can be tough to watch.

I’ll admit, when this film gets going and the talented cast is pouring their heart into a heavy conversation about depression, suicide, or internal struggles, it can take you out of the moment when one someone suddenly burst into song. Most of the time you forget this film is a musical until the singing starts again. However, once the music begins, and you’re actually listening to the lyrics, you’re pulled back in by the powerful message the songs have to tell. And I guess there’s backlash for Platt playing the role of a high schooler at age 27, but I’m not sure why? Adults have played High School teens for years in film and television. Platt looks the age and embodies the high anxiety, awkward character, not to mention, his voice is incredible. It’s a true gift for fans of the Broadway show to see Platt reprise this role.

The majority of the high-profile cast do a wonderful job. But praise should be given to Kaitlyn Dever who plays the role of Zoe so effortlessly. She excels in her delivery and emotion as a sister who struggles to grieve the brother that was so cruel to her.

The runtime of 2 hours and 17 minutes is a bit long, but I’m not sure what to cut out. Every scene felt vital to the story. It’s understanding not everyone will be able to bare the length of this somber tale, but the film does end on an uplifting note.

“Dear Evan Hansen” may not be a smooth track, but it provides a compelling message that is still relevant to teens today: be kind and make efforts to those kids in school who are closed off and have difficulty building relationships. I remember those students. At times I even felt like those students.

Though it won’t appeal to everyone, “Dear Evan Hansen” is an emotional and heartwarming musical.

Rating: B-

“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” Interview

“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”

“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is a film adaption of the musical about a teenager from England who wants to be a drag queen. It’s a touching and beautiful movie about embracing the “real” you. I sat down with the director and stars of the film, Jonathan Butterell, Max Harwood, and Lauren Patel. They discussed the film and even played a little rapid fire game!

Check out the interview and the film when it opens on September 17, 2021.

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Interview: “In the Heights” w/ Filmmakers & Cast

(Left Center-Right Center) ANTHONY RAMOS as Usnavi and MELISSA BARRERA as Vanessa in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “IN THE HEIGHTS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

“In the Heights” was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway show and now it’s come to the big screen as a vibrant, toe-tapping film. Set over the course of three days, the film follows a variety of characters living in the neighborhood of Washington Heights. Each of them have a dream or goal they hope to accomplish. I spoke with some of the cast and filmmakers to discuss the movie, what reminds them of the best day of their lives, and more.

“In the Heights” opens in theaters and HBOMax on June 11.

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Movie Review: “The High Note” & “The Vast of Night”

I’ve got a couple of new film reviews for ya! First is “The High Note”, another mentor/mentee film that makes the most of its’ cast and should hit the right note with its’ audience.

Then there is the new Amazon Studios movie, “The Vast of Night”, which plays as a wonderful homage to “The Twilight Zone”. This film will satisfy that sci-fi itch with suspense, mystery, wonder and nostalgia.

“The High Note” is available on various On Demand platforms May 29.

“The Vast of Night” is available on Amazon Prime May 29.

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TROLLS WORLD TOUR – Virtual Activity Kit

Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake return in Trolls World Tour, an all-star sequel to DreamWorks Animation’s 2016 musical hit. In an adventure that will take them well beyond what they’ve known before, Poppy (Kendrick) and Branch (Timberlake) discover that they are but one of six different Trolls tribes scattered over six different lands and devoted to six different kinds of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop and Rock. Their world is about to get a lot bigger and a whole lot louder.

A member of hard-rock royalty, Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom), aided by her father King Thrash (Ozzy Osbourne), wants to destroy all other kinds of music to let rock reign supreme. With the fate of the world at stake, Poppy and Branch, along with their friends — Biggie (James Corden), Chenille (Caroline Hjelt), Satin (Aino Jawo), Cooper (Ron Funches) and Guy Diamond (Kunal Nayyar) — set out to visit all the other lands to unify the Trolls in harmony against Barb, who’s looking to upstage them all.

