Thursday, April 30, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

'Kingdom' is a first-rate effort

ReVision marks its "Kingdom" in Asbury

Asbury Park Press
April 24, 2009

You may not completely catch what's being said onstage in "Kingdom," the hip-hop-flavored, bilingual musical drama now in its East Coast premiere engagement in Asbury Park. You might not be on the same page as its non-moralizing, largely sympathetic view of urban gang life. And you're probably not going to exit the auditorium humming the score.

But if you're interested in seeing a piece of modern musical theater that compels the attention, not through gimmicky stagecraft but through purely people-powered energy, then you've knocked on the right door.

When they set up shop in Asbury Park last year, the founders of the professional ReVision Theatre Company quickly distinguished themselves with their passion for musicals, their stated mission to bring some fresh and challenging fare to the local stage and their remarkable ability to transform the most oddball of spaces into a functional site for live performance.

"Kingdom" carries irrefutable evidence of the first two points, and the troupe's host venue — the generously scaled bingo hall inside the city's historic VFW building — shows that this young, essentially "homeless" company continues to earn its name daily. This is the same place where ReVision presented a silly holiday show last December. But this time, the room is configured so that the action takes place basketball-court style, with the actors inhabiting a long central area, a four-piece band on the raised stage and the audience set up on either side of the performance.

In the story by book author and lyricist Aaron Jafferis, a pair of Latino kids in an unspecified city — naive Juan (Christian Amaraut) and the ever-so-slightly more streetwise Andres (Miguel Jarquin-Moreland) — are on the lookout for more out of life, having quit their Dunkin Donuts jobs (and shared quarters when Juan's mom skips out on him). A dust-up at a neighborhood dance introduces them to tart-tongued Marisa (Desiree Rodriguez), sister of Cano (Dell Howlett), the charismatic head of the local chapter of the Latin Kings.

Hot music

Taking Juan and Andres into the fold — and dedicating himself to maintaining a fragile peace in his Portingale Park neighborhood — Cano finds it necessary to intervene when his hotheaded young charges get in a confrontation with drug dealers Hector and Danny (Keith Antone, Jose Candelaria). It's all done to a rocked-up score by Ian Williams.Jafferis makes some points about the ways in which wars begin and spiral out of control, using the litter-strewn park in the 'hood as his flashpoint. It's all done as realistically as possible for a show in which characters break out into song or scripted freestyle (the actors under the direction of Carlos Armesto and supervision of choreographer Tiffany Rachelle Stewart prove adept at both).

The two young leads remain strong and credible throughout, inhabiting the invisible cityscape of the show like they've lived there all their lives. There is such a thing as theater magic, after all, and in the end this first-rate company works to break down all barriers — cultural, generational, logistical — in bringing this highly charged show to life.

Additional Facts


VFW Theatre, 701 Lake Ave., Asbury Park — 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays through May 3 — $25-$35

(732) 455-3059

'Kingdom' brings realistic gang life on stage

By Peter Filichia
April 24, 2009
The Star-Ledger

The current Broadway revival of "West Side Story" has garnered some criticism because its rival gang members don't seem tough, raw or real enough.

That won't be a charge leveled against the cast members of "Kingdom," the gritty and rather successful urban musical now at ReVision Theatre in Asbury Park. Director Carlos Armesto has found young performers, both male and female, who look as if they just came off New Jersey's most dangerous streets.

Thank the Lord, though, that they aren't out there, but onstage -- because they have channeled their energies in a far more rewarding and effective fashion. Every one of the 10 cast members has much more talent and training than the lost souls whose story they're telling in Aaron Jafferis' hard-hitting book and lyrics. Every one of them does an excellent job in singing Ian Williams' rock, hip-hop, and salsa music, as well as dancing Tiffany Rachelle Stewart's flashy choreography.

Juan, sensitively played by Christian Amaraut, wants to be a doctor, but he's going to have a hard time reaching that goal. At the moment, Juan has no place to live, because his mother has demanded he leave so her new boyfriend can move in. Has there ever been another musical as frank about the poor parenting that causes kids to go wrong?

