Audio only. Warning: the kids may get nightmares…
Roxie and I are heading in to take in the final performance of the acclaimed revival of Gypsy. Anyone within a ten block radius of the St. James Theatre should brace themselves for this earth-shattering last Turn.
However, the NYC shenanigans start at a pre-show brunch with Steve and Doug, Sarah and friends (who were at the penultimate performance of Gypsy, forever to be known as the one where Patti tossed out the photographer), Jimmy and Kari (who will also be in the house with us).
The acclaimed, Tony-winning revival of Gypsy appears to be the latest victim of our current economic crisis. It was announced today that the show is going to be closing on January 11, 2009 earlier than originally anticipated March 1 closing date. So if you’ve not had a chance, now is the time to see the three superlative characterizations of Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti and Boyd Gaines as you’ve got less than a month. Will any of the bloggerati who were at the opening night or post-Tony show be out for the last performance?
It’s a little frightening when you consider the shows that will be gone over the next few weeks: Spring Awakening, Hairspray, 13, Boeing Boeing, Grease, Spamalot and Young Frankenstein. That doesn’t include the current limited engagements of Liza at the Palace, Dividing the Estate, All My Sons, The Seagull, Equus, Speed the Plow, and A Man for All Seasons, which ended today. I wish the new shows still to open this season the best of luck, as it becomes more and more apparent that they will be facing an uphill climb to find an audience and establish a long term run. If you were hoping to see any of these shows, go! There are discounts to be had via the Playbill, Theatremania and Broadway Box websites. The shows may be going, but they haven’t gone yet!
Those purchasing tickets for the final performances of Gypsy have been receiving the following notice as per an article on Playbill:
“IMPORTANT NOTICE: This performance of ‘Gypsy’ may be filmed for future purposes. Please be advised that stationary and moving cameras may be placed throughout the theatre as we attempt to capture this historic production on film.”
“In the 29 years since I won my last Tony [for Evita], I’ve worked with a lot of incredible people, and I wanted to thank all of them. I actually don’t even know where the old speeches are. I have to say, if I had lost this award, I would’ve been disappointed, but like with the others, I would have gotten over it. But with this part, because it’s so much better than any other part in a musical, if you lose the Tony, maybe you feel like you just didn’t do a good job or people don’t like you.”
– Patti LuPone to theatremania.com on winning Sunday night
As per my new tradition, I attended a post-Tony performance for the second year in a row. Last year was Grey Gardens, this year it was the revival of Gypsy, you know, the one with the short broad who sings loud? For those of you who know, Patti LuPone, Boyd Gaines and Laura Benanti were all recipients of the Tony award the other evening for their work in this production. A whole gang of us ended up at the show – which included a pre-show dinner at Angus.
The energy in a post-Tony win house is indescribable. A mutual admiration society develops between the kids onstage and the kids in the house. The Gypsy overture began; always a crowd favorite. I noticed Patti LuPone had entered the house with a small stage management entourage and proceeded to get prepared to go on. I had deja vu flashbacks to the final performance of the 2003 revival. On her cue, LuPone vaulted down the aisle of the St. James to the reception of a standing ovation from the crowd. To assuage the fans, she broke and took a very short but deep bow, then got back to work. And here is where I express my disappointment. I had an almost immediate sinking feeling as she began her lines. In the first several scenes, LuPone overshot the runway. Her deliveries were extravagantly broad, and she was playing to the house, not for character. “I hope they didn’t make a huge mistake Sunday night” was the thought that crossed my mind just before “Some People” (which is where the normalcy seemed to return to her performance). Well, it’s not a huge mistake. Either she brought it back down, or I adjusted to her style because from that point onward I was okay with her performance.
Boyd Gaines and Laura Benanti received extensive applause. Gaines is very amiable onstage – the perfect Herbie, unlikely to be better realized by other actors. For the latter, it was so lengthy, the alarm clock sound cue went to the intermission cell phone cue. (I sat just in front of the sound booth during the first act; second row center for the second). The audience was very genuinely moved when Benanti spontaneously burst into tears at the reception. Of course, that also proved to be the moment that Benanti gave the shining star-turn performance of the decade.
