Based on the cast alone, I was wholly excited to see It’s Only a Play on Broadway. So, I saw it on 9/27 and walked away still excited about that cast, but extremely unimpressed with the play itself.

To be honest, the play wasn’t very memorable. It was a string of inside jokes about the theater/entertainment industry. I laughed not because the jokes were inherently funny, but because of who was delivering them. You laugh when Nathan Lane tells a bad joke because it’s Nathan Lane and he has this uncanny ability to contort his eyebrows into some serious furrows. You don’t groan quite so hard at Matthew Broderick’s epically long monologues because it’s Matthew freakin’ Broderick. He of Ferris Beuller’s Day Off and the How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying revival cast album from 1994 that I’ve listened to probably a billion times since I got it for Easter back in 1995.

The play seems to acknowledge how lackluster it actually is. The text is definitely nowhere close to anything substantial. It’s entertaining to a fault, but won’t leave you feeling inspired or challenged or moved.

I do appreciate the play for what it gave me. Or rather, I appreciated the theater-going experience. This was my one chance to see Lane and Broderick on stage together. This was my one chance to see Broderick and Megan Mullaly on stage together (as she’s also on that H2$ revival cast album…). This was likely my one chance to see F. Murray Abraham on stage. This was likely my one chance to see Rupert Grint on stage. This play introduced me to Isabel Keating (Stockard Channing was out with an injury, so Keating has been playing her part and she kicked ass). This play introduced the audience to Micah Stock.

Oh, Micah Stock. What a great Broadway debut. And the one performer in the show who provided me with my biggest laugh of the night… lets just say that Wicked is no longer the only show on Broadway that features “Defying Gravity.” (HE DOES ALL THE PARTS. I LITERALLY CLUTCHED AT MY NON-EXISTENT PEARLS AND DOUBLED OVER WITH LAUGHTER.)

I know a lot of people my age and younger are flocking to the play for Grint. He’s good in his role and a very likable actor/person. But he’s not the main character by a mile (it’s an ensemble show, but Nathan Lane is definitely the “star” and seems to log the most minutes on stage). Hopefully those who are seeing this for Grint will realize that they are actually in the presence of theater giants and should be grateful for that experience.

I’ve seen a few other shows on Broadway the past couple months that were infinitely better than It’s Only a Play.

This is Our Youth was entertaining and actually made me reflect on my 20s. I’ve been a fan of Keiran Culkin and Michael Cera for years, so it was great to see them on stage. This play started a bit slow for me, but then picked up the pace and was rather engaging. I had no idea who Tavi Gevinson was before seeing the show, but I was impressed with her stage presence. Each of the actors really added that intangible “something” to the production and I was really glad I saw this early in previews.

The same say I saw It’s Only a Play, I saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I read the book a few months ago and loved it. I loved the stage version as well. The set was amazing – it was basically a giant chalkboard that doubled as projection screens. It was really rather modern and fairly minimalist.

I was personally glad that Taylor Trensch was in as Christopher during the performance my friend and I attended. I saw him once before in Matilda (his understudy was in when I saw Bare) but wondered how he would be in a play instead of a musical… well, he’s wonderful. Christopher is such a complex character that I really related to when I read the book and it was a real pleasure to see such a capable actor portray him on stage. *This* is the play to see if you want to feel something real.

In addition to these three plays, I also went and saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch again. I had never seen Andrew Rannells on stage before and was desperate to see him in this before his run ended. (I will be seeing the show again when Michael C. Hall takes over, mark my words.) I saw the show when NPH was Hedwig and it was the single most amazing theater-going experience of my life. Rannells’s Hedwig was amazing as well and I am forever grateful that I got to see him in this role. The show itself is flawless and I just get so much out of it when I see it (or listen to it… that soundtrack is pretty much on repeat on my Spotify account).

The next thing I have tickets for is The Real Thing at the end of October and Cabaret in December (EMMA STONE, Y’ALL). I plan on seeing The Elephant Man and Hedwig again. And I just found out that Jake Gyllenhaal will be on Broadway in something at the start of the new year, so I’ll try and see that too.

Basically, SEE ALL THE SHOWS.

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My WiFi was out at my apartment, so I couldn’t stream Season 2 of Orange is the New Black.

Instead of sulking about not being able to see what’s up in prison this season, I’ve decided to type up a “shows I’ve seen in the past few weeks” blog while most everything is still fresh in my head.

It’s been busy few months and I’ve seen some AMAZING shows.

