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All Purpose Theater Thread

ScarletKnight41
Jun 25 2005 10:23 PM

I took my daughter to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway today (I call it her Confirmation present, she calls it her Confirmation bribe....). I had seen it back in the 80s with Michael Crawford, so I was already familiar with the show, and I just didn't love it. My daughter (La Diva), OTOH, was mesmerized, and she adores the show.

What am I not getting? I found it schmaltzy and stupid. None of the characters appealed to me. Why do some people really love this show?

Johnny Dickshot
Jun 25 2005 10:41 PM

Got Spamalot tixx for my bday. Will report back in October.

ScarletKnight41
Jun 25 2005 10:46 PM

We have tix to take the kids in November. We figure we're going to be watching The Holy Grail a lot this summer.

The theater where Spamalot is playing is just one avenue over from Virgil's, FYI.

Willets Point
Jun 27 2005 09:16 AM

My sweetie has secret plans for my birthday in November which I have strong reason to believe involve seeing Spamalot. Maybe I'll be there at the same time as Scarlet and family.

seawolf17
Jun 27 2005 09:18 AM

Mmmm... Virgil's.

I don't get the Phantom love either. Every song from the show sounds like a bad Meat Loaf song.

rpackrat
Jun 28 2005 03:11 PM

Andrew Lloyd Webber singlehandedly almost managed to destroy American theatre in the 1980s and 1990s. From the time Cats opened until just a few years ago (maybe with the revival of Chicago), the only things that lasted on Broadway were these huge musicals that were first and foremost about the spectacle. I hate Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Willets Point
Nov 10 2005 02:41 PM

Going to see Spamalot next weekend. Anyone have any reviews or shall I just be surprised?

Johnny Dickshot
Nov 10 2005 05:09 PM

Uh, yeah, let's talk about this after you go see it.

ScarletKnight41
Nov 10 2005 11:54 PM

We just saw Spamalot tonight. Honestly, we weren't that impressed. It was no Holy Grail. There were no stand alone songs, and it just wasn't all that funny as compared to the Python movies.

Sorry.

While I'm in this thread - Vic - What do you know about The Woman in White? My resident Diva is interested in seeing it.

ScarletKnight41
Nov 22 2005 11:39 AM

Willets - what did you think of Spamalot?

Valadius
Nov 22 2005 11:42 AM

Spamalot was the best show I've ever seen on Broadway, hands down.

ScarletKnight41
Nov 22 2005 11:44 AM

You haven't seen a lot of Broadway shows, have you Val?

Valadius
Nov 22 2005 11:49 AM

I knew someone would ask me that.

Actually, I have. My mom regularly takes the family to see Broadway shows. She and my brother are obsessed, I'm not. Here are the shows I've seen on Broadway I can think of off the top of my head:

The Sound of Music
Peter Pan
Wicked
1776
Man of La Mancha
Spamalot
The Lion King
Hairspray
Les Miserables

ScarletKnight41
Nov 22 2005 11:50 AM

You need to see Avenue Q. Without your mom.

Valadius
Nov 22 2005 11:52 AM

My brother went, with my mom. He loved it, and then tried to force me to listen to his CD.

Willets Point
Nov 22 2005 02:29 PM

Spamalot

The good:
* They created new material and did not stick to the movie script and plot adding new characters and plot twists in addition to musical numbers. Specifically,
* The Lady of the Lake, a great job of drawing on Arthurian legend to add a female lead character and Sara Ramirez steals the show every time she's on stage.
* They did not try to be Monty Python a task that would have been impossible to pull off and would have looked dumb.
* Some good puns and visual humor.
* Where they find the grail (I won't spoil it for those of you haven't seen it).
* King Arthur's "I'm All Alone" song
* Some spot-on parody of Broadway musicals.

The bad:
* Several scenes are drawn word-for-word from the movie and the cast just didn't seem to be really all that into acting them out, almost eager to get through it to get to the original bits. Of course they're still funny, but more in the way of reciting the dialogue with your friends than actually watching them performed. The rest of the audience was laughing their heads off though, so maybe I've just watched the movie too many times.
* They left out Castle Anthrax, my favorite part of the movie.
* "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," just doesn't fit in. It's funny when a bunch of people are being crucified, much less so when they're just trying to cheer up a sad king.
* Much of the humor is short shelf-life and wouldn't be funny a second time around.
* Excessive parody of Broadway musicals eventually circling back to just being the obnoxious excess of Broadway musicals.

The Ugly:
* They rely too much on cheap-shots for humor - especially ethnic humor. They've got entire musical numbers that are deragatory about Finns, French, Jews and gays. The Jewish song was particulalry uncomfortable to sit through - although it had some funny bits. Maybe I just suffer from too much liberal guilt. Anyhow, Monty Python was great because they didn't rely on ethnic humor to be funny (most of the time) so it's a shame to see so much egrariously shoved in to the musical.

Overall it was entertaining - not great, not bad and not worth seeing a second time - but fun to see once.

ScarletKnight41
Nov 22 2005 02:46 PM

Eh, I didn't find the Jewish song offensive. I thought it was an overly-drawn out homage to one line from The Producers ("We knew we couldn't lose...Half the audience were Jews."). It was stupid after the first minute, but not offensive IMO.

My daughter, La Diva, thought that Spamalot broke the 4th wall too much, and she didn't like Broadway shows poking fun at Broadway shows. Mind you, she's the one who pushed for us to see this show, so she was predisposed to love it (and when she's predisposed to love something, she usually loves it. Norrin is one of her favorite people she doesn't recall meeting because he was able to hook us up with Wicked tix last year).

