Hey everybody. I’ve been slacking on my reviews, but I’m back. (I have a good reason though. By the time I was able to review a show, it had already closed - ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER, PRIVATE LIVES, WIT). But now I’m back to bring you my thoughts on the newest shows this Spring (including some of the hottest tickets in town).
Sorry, I’ve been slacking on my reviews. So to catch up, here are four quick reviews of the shows I saw in November.
VENUS IN FUR -
This might just be the first great play of this season. Nina Arianda is the true reason to come and see this. She effortlessly glides between ditzy comedy and sophisticated seduction. Hugh Dancy holds his own very well as the pretentious playwright who is adapted the Sacher-Masoch novel “Venus In Fur”. This is a power play not to be missed.
SEMINAR is a clear case of performers elevating the material. Although the characters of Jerry O’Connell and Hetienne Park essentially fall to the wayside, we still get top notch performances from Hamish Linklater (as Thomas, whose sarcasm is comic gold), Lily Rabe (in a very different light, as the caustic, yet fragile Kate), and of course, Alan Rickman (who is a funnier, more biting version of the Professor Snape we best know him as). The play definitely hits some walls in plot and occasionally comes off pretentious, but the play is merely to serve as a background for the larger-than-life Rickman and his band of rag-tag writers.
BONNIE & CLYDE -
Finally, Frank Wildhorn is taking a step in the right direction! Showing great restraint in choking the audience with power ballads, and keeping the style of music restricted to the same (appropriate) general genre, the music serves to be a palatable accompaniment to this story of the famous outlaw couple. Though the story is more about the romance than the violence (which prevents it from fully exploding), Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes (the former a star in the making, the other a star exploding) bring heartfelt sympathy and gratuitous sex appeal, along with a wheelbarrow of talent, to their roles and elevate the material that has been put forth. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn worth a watch.
LYSISTRATA JONES -
Modernizations of classics often get their share of grief, but the book of Lysistrata Jones (based on the Greek comedy by Aristophanes) keeps the source material intact while making for a fun and effervescent new musical. The setting is now a college, the army is now a basketball team, and the protagonist is now a cheerleader. Lyssie J. decides it’s time to stir up a sex strike when her and her co-cheerleaders boyfriends (basketball players) continue to lose their games one after the other. Trouble ensues, and innuendos fly like basketballs in this witty, if sophomoric, show. Patti Murin owns the stage as the titular cheerleader, with the supporting cast, (including relative newcomers Josh Segarra and Linsday Nicole Chambers) owning their own piece of the stage as well. The real star, however, is Dan Knechtges’ incredibly athletic choreography, which manages to successfully avoid looking like a carbon copy of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL. I find this to be one of the better musical options to be found on Broadway this fall, so go see it.
LET’S RANK THEM!
1. Venus In Fur
2. Lysistrata Jones/Bonnie & Clyde
As of November 28, 2011, I have seen 31 Broadway shows total (in my lifetime).
(* DENOTES PLAY)
Here is how I rank each one:
1. SOUTH PACIFIC (revival)
2. BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON
3. AMERICAN IDIOT
5. THE BOOK OF MORMON
6. VENUS IN FUR*
7. NEXT FALL*
8. LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (2010 revival)
9. FOLLIES (revival)
10. NEXT TO NORMAL
11. WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
13. MASTER CLASS (revival)*
14. BONNIE & CLYDE
15. GODSPELL (revival)
16. GOD OF CARNAGE*
17. PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT
19. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
20. LEND ME A TENOR (revival)*
21. CHICAGO (revival)
22. HAIR (revival)
23. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN
25. ROCK OF AGES
26. ALL ABOUT ME
27. 9 TO 5
28. A LIFE IN THE THEATRE (revival)*
29. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
30. COLIN QUINN: LONG STORY SHORT*
31 (THE WORST). BABY, IT’S YOU
Age seems to be just a number for the lineup of lovely ladies that command that stage in the dazzling revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s FOLLIES, which was imported from the Kennedy Center in August after a successful run over the summer. FOLLIES, which been widely considered a “cult” musical over its history, concerns a reunion in a crumbling theatre, scheduled for demolition, of the past performers of the “Weismann’s Follies,” a vaudeville revue, that played in that theatre between the World Wars. While the reunion is the basis of the musical, the show zooms in on two couples, Buddy and Sally Durant Plummer and Benjamin and Phyllis Rogers Stone, who are attending the reunion. Sally and Phyllis were once showgirls in the Follies. Both couples are deeply unhappy with their marriages. Buddy, a traveling salesman, is having an affair with a girl on the road; Sally is still as much in love with Ben as she was years ago; and Ben is so self-absorbed that Phyllis feels emotionally abandoned. Throughout the show, the former showgirls (along with the other reunion attendees) performs numbers reminiscent of their days as showgirls (often alongside ghosts of their former selves), culminating in the fantastic “Loveland” sequence, where each person (Buddy, Ben, Sally, and Phyllis) performs a number that represents the “folly” of their adult life.
