Sunday, November 30, 2008

One more step to the top of the city

So when I was in NYC, I did something touristy for the first time in ages. Usually I just hang out with my friends, eat drink, make merry, see shows and shop. While some of that could be deemed touristy, I never really do sightseeing type things. But I went to Top of the Rock, since I'd never been there and I've done the Empire State Building a few times. I took some pics with my new camera and I am actually genuinely proud of some of them.

I went up just as the sun was setting and it made for some really pretty pics I think.

I also took a pic of Radio City just because it looked so gosh darned purty.

And I went to the top of the new TKTS booth in Times Square, since the back of it is now a giant staircase, and took some pics from there too.

The middle picture there is also the wallpaper on my iPhone now. It's easy to forget just how beautiful NYC can be so I'm glad I took these pics to remind me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The play's (not) the thing, Part Two

So here I am, all packed and waiting for the car to come and take me to the airport so I thought I would fill in the time with updating on the final shows I saw on my trip.

You CAN Stop The Beat

Just getting a head start on all the article headlines that will be published on Jan 4th. I had a rule that I would not see any shows that I had already seen or that I could see in London. I broke it twice over when I saw Hairspray and I broke it for one reason: Harvey Fierstein. He was the best thing about the show when I first saw it and so his return could not be missed. I was supposed to see it with a friend who loves the show as much as I do but he bailed on me at the last minute, so fuck him. As it was, I WAS SO GLAD I saw it alone because I forgot until it started that the show makes me weep. So I boo hooed my way through "I Can Hear The Bells" in Act One and then through "Without Love", "I Know Where I've Been" and "You Can't Stop The Beat" in Act Two. I could see the woman sat next to me giving me curious glances in Act One (I wasn't like sobbing or anything but I had tears pouring down my face) and I wanted to just say "yes ok, I'm crying. Problem?"

Harvey Fierstein is without a doubt the most consistent performer I have ever seen. The performance he gave then was the same caliber that I saw in 2003. Phenomenal. So wonderful. A joy. There's only a few weeks left so please, see this show while you still can.

Pink, ponies, happy, sky

Shrek as a musical is not a good idea. It's a show that I went back and forth about seeing but in the end decided that I would go mainly out of a love for Sutton Foster. The rocky out of town tryout in Seattle saw a new choreographer flown in, who also helped with the direction and prior to its Broadway bow, two actors left the production (one not through choice). So I must admit I wasn't expecting great things.

And I didn't get them. But I did have fun. It's a cute and funny show with a solid performance from Brian D'Arcy James in the title role and absolutely magnificent support from Sutton Foster as Fiona and Chris Sieber as Farquaad. John Tartaglia has oddly high billing for such a tiny little role as Pinocchio though. Daniel Breaker, as the new Donkey was fantastic. The songs aren't memorable though and the staging is so very big, so very busy and actually quite ugly. Whether it will succeed or not remains to be seen as their opening night is still several weeks away.

Hi everybody! My name's Katie. What's yours?

All My Sons is quite possibly one of the finest plays of the twentieth century. I saw what is now considered to be a landmark production at the National Theatre back in 2000, starring Julie Walters, Ben Daniels, Catherine McCormack and James Hazeldine. It was so incredible that I went back to see it again when it was brought back by popular demand, this time with Laurie Metcalfe replacing Walters as Kate Keller.

With the bar set that high, it was always going to be tough to get near it. That this new production falls so enormously short is a real surprise. The problem is the direction. A play as incredible as this does not need to be so frantically and fussily directed. We don't need the cast to be sat visibly on the stage when they're not actually in a scene. We don't need them all to randomly cross over the stage during key monologues. We don't need "important lines" of dialogue to be amplified, thereby underpinning their importance. We certainly don't need John Lithgow to announce to the audience that they're about to perform the play and read the initial stage direction. Nor do we need projections, telling us which Act it is, when it's intermission and also projecting war imagery for no good reason throughout. With that to contend with, the play has to put up a valiant fight to be heard. It emerges, bloody but unbowed, proving the strength of the original material.

Dianne Wiest, one of the main reasons I wanted to see this production, was out. Annoying. John Lithgow was fine, Patrick Wilson was serviceable, Becky Ann Baker was fantastic in a small but key role. Katie Holmes obviously took it to heart that the main criticism levelled at "Hollywood" actors when they come to Broadway is that you can't hear them so she bellows her way through the role. The performance is otherwise fine, kind of like Jennifer Garner in the Cyrano revival last year, she neither embarrasses herself, nor does she blow you away. I just could not get past the unnecessary and intrusive direction. Horrible.

