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Category : Arts & Entertainment

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Matilda the Musical FB

Matilda The Musical Orpheum Theatre Review

Matilda the Musical. Roald Dahl, Orpheum Theatre

Matilda The Musical Orpheum Theatre Review – I want to give this production the biggest hug in the world!  Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical was brilliant and just a whole lot of fun; I was thoroughly amazed from beginning to end.  With just enough mature content to keep the attention of the adult theatergoers, but unobtrusive to the kids, this is definitely a musical for the entire family.

Matilda, Orpheum Theatre

All of the children involved in this production were absolutely adorable.  The evening I attended, Matilda was played by Gabrielle Gutierrez; she was breathtaking, and I look forward to seeing her in many more musicals and blockbuster hits to come.  She took that stage so effortlessly and did so with grace, plan on her stealing your heart as well.  By the way, Matilda is the smallest leading lady on Broadway, and Gabrielle reprises her role, which she originated in the First National Tour.

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The set design was fascinating, it was always moving from front to back or side to side with amazing depth and dimension. Rob Howell did a stellar job and should probably win another Tony Award as he did in 2013.  Oh…the swings, you’ll love the swings! Along with the set designs, Paul Kieve added unbelievable illusions that will have you highly impressed and guessing how they accomplished such magic on stage.  The chalkboard still has me scratching my head. Peter Darling was in charge of Choreography, and once the cast performed “School Song” in the first act, it was perceptible they had gotten an expert on board.

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Matilda the Musical, orpheum theatre, Minnesota arts

All of the supporting characters were memorable and had very strong roles.  Miss Trunchbull (Dan Chameroy) was evil and hilarious and could belt out a few good notes.  Who cannot forget the chubby little cake-eater Bruce? Soren Thayne Miller did a marvelous job (for his first National Tour Debut) eating the entire cake and finishing it off, as well as the first act with the rest children for “Bruce.”   He comes out and does another number as if he was a superstar.  There was an incomparable sweetness between the characters that you will get throughout the show and in a way; it kind of overshadowed how awful the parents were to Matilda.

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The brilliance is apparent when Matilda is narrating her tragic story in every other scene throughout the musical, with every line in perfect sync to the actors in the story she discloses to Mrs. Phelps (Keisha T. Fraser).  As Matilda takes front stage, the story was the far back of the stage, portrayed perfectly as a backdrop; as if in a movie or in your imagination while reading a book.  There are so many attributes to mention, and they are so well done in this production, that it would be a spoiler to tell you them all.  There are many must-sees in life, this is one of them, and you only have a short time to do so.

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You still have a chance to see Matilda The Musical at the Orpheum Theatre until April 2nd. Purchase tickets here.

CDT Grease

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Grease Review

Phatphood Grease

The 1950s hip-thrusting, hand-jiving, Rock ‘n’ Roll pop culture is back, and it isn’t going anywhere for at least the next several months.  Grease has finally returned to the main stage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres after a 10-year hiatus. This time around, resident Artistic Director Michael Brindisi, who played Kenickie in the second national tour of Grease in 1978 (the same year the film version was released), gives you a more emphasized version of social commentary during this era of teen rebels and coolness. What he did was brilliant, with less attention on only two characters and more focus of high school cliques and the dawn of sexual connotation.  Brindisi has this production made in the shade.

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All the classic hits made popular from the 1978 film were all included along with a few other addicting additions from the original Broadway production like “Those Magic Changes” which is the quirky play on musical notes sung to an up-tempo tune of “Stand By Me.”  Another instant favorite was the comical “Mooning” performed by Evan Tyler Wilson (Roger) and Therese Walth (Jan), who were the perfect duo for this doo-wop inspired song of the human posterior. Now in the second act when Kasano Mwanza took spotlight in the crowd as Teen Angel for “Beauty School Dropout” I got chills, and they were definitely multiplying!  Kasano literally had the voice of an angel and had the entire theatre under his wings.  I could watch this scene over and over, it was that captivating.

