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.

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. 

And: Retreat

I’d never gone on a yoga retreat before last weekend. I remember a few years ago I was debating on coming up to the same farm for a similar yoga retreat with one of my favorite teachers at the time and I decided that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, spend the money. This time around I’m a little better off and it was pretty cheap as far as weekend yoga retreats go (they’re sometimes thousands of dollars???) so I signed up as I found out that one of my current favorite teachers, Chrissy Carter, was teaching up at a spot called Heathen Hill over the last weekend in the Catskills.

I’ve never been much of a nature person (the one time I tried camping I was bit by a deer tick and got limes disease) but I was willing to give this a shot because I wouldn’t necessarily have to be out in nature. I wouldn’t have to hike or go in a canoe. I could read and journal in between yoga classes and have that be that.

There’s also incredibly limited cell reception up there. You have to walk to the top of a hill about 8 minutes away to get, at best, spotty service. I was nervous about that but Justin was watching the catch for one night and then my mom wanted to hang out in the city, so she took over the second night. Still. No cell service?! AH.

I carpooled it up there with three lovely women – two of whom were yoga teachers themselves – and we had a fun time, despite getting lost in northern Jersey and the traffic heading up there that made us miss the Friday evening class. It was what it was. We were able to relax into our rooms and walk amongst the chickens instead.

The food was farm fresh, mostly vegan, but all at least was vegetarian. The only time we had meat was at brunch on Sunday. There was even cauliflower flatbread. We all freaked out over it. There were also the farm fresh snap peas and homemade dill dip which was to die for. And the homemade ice cream? And the homemade asian coleslaw? Dead. 

Chrissy kept talking reiterating during her dharma talks in class about creating space in our lives for stillness and that we all had space that weekend to do whatever we wanted. There was no internet or cell phone service, or work commitments that we had to take care of. We were here for self-care purposes. She talked about not having to rush from one thing to another because there was no place to be. We had permission to stop pretending to be busy. She said we could stop and truly find out what we needed at that moment, and maybe in our lives going forward.

She told us that one thing she wanted us to take away from this weekend was the ability to create that space for ourselves even when we were back in the city again with a million things to do when it seems like we have no time (from that bad habit we Americans have of having to make ourselves appear busy when we never really are). 

It was incredibly liberating to have nothing to do, as well as incredibly frustrating. I have all of this time and nothing to do.. oh my goodness. I could read, or write, or take a walk, or go hang out with my fellow yogis, or meditate, or try to pick up one of the chickens, or pet the owner’s cats. 

What did I end up doing? I read Elie Wiesle’s Night. I journaled a lot. I spent about 5 minutes down by the watering hole before deciding that the bugs were just not for me. I watched the sunrise on both days. I meditated. I met a lot of awesome people. I made s’mores by the campfire. I ate delicious food fresh from the farm, and I slept really well. I also drank some wine. 

I really felt like not talking during the weekend. I started wishing it was a silent retreat on the first day. I balanced out my alone time with the time that I spent with my fellow yogis. Also: no one talked about politics. Score.

There were several women – in their late 30′s and 40′s – who also wanted nothing to do with having kids. Oh, what’s that? You have a completely fulfilling life without having to devote it to raising human larve? You’re my heros. #vindication

I never did catch a chicken, but my new friends did place a chickens in my arms not just once, but twice. Those guys are so cute!

By the time Sunday brunch was finished, I was ready to head back to the city. Fresh and clear-minded this time. I’d had my fill of nature for now.

i’ll definitely do this again. I’m not sure when but sometime soon. 

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Small City

There are 10 million people (give or take) in New York City. That’s a huge number of people, you say. Yeah, that’s a lot of people, totally. Except for when you’re all living within 10 miles of each other. Then not so much. That person who you thought you’d never see again? Oh hey, sitting next to me on the subway!

Anyways, it’s not always bad. Usually it’s comical, or even good! Lots of relationships start because people live near each other (though they oftentimes end and I’m not sure if that’s because of the proximity or just because lots of relationships end, but I digress). We live in this city for ease of access to everything, so we take the good with the not-ideal. 

Anyways, on my floor in my apartment building, there’s a family at the other end of the hall that’s a mother, father, and son. The son is probably in his mid-20′s and he’s a ghostwriter for CEOs and smokes a lot of pot (I can smell it). He’s a super nice guy though, stoner tendencies aside.  

Well, I was waiting for the elevator and my office building this morning and who walks into the lobby? That guy. I looked at him like, “I recognize that dude, but wait, I don’t work with him…” and then it clicked. I think the same thing went through his head, too. He told me his office just moved into the building. 

I couldn’t believe it. How random. It’s a small town that I live in. 

PS: Also small world-esque: A coworker of J’s lives in my apartment building. We run into him all the time now in the elevator!

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I attended the opening night of Manhattan Theater Club’s When We Were Young a couple of weeks ago. I had seen the word ‘feminist’ thrown around in writing about the plot of the show but didn’t really know what to expect.

Cherry Jones plays a woman (Agnes) who runs a home for women who are domestically abused and looked to escape their husbands. Agnes also has a daughter of her own, Hannah (Cherise Boothe), the feminist of the house who wants to go to an Ivy League school and has no time for boys. Mary Anne (played by Zoe Kazan) arrives at their doorstep and while she’s staying with them, she coaches Hannah on how to get her dream guy to ask her to the prom, among other things, and this totally changes Hannah, for better or for worse, who knows.

When We Were Young is much deeper and thought-provoking than I’m making it seem, but it’s also a very heavy. You definitely need to take a moment to remember to breath during intermission.

Cherry Jones is, of course, spectacular. Boothe and Kazan are both enjoyable to watch and believable. Patch Darragh and Morgan Saylor play two supporting roles as well and help keep the play moving and exciting.

This is a fine production at MTC and Jones’ gives a performance not to be missed. 

(Full disclosure: The company I work for works on this show, but the opinions are all my own.)

Two weeks ago I got to see After Midnight, a dance revue playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Patti LaBelle was the current star and Dule Hill is always fabulous, as is Adriane Lenox, so I said why not!

It definitely deserved it’s Best Choreography TONY Award as the dancing was some of the best currently seen on Broadway. The singing was fabulous and it wove several different stories together which all came together at the very end, which I always like.

The cast was uniformly talented and did things with their bodies that you wouldn’t believe was possible. It’s a 95 minute journey back to old Harlem and the music of the day.

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!

I’d seen Thomas Bradshaw’s last play, Burning, a couple of years ago so I knew what I was getting myself into when I “signed up” to see Intimacy, his latest work produced by The New Group.

There is a lot of nudity, masturbation, and fake semen in this one. It’s about three families in some small American town whose lives are kind of turned upside-down when one of the widower-devout Christian father’s discovers one of the girls next door is a porn star. Values are examined, the porn star’s father has to come to terms with his daughter’s career choice (as the mother seems incredibly supportive), and the climax (no pun intended) is all three families acting in a porno together filmed directed by the devout Christian’s son, Matthew (I’m pretty sure that was his name).

This is the intimacy that that the title refers to. It’s a little weird. Okay, very weird. And incredibly unbelievable, but hey, maybe it’s not so much as we hear more and more nowadays about mothers and daughters doing porn together and the like. The writing in Intimacy was never Pulitzer Prize worthy but when the plot atrophies, so does the writing.

Bradshaw likes to see how far he can push his audiences. Well, he pushed them quite far and a lot of them didn’t come back. But I think that’s part of the fun of a Bradshaw play: observing the audience’s reaction.