Since I last posted about theater, here is what I saw…

The Cradle Will Rock – one night only performance at the Jacobs

So, a few months ago I got an email saying that Patti LuPone and a bunch of the 1981 cast of The Cradle Will Rock (and a few newcomers) would be doing a one night only performance of the show in May. I bought my ticket about 15 minutes after receiving said email. The Cradle Will Rock is a politically-charged musical about unions. The songs are catchy, the jokes are still relevant and PATTI LUPONE. (When you have the opportunity to see LuPone on stage, you take it. Got it?) I saw a staged version of this show at the New York City Center last summer, but was thrilled that I’d get to see it again. (I highly recommend the movie The Cradle Will Rock – Tim Robbins’s 1994 film about how the musical came about in the first place. It’s wonderful.) The show was solid and I was so glad I went. (This was the fourth production I’ve seen LuPone in now… love her.) I was mostly really glad for the kid I was sitting next to. He knew nothing of the show, but was a huge Patti LuPone fan and had just finished his first year of musical theater school. My heart was swelling for him and it was my hope that he enjoyed himself. (He did.)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch – presently playing at the Belasco

Holy shit. This was the single most amazing musical theater experience of my life. If NPH didn’t win the Tony, I was going to lose faith in the theater community. (He did win. And rightly so. Same with Lena Hall’s Best Featured Actress in a Musical and Best Revival. ALL DESERVED.)

I still cannot properly express how blown away I was by this show. I had seen the movie ages ago and knew what the general gist was, but I purposefully didn’t listen to the soundtrack or read any reviews before I saw NPH KILL IT as Hedwig.

The basic plot of the show is that it’s Hedwig’s concert and he explains through/in between songs how he came to have his angry inch and go from a young gay man in East Berlin to the cross-dressing songstress in America. The cast is Hedwig, his present boyfriend/backup singer, and a four-man band. The end. NPH is on stage for pretty much the entire show and he owns that stage and everyone in the audience. As Hedwig, he interacts with the crowd, performs in tall heels, dons some cray cray outfits and wigs, and goes through a beyond gut-wrenching arc all in 100 minutes. NPH is not just a showman, he’s a damn good performer, actor and all-around entertainer. He has mastered the comedy and tragedy of Hedwig’s story and if you aren’t gobsmacked after seeing that show, then you did something wrong.

My jaw was hanging open the entire time and I found myself wishing I could just feel that way forever. I was so moved. So entertained. So enriched. Seeing Hedwig was a defining moment for me and I wish everyone could experience that kind of theater-going magic at least once in his/her life.

NPH is exiting the show in August and will be replaced by Andrew Rannells. I need to see this show again, and I need to see Rannells as Hedwig.

This show is definitely not for everyone. (There’s a lot of swears, references to homosexuality, lap dances, lewd humor and all around not-PC stuff. It’s glorious.) But if you want your cage rattled in the best way possible, I very much urge you to see this show.

Matt Doyle at 54 Below (two nights only)

Awwwww, precious. Matt Doyle is precious. My favorite theater buddy and I bought tickets for this months ago and we were so glad we did because Matt Doyle is a joy to watch in person. This was the first time I saw him perform any of his original music, so that was a lot of fun. The whole evening was just very enjoyable. Matt Doyle (as that is what I’ve called him to his face, so that is what I will forever refer to him as – first and last name, thankyouverymuch) is a very talented singer and he’s just a goofy little dude who seems to really love getting to perform with his friends. My favorite part of the night was when he and another cast member from Jasper in Deadland sang “As Long As You’re Mine” from Wicked. Loved. It.

Rocky – presently playing at the Winter Garden

HOLY SHIT, GO SEE THIS SHOW.

I’m not kidding. You should totally see this show.

And you’re probably thinking, “Rocky? Like, that boxing movie is on Broadway? And it’s a musical?! What the damn hell?”

See, that’s exactly what I was thinking. I was like, “Man, this is probably going to be really dumb and cheesy.” I mean, I saw Rocky when I was younger and was like, “Man, that is really cheesy.”

But guess what? THE MUSICAL IS FRIGGIN’ AWESOME.

I ended up with front row tickets for myself and my sister and they were the greatest seats ever. We were nice and close to the stage, and then we were friggin’ ring-side for the epic fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed that happens for the last 20 minutes of the show. (The ushers literally escort the center orchestra seated people from their seats in Rows A-F [“the Golden Circle” seats] to bleachers on the stage and then they assemble a boxing ring in the middle of the audience! And since we had left orchestra seats, we were ring-side! We got high-5s from Paulie! We were literally right by Rocky’s corner. IT WAS EPIC.)

So the show itself is literally the plot of the first Rocky movie and it totally works as a musical because Rocky is a really vulnerable and likeable character. Throughout the course of the show, I found myself caring a lot about Rocky and literally rooting for him by time his big fight happens. (I was standing and cheering loudly for Rocky. Like, I was actually on my feet and yelling, “COME ON, ROCKY!” like I was at a real fight. I CARED, OKAY?)

For me, the show worked because of Andy Karl (who plays Rocky). I was familiar with Andy Karl from his role in Legally Blonde: The Musical (he played the UPS guy, Kyle), but now he will forever be Rocky to me. He had the low voice going. The shrug-my-shoulders-cuz-I-know-I’m-a-goof-but-I-got-feelings-too. His cute little sweater he wore in the Thanksgiving scene (SWOON). How he talked to his turtles (“Yo, turtles.” SWOOOON). Not to mention him in his wife-beater and boxing shorts. (Damn, son.) Andy Karl definitely has the acting chops and singing chops to lead that great ensemble and his Tony nomination for Best Actor in a Musical was well deserved. (There was no way in hell he was going to win… let’s be real. But he totally earned that nomination and rightly so.)