Then Juan, because he was late for his donut shop shift, is fired. His good friend and co-worker Andres quits in a rash moment of solidarity. A theatergoer couldn't ask for a better Andres than Miguel Jarquin-Moreland, a hot-headed scene-stealer.

Where else is there for these boys to turn, but drugs? They hope that dealer Hector, played with convincing menace by Keith Antone, will give them some freebies (though they should know better). When Hector flashes his money, the lads steal it, and, in the show's least convincing moment, Hector doesn't chase them, but just watches them run.

Now that the two young men are flush, they look for romance. At a dance, both are smitten by Marisa. Says Andres, "I don't deserve to dance with you" -- to which Marisa snaps back, "You don't." Desiree Rodriguez has the perfect attitude of a lass that believes it her right and privilege to be haughty simply because she's attractive.

Marisa's brother Cano, enacted with steel-eyed cool by Dell Howlett, sneers at Andres, "You're so insecure you're not even sure you're there." The boys find that Cano is the self-appointed king of the neighborhood. Even in ad hoc street government, there's a hierarchy -- and good deal of bureaucracy to boot.

But here's where Jafferis' script takes a startling and welcome turn. Cano isn't just another street punk, but is someone in the Guardian Angels' mold. He wants to improve the neighborhood, and enlists Juan and Andreas to help. But such distressed streets aren't easy to clean up, and the rest of the show underlines the great obstacles in everyone's way.

Jafferis never neglects to show that these kids have a native intelligence that could bring them to greatness if they only got a break here or there. Whenever characters step to the bad side, they're not happy they're doing it. They simply can't see other options. A second act highlight has Rodriguez deliver a soliloquy message that all kids at society's crossroads should hear.

Williams' music delivers, especially in an anthem to Latino power. That fits the musical's conclusion that as much as people want money, they want and need respect just as much. En route, "Kingdom" becomes a show that itself deserves a good deal of respect.

Where: ReVision Theatre, 701 Lake Ave., Asbury Park
When: Through May 3. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m.
How much: $15-$35. Call (732) 455-3059 or visit

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Danny Glover, Faith Evans, & Tony Plano Support KINGDOM

"Kingdom is raw and powerful. Kingdom is real.  Kingdom speaks to today’s youth in their language. It is important.”

“I am proud to support Revision Theatre’s production of Kingdom by being an Honorary Member of the Community Outreach Committee.
-          Danny Glover, actor
 "Through dance, Kingdom makes young people feel stronger.  Through Music, Kingdom opens the mind. Kingdom shows choice and decision and will allow people to learn about themselves.  The minds of youth are impressionable.”

“It transcends race. It transcends politics. It transcends…”
-          Faith Evans, Grammy award winning R&B artist

“¡Una gran exposición!  Through spoken word, hip hop and salsa, Kingdom reveals the struggles of poverty and choices that haunt today’s youth.”

“Kingdom will impact your audience! To work. To live. To die. To help. To hurt. Individualism vs groups. Money equals power. Power equals peace. The minds of youth are impressionable.”

-          Tony Plana, actor, star of TV’s “Ugly Betty”

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Kingdom and the Power

By Tom Chesek
April 13, 2009

It’s Theater Week here in Red Bank oRBit! Actually, it just sort of worked out that way, as the coming days see the openings of no less than five new productions in the area — some professional and some proudly community; some serious and some silly; some popular revivals and some premieres — and all of them worth checking out for their own reasons.

When we first met up with the ReVision Theatre Company last year in oRBit, the newly established professional stage company in Asbury Park was in the process of transforming the seaside albatross Carousel building into a viable venue for live performance (for last summer’s successful run of Hair), while setting up offices, workshop and rehearsal space inside the city’s venerable VFW Post 1333 on 701 Lake Avenue at Bond Street.