And I agree that the cast (especially Tim Curry, whom I loved in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, although he was lackluster in My Favorite Year) just phoned it in much of the time.

I expected better. It should have been better.

Johnny Dickshot
Nov 22 2005 02:47 PM

I thought the whole thing was just ... stupid.

There's nothing unfunnier then people laughing that get-ready-to-laugh laugh. This show was loaded with it, and what wasn't stripped directly from the movie script wasn't all that funny either.

I guess I don't know what I expected.

Willets Point
Nov 22 2005 03:26 PM
Edited 1 time(s), most recently on Nov 22 2005 03:48 PM

Johnny Dickshot wrote:

There's nothing unfunnier then people laughing that get-ready-to-laugh laugh. .


I'm not sure how that refers to the performance, but I think I know what you're talking about in regards to the audience. Something I've noticed about Broadway audiences in all the shows I've seen is the really low standards so that something that's mildly funny is greeted with gales of laughter and something mildly entertaining is treated as the most amazing performance ever. This has the opposite effect on me as I end up not laughing or applauding at all and wonder what the hell is wrong with all these other people.

sharpie
Nov 22 2005 03:46 PM

]Something I've noticed about Broadway audiences in all the shows I've seen is the low standards so something that's mildly funny is greeted with gales of laughter and something mildly entertaining is treated as the most amazing performance ever.


That also goes for the standing ovations for competent professional performances.

Vic Sage
Nov 22 2005 04:09 PM

]My daughter, La Diva, thought that Spamalot broke the 4th wall too much, and she didn't like Broadway shows poking fun at Broadway shows


La Diva is clearly a bright, articulate sensitive young woman. Her mother should be proud.

While there is certainly a place for the "post-modern" reflexive Broadway musical... its just not a place i want to visit.

The classic Broadway Musical, or "Book Musical' as it is often called, was invented by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern in SHOWBOAT, then forgotten for a while till Hammerstein brought it back with a vengeance in OKLAHOMA!, and its a form that has survived till this day for one reason... it TOUCHES people. Even the comedies were intended to touch people.

Musicals were born out of a need to express serious emotions in a way merely talking was insufficient to do. But the ironic, post-modern musical isn't about feeling at all... its about mockery, which is an intellectual conceit, not an emotional one. Ultimately, such shows, though entertaining in the moment for many people (not for me), do not "stick to the bones", and are forgotten without leaving much of a mark. And at a $100+ bucks a ticket, i better leave the theater with something more than a smirk.

ScarletKnight41
Nov 22 2005 04:18 PM

Coincidentally, La Diva will be auditioning next week for her high school's spring production of Oklahoma!

And yes, I am very proud of her :)

seawolf17
Nov 22 2005 04:55 PM

I was always a fan of Forgetful Jones' audition for Oklahoma!

Johnny Dickshot
Nov 22 2005 05:24 PM

Yeah, WP, I was referring to sitting in an audience surrounded by people like me who watched the movie a million times and knew all the lines and still anticipated something new from them: The mud farm argument, Black Night scene, Knights Who Until Recently Said Ni, the guards at the castle, etc etc etc. It literally pained me to see the performance pandering to such low expectations of the crowd.

Frayed Knot
Nov 23 2005 10:11 AM

The "anticipate the joke" discussion and the audience expectations of it reminds me of concert-going fans who applaud wildly as soon as they recognize the song, as in; 'yeah, he's playing the hit single'.
They're not applauding a song done well - at this point it hasn't been done at all - so much as they're merely applauding the fact that it's being.
It's stupid, and it reminds me of those who come back gushing about how all the songs performed "sounded just like they do on the radio". Oh really ... then what was the point in going to the concert?

Edgy DC
Nov 23 2005 10:29 AM

Well, they could argue defensively that they're clapping in apprecation for the years of joy the song is giving them and in apprecation that the act included it in the playlist that evening. But I hear you.

I went to see Ringo's All-Star band one year --- not the best lineup. The opener was a solo act who was really just a professional songwriter who had little fame at all as a performer. He nonetheless had friends in high places among an older LA set in which Ringo has been running for most of the last 30 years. His biggest claim to fame was co-writing several of Glen Freakin' Frey's biggest hits.

Somewhere in the set he played a hit from the late seventies he wrote for Johnny Rivers --- "Slow Dancin'." But the first refrain doesn't come until halfway through the song, and nobody recognized it until the refrain came. When it did, everybody was suddenly flooded with long-dormant Johnny Freakin' Rivers-fueled memories, and cheered enthusiastically. If I was the guy, I'd be wondering if they'd been paying attention at all to that point.

I love the extended introduction to "Sweet Jane" on Lou Reed's Rock 'n' Roll Animal record. There seems to be about three or four points where various audience factions recognize which song they're listening to and cheer appreciatively for the honor.

sharpie
Nov 23 2005 10:41 AM

One of those audience cheers on "Sweet Jane" though is for Lou finally coming on stage not the audience recognizing the song.

TheOldMole
Nov 23 2005 12:23 PM

My granddaughter just stole the show as Helena in a 6th grade production of "Midsummer Night's Dream."

Vic Sage
Nov 28 2005 11:43 AM

I just saw the revival of SWEENEY TODD and, though i had trepidation about the nature of this production, it turned out to be one of the most compelling, mesmerizing and thrilling evenings i've ever spent in a theater. EVER.

3 thumbs up.

go now.

