I spent a week in NYC and I was able to see seven shows. (I was in theatre kid heaven) So here are my descriptions of the shows I saw. (Long) P.S. I posted this on FSU so if you read it there, you read it.
Wednesday Matinee: Faith Healer
I think pretty much all that can be said for this play is that it had Ralph Fiennes and Ian MacDiarmid. After the long train ride in I was not quite prepared for a three hour monologue. Yes, I do mean three hours. Now, how can a play be a monologue if it has three actors in it? Simple, they appear one at a time for half an act each. (Ralph did two.) The story was interesting and the different perspectives were interesting but this is not something I would recommend. The acting was certainly good, but it really was dull. Maybe I’m not cultured enough or something. At least Ian got to be funny. The woman overacted a bit at times. And the ending was supposed to have some deep meaning or whatever. It seemed like one of those things that no one really gets but some people pretend they do in order to make themselves look like deep thinkers. Then when you ask them to explain they just tell you “you would never understand.” Yeah. I really did want to like it but it didn’t work. I didn’t buy anything, there was nothing to buy.
Wednesday Evening: Spelling Bee
This was quite possibly the most fun I have ever had sitting in a theatre. As much as a play about a spelling bee may draw some raised eyebrows, and as much as the title may mike this play seem a bit like beauty and the beast- the play that only people with kids (or the nostalgic) go see- don’t be fooled. The play begins by pulling people from the audience to be spellers. Spellers (in the cast) reminisce about their families, what the spelling bee means to them, and why they want to spell. All the spellers have jokes made at their expense. (Miss… was in such a rush to get to the bee that she forgot half of her skirt.) During the show I saw it was discovered that if an audience volunteer lasts to long they call her up as many turns in a row as necessary to get her to spell a word wrong. Everything from the comfort counselor who is doing his community service to the former winner who looses because of his “unfortunate erection” (and, yes, sings about it) to “Can you please use it in a sentence” is H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S. I would recommend this to anyone. I sat in the front row and I could have rested my feet on the stage (I didn’t). In many houses this would have been a terrible seat. Not in this one. In point of fact, there may not have been a bad seat in this house. See it, no really, it was great.
I purchased (cause you know you were hoping I’d tell you) the Original Cast Recording, the souvenir program, and a shirt that says “can you use it in a sentence.” (I later bought a mouse-pad that says the same thing.) The show had good merchandise and is about 1 hr, 45 mins with no intermission. We saw understudies for a couple of major roles but most of the time this doesn’t bother me. Olive’s (One of the lead girls) understudy was great, Mitch’s (the comfort counselor) understudy was hot… I mean great, Marcy’s (the Asian girl who speaks 6 languages) understudy may have overacted a bit but that’s the part I think.
Thursday Evening: The Wedding Singer
We really weren’t sure about this at first. The whole musical-from-a-movie thing is a turn off. But I’m soooo glad we did it. We had good seats. (Front mezzanine, where I like them) The show was really just a lot of fun. Some parts of it were a bit over the top but the music was good. It was funny and fairly well acted. Stephen Lynch (for anyone who knows who he is) played Robbie Hart (the lead) and he was wonderful! I think I may be a little bit in love with him now. Understudies again. What can I say, it’s summer. Julia Sullivan (the leading lady) was played by an understudy but she was good. The other understudies were fairly minor roles. I thought the girl who played Linda (the ex-girlfriend) overacted rather badly (and she wasn’t the understudy). At various times I sort of wanted to throw things at her. The only thing I bought at this show was the Original Cast Album. They didn’t have a souvenir program and I didn’t want a tee-shirt that said Wedding Singer or Casualty of Love. Great time though. I would defiantly recommend it.
Friday Evening: Phantom of the Opera
Phantom is a great show. However I think that the best part about it is the technical tricks. Not because the music is not great and the actors were great, but because I know the music so well. With Phantom I really got the feeling that I would have been just as happy watching the movie. (And you’ve got to know that I think that theatre, as a medium, is vastly preferable to cinema) I have seen the National Tour of Phantom but this is my first time on Broadway. The movie is set forward 10-15 years in period and is thusly much more aesthetically pleasing. I found that the masquerade scene was quite muddy. The colors needed to be more vibrant and clearer. I liked all of the actors. Carlotta, Bouquet, and Andre were understudies and Christine was the Monday/Thursday Christine instead of the normal Friday one. They were all very good, regardless.
Our seats were probably the worst seats in the house. We were in the very back (the absolute last row) of the Orchestra (and I hate Orchestra) under the Mezzanine and all the way to the right. We couldn’t see the chandelier fall, we couldn’t see them come down the ramps, and we couldn’t see the Phantom at the end of “All I Ask of You (reprise)” because the statue had moved up to high. And I love that song. We also couldn’t see the people climbing down the grating and about half the set (tops of the backdrops and stuff). It was horrible.