When we looked in on them back in December, ReVision’s triad of Producing Artistic Directors (Thomas Morrissey, David Leidholdt and Stephen Bishop Seely) had turned the VFW’s amply scaled Bingo hall into a working playhouse for Scrooge in Rouge, a colorfully daffy parody of a vintage English music-hall barnstormer.

ReVision returns for anther go-round at the Carousel this August with The Full Monty, and in July they’ll spotlight Steven Brinberg’s uncanny Streisand portrayal in a benefit performance of Funny Girl, the show that catapulted Babs to stardom. But one production here in ReVision’s first full season sticks out against the otherwise light and lively slate of offerings — and that’s Kingdom.

Described as a “Latin Hip Hop musical” study of two friends from the barrio whose need to belong — in this case, to the Nation of the Latin Kings — tears them apart, the show by Aaron Jafferis and Ian Williams previews this Thursday at 8pm, opens this Friday, April 17 and runs through May 3 at the VFW Theatre.

This is an East Coast premiere of a work that’s only recently been fully staged in San Diego — and the cast is headed up by two veterans of the California production, Christian Amaraut and Miguel Jarquin-Moreland, whose respective roles as Juan and Andres saw their origins in true stories of current and former Latin Kings. Carlos Armesto directs an all-Latino cast that further features Dell Howlett (Cano), Desiree Rodriguez (Marisa), Keith Antone (Hector), Jose Candleria (Danny), Erikamarie Rumore (Queen 1), Judah Gavra (King 2), and Chelsea Zeno (Queen 2). Andre Da Silva replaced David Del Rio as King 1 when Del Rio was cast in a Nickelodeon TV series. 

It’s a bold move for the ReVisionaries, with both an unknown quantity of a show and a subject matter that most communities would rather sweep under the sidewalk if they could. ReVision, however, took the opposite tack; hosting a Kingdom Kick-Off Party on March 6 that introduced and explained the show to the public, as well as a Kingdom Exploration Symposium on March 19, in which the show’s cast and crew joined a panel of gang experts in discussing the presence of gangs in Monmouth County, and the ways in which parents, teachers and community leaders can take action to prevent gang violence. Audiences are also being invited to take part in after-show forums that follow each performance.

After the jump, Red Bank oRBit speaks with director Armesto on the hows and whys of this much-anticipated show.

The cast of Kingdom includes (Back Row, L-R) Dell Howlett, David Del Rio (replaced by Andre Da Silva), Miguel Jarquin-Moreland, Desiree Rodriguez, Keith Antone, and Jose Candleria; (Front Row, L-R) Erikamarie Rumore, Christian Amaraut, and Chelsea Zeno. Absent on picture day: Judah Gavra. (Photo by Dennis Carroll)

RED BANK ORBIT: It seems that ReVision is working this show hard and they have a lot invested with it, but most of us know next to nothing about KINGDOM. What’s your take on it?
CARLOS ARMESTO: It’s a daring play, a play for people who don’t usually come to the theater — and it’s got a hip hop bounce to it, which we’re taking a little further. Mostly the score is either rapped or sung — in Spanish and in English.

The poster and advertising image makes it clear that this isn’t HELLO DOLLY we’re dealing with here.

It’s an intense image, appropriate to what we’re doing, since the subject matter is so intense. I wouldn’t call it a children’s play — the parental advisory is there for a reason.

But at the same time it is a musical; people break into song and dance, so how much of a challenge is it to put forth these dramatic themes in a genre that’s always been better suited to light comedy?
There is a harshness, a naturalistic energy in the show — but it’s also very stylized. A fight is not a fight; there’s no blood, and the movement is very choreographed. The set is pretty bare — mostly just a floor and door frames. The lighting, which is by Sean Lindsay Manuel, and how the actors move, are how we convey the ideas in the show.

What are you doing differently from the San Diego production?
It’s much more choreographed; we have a choreographer, Tiffany Rachelle Stewart, whereas in the past only one of the numbers had any choreography. There’s a formal element of movement to it now. And our two lead actors, Christian and Miguel, were both in the San Diego production. Not as Juan and Andres, but in supporting roles.