ScarletKnight41
Nov 28 2005 11:48 AM

We are actually in the process of trying to get tickets to take La Diva to see it in January. She's been begging us to take her to see it.

I'll let her know you loved it. She doesn't remember meeting you, but she loves you from afar ;)

sharpie
Nov 28 2005 12:36 PM

I'll be getting tickets one a these days. Saw the original production and it is one of my most favorite theater memories.

Vic Sage
Nov 28 2005 01:45 PM

Sharpie, this production is a very different interpretation than the original production, so don't go in with expectations of seeing a recreation of a show you once loved.

If you go in with an open mind, prepared to reconsider the material in light of what this director is trying to accomplish, you'll find it a new and rewarding experience.

ScarletKnight41
Nov 28 2005 01:53 PM

May I ask - what is the director trying to accomplish?

sharpie
Nov 28 2005 02:00 PM

From what I've read, I love what the director is doing. The more Marat/Sade the better I always say.

Vic Sage
Nov 28 2005 02:01 PM

]May I ask - what is the director trying to accomplish?


you may ask, but i will not say.
go see, then we'll talk.

sharpie
Dec 20 2005 10:14 AM

Got Sweeney Todd tix for February 3. Can't wait.

ScarletKnight41
Dec 20 2005 10:48 AM

Saturday was a big theater day. My daughter and her friend saw The Woman in White (it was one of their Chanukah presents), which they loved (although they assured me that I'd hate it. It all boils down to whether one likes Andrew Lloyd Weber or not). Meanwhile, I scored tickets for Wendy Wasserstein's Third at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. I really enjoyed the play, and the cast (Diane Wiest, Charles Durning, Jason Ritter, etc.) was fabulous.

We're working on scoring Sweeney tix for our daugher for January, to complete her Chanukah theater experience.

Willets Point
Dec 20 2005 11:52 AM

The summer after I graduated high school I started my own lawn mowing company. I had only one customer, but it was Diane Wiest. She tipped well. I had no idea she was a celebrity until about 3 months AFTER the last time I cut her lawn.

Vic Sage
Dec 20 2005 12:40 PM

]My daughter and her friend saw The Woman in White (it was one of their Chanukah presents), which they loved (although they assured me that I'd hate it. It all boils down to whether one likes Andrew Lloyd Weber or not).


WOMAN IN WHITE was one of the more painful theater-going experiences i've had in recent years... [digression: well, IN MY LIFE was worse, but that isn't even classifiable as a theater-going experience... it was more of an out-of-body experience. And at least seeing it will have historical significance. Like the audiences of CARRIE and MOOSE MURDERS, i'll be able to say "i was there!"]

Now sometimes i like Webber's work and sometimes i don't. I'm a big fan of "JC, Superstar" and "Joseph", and even liked "Phantom". "Evita" was more about clever staging than the material, but it was OK, too. The rest of his output is crap. So, when i say that WIW is just atrocious in every way, therefore, i don't think one's degree of appreciation of WIW is tied to any particular level of affection for Webber's work.

It's just crap. unmitigated, unending, non-sensical crap.

ScarletKnight41
Dec 20 2005 01:02 PM

Don't hold back Vic - tell us how you really feel!

;)

Diamond Dad
Dec 20 2005 01:55 PM
Bad Broadway

Well, now we can really digress. Mention of Carrie (the Musical), which I saw (yes, dreadful) and Moose Murders! Wow - takes me back. I recall Dennis Cunningham's review of Moose Murders, where he showed a brief clip of an actor singing and then delivered the classic reviewer's line: "This song is one of the ten worst ever performed on a Broadway stage. Unfortunately, 7 of the other 9 are also in this show."

Worst I ever saw? No contest . . . Legs Diamond, starring the late Peter Allen, who wrote the music and lyrics. (Harvey Feirstein co-wrote the book) It was the only show I ever seriously considered walking out of at intermission. We saw it as a synagogue fund-raiser. It was supposed to have opened on the date we had tickets (we paid a PREMIUM price for these tickets), but the official opening was delayed several months, so we saw it technically in "previews." (No doubt they didn't want the critics to get a shot at it too early, since they had sold many millions of dollars worth of tickets based on Peter Allen's name attached to it.)

The book was idiotic. The characters were stupid. The music was intolerable. The jokes were worse than the music. (Later, on the way home, we looked at the Playbill and tried to figure out why several of the characters mentioned in the list of scenes and songs hadn't actually been in the show we saw -- it seemed that they were still re-writing the show; cutting out whole songs and scenes (and characters) and adding new ones -- and this was AFTER the date that the show was supposed to open!)

By intermission, the audience had turned on Peter Allen and was laughing AT him, rather than with him. In the climactic scene before intermission, Leg's Diamond is (apparently) killed, and the audience cheered! (Act 2 opened with Legs emerging from a giant coffin during his funeral, and reciting the immortal line "I'm an actor, only the critics can kill me!")

It was, I know it's hard to imagine, actually worse than "Carrie, the musical"


DD

ScarletKnight41
Dec 20 2005 02:56 PM

Carrie, the Musical was watchable. Legs Diamond wasn't.

Betty Buckley and Darlene Love appeared in Carrie - it was a bad show, but it had its decent moments.

After the opening of Legs Diamond, Allen amended that Act 2 line to be, "Not even the critics can kill me!"

But that was only because of the huge advance sale. Once that dried up, the thing mercifully closed.

Dreadful. Simply dreadful.