If I live to be 115, I will never see “The Strip” so brilliantly executed. Benanti was, if anything, even better than the previous two times I’d seen her in the production. Her moments – discovery of kinship with June in “If Momma Was Married,” the crush on Tulsa – how “All I Need is the Girl” is there for her (great point, Noah), the devastation in the act one finale – both of Tulsa’s marriage to June, and how that sets off her mother. Not to mention the moment she realizes she has an ally and the potential for the normalcy she’s desired in Herbie. Then came the second act, with her refreshingly honest take on the dialogue, mining the moments without overshooting her runway. Many tears onstage and in the house when she looked into that mirror and realized she was pretty. And how. Her “Strip.” The awkwardness and almost disgust at what’s she doing, until she realizes she has the audience in the palm of her hand. It’s a miraculous moment as you see the shades of her confidence grow – and turn into superstardom. It’s all sorts of funny and sexy – her acting is superb. In the dressing room scene, she dominated Patti. The awkward silence that followed was brittle, real and ripe with the tension and embarrassment that follow confrontations of that calilber. How moving though, was the scene following “Rose’s Turn”? I can’t get over it. She is the heart and soul of this revival. Patti, for all her intensity (her ferocious “Turn” received the usual Routledge – an emotional tour de force so expected at this point, it’s almost cliche – relax, I said almost) and pathos, just wasn’t the highlight for me last night. It was Benanti, hands down.
I did enjoy the second act on the whole, more than the first. I made eye contact with both Patti and Laura. I winked at Patti, swooned over Laura. And the story goes on.
However, the show could use a stage manager or Mr. Laurents himself to give some notes. Actors should be allowed to test the waters during a long run, but they should also remember that it is their job first and foremost to tell the story. Leigh Ann Larkin is going over the top with her monotone Louise (particularly in the office scene). The show ran long last night, till eleven, and not just because of the standing ovations. Other stage business is superfluous and detrimental to the experience. And let’s be real about this, kids- Gypsy doesn’t need any help, just the restoration of the original libretto. Rose loses facets of dimension without the Kringelein scene and the necessary “Small World” reprise after Herbie walks out (among other bits that have been altered).
As I was walking away from the St. James towards Times Square, I passed Anderson Cooper the moment Patti came out of the stage and the stage door crowd’s roar echoed through the cavernous city block. His look was priceless and I only wish I’d had a camera for it.
Where does one start when they’ve exhausted all the superlatives in the thesaurus in describing the experience that is August: Osage County? I went to see the Sunday matinee, which also happened to be the final performance for Deanna Dunagan, Rondi Reed, Frances Guinan, Jeff Perry and Ian Barford. That’s got to be surreal. You play your last show and your juggernaut play goes onto definite Tony glory that evening. Then you go home to Chicago. I couldn’t do that; I would have to stay at least a couple of weeks to bask in the post-Tony energy glow, you know? On the otherhand, can you imagine being those actors replacing them at the first post-Tony show? I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes, for certain.
This time around though, I was more taken with Amy Morton’s Barbara than I was with Deanna’s Vi, though I adore both immensely. It’s not that Dunagan’s performance is anything less – she is a fearless performer who’s character provides incredible challenges for any actress, but it’s the discovery that this is, in essence, Barbara’s story. I also noticed that she also leads the company bow – and I think she has slightly more stage time. Tough call really. Both are superlative.
But, oh boy. See this great American play. By all means. See it. I’m sure that Estelle and the new crew will bring their own distinctive yet successful interpretations to the Weston household. The dialogue is so sharp and incisive, the staging crisp and just the fastest and most rewarding three and half hours I’ve spent at the theatre in my life. It’s so refreshing to witness hinging on every word, their genuine shock at the events of the plot. And might I add, not one complaint about the running time. Oh, did I mention I saw Hayley Mills on line? (To which .Roxie responded “Shut up! I love her!”) I hope she enjoyed the show too. You could tell the repeat contingency from certain members of the audience, whose adulation poured out. The dialogue is extraordinarily rich. That second act dinner sequence is one of the most memorable you’ll see in quite a while. The audience reaction for Morton’s act two curtain line received the same stellar ovation it did on opening night – if you’d walked into the theatre blindly as the lights went out, you would have thought there was a musical showstopper going on with the screams of “Bravo!” ringing out. As per my usual, I started the applause – and clapped so hard my hands hurt. In all my years of theatregoing I have never done that before.
I took a friend with me as an early birthday present. We couldn’t even get into the specifics of it, he was that stunned by what he saw. We parted ways on 44th and I headed uptown to Sarah’s Beekman Place on 90th for Lady Iris’ Annual Moon Lady Extravaganza, aka her Tony party.
First of all, there was a red carpet – lit up I might add. With logo art for all the shows around the banisters. Sarah greeted us at the door all dolled up, with her apartment open and ready for all the bloggers and friends who weren’t fortunate enough to be at the awards (ahem, Noah and Steve on Broadway…) and I gotta tell you, I’ve never enjoyed the Tony awards quite like I did this year. I’m still more fond of the Theatre World awards, because the representation of a non-competitive, accepting arts community is more ideal than pitting actors together in a popularity contest. However, the musical performances were extensive (13! really??!?) and most of the awards a thrill to watch. However, was Best Revival of a Play that unnecessary to the telecast that it was lumped in with the “who cares” categories* of the web-cast hour? And speaking of which, I for one, would have enjoyed seeing the witty and endlessly entertaining Julie White present on the telecast proper, as I feel she should have, especially since she was last year’s winner – not Mary Louise Parker, who it seems, is much more comfortable in character than as herself. (Can you be any less boring reading the teleprompter Milfie?)