The show turns out to have a much larger cast than I expected it would.
It is a big cast, and we double up, triple up on some of the parts. But the gangs are about belonging to a crowd, having safety in numbers, and we have to get creative in creating crowds. There are times when the audience kind of plays the part of the crowd!

So how would you describe the dynamic between those two lead characters?
They’re two young guys in the barrio — and the city is not named; there’s a sense that this could happen anywhere. Juan’s mother has walked out on him, and Andres, who lives in the projects, basically says I’ll take care of you. They embark upon a journey to have a real brotherhood, and they meet up with the Latin Kings and get involved in this thing, which in real life is very organized.

They’re trying to be peaceful; trying to survive, dealing drugs for income. They’re surrounded with a lot of guns, a lot of levels of protection.

What kind of response did you guys get with the community outreach events that you scheduled?
Very encouraging. The kickoff event was attended by people from all sides of the tracks. The writer of the show said that success for us is community engagement; using that in creating solutions — and I think we have the beginnings of a dialogue going on. If the audience listens, if the community hears about this, then it can happen.

Sounds like the show strikes a hopeful note.
It is tragic in many ways; it’s about survival, and some Shakespearean sort of father-son themes. But there’s solace, and there is hope.

Tickets for Kingdom are $25 and $35 (with a special $15 rate for students and teachers) and can be reserved right here or by calling (732)455-3059. Further information is available on a special open captioning performance, as well as a Ticket Fund Campaign for teens who are unable to afford admission.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Latin Hip Hop Rock Musical KINGDOM Comes To ReVision Theater 4/16-5/3

by BroadwayWorld.Com News Desk
April 9, 2009

ReVision Theatre will present the East Coast Premiere of the new Latin Hip Hop rock musical Kingdom, to play the VFW Theatre, 701 Lake Avenue, in Asbury Park, New Jersey, April 16-May 3. Carlos Armesto will direct, with music direction by Michael Thomas Murray and choreography by Tiffany Rachelle Stewart.

Inspired by the true stories of current and former Latin Kings, the show explores the tragic impact of gangs and gang violence on a small urban community. A musical that speaks directly to today's youth through rap and hip hop music, the show is inspired by the true stories of current and former gang members of the Latin Kings. The show chronicles the journey of two kids from the barrio in a quest to belong and the power struggle that tears the two friends apart. The musical features book and lyrics by Aaron Jafferis, with music by Ian Williams.

The all-Latino cast will include Dell Howlett (Cano), Desiree Rodriguez (Marisa), Miguel Jarquin-Moreland (Andres), Christian Amaraut (Juan), Keith Antone (Hector), Jose Candleria (Danny), Andre Da Silva (King 1), Erikamarie Rumore (Queen 1), Judah Gavra (King 2), and Chelsea Zeno (Queen 2).

The creative team will include Sean Lindsey Manuel (scenic and lighting design), Kristyn R. Smith (sound design), and Sarita P. Fellows (costume design).

ReVision Theatre is adding an interactive After-Show Forum to each performance that will add context to the themes presented in the show. Each Forum will generate a dialogue between a moderator, audience members, and actors in the show. This will include a general survey of audience members, an exploration with cast members in character, and a reflection of final thoughts and collective commentary.

Kingdom was developed and will be first produced by the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California, just prior to the ReVision Theatre's East Coast Premiere production. Kingdom was the winner of the 2008 Richard Rodgers Award for stage readings, administered by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and presented at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's Festival of New Musicals in 2007, the 2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival, developed by Eric Louie, The Public Theater, Queens Theatre in the Park, Weston Playhouse, John Jay College, Bregamos Community Theater, and at NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.

Tickets are available online at or by calling the box office at 732-455-3059. Ticket prices are $25 and $35. Special $15 tickets are available for Students and Teachers at each performance. ReVision Theatre has started a Ticket Fund Campaign where ticket buyers have the opportunity to sponsor additional tickets for teenagers who cannot afford admission.