ScarletKnight41
Dec 22 2005 10:48 AM

My daughter and I are seeing Sweeney in January :)

Vic Sage
Jan 11 2006 12:35 PM

Albee's SEASCAPE was terrific. Funny and illuminating.

It was like he wrote a comic version of DELICATE BALANCE, substituting a pair of lizards for the couple next door.

It closed 1/8, which was a shame. I don't know why it didn't find an audience but DOUBT did. Its a total crapshoot on Broadway.

I also saw FIDDLER with Harvey Feirstein and Rosie O'Donnell.

Blech.

He was an undecipherable cartoon character, and she was just a cipher. And neither of them could sing. They're both out of the show now, so its probably watchable again.

ScarletKnight41
Jan 11 2006 12:37 PM

I'm taking La Diva to see Sweeney Todd on Saturday.

ScarletKnight41
Jan 14 2006 06:59 PM

Today was Sweeney Todd day.

We made it into the City, avoiding the worst of the rain. After claiming our tickets at the box office and grabbing lunch at Virgil's, we saw the show. The minimalist set and staging were a bit jarring, but they worked. Patti LuPone was fabulous, as always, and Michael Cerveris was excellent in the title role. It was great theater. La Diva, who was already familiar with the musical, absolutely loved it.

Impulse2
Jan 14 2006 11:13 PM

well i meant to try and keep my identity a secret for a bit but...
I'm the famous La Diva who I see is mentioned rather frequently. I got back from Sweeney this afternoon, and I am finally coherant enough about it to talk. For a good three and a half hours, I was emotionally exhausted and just pumped full of adrenaline after that final scene.

First, I've loved the Sweeney book and music since I first heard it. It's fabulously written, it's funny, it's dramatic, it's very tragic. So I knew I was going to love this. It was a little jarring at first to have the entire pit onstage, and the minimalistic set, but as the story progressed and I got really into it, I barely even noticed anymore. It worked well, just took some getting used to.

The one thing I didn't like about the show were the couple scenes with Antony and the Beggar Woman, where they were talking to each other but both staring into the audience rather than interacting. I just didn't like the choice, i'd rather see the actors right next to each other, actually talking.

That said. Every single performance was incredible. Beadle's completely dead-pan reading of all his lines was hysterical. The Judge was evil, but with the human quality that really should be in there. Antony was idealistic and naive, it's something of a hard part to get wrong. Tobias was adorable, as he well should be. The way he latched on to Mrs. Lovett's affection. Lovett, of course, was awesome. She played the part very well, and it's just a fun role. Johanna had an element of hysteria that I always look for in the part, I was happy with that (having sung Green Finch myself; I always try to put that in there).

And Todd? Holy. Crap. Especially in the final sequence, he had me completely enchanted. Every emotion he went through, the joy of finally getting the Judge, the despair, the anger, all of it, I felt vicariously. It was an absolutely unbelievable experience.

TheOldMole
Jan 17 2006 12:54 AM

I took my daughter many years ago to see the musical version of "Twentieth Century," because it starred Madeline Kahn, whom my daughter had a crush on at the time, and who was not in the cast that night, as it happened. The musical was a dog from beginning to end, except for the scenes that featured a rubber-bodied male ingenue who stole every scene he was in, and we left the theater thinking that at least we might be seeing the start of a brilliant career.

We were...Kevin Kline.

Edgy DC
Jan 17 2006 09:33 PM

Valerie.

sharpie
Feb 07 2006 09:27 AM

Saw Sweeney Todd on Saturday.

I'd seen the original lo these many years ago and found this one to be equally compelling. I loved the presentational Marat/Sade style. Glad to see they cut down the most tedious song in the show ("Pirelli's Miracle Elixir" omitted the toothpulling part). The wife and son loved it (he spent $30 of his own money for the souvenir t-shirt). My daughter liked it less, saying that if she goes to a Broadway show she wants to be bowled over by spectacle. Oh, well. She's wrong.

Giant Squidlike Creature
Mar 09 2006 02:58 PM

Go see some plays people.

Giant Squidlike Creature
Apr 13 2006 03:48 PM

The Points are going to see a couple of shows later this month so this is getting bumped a second time.

sharpie
Apr 13 2006 04:04 PM

Mr and Mrs sharpie are seeing "Threepenny Opera" in a coupla weeks.

ScarletKnight41
Apr 14 2006 12:11 AM

D-Dad and I saw Gunmetal Blues at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick tonight. Despite the fact that it stars Alison Fraser, it's mediocre at best. It's homage to the film noir, but it's really more of a showcase than a coherent musical, and it's a pretty stupid one at that.

Don't go out of your way for this one.

Willets Point
Apr 23 2006 10:39 PM

Friday night saw Code Duello at the Tribe Theater in Boston's Chinatown (which obviously is next to Jacob Wirth's, the only German bar in Boston, so we got good and soused before hand). This was an improv comedy play about the Hamilton/Burr duel of 1804. For improv it was very polished with set pieces and soliloquies. It was hard to believe the actors weren't working from a script although another audience member assured us it is different every week. It was very funny though. A more standard improv set followed. A pretty good night out for my ten bucks.

Edgy DC
Apr 23 2006 11:16 PM

]No doubt they didn't want the critics to get a shot at it too early, since they had sold many millions of dollars worth of tickets based on Peter Allen's name attached to it.


This one still isn't computing.

ScarletKnight41
Apr 24 2006 07:35 AM

Legs Diamond had a ridiculously huge advance sale.

