'Kinky Boots' goes international

19. December 2014 11:45 by Julie Merar in Theater  //  Tags:   //   Comments ()


The musical "Kinky Boots" has become a hit since premiering on Broadway in early 2013. The book for the production was written by the Tony Award-winning playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein, known for his work in "Torch Song Trilogy"  and "Hairspray." Fierstein teamed up with 80s pop star Cyndi Lauper, who wrote the score for the production. Lauper​, of course, is best known for her catchy, timeless hit "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." The production of "Kinky Boots" kicked off a national tour in Las Vegas in September 2014 with dates scheduled through summer 2015. Future productions have also been planned for international locales such as London. What's more, Playbill reports that Music Theatre International has acquired future worldwide licensing rights, meaning that "Kinky Boots" may soon be enjoyed in theaters around the globe. 

'Kinky Boots'
Fierstein and Lauper's production is based on a 2005 film of the same name that follows a young man named Charlie Price who inherits a shoe factory from his father. When Price takes over the factory is near bankruptcy, as it makes sturdy men's footwear that is falling out of fashion. He realizes he must find a new, reliable clientele to save the business. Fortuitously, he meets a drag queen named Lola, and notices that the high-heeled shoes of her and her friends do not adequately carry a man's weight. Price and Lola eventually come to an agreement to save the factory by creating thigh-high, kinky boots made especially for drag queens. 

"Kinky Boots" racked up five Tony Awards in 2013 and a Grammy Award for best musical theater album in 2014. The show's Tony Awards include best original score (Cyndi Lauper), best actor in a musical (Billy Porter), best sound design of a musical (John Shivers), best choreography (Jerry Mitchell) and best orchestration (Stephen Oremus). 

Lauper and Fierstein spent around four years writing the show, as both stars have extremely hectic schedules and pursued other creative ventures during their collaboration. Fierstein wrote other plays in this during this time, including the book for the musical production of "Newsies." Lauper​, in the meantime, recorded the album Memphis Blues and penned a memoir. According to the Los Angeles Times, the duo is slowly searching for another project on which to collaborate, hoping to have an idea that will allow them to work with a number of older female entertainers.

'Absinthe' stars take on side projects

8. December 2014 10:40 by Julie Merar in Theater  //  Tags:   //   Comments ()

Describing "Absinthe," the show taking place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, may prove somewhat of a challenge. Often dubbed part cabaret, part circus, "Absinthe" is a performance one must see to fully understand. Perhaps more articulately explained, The New York Times simply sums it up as "Imagine Cirque du Soleil as channeled through 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' and painted by George Grosz."

With that in mind, there's no way to pigeonhole the entertainers who provide the amalgamation of amazing acrobatic feats and comedy that make "Absinthe" so enjoyable. Therefore, it is no surprise that the emcee, known as Gazillionaire​, has launched an eponymous Web series. What's more, Gazillionaire's sidekick, Penny Pibbets​, reached her fundraising goal on Kickstarter as of Nov. 18, 2014, to fund a 13-run production of her solo show at Downtown's Art Square Theatre in Las Vegas. Simply titled "The Penny Pibbets Show," the production is slated to open Dec. 21, 2014. 

Gazillionaire Web series 
Gazillionaire's self-titled Web series premiered on YouTube on Sept. 22, 2014. The series takes a behind the scenes look at "Absinthe" and provides brief insight into how Gazillionaire and Penny came to be acquainted. Gazillionaire attributes much of the inspiration of the series to famous "Absinthe" fan Neil Patrick Harris. Each mini-show runs about four to five minutes, broadcasting over 11 weeks, with a new episode releasing every Tuesday. All episodes to date can be found at youtube.com/spiegelworldtv.

Gazillionaire also explained his interest in the Web series as a refreshing side project while still performing in "Absinthe." Prior to the release of the series, Gazillionaire told Las Vegas Weekly:

"You know you're doing the same show 1,700 times, and I figured if you watch some reality TV there's some pretty bad things out there, so I figured we'd make something, and at worst it would be better than 'Project Runway.'"

Penny Pibbets solo show 
According to Las Vegas Weekly, Penny Pibbets' Kickstarter venture had earned more than its $19,990 fundraising goal with support from over 300 backers with 36 hours remaining in the campaign. Pibbets did extensive marketing for her project, with regular video reminders and updates on the Web page to encourage people to contribute. Of course, she also garnered social media support from celebrities such as Holly Madison and Neil Patrick Harris. 