But again the show was great. The falling chandelier (what we could see of it), the Phantom singing on the statue, the lights coming up from the floor, and the moving boat were all great. But aside from the great tech, it wasn’t a singular experience the way other shows-that-are-also-movies are. (see the entry for RENT) I suppose this could be considered a failing in the movie, the play, or just my jaded perception of this show because all the other shows were so amazing. What can I say? No matter how many times I see Les Miserables on stage I still walk out impressed. (Random mention… Especially with the little girl who currently plays young Cosette. I have been her assistant costume designer, teacher, and stage manager for a few years and we could not be prouder at my theatre. Mention over.) I bought the souvenir program and that’s it. I already own a cast album or two and I didn’t feel like a tee-shirt.
Saturday Night: Rent
Okay, this may have been the theatrical experience of my life. Movie? What movie? Not that I don’t think the movie is great. I did and still do. But they are two singular and entirely different experience. Seeing this on stage was… well wow. As a RENThead and someone who knows all the words in this show, I was in love from the moment the show started. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to see this with the original cast. That is the one thing that I think the current performers of RENT have working against them vs. the current performers of Phantom or Chicago. For theatre fans like me and all of my friends who have heard the CD and seen the movie countless times, we are very used to the original cast of RENT. Not only have we heard their voices on the CD for years but we also have seen them in the movie many times. So we aren’t really used to anyone else playing those roles. In Phantom or Chicago, you hear one voice on the CD and another in the movie so you are already used to hearing different voices do the part.
Not that I don’t have complaints. Mark needs to grow hair… now. Or they need to put a wig on him. I don’t know. It doesn’t bother me that he was brunet. Just that he had a buzz cut. He was certainly a bouncy person though. Roger also need a hair fix. I have seen him without the hair done for the show and he was actually attractive. With the show hair he was… a bit creepy. I really liked the guy who played Collins. He was quite good and his emotion was spot on. Maureen was excellent, really spot on. As much as I love Idina Menzel, she was one of the few original cast members that I didn’t miss at times. Not because Idina is not a good as the other cast members, just that the girl playing the role now was really excellent. The woman who played Joanne was pretty good. She is one where the original cast member was not in the movie, so the part is not as defined in my mind. She wasn’t a standout performance but she didn’t bother me at all. I really liked the guy who played Benny. He really sold it. Angel was played by the understudy however; he had made his Broadway debut playing Angel on Broadway in 1998, so he wasn’t exactly green. He did a really great job. Mimi was also played by an understudy. She was not listed as one of the normal understudies in the program and she had no bio anywhere. But she was superb. She was probably the standout performance of the show. She did a wonderful job in all of her songs. She and Roger also did really well together. All in all this cast is a lot less pretty than the originals. There were a few nitpicky things about the singing which bothered me. Mark had mildly irritating vowel sounds. Also, during “Goodbye Love” (which is my favorite song) I really wanted them to open up and sing it more. If you know what I mean.
We were sitting on the very edge of the house left section of the theatre. We were about five rows up in the Mezzanine. The seats were wonderful and we could see all the great staging really well but were still able to see the actors’ faces. I purchased a long sleeve T-shirt that says RENT on the front and “No Day But Today” on the back. I also bought Anthony Rapp’s memoir. I already owned the Original Cast Album (the two disk version) and what is known as the “Rent bible”. It’s a very large book that tells the story of Jonathan Larson’s life and the development of the musical.
And to close. Wow.
Sunday Matinee: Mama Mia!
Oy vay. We went to see this because my mother loves the music. And the music was pretty good. But other than that, the only word I can come up for it is contrived. Contrived is my word. The songs were added pretty randomly throughout the story. The story was not all that bad, but it wasn’t great. At one point they even had the lead girl singing a song that was originally written as (and clearly still sounded like) a love song. Also, that girl had the worst costumes. Until the last two scenes the designer couldn’t seem to find any colors except blue and white. Then in the last two scenes, she suddenly made a shocking discovery! Orange, pink, yellow, red! Wow! Warm colors! It was shocking. The girl who played the daughter was really quite bad. And one of the mother’s best friends pulled off the worst acting job I have ever scene on a professional stage. It may be the worst acting job I have ever seen on any stage. And she wasn’t even an understudy. My grandmother could have done better. I didn’t buy anything because it was bad. Rant over.
Sunday Evening: Avenue Q
Now, I’ll admit it, I didn’t want to see this. The reason I didn’t want to see this? I don’t like puppets. And I was still bitter about the fact that it won best musical over Wicked two years ago.
However, it was really great. It was witty and funny and a good time. Even if there were some moments where I felt I was too young to see it. (In those moments, I thought my MOM was too young to see it.) The songs were excellent and the performances were very good. Songs include “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”, “The Internet is for Porn”, and “If You Were Gay”. This show may bit a bit inappropriate for children (a bit!) so don’t be fooled by the puppets. I can understand why this won best musical but I’m still bitter.
Our seats were at the very back of the Mezzanine. I mean it. The last row, against the wall. And kind of over to the side. It didn’t really matter for this play. You could see the puppets really well and the set really well. It wasn’t really necessary to see many of the actors faces. I bought the Original Cast Recording and the souvenir program.
Also, could someone please explain to me why some people were puppets and some were not?
So in conclusion. I had a wonderful time!