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Eason Relives Career in 'Runt of the Litter'

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

 

About an hour before former NFLer Bo Eason was ready to take the stage in his one man show, “The Runt of the Litter,” a man in his mid-thirties was walking his small dog outside the 37 Arts Theatre in Manhattan. Most likely in an attempt to get back indoors as fast as possible, the dog urinated right next to the door to get inside and then proceeded to scurry away from the crime scene. A pity, because the canine was about to miss one of the most entertaining one man shows in quite some time, even though a few moments were in fact for the dogs.

 

Eason, a former All-Pro strong safety with the Houston Oilers, takes us on a poignant tale of love, loss and lunacy, in a semi-autobiographical tale about his days in the NFL. You see, Eason’s bigger brother, Tony, was an NFL standout [he was also the New England Patriots first pick in 1983, a draft that featured NFL legends Eric Dickerson, John Elway and Jim Kelly] and they both played in the league at the same time. However, the way they made it into the league was entirely different and serves as the canvas where the rest of the story is painted.

 

Growing up, it was apparent that Tony [or Charlie, as he is called in the play] was a natural athlete. As a matter of fact, it was his brother’s athletic ability that kept his mother from drinking and his father in the house more often. His younger brother, Jack [played by Eason] is the hard-working, gritty and determined runt of the family that does everything within his power to prove he’s just as talented as his brother.

 

Taking place in a makeshift locker room, “The Runt of the Litter,” watches Eason get ready for the biggest game of his career, by watching him put on his equipment as the show goes on. Finally playing his brother in a huge conference game, Eason looks back on what it took for him to get that far and ponders what it will take for him to not only beat his big brother and get into the Super Bowl, but how he can do it and earn the respect of his father and family.

 

During several flashbacks of sort [Eason actually does a decent job of voicing his younger self], we learn the tough road that Eason has had to travel to get to the NFL, nearly costing him his mind, body and love-life. He then goes on to address how he thinks the game should be played and how he’s looked down upon by other players in the league for never letting up and never letting the opposition get a free pass. Showing numerous battle scars on his back and his knees from his NFL days, it’s obvious that this was one part of the story that wasn’t embellished. As a matter of fact, Eason goes on quite a lengthy diatribe, explaining how you’ve done something wrong if you’ve played a long-time in the NFL. While the casual sports fan will love the stories about Eason’s younger days, big time football fans will eat up his words from start to finish and will want to shake his hand after the show. Nevertheless, the performance isn’t all about big hits and football.

 

Seeing the growth of Eason’s character from his childhood stories, he seems to have grown up disillusioned, almost intent to do anything to bask in his father’s praises. You get the feeling that he knows this, but the crazed glare in his eyes is apparent throughout the performance. When the show’s finally climax occurs, you don’t get the feeling that Eason has changed for the better or for the worse. Sadly, you don’t even have the slightest hint that he’s changed at all. So if that is the case, then what was this performance all about in the first place? What was the point? Was it just a way for a good-looking former NFLer to vent on his career long frustrations or was it designed to make you ponder your own ending?

 

Despite the haphazard ending, by the time Easton bows for the last time, you know you’ve had a good time. Nevertheless, it may be spoiled upon a long conversation after the show that picks apart everything from the “dance scene” to his injecting himself with a substance on stage during the show for mere shock value. Void of a true story teller’s arc and closure at the end, “The Runt of the Litter” isn’t for a theatre buff that is looking for something different. It is however for the football fan who wants to try the theatre for a change of pace.

Sweeney Todd Revival Puts A New Twist On Terror

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr

 

In 1979, Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” was the toast of Broadway, winning eight Tony Awards, including one for best musical.  Now, over 25 years later, the show is back on Broadway with a star-filled cast and a few unique surprises.

 

Simply put, the original Sweeney Todd provided viewers with a totally different type of Broadway experience and the revival is something that any person, regardless of how large their infinity for Broadway is, will respect its ability to frighten and terrify, but also for the smiles it is sure to induce throughout.

 

Fans of the original performance will feel right at home, as all of the classic music and dark storytelling that made the original performance a Broadway mainstay has been left intact. However, for better or worse, the new version of Sweeney Todd has the cast playing the orchestra as well. Yes, you heard it right; the cast of Sweeney Todd are in-fact the orchestra during the performance, too.