After the show, we were able to meet most of the cast at the stage door. We chatted with Margo Seibert (she played Adrian and was really great – I love her voice and she had some really tough ballads that she nailed) and Terence Archie (Apollo Creed). We were also able to talk to Andy Karl and get pictures with him. We told him we were fans since Legally Blonde and he mentioned his stylus line and joked that he was still wearing tight shorts. Everyone was super nice and seemed very appreciative of the good reception they were getting from the audience.

I would love to see this show again and be a part of the Golden Circle. I had the chance to get Golden Circle tickets, but my sister and I would have been separated for the whole show and we wanted to sit together. If I go by myself later on, I’ll take advantage of the special seats.

Rocky turned out to be one of my favorite shows of the season (along with The Bridges of Madison County, Twelfth Night and Hedwig and the Angry Inch). I was just so surprised by the amount of heart and spirit this show had. I seriously thought it was going to be dumb, but I was so, so wrong. Go see Rocky. It’s a lot of fun and a really unique theater-going experience.

(Also, if there ever were going to be an X-Men musical, Andy Karl would make the PERFECT Wolverine. Just sayin’…)

Newsies – playing at the Nederlander

I saw Newsies when I first moved to NYC (when Jeremy Jordan was just finishing up his run as Jack Kelly), so I was glad to see it again with Corey Cott in the lead. My, he gets a bit intense. I still loved the show. Newsies is one of my favorite Disney movies of all time and I love the stage adaptation because it’s a real crowd-pleaser (what with all the dancing, a better female character/love interest who actually serves a purpose to the plot instead of feeling like an afterthought, and how the songs are more powerfully presented). I was grateful to have a balcony seat this time so that I didn’t miss anything (especially during “Once and For All”). Newsies is just super fun and the ensemble is fantastic. So many cute dancing boys. So. Many.

If/Then – playing at the Richard Rogers Theatre

My sister won us lotto tickets for this show, so not only were our tickets $25, but they were FRONT ROW. (For the record, my sister’s name was the first drawn in the lotto, so not all lotto tickets are front row. We just happened to luck out big time.) I was super excited to see this show because I had never seen Idina Menzel perform in person and one of my friends had really hyped up the plot and the music. I walked away feeling blown away by Menzel (holy hell, woman), but completely underwhelmed from the show itself. You know how people have been saying that it’s basically Sliding Doors the Musical? Well, it really is. And though I could relate to the over-arching questions of “What happens if you make this choice over that choice? And how does that affect you in the long run?” I couldn’t really relate to the protagonist because she was nearing 40 (I just turned 30), she was having relationship problems with a boyfriend and best friend (I’m presently very single for reasons), and she was having issues with her career (I don’t have a career right now because I’m still working toward getting my first book published. And dog walking is not a career. Not for me, anyway.) The songs were all right, the ensemble was good, but I just was not super moved by this show. I think my friend hyped it up too much and I walked in with too big of expectations. Menzel deserved a better show than this for her return to the stage. I mean, I’m glad I saw it, but there were a bunch of other shows this season that actually struck a lasting chord with me. I’ll remember this show for seeing Menzel belt out her solos from feet away. I’ll remember stuff like Rocky and Hedwig for how they touched my heart and made me feel the gamut of emotions.

The 68th Annual Tony Awards Dress Rehearsal – Radio City Music Hall

Yes, I was lucky enough to see the Tonys Dress Rehearsal for a second year in a row. (PINCH ME. HOW IS THIS MY LIFE?) This was the reason my sister came to visit me – because I had tickets to watch Hugh Jackman rehearse his hosting duties. And trust me, NO ONE knew what the hell he was getting at when he hopped in. NO ONE. What a waste of an opening. (NPH’s opening last year was epic. EPIC.) And while on a whole this year’s Tonys rehearsal was not as exciting as last year’s, it was still really cool to see. I mean, we got to see performances from all the nominated New Musicals and Revivals. (I was so sad that the Violet performance focused mostly on the church part… that’s, like, not even a majority of the show.) It was cool to see Sting perform, even though I’m not really looking forward to The Last Ship. (We saw Sting perform twice, as they had to run that bit again at the rehearsals. TWICE THE STING, FOLKS.) It was also AMAZING to see Jennifer Hudson. Holy shit. I mean, I was a little disappointed that we weren’t going to see Jeremy Jordan, or any of the actual cast from Finding Neverland, but JENNIFER HUDSON. That woman takes you to Church and back every time she sings. I had goosebumps. It was also cool to see Alan Cumming perform with the Cabaret cast even though that show wasn’t really nominated for anything. But, Alan Cumming as the Emcee is iconic, so that was awesome. It was fun to see what presenters actually showed up to practice their lines. I was most excited to see Audra McDonald, Matt Bomer, Zachary Levi, Patricia Clarkson, Bradley Cooper, Zachary Quinto and Vera Farmiga. I was bummed that neither Clint Eastwood nor Tina Fey were at rehearsals.

As much as I love Hugh Jackman, I hope NPH hosts next year.