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This production felt a bit fast paced, almost rushed into each musical number to fit them all in.  Enjoyable, but I wouldn’t have minded sitting longer to have it spread out.  The entire first act scene changes were the build up to the dance competition in the second act with the voice of Vince Fontaine (Keith Rice) coming across as a radio broadcaster, making for groovy transitions. Goosebumps gave way as Sandy (Caroline Innebichler) twirled an umbrella forefront to the house band as she performed “Hopelessly Devoted To You” ending the scene prior to the productions longest scene of the evening as the dance competition took place at the school gym.  The set decorations were minimal, with the coolest prop being an actual mini-mobile convertible, but it made room for the large dance numbers and the simplicity didn’t take anything away from the heart of the show, it’s characters.

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Keep in mind this is a PG-13 type of production with a few flips of the bird, a couple of SOB’s and other sexual references.  However, it is an experience I believe we all should be entertained by, and lucky for us it has performances every night of the week excluding Mondays with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays all the way thru October 28th, 2017.  Oh, and to satisfy your cravings as well as mine, our favorite Teen Angel flies back on stage to join the entire cast to perform “Grease Is The Word” for the finale that will be sure to bring you to your feet.

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Purchase your ‘Grease’ tickets here.

Photo Credit: Dan Norman, 2017

FB The King and I Orpheum

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I

The King and I Orpheum

If you can guess how many times “et cetera” is said during the 2.5 hour seating of Rodgers & Hammerstien’s The King and I at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, you win…well, nothing.  I have nothing to offer, what you will win is a marvelously witty and charming stage performance that you will want to share with everyone you know.  Kind of like I am doing now, this is definitely a must see and not to make you rush out to go get your tickets or anything, but you only have until March 5th before this ship sets sail out of town.

Laura Michelle Kelly, Baylen Thomas and Graham Montgomery in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

On opening night, as a huge ship on center stage glides towards the audience, Laura Michelle Kelly (Anna Leonowens) steps to the bow as the audience erupts in cheer.  After all, she is a big deal.  She is praised for her work starring on Broadway in Mary Poppins and most recently Finding Neverland.  She is opposite of Jose Llana (King of Siam), who is also no stranger to the stage or the big screen, I actually remember him from a little role in the movie Hitch.

Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna and the Royal Children of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The first act had the whimsical comedy and playful nature as the teacher and the King culturally clashed during the late 1800s of Bangkok as Anna, a British widowed schoolteacher, arrives to shed the knowledge of Western Civilization and the English language to the King’s children.  Laughter will give way as puns intended towards the modern day political madness. The King jokingly mentioned how he wanted to build a fence around Siam to keep the other countries from entering and taking power.

Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

An unforgettable scene during the first act was with the introduction of the many wives and children of the polygamist King.  This is where charm came into play.  Each of the kids had their own unique stature and playfulness, where as the wives were more subtle.  Except for the elder wife, Lady Thiang (Joan Almedilla), who captivated the audience with “Something Wonderful”, conveying a powerful voice of nothing less than perfection.

Laura Michelle Kelly and Jose Llana in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The second act comprised of more serious nature and sadness along with a grasp at love between the King and Anna, giving way to more heartfelt duets such as “Shall We Dance” and also  “I Have Dreamed” performed by Manna Nichols (Tuptim) and Kavin Panmeechao (Lun Tha), whose love affair was hidden in fear of the King.

Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Also in the second act, a performance within a performance was conducted as the character, Tuptim, narrates a book known as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for the King and his guest, Sir Edward Ramsey, whom was there to be convinced that the King was not a barbarian.  This scene had dancing, singing and simple props that captivated the audience’s attention.

Jose Llana as The King in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Opening night had its minor mishaps, as the spotlight tech had trouble keeping up with the quick movements of the performers.  Also, for a show of this caliber, the choreography could have been a little more precise.

You can purchase tickets for ‘The King and I’ through March 5th at the Orpheum Theatre.

The Bodyguard Review

Review ‘The Bodyguard’ Orpheum Theatre

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If you can get past all the gasps and pacemaker alarms after the opening scene, you will be sure to enjoy Deborah Cox performing, as well as delivering hit after hit made famous by Whitney Houston in this musical adaption of The Bodyguard.  This tale of a bodyguard hired to protect a superstar and eventually fall in love is easily stage worthy and leaves you with a full experience of a story and a concert.

