Happy mother’s day!

Happy mothers day, everyone!  I had a lovely day with my family.  We started out with brunch at The Heights Cafe on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights.  We were planning on walking across the Brooklyn Bridge afterwards, but traffic for my family on the BQE put a hault on that.  My best friend/former roommate Amy joined too because she was without a mother today (well, she’s just far away in upstate NY!).

Before that though, I was a ticket-buying feind in Times Square.  I picked up tickets from TKTS (I’ll shoot myself in the face before waiting in that tourist heaven of a line again!) for Next to Normal for my mother and I – the guy selling them to said, “These seats are awful.  They’re partial view."  Who actually says that to perspective customers?  Luckily, I’ve worked at the Booth Theatre, so I knew what the view was like and that it was NOT awful.  So I picked those up, and then picked up tickets for Star Trek in Imax for my dad and brother on 42nd street.

Well, brunch was great – though we got stuck in traffic getting over the Brooklyn Bridge, but we jumped out of the car in front of the Booth Theatre, found out seats, and got ready!  J. Robert Spencer was out, though our playbills lacked inserts – but that was okay.  The only cast members I really hoped would be in were Ms. Alice Ripley and Ms. Jennifer Damiano.  We sat in seats 7 & 9 in Row F.  Mothers were celebrating with their children in every row!

The playbill lacked a list of musical numbers, and I wasn’t really sure why – since none of the titles really give anything away.  Spoilers alerts!! Anyways, Next to Normal is about a family dealing with an over-medicated bipolar mother, who has never gotten over the death of her first son (who died at 8 months old, 19 years ago) and she still sees and talks to him.   The "oh my god”-moment, which I held my breath for this time (because I saw the original production last season at Second Stage) when Natalie, the daughter, tells her boyfriend, Henry, that her brother died – and that the son that we’ve been seeing onstage isn’t actually there. There were a bunch of deep breaths and “Oh shit!"s from the audience.  The music is great and energetic, the story is original, and set is visually esthetic as well as the lighting.  The set reminds me of that in August Osage County, because it’s often used as a three-story house – though MUCH more minimalistically. I have no idea what they did to pull the second act together, but it was MUCH smoother and did not drag at all like it did off-Broadway last season.

My favorite songs were Catch Me I’m Falling, I’m Alive, and the finale, Light.  I did notice, however, that much of this score is reprises (5 total in the second act).  Jennifer Damiano definitely earner her TONY nomination, especially being only 17 or 18, she has a helluva talent.  Alice Ripley absolutely kills it though.  I’ve been a fan of hers since back in the days of The Rocky Horror Show (2000 revival) and this definitely tests her acting and vocal chops (I should also mention that she also received a TONY nomination!).  Michael Berry did a great job in the role of Dan, and I have a tiny crush on Adam Chanler-Berat, who plays Henry, the pothead who comes to Natalie’s side at the beginning of the show.  The only person I missed from the Second Stage production?  Asa Sommers as the doctor.  I don’t know why, but I just missed his interpretation.

After the show, we made our way to the stage door and waited inside for my friend Damien, who is the percussionist for the show.  I had texted him earlier and told him I was seeing the show [finally] and he told me he’d put me on the list.  We waited alongside Lou Christy, a 1950’s pop star, whom my mother recognized, and was waiting for Alice Ripley.  A few minutes later, Damien came out, and after introductions, he took us for a short tour of the stage; I love, love, love the set.  We talked for a while, and he asked if I liked the show better (he knew I had reservations since the Second Stage production) and I said yes, I did, very much.  After taking a picture, I thanked him and we headed off to kill time before my dad and brother got out of Star Wars.

After stopping by the Nederlander Theatre, we cut through the Hilton Hotel and went to Coldstone and had a small cheesecake/chocolate ice cream with caramel and peanut butter cups in it.  YUM!  Around 6:20, they got out of the movie, my dad stated, "It was AWESOME!!” and we walked to the car and eventually made our way to my apartment where they dropped me off. All in all, an awesome day 🙂

So, definitely check out Next to Normal if you get a chance, playing at The Booth Theatre on 45th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue.  There is a general rush that goes on sale two hours before each performance, 2 tickets per person at $25.

Another weekend at the theatre.

Well, the weekend isn’t over yet but I’ve taken in two performances in the last two days.  33 Variations, written by Moises Kaufman (The Laramie Project), and beyond words, a dance piece by dre.dance.

(photo credit AnyLife)I ventured to the Eugene O’Neil Theatre on Friday night to administer surveys for The League once more, this time at 33 Variations33 Variations was about a woman named Katherine (Jane Fonda) who was obsessed with discovering why Ludwig von Beethoven wrote 33 variations of Anton Dudley’s waltz while she is fighting a rare terminal illness.  Kaufman paralleled between Beethoven’s world and Katherine’s when they are both failing to fight their illnesses.  Kaufman also draws (random and unnecessary, perhaps) parallels between the world of Clara, Katherie’s daughter, and Katherine’s doctor Mike (played by movie actor Colin Hanks).  I didn’t understand this side story at all.

