Review: Six Degrees of Separation

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I had seen exactly zero of the nominees of Best Revival of a Play until last week when Kristen and I purchased tickets on TDF for Six Degrees of Separation, starring the hysterical Allison Janney. The show isn’t selling well and we ended up in the front row. We questioned why this was the case because: Allison Janey, until we saw the play. It’s 100 minutes that is really incapable of being sold in an elevator pitch. Let me try though: “Six Degrees is about three different couples in Manhattan who all have the rug pulled out from under them by a talented conman.” Okay, there, I did it, sort of. But really, does that sound like a play that you’d pay $130/ticket to see? Probably not.

It starts out the day after a couple (Allison Janney and John Benjamin Hickey), an affluent pair of Manhattanites, have been conned, and they’re entertaining their friends with the story. Flashback to the night before and we meet Paul (Corey Hawkins) an incredibly well-spoken and smart African American young man who claims to be friends with their son at Harvard.

The most hysterical part of this one-act anomaly was a monologue delivered by Doug (played by Cody Kostro) during a montage of whiny monologues from the children of these upper Manhattanites. His is by far the most affected and dejected, and hysterical. “You said sex with dad was like having sex with a salad.” Epic. That was the only way to describe it.

This a relatively large cast for a straight play, but luckily, it’s a talented cast. Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey, and Cody Kostro were the stand-outs for me for sure.

Since it’s only 100 minutes, it’s a good night at the theatre to see some fantastic talent and laugh your ass off. Even if you leave the theatre a little confused.

playbill:

My Fair Lady Will Return to Broadway in 2018

My first response to this: Must we REALLY? Then I thought about it for a minute, and I’m all, OK, fine. This hasn’t been on Broadway in a few decades and it is a very Lincoln Center-esque show to produce. To say this show is old fashioned is an understatement (IMHO). 

I read through the script the summer after my senior year of high school. We were going to do it at a theatre that I’d performed at the two summers prior and when the production didn’t come to fruition, I was relieved. I wasn’t a fan of the music and I’d rather watch Pygmalion > My Fair Lady any day of the week. Did I mention that it’s long? Yes, it’s long. It’s your average two and a half hour (forty five minutes?) musicals and that’s way too long for this.

I’m interested to see who they cast but I doubt I’ll be seeing it (unless it’s for free) because there are many other things more worthwhile for me to be doing with my time (like sleeping, for example). 

She Loves Me @ Studio 54

A while back, I bought Hiptix for @endotique and I to see She Loves Me at Roundabout’s Studio 54 and finally on Wednesday it was the night. I knew nothing about the plot but I knew Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti were in it and that was good enough for me. Little did I know I was going to see You’ve Got Mail the Musical….

No, really. It was. It followed the plot to a T. Over all, I really liked She Loves Me. It was worth the two and a half hours alone just to see Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi onstage. I’m not a super fan of either, but both are abundantly talented and it’s so fun to watch, and listen, to them live.

Shows like this have a tendency to frustrate because you’re like, “OMG he’s the one you love!” And of course their character doesn’t know it. I found myself making comparisons the entire time to You’ve Got Mail. I’m not saying that was a good or bad; it just was a thing.

The company were all fantastic. The last time I saw Levi he was in the abysmal First Date, where he was wasting away on trite material, and he delighted me again this time, except with better material. He can dance, too. Who knew? Laura Benanti sings like a bird and she is beautiful. She sort of always plays the same kind of character onstage but at the very least, she’s good at it! So why mess with something if it’s not broken?

The only thing that had me looking at my playbill to see how much longer was left was the lack of AC in the rear mezz, but if you can brave the heat, or buy a ticket downstairs, you’ll be golden. She Loves Me is classic musical theatre and a good time – even for people, like me, who can almost never justify a two and a half hour musical.

I am nobody’s mother, but I am somebody.

On Tuesday night, @endotique met me (at the last possible minute, goddamn you, traffic; she literally got to the seat as the lights were going down!) to see new revival of The Color Purple. I saw the original production some years ago and I literally remembered nothing about it. LaChanze was in it, sure, but I don’t even remember her performance. I remember that Oprah was a producer and it didn’t do well – that’s about it. 

I think it’s safe to say that I will definitely remember this production.

