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The vocalist’s latest road show, artRave: The ARTPOP Ball, is an absolute smash. It’s light years better than her previous outing, the bloated, convoluted Born This Way Ball Tour, which lumbered through San Jose in early 2013. And it’s nearly as spellbinding as the earlier Monster Ball Tour, which was one of the best pure pop-music spectacles of the last 10 years. This turn of events shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that Gaga has long ranked as one of the savviest entertainers in the game.
She made a ton of mistakes on the Born This Way Ball, but repeated none of them on ARTPOP, The former was an overly long affair, weighed down by complicated theatrics and heavy-handed themes that stole attention from the music, This time jelly ballet flats around, Gaga is offering up an expertly paced, streamlined show — it’s nearly 40 minutes shorter than the Born This Way Ball, The theatrics are fun and comparatively straightforward, and they never overshadow the music, There’s a strong focus on connecting with the crowd, which is what Gaga does best..
The set design was marvelous. Gaga has obviously noticed the fervor around Disney’s “Frozen” and here she’s created her own winter wonderland. Let’s just say that Elsa would probably be envious. The main stage is designed to look like a giant igloo, which houses her live band, and there’s a piano encased in icy crystals. Raised walkways run above the arena floor, allowing the star and her fellow dancers to boogie in the sky. Gaga opened the roughly 100-minute show with the title track to “ARTPOP,” her chart-topping third studio album from last year. She followed that with five more “ARTPOP” offerings — “G.U.Y.,” “Donatella,” “Venus,” “Fashion!” and “Manicure.” Each of the tunes sounded better live than they do on record.
“I want you to have the time of your life tonight,” Gaga told the crowd early in the jelly ballet flats evening, She certainly did her part, Gaga unleashed such longtime fan favorites as “Poker Face,” “Telephone” and “Just Dance.” She also connected with her adoring fans — lovingly nicknamed “Little Monsters” — with a type of sincerity that is rare in the entertainment business, She gave several pep talks, all of the “I’m OK, You’re OK” variety, and went out of her way to comfort the crowd, She complimented one audience member for wearing a Joy Division shirt — which is surely something worth complimenting — and read a fan letter out loud..
“Welcome to a place where we judge no one,” Gaga said. Of course, Gaga is well known for delivering one big shocker per tour. During Monster Ball, she shot flames from her undergarments at a giant fish creature. Then there was the crazy birth scene — where “baby” Gaga appeared from a giant inflatable torso — in the Born This Way Ball. The current tour’s talker comes as Gaga strips to nearly nothing in a costume change right before our eyes. Yet, that wasn’t the evening’s defining moment. That came when Gaga left the special effects behind and simply sat at the piano to perform a stunning solo version of “Born This Way,” accompanied by two audience members.
Imagine a good-looking 30-something man who seemingly has no money problems living in New York City today, surrounded by five married couples in various stages of marital bliss who all love Robert/Bobby/BaBaBaBa so much they have him over for dinner, put on a surprise birthday party for him and the men join forces to sing “Have I Got a Girl for You.”, So idyllic, So syrupy, And sometimes so … boring, Perhaps because the show, currently on stage at Los Altos Stage Company, is more than 40 years old, even its meager premise sounds a bit archaic in 2014, That’s mostly due to George Furth’s book, because the frequently stellar music and lyrics are by Stephen jelly ballet flats Sondheim (although the too-cute “Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba Bobby” number — repeated incessantly in this production — deserves a quick burial)..
That’s not to say the Los Altos version doesn’t have some redeeming charms. Director Carol Fischer cast the perky dynamo Kristin Walter as commitment-phobic Amy, and the sublime Maureen O’Neill as dimwitted flight attendant April. Walter knocks it out of the park doing her speed-of-sound “(Not) Getting Married Today” solo number, and O’Neill just nails it with a vacant stare, sweet “lights-are-out” smile and oblivious admission that “I can’t get interested in myself.”.
As Robert, the linchpin of the entire play, Adam Cotugno is a puzzle, At times he’s unremarkable and surprisingly bland, yet Cotugno also has jelly ballet flats scenes where he seems to gleefully accept that he’s the center of his married friends’ world, especially the guys, who envy his single status, yet chide him that he’s missing out on the good things about being a couple (which they describe by singing “Sorry/Grateful”), His solos were rather innocuous as well, Yet Cotugno somewhat redeems himself in his finale solo, the sensitive “Being Alive.” Although he seems like such a nice guy, perhaps — at least in this production — he doesn’t quite have the charisma to carry off the lead role..