I enjoyed the show because it was very education – I knew nothing about Beethoven and his 33 variations before – but god, it dragged.  It was an average length play, but it just felt like it was 3 hours long.

[Side Note: While I was preparing the surveys before the show, Jane Fonda was standing onstage talking to the pianist (she plays the variations during the show) and apparently she is getting set up on a date, but first she wanted to know, “Well, is he at least good looking?"  I laughed!]

During my time on unemployment, I spent a few weeks running errands and assisting a freelance producer; this producer is also on the Board of Directors for dre.dance, a dance company founded by Taye Diggs and Andrew Palermo.  Hence how I got asked to work their gala last night at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center.

It was an hour-long dance piece inspired ”by a CNN feature about a woman with ‘severe’ autism, Amanda Baggs.“  Sheused a computer to speak text that she turned into documentary videos which portray ”what it’s like to live within her world and speak her language.“  Althought interrupted by a medical emergency about half way through, the company performed with grace and fluidity.

After the performance, I poured champagne at the after-reception and then where did I go?  Edwards, of course.  I was quite tipsy from my few glasses of champagne already so I feasted on my usual grilled chicken sandwich and fries, while chatting with Brent, my favorite bartender, Faig, the host, and another regular.  Today Jason and I will be seeing what Collecther has to offer in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn.  Let’s hope we don’t get stabbed!!

Fact: The US Uses 85% of the Worlds’ Ritalin

Comp tickets make the world go ‘round.  Especially in a recession when you find yourself out of a job.  PlaybyPlay is a papering service that lets its members buy tickets for available shows for $3 each.  That’s how I saw the Roundabout’s recently opened production of Distracted at the Laura Pels Theatre last night.  Cynthia Nixon is leading this fantastic cast with an incredibly thought-provoking script by Lisa Loomer.  And I will admit up front that Nixon is the initial reason why I wanted to see the show – and I’m so happy I did.

It’s about a family with a nine year old son who is dealing with ADD.  The see psychologists, nutritionists, neuropsychologists, and even go to special meet up for new practices for ADD in New Mexico.  After putting their son on Ritalin, taking him off Ritalin and on Adderall, and on numerous other drugs, Nixon notices he’s not even acting like himself anymore.  He doesn’t eat, and watched the Weather Channel for three days straight.  Her husband threatens to divorce her and sue for custody if she doesn’t stop medicating him.  That’s when they stop medicating and go to New Mexico.

We finally see the son in the last five minutes (by far the easiest track off-Broadway) after merely hearing his screams and screeching over the speakers and Nixon closes the show by saying, “For a kid with attention deficit disorder… isn’t the best thing to just give him attention?”

I stayed after to meet Nixon and she was incredibly nice and obliging to my picture and autograph requests which was refreshing.  The play had its moving moments and comedic ones too.  Never did I wonder, “Is this act almost over yet?”  Distracted plays through May 17th, run, don’t walk!

Revisiting Jersey

Once again, thanks to The League, I got to take in a viewing of Jersey Boys on March 11th.  I saw the original cast twice in 2006 so I was very nervous to see what kind of condition the show was in now.

The cast is now lead by Dominic Nolfi (Tommy DeVito), Matt Bogart (Nick Massi), Andrew Rannells (Bob Gaudio), and Jarrod Spector (Frankie Valli).  From afar, a difference between Jarrod Spector and John Lloyd Young (the TONY Award winner for his portrayal of Frankie Valli) is unnoticeable.  Andrew Rannells was probably my favorite replacement, or maybe his character is just my favorite.  Matt Bogart was fine, except it bothered me that he was almost shorter than Jarrod Spector – which doesn’t exactly sit right with me because he’s a big gangster; and Dominic Nolfi played DeVito comically just as J. Robert Spencer had.

I have to admit, I was [surprisingly] incredibly bored during the first half of the first act, but once the guys struck their big break with “Sherry” I was fully engaged again.  For a juke box musical (for the non-musical theatre geeks reading, that’s a musical made from already existing music), the book is a strong point.  It’s quick paced, engaged, and thorough, which is much more than can be said for the short-lived Good Vibrations (the 2005 musical based on the music of The Beach Boys).

Though this third visit to Jersey was enjoyable, as was the new cast, I don’t think I’ll be venturing back across the border anytime soon.

A Reflection of the Dying American Dream

Last week on March 4th, thanks to The League, I viewed a performance of The American Plan at the newly renamed Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (owned by the Manhattan Theatre Club).  I was a bit disappointed when I first got there because Lily Rabe, the actress who I saw get her start in the star-studded cast of the revival of Steel Magnolias, was going to be out that night and her role would be covered by Kate Arrington.  Luckily, Mercedes Ruhl was alive and well, and performing that night.