* – that is this writer’s assumed opinion of the network powers that be at CBS and not of himself. The aficionado loves him some designers. If there was a God, they would start at 7, or revert back to PBS so we can follow along without having to watch a brief recap in the middle of the ceremony. PS – Thank you for finally recognizing sound design, Tony people! It’s about friggin’ time!
Favorite acceptance speeches included Lin-Manuel Miranda’s off the cuff rap (Look I made a hat, where there never was a hat, and a Latin hat at that”), Anna D. Shapiro (with her anecdote about her nieces and nephews just wanting Little Mermaid tickets), Deanna Dunagan’s graciousness towards costar Amy Morton, and it’s true – they should have shared that award. Mark Rylance’s bizarre non-sequitur of a speech turned out to be a prose poem (“The Back Country” by Louis Jenkins . Unique. And highly amusing – especially the reaction shots from audience members (the most notable being his co-star Mary McCormack). Then there was Laura Benanti “Hi Arthur! You’re standing!” and of course, there was “Patti’s Turn,” my official moniker for her speech in which she seemed to thank everyone involved with her career since she last won “SHUT UP, it’s been 29 years!!” Boy, I would hate to be that conductor. However, was that also the conductor who brought Elaine Stritch’s acceptance speech to an incredibly embarrassing halt six years ago…? Anyone remember that debacle?
Laura Linney looked gorgeous, though the ladies in attendance at the parties cried afoul at her choice of earrings. We all wondered why Faith Prince showed up in costume as Delta Burke – and why she sang like Delta Burke during A Catered Affair’s performance. We gave Patti a standing ovation for “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” – which is how every Tony performance should run. Fuck, they let Hepburn have 15 minutes for her big musical (Coco), now we’re relegated to three minutes of awesome. And ten minutes of commercials on a loop. We also went completely off the wall with her when she won, her win becoming our Tony toast for the evening – there are pictures on Sarah’s blog, of us capturing the pre-win look and the moment she yelled “Shut up!” with our camera phones. Yes, kids, we be a bunch of theatre geeks. I even offered to hand in the hetero card to Roxie. Turns out it was my metrocard, so I kept both. There was great fun to be had with this crowd, I doubt I would have enjoyed it anymore with anyone else. I also had my first – and last – cosmopolitan. I’ll stick to my White Russians, thank you.
The run down – from the ones with the most to the ones with the least:
South Pacific: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Paulo Szot), Best Direction of a Musical (Bartlett Sher), Best Costume Design (Catherine Zuber), Best Scenic Design (Michael Yeargan), Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Donald Holder), Best Sound Design of a Musical (Scott Lehrer)
August: Osage County: Best Play, Best Actress in a Play (Deanna Dunagan), Best Featured Actress in a Play (Rondi Reed), Best Direction of a Play (Anna D. Shapiro), Best Scenic Design of a Play (Todd Rosenthal)
In the Heights: Best Musical, Best Score (Lin-Manuel Miranda), Best Choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler), Best Orchestrations (Alex Lacamoire & Bill Sherman)
Gypsy: Best Actress in a Musical (Patti LuPone), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Boyd Gaines), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Laura Benanti)
Boeing-Boeing: Best Revival of a Play, Best Actor in a Play (Mark Rylance)
The 39 Steps: Best Lighting Design of a Play (Kevin Adams), Best Sound Design of a Play (Mic Pool)
Passing Strange: Best Book (Stew)
The Seafarer: Best Featured Actor in a Play (Jim Norton)
Les Liaisons Dangereuses: Best Costume Design of a Play (Katrina Lindsay)
A posthumous honorary Tony award was presented to the most iconic of musical theatre orchestrators, Robert Russell Bennett, who has been dead since 1981. (For the outraged, Tunick fans, he comes in at a tie for second with Don Walker). So I could understand his inability to attend. However, what was Sondheim’s excuse?
Our evening ended with Patricia Routledge as Kitty, especially since Roxie and I have decided that she officially won Best Musical – not Best Musical Revival. From whence cometh my title for this post, as it had us leaving Sarah’s apartment on a continuing, champagne-induced high. On the train ride home, I saw my next door neighbor and said hello. I asked if she did anything fun while in NY. Her response: “I was at the Tony awards.” Well, you can guess the topic of conversation for the next hour on the train.
And there you have it kids. ‘Til next year.
(this second one is temporary till a better clip can be found)
she almost swallowed the orchestra whole…