So, you have heard about this debacle last Wednesday night. As it turned out, Matt had invited me to see Shows For Days with him the following night and oh, was it a treat to be at that performance. Patti came out in street clothes before the show and addressed the audience as herself, to much applause and support.

And then the show started.

It was a semi-autobiographical story about Douglas Carter Beane’s early days in community theatre in Pennsylvania. It was full length – two acts – though it didn’t feel long at all. It was entertaining and somewhat predictable at times. 

It was lovely to see Michael Urie onstage again as Car (Beane’s character) ad of course, who doesn’t love a good diva performance by Patti Lupone? No one, that’s who. Also in the cast were Dale Soules, Zoe Winters, Lance Coadie Williams, and Jordan Dean. 

There were lots of laughs and maybe a tear or two at the end. If nothing else, Shows For Days is a lovely piece of theatre history. 

I’d heard a lot about the Transport Group’s production of a new musical called Lysistrata Jones over the past year and was able to check it out six months ago when they were performing in a unique space – the basement of the Judson Church alongside Washington Square Park. It was pop-y music, a unique setting (which was probably most of the allure), and an humorous topic (I’m also a fan of the original text – Lysistrata). Did I think it was a good idea to move it to a 1000+ seat Broadway house? No. Absolutely not. It’d get completely lost and the best part about it was that it was set in an actual gym (okay, so it didn’t make for the most comfortable seats, but whatever).

I had tickets to last Saturday night’s performance and tried to clear my head of all preconceived notions about why Lyssie shouldn’t actually be uptown. 

They didn’t change very much from the off-Broadway incarnation except for adding cheesy jokes about Lindsay Nicole Chambers looking like Kathy Griffin (she kind of does), Newt Gingrinch (what?), and an iPhone app. The music is still pop-y and and the show is a burst of energy. We just had no idea why they had so much energy, or what they were singing about, some of the time. The choreography is my favorite aspect of Lyssie, and, of course, Jason Tam, who once again stole my heart and made me want to give him my number after the show (no, I didn’t actually do that). 

Patti Murin, as our protagonist, is a great fit for the role except she’s not that strong of a belter and the score requires that of the character. One of the reviews said her performance is reminiscent of Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde or Alicia Silverstone in Clueless and it’s 100% true.  Lindsay Nicole Chambers as the geeky intellectual Robin is the one who plants the idea of withholding sex from the basketball team to Lyssie, and  is also another one of my favorites. She’s hysterical and quite talented. The company members I didn’t like were almost every single one of the basketball team members. I don’t remember disliking them off-Broadway but now they just annoyed me – or maybe it was their characters (the archetypes of jocks, thugs, and every other obnoxious guy you’d find in college was represented onstage). But boy, oh boy, could they certainly dance up a storm. The other thing that bothered me about Lyssie were the cheap, cheesy jokes. They came one after another – it felt overwritten to grab the laughs where ever they could.

Lysistrata Jones’ average ticket price last week was $19.19. Ouch. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ticket price so low and depressing. On Tuesday the critics surprised everyone (or maybe just me) and praised Lyssie for what it is – a bright, energetic, bubble gum infused pop-y show that might not be an intellectual night at the theatre, but it sure is fun.

Give it up, Lysistrata!

I read the play Lysistrata during my sophomore year of college (one of the only classical plays I actually read, and liked) and I was excited when I heard Transport Group was bringing this new updated musical version titles Lysistrata Jones to a Greenwich Village church basement gym.  Set at Athens University, the basketball team hasn’t won a game in 30 years and a new transfer to the school, Lysistrata, gets the teams girlfriends to agree to withhold sex until they actually try and win a game.  A friend of mine was covering opening night this past Sunday and invited me to come along.  

The score (by Lewis Flinn) is reminiscent of Legally Blonde, in a good way, and the book (by Douglas Carter Beane) is thorough and good.  The choreography (mixed with class basketball moves, by Dan Knechtges) is thrilling, maybe even breathtaking, to watch as it’s incredibly complex and probably one of my favorite parts.  The sets (by Allen Moyer) are versatile, moving all the time.  

The cast is almost entirely unknown (they had to find actors who could also play basketball – not an easy feat!).  Patti Murin plays Lysistrata Jones and is perky, energetic, moves easily, and she has a great voice.  The other stand-out in the cast was Jason Tam as Xander, the typical college nerd who may fall for our protagonist.  He has a great voice and is an excellent actor.  

In attendance that night were the likes of Barbara Walsch, Jackie Hoffman, Adam Chandler Berat, Bryan Batt, and Charles Busch (not in drag!).  The gym was transformed and looked quite similar to a high school dance after where kegs of beer, soda, and pizza were served.  

The cake was REALLY sweet.

The cast & creative:

Beane and Flinn celebrating their incredibly well received opening night!

I really enjoyed the show and I was happy to see the following morning that they received across the board positive reviews.  Lysistrata Jones may not be deep, but it certainly is fun, and well-written, which is more than you can say for a lot of what’s new in New York this season.  

Lysistrata Jones is playing downtown at the Gym at Judson through June 19th.  Visit Transport Group’s website for more information.