Review: Miss Saigon

 

As soon as Miss Saigon came up on TDF, Kristen and I immediately bought tickets. I’d been dying for Miss Saigon to be revived basically ever since it closed in 2001. I’d only seen it once on Broadway during it’s initial run when I was 11 (after listening to the cast recording nonstop the summer prior) and I still remember ever word and most of the music. One of the first Broadway stages I ever stepped foot on was after that performance of Miss Saigon, too.

I remember being at the stage door with my mom, and my neighbor and her mom, after the performance waiting for the woman who played Kim (Roxanne Taga, who was the understudy) to come out and she took forever (her vocal coach was there) and she felt so bad for making us wait that when it was the four of us and maybe two other people so she took us all backstage. I think I still have a photo with her somewhere that we took onstage, but she showed us around and where the helicopter is stored when the theatre is dark.

I digress. I was super excited to see this production because I had waited damn long enough for a revival. Our seats were in the front mezzanine and they were perfect. We bounced in our seats in anticipation and everyone in the theatre clapped as the lights went down and the overture started.

I have to say, I remembered 100% of the score and 95% of the words, but I did not remember the sequence of events ,at all. I had no idea how the first act ended so there were two or three false ends in my mind, and I completely forgot that they introduced Ellen in the middle of the first act. But that’s what happens when you have 20 years in between viewings, I guess.

I have to start by saying that his a perfect production. Everyone on the stage is flawless and the direction is beautiful. It might be the exact same staging as the original production, but even so, great, I don’t care. It’s perfect. Eva Noblezada, who played Kim and has been playing her since she was the age of the character (17), has an unbelievable belt and a beautiful voice even when she’s not belting. Alistair Brammer, who played Chris, is boyish and adorable with a voice like a Greek god. They had great chemistry together. I am super disappointed that Jon Jon Briones, who played The Engineer, didn’t receive a Tony nod, because he was hysterical and on point, but what can you do. Katie Rose Clarke was fine as Ellen and Nicholas Christopher was very good as John, but they weren’t the highlights for me.

Now, in my not-so-humble opinion, this score is probably one of the most beautiful scores out there, at least of the traditional musical theatre sort. There are so many show stoppers and memorable melodies. Gahh, I could gush for forever. Seeing this production was also a nice Vietnam history lesson (or brush-up, rather).

I was wondering the entire time if Briones would make a subtle or not-so-subtle Trump reference, because he was chasing the ol’ American Dream, and to both my amusement and annoyance, he did. At the end of “The American Dream,” he screamed, “Let’s make it great again!” There was definitely a moment of pause the audience, who was most likely made up of liberal New Yorkers, had to decide whether or not to laugh, but after a moment, we realized what he’d said and we laughed.

There was also a moment where we thought we might have been cheated out of an actual, legit helicopter landing onstage, but fear not, it is still there.

I could go on and on and on about how spectacular I thought this production was, but I’ll stop. You get the point. If we had to wait 16 years for a revival this worthy to come back to New York, than so be it. It was worth the wait. As of now, it’s closing in January 2018, so run and get your tickets now.

Review: Come From Away

The day after my birthday in April, my parents and I celebrated by seeing the matinee of the new, immensely popular Broadway musical, Come From Away, with book, music, and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. I’d been watching this piece come to life through a friend’s Instagram posts and I thought it looked cute, but I wasn’t really dying to see it. But once my parents heard about it and it’s popularity spiked just before their opening night, I finally stopped finding reasons to not get around to see it and I’m certainly glad I did.

A lot of the music sounds very Once-esque, which I was immediately annoyed by (despite being a big fan of Once because that is music for Once and not this, etc. etc.) but I warmed up to this folksy music as well as the rest of the score over the next 100 minutes. (Yes, it’s 100 minutes, no intermission. #best)

I’m pretty resistant to anything and everything that co-ops 9/11 which is probably responsible for some of my resistance to sit down in the Schoenfeld, but Come From Away doesn’t do that. They barely mention what happened and they never say “9/11” explicitly. It’s purely about humanity and this tiny town in Newfoundland named Gander and how it’s citizens come together to host these ~7,000 strangers who are stranded there for a week-ish) by this catastrophic event.

The cast is amazing – filled with some of my favorites from my teenage years as a Renthead, among others – Rodney Hicks, Kendra Kassebaum, Chad Kimball, Jenn Colella, etc. The cast uses very subtle costume adjustments to change characters in an instant when they flip-flop between planes (people were trapped on the plans for 28 hours!). I’m pretty sure this is no easy feat and I’d 100% screw up what character I was when if I had to do that.

