Stage Magic

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opens on Broadway on April 22, 2018. But if you want tickets, you must register first (here’s why). Online registration opens this Sunday, Oct. 1.

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The cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. (Photo: Charlie Gray)

One of the most enduring cultural phenomena of our time is the wizarding world conjured up by British author J.K. Rowling. From the best-selling novels to the blockbuster movies to the beloved theme park attraction, Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and the delightful crew of quirky Quidditch-loving characters have captured our hearts, minds and pocketbooks.

As fine purveyors of the performing arts, we are happy to see the eighth installment of the Harry Potter series apparates not on the pages of a book but on the stages of London and New York (and, accio!, on stages all over the world like, say, here—keep the summoning spells happening, Potterfans.) In 2016, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child premiered on London’s West End, transporting audiences to Rowling’s magic world where Harry has a desk job, Hermione is Minister of Magic, Ron owns a shop on Diagon Alley and their children carry the legacy of the fateful turn of events that culminated in the Battle of Hogwarts. But the story isn’t about our favorite trio—not this time. This time, we’re taken on an adventure with Harry and Ginny’s second son, Albus Potter, and his best friend, Scorpius Malfoy. Yes: Malfoy.

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Harry’s son, Albus, and his new friend, Scorpius Malfoy. (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

What’s it going to be like seeing the Potters, Weasleys and company playing out this epic tale of Albus Severus Potter in real time? Well, if the nine 2017 Olivier Awards the show won after its London premier are any indication, we’re gonna go with bloody brilliant, mate. The Lyric Theater in New York, where the show opens this spring, invested in a complete remodeling to accommodate the specifics of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. If that’s not confidence in the return-on-investment, we don’t know what is.

Rowling conceived of the story with John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. Thorne wrote the manuscript, and when all was said and done, the tale—like the books—wove in and out of an epic battle of cause-and-effect so tremendous that the whole show is broken into two parts, à la The Deathly Hallows. Both parts run more than two hours with patrons buying consecutive shows, either seeing both parts on the same day or on two consecutive nights.

Without giving too much away, the story takes place 19 years after the final scene in The Deathly Hallows, with Harry and Ginny sending their son Albus Severus off to Hogwarts as a first year. Albus meets one Scorpius Malfoy, and they become buds after the surprise sorting of Albus into Slytherin. To boot, something funky is afoot as Harry’s lightning scar starts a-tingling again after almost 20 years of stillness since the Battle of Hogwarts. The events surrounding the untimely death of Cedric Diggory are involved, as is a Time Turner and the rather realistic, humdrum adult lives of Harry, Hermione and Ron. The father-son tension between Harry and Albus sparks Albus’s rash decision to send their lives into another (unknown at the time, of course) headlong plunge into the plans of He Who Must Not Be Named.

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Emma Watson as she described seeing the show and how she felt watching another actor portray Hermione as a full-grown adult:

Since we’re more likely to get tickets to Hamilton than the Cursed Child, we’re happy that the first installment of the Potter empire, The Sorcerer’s Stone, arrives in movie-with-live-music form this weekend at The Straz. The Florida Orchestra plays the score live as we watch the movie, which should be a most wonderful experience in honor of the Potter tales morphing from page to stage.

Predictably, The Sorcerer’s Stone shows are almost sold out, but if you want to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone during the Saturday matinee, there are a few seats available.

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Come Sit By Me

September is Women’s Friendship Month. So, how does that play out on Broadway? Let’s take a look.

The Sisterhood is real.

So is Women’s Friendship Month, which happens to be September.

In honor of the totally rad relationships women create, maintain and sustain, we decided to take a look at the way women’s friendships are portrayed in three blockbuster Broadway hits.

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I. The Color Purple
The unbreakable bond between sisters, women’s intimacy, loyalty against abusive men and the encouragement to rise up in the face of dangerous odds, the dynamics between the women in this story represent many facets of women’s friendships. The Color Purple, in its examination of the connection between sisters Celie and Nettie and the arrival of dynamos Shug and Sofia, circles around and through the nuances of the critical nature of women loving and standing up for each other. The musical tracks how each woman influences Celie, the star of the show, who struggles to come into her own identity as an African-American woman in the early 1900s. Based on Alice Walker’s award-winning novel, this story specifically reclaims the most righteous awesomeness of women looking each other square in the eye and saying, “I’m with you, sister.”

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II. Waitress
Thematically, it’s like The Color Purple but with pies. This story follows Jenna, a supremely talented pie-maker, as she relies on her waitress buddies to inspire the inner strength that propels her to an independent life doing what she loves. Based on Adrienne Shelley’s film—which she wrote in just two weeks while pregnant with her daughter—this story looks at the necessity of a network of female friends, no matter how small, to be both the safety net and the springboard for a woman with the ambition to see where her talent can take her. In an interesting real-life side note, the creative team behind Waitress the musical is all women, including hit maker Sara Bareilles who wrote all the songs and lyrics.