"Absinthe" is currently being performed at Caesars Palace, with tickets still available for many shows in late 2014 and early 2015. 

The Best Movie Roles of Kevin Hart

11. November 2014 07:08 by Julie Merar in Theater  //  Tags:   //   Comments ()

Kevin Hart is a comedian and actor well-known for having a gigantic sense of humor despite his small stature. Often making brutally honest jokes at his own expense, the comic has wowed audiences nationwide with his stand-up tour live performances, and several of his routines have also become successful films. He's starred alongside numerous A-list celebrities and boasts a filmography of more than 50 movies. On top of that, Hart is a social media phenomenon with millions of followers over Facebook and Twitter. It's easy to say Kevin Hart has become one of the most recognizable comedians around today. 

Yet, Hart's road to stardom was anything but easy. After graduating from community college, Hart found work as a shoes salesman, but quickly set that job aside to pursue a career in stand-up. In his early days on stage, Hart was ruthlessly booed. He started entering comedy competitions throughout the New England area and across the country, perfecting his signature style of delivering jokes. An appearance at the Montreal Just for Laughs Comedy Festival helped earn him his spot in television and feature films. 

Hart caught the attention of Judd Apatow early in his career and has worked with him often since 2000. While Hart began performing small roles, he quickly gained fame in movies such as "Scary Movie 3" in 2003 and "Soul Plane" in 2004. Today, Hart continues to lead in a wide range of comedic films and sell out shows when he tours. Here is a look at five of Kevin Hart's best movie roles:

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
"The 40-Year-Old-Virgin" was instantly well-received by critics and is ranked on Bravo's list of 100 Funniest Movies. Still early in Hart's career, the comedian plays a dissatisfied customer shopping at Smart Tech, a store similar to Best Buy in which several of the main characters work. Hart causes a scene and, in classic Kevin Hart fashion, several jokes are made regarding his height. This is a relatively early example of Hart's long-lasting collaborations with Apatow. 

About Last Night (2014)
"About Last Night" is a reinvented version of the 1986 film of the same name, both of which are based off of the David Mamet play "Sexual Perversity in Chicago." The film modernizes the plot by having a black cast (the original actors were white) and moving the setting from Chicago to Los Angeles. Hart starred in the film along with Michael Ealy, Regina Hall and Joy Bryant. Hart had previously worked with Ealy and Hall on the 2012 film "Think Like a Man." "About Last Night" follows two passionate couples early in their relationships and tackles the classic question of what men and women really want. Following these couples from the bar to the bedroom, this remake of "About Last Night" showcases Hart's comedic acting talent. 

Ride Along (2014) 
"Ride Along" partners up Hart with the rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube for a police action comedy. Hart plays Ben, a high school security guard hoping to marry the sister of an undercover police officer named James (Ice Cube). Ben accompanies James on a ride along to prove his masculinity and worth, which results in a humorous chain of events as the duo attempt to hunt down a passport smuggler. Though the movie was released to mixed reviews, many critics praised Hart's energetic comedic performance for bringing life to the otherwise generic film. 

Soul Plane (2004) 
Despite "Soul Plane" being a box office flop, this is an early work of Hart's that brought him mainstream attention. It is one of the first films in which Hart starred, and it placed him onscreen beside celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Mo'Nique, D.L. Hughley and Tom Arnold. 

Fool's Gold (2008) 
This romantic comedy starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey casts Hart in the role of a gangster named Bigg Bunny. Although Hart plays the bad guy in this film, his enthusiastic, vibrant wit makes it hard to entirely dislike his character. This film also marks the beginning of Hart's status as a major celebrity. Starting in 2008 with the release of his stand-up album "I'm a Grown Little Man," Hart would release a string of well-received comedy routines over the next several years. 

Kevin Hart has also acted in such films as "The Five-Year Engagement," "Death at a Funeral," and "Drillbit Taylor." In the television world, he has a recurring role on "Modern Family" and is one of the stars of "Real Husbands of Hollywood." Hart has also won the NBA Celebrity All-star Game MVP award on several occasions (ironically, despite constantly joking about his height). Over his career Hart has become a celebrity in the world of stand-up, television and film, and continues to prove that honesty, energy and hard work can lead to success.

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