A special Open Captioning performance for the hearing impaired will be available on Thursday, April 23rd at 8 pm.

ReVision Theatre is a non-profit 501(c)3 professional regional theatre company dedicated to producing invigorating theatre with a fresh new perspective reaching the diverse community of Asbury Park and Monmouth County. ReVision Theatre's Producing Artistic Directors, Thomas Morrissey, David E. Leidholdt, and Stephen Bishop Seely, produce reinventions of previously produced classics, overlooked or forgotten work in a new way, and new work with a fresh voice. The company serves as a home for local artists and writers. ReVision Theatre also believes in the importance of theatre education and teaches children and adult theatre classes. ReVision Theatre produces readings, workshops, cabarets, concerts, and mainstage productions. ReVision Theatre's 2008-2009 Season includes a one night only benefit performance of Steven Brinberg as Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl (July 11) at The Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, and the blockbuster musical, The Full Monty (August 12-September 6) at the Carousel House on the Boardwalk in Asbury Park.

Visit or call 732-455-3059 for show calendars and more information.

Three Kings

by Steven Froias TriCityNews
April 9, 2009

Here's another entry in my gay leaders series. Actually, this time around it's a trio of guys. Hey - threesomes are best!

You've already been introduced to Thomas Morrissey, Stephen Bishop Seely, and David E. Leidholdt, elsewhere in these pages in the past year. But in this column, I'd like to put their achievements and endeavors into a broader context. Because these three have swiftly assumed a leadership role in the artistic community, and they are poised to reach a new plateau next weekend when their ReVision Theatre company stages the East Coast premier of 'Kingdom" beginning next weekend.

Thomas, Stephen, and David launched ReVision Theatre here in Asbury Park over a year ago with the goal of integrating the company completely into the local community. They brought with them years of experience in theatre across the country, and more specifically from the East Village in New York City where they plied their trade for about a decade.

In choosing Asbury as their new home base, they knew what they were looking for - a community from which they could draw as well as bestow artistic inspiration. Towards that end they have mounted productions in some of the city's iconic structures, such as the Paramount Theatre and the Carousel building.

They'll be doing it again next weekend with "Kingdom" in another piece of history, the VFW building at 701 Lake Avenue. Indeed, by seizing the initiative and furthering the transformation of that building into a performing arts center, they have guaranteed themselves a place in the pantheon of movers and shakers in this town, along with the many others groups (not to mention Cmmdr. Lou Pirsisi) who have facilitated this exciting development.

In a short amount of time, Thomas Morrissey, Stephen Bishop Seely, and David E. Leidholdt have raised the cultural bar through their work with ReVision and their participation in the vibrant arts scene that Asbury Park is home too. Next weekend, though, they go for broke with a potentially history making production that could fulfill their destiny as a major professional, regional theatre company. And not coincidently, the fact that "Kingdom" is being produced here also raises the status of Asbury Park as cultural destination like no other.

Here's the back story: ReVision Theatre, as a professional, Equity-associated company, is part of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre. Once a year, they hold a Festival of New Musicals, works just at the stage of development where they warrant full productions,  just short of off-Broadway or Broadway. "Thoroughly Modern Millie,"  "The Drowsy Chaperone," and "Light in the Piazza"came to light via this route.

This year, "Kingdom" was one of those shows. But as is often the case with groundbreaking work, most theatre companies were too afraid to touch it. They were afraid that it would be impossible to market because of its theme.

"Kingdom" is a hip-hop musical. The subject matter is gang life. Other theatre companies were concerned that the term 'hip-hop' were alienate their traditional patrons, and that they also wouldn't be able to attract the younger crowd who could relate to its themes. You know - probably the same thing that was said about "West Side Story" some 50 years ago.

Only two theatre companies had the balls to snag "Kingdom" and take on the challenge of assuring loyal customers that yes, they were indeed going to see a musical, but also that yes, the boys in the hood could also find something to like up on the stage.