Vic Sage
Apr 24 2006 01:58 PM

As a Tony voter, I'm required to see everything by the end of May, so this is what I've seen this season, with my rating (up to 4 *):

closed shows:
A Naked Girl on the Appian Way (P) - silly Greenberg comedy 2**
Absurd Person Singular (P) - awful Ayckborn farce 1*
In My Life (M) - epic disaster - 0*
Lennon (M) - not as bad as reported, but not good 2**
Seascape (P) - Incredible Albee revival 4****
Souvenir (P) - touching comedy 3***
Chita Rivera (M) - awful autobio musical 1*
The Woman In White (M) - nauseating Webber 2**
Rabbit Hole (P) - powerful drama 3***

these shows are still running:
Barefoot in the Park (P) - middling Simon revival- 2**
Bridge & Tunnel (Sp) - terrific tour de force solo piece- 4****
Jersey Boys (M) - Terrific 4 Seasons book musical 4****
Ring of Fire (M) - solid J.Cash bookless musical 3***
Sweeney Todd (M) - Best show of the year 4****
The Color Purple (M) - solid book musical 3***
The Odd Couple (P) - not very good revival 2**
The Pajama Game (M) - fine museum piece 3***

And this is my upcoming theater schedule:
Wed 4/26 (2pm mat) - AWAKE & SING
Sat 4/29 (8pm) - WEDDING SINGER
Tues 5/2 (7pm) LT. OF INISHMORE
Wed 5/3 (2pm mat) FAITH HEALER
Sat 5/6 (8pm) - DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS *
Sun 5/7 (3pm mat) - TARZAN
Wed 5/10 (2pm mat) - CAINE MUTINY
Thurs 5/11 (8pm) LESTAT
Sat 5/13 (8pm) - THREEPENNY OPERA
Wed 5/17 (2pm mat) - DROWSY CHAPERONE
Thurs 5/18 (8pm) - 3 DAYS OF RAIN
Wed 5/24 (2pm mat) - SHINING CITY
Thurs 5/25 (8pm) - HISTORY BOYS
Wed 5/31 (2pm mat) - HOT FEET

at which point, my kids will have forgotten what i look like.

* [Jonathan Pryce from "Scoundrels" is up for a new award - best recreation of a role (for 2nd casts)]

These are the closed shows I missed:
A Touch of the Poet (P)
After the Night & the Music (P)
Latinologues (P)
Primo (P)
The Blonde in the Thunderbird (Sp)
The Constant Wife (P)

These are the current shows i won't see in time:
Well (P)
Festen (P)

sharpie
Apr 25 2006 11:27 AM

My theater schedule:
5/6 Threepenny Opera
6/2 The History Boys

I'm just happy that I have a theater schedule. Been years since I've had tix for 2 shows already lined up.

Willets Point
Apr 25 2006 11:34 AM

I'm going to see The Sweetest Swing in Baseball on Thursday. Has this been staged in New York yet? I know it played in London's West End a couple of years' back (like anyone there knows who Darryl Strawberry is).

Vic Sage
Apr 27 2006 11:30 AM

No, Gilman's play hasn't come to NY. I think, at some point, she was working on a play about the bb strike of `94(?), but maybe it morphed into this.

Saw Clifford Odets' AWAKE & SING yesterday, and its mostly excellent. Its a product of the 30s wave of social activist plays, books and films and so its heavy-handed and didactic, but it's still powerful and effective. And Odets' dialogue still crackles with unforgettable energy, wit and imagery.

The performances are somewhat scattershot. Zoe Wanamaker as the ruthless matriarch and Ben Gazzara as her communist father are both terrific. Jonathan Hadary as the ineffectual father and Mark Ruffalo are also quite good. But the daughter (played by Claire from SIX FEET UNDER) is NOT good at all, being too actor-ish and having none of the sexual chemistry with Ruffalo on which the plot depends. And the son (ostensibly the hero of the story, brought from selfishness to revolutionary by the final curtain) is a 1-note, irritating performance.

And there are some strange and distracting directorial flourishes. the play is in a classic 3-act format (2 intermissions), and during the middle of the 2nd act, a piece of the scenery starts to lift, revealing the goings on behind the "apartment". At first, i thought they were having a problem with the set, and i kept wondering how they were going to fix it. After a while, however, i noticed that we were supposed to see stuff happening outside the "apartment", and so this was on purpose. Later on, other parts of the apartment walls started disappearing as well. This metaphor for the world of these characters breaking down, or being stripped away, or whatever the idea is, seems better in conception than execution. Perhaps if the set was changed between acts, and each act simply started with less set, the idea would've been communicated with less distraction.

Also, the final bows caused me consternation. This play is a product of The Group Theater of the 30s, about the rise of the workers above bourgious family ties to bond together and someday create a better world. It is an ensemble performance about the importance of the group. So, when the actors come out and each take their own "star bow", rather than the ensemble bow that the material requires, i found it an irritating reminder that this director didn't understand the work at all.

sharpie
Apr 27 2006 12:14 PM

Keep the reviews coming, Vic. My sister is coming to town at the end of May and we were debating what to see. This was a contender but The History Boys won out.

Willets Point
Apr 27 2006 12:15 PM

It should be noted that - stage acting ability aside - Lauren Ambrose is h-h-h-h-h-h-h-ot!

Vic Sage
Apr 27 2006 03:21 PM

excellent point.

Willets Point
Apr 27 2006 03:25 PM

I knew you shared my affinity for redhaired women so I was surprised you didn't mention it.

Vic Sage
Apr 27 2006 03:42 PM

bad acting makes a person ugly.

but as soon as I remembered how good she was in SIX FEET UNDER, she suddenly became hot again.