The stage is very bare and has a semi-Our Town feel to it – in the sense that part of the first act has the characters that aren’t in the scene sitting onstage and watching. 

The elevator pitch for the show is it’s about two sisters, Celie and Netty, who live in Georgia and are separated when Celie is “given” to man by her step-father (who had been raping her since she was 12) to marry and basically be his slave. The new husband is abusive and doesn’t allow her to have contact with her sister at all. The Color Purple is about Celie’s journey to find her sister and her independence. Or at least a life that doesn’t include and daily rapings and beatings. 

Spoiler alert: There’s a happy ending.

The score is beautiful and I really enjoyed the direction (finally, John Doyle, you did something right!). The choreography is really excellent, too. But the stars of this show are Cynthia Erivo, Danielle Brooks, and Heather Headley. 

Cynthia Erivo was Celie and she has a voice you wouldn’t believe. She earned a standing ovation after one of her big songs in the second act. I’d be surprised if she talks at all when she’s not onstage. Give this woman the Tony Award ASAP.

Danielle Brooks, aka Tasty from Orange is the New Black (who I totally didn’t know was in this and it was a fantastic surprise), was Sophia, a woman in their small town who doesn’t take shit from her husband or any one else. Brooks has a killer voice and she’s a great actress. She helps encourage Erivo to leave her abusive husband.

And then there’s Heather Headley (who recently replace Jennifer Hudson, who, honestly, I could not care less about no matter how talented she is) as a famous singer named Shug Avery. Avery used to be in a relationship with Celie’s abusive husband and later becomes another advocate, and love interest, for Celie. I haven’t seen Heather Headley onstage since AIDA and I was so excited to be witness to her greatness again. She didn’t disappoint. She sounded great, she looked great, and her acting was, as far as I could tell, spot on.  

I could go and name the rest of the cast as they were all wonderfully talented with gorgeous voices, but you can go to IBDB for that. We stood as soon as the curtain call began and didn’t sit again. I enjoyed this show so much more than I thought I would and I’m so glad I gave it a second chance. 

The original production was a joke in comparison. Don’t hold it against this production because it’s 100% better. 

Tradition. When it was first announced that Fiddler on the Roof was being revived, yet again, I was feeling lukewarm about it. Did we really need ANOTHER revival of this show?! 

Answer: Yes.

We needed THIS revival of Fiddler on the Roof. I was in the ensemble of Fiddler on the Roof at a community theatre in high school and I’d forgotten just how well I knew the show. I remembered probably 75% of the lyrics. There were songs that I’d forgotten were even in the score, but as soon as the music started, the lyrics would come rushing back. This show is a classic, and not in the so-classic-it-makes-me-want-to-hang-myself way The Music Man and Oklahoma are classic. But the good kind: the kind that makes memories rush back in. 

(It’s also especially relevant and timely to revive this now because of the current refugee crisis in the Middle East. But that’s for another post entirely.)

First things first: Danny Burstein is a national treasure. He’s great in whatever he does, we know this. He was marvelous in the revival of Cabaret and he’s even better in this. He gives it his all the entire time. It’s exhausting to watch. I also loved Alexandra Silber as Tzeitel. And Jessica Hecht poured her heart and soul into Golde. Oh, and Alix Korey: Oh, Alix Korey. How I’ve missed this woman. She was perfect as Yente. 

The entire company looks like they’re having the time of their lives onstage and their energy floods the audience. The show is somber and the last sequence is 100% depressing but when it’s not intentionally depressing, it’s exquisite. The direction and sets and lighting are all excellent. The choreography is WONDERFUL. A lot of it felt very familiar but new at the same time. 

Fiddler clocks in at minutes under 3 hours, but it never felt long. At all. Had I known how great this revival is, I wouldn’t have waited 6 months to see it. 

Get thee to the Broadway Theatre. 

Trigger Warning

I finally broke down and bought a ticket on TDF for Blackbird last week. I’d heard a lot of mixed things to downright “it’s just not worth it.” I knew Michelle Williams would be using her “serious stage lady” voice, but I would try to get past it because it was 85 minutes long and I love Jeff Daniels.

The basic premise of the show: a girl, now a woman, who, at 12, was sexually abused for 3 months by a neighbor who was 40, tracks down her abuser 15 years later, ready to make him uncomfortable at his office.

