Tag Archives: New Line Theatre

Be More Chill

New Line Theatre is closing the current season with Be More Chill in a pre-Broadway version.

I attended Saturday evening.  While the rest of the run is sold out, some educator tickets and student tickets may be available each of the remaining evenings over the next two weekends.

I’ve been attending New Line shows for many seasons now, and I was employed by the company as Resident Music Director for three seasons.  My music-directing majors from Webster University have been involved for the last three years as well. (That’s the full disclosure.)

This production of Be More Chill is New Line’s finest work in some time.  The show feels organic, complete, totally satisfying, with acting and singing that are uniformly strong.  Mike Dowdy-Windsor and Scott Miller pulled together a stand-out, believable cast full of age-appropriate types with pipes and the ability to make the characters zip off the page.

The show is subversive in some ways, starting out with apparent stock characters who then become increasingly complex.  And the big moments are delivered in song, which I love indeed. One standout moment — gripping and haunting and lingering in my mind today — occurs early in the second act, when the sidekick to the lead comes face-to-face with his own reality, delivered in the tear-jerking “Michael in the bathroom.”  Kevin Corpuz has never had a better moment on stage.

Jayde Mitchell engagingly carries the show.  He has an appealing stage presence and a sweet voice that, after a few early moments of squishy intonation, locked right in.  His angst, his change in character, his moral dilemma — all carried the punch they needed to make this show work.

I was talking with Scott Miller after the curtain, and commented on how organic this show’s humor is.  He noted that the show is not funny intentionally, but that the humor derives from the all-too-natural human situation.  As I’ve commented before, Scott is brilliant at directing shows where normal people do abnormal things.

Nic Valdez, Webster BM in Music Directing for Musical Theatre ’19, is the music director.  The ensemble was rock solid, and the few choral moments were glorious.  The show was tight, with nary a slip of diction or a misplaced release.  Leading the whole production from the keyboard is Webster senior Marc Vincent, who with this show is making his first big outing leading the band while playing the show. His fingers barely leave the keyboard, and he’s brilliant.  I was one proud teacher Saturday evening.

Other reviews, this time by professionals:

Performances to attend

My fall performances-to-attend schedule is coming into focus, and I’ve purchased quite a few tickets in the past few days.

September 11 — our own jazz series

September 12 — South Pacific at Stages

September 13 — Curious Incident at Rep

September 15 — Harry Potter at SLSO

September 17 — Daniel Schene, piano, at Webster

September 18 — Paul DeMarinis Ensemble at Webster

September 24 — my own studio recital at Webster, and then a faculty recital that evening

September 25 — jazz series at Webster

September 29 — [title of show] at WebCo

September 30 — Lizzie at New Line

October 2 — Debby Lennon jazz concert at Webster

October 6 — Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in Chicago!

October 8 — Webster University Orchestra

October 9 — faculty recital at Webster

October 11 — The Bodyguard at the Fox

October 12 — Spring Awakening at Stray Dog

October 15 — two events at Webster

October 16 — Wind Ensemble at Webster

October 17 — faculty recital at Webster

October 18 — Muny Magic at the Sheldon

October 20 — Hamlet at the Rep

October 21 — The Wizard of Oz by Variety Club at the Touhill

October 22 — SLSO

October 30 — Webster University Chamber Singers pre-conference concert

I shan’t even think yet about November and December.

And there’s also five trips in October and November, which means I’m missing some other things here in town!

The Sweet Smell of Success

We run for two more weekends, Thursday through Saturday!

Some reviews:

Jeffrey Richard Carter’s musical direction really brings the score to life in dynamic and expressive fashion, aided by a crack band that includes: Carter (piano), Kaela Barnett (trumpet), Sue Goldford (keyboard), Steven Johnson (reeds), Clancy Newell (percussion), and Jake Stergos (bass).
~Broadway World

…the excellent band led by music director Jeffrey Richard Carter, bringing the show’s jazz-influenced score to life with a bold attitude and style.
~Snoops Theatre Thoughts

Musical director Jeffrey Richard Carter makes the show positively sweat the grime of New York’s nocturnal underbelly.
~The Riverfront Times

…musical director Jeffrey Richard Carter keep the show moving at a brisk pace. The songs are sharp and well executed . . . .