Of course, one of the most notorious female friendships in the Broadway canon belongs to Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, which brings us to

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III. Chicago
We dunno how much this show reflects women’s friendships as much as it illuminates humanity’s tendency to make advantageous alliances for self-preservation. However, one thing is certain: Velma and Roxie (and the rest of “Mama”’s incarcerated crew of insanely attractive murderers) make a great team for an epic battle of frenemies vying for the limelight. Chicago, which is based on reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins’s play (which was inspired by her work covering women on trial for murder in Chicago), disrupts the “sugar and spice and everything nice” notion about women and women’s relationships. In this story of literal femme fatales, women get a delightful romp in the predatory role where an uneasy truce is the closest anyone is going to get to a real relationship. Though Velma and Roxie bury the hatchet to become business partners by the end of the show, Chicago purposefully challenges gender stereotypes and assumptions about why women need each other.

However, like The Color Purple and Waitress, Chicago ultimately proves that life is so much better when you’ve got a pack of like-minded women with whom to take over the world.

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Ten Million Five Hundred Twelve Thousand Minutes

The original cast of RENT twenty years later … where are they now?

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The original Broadway cast of RENT. (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The raw yet elegantly composed story of young people scrabbling to make their dreams come true in an AIDS-rattled New York City shadowed by a growing moral hypocrisy from the political establishment, RENT resonated with Generation X. A young composer, a young cast, a new style of musical designed to capture a new disillusionment about the American Dream re-energized the Broadway musical scene.

The Hamilton of its time, RENT spurred an obsessed fandom of “RENTers” or “RENT-heads” to camp overnight for a shot at $20 tickets to the original Broadway show. The original cast, then comprised of young, unknown talents who toiled in rehearsals uncertain of whether the show was any good, became overnight sensations once RENT became the toast of the town in 1996.

Original cast members included Idina Menzel, Taye Diggs, Anthony Rapp and Jesse L. Martin at the start of their careers. Now that RENT enters its 20th anniversary tour and stops by The Straz Sept. 19-24, we thought we’d look at where the original cast is now.

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Adam Pascal as Shakespeare in Something Rotten! (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Adam Pascal (Roger)
Life after RENT: starred in Cabaret, Chicago, Memphis, Aida, Disaster! and more.
Now: Cast as William Shakespeare in 2016’s Something Rotten!, Pascal teamed up with RENT co-star Anthony Rapp in 2017 for a series of concerts about the musical.

 

If/Then

Anthony Rapp & Jackie Burns in IF/THEN. (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Anthony Rapp (Mark)
Life after RENT: starred in the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and several films including A Beautiful Mind.
Now: Rapp appeared at the Straz Center last year in If/Then, a musical he also starred in on Broadway with his RENT co-star Idina Menzel.

 

Idina Menzel (Maureen)
Life after RENT: Well, Elphaba in Wicked and belter of “Let It Go” as Elsa in Frozen.
Now: Menzel just wrapped up a world tour and continues to work with A Broader Way, an organization to support arts education for girl in urban communities, which she founded with her RENT co-star Taye Diggs.

 

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Taye Diggs on Empire. (Photo: Instagram @tayediggsinsta)

Taye Diggs (Benny)
Life after RENT: became a household name after starring in How Stella Got Her Groove Back, appearing frequently on television shows (Will & Grace, Grey’s Anatomy, Rosewood, Murder in the First).
Now: Diggs just wrapped three films in 2017 and is most recognized for his role as Angelo Dubois on Empire.

 

Jesse L Martin

Jesse L. Martin is known for playing detectives on TV. (Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW)

Jesse L. Martin (Tom)
Life after RENT: maintained a very successful career in television, most notably for his role as Ed Green on Law & Order.
Now: Martin portrays Detective Joe West on the television series The Flash. He has been cast as Marvin Gaye in the film Sexual Healing though the film is currently stalled.

 

Portrait of a mature african woman

Fredi Walker (Joanne)
Life after RENT: appeared in musicals including The Lion King (Rafiki) and The Buddy Holly Story.
Now: Walker teaches voice at Long Island University and New York University.

 

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Wilson Jermaine Heredia performing at the 23rd Annual ROCKERS ON BROADWAY concert in 2016. (Photo: BroadwayWorld.com)

Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Angel)
Life after RENT: took a short hiatus from the limelight before staying under the radar in a series of titillating B movies.
Now: Heredia just wrapped the comedy feature film The Rainbow Bridge Motel.

 

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Daphne Rubin-Vega (Mimi)
Life after RENT: continued a Broadway and music career, appearing in Les Miserables, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the Tampa-based drama Anna in the Tropics while writing and recording albums.
Now: Rubin-Vega lives in Panama with her husband and child and occasionally performs in public art shows.