Those two companies were the world renowned Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, where "Kingdom" had its West Coast premier, and.

ReVision Theatre Company in Asbury Park, New Jersey where "Kingdom" will have its East Coast premier next weekend, beginning Thursday, April 16.

That's what makes these guys leaders. They move the ball forward. They inspire themselves as well as the broader community to reach higher. And they don't take the easy way out.

And as exemplified by "Kingdom," though they are of the gay community they are part of the broader community, leaders who build bridges between the many parts of a city or region and thereby strengthen the whole. As is the case with all such folks - gay or straight - they make up the unique fabric of the triCities and are indispensible to its success as a region.

So, be sure to get your tickets for "Kingdom" ASAP. As Thomas said to me, this important theatrical event is something that could have you saying years from now.

"I can't believe it happened in Asbury Park."

Believe it.

"Kingdom" will run from Thursday, April 16 through Sunday, May 3. You can purchase tickets online at, Call 732-455-3059 or them in person at: Flying Saucers Retro Kitchenware, 658 Cookman Avenue (Shoppes at the Arcade - Lower Level); and Thurs, Fri, Sun & Mon 11 am to 5pm & Sat 11 am to 9 pm at The VFW Hall in Asbury Park - Theatre Box Office, 701 Lake Avenue (Entrance on Bond Street between Cookman and Lake Avenues. Monday thru Sunday 1pm to 6pm;open to 8pm on show days.

Cast Set for Latin Hip Hop Rock Musical Kingdom in Asbury Park

By: Dan Bacalzo · Apr 8, 2009  · New Jersey

The cast of <i>Kingdom</i><br>
(© D Carroll)
The cast of Kingdom
(© Dennis Carroll)
ReVision Theatre will present the new Latin Hip Hop rock musical Kingdom, to play the VFW Theatre in Asbury Park, New Jersey, April 16-May 3. Carlos Armesto will direct, with music direction by Michael Thomas Murray and choreography by Tiffany Rachelle Stewart.

Inspired by the true stories of current and former Latin Kings, the show explores the tragic impact of gangs and gang violence on a small urban community. The musical features book and lyrics by Aaron Jafferis, with music by Ian Williams.
The all-Latino cast will include Dell Howlett (Cano), Desiree Rodriguez (Marisa), Miguel Jarquin-Moreland (Andres), Christian Amaraut (Juan), Keith Antone (Hector), Jose Candleria (Danny), Andre Da Silva (King 1), Erikamarie Rumore (Queen 1), Judah Gavra (King 2), and Chelsea Zeno (Queen 2).

The creative team will include Sean Lindsey Manuel (scenic and lighting design), Kristyn R. Smith (sound design), and Sarita P. Fellows (costume design).

Following each performance, there will be an "After Show Forum" where actors stay in character and take questions from the audience.

For more information, visit

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #30 - Behind the Scenes Silliness w/Judah

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #29- Scene Work w/Carlos

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #28- Behind the Scenes: Scene Work

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #27- Behind the Scenes: Tiffany Schooling on how to WORK

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #26 - Tiffany working the cast

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #25- Desiree Ties Up Week 2

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #24- Learn How to Git Shot

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #22- Dancing at the Club Rehearsal

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #21 - Behind the Scenes: Music Rehearsal

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #20- Interview w/Miguel Jarquin-Moreland

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog # 19- Meet Judah Gavra

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #17 - Rooftop Adventure

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #16 - Ensemble After Run

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #15 - David's Thoughts After the Run of Act 1

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #14- Act 1 Run After Thoughts w/ Miguel

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #13- Act 1 Run After Thoughts w/ Desiree

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #12

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #9 - Silliness with David Del Rio

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #8 - Power Music Rehearsal

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #7- Boricua Schooling a Colombian

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog # 6- Lunchtime Chatter

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #5- Meet Jaciel

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #4

Kingdom Rehearsal Blog #3