The Tony Awards Gala – The Plaza

Let me be perfectly clear: I did NOT attend the Tonys Gala. I worked at the Tonys Gala. (I took tickets at one of the entrances.) A friend got me involved with this gig and I will be forever grateful to her because it was so much fun! And while I will not divulge whom I saw and/or took tickets from, I will say that it was a really lovely time. The people I took tickets from were very nice and it was fun answering questions or helping people with directions when needed. If you’ve ever worked at a retail establishment as a greeter that was basically what I was doing. (I would ask people for their tickets and then told them to have a nice night. The end. Regardless who I was taking tickets from, they got the same greeting and smile as everyone else.) In addition to the people attending the gala being friendly, I also got to work with a nice little group of fellow ticket-takers/direction-givers. It’s amazing how much fun you can having while you’re working so long as you’re working with the right people. During our shift, we got to walk around the gala for a few minutes and grab a soda and some snacks. I felt wholly out of place in my $8 dress from Target, but no one treated me like I was less than. When me and the person I was working with left for the night, someone else working at the gala (who was not a part of the group we were working with) offered to hail us a cab like he had been doing for gala guests. I smiled at his offer, but said “No thank you” and crossed the street to wait for the subway to take me back to reality.

I don’t know if I’ll get to do this again next year, but I sure hope so. I very much love and respect the theater community and it was a real privilege to get to help out on a night that celebrates Broadway because Broadway has meant (and still means) so much to me.

Much Ado About Nothing – playing as part of Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte in Central Park

Shakespeare in the Park is one of my most favorite things about living in New York City. It’s FREE theater performed by wonderful ensembles of actors. I was fortunate enough to score a pair of virtual lottery tickets for the 6/14 show and it was amazing. My favorite theater buddy and I thoroughly enjoyed the three-hour romp of love, betrayal and shenanigans. (If you think about it, the plot is terribly sexist and a majority of the characters are horrible people, but it’s Shakespeare, so we are groomed to think his work is the bee’s knees.)

I haven’t seen or read Much Ado in about a decade, but vaguely remembered the plot and main characters. Having taken a Shakespearean Comedies course in undergrad, I am very familiar with the “rules” of what makes this story a comedy. And while there were dozens of laugh-out-loud moments (holy shit, Hamish Linklater as Benedick repeatedly made me laugh so hard that there were tears in my eyes), there were also other key aspects of Shakespeare’s comedies… like weddings. And mistaken identities.

It was a real privilege to see this cast. I saw Hamish Linklater and Lily Rabe in last year’s performance of The Comedy of Errors and was thrilled to be able to see them on stage again. There were other familiar faces in the cast as well, like John Pankow (Ira from Mad About You), Pedro Pascal (he’s on that Game of Thrones show) and Brian Stokes Mitchell.

Yes, you read that right… BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL.

My heart stopped when he first walked out on stage. I knew he was in the show, but there’s a difference between knowing someone is in a show and actually seeing him/her acting right in front of you. Brian Stokes Mitchell is one of those performers who has forever been on my list of people I need to see perform in person at least once in my life.

And, man, did he not disappoint. It was brilliant to see him on stage, and his character even SANG for a few moments throughout the play. I was dying. DYING. (You don’t get it… I’ve listened to him and Audra sing “Wheels of a Dream” from Ragtime for almost 20 years now and his voice is just so prominent and the epitome of musical theater greatness.) But then… then…

So, we waited around after the show because my friend wanted to meet Pedro Pascal (she watches GOT, but I do not). We did get a chance to chat with him for a few moments and I took a picture of her and him after he signed our programs. We were really hoping to chat with Hamish Linklater, but we saw him quietly duck out with a child in tow, so we didn’t say anything because it is wholly rude and inappropriate to approach an actor when he’s in parent-mode.

The crowd at the stage door dispersed after Pedro Pascal was done taking pictures and whatnot, but my friend and I hung around because we saw Brian Stokes Mitchell behind the gate, meaning that he was still there and hadn’t left yet. I was flummoxed – like, does the younger generation of people not know who Brian Stokes Mitchell is and his importance in the New York theater scene?

One of the ushers asked my friend and I if we were waiting for someone in particular and I said that I saw Mr. Mitchell behind the gate and we were hoping to maybe say Hi. The usher immediately said “Oh! I’ll go tell him! Hold on.” And then the usher disappeared behind the gate and a few minutes later, BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL WALKED TOWARD US.

He was so nice and friendly! He was surprised that my friend and I waited for the chance to speak with him and I nervously rambled that we have been fans for a long time and that it was a real pleasure to see him perform. He talked with us for about five minutes, asking us questions about how we liked the show, where we were from, if we were theater people, etc… He even wrote little messages in our programs and was really just very kind. My heart is still on the verge of explosion because I honestly did not expect to ever get a chance to see Brian Stokes Mitchell in person, let alone talk to him for a few minutes. What a classy dude. And that voice. Dear lord, that voice. All day today I have been whispering “Brian Stokes Mitchell” to myself and laughing because meeting him was a real thing that happened.

But the show – go see the show. The whole cast is really spectacular and the show itself is just so entertaining. Watching Shakespeare being performed is so much more fulfilling than just reading it. It’s so much easier to understand because of the body language being used, and the inflection or peoples’ voices. I am continually amazed by Hamish Linklater’s epic commitment to his role. There’s a reason he was nominated for a Drama Desk award for The Comedy of Errors last year. I would not be surprised if he gets nominated for Much Ado next season. His physical comedy is masterful, but he’s also very skilled at the more vulnerable and heartfelt content.