“Trolls World Tour” will be available to watch at home On Demand April 10!
WatchTrolls.com

In the mean time you can download this Troll Party Pack all different Trolls theme activities. https://www.dreamworks.com/downloads/TrollsPartyPack.pdf

Also be sure to check out the “How To Draw A Troll” Tutorial Series below: 

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Put Your Hair in the Air with Trolls LIVE!

The Disco-Ball Dropping Dance Party with Poppy, Branch and All Their Trolls Friends Take Over The Theatre at Grand Prairie, February 7-9

DALLAS, TX (January 14, 2020) – Get ready for another hair-raising adventure when Poppy, Branch and all their Trolls friends come to life on stage in Trolls LIVE!, their first ever live tour! Jam-packed with epic music, glitter, humor and happiness, Trolls LIVE! will visit The Theatre at Grand Prairie, February 7-9 for six Trolls-tastic performances. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at www.AXS.com or by phone at 888-929-7849.

The journey begins when the Trolls’ Hug Time is unexpectedly put at risk. Knowing the only way to save it is by doing what the Trolls do best, Poppy hosts a toe-tapping, Trolls-tastic show! Poppy, Branch, Cooper, Cloud Guy, Smidge, Guy Diamond, Fuzzbert, Biggie (and of course Mr. Dinkles) invite you into the colorful world of Trolls Village for this interactive performance only the Trolls can create. This is one Trolls party you won’t want to miss!

The world of the Trolls comes alive in this totally interactive, story-rich musical celebration of everything the Trolls love – singing, dancing, rainbows, glitter and plenty of hugs. The extravaganza utilizes the latest in scenic projection, puppetry, media technology and features a host of special effects and interactive surprises. Trolls LIVE! includes two acts with an intermission and will enchant both children and adults with its popular Trolls show-stopping songs, as well as introduce audiences to all-new electrifying Trolls music and choreography.

What: Trolls LIVE! coming to Dallas!

When: Friday February 7 6:30 p.m. Saturday February 8 10:00 a.m., 2:30 p.m., & 6:30 p.m. Sunday February 9 10:00 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.

Where: The Theatre at Grand Prairie 1001 Performance Place Grand Prairie, TX 75050

Tickets: Tickets start at $19. Tickets are available at The Theatre at Grand Prairie Box Office, online at www.AXS.com or by phone at 888-929-7849. Prices are subject to change. Additional fees and special offers may apply. A limited number of tickets are available for the Trolls LIVE! VIP Party, starting at $150. VIP Party perks include premium show seating, a souvenir lanyard, and an after-show Meet & Greet with your favorite hosts, Poppy and Branch! Fans can get the ultimate VIP experience with the Diamond VIP Package that includes the Trolls LIVE! VIP Party perks, plus front row seating and an exclusive glitter tote. Diamond VIP tickets begin at $200.

For more information or to join Trolls Hair Mail for presale and other exclusive offers, visit www.TrollsLIVE.com. Follow Trolls LIVE! on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @trollslive, and use #TrollsLIVE.

Movie Review: “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a Musical Delight

Image result for mamma mia 2 poster

The whole Mamma Mia gang is back! But this time we’re looking back to see how it all started.

Ten years ago the first “Mamma Mia!” introduced us to Donna (Meryl Streep) and her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). At the time, Sophie was engaged to her then fiancée Sky (Dominic Cooper), and wanted to know her father was so that he could attend the wedding. Given that there were three possible candidates, she invited all three of her mother’s past lovers, Sam, Harry, and Bill (Pierce Brosnon, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard) to her wedding. After meeting the three men, they fall in love with Sophie and they all commit to being her father.

Now in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” Sophie is pregnant and this sparks a stroll down memory lane. Flashbacks allow us to see when her mother met her fathers, and how it eventually led to her birth. Right after college, young Donna (Lily James) decides to take a European trip. Along the way she runs into a much younger Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan), and Sam (Jeremy Irvine). All three newcomers do a fantastic job and leave lasting impressions.

But it’s Lily James who steals the show with her striking beauty and incredible voice. Who knew this girl could sing!? James’ energy and charisma leaps off the screen. However, she’s not the only one with popping vocals. Amanda Seyfried continues to sing with voice of a Disney Princess, and her on screen Grandma played by the one and only, Cher, brings down the whole house with her powerful vocals.