Judson Mills (whom you may have seen in a variety of TV shows) plays Frank Farmer- the calm, and at times, somewhat robotic, protector of a pop mega star.  When he spoke, it just didn’t feel natural.  During a karaoke scene, you cannot help from breaking into laughter as he attempts to sing, or actually talk his way through “I Will Always Love You.”

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Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron is nothing short of spectacular.  From the rebellious attitude, to filling the shoes of the late Houston, with each scene featuring one of her famous jams, it is easy to say that the right choice was made for the role. However, she was nearly upstaged vocally by Jasmin Richardson, who plays Rachel’s sister Nicki Marron.  Jasmin had everyone’s undivided attention as they adjusted in their seats in amazement while she sang “Saving All My Love” with ease and grace.

Another head nod with an eyebrow raise notable mention goes to the future star, Douglas Baldeo, who plays Rachel’s son, Fletcher.  He wasn’t just an adorable stand in, this kid could really sing and dance.  Speaking of dancing, this cast had some wonderful choreography and wardrobe that will bring you back to the 90’s.

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The Bodyguard recently wrapped up production in the U.K. with 16 months of sell-out shows; now add Deborah Cox, a talented ensemble and a U.S. launch, and what you have is a breathtaking show an audience will enjoy whether they watched the movie or not.

The Bodyguard runs January 10-15 at the Orpheum Theatre, in person is the best option with no service fee at the State Theatre Box Office, or you can call 800-982-2787.  Also online at Hennepintheatretrust.org

6/10 – Cliche characters/acting with a beautiful soundtrack.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Camelot

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Camelot – A simple, yet efficient set with very little change of elements was the backdrop to this deeply moving, whimsical at times, timeless classic. That’s right; Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot is back on the main stage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres for the season. From an arranged marriage, to chivalry, to a borderline adulterous scandal, this is still one of the best romantic tales of all time.

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The performances were stellar!   My most favorable moment of the evening would have to be during the first act when Guenevere, played by Helen Anker (a first at Chanhassen) along with ensemble gave way to ever-so-popular “The Lusty Month of May” which they did so, effortlessly.  Another honorable mention was the lovely ballad performed by Aleks Knezevich, playing the part of Lancelot in the second act with “If I Ever Would Leave You.”   If you recently frequented CDT this past season you may remember him as the bronzy, corny, yet confident Gaston in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  

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Main character, Keith Rice as King Arthur and his mythic mentor David Anthony Brinkley as Merlyn were phenomenal together and brought complexity and humor to the stage. Arthur had moments of a confused expression at times that were laughable, but perhaps not intentional. More than once during the performance, Guenevere and Arthur broke character and gave way to small giggles during the evening, this for me was surreal and life-affirming.  

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Overall, it was a splendid theatre classic that you should definitely see during this Fall/Winter season in Minnesota while taking in a dinner while you are at it, the CDT never disappoints in either category. Run of engagement is until February 25th, 2017. You can purchase your tickets here.

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We highly recommend spending an evening at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. Take a look at the 2016-2017 CDT calendar here.

Photo Credit: Heidi Bohnenkamp

Orpheum Lion King

Disney’s The Lion King Orpheum Theatre Review

9 Aaron Nelson (Simba) and Nia Holloway (Nala). ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

Disney’s The Lion King Orpheum Theatre Review: Imagine only seeing in black and white your entire life, and then suddenly you can see in color for the first time. This was that first time! The Orpheum Theater has brought the pride land of Africa to the city of Minneapolis with Disney’s The Lion King, along with its vibrant living art and beautiful music on stage. There is no argument that this is indeed the World’s best musical. I admit however, I did at first have my doubts with the actors not being in full costumes playing the roles of animals of the wild. It was the costume designs that brought this master of puppetries to life on stage, and it worked marvelously. It is to no surprise that Julie Taymor (director, costumer designer and mask co-designer) won a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical.