That mood is established from the get-go by music director Jeffrey Richard Carter and the New Line Band. They sound as if they’re appearing at the Marcelle via time travel, on loan from a midcentury hot spot in Greenwich Village.
~Saint Louis Post-Dispatch

The music is jazzy, but I wouldn’t think particularly easy for the always excellent New Line Band: Jeffrey Richard Carter conducting Kaela Barnett, Sue Goldford, Steven Johnson, Clancy Newell and Jake Stergos. There seemed to be a lot of starts, sudden breaks, key changes—the music was almost a speaking part in and of itself. It set the tone . . . .
~Critical Blast

And how tight the jazzy noir score is by MARVIN Freakin’ HAMLISCH, with crisp music direction by Jeffrey Carter (band includes ace Sue Goldford). Smooth intricate orchestration – love those horns!
~Lynn Venhaus, on Facebook

A day in the life

Friday, June 2.

A day in the life.  Three different hats, each of them delightful and satisfying.

Morning.  Final audition day at Webster University.  Meet and greet ten students who wish admission to the Department of Music’s various majors. Hear auditions, and meet with various faculty.

Afternoon.  At home for 3.5 hours of voice lessons, and some real success in making modifications in tonal quality and breath management.  I love teaching voice, and am delighted for the six new private-studio students who started lessons recently.

Evening.  At New Line Theatre.  Opening night of The Sweet Smell of Success.  Black clothing but warm hearts as I lead the ensemble in this witty, wicked show.

Plan for the Day

Monday, June 15.

  • Pick raspberries from my own garden
  • Eat Cap’n Crunch for breakfast, then raspberries
  • Finish the laundry
  • Do some composing and creating
  • Lunch with Todd
  • Enjoy a mani/pedi
  • Love some Samson time
  • Finish the Webster 15-16 concert calendar, even though this is a day off
  • Teach a voice lesson
  • Dine on spare ribs and salad for dinner
  • Make lavender ice cream (the cream and milk and honey for which is currently in the fridge to cool and meld)
  • Attend auditions for New Line Theatre’s next season

That will be a full day off from the office!

Back to the hovel

Our second weekend of New Line Theatre‘s The Threepenny Opera is nearing a close.  I’ve grown to love this show so much!  The reviews have been strong, although the audience may or may not be ‘getting it.’   We are having fun with this material, and the band sounds better and more idiomatic every night. And I delight in having one of my own voice students in the show.

From the critics:
–And a top notch band led by Jeffrey Richard Carter.
–As usual, an excellent band led by Music Director Jeffrey Richard Carter.
–A 7-piece house band handles the score with elan.
–Jeffrey Richard Carter’s (piano/conductor) musical direction is finely honed.
–The moment music director Jeffrey Richard Carter and his sly ensemble begin the overture, a shudder of pleasure rips through the theater.
–Musical director Jeffrey Richard Carter leads his excellent band through the song’s sea-shanty rhythms with malicious glee. It’s a beautiful start to the evening.

But why do all these critics seem to think that all I do is lead the band?  Cf. https://jeffreycarter.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/what-a-music-director-does/

(Much of this same information is discussed in Scott Miller’s brilliant podcast on Stage Grok.)

An extended excerpt from Paul Friswold at the Riverfront Times:

For the next three weeks you have a choice in how you stay informed about current events: You can either suffer through another local newscast as the tone whiplashes between banal levity and grim images of oppression, crime and human misery — or you can soak up the horrible truth at New Line Theatre’s near-perfect production of The Threepenny Opera.

Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s assault on society’s ills was crafted as Germany started its long slide into Nazism. Poverty was grinding down the middle class, killers stalked the streets, and the government twiddled its thumbs while the ultimate evil grew in strength every day — and good men did nothing. We all know how that turned out, so why are we making the same mistakes 87 years later?

That is the question haunting almost every lyric Brecht wrote for Threepenny, and it is that question that director Scott Miller has his cast hammer home throughout the show. The result is a sharp, angry musical that shouts the truth about our society’s ills for two-and-a-half hours. If you’re not angry by the time the lights come up, you’re part of the problem.

Here’s a view from my seat before the show begins:



I saw Billy Elliot at the Muny last evening.  What a wonderful show this was, with moving and lyrical guitar playing from my colleague Steve Schenkel, a major star in the Billy, and an outstanding cast that brought their A-game.

I had a friend with me.  He got to meet both Denny Regan, the Muny’s president, and Mike Isaacson, the Muny’s producer.  ‘Tis nice to know these folks by name!

My new gig, New Line Theatre, has received a love letter.  Check it out:http://www.tcg.org/publications/at/issue/featuredstory.cfm?story=2&indexID=45