My favorite subplot line was the one about the SPCA director in Gander, Bonnie Harris (played by Petrina Bromley) and how she basically forces her way into the cargo holds on the planes because she has the foresight to suspect that there are animals onboard and they need to be taken care of (#squee!). She’s right. There were 19 animals on all the planes – something like 7 cats, 9 dogs, and one pair of rare Bonobo monkeys, among others, all of whom she takes care of while they’re there. This obviously warmed my heart. She deserves a medal.

There are many other touching and tear-jerking story lines which I won’t give away, but you should get yourself to the Schoenfeld and see this heartwarming little show as soon as you can (if you can, because tickets are selling out at each performance).

Sweat, by Lynn Nottage

A couple of weekends ago I saw SWEAT, the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Lynn Nottage, on Broadway. I had no idea what it was about but I’d heard everything from “weird” to “intense.” It was no at all what I was expecting. It was about a group of friends in the factor town of Reading, PA and how they’re adversely affected by NAFTA. Could it be more timely? I think not. Anyways, here’s my brain dump on it:

This piece reminded me a lot of Clyborne Park, probably because of the timeline of the plot. Clyborne Park took place in two different decades and although Sweat switched between past and present, both pieces used time jumps to show how things have declined in their respective neighborhoods.

Sweat was the perfect representation of racism in America, especially after there are layoffs and people who look like immigrants are hired because said-immigrants are desperate for higher paying jobs. The promotion of one of the African American member of the primary group of friends also brings out her friend’s true colors (“they get tax breaks because she’s a minority”).

The ensemble cast was ace, with not a weak link onstage from where I was sitting, and these characters go for a ride on a very emotional rollercoaster. Shitty acting would’ve made this unwatchable.

There’s excellent writing onstage at Studio 54 to bring to life something that’s very current. It’s over two hours, but it flies. It’s playing through June 4th.

Happy TONY Award Nomination Day!

As the years pass us all by, and it gets further and further away from the last day that I officially “worked” in the business, I still post these because it’s still a “special” day. The day the TONY Award nominations are announced. I used to get to a very boring job from 2009-2012 early every day on this day to watch the announcements live before anyone else had really arrived at the office. Sometimes I’d try to navigate the conference room TV, but that always proved futile. But this year, I have to admit that I almost forget the day was upon us. Oops.

Anyways. This is also a special day because it’s also the day when you buy up tickets for the shows you haven’t seen on TDF because they’re there and now that the nominations have come out, who knows how much longer they’ll be there.

But first let me say: I am shocked that Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 got so many nominations. Not that it’s a bad show – it’s just a production that gets lost in the space. And the story is a little convoluted, too. But it is gorgeous and there are pretty voices in it, so, hey. More power to them.comet.jpg

I digress. So this morning, Kristen and I bought tickets on TDF to both Oslo and A Doll’s House Part 2. Oh, and we’re seeing Miss Saigon tonight (Finally! Yay! I’m so excited!). After Miss Saigon, I will have seen no other nominee for Best Revival of a Musical because Falsettos is closed and I really can’t see what the purpose of putting myself through Hello, Dolly! would be. (With all due respect, Bette Middler!)

It seems like all the same musicals are nominated in every category. But isn’t that how it usually is?

I would’ve said we should scramble and grab tickets to Amelie, but that seems to have gotten 100% snubbed, as did Anastasia for the most part. Too many shows for too few slots.

I almost hope Sweat wins Best Play because it’s relevant AF. And I think Dear Evan Hansen will take Best Musical because everyone LOOOOVES it (I’m not poking fun at the show as I’ve not yet seen it) but I think there’s a chance Come From Away could slide into home and grab the Tony on that night in June.

I am particularly warm inside for Jenn Collela’s nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, and also for Andrew Rannell’s nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. And Great Comet’s Denee Benton has been with the project for such a long time that it’s heartwarming that she gets the recognition that her beautiful voice and performance deserve.

The 74th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Today, April 19th, is the anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during World War II. There is a fantastic museum in Warsaw dedicated to this uprising and it’s a Must See if you’re in Warsaw. I found out yesterday that there’s a memorial to this uprising in Riverside Park at 83rd Street. I’m going to go pay my respects before work. If you feel like watching The Zookeeper’s Wife or The Pianist. There’s a movie about the Jewish Uprising but I can’t remember the name (comment if you remember it! It’s the street address of the secret meeting place!) Here are a few photos from the museum.