It is important to establish that this show is not a traditionally “happy” show, despite the glitz and grandeur. Also, the book tends to lose a little steam when it comes to dealing with the fractured relationships of Phyllis and Ben and Buddy and Sally. Not to say that the characters aren’t very complex and layered, but observing their dynamic as they interacted with each other, something felt off (that I can’t quite pinpoint). However, let’s let that go down as a small blemish on an otherwise pitch-perfect production. The supporting cast each has their time to shine radiantly in the spotlight, with special mention going to Terri White (who knows how to bring down the house with “Who’s That Woman”), Rosalind Elias (rendering a heartbreaking rendition of “One More Kiss”) and Elaine Paige (who delivers on the Sondheim classic “I’m Still Here”). As for the leads, Bernadette Peters continues her streak of having absolutely no peer in musical theatre by connecting with her inner frump as Sally Durant Plummer. Jan Maxwell (in the role of Phyllis Rogers Stone) wears her theatrical versatility like a fine gown, dryly delivering barbs, singing her face off (Proof: “Could I Leave You”), and slinking across the stage with grace in “The Story Of Lucy And Jessie”. Ron Raines is also in fine form as the emotionally-hard Benjamin Stone. However, the night belongs to Danny Burstein, who makes a dramatic departure from his usual comedic roles to deliver a Buddy Plummer that is both effectively forceful and heartbreakingly adorable (which should be more than adequate proof that Burstein finally deserves a Tony Award).
The set design by Derek McLane turns the otherwise drab, modern Marquis, into the theatre into the atmosphere of the theatre about to be torn down using dusty sheets and a broken proscenium. The lighting design by Natasha Katz not only complements the set, but also does a great job of separating the elements of past and present. Finally, given the rave about how well Jan Maxwell can slink her way across the stage, it would be ludicrous to not give credit to Warren Carlyle’s choreography for not only the large ensemble numbers, but the small, intimate songs as well.
This production clearly has many Tonys coming its way, and for good reasons. Inclusive are the stellar performances from the leads and the ensemble (namely the Featured Actresses), the stellar set design, the choreography, and the overall direction by Eric Schaeffer. Any person who has ever loved the theatre needs to get moving over through the Marquis Theatre before it closes on January 22nd. Once-in-a-lifetime revivals that leave you speechless are rare, and this is a prime example.
DISCLAIMER: This review is based on the seventh preview (October 19, 2011).
The long-awaited revival of GODSPELL, with a book by the late John-Michael Tebelak and updated music by Stephen Schwartz, has finally arrived, and in fine form. Recognized as a classic many theatre aficionados, GODSPELL is best known for its vignette structure (up until the middle of Act II, when the story of the Passion takes place), which showcases the various parables from the book of Matthew (as well as some from the book of Luke). Each parable is presented as a largely-improvised skit, which more often than none elicits the most laughs from the audience. (The individual experience may vary, however, as per the cast, the jokes change nightly). Much denouncement of this current production has been based on the fact that the topical humor has been updated to 2011 (to the point of including the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and the death of Steve Jobs. While it seems excessive, the nature of the piece allows room for topical humor in the time period the show is being produced, and it enhances the experience, making for an unexpectedly funny. Stephen Schwartz’s classic score, most of which was derived from Episcopalian hymns, often serves as a coda for each of the skits, giving them the potential to be show-stopping numbers (and they certainly do not disappoint).
The cast is an extremely talented ensemble of young actors, each of whom have their own 15 minutes to shine within the production. Hunter Parrish (of Showtime’s WEEDS) makes a fantastic Jesus, playing himself on the level as one of the “Children Of God” in a wise-best-friend way opposed to a teacher or deity. Parrish brings a touching poignancy to the Last Supper/Crucifixion ending (Sorry for the spoiler, but most people are aware of how Jesus’ story ends, Christian or not), and hearing the hurt in his fittingly subtle tenor voice will force tears from the eyes. Wallace Smith, recently of AMERICAN IDIOT, makes for a magnificent Judas by making the most subtle of nuances work effectively in order to flesh out Judas’ innermost feelings about Jesus. Some standouts in the ensemble in Anna Maria Perez de Tagle (of Disney Channel fame), who delivers the lead in the show’s most iconic number, “Day By Day”, as well Lindsay Mendez (adding more flair to the already bouncy “Bless The Lord”) and Nick Blaemire (who manages to jam out on the guitar while bouncing on a trampoline in “We Beseech Thee”).
The set is minimal, but that doesn’t matter as the show is heavily based in props and improvisation. Although, the Circle In The Square Theatre serves as the perfect environment for this type of show, as the cast is free to move about the theatre and interact with the audience in an organic way (as opposed to the recent revival of HAIR, which seemed somewhat forced in its interactive element). The band, which is scattered throughout the theatre, makes for a lovely surround sound effect when the show’s scored is played.
To summarize, you will not only have many laughs during this night of theatre, you will also experience many tears, and leave the theatre feeling like you’ve learned something useful about life (Bet you didn’t see that one coming?). Go forth and enjoy yourselves, and Praise Be To GODSPELL!
