Saturday, November 03, 2007

New York Round Up Part The First: The Shows

Finally, part one of my NY trip is up. So here it is.

In chronological order of viewing:

Mauritius

What an odd little play. I only really went to see it because Bobby Cannavale was in it. A familiar set of tropes are filtered through an unusual maguffin (rare stamps from the titular location) and for the most part, the dialogue is grounded in reality. But then there are odd flights of fancy that stick out like sore thumbs (Alison Pill's speech about growing wings came so completely out of nowhere I did find myself thinking "has she forgotten her lines?"). But here it's all about the performances and while everybody in the cast is noteworthy, two people stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Bobby Cannavale was a given. I've seen him on stage before and he took my breath away so it was no surprise when he did it again here. The show is not really positioned well for awards timing, but Julie White proved that if you really make an impression, people don't forget, so here's hoping he gets some recognition. Same applies to Alison Pill who is utterly rivetting in the main role as the wronged sister who claims ownership of the stamps as payment for the time spent nursing her step mother until her death.

Rent

Which was something like going to a Backstreet Boys concert. I was a Renthead back in the day and I became friends with Anthony when he was in the London run of the show. When I saw he was back in the show and I would be in NY for his final performance, it was not an immediate no brainer I would see it. I saw the show a LOT in 98-99 and I saw it one more time in 2002, but haven't seen it since. I had reasons for seeing the show as much as I did. Those reasons are no longer relevant to my life. So I figured maybe I'd just call him up and hang out with him independent of the show. But who was I kidding? I got the playbill.com discount offer and so I booked it.

I was planning on it being a surprise but I happened to walk by the theatre as they were doing the lottery and there was just an insane amount of people there. I figured stage door would be the same and there was a danger I'd miss him so I left a voicemail letting him know i was there, which was kind of annoying. Anyway, so the show was a little out of control. I have nothing to say about the piece itself. Adam and Anthony were both great (Adam sounds so very different to his last time playing the role), Tamyra Gray tore it up as Mimi (and damn is that girl skinny). Following a pre-show two minute standing ovation, the audience whooped and screamed and cheered their way through the show. It was, for the most part, fine though a couple of times I did find myself thinking "oh shut up". I am usually against taking pictures at curtain call, but everyone was doing it and so I did too and I managed to get these two pics by sheer fluke of timing.



The stage door was even more out of control than I thought it was going to be. My camera flash is utter shit but you get the idea



After about 45 minutes, the crowd thinned enough that I managed to wave over the heads of three people and get his attention. One shouted conversation later I headed to the subway, via Europan Cafe as, by huge co-inky-dink, I ran into someone in the crazed crowd I hadn't seen in two years.


A Bronx Tale


I've been intrigued by this play for ages and ages but pretty much figured I would never get to see it performed. I very nearly didn't as the threatened lock out/strike that's been hanging over Broadway came within a hair's breadth of being actioned the evening I saw the show.

A 90 minute one man show about his growing up in the Bronx sounds, on paper, like the most tedious self indulgent load of piffle. But no. Chazz Palminteri had quite the passage into adulthood. Everybody knows now how he witnessed the point blank shooting of a driver during an altercation with another driver by the local mob boss. Feigning amnesia ingratiated the young Chazz to said mob boss and so it begins. Playing 18 roles, Mr Palminteri effortlessly commands the stage and holds the audience's attention. It was an excellent, surprisingly funny and beautifully touching evening.

Pygmalion

Oh dear. I guess because I'm British I'm going to be more critical of Americans attempting British accents. I don't know why Roundabout chose to revive this play at this point in time. It looks fine enough (real rain for the opening scene and all) but no amount of set dressing can compensate for a draggy and slow first act (which is the play's fault) made even worse by some terrible performances (NOT the play's fault). Claire Danes struggles with the cockney accent throughout her first two scenes. The second scene is interminable, going on and on and ON, repeating itself and then completely hamstrung by a shockingly awful performance by Jay O. Sanders as Alfred Doolittle.

Once she's poshed up, Claire Danes acquits herself nicely (though she needs to up her volume) and for the most part the rest of the leads are fine. I'm going to be blasphemous though and say this is one instance where the adaptation has surpassed the original. I studied the play way back in the day and didn't love it then (one of the many reasons I was so resistant to My Fair Lady. Having finally seen it a few years ago, I adored it). Having seen this revival, I still don't love the play and seeing it performed, all the issues I had with it are writ large rather than resolved.


Die Mommie Die!

The campest thing I have ever seen. Loved it. I saw the movie in 2003 when I was in LA and thought it was hilarious so when I saw it was coming to NYC, starting right when I was coming for a vacation, it had to be done. It was fab. I was a little gutted that Chris Meloni did the reading but didn't take the role for the actual run of the play but what can you do?

I took Eric and his boyfriend as a thank you for letting me stink up their living room for two weeks. We had front row seats so it was just the right vantage point to get a faceful of Van Hansiss. My word, that boy is gifted. And the tight TIGHT denim short shorts he wears in one scene left no doubt as to how gifted. I in fact turned to Eric and said "I hope that's padded or that's just insane". After watching him adjust himself at curtain call, I think it's safe to say he's not padded.