The original mermaid that stood in the Old Town before the Germans bombed them as punishment for the uprising.

They used the sewers to get around and deliver messages and weapons. This is what you’d see under a safe exit.

The symbol of the uprising.

The flags of the uprising.

And around the city you’ll see several monuments dedicated to those who fought:

The Littler Uprising Monument – dedicated to all the children who helped sneak past guards with messages and weapons. 

The Warsaw Uprising Monument

Groundhog Day, in Previews

And Rewind.

Last weekend I won the digital lottery for the new Broadway musical, Groundhog Day, and J and I went. He liked most of what he’d seen of the movie and I wanted him to see Andy Karl onstage since we’d watched him on Law & Order semi-recently. This is a transfer from London and they know how to make a pretty good musical, so my expectations were decent.

The music is catchy and the lyrics are feisty in a way that only Tim Minchin can be and I enjoyed the first 15 minutes. Then the day restarted and I suddenly, “Oh my god, is this the entire musical? How does it ever proceed forward from this one day? What have I gotten myself in to?!”

To be clear: I’ve never seen the movie before and I only knew vaguely what the premise was. This was my fault completely.

BUT. They do a fantastic job of rewinding the day each time and it doesn’t feel monotonous at all. The set worked perfectly (no first preview difficulties luckily) and it really keeps the show moving along. Without those turntables, the show would be 4 hours long. A couple of the songs get dark a darkly comedic way, and a couple of the songs could be completely cut (the first song of the second act, for starters).

Andy Karl plays this role perfectly. We feel his angst at his situation which eventually turns to morbid joy, which turns out to be hilarious. Barrett Doss, his costar, is lovely, too. I think Raymond Lee, as one of the town yokles at the bar, was the only other cast member to really stand out. He’s hilarious.

It was about 2 hours and 45 minutes long, which is long, but it never dragged. Like I said, they do a really good job at keeping the pace pretty consistent. We both walked out of the theatre having really enjoyed ourselves.

It was definitely not a wasted night at the theatre and I wouldn’t have been too sad to have been forced to relive it at least one more time.

Significant Other

Despite my better judgment, I went to see Significant Other, the new play by Joshua Harmon that recently transferred to Broadway from Roundabout, this past Sunday with my significant other, my best guy friend, and his significant other. I saw this shortly after I met J in 2015 while it was off-Broadway and it hit me hard in the emotions. I walked out of the Laura Pels thinking Gideon’s character surely killed himself after the lights went down. And to be honest, I kind of wanted to kill myself after the lights went down on Sunday afternoon, regardless of my relationship status. My friends concurred.

I want to start by saying that Gideon Glick is brilliant as the protagonist Jordan, a late twenty-somethings city-dweller. He gives a flawless performance of an extremely flawed character. He has genius comedic timing and I was exhausted watching him exert himself onstage for two and a half hours(ish). I would watch this guy read the phone book because he could make it entertaining. He has monologues that are pages long but he makes it look effortless.

Sas Goldman, who plays the first bride of the night Kiki, reminded me in a weird way of Tracee Chimo in Bachelorette. But in a totally good, weird way. Lindsay Mendez plays a wonderful best friend to Jordan, Laura, who gets caught up in wedding madness when she finally gets engaged. She was able to be strong even when hurt by Jordan’s page and a half tirade on the evening of her bachelorette party. And, last but not least, Rebecca Naomi Jones is the hilariously dark Vanessa who gives no fucks about anything until the day of her wedding.

The men in this show are not at all the focus. Hence why two actors play all six male characters (in addition to Jordan). John Behlman and Luke Smith both do a lovely job playing the various boyfriends and husbands and coworkers of the four main characters.

Because of its incredibly depressing tone, and it’s suicide-inducing ending, I’m not sure it’ll find it’s audience on Broadway, but I know that a lot (most) people could probably relate to Jordan’s feeling of being alone and feeling hopeless. There are lots of parts to make you laugh, and many to also make you feel all the feels. Like any good play should.

What the Fuck, Disney.

After a full day at work, and my yoga class, I wanted nothing more than to veg out with my sweet potato pasta dish and my cats. I clicked on HBO Go and started scrolling through movies. One of the first three movies to come up, since it’s alphabetical with numbers first, was 101 Dalmatians, the real-life version made by Disney years ago. I thought, “Oh, puppies! And Natasha Richardson!.. RIP.” (Yeah, I know, it’s her sister Joely, not her.)

