I found out that The Drama Book Shop was having some hard times when I saw a clip on Facebook from a local news channel. The short story: a pipe burst destroying much of their ceiling and a whole lot of inventory. Lin-Manuel Miranda posted a video about it on Twitter and patrons rushed into the store to help by spending money. Their sales are up 50% and they’re hoping their insurance kicks in sooner rather than later.

I spent many days during my college years (and even before that while I was in high school) wandering the shelves looking for plays for classes and to read on my own. I used to buy a few dozen plays there every summer, coming back once I had finished reading all my prior purchases. 

So, last Tuesday I wandered up 40th and 7th to pay homage to the store that was such a huge resource for me and I picked up a copy of Stephen Karam’s The Humans. I know I didn’t particularly fall head-over-heels in love with the show, but I think that’s because I probably missed a few subtleties. 

I wished the manager good luck with everything, said goodbye to the manager’s dog that sits on the counter, and was on my way.

If you’re in New York City, or are planning a visit soon, please stop by The Drama Book Shop and show your support. You can find out more information here

Hamilton & Hennessy

After the final performance of The Wild Party on Saturday night, a few friends and I headed over to Urbo on 42nd and 8th for a party celebrating Hamilton’s first week on Broadway, sponsored for Hennessy. There were fun drinks and fun people – and lots of dancing, oh, and a photobooth. 

The only person I asked to take a picture with was Jonathan Groff and when I asked him if my friend could take a photo, he said, “Oh here, I can take a selfie!” Below is the end result (and more photos after the jump!):

It was a fun night. 

The Broadway Star Who Got Away

Am I the only person who didn’t know she had officially ‘left the industry’? I just thought she was doing other things – or I just didn’t really think about where she was at all. 

It was an interesting read and good for her for making that choice and relocating. Although she is awesomely talented, there are probably 150 other girls out there who are just as talented and waiting to take her spot so to say we “lost” a star is a bad way of looking at it. She gave another star out there a chance to shine, one who’d really appreciate it. At least for the time being!

The Broadway Star Who Got Away

What’s thirty? Just, you know, the end of youth.

It was August 24th, 2001, two-ish weeks before 9/11, when I was offered tickets to see the off-broadway production of Jonathan Larson’s tick… tick..BOOM! I was 15 and seeing Rent more often than not. My cousin, who lived on Christopher Street in Sheridan Square at the time, let me stay with her and walked me up West 4th Street, teaching me how to find my way around the crazy maze that is that West Village.

I made a sorta-last minute decision to buy tickets for Kristen and myself to the Encores’ staging of it which opened tonight. And I’m very glad I did. It was a trip down memory lane and I still remembered almost every word. The staging was almost the same as the also very minimalistic production at the Jane Street Theater.

Leslie Odom Jr. (now of Smash fame, though he was actually in Rent long ago) took on the role of Jon’s best friend Michael. He acted the part excellently and sounded great. Karen Olivo absolutely brought the house down with the 11 o’clock number “Come To Your Senses,” although she was primarily playing Jon’s girlfriend Susan.

And then there was Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jon. Sort of a big deal has been made in the theatre world lately about him paying tribute to Jonathan Larson and I get it. They’re both young composers who wrote ground-breaking musicals. Yes, I get it. So I was expecting a stellar performance, and emotionally and acting-wise, it was. Miranda was great on that level. Vocally? He was mediocre (at best). He got through In The Heights because it was mostly rap but how can you take over a role originated by the vocal brilliance of Raul Esparza and have virtually no upper register or any ability to hold notes for any sustained period of time? He was vocally disappointing. He also wore a beanie which was confusing because in all of the photos that I’ve ever seen of Jonathan Larson, he did not, ever wear a beanie. 

ttB! struck a new chord with me because I was 15 last time I saw it and now I’m less than two years away from being 30. It’s also largely about the really tough choice to pursue your dreams or abandon it in favor of a stable and oftentimes boring career. Anyone who works in the arts can tell you that you don’t do it for money, you do it for love, because we don’t make a lot of money (unless you’re Sondheim, Webber, or David Stone, of course). I also didn’t understand this quote when I was 15, but I understand it fully now:

It’s hard for people born after 1960 to be idealistic or original. We know what happens to ideals. They’re assassinated or corrupted or co-opted. It’s 1990 for God’s sake. It is not an exciting period. It is not a period of ferment. It’s fucking stodgy is what it is – conservative, complacent, obtuse and unimaginative. Or, to put it another way: George Bush is president of the United States.”