7 Mukelisiwe Goba (Rafiki) 3 ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

The entire show lasted a little over 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission between acts, the first act being longer than the two. There was a musician on each side of the stage beating on drums, congas, chimes and other various instruments bringing the soundtrack to life. There were a few South African inspired songs added that were not taken from the movie to help during the growth of Simba. The cast took to the isles and balcony more than once throughout the performance adding a wow factor to the element of surprise. Humorous dialogs were also added to the stage that played off of some of the other Disney favorites that will give way to laughter. The on stage set is just simply captivating, there is no other way to describe it; just something you have to witness for yourself. It is pure seamless magic happening right before your eyes.

8 Gareth Saxe (Scar) and Gerald Ramsey (Mufasa). ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

If I were to pick out a single character or actor that mesmerized me throughout the performance, I cannot. The entire cast and crew brought this to life, as a whole, they all deserve as much credit as anyone involved on or off the stage. Truly a unified team that works unparallel together.

5 Gerald Ramsey (Mufasa) ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

The only disappoint is within myself, for waiting so long to see and hear this beautiful magic take place right in front of me on stage. This is the fifth time this touring show has been to Minneapolis now in its 19 years of existence. Hopefully you haven’t passed up as many opportunities as myself, but if you have, do yourself a favor and go see this show while it is in your city…you still have time!

The Lion King is now playing through August 7 at the Orpheum Theatre. Get your tickets here.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

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Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Disney Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast Chanhassen

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Disney Beauty and the Beast: It’s been over a decade since the tale as old as time has hit the stage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, but now through Fall of 2016 you can catch this enchanted full-length musical production of Disney Beauty and the Beast take stage as you sit in a moment of nostalgia.

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Performing to a sold out crowd on opening night the cast gave brilliant big production numbers with mesmerizing choreography, beautiful ballads and seamless set changes.

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The story moved along quite perfectly from beginning to end leaving you entertained throughout, especially with eye catching costume designs along with subtle scenic designs.

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Ruthanne Heyward did an amazing job as Belle, with solo performances such as “Is This Home?” and “A Change in Me” with her crisp and captivating voice.

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One of my favorite performances was a sing-and-dance number done creatively in a saloon-like environment of clinking mugs together that was put on by a large amount of the cast and focused on the ultra sexy ego of “Gaston” which of course the musical number was titled the same. Aleks Knezevich had the look to go with his character and was comically entertaining with his overzealous Derek Zoolander facial expressions.

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Keeping it elegant and seamless, Gargoyle stone figures would come to life and perfectly execute set changes in a soft ballet dance.

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Costume and wardrobe designs were true to the story and brought objects to life in a very unique and fun way. Mark King (Lumière) was a delight to watch as sound effects went in unison every time he lit up.

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Even though Robert O. Berdahl (Beast) didn’t have the brawn I would’ve like to have seen, he had the swagger that carried this newly defined character in his own unique way.

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For me, there was nothing better and more heartfelt then when Susan Hofflander (Mrs. Potts) owned everyone in the audience as she sang the self-titled number “Beauty and the Beast” and it was clearly a breath taking moment.

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Beauty and the Beast will be at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres through September 24th. You can buy your tickets here.

Photo Credit: Heidi Bohnenkamp, 2016

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Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Sister Act

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Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Sister Act – Hallelujah! Director Michael Brindisi found some of the best in the Twin Cities and brought them together for a disco turned gospel musical production on stage at the nation’s largest professional dinner theatre company, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

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It was a 4-hour evening of good laughs with the best of company over dinner, followed by an amazing adaption of this blockbuster hit made into a Broadway sensation. If you have never eaten at CDT, do not skip dessert. That is all.

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Regina Marie Williams did an outstanding performance as Deloris Van Cartier, a hopeful diva in witness protection at a convent under the alias Sister Mary Clarence hiding from her beau Curtis and his trio of thugs. Regina hits you with not only disco style musical ballads and clap-a-long gospel choir inspirations, but also whimsical comedy with short text lines like “These are my FM boots.” The likeness of the movie tribute did not stop there. Three nuns did an indistinguishable performance as Sister Mary Patrick (Therese Walth), Sister Mary Lazrus (Seri Johnson) and Sister Mary Robert (Britta Ollmann). These three ladies had me to believe I was front row to the movie itself. Superb job!