Anyways, I started watching it and it’s cute and adorable and OMG!Puppies! and Playbill (on the right) is clearly enjoying it, too. Then it gets to the basic plot. Cruella DeVil wants to make a dress out of the fur of dalmatian puppies. This means she has to capture, kill, and skin a lot of them. She’s already done this to a rare white tiger in the beginning of the movie, which is bad enough. But now: PUPPIES?

Jesus H. Christ on a Cracker: What the fuck, Disney? Who decided that this was a good idea for a children’s movie? Steal the puppies to sell them on the black market as pets? OK. Maybe. But steal them so she can make a piece of clothing out of them? Fuck no. This movie is not appropriate for children. It’s not even appropriate for me. The thought of any animal dying so someone can wear it is disgusting so the thought of inflicting it on children makes me cringe.

No, Disney. Nice try, but fuck off. /End Rant

How five fallen Broadway theaters paved the way for a new Times Square

This is interesting AF. If you’re into NYC or Broadway history, read it.

It goes without saying that I can’t remember a time when the Marriott Hotel wasn’t dead center in the middle of Times Square. This is obviously the case as it was finished in 1985 and I was born in 1986. However, the thing is, I never even thought about a time when it might not have existed. When other buildings would have been in it’s place. Is that crazy? Sort of. I mean, why would I just assume?

I also never thought about the possibility that the city, or landlords more specifically, could fathom tearing down a Broadway theatre. I mean, WHAT? You say you want to do WHAT? I knew Times Square was a shit hole before the mid-90′s, but I never figured Broadway houses were endangered species of the time. 

I know New Yorkers are required to hate this hotel because it’s in Times Square and is thus the enemy, but the Marriott was an escape off the cold city streets when I was a teenager and needed a place to eat my Cosi takeaway sandwich in between the Rent lottery and showtime. I went there after my 21st birthday party and the waitress refused to serve my slightly-under-21-year-old friends. I also spent more than my fair share of time at the Marquis Theatre selling merchandise at various shows. 

But I can’t help but be sad about the loss of these five theatres. Who knows what we’d have playing there. 

How five fallen Broadway theaters paved the way for a new Times Square

Just fucking write.

So, in the last couple of weeks I’ve sucked at blogging. Things have been busy and I started a new job that’s amazing and came to me in a totally roundabout way and it’s great. I’ve also started to not like Tumblr. None of my friends actually write on theirs anymore, so I don’t like scrolling through my feed. But I never actually sit down at my laptop to actually fucking write either.

And I’m a little bit annoyed about it. With myself for not just writing. So, I thought I’d post a list of the blogs that are not on Tumblr that I read on an almost daily basis:

Laurie Ruettiman – Love this chick. She’s an HR pro-turned-pro HR writer. She’s a really cool person IRL (or at least on Slack) and she’s a badass. And she has, like, 5 cats. So, she’s basically living my dream life. 

H(OM)E – The lifestyle/yoga/food/whatever blog that my yoga teacher Chrissy writes. She just re-designed her entire site and it’s awesome. And she’s awesome. If you like food or yoga or just good writing, it’s a good place to be. 

Inspiralized – I love my Inspiralizer and I love reading Ali’s daily blog posts about recipes, and eating healthy in general. I also like her lifestyle blog a lot, too. 

The Balanced Blonde – Written by Jordan Younger, who used to be The Blonde Vegan, is super cool. She recently finished up her 500 hours with YogaWorks in California and she’s an awesome, verbose writer. She’s teaching at PureYoga one day in April and I have my ticket ready to go. Super psyched. 

Diary of a Yoga Teacher Trainee – I actually happened upon this lady in the comments section of the above blog. She’s going through the same intensive training at YogaWorks that I went through, although with a different teacher. She’s from England and she’s a great writer. 

Ramshackle Glam – I’ve been reading Jordan Reid’s blog since she started in 2009. I love some of her stuff and some of it not so much (style posts?! Nahhhh).  

Melanie Murphy – I follow ONE YouTuber in the entire world and it’s this lady. Does that count as a blog? It’s a vlog, so YES. I have no idea how I found her channel but she’s hilarious and insightful and lives in Ireland. I’m a fan. 

That’s about it. That’s most of what takes up my time. I can’t be bothered with Facebook anymore as everyone is running around, screaming like deranged child on it about how the world is ending, and nobody got time for that. I’m also really contemplating hiring help to switch my blog over to WordPress to get off Tumblr because that’s what all the cool kids are doing these days. Thoughts? 

Is there an awesome blog that I’m not reading? Let me know!