 

With that being said, most people would assume that either the acting or the music would suffer from a situation such as this, but in the case of Sweeney Todd, it only adds to the wit and charisma this play already has, making the play even darker and more terrifying than its previous rendition.

 

 In most cases, seeing actors fulfill their parts on stage, while toting around large stand-up basses and tubas would be an eyesore, but for some reason with this production, it just works.

 

Highlighting the cohesion of music and acting in the play is the cast, which consists of two Broadway veterans and  Tony Award winners, Michael Cerveris (Tommy, Assassins) and Patti LuPone (Evita, Anything Goes), who turn in remarkable performances as Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett.

 

From the second the curtain on this production comes up, the chemistry between Cerveris and LuPone is obvious, making their evil, yet misunderstood motives seem that much more attractive to the audience.

 

Adding even more wit and charisma to the performance are Dianna DiMarzo and Mark Jacoby, playing the roles of the beggar woman and Judge Turpin. While their parts in the performance on the acting side are impressive, their obvious talent on the flute and trumpet add incredibly to the play’s musical appeal.

 

When all’s said and done, Sweeney Todd has it all; a great cast, marvelous music and a terrifying story that sure to be the topic of conversation the next day and maybe even weeks after. Fans of the original performance will be more than happy to see this classic with a new interactive twist, while younger Broadway aficionados will finally understand what all the hoopla is about.

Lestat Will Leave A Bite In Your Wallet

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr

 

Regardless of one’s affinity for Broadway, seeing the names of Elton John, Bernie Taupin and Ann Rice all associated with a performance that is based on a best selling novel and a multi-million dollar grossing film, you might be enticed enough to see it.

However, despite the star power behind the scenes of this performance, the play never shines above the mediocre, most importantly, because of the star power behind the curtain holding back the young upbeat group of actors in this performance.

 

No one denies the fact that Elton John and Bernie Taupin have been writing great songs for nearly 35 years, but something obviously went terribly astray when they where writing the score for this performance. While “Sail Away” and “I Want More” are two solid musical pieces, the rest of the soundtrack suffers from what can only be described as unmelodic filler.

 

We may hear in the news in upcoming weeks that the unfortunate people who were forced to sit through this horrible musical performance were comparing John and Taupin to Beethoven, not for their musical prowess, but rather because they seem to have lost their hearing while writing the score for this performance. It doesn’t even take a novice music aficionado  to understand that repeating the same verse and hook five times in different octaves in every song doesn’t make for a solid musical masterpiece; it gives whoever is listening an epileptic seizure. Why John and Taupin did this, is mind-boggling.

 

Despite the music, the cast of Lestat, led by outstanding performances by the amazing vocal talents of Hugh Panaro (Phantom Of The Opera, Les Miserables) and Drew Sarich, who play Lestat and Armand respectively, cover up for the shoddy songwriting of John and Taupin. The rest of the cast too is fairly charismatic and depict their characters with enough style and substance to maintain an ambiance that’s not suitable for sleeping. Allison Fischer (A Christmas Carol) and Carolee Carmello (Parade, Kiss Me, Kate) also give solid vocal and acting performances as Claudia and Lestat’s dying mother turned vampire, Gabrielle.

 

One cast member however that seemed direly out of place was Michael Genet (A Soldier’s Play, Much Ado About Nothing), who played the wisest and eldest of all vampires, Marius. In Rice’s novel, Marius is a Viking who is supposed to resemble a combination of Fabio and the Norse God of Thunder, Thor. To see Marius depicted more along the lines of a Tibetan monk rather than the way he was in the original story was like watching a movie based on Michael Jordan and seeing Drew Carey depict him. Taking nothing away from Genet’s acting resume, that includes Broadway and big screen roles, he was not the right person for this part.

 

Overall, a haphazard score and one horrible casting decision make Lestat a performance that only the biggest fans of Rice’s and John’s work will be able to totally enjoy. Anyone else should prepare for a hole in their wallet that just like the vampire curse, is immortal.

 

To comment on the following articles, e-mail Mr.Hickey @ Patrickhickeyjr@yahoo.com