I know bad, I've been bad

Mamet briefly had two plays revived on Broadway in the same season. The terrible American Buffalo opened at the beginning of last week to predictably bad reviews and has already closed. Speed-The-Plow is doing significantly better. It does of course have the curiosity factor of being the show Madonna made her Broadway debut in.

I've seen clips of the pivotal "I've been bad" speech from her and it's pretty horrible. Luckily, the revival has three absolutely stellar performances to carry it along. Jeremy Piven and Raul Esparza are both terrific but the stand out is Elisabeth Moss who was so quiet and unassuming in her performance that you never really knew if she was trying to give herself a leg up in the job world, or tear Piven down. I thought she was fabulous. The play is a mere 70 minutes and so is performed without intermission. 25 minutes into the play, a latecomer appears. She's front row centre. Somehow, she's allowed to take her seat and climbs over people, holding on to the stage for balance. Jeremy Piven singled her out during the Broadway Cares speech for some embarrassment, which was pleasing. I could NOT believe she was allowed to take her seat and didn't stand at the back for the performance.

Every night. Bended knee.

Horton Foote is about a million years old and still going strong. He wrote Dividing The Estate a fair while ago and it's had regional stagings in the past twenty years but has never been in New York. When it was off Broadway, he pulled it from award contention when, due to the age of the play, the Lortel committee wanted to consider it a revival. One wonders, now that it's opened on Broadway and has Tony possibilities, whether history will repeat itself.

Kind of August: Osage County Lite, the play concerns a family who are cash poor but land rich and the infighting that goes on between parents, grandparents and siblings over whether the estate should be divided or not. It was charming and amusing enough (particularly the playwright's 55 year old daughter Hallie, who looks incredible for her age) and Elizabeth Ashley is regal and imposing enough as the owner of said estate. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't swept away and bowled over by it.

Short and sweet

I spent Thursday with my dear friend Lottie and then had the evening to myself before meeting Christina at 11 for the midnight showing of Twilight (it had to be done). So I had some time to kill, I took myself off to TKTS to see what was there, hoping for Pal Joey. Nope. Not there. That is the last Broadway show I wanted to see, so I looked at the off-Broadway listings and selected Saturn Returns, a play at the Mitzi Newhouse, which is a gorgeous little theatre and sounds intriguing enough.

It's one man, seen at thirty year intervals of his life, aged 28, 58 and 88. Three different actors take on the role and are all wonderful, particularly John McMartin as the oldest incarnation. Special mention has to go to Rosie Benton who plays three different women in his life and is absolutely glorious at all of them (at 88, she's his care nurse, at 58, his daughter and 28, his wife). It's a beautiful and moving play and as it unfolds and you learn about this man's tragic life, it's absolutely heartbreaking. It is the best play I've seen on my trip in fact.

Bewitched, bothered and bored to tears

Oh Pal Joey. I got a ticket to see this on Saturday night. Christian Hoff was off for the weekend with a foot injury and so I saw his understudy, Matt Risch. As we all now know, Hoff is gone for good and Risch has the role permanently. So technically I didn't see the understudy, I saw the first performance of the new lead actor. Of course, gossip and rumor are flying that Hoff was not that injured and it's a cover story for getting rid of him as he wasn't working in the role. Whatever.

All I know is, the show itself doesn't work. This time there's been a book overhaul, characters eliminated, songs moved around and still, still it's not an interesting show. The problem may be the fact that you don't like any of the characters. Or that only two of the songs in the whole damn show get any room to breathe (Bewitched, bothered and bewildered and of course, Zip!). There's just something that doesn't quite work.

I can't really judge Risch as he'd had like a day of rehearsal before being thrown on the stage but he coped very well and I'm sure by opening night his performance will be fully there. Stockard Channing was a bit of disappointment. Her comic timing was fine enough but her singing was horrible. She actually spoke all her songs and didn't seem terribly interested in them while she was doing it. The show belongs to Martha Plimpton, who, as Gladys Bumps, now gets the act two showstopper of Zip! and knocks it out of the park. See it, if only for her.

