Review: War Paint

I began my Labor Day Weekend with a performance of the musical War Paint on Friday evening. I had minimal expectations because, honestly, I hadn’t heard much buzz about it at all. I knew Patti (Lupone) and Christine (Ebersole) would be fabulous, so that’s really all the convincing I needed to go see it, and I knew it was about some rivalry between Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden but not much else. Douglas Sills was out that night and Chris Hoch stepped in for him. I wasn’t there to see Sills, so I couldn’t care less.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the story the most (Doug Wright did a great job with the book). Helena Rubenstein is my new hero, although she was portrayed a bit more punk rock in the script than in real life (for example: she had kids in real life which were never mentioned). We began in the 1930’s when Rubenstein moved back to New York City and Elizabeth Arden finds out from her associates and: drama. Arden’s salon is the ultimate destination for feminine pampering (and everything is “Arden pink”) and Rubenstein sells herself as beauty + science. It was because of the questionable ingredients they both used in the “age-defying” products that the FDA decided all ingredients must be printed on the bottle (thank you!).

Helena Rubenstein was, at one point, one of the richest women on earth and attempted to make an all-cash offer on a penthouse triplex on Park Avenue. When she was denied board approval because she was Jewish, she instead bought the entire building and lived in the triplex for 35 years until she died (per Wikipedia).

Elizabeth Arden’s first marriage falls apart in part because she won’t give her husband any credit for the sales work he’s doing. She says, “The moment I give you [her husband] credit is the moment I lose all of mine.” So true.

These two women detested each other and only met once.  They died within months of one another, too.

The music was fine – as in I don’t remember hating it. The dancing was also fine. But really, everyone was there to see LuPone and Ebersole and they were AMAZING. They are worth any price of admission (within reason, unless you’re Rubenstein-esque levels of rich then by all means, buy premium tickets). You should put “seeing two powerhouse women portray two powerhouse women onstage” on your bucket list right now because OH MAN.

War Paint is your standard length – two acts, two and a half hours long, but I never felt like it dragged. It was too much of a pleasure watching those two badasses onstage to check my watch.

And finally, I’ll leave you with a photo of Rubenstein’s childhood home in Krakow that I took last year while I was in Poland. (It’s the little green house.)

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Review: Six Degrees of Separation

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I had seen exactly zero of the nominees of Best Revival of a Play until last week when Kristen and I purchased tickets on TDF for Six Degrees of Separation, starring the hysterical Allison Janney. The show isn’t selling well and we ended up in the front row. We questioned why this was the case because: Allison Janey, until we saw the play. It’s 100 minutes that is really incapable of being sold in an elevator pitch. Let me try though: “Six Degrees is about three different couples in Manhattan who all have the rug pulled out from under them by a talented conman.” Okay, there, I did it, sort of. But really, does that sound like a play that you’d pay $130/ticket to see? Probably not.

It starts out the day after a couple (Allison Janney and John Benjamin Hickey), an affluent pair of Manhattanites, have been conned, and they’re entertaining their friends with the story. Flashback to the night before and we meet Paul (Corey Hawkins) an incredibly well-spoken and smart African American young man who claims to be friends with their son at Harvard.

The most hysterical part of this one-act anomaly was a monologue delivered by Doug (played by Cody Kostro) during a montage of whiny monologues from the children of these upper Manhattanites. His is by far the most affected and dejected, and hysterical. “You said sex with dad was like having sex with a salad.” Epic. That was the only way to describe it.

This a relatively large cast for a straight play, but luckily, it’s a talented cast. Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey, and Cody Kostro were the stand-outs for me for sure.

Since it’s only 100 minutes, it’s a good night at the theatre to see some fantastic talent and laugh your ass off. Even if you leave the theatre a little confused.

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.