If you live in NYC, there is no reason for you not to partake in Shakespeare in the Park. Tickets are FREE. If you don’t want to wake up early and stand in line for tickets, then just do the virtual lottery.

So, yeah… that’s what I’ve been up to (theater-wise) the past couple months. I’m seeing tick… tick… BOOM in a couple weeks, but don’t really have solid plans besides that. I do hope to see King Lear at Shakespeare in the Park, and maybe a Broadway show or two. We’ll see!

Have a good one

Okay. So here is my long-overdue theater update from the past few months. I realized I hadn’t posted about any shows I’ve seen since Beautiful: The Carole King Musical… and that was back in December! I’ve seen nine plays and musicals since then, and though some of them have already closed, I thought I would still share my opinions about them (especially since Tony nominations come out soon!!). I’m typing these out in the order I saw them, starting with the earliest (from back in February).

Twelfth Night, Or What You Will – Belasco Theatre – Broadway Play – Closed

I was super bummed that Stephen Fry’s understudy was in (as Fry was in England to host the BAFTAs), but still very much enjoyed this production. I had seen Twelfth Night once before in college and read the play in my Shakespeare’s Comedies class, so I was already very familiar with the story. (For those of you who might not fancy Shakespeare, the crappy film She’s the Man is based off of this play.) While Olivia is not the main character, Mark Rylance’s performance of her was side-splittingly delightful and was the definite highlight of the show. This production was extra special because all of the parts were played by men and the audience got to see all of the performers get ready on stage before the show. There was live music and period garb… it was all very old-timey and wonderful. Seeing Shakespeare’s work performed live is (for me) preferable to reading it because even if you don’t know what all the words and phrases mean, the physicality of the actors and their relationships to each other on stage helps fill in the gaps. This was a very funny show and I expect Rylance to be among the Tony nominees.

The Bridges of Madison County – Schoenfeld Theatre – Broadway Musical – Open Run

I don’t normally cry at things, but this show had me silently weeping twice (end of Act One and the middle of Act Two). I’ve read the book, but have never seen the movie (even though I own it), and have driven past signs for the actual Bridges of Madison County when I used to travel through Iowa on my way to Kansas, so I knew what was going to happen and where the story was set. I knew I needed to see the show because its music and lyrics were done by Jason Robert Brown (of The Last 5 Years fame) and because of its stars (Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale). I was fortunate enough to get a third row seat (bless you, rush tickets), so I was up close and personal to the visually stunning production. The lighting design was beautiful, the ensemble was solid, the leads oozed chemistry and the music was gorgeous. Some of the songs were similar in theme and melody to songs from The Last 5 Years, which is why I completely lost it during “Falling Into You” and “Before and After You/One Second & a Million Miles.” Those two songs were very reminiscent of “The Next Ten Minutes” and tears just started dripping slowly out of the corner of my eyes. I wasn’t the only one in tears, as I could hear people all around me weeping (or sobbing, like the guy in front of me) as the musical pressed on. It’s a happy show because it celebrates love (okay… it celebrates adultery, which is terrible, but you totally want Francesca and Robert to be together), but it’s a sad show because it exposes the realities of just how fragile love and relationships can be. Even a forever kind of love can’t last forever because eventually time pulls people apart. (The time aspect of it all killed me – I have a thing for schedules and planning and whatnot.) This was a beautiful, beautiful show and I highly recommend this. I expected O’Hara to be amazing and she was, but I was wholly impressed with Pasquale. I only knew him from Rescue Me and his couple episodes of Six Feet Under, but the man is a serious musical theater star.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder – Walter Kerr Theatre – Broadway Musical – Open Run

I had absolutely no idea what this show was about before I saw it; all I knew was it was getting great reviews and was supposed to be really funny. Holy hell, this was delightful. It’s about this guy named Monty Navarro who finds out he’s ninth in line to be the head of the D’Ysquith family (a noble family) and decides to off everyone ahead of him. Monty is a fairly harmless guy until he starts murdering everyone, and yet you still are cheering for him because the members of the D’Ysquith family are all ridiculous. And every member of the D’Ysquith family (even the ladies) is played by Jefferson Mays. If Mays is not nominated for a Tony, I will eat my Playbill because the man was all over that musical and played such a wide variety of characters with such ease. (Although it was hard work… I had a front row seat and the amount of sweat that poured off that man was crazy.) The songs weren’t super catchy (though “Better With a Man” is in rotation on my Playlist I listen to every day), but they were enjoyable. This was just a really fun show and the cast was really enjoyable to watch.