The only thing more stunning than the music was the setting in Greece. The crystal blue waters and landscape is eye candy to even someone who doesn’t care about what else is going on.

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a film that moves quickly. Since we are given brief moments in about a song length capacity with each man Donna meets, the film never lags. Although, I would not have minded seeing a longer storyline between young Donna and Sam. James’ and Irvine’s romantic chemistry makes us realize why the two characters immediately fall for each other again in the first film.

Though the plot is corny and the random bursts into song can be cheesy at times, it just doesn’t matter. Take “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” for what it is; and that’s a fun, toe-tapping musical that everyone can enjoy.

Rating: 3.5/5

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” opens in theaters July 20.

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“Waitress” at Music Hall at Fair Park

Waitress the Musical

Dallas Summer Musicals, Inc. (DSM) and Broadway Across America (BAA) are thrilled to announce Waitress will play the Music Hall at Fair Park for a limited two-week engagement March 28 – April 8, 2018.

Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team, this irresistible new hit features original music and lyrics by 6-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles (“Brave,” “Love Song”), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam), choreography by Lorin Latarro (Les Dangereuse Liasons, Waiting For Godot) and direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Hair, Pippin, Finding Neverland).

Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna – a waitress and expert pie maker, Jenna dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.

“It’s an empowering musical of the highest order!” raves the Chicago Tribune. “Waitress is a little slice of heaven!” says Entertainment Weekly and “a monumental contribution to Broadway!” according to Marie Claire. Don’t miss this uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood, and the magic of a well-made pie.

For more tour information, please visit http://waitressthemusical.com

Single tickets for the Dallas engagement of Waitress, starting at $20 (pricing subject to change), are now on sale at DallasSummerMusicals.org or by phone at 1 (800) 745-3000. They can also be purchased in person at the Music Hall at Fair Park Box Office Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tickets for Disney’s The Lion King On Sale Now!

Tickets for Disney’s The Lion King On Sale Now! 

Performances Begin on June 13, 2018 and Play for 4 Weeks

Through July 7, 2018 at the Music Hall at Fair Park

Disney Theatrical Productions, Dallas Summer Musicals, Inc. (DSM) and Broadway Across America (BAA) announced today that tickets for the long-awaited return engagement of Disney’s The Lion King go on sale to the public today. Disney’s The Lion King will leap onto the Music Hall at Fair Park stage on June 13, 2018 for a limited 4 week engagement through July 7, 2018.

Beginning today, tickets will be available at DallasSummerMusicals.org or by calling Ticketmaster at (866) 270-2717. They can also be purchased in person at the Music Hall at Fair Park Box Office Monday through Friday from 10:00am to 6:00pm and Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm. Orders for groups of ten (10) or more may be placed by calling (214) 426-4768 or emailing Groups@DallasSummerMusicals.org.VIP Ticket Packages, which include a prime seat location, a commemorative souvenir program and an exclusive merchandise item, are also available.

Ticket buyers are reminded that Dallas Summer Musicals and Ticketmaster are the only official retail ticket outlets for all performances. Ticket buyers who purchase tickets from a ticket broker or any third party should be aware that Dallas Summer Musicals is unable to reprint or replace lost or stolen tickets and is unable to contact patrons with information regarding time changes or other pertinent updates regarding the performance.

The North American touring productions of The Lion King have been seen by more than 19 million theatergoers.  Having already played more than 70 cities across North America, The Lion King now proudly makes its 4th return to the Music Hall at Fair Park.

About The Lion King

In its 20th year, The Lion King continues ascendant as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world.  Since its Broadway premiere on November 13, 1997, 24 global productions have been seen by more than 95 million people.  Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), The Lion King is only the second show in history to generate five productions worldwide running 10 or more years.  Performed in eight different languages (Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese), productions of The Lion King can currently be seen on Broadway; London’s West End; Hamburg; Tokyo; Madrid; Scheveningen; Sapporo and on tour across North America, for a total of eight productions running concurrently across the globe.