Mercedes Ruhl played an unbelievably manipulative and pathologically liar of a mother, Eva, who says what’s necessary to keep her daughter single and at home (Grey Gardens, anyone?).  Her daughter, Lili, meets a stranger, Nick, who comes up on her dock.  They have a quick romance that takes a unique turn when his [gay] lover from the past, Gil, returns and they cultivate the perfect “American Plan.”  They’d marry women and have their families grow up as best friends, which would enable them to carry on their relationship.  When Eva spots Nick and Gil together on the dock, she uses that as blackmail against Nick to get him to leave, and he does, with no word to Lili.

I saw this moment in the second act and it could’ve have been more timely – since I’d recently also been blown off without word from the person.  I thought the second act was much more entertaining than the first; and though I thought Ruhl was not up-to-par in the beginning [and deciphering what she was saying was a chore], once the plot picked up, so did her performance.  Kate Arrington did a fantastic job as Lili and those who catch her will not be disappointed.  All in all, a great new play.

A Week at the Theatre

(c) Theatremania.comIn the past week I’ve seen two Broadway shows.  If you know me, you know this is nothing new to me.  I saw my first show went when I was seven years old, it was Cats.  Two Saturdays ago, I took my mother to Lincoln Center to see South Pacific – her favorite show since she was young (she was the only kid in her high school class of knife-fighters to bring in a cast recording, South Pacific, as an aid for a school project), and I’d snagged tickets for her for Christmas.

There were several understudies, but luckily at least TONY Award winner Kelli O’Hara was alive and well, and performing at the matinee that day.  The only production I’d seen of South Pacific was a community production when I was maybe 7 or 8, and though I’d never been a fan of the show itself, Lincoln Center’s production won seven TONY Awards in June, so I was excited to see it for that reason alone.  The overture (to quote Bob Martin, “a pu pu platter of tunes, if you will.”) was one of the longest I’ve ever heard.  The set is one of the most impressive parts of the show, and when the overture is maybe a minute in, the thrust of the stage comes in and reveals the entire orchestra.  When the overture is over, the conductor and orchestra stand up and take a bow.  Where else on Broadway can you see such a thing?

I enjoyed the show entirely and the cast, including understudies, were stellar, especially Ms. O’Hara.  Special mention must be made of Loretta Albes Sayre, who played a hilarious Bloody Mary and made her one of my favorite characters who I completely empathized with in the second act.

I will admit though that I was a bit disappointed with the end.  I saw “Primo Finale” in the Playbill and expected grandiose production value.  Instead I got a cast marching off stage and O’Hara walking back into the plantation to greet Emile and his children.  Curtain.  I guess I’m a product of today’s Broadway show – big, huge, glitzy finales.  The bigger, the better.

Despite the lack of finale, it was a great production that lived up to all of its hype.  A lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Being a former intern at The Broadway League has its perks.  One is administering surveys at randomly selected Broadway shows, getting paid to do it, and also being able to watch the show.  This past Friday night I spent a night at the Golden Theatre on 45th Street taking in a performance of Avenue Q.  I had seen Q twice before, once with the original cast and once a year or two later.  Friday’s cast was, save for one, all new to me.  In comparison to the original cast this cast was equally as entertaining and enjoyable.

Special mention should be made of Christian Anderson, who despite several years in the show, is still just as brilliant and humorous to watch for a second time as he was the first as he juggles multiple roles with ease.

I have to mention also that I have not related to this show more than during this viewing.  Princeton (thanks!), a recent university graduate with a BA in English, doesn’t know what he’s doing with his life, he “thinks the hard part is over,” he doesn’t know what type of job he should be pursuing, etc.  As a recent university graduate myself facing some of those same problems, I find myself sometimes saying “I wish I could go back to college” because I wouldn’t have to worry about paying bills or rent – but then I snap out of it as I remember what college was like (basically an extension of high school, with more alcohol).  I empathize with Kate Monster as she gets hurt by Princeton; and I remembered that there is “life outside your apartment” as I remember when I was laid off and generally hide inside my apartment, job searching day after day.

The comical staples of the show such as “If You Were Gay,” and the oh-so-true “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” didn’t fail to disappoint either.  I was happy to see the show still getting such a positive response, with the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter still.  Though in the finale the “George Bush!… was only for now,” fell a bit flat, I think, due mainly to the actors’ nervousness with saying it.

If you’re in town and need to pick a show to see, I’d say “South Pacific” for the more traditional theatre goer; while you may want a to try a helping of “Avenue Q” if you’re looking for something a bit edgier, while still channeling your inner Sesame Street-fan.  Either way, you can’t loose!