Violet – American Airlines Theatre – Broadway Musical – Closes August 10, 2014

When Sutton Foster is in a musical on Broadway, you go and see the musical. I was sad I missed a staged version of this last year at NYCC’s Encores, so I was super happy that it came to Broadway. The plot is that a woman with a badly scarred face (Foster as the title character) takes a bus from North Caroline to some evangelical church in Oklahoma so that the preacher and God can help her face become healed. Set in the 60s, Violet befriends two soldiers (one black, one white) and they convince her to hang with them on the journey. Racial issues are prevalent throughout the show, as is the commercial factor of mega churches. The show is performed without intermission and is paced fairly well. There are some really great songs interspersed throughout the score and I am very much looking forward to the cast album. This was the second time I’ve seen Foster on stage and I think she is the bee’s knees.

Of Mice and Men – Longacre Theatre – Broadway Play – Closes July 27, 2014

I had really high hopes for this show. Most of said hopes were dashed. Unlike everyone and their mom, I had actually never read Of Mice and Men, so all I knew headed into this was there was two guys and one of them was a bit slow in the head. I admit to seeing the show because of James Franco and Chris O’Dowd. I was very, very impressed with O’Dowd. He played Lennie, the slow guy, and easily stood out in every scene he was in because of his body language and all-around stage presence. Franco kinda just shouted most of his lines. While that worked in some scenes, it didn’t work in all of them. (I should point out that I saw the show just a couple days after his Instagram scandal and it obviously colored his performance. He vaguely referred to the incident after the show when the cast was raising money for BCEFA.) The biggest let down of the play, with regards to the cast, was Leighton Meester as Curley’s Wife. She was so one-dimensional and the opposite of charismatic. I was grateful any time she wasn’t on stage and was actually really happy when what happened to her character happened to her character. I know that’s mean, but I’m not going to apologize. She was not the right person for that part. The play itself was terribly paced and definitely dragged in spots. I was glad that I saw this because it was fun to see Franco and O’Dowd on stage, and O’Dowd’s performance was really great. But, on a whole, I was disappointed.

The Most Happy Fella – New York City Center – Encores! Musical – Closed

I’m a Frank Loesser fan but had honestly never heard any songs from this show before in my entire life. I wanted to see this because of the cast – Laura Benanti, Shuler Hensley and Cheyenne Jackson were the three leads and good god, are they talented people. Though the songs weren’t really all that memorable and the plot was cheesetastic and predictable, I still very much enjoyed this production. The whole cast was great and it was fun to see Clay Thomson in the Ensemble. (I follow him on his social media platforms and he always seems to like a bunch of my theater pictures on Instagram. Plus, he wore glasses and suspenders and is adorable as all get-out when he dances.) If you’ve never seen an Encores! Production, I highly recommend it. This was the second show I’ve seen there – it’s a great venue and the productions are wonderfully staged and orchestrated even though they only usually play from 1-7 times. I saw The Cradle Will Rock here last year and will see tick… tick… BOOM there in June. Tickets are usually very reasonable and it’s just a lot of fun to see a show there.

Jasper in Deadland – West End Theater – Prospect Theater Company – Closed

Oh, Matt Doyle. Swoon. So, my favorite theater buddy and I had front row tickets to this really charming musical about a high school boy who forces his way into the underworld to bring back his best friend, Agnes (who is dead). For such a tiny venue, this show packed in a lot of punch and had great visuals to go along with the plot. The whole cast was really strong, led by Matt Doyle and Allison Scagliotti. Since we were in the front row, we had a really great view of everything (like, down the front of Matt Doyle’s pants when his character was splayed out on the stage in front of us… we could only see the V and the band of his underwear so maybe we didn’t see everything, okay?). I really loved the music, especially “Hello, Jasper!,” “Jasper in Deadland,” and “Stroke by Stroke.” I wish there was a cast album because I need more Matt Doyle vocals in my life. (Side note – favorite theater buddy and I are seeing Matt Doyle’s show at 54 Below next month!) I am very grateful I got to see this before it closed. I love seeing shows in tiny venues because it really heightens the theater-going experience.

The Cripple of Inishmaan – Cort Theatre – Broadway Play – Closes July 20, 2014.

Go see this play. Just, go see it. Written by one of my favorite playwrights (Martin McDonagh), The Cripple of Inishmaan is about this crippled boy named Billy who gets picked on by everyone in his little Irish town because of his cripple-ness, and he decides he wants to get out of there (and the way he does that is convinces a friend to take him to a film set that is shooting nearby, because the casting people are looking for people from the area to be in their movie). Billy is played by Daniel Radcliffe whose physicality is so amazing that it is painful to watch him because of how contorted his leg and arm are during the show. (He’s not in every scene, but the scenes he is in definitely prove that Radcliffe has legit acting chops and is wholly capable of a career post-Potter. People who only think he is Harry Potter are sorely mistaken. The man is an actor, and a bloody good one at that. Jesus.) The play is rife with curse words and heavy Irish accents by all. It’s wickedly funny and downright sad/moving at the same time. This is the second McDonagh play I’ve seen on Broadway and I would see anything and everything he’s written because I love his writing so much. He always manages to weave twisted humor into often harrowing stories – he’s a genius. I saw this play the first day of previews and was lucky enough to get my Playbill signed by Radcliffe. (Stage door was a fucking nightmare, just so you know.) See this play. Trust me.

