Thursday, July 12, 2007

New York Review

E on Broadway We had nearly a perfect week in NYC. We were there between their two heat waves. In fact, it was kind of cool sometimes. Of the thirteen shows were saw only one was a total disappointment. We ate at some very good neighborhood restaurants in Chelsea as well as several of the top rated ones in other parts of Manhattan. We got some great deals on some new clothes and visited a half dozen gay bars and clubs. We were able to stay at a friends’ beautiful apartment ideally located near 15th St and 7th Ave.

We kept on a “West Coast” time schedule. Most days we were able to sleep until noon. Fix a quick breakfast and dash off to a matinee. Eat an early dinner around 5:30 pm and then off to an evening performance. After the show we change and head back out for an evening on the town that tends to last to 3-4am. Then hit the bed for 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

Recap of the shows:
Three of the four plays were outstanding.
* We started the week off with Vanessa Redgrave’s powerful one-woman show, “Year of Magical Thinking”. The show packs a strong emotional punch. The play is based on Joan Didion’s autobiographical book of dealing with loss and healing. Three quarters of the way through the play where she talks about the first signs of acceptance and healing from a loved one’s death, I remembered again that I’m watching this on the anniversary of my first wife’s death (6/30/90). I am in tears at the end.
Michael Sheen and Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon.* “Frost/Nixon” was a riveting and suspenseful surprise. Who knew that the story of TV personality, David Frost, and his interview with former President Nixon would be so good?
* “Inherit the Wind” is a classic American play. The cautionary tale of censorship played out against a fictional telling of the Scopes “monkey” trial is as relevant today as it was during the McCarthy era when it was written. Wonderful performances by Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy.
* The forth play, “Deuce” was a weakly written play by Terrence McNally. The two stars of the show, Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes, have a grand time exchanging barbs with each other, however. All the secondary characters are superfluous and poorly written. The story is of two former champion tennis doubles partners reminiscing at a match they are invited to watch.

* The one dud of a show was a new Off-Broadway musical called “Sessions”. It is a musical about a therapist and his patients, which could have been amusing in a “Bob Newhart” type of way. Unfortunately it had insipid, rhyming lyrics and dull music. The set, however, was very nice.
* I saw “Rent” on stage for the first time. I could tell that when it first came out it must have been revolutionary for Broadway. Now is looks a little tired and in need of a rest. I would love to see it again in a few years restaged and refocused. It could be powerful again.
* We had high expectations for “Grey Gardens”. We watched the 1975 documentary it is based on and listened several times to the CD before seeing the show. We knew the material and story. After seeing it on stage, the production just didn’t resonate with us. Maybe it is an “East Coast” thing.
The remaining six musicals were hits in our book.
Irene Molloy and Matthew Morrison in 10 Million Miles* “10 Million Miles” is a new Off-Broadway musical by folk-rock singer/songwriter Patty Griffin. It is a simple but sweet boy/girl love story told during a drive in a pickup truck from Florida to New York. I would be surprised if it made it to Broadway. It seems best suited to be an audience hit in regional theatres. The production has four actors and a pickup truck and they are all wonderful. The male lead, Matthew Morrison, is very sexy in a Justin Timberlake way. We saw him a couple times around the city. The actress playing the supporting female role, Mare Winningham, was our favorite performer in the show. We talked to her briefly after the performance. Besides being an acclaimed actress, she is a singer and songwriter as well. We bought her new CD, “Refuge Rock Sublime” that is a wonderful meld of country/Jewish/bluegrass/folk music.

* “In the Heights” is currently Off-Broadway but will open on Broadway this fall. It is an exhilarating musical about three days in the life of a Washington Heights neighborhood at the top of Manhattan. Several stories revolve around the immigrant Latino community as it struggles to redefine home.
* “Mary Poppins” was much better then we were expecting. It is not a clone of the movie. There are changes in songs, order and plot details but it is still a “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" of a show.
* The last Kander and Ebb musical, “Curtains” is like last year’s “Drowsy Chaperone”…a musical lover’s musical. It is a backstage musical murder mystery set in an out of town tryout in Boston during the Golden Age of Broadway musicals.
Audra McDonald and John Cullum in 110 in the Shade* “110 in the Shade” also exceeded expectations. It is based on the classic American play “The Rainmaker” by N. Richard Nash. It is a stunning, almost operatic production lead by Audra McDonald and John Cullum.

* But the biggest surprise and joy was “Xanadu”. We attended one of the last previews of the show and were blown away by it. Prior to going to NYC, we rented the 1980 movie musical and couldn’t finish watching it because it was so bad. Playwright Douglas Carter Beane has done an amazing job reassembling the show into a campy, hysterical take on “jukebox musicals”, 1980’s and Broadway in general. The male lead, Cheyenne Jackson, has great thighs and wears the same cut-off jeans and tube socks I wore in 1980! We could have been twins! (Yeah, right.)
Kerry Butler as Kira, Cheyenne Jackson as Sonny Malone in Xanadu


sandy said...

I cannot believe how much theatre you guys take in. I'm sooooo envious.

john q. public said...

I would have loved to have been in your hip pocket when you got to see "Xanadu".

Cheyenne Jackson --- (swoon)

Shephard said...

I'm seeing Xanadu in 2 weeks... I've heard such good things. Can't wait! I've seen Cheyenne a few times, and his voice is wonderful. Enjoyed reading your recap.

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