I can’t believe it’s fall. I had an incredibly busy summer, with work and life requirements getting much of my attention. I took a mental health break from formal blogging, but in the interim I discovered the rabbit hole that is Tumblr. I don’t quite know what to make of the site, except that I’m incredibly addicted. (You can follow me by clicking here).
Made it to Peter and the Starcatcher just prior to Christian Borle’s departure. The play was charming, if occasionally twee (I saw the big “reveal” coming a mile away). I wanted to make sure I made it to the show before Borle departed for season 2 of Smash, and I am not sorry I did. His Tony-winning performance as Black Stache was truly something spectacular and a triumph of comic madness. I was amazed with the laugh he got late in the second act, one of the longest sustained I’ve experienced in a theatre. It was also nice to be back in the Brooks Atkinson, my first time since the revival of Noises Off.
I also caught The Lyons on its closing performance. I’m not quite sure I love the play, but I was bowled over by Linda Lavin. It became quite apparent why Lavin passed up the Broadway productions of Follies and Other Desert Cities to do the play’s off-Broadway run. Rita Lyons surprised me in ways I didn’t expect. Her eleven o’clock aria-like monologue to her awful children was one of the most astonishing things I have seen (from a character perspective, I was genuinely surprised). Lavin received two back-to-back ovations: one when she told her kids to go fuck themselves, and immediately following on her exits. A euphoric audience shouted “Bravo!” and stamped feet. At the curtain call, Lavin started her curtain speech by saying “I’m going to give my Tony speech now…” met with a huge ovation from the audience and her fellow cast members. Also: The Cort Theatre needs to be refurbished. Those mezzanine seats were downright cramped and uncomfortable and I’m practically a hobbit.
Also caught up with the revival of Evita (loved the production, Roger and Cerveris; Max von Essen was a thrilling Che), the Sydney Theatre Company’s visiting production of Uncle Vanya (wrong venue, but Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh were sublime. The production made me want to throw myself in front of a bus – in a good way). I also spent three Midnights in Central Park with the thrilling (if bewilderingly controversial) revival of Into the Woods, with a new concept that I bought hook, line and sinker. This outdoor production at the Delacorte marked the first time I have ever cared what happened after the Witch left. Speaking of the Witch – Donna Murphy was utterly astounding; her “Last Midnight” was one of the most terrifying and electrifying musical theatre experiences I have ever had. The critical consensus was mixed; I do think they should have allowed four weeks of previews before letting in the press a la Playwrights Horizons.
Made it a point to catch Will Chase during his week-long stint in Nice Work If You Can Get It. The show has been doing remarkably well in spite of its chilly reception from critics. I am in the minority of reviewers who enjoyed the show for what it was and was in an even smaller minority who enjoyed Matthew Broderick’s performance. Revisiting the show with Chase was fun, he sings exceptionally well and has ample charm. I know that they are otherwise attached, but if he and co-star Kelli O’Hara ever mated that would be the ultimate musical theatre super baby. Interestingly enough, he was not nearly as funny as Broderick in the role. Tony winners Michael McGrath and Judy Kaye are even funnier now. The first act drags a bit, but the second act works like a piston – gags and shtick went over like gangbusters. I’m still in love with the glorious orchestrations by Bill Elliott and dance arrangements by David Loud.
I read producer Ruby Preston’s Broadway-related novel ShowBiz, which details the adventures of an aspiring Broadway producer and her whirlwind life working for a feared Broadway impresario (shades of Merrick, including the last name Margolies). The style isn’t spectacular, and the writing is fairly pedestrian but the yarn was amusing for a quick read. Hijinks involve the death of a major critic, the opening of a spectacle with echoes of that whole Spider-Man debacle, romance with a vicious but earnest gossip columnist and other hijinks. Preston is writing under a nom de plume, as her characters are apparently based on people that are major Broadway players. The book won’t win a Pulitzer, but I doubt high literary standing was the intent.
Finally, some thrilling news: one of my favorite actress (and Twitter pal) Holland Taylor is coming to Broadway in Ann, a one woman play that she wrote about late Texas Governor Ann Richards. Richards is an iconic political personality, with her trademark wit, brutal honesty and larger than life demeanor (to say nothing of that “Republican hair”) and ripe for dramatization. I have been following the development of the play rather closely over the last year, and have been anticipating this announcement for some time now. This is Ms. Taylor’s first experience as a playwright, a personal project that has been seen to great acclaim throughout Texas and in recent engagements in Chicago and Washington DC.
The playwright/star invited me to a brief presentation of Ann to NY theatre owners in May, and that just ramped up my excitement. Though we were only treated to about 20 minutes or so of the play, the star’s transformation is astounding. I was sitting in the second row at New World Stages and it felt like the late Governor herself entered and took court. Also: this isn’t hagiography nor is it a collection of familiar colloquialisms and sayings. The dialogue is almost entirely original, the product of years of painstaking research and revision. Opening night is March 7 at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, and I cannot wait.
Now onto the new season…