The Realistic Joneses – Lyceum Theatre – Broadway Play – Open Run

Skip this play. In fact, I bet this is going to close sooner than later because it just really wasn’t that great. While it stars four very, very talented actors (Michael C. Hall, Toni Collette, Marisa Tomei and Tracy Letts), the play itself is choppy and lacks flow. There were some very funny lines of dialogue interspersed throughout the show, but even those one-liners could not help the overall quality of the play. I found myself wishing it would end soon after it started even though some of my favorite actors were right there on stage in front of me. The play was about two sets of neighbors and how they shared (or didn’t share) aspects of their lives with each other. Four characters meant scenes with any number of combinations of actors on stage at once. I found myself paying more attention when Hall and Collette were on stage, but only because I favored them to begin with. I am glad I saw the show because I like the cast and have no idea when I’ll ever get a chance to see them on stage again, but I have zero will to ever see this play or read it. I was wholly unimpressed and walked out of that theater hugely disappointed. I don’t understand how such a lackluster production gets an open-ended Broadway run. I didn’t learn anything. I didn’t feel anything. I wasn’t moved. I wasn’t challenged. I laughed at cheap jokes and silly observations. I guess I should just be happy that at least I did laugh at some parts of the play.

So, yeah… that’s what I’ve seen on stage the past few months. I have tickets to see The Cradle Will Rock and Hedwig and the Angry Inch in May, as well as the aforementioned tick… tick… BOOM in June. I’m sure I’ll see some other stuff along the way!

Have a good one 🙂

The weekend before Christmas, my favorite theater buddy and I were trying to decide what Broadway show to go see. She had just seen a couple plays that week, so it was decided we should go see a musical. We opted to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

We chose wisely.

Beautiful chronicles the beginning of Carole King’s songwriting career through her performance at Carnegie Hall after her hugely successful album “Tapestry” won several Grammys. We watched Carole blossom from a beyond talented 16-yr-old to a mid-30s mother of two who somehow managed to write and co-write some of the most popular pop songs in our nation’s history.

Even if you didn’t grow up during the early years of Carole King’s career, you know her songs. Beautiful uses them as a musical timeline to show how King went from “It Might As Well Rain Until September” to “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” to “It’s Too Late” to “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” King wrote a number of songs with her ex-husband, Gerry Goffin, and it was an emotional rollercoaster seeing their romantic and working relationships rise and then tumble down.

During their time at the record label, King and Goffin befriended another songwriting team, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. Though they had a little bit of rivalry to see whose songs stayed at the top of the charts the longest, it was fun to see the pairs supporting each other at work and outside the office.

My parents listened to a lot of Carole King music when I was growing up and I knew she had (co-)written a lot of songs for other artists, but it is nothing short of amazing when you look at the track list for the show. Every song is a toe-tapper. My friend and I had standing room tickets and for the first half of the show, it felt like our own little dance party up in the mezzanine. (For the second act, the ushers seated us in the orchestra… so that was awesome.) I would watch other people in the audience every time the intro to a song played. All the songs are so recognizable and it was fun to see people gasp at the familiar tune and nod their head, as if they were remembering a significant moment in their life where that song played a part. I don’t really remember the first time I heard any of these songs, but the older people in the crowd probably do. It was neat to get to share that with them, even from afar.

The only person in the cast who I had seen on stage before was the man who played Barry Mann – Jarrod Spector. (I saw him in Jersey Boys when it opened in Chicago.) He was awesome, of course. But, the person who really holds the show on her shoulders is Jessie Mueller. Mueller plays Carole King and she plays her to perfection. Her singing voice is not an exact replica of King’s, but it’s pretty damn close and exquisitely captures the tangible emotions of all the songs. King’s music career started off happy and upbeat, (co-)writing love songs and catchy tunes you can never get out of your head. But, as her relationship with her husband grew apart and she branched out on her own, King’s music became more than soulful – it became soul-bearing. Her lyrics punch you in the feels in the best way possible and are still anthems for women everywhere.

There aren’t any huge dance numbers. (Well, Little Eva and the ensemble do do “The Locomotion…”) And some of the performances are simply people singing into a microphone either at a stand or a piano. These songs don’t need huge production value like other musicals. They do help drive the story, but the music and lyrics provide the substance rather than lavish costumes and intricate choreography. It’s not a boring show by any means, but it is one where you need to be ready to appreciate the understatedness of it all. Carole King was not a flashy woman (at least that’s what I gathered from the show…), but her music definitely lit up the charts and that stage.

I really enjoyed this show. Jukebox musicals, when done properly, are a lot of fun. I knew Carole’s music, but now I feel like I know her. And she’s Beautiful.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is currently in previews and opens on January 12, 2014. It’s playing at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on 43rd St in New York, NY.

Last night, I got to see the first preview performance of Broadway’s latest musical comedy – First Date.

 

I knew the gist of the show before going (it was a “real time” first date between Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez’s characters), but had no idea what kind of music or characters I was going to be exposed to.

 

As someone who usually does not seek out a rom-com, I was pleasantly surprised with the musical and I very much enjoyed First Date.

