The end of February is upon us, which means that my trip to London is only a few weeks away. The month of February was a busy one for everyone it seems, but I spent some of my time prepping for my flight and making arrangements to see friends old and new, as well as arrange to see some shows on the West End, including Matilda. It should be an exciting time, to say the least.
The Oscars are out of the way this year, and overall I’d say it was a rather weak year. The Artist failed to charm me as it has so many others (though I think it was crying out to be a 30s Astaire-Rogers type musical than a parody of 20s silents). I liked The Descendants very much (I have yet to be disappointed by Alexander Payne). I admired The Help, but mostly because of Viola Davis’ staggering performance. The Iron Lady was dreadful: the messy script, shoddy direction and lack of point made it a dull, superficial slog. Though Meryl won the Academy Award in a surprise upset, you’d be much better off watching The Hours or The Deer Hunter; or anything else she’s ever done. War Horse made me want to invest in glue, while I was greatly charmed by Midnight in Paris.
That said, I am bored with “awards season” in Hollywood. It’s about as tacky and contrived as the relentless string of Republican debates. They keep stretching it out, and adding more “prominence” to guild awards that are nice but not nearly worth the time spent fretting over them. Time will tell, as it always does, what is really long-lasting. Also, the telecast was just bland. The only bits I enjoyed were the Christopher Guest team’s The Wizard of Oz focus group sketch, as well as Emma Stone’s presentation. Ms. Stone was one of the only people who seemed like a human being on that stage Sunday night. Classiest speech of the night goes to Best Supporting Actor winner Christopher Plummer, whose performance in Beginners is warm, winning and quite deserving of our attention. Special kudos to his leading man, Ewan McGregor, who is constantly overlooked by awards bodies in spite of consistent excellence. Oh, and finally, Drive was excellent.
Carrie is back for another night at the prom. However, I made a full day of it. I visited with my good friend Chris Lavin, who works in the wardrobe department of Mary Poppins for a pre-show dinner/catch-up, then found myself making my to the Lucille Lortel for the first time. I don’t often go south of 42nd Street, so it took Tyler Martins and I a little bit of effort to find where we were supposed to go. There were several Twitter friends at the show this particular night, and we decided to head up to Midtown for a post-show drink.
Getting off the subway at 42nd Street, we deliberated in the cold night air as to where we should go. The usual names were bandied about until Joe Allen came into play. Emily Sigal and I both thought the place to be a perfect place to go given what the majority had just seen. Lo and behold, Tyler got a picture of my playbill with the original window card on the Joe Allen flop wall. So we started heading North on 7th Avenue, but soon Tyler and I realized that the gang wasn’t with us. Turning around we saw them talking to a young man in a business suit. We went back to see what was going on.
As it turned out the young gentleman, who was extraordinarily ebullient and even had braces on his teeth, was lost. He was trying to get to Pulse, but couldn’t seem to find where he needed to go. Well, as a group we decided we’d help him out. None of us seemed to know where he needed to go, but out came the smart phones and in an unexpectedly cheery sense of adventure, we set out to find where he needed to go. After some time we got him to where he wanted to go. He offered to bring us in and by us a round, but there was one among us who was not yet of age, so we regretfully declined. But, our man Flint, three or four sheets to the wind, I might add, insisted on hugging us all. We made our way to Joe Allen where we laughed about this occurrence until the place closed down. Only in New York…
The other night I went to see the revival of Death of a Salesman currently in previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, which was an intense cathartic experience that I think I need to see again before I can justify writing about it. However, two things about this revival that fascinated me: the production uses the original set design of Jo Mielziner and the original music score by Alex North. The former is truly extraordinary, and it’s not as if director Mike Nichols is trying to replicate the original: all other elements of scenography are new. It was as if a new family had moved into the house. As for the North score, it is played live in the theatre by a small band off stage right, with a mournful, bluesy quality that subtly punctuates various scenes throughout. Get tickets and go. And go again.
And finally, it was announced that Stephen Sondheim was collaborating with David Ives on a new musical. That’s a Leap Day Miracle, however, I do take exception to something His Majesty said to a London paper regarding a dearth of plays in NY. He’s either just being cranky or not paying attention, but there have been plays popping up on and off-Broadway quite a bit this year. Just this Broadway season alone we’ve had Chinglish, Stickfly, Venus in Fur, Other Desert Cities, Seminar and can anticipate Clybourne Park, The Lyons, One Man Two Guvnors, Peter and the Starcatcher, and more in the coming weeks. And that’s not even counting the plethora of play revivals.