Willets Point
Apr 28 2006 01:29 PM

Saw The Sweetest Swing in Baseball last night. The basic premise is that an artist named Dana Fielding has a gallery show that bombs, attempts suicide, and ends up in a mental health institution. She doesn't want to go home again but her insurance won't pay unless she can be diagnosed with a more serious problem. So she pretends to have a multiple personality disorder, randomly pretending to be Darryl Strawberry even though she knows little about baseball. There's a lot of humor that arises from her idea of how a cocky baseball player should act, which even one of the other characters suggests is nothing like Darryl Strawberry who is usually more soft spoken. Eventually by being Darryl, Dana is able to regain a sense of fun in her art and confidence and return to success but it comes at a cost as her arrogance alienates others. It was a fun and interesting play and the lead actress was good at conveying the varieties of emotions of her character.

Vic Sage
May 01 2006 02:15 PM

I saw THE WEDDING SINGER this weekend, and i enjoyed it a great deal. It is a musical homage to 1980s pop culture... the music, the styles, the movies, the humor, the ennui.

Act I is especially good, sweeping you up in the fun. The performances are top notch, the design witty, the choreography wildly energetic, and the staging clear and clever. It all seems to work.

And then Act II arrives and lands with a thud. Its like they sketched out their ideas for Act II but never got around to filling them in. They've unnecesserily complicated the plot of the movie to get to a bizarro, phony climax in a Las Vegas wedding chapel populated by celebrity impersonators, while back home, grandma does a rap number with the "Boy George" guy from the wedding band (called "Simply Wed"). It plays like a frantic rush to the finish line, without the saving gracefulness of Act I.

But the show had built up such good will with me by that point, and the lead characters were so appealing (played wonderfully by Stephen Lynch and Laura Benanti) that I was able to give them the benefit of the doubt and ended up still enjoying the show, overall.

It has, by far, the best original score of any new musical this season, even including the 2 sweet, funny Adam Sandler songs from the movie.

It got crucified by the critics but, having been a twenty-something during the era that the show depicts, i found it hilariously evocative of that time and i related to it in a way that Clive Barnes, I'm sure, did not.

Whats love got to do with it? Why, everything! So shout, shout, let it all out, and jump, go ahead and jump, like a flock of seagulls, over to the box office... you probably won't be disappointed. You see, I don't really want to make you cry.

rpackrat
May 01 2006 03:20 PM

[url]http://www.theonion.com/content/node/47722[/url]

Vic Sage
May 01 2006 03:38 PM

now THAT'S funny.

Edgy DC
May 01 2006 04:10 PM

The movie of The Wedding Singer had more anachronisms than Titanic. If they want ot pay homage to the era, thought I, they might ask somebody who lived through it, (to say nothing of hammered references). I hope they ironed that out.

Vic Sage
May 03 2006 12:38 PM

Last night, i saw the new play LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE, by Martin McDonagh. It started off-Broadway at the Atlantic theater, and has moved to Broadway for an open-ended run.

It is a brilliantly funny and extremely grisly comedy about Irish terrorists and their murdered cats. It is replete with torture, dismemberment, shootings, blinding, and kitty bashing. Did i mention that it is a comedy?

McDonagh (whose broadway plays include last season's PILLOWMAN and the earlier BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE) has a dark, quirky way of making a point. His dialogue is rich, his characterizations are original and sharp-edged, his situations are dire to the extreme, and the body count higher than you'd expect for a comedy. did i mention that it is a comedy?

The acting, design and interstitial music (composed in a percussive RIVERDANCE style) are sufficient and wisely get out of McDonagh's way.

This is the best new play i've seen so far this season. I give it a thumbs up (but i'm wary that me digit might get chopped off).

sharpie
May 03 2006 12:47 PM

Right after reading Vic's review, Mrs. sharpie called saying that her friend wants to take us to the theater Saturday night and has TDF vouchers to either The Lieutenant of Inishore or The Caine Mutiny. I said I had just this second read a great review of Inishmore and voted for that and so, apparently, I'm seeing it Friday. I really liked The Beauty Queen of Lenane (and I've been to Inishmore) so I would've voted for it anyway but the review helped. As mentioned earlier I'm seeing "3 Penny Opera" on Saturday. It's been many a year since I've seen shows on successive nights.

Vic Sage
May 05 2006 02:38 PM

I saw Brian Friel's play FAITH HEALER, with Ralph Fiennes, Cherry Jones and Ian (the emperor) McDermid.

It is a lyrical contemplation of faith, salvation, love and sacrifice, beautifully performed. And it bored the crap out of me.

the play is about an itinerant Irish faith healer traveling around small UK towns with his wife and manager. Is he a con man or an artist? doe he have a gift or a curse? Is he an artist losing his talent or a holy man who has lost his vocation?

the play is structured as 4 monologues. Each character tells his (or her) version of the story, in a ROSHAMON-like way, and then Fiennes does another monologue at the end. The characters do not interact, they simply talk to the audience. The stage is nearly barren, the lighting dark and narrow, focused only on the actor. ANd what all this accomplishes is to drain the proceedings of any dramatic vitality.

Friel's language is earth-shatteringly beautiful, and Fiennes and McDermid recite it with elegance, humor and passion. Cherry Jones seems miscast, however, lacking any hint of the Irish accent you'd expect this character to have (in striking contrast to the appropriate accents of the other 2 actors), but more importantly, portraying a character that is much weaker and dependent than Ms. Jones seems capable of projecting.

