The Case For Porn

There’s a British YouTuber I like named Hannah Witton and today she posted a video about the benefits of porn. I was in a relationship once with a guy who had an addiction to porn (it is real, check out YouTuber Shan Boody’s video that explains what a porn addiction is). It screwed up our relationship royally. He was unable to get aroused because he watched too much porn, then he felt bad, then he watched more, then he felt bad again… etc. You get it.

Personally, I’m OK with porn and I’d totally be open to watching it with a partner, but porn caused him a whole bunch of shame. I didn’t get it. It’s porn! There’s ridiculous porn that sets unrealistic expectations for both men and women, but there’s porn out there that is more real. I was probably more disappointed than anything that he didn’t want to invite me into his viewing sessions. Oh well. His loss…?

But I think the shame that comes with an addiction to porn is a result of the shame that we place on those who watch porn. We refuse to think of it as an art form and call the people in the actors onscreen dirty sluts and whores. I’ve done it before. You know you’ve done it, too. We refuse to see the value in watching it so we write off the people who do find it valuable (if they can enjoy it in a healthy way and they’re not addicted).

I guess this is a really roundabout way of saying: Porn has it’s place and it’s time to stop shaming people who like it.

And on a not totally-unrelated aside, you should check out the musical “Pretty Filthy,” which is a docu-musical about porn stars in LA. It was off-Broadway a few years ago and it was pretty great and eye-opening.

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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: 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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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A couple of weeks ago I saw On Your Feet!, The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan at the Marquis Theatre. I only remembered some of her music growing up in the 90′s and I knew nothing about her life growing up in Miami. This was bound to be a history lesson on all fronts.

The timing of this show is perfect – a show about (a lot of) immigrants who do good shit and work their asses off. We need this right now in this country. I don’t think Gloria lived an extraordinary childhood by any means, but she was a very talented kid and to say that she’s lucky that Emilio found her is an understatement. The most amazing part of her story, though, was her recovery from her tour bus accident. I had zero idea this happened and her path to walking and dancing again is an inspiring one. (Sorry, spoiler alert?)

Luckily, this is a jukebox musical that is structured very well. The story flows and boredom is never really a thing that happens because every time you might find yourself looking for your Playbill, another one of her hit songs blares over the speakers and the energy in the audience spikes. Ana Villafane as adult Gloria and Alexandria Suarez as young Gloria were both excellent. Villafane sounded like an exact replica of Gloria herself. And lastly, Omar Lopez-Cepero, whom I remember from American Idiot, duh, was excellent as Emilio. 

On Your Feet! is a must-see for Estefan fans everywhere, at the very least.

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Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

This musical has seen many stagings: Ars Nova (more of a reading, really), Kazino in the meatpacking district), a lot on 8th avenue, ART in Boston. And now it’s finally, finally on Broadway. Cheap tickets have been hard to find so Kristen and I jumped on $40 tickets that NYU offered her for a student night recently. We found out Josh Groban was out when we arrived but quite honestly, I didn’t care. Josh Groban is really just a non-theatrical version of Josh Young anyways, right? Right.

I sort of remembered the story when I saw The Great Comet in 2013 and Kristen had read the book, so we had an idea of what was going on. 

Let me start by saying that the star of this production is not anyone on the stage, it is the stage, and theatre, itself. I would love to see the budget for the theatre renovation because it is spectacular. In this new staging, they tried as hard as they possibly could to not let the show get lost in the space. They made as many opportunities as possible to get the actors mingling with the audience.

And you definitely want this cast to mingle with you. They are fierce. A lot of them are from the 2013 production and they are all so very talented. Lucas Steele was out, but I think I enjoyed his understudy, Josh Canfield, even more as the pompous asshole Anatole. Scott Stangland was on as Pierre for Josh Groban and he gave a lovely, really nuanced performance.  

The story is kind of ridiculous, though. Natasha meets Anatole and falls for him immediately, not seeing that he’s a complete douche? Come on. And the ‘Great Comet’ is mentioned only in the last 15 seconds of the show. It’s kind of ridiculous. There’s also a LOT going on – because it’s a Russian novel, so, yeah: dense. But as hard as they try, the show gets lost in a theatre as “big” as the Imperial. We sat in the front-rear mezzanine for the first act and it fell flat. When we moved down the second row of the front mezzanine, it became a little bit more exciting.

To that end: this show is beautiful, as is the cast and the score. I just wish it were in a different theatre.

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Memories.

Oh, Cats. I spent most of my teenage and young adult years mocking this musical. It was my first musical in 1993, when I was 7, but I didn’t remember much about it except that a ‘cat’ walked past me across the front of the mezzanine and I thought that was SO COOL. I also definitely rolled my eyes when I heard it was being revived. But I bought my mom tickets for Christmas and we went in mid-January. And I really enjoyed it, as did she. 

So there’s really, truly no story being told, but a vague plot about a bunch of stray cats that come together on one night every year. Then there’s a former glamorous cat that is old and ragged, Grizabella, who I felt really bad for. There’s a small white cat, who I remember was my favorite back in the early 90′s. And there’s Mr. Mistoffelees, the magical tuxedo cat! He was, obviously, my favorite. Lastly, there’s the large old cat who is basically the sage, Rum Tum Tugger, the role Terrance Mann originated on Broadway (yes, that’s what I associate with this role). 

All of the cats have backstories and I felt so bad for all of them. Because I am a bleeding heart for stray cats now. I’m a crazy person. Anyways, the choreography was really phenomenal. So was the cast. 

I will totally admit that I had to eat my hat because I loved Cats and I’d definitely go see it again. I probably won’t, but I enjoyed it enough that I totally would. 

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A few weeks back, on a very snow Sunday in January, I made the long journey down to the Circle in the Square Theatre and saw In Transit. I knew it was an a capella musical and I was intrigued. And skeptical. Would I really not miss the instruments?!

Well, I’m happy to say that I didn’t miss the instruments at all! The vocals were really amazing. There were several stories woven all together, some of which were cliche, but I wasn’t really there for the story, so whatever, right? 

Boxman, played by Chesney Snow, was somewhat of a narrator and he was goddamn incredible. The entire cast was great – and I saw a few understudies at the matinee, too. I’m glad Justin Guarini has found a home in the theatre after his pop star days because he’s pretty entertaining.

The show is just one act – 90 minutes, no intermission – and it’s a treat. And although Kathleen Marshall is one helluva unconventional pick for a musical like this, I think she did an excellent job. It’s the only place you’ll see a capella on Broadway, at least.