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Although the entire cast was amazing and entertaining, there was one that stood out above the rest for me. Sweaty Eddie. That’s right Lieutenant Eddie Souther played by Reginald D. Haney. A somewhat goofy looking character with an oversized mustache that had a surprising voice that had all of them women in attendance swooning for him by shows end. Reginald is a member of Sounds of Blackness making his debut to the stage here at CDT, and I’m hoping he will be back for many more performances.

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The storyline was quick and to the point without skipping a beat, literally. It was also obviously filled with contagious musical performances created originally by Alan Menken that are different from what you may remember from the big screen performance.   I actually preferred the stage story to the movie version in whole; it shared a little more background to the nun on the run. Perfectly done!

Sister Act will be at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre until February 27, 2016. Buy your tickets here.

Photo Credit: Heidi Bohnenkamp, 2015

Kidcreate Studio Minnesota

Kidcreate Woodbury MN Studio Review

Kidcreate Studio Woodbury MN

Kidcreate Woodbury MN Studio Review: We had the pleasure of attending a birthday party hosted at Kidcreate Studio in Woodbury, MN yesterday. Now that the weather is beginning to change it is always fun to find new indoor activities to do during the upcoming cold months.

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Our girls made the Magical Mud Mosaic, which the birthday girl picked out from the various pages of project ideas she had to choose from. The instructors did a great job talking the girls through each step and helping when required.

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The parties run 1.5 hours, which seemed like the right amount of time to get the project done and have pizza lunch that is provided by the hosts. The girls were so excited to show their parents their mosaics masterpieces at pick up time.

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At Kidcreate Studio they specializes in children’s art classes, camps and art themed birthday parties for kids ages 18 months through 12 years. They also offer ladies night out, homeschool art education programs as well as classes designed especially for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. It seems like they have just about everything covered!

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If you don’t have the time to bring your kiddo in to create, stop by and take a look at their great merchandise to purchase. If you are looking for a creative gift for any age they have a great variety to pick from. Seems like a great place to Christmas shop for the creative kiddos in your life.

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Kidcreate gifts

If you would like more information on Kidcreate Studio you can take a peak at their website: www.kidcreatestudio.com. Kidcreate also has a location in Eden Prairie, MN.

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Straight Outta Compton Movie Review

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Straight Outta Compton Movie Review: “Straight Outta Compton” was the most anticipated movie of the Summer, and it lived up to the hype. Fans of their music and upcoming hip hop artists alike should flock to the theaters and learn this story of rags-to-riches. If you are as big of a fan of N.W.A. (or even just each solo artist of the group) as I am, then you will find yourself bobbin your head, applauding with joy and getting chills with each song played. Even more so when Eazy takes the stage for the first time in the film with “A miracle of modern creation…”

The story was filmed perfectly, although for two and a half hours I felt that they could have shared more of the story of N.W.A. before they branched out into Dre’s and Cube’s solo projects, and Eazy’s crumbling Ruthless empire before his death. They barely even touched on the creation of “EFIL4ZAGGIN” which was just as incredible as “Straight Outta Compton” if not better with nearly double the tracks.

Straight Outta Compton Actors

They shared a few of the lyrics spit by Ren to disclose on the Ice Cube beef after he left the group, but that was about it. As fans, we all know that Cube crushed his former band mates with “No Vaseline” and that was portrayed very well in the film. Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr. portrayed his father so well in this film that he will easily be your favorite character.

There was also no mention of the Dre and Eazy beef records nor the solo project Eazy did, which I was waiting anxiously for that beat to drop from “Real Muthaphukkin G’s.” MC Ren and Dj Yella were left behind as the story mainly followed the other three members of the group. That was perhaps made up with the cameo’s of Snoop, Suge Knight, The D.O.C. and even Tupac with actors obviously portraying them as well. The only one that didn’t do it for me was R. Marcos Taylor who played Suge, who, in the end made his character laughable.

You get the tale of how dirty the music business is with contracts and deceit, the corruption of the police, the rise and fall of friendship and some damn good music to go along with it all. Add this to your favorites collection now. Bye Felicia.