And that, as they say, is that. It's been a wild ride in NYC and I'm really sad to be going back home but all good things have to come to an end I guess.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The play's (not) the thing (part 1)

So I'm heading towards the end of my trip now and I haven't mentioned a single show since Gypsy and I've seen a ton of them! So here, in chronological order, are my takes on them:

American Buffa-huh?

Why did they think casting Cedric The Entertainer in a Mamet play would be a good fit? And Haley Joel Osment has not grown into his looks. His looks have, in fact, stayed exactly where they were and his head has grown which makes him look like he's a little bit simple. They're both outclassed by Jon Leguizamo, the only one of the trio who is a good fit to Mamet and looks like he knows what he's doing on the stage. The play itself has not really aged well and I was left wondering why they'd bothered with this revival. Clearly I am not alone in thinking that as after opening night this past Monday brought them a wealth of mediocre reviews, they will be closing this Sunday. Don't see it, even though you still can.


I had such high hopes for A Man For All Seasons. These were cruelly dashed. It's a hugely boring play and while Frank Langella is absolutely wonderful, he's so much better than literally EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE CAST, it's like he's in a different play altogether. I had a couple of beers with dinner which was a mistake because, try as I might, I could not stay awake in Act One. So dull.


The Seagull is an odd play, being somewhat self reflexive as it focuses on actors and writers. It does have, at its centre, an absolutely remarkable performance from Kristin Scott Thomas, which everybody should see. The casting of a few American actors has unbalanced the show, unfortunately, but it is still worth seeing, if only for her.

I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love

The revival of South Pacific is, without a doubt, the best show I've seen on my trip. I only booked it because it was THE show to see, I wasn't necessarily interested in the piece itself. My only exposure to the show up to this point was seeing the godawful TV movie version with Glenn Close as a woefully miscast Nellie Forbush. Well, this is an absolutely wonderful production, with some fabulous performances in it. Kelli O'Hara is glorious, luminous and radiant as Nellie Forbush. Paulo Szot, as Emile De Becque, brings the house down whenever he sings, particularly in "This Nearly Was Mine". Matthew Morrison is also wonderful in the smaller role of Joseph Cable. And he takes his shirt off, which is never a bad thing. I was very moved and a little tearful by the curtain call. Loved it so much. Would see it again in a heartbeat only it's sold out and it's damned expensive.

Artificial Respiration

The New Group have chosen to revive Kevin Elyot's seven year old play, Mouth to Mouth and give it a New York airing. Why, I don't know. I saw it in the UK when it had its premiere and I loved it. The cast, with the exception of the wonderful Elisabeth Jasicki, struggle with the British accent. The play is still slight but heartbreaking and worth seeing. It's a shame I'm not here for The New Group's next production, as a revival of Mourning Becomes Electra with Jena Malone and Lili Taylor sounds thrilling.

Christ, I've seen so many I'm gonna have to split this entry in half!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gossip Girl here....

No, not really. I have the WORST record for spotting celebrities. I spent a 15 day vacation in LA and saw NOBODY! But since arriving on this trip, I haven't been doing too badly. So, in order to tie in the title of this entry:

Spotted, in the west village: Famke Janssen.

Spotted on the L Train: Julianne Moore.

Spotted at the Walter Kerr Theatre box office: John Turturro.

Spotted in the audience of Shrek: The Musical: John Lithgow and Wilson Cruz.

Seeing any one of those would have been unheard of for me. But to see all of them is frankly ridiculous. But fun.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm a pretty girl, Momma!

So here we are on day 3 of my NYC trip and it seems Gordon Brown is intent on ensuring my stay in debtor's prison. Thanks to the UK's endless bleating about just how awful the economy is, the exchange rate is at a new six year low of $1.48. This time last year I was getting about $1.97 and I didn't a new iPod then.

Aside from that, I am having a pretty glorious time so far. I headed off my cold at the pass with a major dose of Theraflu on Tuesday, which is good. I had a suspicion that sitting in wet clothes on a plane for hours on end would result in my getting sick and when I woke up with a sore throat on Tuesday morning I just thought "hell no". Usually I ignore being sick and don't do anything about it but not this time. I also hit the shops on Tuesday and got some winter boots and a few things from Old Navy but I wasn't overly inspired by the flagship store on 34th Street. I'll check out the one in Chelsea today and see if that's any better. After the shopping and a spot of lunch, Eric, another friend and I headed for Jacques Torres to get some Wicked hot chocolate which was absolutely glorious. I then left them and met with another friend for dinner at Cafeteria. The food was pretty incredible but man was I ever full by this point! After that it was hauling ass to get to Gypsy on time. Thank God they're one of very few shows who don't do Tuesday at 7.