 

The basic plot is such – Aaron (Levi) is an open-book straight-laced, young Jewish businessman who is set up on a blind date with Casey (Rodriguez), who is an edgy, standoffish, young atheist that works in an art gallery. Opposites butt heads like feuding bulls before they start to attract and the audience is well aware of their connection before they are. We watch them take hugely wrong turns in conversation, ask inappropriate questions, put up walls and change perceptions. It’s an eye-opening 90 minutes of blatant stereotypes, high points of both comedy and drama, and self-reflection.

 

There are seven characters in the show (our blind date couple, an older gay waiter, and two heterosexual couples who serve as a host of other characters during inner monologue-based music numbers) and everyone did a great job. Though the stereotypes were laid on thick (revolving around the Jewish faith, Christianity and gay culture), they served a purpose of allowing the audience to immediately jump to certain conclusions about characters’ relationships without having to mess about with deeper passages. The date couldn’t drag, so obvious (albeit sometimes a bit forced) references were necessary to keep the pace.

 

My biggest concern going into the show was the music. Because this is a brand spankin’ new musical, I had no prior knowledge of any of the songs. My fear was that I wasn’t going to be able to hear/understand what they were singing (especially group numbers with overlapping lyrics) or that the songs were going to be boring or cliché. I am pleased to say that my fears were alleviated right away. From my sixth row seat, I could understand everyone just fine (I have a bit of a hearing problem on a whole, so I spent a lot of time watching the actors’ mouths so as to better understand what they were singing) and the songs were actually pretty catchy. This is a soundtrack I would gladly listen to (if only to pretend that I sang as well as Rodriguez… damn, that girl is talented).

 

The biggest surprise for me, though, was Zachary Levi. Having never seen anything he’s been in, I didn’t know how well he was going to come across vocally when put next to Rodriguez (I saw her in The Addams Family… “Pulled” is my go-to shower song, folks). I also didn’t know if he could command the stage.

 

I am entirely okay with admitting when I am wrong – Zachary Levi was great. (And I’m not just saying this because I had a super fun stagedoor experience with him, which I will talk about later…)

 

As Aaron, Levi came across as nervous, spiteful, kind and heartbreakingly honest throughout different moments of the play. At one point he’s singing about/to an ex-girlfriend and he shimmied his way across the stage and onto furniture – dancing until my smiles hurt. At another point, he tells Casey about a letter his mom wrote to him and it showed a very vulnerable side to his character.

 

But, as impressed as I was with Levi, I will forever tip my hat to Rodriguez. Though her character is the standard “chick with issues who uses deflection to keep her heart guarded,” the arc is fulfilling and you want to root for her after she belts out this gorgeous ballad called “Safer.” It takes place during a therapy session and I almost looked around anxiously wondering how on earth the lyricists hacked into my brain and wrote out in song all the insecure feelings I try to keep trapped up there. Dang – way to make me feel incredibly exposed during a musical comedy, First Date.

 

Though there were obvious little issues (some of the blocking was kinda Meh and parts of the plot was almost too cliché), there was even more to like about the show. Great cast, catchy songs, relatable plot… it was a very enjoyable show that was just really fun to watch. This show isn’t meant to make you think about super deep issues like world peace or curing cancer, but it was a great show to smile and laugh heartily surrounding a few spots of reflection and realization. We laugh at their mistakes because we’ve made them too. We nod our heads at their issues because they are our own. And we can’t help but smile when things go really right because it gives us hope that that could be us.

 

First Date is in previews until it officially opens in early August and is playing at the Longacre Theatre on 48th Street (between Broadway and 8th Ave).

 

 

(Okay – so, stagedoor. All the actors came out and seemed genuinely surprised that there were that many people waiting at the barricades. Everyone signed and posed for pictures. When Zachary and Krysta came out, everyone cheered. Zachary announced that Krysta was on vocal rest, so she didn’t really talk to anyone, though she did smile and nod her head a lot. I took pictures of my friend with the various actors and I got a picture with Krysta and then one with Zachary.

 

Zachary Levi was a joy to watch at the stagedoor. He was smiling from the moment he stepped outside and just kept talking to everyone. He signed Playbills and had conversations with people, taking pictures and offering to take the pictures of him and whoever he was interacting with at the moment.

 

Since he was being so chatty, I decided to talk to him when he got over to my friend and me. I told him I knew who he was, but that I had never seen anything he was in, but that I was glad that the first thing I saw him in was his Broadway debut. He said he was glad about that too and then said that the situation was like our first date together… and then he rambled how he was going to come to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving and some other stuff. He was super sweet and extremely friendly. Our picture came out blurry, so a minute later, I tapped him on the arm and told him our first date picture didn’t turn out well and we took a second one. Then my friend and I vacated our prime spot at the front of the barrier to squeal with delight out of eye/earshot. We have since decided that not only is Zachary Levi one of the most adorable people on the face of the planet – his costume during the show was soooooo cute… glasses, folks… he wears glasses – but he’s also one of the nicest and most personable actors we’ve ever encountered. I need to watch Chuck now, obviously.

 

The whole night was super fun and I highly recommend the show and then stagedooring afterward. I don’t know if he will be quite so talkative each time, but it was even just fun watching him smile and bounce around while he was signing stuff. He was just so happy – which is exactly what you should be when working on Broadway.)