Monday, August 9, 2010

Hollywood Bowl

Perhaps the best part of a Los Angeles summer is the Hollywood Bowl.  It is a 17,000 seat amphitheatre featuring the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the summer home of the LA Philharmonic, and some of the finest musical offerings in the area.  In my ten years in LA, I have had the opportunity to see great artists like Angela Landsbury, Audra McDonald, John Williams, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Donna Murphy on that massive stage.  I am never disappointed with the atmosphere, the company, and the affordable tickets to enjoy a little culture here in Southern California.
With my pal, Melody Freeman, in the nosebleed seats at the Bowl.
Each year my friends and I hit the Bowl during the first weekend in August for their annual musical theatre selection.  This year was an interesting choice, not only for its racier content, but for its choice of directors, Neil Patrick Harris (NPH). The musical for 2010?  Rent.  NPH is very familiar with the material having played Mark in the National Tour of Rent back in 1997, so he made so unique choices with this production.  He wisely added ten chorus members to fill the cavernous Hollywood Bowl stage so it never felt empty and he had the set designer build a set with levels to fill the vertical height of the the Bowl shell.  When it came to casting, he went in several directions starting with classic musical theatre choices like Gwen Stewart and Tracie Thoms.  Since this is an LA production, you need more star wattage, so Wayne Brady, Vanessa Hudgens, and Nicole Scherzinger rounded out the cast and added the celebrity power.  The real question is, did they deliver the musical theatre goods?
Nighttime at the Bowl with a blurry iPhone camera.
Well, Wayne Brady was as solid as you would expect him to be in the touching role of Tom Collins. Vanessa Hudgens tried so hard in her role as Mimi.  She acted, danced, and sang with so much effort, it was exhausting to watch.  She really wanted to pull this off, but she was miscast in the role.   It was a definite departure from her role as Gabriella in High School Musical, but it wasn't the right departure.  She needs to think more Fosse, less junkie stripper.  I think a turn in Chicago on Broadway might do the girl good.  The true surprise of the night was Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls performing as Maureen, a role made famous by Wicked veteran, Idina Menzel.  I was not a fan until last night.  Holy cow!  That girl can sing, dance, and act.  I think she was the only one prepared to sing to an audience of 17,000 given her experience in the pop world. If her handlers manage her career properly, expect to see the next Beyoncé level diva on the horizon.  She's THAT good and we need a new diva since Beyoncé can barely sing.  (Yes, I said it.  She can't sing.  I've heard her live, she's a performer, not a singer.)  Overall, this show is always going to be a tribute to the work of Jonathan Larson.  Did it move me the way the original Broadway cast did in 1996?  No, but it certainly offered a great night out for a bunch of musical theatre geeks in Hollywood. 
The crowds exiting the Bowl after a night at Rent.

While Rent wrapped up last night, be sure to grab Hollywood Bowl tickets before the season is over.  It's affordable entertainment, a great date night, and an excuse to dine al fresco with lots of wine.
To read more about Neil Patrick Harris and this production of Rent:  LA Times.

And a photo of me and Melody Freeman made it on to the Hollywood Bowl site.  It's good to know they appreciate their cheap seat customers as much as their box owners.  Thanks!


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