While Charles Busch is uproarious in the role of Angela Arden, this production belongs to Ashley Morris. She takes it and runs with it, going wildly over the top without once veering into parody. She was hysterically brilliant and I thought she was cute as a button at curtain call, having to tug down her very short dress as she bowed.


Frankenstein

The worst show of my trip. H O R R I B L E. Monochromatic, bland, boring, dull dull dull. After two indistinguishable songs, I wanted to find the lyricist and beat him to death with his rhyming dictionary. I was mainly intrigued to see this because of Hunter Foster as he has a very devoted following always going on about what a wonderful voice he has and what a lovely actor he is. Well, on the strength of this performance, I don't see it. His acting was one note at best, which also sums up his singing. He also had the most irritating way of breathing EVER when he was singing which drove me up the fucking wall.

It opens soon and I'm sure the reviews will be harsh, to say the least. If the show is still running at Thanksgiving I shall be hugely surprised. Not least because it's at 37 Arts, which may be between 9th and 10th Avenues, but sure doesn't feel like it. There's NOTHING there. Shame.

Cyrano De Bergerac


I only saw this because of the cast. Kevin Kline, Jennifer Garner and Daniel Sunjata. Fabulous. Which is more than can be said of the end product. An absolutely enormous stage and set is not the wisest thing to have for a show opening without the benefit of an out of town tryout and this 4th preview was very rocky, to say the least. The night before, the world's stupidest travelling curtain had jammed, stopping the show for 20 minutes. I don't know if Kevin Kline was annoyed about this and doing it on purpose but I was in row F of the orchestra and I couldn't hear him. Jennifer Garner does not embarrass herself in what is her Broadway debut proper (she was an understudy fresh out of drama school) but she does not break any new ground with her performance either.

The biggest question posed though is why this piece and why now? Why revive it with an old translation? This could have benefitted from someone else taking a fresh pass at the original French version, in my opinion. All in all, I didn't hate it but it was not exactly a quick three hours.


Young Frankenstein


The theatrical highlight of my trip. The main reason it was such a highlight was because I didn't expect it to be. I booked and paid for my (outrageously expensive) ticket for one reason: Megan Mullally. If she had not been in it, I would not have gone near this show. I really really didn't love The Producers and the hubristic way this show got the Hilton was also offputting to me.

But I would pay good money to hear Megan Mullally sing live and in that I was not disappointed. She was glorious, very funny and while she only had one big scene and number in Act One, she makes up for it in Act Two with a couple of songs, including, of course, the 11 o'clock number.

But the rest of the show is total fun. Great songs (for the most part, though "Roll In The Hay" is not great. Poor Sutton Foster.), wonderful performances and some fantastic set pieces made for a hugely enjoyable evening. It will be interesting to see how well it is received by the critics. The Producers was a huge success purely because of Matthew and Nathan. Once they left, the audience quickly followed and it has never been able to reproduce its NY success elsewhere. If they are smart with this show and advertise it on the strength of the movie, Mel Brooks and Susan Stroman, rather than anything else, they could have an enduring hit on their hands.

Curtains

Such a cute and silly show. It was David Hyde Pierce's first show back after a vacation and he was in fine form. You can see why he won the Tony, his performance is absolutely entrancing. Completely understated and also clearly having the time of his life with it, it's a real joy to watch him. He's matched by the rest of the leads, although Debra Monk is a little, um, BIG in her performance. I loved how some songs started out small and became huge show stopping set pieces, particularly "Thataway!" and "Tough Act To Follow". All in all, this show was totally fun and sweet which is as it should be.

Xanadu

Quite the show to pick for my last show on the trip. I of course had to have the onstage seating. God bless Eric for telling me beforehand "when the show is about to start and Cheyenne comes on stage, gets on all fours and starts drawing his pavement mural, I would encourage you to remember that there is a whole other audience that can see you." Sweet Jesus that man is FINE. And very talented. And he holds no truck with mobile phones either. When, a mere two lines into his opening monologue, a phone rang in the front row, he stopped and stared pointedly at the offending audience idiot. Then when it rang again, after he had started his monologue again, he stopped and said "and we wait". Good for him.

The show itself is a riot. The cast are all clearly having a ball with it, Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa are incredible, Kerry Butler is note perfect and of course Cheyenne, oh Cheyenne. How I love you so. I mean, look. What's not to love, right?




2 comments:

Eric said...

This post has it all! The cute as a button Ashely Morris, Van "Yes, mama" Hansis and the hubba hubba that is Mr. Cheyenne.

Limecrete said...

I still don't love [Pygmalion], and seeing it performed, all the issues I had with it are writ large rather than resolved.

Gee, a television show, movie, or play starring Claire Danes turns out to be disappointing. Again. WHY WON'T ANYONE LISTEN TO ME?

Ahem. I feel better now. And jealous that you got to see so many shows.