Having played over 100 cities in 19 countries on every continent except Antarctica, The Lion King’s worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.

The Lion King won six 1998 Tony Awards®:  Best Musical, Best Scenic Design (Richard Hudson), Best Costume Design (Julie Taymor), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder), Best Choreography (Garth Fagan) and Best Direction of a Musical.  The Lion King has also earned more than 70 major arts awards including the 1998 NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, the 1999 Grammy® for Best Musical Show Album, the 1999 Evening Standard Award for Theatrical Event of the Year and the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Choreography and Best Costume Design.

The show’s director, costume designer and mask co-designer Julie Taymor continues to play an integral part in the show’s ongoing success.  The first woman to win a Tony Award for Direction of a Musical, Taymor has in recent years supervised new productions of the show around the world.

The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice’s music from The Lion King animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice; additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer; and music from “Rhythm of the Pride Lands,” an album inspired by the original music in the film, written by Lebo M, Mark Mancina and Hans Zimmer.  The resulting sound of The Lion King is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, ranging from the Academy Award®-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to the haunting ballad “Shadowland.”

The book has been adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed The Lion King animated feature, and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay.  Other members of the creative team include:  Michael Curry, who designed the masks and puppets with Taymor, Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound design), Michael Ward (hair and makeup design), John Stefaniuk (associate director), Marey Griffith (associate choreographer), Clement Ishmael (music supervisor) and Doc Zorthian (production supervisor). Anne Quart serves as co-producer.

For more information worldwide, visit LionKing.com.

Movie Review: “Pitch Perfect 2” is an Aca-Awesome Sequel


The Barden Bellas are back and ready to pitch-slap the world’s best a cappella groups!

It’s been three years since we last saw our Bella’s beat out the exuberant Treblemakers for the national title. Since then, they have gone on to be reigning champs. But just before this all female singing group could finish out their college careers with 4 straight national wins, an unfortunate mishap occurs during a live broadcast performance at the White House. This results in the Bellas being banned from competing in the United States. Their one shot at redemption and reinstatement is to win the international competition, in which no American group has ever won. To make matters worse the undefeated champs from Germany, Das Sound Machine, are incredible!

Anna Kendrick returns as Beca, the aspiring music producer, who is now focused more on life after college and is secretly interning at a record label.  Brittany Snow also returns as Chloe, who purposely is failing college every year so that she may remain a Bella. And we are introduced to a new freshman, Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), who desperately wants to become a Barden Bella.

For the most part, Pitch Perfect 2 hits all the right notes. For starters, the film skips straight to the girl’s senior year in college and avoids dragged out year by year sequels. Also, Beca and Jesse (Skylar Astin) are still together and going strong. Nice to see they didn’t have a dramatic break up that would lead to an inevitable reunion. Only problem here is we don’t get nearly enough time with the lovable Skylar Astin. I would have much rather watched more of Jesse’s plan for life after college versus any time spent with newcomer, Emily. I can’t quite put my finger on why Steinfield never clicked with me. Other than her character writing the touching, original song “Flashlight,” Emily is just wasted time that could be spent on the growth of an already beloved character.

Speaking of beloved characters, Bumper (Adam DeVine) and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) are still keeping their love affair under-wraps. It’s a hilarious and unique pairing that audiences will surely enjoy.

Pitch Perfect 2 is definitely flashier than the first film, yet it is also less charming. Under the direction of Elizabeth Banks, the movie focuses on a sort of girl power theme. That isn’t a bad thing, but it would have been nice to maybe see a collaboration between the Treblemakers and Barden Bellas. It’s a performance I still hope to see one day.

Overall I praise the film for its effort in an original sequel.  Instead of recycling story-lines, they allow their characters to develop through new experiences while also highlighting how bittersweet it can be to move on after college.

There is no doubt that fans of the first film will be satisfied with Pitch Perfect 2.  The movie is an extremely fun, comedy packed with awe-inspiring musical numbers to which you can’t help but sing-along.

Rating: 4/5

Pitch Perfect 2 opens in theaters May 15.

“Pitch Perfect 2” Official Trailer HD