Salsa con Sabor: The Many Flavors of Salsa Dancing

Did you know there are at least six different styles of salsa dancing? With the Tampa Bay Salsa and Bachata Festival wrapping up its takeover of downtown Tampa this week, we thought we’d keep the good vibes going with this brief look at the most well-known styles.

On 1? On 2? On the “and”?

Salseros know the answers to these questions can tell you a lot about a salsa dancer.

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Guests enjoy dancing at Latin Nights at Maestro’s Restaurant.

Whether you step out on the first beat (on 1), the second (on 2) or the “and”/”y” before the first, depends upon your particular style of salsa dance. Miami, Cuban, L.A., New York, Columbian, Rueda — these are the main categories of salsa technique, and let us be the first to assure you that each category has its own particular stylings. Salsa, like language, has many dialects and infinite flavors — all cooked up from the Caribbean and exported throughout the world.

The term “salsa” as we know it today originated in the 1970s (not a typo) after a perfect storm of cultures cross-pollinated in Spanish Harlem (“El Barrio”) in New York. Puerto Rican influences met Cuban influences met American jazz influences, and an explosion of this musical fusion was captured on wax by Fania Records, the “Latin Motown.”

Of course, salsa music didn’t form in a vacuum. It was the result of hundreds of years of colonial imperialism enslaving Africans to work tobacco and sugarcane fields in Cuba and elsewhere in the Caribbean. West African percussion rhythms and Spanish music blended into a uniquely Cuban sound. Likewise, a similar effect happened in Puerto Rico. Dance also benefited from colonial terrorism as European court dances intertwined with traditional African dances to create Cuban son, rumba, folkloric dances, Puerto Rican bomba and plena and others.

As we know, migrations happened, bringing these rich cultures to the United States, notably (for this blog, anyway) to New York. Around the 1950s, a few key players in this salsa story started to get internationally famous: Celia Cruz, later crowned Queen of Salsa; Tito Puente, King of Mambo and Ishmael Rivera, Father of Salsa. By the mid-60s they would become prominent, lasting forces on the American Latin music scene. Before President Kennedy closed US borders to Cuba, the back-and-forth of Cubans and Cuban-Americans carried this new Latin sound to Cuba, where it fit right in as a long-lost member of the musical family.

The clave (kla-vay), a wooden percussion instrument, announces and carries the salsa beat, and it’s this “knocking” rhythm that dictates the “basic” — or, basic step, which is usually a triplet of some sort. As salsa music developed, so did salsa dancing. Geographic regions created their own styles and flair on the basic. That’s how we get New York salseros stepping “on 2” and the flashy Los Angeles dancers stepping “on 1.”

The Puerto Rican style, which is taught at The Straz’s Latin Nights at Maestro’s Restaurant, is a smooth, sliding step. Dancers incorporate shoulder shimmies and use clean body lines in the dance.

Like this:

Cuban style uses Afro-Cuban hips movements and body isolations, starting on the “and” before the first downbeat.

Such as:

Hollywood influences L.A.’s “showy” style that incorporates tricks, flips and drops. Danced “on 1,” L.A. style has a powerful look and feel. Like all salsa styles, it’s a lot of fun to watch.

See for yourself with these competition dancers:

Rueda, also called Casino Rueda or Salsa Rueda, is a group of dancers in a circle following the instructions of a caller. Rueda means “wheel” in Spanish, so this style of salsa has dancers moving in a circle, swapping partner to partner in a series of moves determined on the fly by the caller. For this style, you’ve got to know your moves — and be quick about it.

Like these dancers:

The Miami style evolved from the Cuban style, adding more pretzel-twists with the arms and borrowing from the circular, “spinning” style of rueda.

Check it out:

Folks credit Eddie Torres with establishing New York style salsa, danced “on 2,” and also known as “mambo style.” New York style uses Afro-Cuban body movements to spice up the controlled, flowing, even pace of the dance. You’ll see complicated footwork and spins.

LOTS of spins:

Colombian style salsa, developed to the cumbia rhythm, uses more foot taps with a back-to-center or side-to-center pattern — not like the front-back mambo step.

See the difference:

Of course, despite their variations, the different styles of salsa are all exciting, sensual and full of “shines,” a term for when the dancers break apart for short grandstanding solos of impressive footwork. In other words, this moment in the dance is a time for the individuals to shine.

The Tampa Bay area happens to have great mix of salsa styles thanks to our location as a cultural crossroads for the Caribbean, Miami and folks fleeing New York’s cost of living and cold winters.

If you want to give salsa dancing a shot or are looking for a place to shine and style, our next Latin Night is Sept. 14.

Have something more to add about salsa dance? We know you do. Leave a comment below.