First: Williams’ Serious Stage Lady voice is annoying but I kind of felt like it worked. If you’d been abused as a child and then was still fucked up enough to go track that person down after he’s moved and changed his name, you’re probably very affected and there’s a chance there’s something strange in your voice.

The whole play just felt a little unnecessary. Daniels’ knew he’d done something horrible and now he was being tortured in person. I also seriously feel for Williams’ character, for sure, but I was really confused as to why she would want to go track her abuser down instead of moving forward with her life. But maybe I don’t understand what goes through someone’s mind who’s gone through that (spoiler alert: I definitely don’t).

The ending was contrived. I didn’t agree with that choice the playwright made. It was a quick 85 minutes and although it was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever felt in a theatre, I’m glad I saw it. Would I recommend it to anyone though? Hell no.

Theatre Date With Myself, Part Two

On Tuesday night I took myself to see Ivan van Hove’s revival of The Crucible (again via TDF). I had never seen The Crucible onstage and I was super excited. Seeing Ciaran Hinds (Gov. Danforth) and Tavi Gevinson (Mary Warren) was just the icing on the cake. I remembered the basic plot – McCarthism masquerading as the Salem Witch Trials – but once the action started, all of the dialogue started flooding back into my memory.

The production is flawless. A very minimal set. Beautiful lighting. It was truly mind blowing how 70+ people were accused of witch craft by five girls who were faking it and they turn Salem upside down. 

Gevinson was excellent – a total 180* from This Is Our Youth. Sophie Okonedo (Elizabeth Proctor) and Ben Whishaw (John Proctor) had great chemistry together. Jim Norton (Giles Corey) was subtly funny and heart breaking as always. It was really a treat to see Jim Norton and Ciaran Hinds onstage together again – I was such a big fan of The Seafarer in 2008. I could list the rest of the cast because they were all excellent, but I won’t. You can check them out here if you’re interested. 

Like I said, I have nothing to compare this production to but this three hour production never dragged and it didn’t feel long for one minute. If you have three hours to kill, get thee to the Walter Kerr. 

Noises Off

I knew Noises Off was a comedy. I remembered when Peter Gallagher was in the last revival in the early 2000′s, but I had no idea how slap-stick it was. I was excited to see this revival because: Tracee Chimo, Rob McClure, and even Megan Hilty. 

The set rotated and was pretty remarkable. Megan Hilty has become an amazing actress since her Wicked days. Rob McClure is better than ever. Tracee Chimo is frumpy and entertaining. The entire cast is ace: you have to be to perform such a cheesy, comedic script.

I started the first act thinking it was going to be one long night of stupidity, but by the end of act 3 (yes, act 3), I could’ve laughed myself to an early death. (Okay, maybe an exaggeration, but you get it.)

The expertly choreographed physical comedy alone is enough of a reason to buy a ticket. 

The Friday before I saw Aladdin, I was finally able to see The King and I at Lincoln Center. The show is slow and old, but it’s lovely and the score is great. The cast is HUGE. There are SO MANY kids on that stage. I would hate to be a child wrangler for that show.

But Kelli O’Hara was lovely, as always, and totally deserving of her Tony Award. Jose Llana was the king and I think he’s great, but he didn’t come off as powerful or confident enough to be a king. I wish I could’ve seen the original.

The set is huge and great to look at and it’s a great, great production. I’d highly suggest taking in a performance even if your thing is rock musicals and not Rodgers and Hammerstein’s (like me). 

Last week I finally made a much overdue trip to see Cinderella. Unfortunately I’d missed Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana, but I was still getting Todd Buonopane and Victoria Clark, as well as Carly Rae Jepsen and Fran Drescher. 

The show was every bit as magical as you might expect a production of Cinderella to be. Fran Drescher never does much, but she’s funny in the small scenes she has. Carly Rae Jepsen is lovely as Cinderella, although her voice is meek at times and sometimes barely audible. Victoria Clark is marvelous, as one would come to expect from Ms. Clark, and Todd Buonopane totally steals his scenes. He’s awesome.

I do agree with the overall sentiment that they made this version of Cinderella WAY too political, but who cares! There are pretty voices, super cool costume changes, and classic songs. I don’t think anyone is seeing Cinderella to have their mind blown and rightly so, but they’ll definitely be entertained.