Despite its austere beauty, the play left me unmoved to the point of narcolepsy. During the final monologue, Fiennes is describing his character's final moments. He enters a yard to confront some other characters and when Fiennes says: "let me describe the yard", i nearly wept, wishing he'd skip the description and just let it all end.

I'm sure some people find this play moving and terrific. I'm not among them.

TheOldMole
May 06 2006 01:01 AM

Saw a college production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle tonight -- well staged, well acted, and Brecht sure knew something about the theater.

sharpie
May 06 2006 12:30 PM

Saw "Lieutenant of Inismore" last night. I concur with Vic, it was one of the funniest plays I've seen in many years. Amazing that they could hang a whole evening on such a weird premise.

sharpie
May 08 2006 09:02 AM

Saw "The Threepenny Opera" on Saturday.

While Alan Cumming, Jim Dale, Ana Gasteyer, Cyndi Lauper and Nellie McKay were all good, the production was shot down by a too-visceral new translation by Wallace Shawn and some odd directorial choices. Most notably among the latter was giving Polly Peachum two extra songs ("Pirate Jenny" should've been Cyndi Lauper's song and made no sense for McKay to sing it) and the casting of a male as Lucy Brown. What was the damn point? Some appropriate Brechtian stuff, especially at the beginning with a bare stage and a wardrobe rack plus the effect of putting a mirror onstage (so the audience can "reflect" on their own complicity in the ills of society I guess). My main complaint was certainly with the translation, far less witty than the original Blitzstein and more pointlessly vulger than the one that the Public Theater used in the 1980's.

Good performances, but overall a thumbs down.

Edgy DC
May 08 2006 09:08 AM

]and the casting of a male as Lucy Brown. What was the damn point?

Ah, well, there's the thing. It got your attention and that's the point.

Directors get more attention for resetting, re-casting, dramaturging, and (if they can get away with it) light re-writing than actually directing. It stinks but there it is.

Vic Sage
May 12 2006 11:41 AM

Broadway 05-06 Tony Season

on the road with a Tony voter...

closed shows:
A Naked Girl on the Appian Way (P) - silly Greenberg comedy 2**
Absurd Person Singular (P) - awful Ayckborn farce 1*
In My Life (M) - epic disaster - 0*
Lennon (M) - not as bad as reported, but not good 2**
Seascape (P) - Incredible Albee revival 4****
Souvenir (P) - touching comedy 3***
Chita Rivera (M) - awful autobio musical 1*
The Woman In White (M) - nauseating Webber 2**
Rabbit Hole (P) - powerful drama 3***
Ring of Fire (M) - solid J.Cash bookless musical 3***

shows still running:
Barefoot in the Park (P) - middling Simon revival- 2**
Bridge & Tunnel (Sp) - terrific tour de force solo piece- 4****
Jersey Boys (M) - Terrific 4 Seasons book musical 4****
Sweeney Todd (M) - Best show of the year 4****
The Color Purple (M) - solid book musical 3***
The Odd Couple (P) - not very good revival 2**
The Pajama Game (M) - fine museum piece 3***
Awake & Sing (P) - solid, if dated, revival 3***
Wedding Singer (M) - very funny, good score, Act II problems 3***
Lieutentant of Inishmore (P) - savage, funny, fascinating 4****
Faith Healer (P) - lyrical monologues; beautiful but inert 3***
Dirt Rotten Scoundrels (M) - a few funny moments;awful score 2**
Tarzan (M) - a few OK songs, some good staging, awful book 1*
Caine Mutiny (P) - dated courtroom drama; Schwimmer sinks 2**
Lestat (M) - 2nd epic disaster of season 0*

my upcoming theater schedule:
DROWSY CHAPERONE (M) - Sat 5/13 (8pm)
THREEPENNY OPERA (M) - Wed 5/17 (2pm mat)
3 DAYS OF RAIN (P) - Thurs 5/18 (8pm)
SHINING CITY (P) - Wed 5/24 (2pm mat)
HISTORY BOYS (P) - Thurs 5/25 (8pm)
HOT FEET (M) - Wed 5/31 (2pm mat)
FESTEN (P) - still unscheduled

closed shows I missed:
A Touch of the Poet (P)
After the Night & the Music (P)
Latinologues (P)
Primo (P)
The Blonde in the Thunderbird (Sp)
The Constant Wife (P)
Well (P)

Edgy DC
May 12 2006 11:53 AM

Thanks.

Weird season when two dramas about Lennon can't add up to one about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

What is "(Sp)"? A short play?

So, they're doing staged commercials on the London stage now? Will that hit New York next?

sharpie
May 12 2006 12:02 PM

I think SP is "Special Performance" reserved for 1-person shows and other things that aren't quite a play. She won a Tony for that announced today because her show was only one of two that qualified (the other some Suzanne Summers thingee that ran 10 perfomances).


Also, please note that I am currently Willie Mays and therefore should be accorded due respect.

seawolf17
May 12 2006 12:18 PM

/intentionally walks sharpie

Vic Sage
May 12 2006 12:37 PM

Dirt Rotten Scoundrels

I was surprised by how overrated this show is. While it has a few hilarious moments, all thanks to the incomparable Norbert Leo Butz (even his name is funny) as "Freddy", the show has absolutely nothing going on.

Its not about anything, so there are no ideas to contemplate. It doesn't take anything seriously enough for you to care about any of the characters, so you don't feel anything. And the score is comprised of bland, pseudo-jazzy, tuneless meandering. There is nothing special about its design elements, choreography, etc. While not an awful show, its not a compelling one, either, which begs the question why has it been so lauded? Perhaps, only in comparison to recent new musicals, it just sucks less and so seems "good".

