Musical Season: ‘Billy Elliot,’ ‘Next to Normal,’ ‘Pippin’ take Dallas Stages

Three very unique musicals have taken Dallas stages and stolen the hearts of local audiences with stellar singing and dancing.

The cast of "Pippin" onstage at Theatre Three through June 25.

“Pippin” on stage at Theatre Three is the fantastical tale of Charlemagne’s son, who is coming of age and trying to ‘find his corner of the sky.’

Max Swarner steals the show with his performance as the title character, as he sings his way through somewhat mediocre costumes and concepts.

The first act of the show drags slightly, as some big numbers such as “Magic to Do” and “No Time at All” don’t have the expected upbeat energy. The Leading Player, originally played by Ben Vereen, is taken over by the female powerhouse N. Wilson King.

Max Swarner stars as the title character in "Pippin" at Theatre Three.

The second act of the show makes up for the first, thanks to Lee Wadley’s brilliant turn as Catherine, Pippin’s love interest. Her stunning voice and bubbly energy delivers the quick-paced humor lacking at the start of the show.

Stephen Schwartz’s quirky, avant-garde musical is worth-seeing, thanks to the performances of some local musical theater buffs. Bruce Coleman has ambitiously directed and designed this rarely-produced show. It’s not fully polished, but then I wonder what production of “Pippin” ever would be?

“Pippin” is onstage at Theatre Three through June 25.

Another story of a young boy finding his place in the world is tearing up the stage of the Winspear Opera House in the Tony-award-winning musical “Billy Elliot.”

The Lexus Broadway Series wraps up its second season with this show packed with some of the best dancing to hit Dallas stages for a long time.

“Billy Elliot” interweaves the story of a young boy finding himself through dance, with the story of a mining town during a strike. The parallels drawn between the two coming-of-age plots is an incredibly effective demonstration of what it feels like to balance familial struggles with childhood dreams.

Although the cast varies from night to night of this tour, it is assured that this musical will delight audiences of all ages.  Giuseppe Bausilio as Billy the night that I saw it and Griffin Birney as his unconventional best friend Michael gave capable, heart-warming performances. And Tony-award-winning Faith Prince gives a rousing performance of Mrs. Wilkinson every night.

This exhilarating, one-of-a-kind treat is a must-see for anyone who loves Broadway musicals. Onstage through June 19.

When “Billy Elliot” won the 2009 Tony for Best New Musical, it beat out an equally brilliant, although very different musical about psychotherapy and family life, “Next to Normal.”

It is fitting that Uptown Players is currently producing the very first regional premiere of this Pulitzer-Prize-winning musical, and that they have assembled the finest local production of a musical that this young theater-goer has ever seen in Dallas.

Patty Breckenridge, Gary Floyd, Erica Harte and Anthony Carillo play the family at the center of this moving story, each dealing with grief in their own way. Their vocal and acting performances will blow you away.

Tom Kitt’s score contains numbers with moving melodies, as well as those with rock elements that mirror what is taking place both onstage and in head of Breckenridge’s Diana. Yorkey’s poetic book and lyrics lend a voice to struggles that many Americans have today with psychotherapy.

Andy Redmon’s set for this production allows for a seamless production. The massive, multi-room house serves as a physical representation of the different compartments of the brain allowing characters to be onstage at the same time, as if in the subconscious of Diana’s mind. It also allows the play to run without set changes, a boon for a show with this much music and dramatic tension.

Uptown Players deserves the highest praise for producing this difficult musical with such aplomb and professionalism. Don’t miss your chance to see “Next to Normal” onstage at the Kalita Humphries Theatre through July 3.

2 Responses to “Musical Season: ‘Billy Elliot,’ ‘Next to Normal,’ ‘Pippin’ take Dallas Stages”

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