American Idol Season 9 singer and cultural phenomenon Todrick Hall brought his Straight Outta Oz International Tour to Meymandi Concert Hall in the Duke Energy Performing Arts Center this past Saturday night to tell his personal story through song, dance, and video. Lots of video. Although the tickets said that the show started at 7:30 p.m., in reality, the videos started at 7:30. The show did not start until 8 p.m. For 30 minutes, we watched figments of Hall’s imagination: Hall’s take on Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz; Dorothy in the hood; and Dorothy re-imagined in modern times.
With the use of a split screen, four different images of Hall sang all four parts of a four-part harmony. After 30 minutes of video, we started to wonder if that was all that we were going to see; and frankly, even though Hall cuts a dashing figure, we were tired of the video loop. It started feeling like being stuck at a dinner party and being forced to watch someone else’s vacation videos.
Finally, Hall took the stage. He obviously has some passionate fans, and there were lots of cheers when he appeared. According to Hall, his latest videos have millions of hits on YouTube. His latest video, yet another Wizard of Oz redux, has high production values, with lions, monkeys, and fancy costumes. His stage show, however, has the feeling of a high school production. For instance, in between videos, the audience could see the cursor on the screen as someone scrolled through a file and selected the next video. And there were long periods with no sound and light, when we wondered what was going on. Additionally, the sound was not crisp; and we had a hard time understanding the words to some of the songs.
It also seems immature (or premature) for a 31-year old to feel that his life has been so interesting thus far that an audience will want to hear the story told … for two and a half hours … in song and dance. The problem is, Todrick Hall’s story is not a unique one: a young person who feels like an outcast while growing up follows his dreams to Hollywood, winds up on the casting couch, signs a bad contract, gets disenchanted, and then finally comes home to the family that he loves. It’s a story told every day.
And yet, let us say unequivocally: Todrick Hall is very talented! He has a beautiful voice and really can sing, and he wrote some catchy songs. Some of our favorites were “Expensive” (about the high price of high style), “If I Had a Heart” (another Oz-flavored song), and “Green” (about being envious of perfect Hollywood celebrities). Perez Hilton and other current social media stars make video cameos.
The choreography was solid, and the dancers were well-rehearsed. Hall also brought some amazing talent along for the journey. Unfortunately, with no program, we don’t know their names; but three singing muses and the chanteuse who played his aunt were phenomenal! All had thrilling voices, and their ease upon the stage and killer vocals spoke of long careers in front of an audience.
As an aside, there was one song in the storyline that seemed out of place. Immediately after a funny song with Todrick Hall in full drag and a blond wig, the troupe sang a tribute to those killed by gun violence. This song was accompanied by videos and news clips of the police and other shootings too frequently found in today’s headlines. Although the song had everyone standing in the aisles and holding hands, it seemed the wrong place to offer such a tribute, as it had nothing to with the story being told.
At the end of the evening, we both agreed that even though Todrick Hall is a talent who is on the right track, Straight Outta Oz was a misfire. We wanted Hall to sing and showcase his talent, instead of trying to showcase himself. It’s a subtle distinction; but we left with the impression that Hall’s burning desire is to be at the center of the universe, not to share his art with the universe. What we truly enjoyed were the moments during the performance in which the art itself took center stage.
SECOND OPINION: July 27th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Allison Hussey: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/todrick-hall-straight-outta-oz/Event?oid=5033449.
Todrick Hall’s STRAIGHT OUTTA OZ International Tour (Bob Nocek Presents LLC, July 30 in Meymandi Concert Hall in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, NC).
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZYiZqa6cIw.
THE TOUR: http://todrickhall.com/.
TOUR CAST: http://todrickhall.com/cast.
PRESENTER: http://www.bnpresents.com/, https://www.facebook.com/bnpresents/, and https://twitter.com/bnpresents.
Todrick Hall (Arlington, TX-born Los Angeles, CA entertainer): http://todrickhall.com/ (official website), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3789773/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/toddyrockstar, https://twitter.com/todrick, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todrick_Hall (Wikipedia), and https://www.youtube.com/user/todrickhall (YouTube channel).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.