Tarzan

Speaking of sucky new musicals, here comes TARZAN. It starts out with some terrific design concepts in the opening 5 minutes. But, after you've seen enough hirsute bungi jumpers, there's very little else of interest. The design of the leopard is of a cheezy theme-park quality, as is the gorilla-zation of the actors.

The score has those few catchy Phil Collins pop songs from the film, but his additional tunes (while adequate, and consistent in tone), add nothing very interesting. They score still plays like a background soundtrack rather than musical theater songs that define character and drive the narrative.

The real problem, however, is the book. The very good adaptation of the Burroughs story written for the Disney film is totally sabotaged by a surprisingly inept libretto by talented playwright David Henry Hwang. Lost and virtually unresolved is the father/son relationship between Tarzan and Kerchak on which the story rests. The conflict with the hunter is minimized to the point of irrelevancy. Jane seems more emotionally involved and attracted to the jungle than to Tarzan.

The problems of the show are accentuated by inept direction... or more likely the inevitable consequence of it. As a director, Bob Crowley is a terrific set designer. His lack of experience as a director, however, leads to uneven performances, poor pacing, and an inability to create a narrative arc. Scenes of different levels of importance to the story are given undifferentiated weight.

For example, Jane doesn't appear till Act II (a mistake, even in itself). When she does, its with a dizzying, overproduced number in which she's completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the jungle. Her relationship to Tarzan can never equal this moment. Why not, instead, have that moment later, with Tarzan in the treetops, so its part of her connection to him?

When Kerchak is shot, the movie provides a deathbed scene in which they are reconciled, and after which Tarzan takes on the mantel of leadership of his tribe, repudiating his human heredity. There is no equivalent moment in the show. those important story elements are abandoned.

Julie Taymor showed in her direction and design of LION KING what can be done when a talented theater artist is given room. TARZAN is more a theme park attraction than i was either hoping for or expecting. Too bad... its all a very big missed opportunity.


Caine Mutiny

I had never read the book or seen the movie, so all i knew of this play was the clip of Bogart as Captain Queeg, rattling the marbles in his hands, going on about "the strawberries". So i was pleasantly surprised by how well this old courtroom drama still works. You can see clearly how much it influenced Aaron Sorkin's A FEW GOOD MEN.

That being said, there is nothing special about this production, either in design or execution. David Schwimmer is more wooden than the soldiers of Toyland, with all the charisma of a CPA. The one exceptional element is Zeljko Ivanek's impressive performance as Queeg, exposing the character's humanity in all its pathetic glory.

As a play, its well constructed. The denoument, however, is heavy-handed in the extreme, pulling the old "the Nazis were going to turn my mother into soap" routine. It was probably just as over the top in its day.

still, a worthwhile play, worth seeing... but it'd be better as a TV movie.

Lestat

Wow. What can i say?
Its a disaster in every conceivable way.
Awful music? check.
Obtuse lyrics? check.
hideous design? check.
over the top performances? check.
a debacle of the first magnitude? oh, yeah, baby.

Edgy DC
May 12 2006 12:47 PM

]While not an awful show, its not a compelling one, either, which begs the question why has it been so lauded?


Spamalot Answer: Maybe people want to like a play adapted from a favorite movie, despite their better judgment.

Vic Sage
May 16 2006 11:07 AM

Tony nominations announced today

http://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/nominees/index.html

TARZAN and LESTAT were correctly ignored, but RING OF FIRE was unjustly overlooked.

still, i think the shows are mostly pretty good (some great), with over a dozen worthy productions this season. The lows were pretty low, but there were enough highs to rank it a pretty good season overall.

Vic Sage
May 16 2006 11:24 AM

DROWSY CHAPERONE

This was the best new musical i've seen this season. Actually, its more of a comedy with songs than a musical, but whatever you want to call it, its hilarious, touching and beautifully executed.

On one level, its a spoof of the cheerily mindless musical cliches of the 1920s. But really its about the effect of those shows on a particular man, and by extension all of us who need an escape to a better world, on ocasion. And who amongst us does not?

The central conceit of the show, and the reason it works beyond simple parody (which usually bores the crap out of me), is that it is narrated by a gentleman into whose apartment we've come, as he tries to alleviate his melancholy by playing one of his old show records for us... "the drowsy chaperone". He explains and comments on the show as it is played out before us, and in so doing exposes the cliches but also delights in them.

The real world intrudes, from time to time, on the show in his head (and on the stage), and we get to know about the life of this fellow, and we are glad for his ultimate redemption at the show's denouemant.

As i said, the play is really a hilarious and touching comedy, with the songs a pastiche and parody of the era serving basically as comic interludes. But the songs are original, and the choreography and presentation of them are as full out as any musical could deliver.

While not flawless, its certainly the best new musical of the season to my mind, and second only to the revival of SWEENEY TODD as the best show overall.

As for best score, i actually liked WEDDING SINGER better, purely as a new score, because while it also evokes an era (in this case, the 1980s) it also functions as a musical theater score should... to develop character and further narrative, which CHAPERONE really doesn't.

I haven't seen all the plays yet, but so far I'd favor SEASCAPE for best revival and LT OF INISHMORE for new play (unless HISTORY BOYS or SHINING CITY change my mind on that score).

Giant Squidlike Creature
Jun 21 2006 02:43 PM

Bump.