The show is all about the Lupone. I think Gypsy is hamstrung by the fact you're not allowed to do anything different with it in terms of staging and you have very little wiggle room in direction. But this is directed by Laurents himself and Lupone has been dying to sink her teeth into Mamma Rose for years and the lightning in a bottle that pairing has created is a must see. Of course, Lupone has always been Little Miss Mushmouth and some of the speedier delivered lyrics (parts of "Some People", most of "Mr. Goldstone") is a little garbled. But her performance is in every other way a tour de force. Both "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Rose's Turn" are intense to the point of being almost frightening. Laura Benanti is wonderful too though I was less impressed with Boyd Gaines than the Tony voters were.

Also, is it me, or is Patti Lupone as Mamma Rose

actually Miss Bertha from Acorn Antiques?

After Gypsy I met up with a friend who finished work right around the time the show got out. Due to the cold medication, I thought drinking was not wise and lord knows I couldn't have eaten another thing if you'd paid me, so we went for coffee and then ended up in Virgin Megastore where I manfully resisted buying anything (he wasn't quite so restrained).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hey world*, here I am!

*Well, NYC anyway.

Yes, I have arrived. The much desired 15 day stay in the Big Apple has finally begun. The process to get here was beset by minor annoyances, not least the fact that yesterday morning had world endingly dreadful weather. It was raining fit to beat the band when I left my flat to walk to the station (it was rush hour and raining, a cab was clearly never going to happen) and it had clearly been raining all night as there was a LOT of water around. By the time I got to the station I was soaked from head to toe and had managed to step in a puddle that turned out to be ankle deep. Great. Especially as I was wearing summer shoes as new winter shoes are top of the purchase list in NYC.

So I get to the train station and the Gatwick trains are delayed so the concourse at the station is rammed full of harrassed looking commuters. Brilliant. The delay turned out to be minor (ten minutes) but by the time I got on the train it was standing room only, which was a pain. When I got, to Gatwick, they wanted to see the credit card I'd booked with before they would check me in. Which would be fine if it hadn't been stolen and then the replacement fucked up and not arrived in time. So that took some smooth talking. Then I got frisked at security, then I had my bag searched by security, both of which were travel firsts for me.

I purchased some new socks and another book for the flight (I finished Breaking Dawn, can I get a "thank fuck"?) and then boarded. I'm sat next to a super cute guy which was a blessing but then there's some electrical fault with the plane that delays our take off. Whatever. That gets sorted out and aside from some minor turbulence when we first take off, the flight is then completely event free and I also breeze through immigration and customs to find there is NOBODY waiting for cabs! Awesome. Then the last minor annoyance kicks in and we sit in traffic for what feels like an eternity and I don't get to the diner to meet Eric until almost 4pm, when I was aiming for not much after 3pm.

But it doesn't matter anymore. I'm here and all is right with the world again. This morning sees the beginning of my shopping myself into debtor's prison (Old Navy here I come!) and then tonight it's Gypsy with Ms LuPone. I've already eaten a slice of red velvet cake the size of a kitten (last night for dessert while watching Chuck you understand, not this morning for breakfast) so I feel like I'm home again

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Breaking Bad

No, I'm not going to blog about the dark dark dark show concerning a science teacher turned drug dealer after finding out he's dying of lung cancer. You'll notice that only half the title up there is in italics. No, I want to take a moment to talk about this:

It's absolutely jawdroppingly, breathtakingly shit. I've come so far and I'm so determined to finish this stupid saga (and I plan on going to midnight showing of the movie when I'm in NYC with a friend who has a similar relationship to these books as I), but sweet mother of God is this one ever testing my patience. When a human/vampire hybrid baby being born ISN'T the most retarded event in a narrative, then you know you're in trouble. The saga spans some 2560 pages and I refuse to cave now, with only 300 to go. I'll finish it on the plane on Monday as that way I won't have anything else to distract me (I don't do in flight movies).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Naked Farmer for November

He's a little late. But I think he's worth the wait. I clearly lied in March when I said the best was now behind us.