This was a lovely, emotional trip to an old favorite of mine that resonated with new meaning almost 15 years later. Totally worth the $27. 

It plays through Saturday – get your tickets now!

In the Heights is an extremely enjoyable and entertaining show that I go see when I can get super cheap tickets.  I happen to be able to get them the day of Broadway on Broadway, so after I was done at Times Square Studios (at exactly 1:47pm), my mom and I rushed over to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on 46th Street to catch the 2pm matinee of In the Heights.  Jordin Sparks was out, which was disappointing, but her understudy, Gabrielle Ruiz, is great and did not disappoint.  

The cast was in great shape.  Kyle Beltran, the new Usnavy, is great, and my only complaint about Clifton Oliver, the new Benny, is that he needs to stand up straighter, he always looked hunched over.  Olga Merediz, as Abuela Claudia, was on fire, as per usual, as was the immensely talented Priscilla Lopez, as Camilla.  My only critique to this TONY winning show is that they need to clean up their lighting cues, numerous cues were late.

Marcy Harriell, an acquaintance of mine (and, admittedly, one of my favorite musical theatre actresses since I saw her in Rent when I was 12), was back from her medical leave and I was excited to introduce my mom to her after the performance.  She offered to take us onstage and I am never one to turn down such an offer.  Above is a picture of her and I – it’d been quite a while since we’d take once, I think since the closing show of Lennon in 2006.  That could be inaccurate though, I’m not sure.  Anyways.  We caught up briefly and chatted also with the prop manager who popped his head through part of the “beauty shop” for a minute before saying goodbye so she could go rest up for the next performance.  

Oh yes, and my mother loved the show.  I’m so glad she finally got to see it!

This was the cast list for the Sunday night performance of In the Heights.  Matt, his friend, and I ventured out on the less-than-temperate night and upon seeing the cast list, assumed we were in for a wild ride and most likely a bumpy one.  

Well, we were wrong (fortunately!).  In the Heights, which opened in March 2008, has held up quite well over the last 2+ years.  Even without Lin Manuel Miranda, or his current replacement Corbin Bleu, the cast had tons of energy and kept it together 100%.  Everything flowed as smoothly as it had when I saw the show in April 2008.  

Courtney Reed, in for Marcy Harriell, was good as Vanessa but her voice (and more specifically her belt) was nowhere near as powerful as Harriell’s.  Janet Decal, Mandy Gonzalez’s replacement, had a great voice for the character of the conflicted Nina, but her acting, in my opinion, left a bit to be desired.  It wasn’t as dramatic as she should’ve been, I didn’t believe she was upset so I couldn’t empathize with her.  Gabrielle Ruiz, filling in this summer for Bianca Marroquin, was great; sassy and had a great voice.  Her comedic timing sufficed as well.  I still prefer Marroquin though.  

Overall, it was an satisfying night at the theatre and a great return to a show that’s quickly becoming a Broadway veteran.

Last Monday, Amanda and I saw In the Heights, both for our third time.  Tickets popped up on PlayByPlay and we would up in AMAZING seats (fourth row of the orchestra).  There were a few understudies on, and we were nervous to see Corbin Bleu as Usnavy since we both hadn’t seen anyone in the role since Lin-Manuel Miranda.  Mandy Gonzales was out and her understudy was very good – though I couldn’t decide if she looked more Puerto Rican or Russian.

Corbin Bleu, of High School Musical fame, was great as Usnavy.  I can’t speak for Amanda, but I wasn’t longing for Miranda to be onstage at any point.  It was refreshing to see that just because the show has had a few cast replacements and been on Broadway for a couple of years, it hasn’t lost anything.  It’s still as effective as it was the night it opened and it’s maintained a consistent high energy through out the show.

Believe it or not, that’s something that many shows can’t do.

(photo via drunkbrunch)