Here are the new pairs for the 13th Season of DANCING WITH THE STARS.
Winner: Hope Solo & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Runner Up: Carson Kressley & Anna Trebunskaya
Dark Horse: Ricki Lake & Derek Hough
First One Out: Rob Kardashian & Cheryl Burke OR Chaz Bono & Lacey Schwimmer
Famous Movie Lines As Said By Carol Channing (from WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY)
Performed by Ryan Stiles and guest star Robin Williams.
BROADWAY’S HAVING A RAIN DAY! (Actually, two)
All Broadway (and some Off-Broadway) performances have been canceled for the duration of the August 27-28 weekend due to the impending weather brought on by Hurricane Irene.
In honor of the release of the 2011 Revival Cast Recording of Cole Porter’s ANYTHING GOES, I give you the title track, sung by Sutton Foster (and also featuring the tap choreography).
So. You want to see The Book of Mormon. Like, right the fuck now. But you’re morally opposed to Premium tickets. Or broke. Or both.
Good news! A little research on the interweb tells you there is this thing called a “Ticket Lottery” for Mormon where a handful of highly coveted tickets are raffled off to a few lucky bastards prior to each performance. You could be one of those lucky bastards! You WILL be!
Except… if you’re not. And then what? Sure, you get entered in this newfangled LOSERS LOTTERY but… how does it all work? How does one handle the stress?
Never fear, dear reader, I’m here to get you up to speed on this whole messy process…so strap in!
18 Steps to Losing the Book of Mormon Ticket Lottery
- Arrive the very earliest instant possible to enter your name. Or roll up at the last moment. Or show up somewhere in the middle. Or…
- Write your info on the card provided, then debate the merits of several possible folding methodologies while people huff and tap their feet loudly behind you. Throw card into the Big Golden Drum of Mormon Glory and attempt to wend your way out of the ever-growing crowd in search of oxygen.
- Wait. (Impatiently.)
- Huff/whine/make your companions hate you every time another wave of folks appears to try their luck and enter the lotto, too.
- Suss out the competition. Repeatedly attempt to incorrectly estimate crowd size. Marvel at its demographic makeup—Straight men! Wealthy adults! Seriously old people!
- Lotto begins. Debate whether or not you should fish your ID out of your poorly organized wallet and put it in your pocket. Is it best to be prepared in the event of victory? Will you jinx yourself completely? Miss the first name entirely.
- Attempt to keep a constant tally of the number of names called. There are twenty highly coveted tickets—ten names if everyone wants pairs, more if you get some singles.
- Hold your breath after each name is called. Pray winner has fallen off the face of the earth between the time they entered and the time their card was pulled from the Big Golden Drum of Mormon Glory.
- Remember, karma is only a bitch if you are. Pretend to be happy when people celebrate their victory. Golf clap.
- Do not irritate your companions any further by complaining when self-conscious, unenthusiastic, lame-ass winners who clearly didn’t want it bad enough refuse to celebrate their victory. Do not hiss “Fuck them!” or shout “You don’t deserve it!” Bite your tongue.
- Debate whether or not you’d take the single ticket that’s left, abandoning your friends and risking their ire/jealousy/disdain.
- Feel secretly disappointed when you don’t get the chance to ditch their asses and see the show solo because someone else has just won the final seat.
- Leave, head down, cursing the Gods of Lotto because you’ve lost. Again. Again. Again.
- Convince yourself it’s okay that you’re the only one of your friends who still hasn’t seen the hottest show on Broadway. You’re not mad.
- Realize you’re lying to yourself. Again. Again. Again.
- Head three blocks south to the Palace and play the lottery for PRISCILLA: QUEEN OF THE DESERT, where you will have a likelier chance of winning and will get to see Will Swenson and Nick Adams in some HOT ladies clothing.
The ideal Mormon, clean-cut and nice.
"Hello, my name is Elder Price."
He’s off to preach for the world to see.
His partnership: “You And Me, But Mostly Me”.
He arrived in Africa, didn’t believe either eye.
"Hasa Diga Eebowai".
And at the other Mormons, he did scoff,
when they told him to “Turn It Off”.
Things turned sour when they were tense,
since Elder Cunningham’s skull was extremely dense.
Elder Price wanted to flee, and knew where to go.
His next stop: ORLANDO!
But in Orlando, he never did arrive.
Instead he met a Sinister Five.
Satan, Hitler and others that made him scream
In the midst of his “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”.
When he awoke, he felt he was sick.
"I can’t believe Jesus called me a DICK!"
But instead of sitting around to grieve,
he dusted himself off and sang “I Believe”.
But the General mistook him as a man full of sass,
and shoved his Holy Book right up his ass.
After drinking much coffee, he began to bitch
about how, as a missionary, he didn’t fit his niche.
But soon after, his respect Elder Cunningham did earn,
because of a lesson that Price did learn.
When it comes to religion, it doesn’t matter what way,
since it all serves a purpose, and “Tomorrow Is A Latter Day”.