A Doll’s House, Part 2: Nora’s Back

I love A Doll’s House. I love that it pushed boundaries at the time when it was written and Ibsen was forced to write an alternative ending because it gave such a middle finger to conventional endings. (To be clear: I don’t like that he had to write an alternative ending though to get it produced.) I saw it three years ago at BAM  and it was an exquisite production. I didn’t know what to expect at all from A Doll’s House: Part 2, or even why it’d be written (by Lucas Hnath) but Kristen and I both love Laurie Metcalf so we grabbed tickets on TDF and went last Sunday. Our seats were in the front-rear mezzanine which was fine. There’s only one setting and all the action takes place downstage.

There was modern punk rock music being played during walk-in which was very unexpected but also awesome, and also reminiscent of the walk-in music used during Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson. All good things.

A Doll’s House: Part 2 takes place 15 years after Nora (Metcalf) walks out on her husband and she’s back now because she wrongly assumed that her husband had filed divorce papers after she’d walked out and when that turned out not to be the case, she realized her career (writing books about why women should feel  free to leave their husbands and how marriage is a sham) was in jeopardy. Sorry, spoiler? She has a huge monologue when she first arrives at the house and is talking to Anne Marie (the impeccable and hysterical Jayne Houdyshell) that is up my alley, 100%. She says something about why get married to spend the rest of your life with someone? You can do that without getting legal papers involved, she says, and I concur.

I was so onboard after her rant and ate up every word that Nora said. Torvald (the stern and unforgiving Chris Cooper) refuses to divorce her because she walked out and her daughter Emmy (the matter-of-fact and comical Condola Rashad) has a rebuttal for every one of Nora’s cynical comments about marriage, as she herself is engaged. And Metcalf is incredible, as always. She’s irreverent and direct and loves her life since she left her husband.

I won’t tell you it ends, but I went in not knowing what to expect and loved every minute of this 90-minute-no-intermission masterpiece of a follow-up on a classic play. It closes on July 23rd, so get your tickets soon.

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.

Significant Other

Despite my better judgment, I went to see Significant Other, the new play by Joshua Harmon that recently transferred to Broadway from Roundabout, this past Sunday with my significant other, my best guy friend, and his significant other. I saw this shortly after I met J in 2015 while it was off-Broadway and it hit me hard in the emotions. I walked out of the Laura Pels thinking Gideon’s character surely killed himself after the lights went down. And to be honest, I kind of wanted to kill myself after the lights went down on Sunday afternoon, regardless of my relationship status. My friends concurred.

I want to start by saying that Gideon Glick is brilliant as the protagonist Jordan, a late twenty-somethings city-dweller. He gives a flawless performance of an extremely flawed character. He has genius comedic timing and I was exhausted watching him exert himself onstage for two and a half hours(ish). I would watch this guy read the phone book because he could make it entertaining. He has monologues that are pages long but he makes it look effortless.

Sas Goldman, who plays the first bride of the night Kiki, reminded me in a weird way of Tracee Chimo in Bachelorette. But in a totally good, weird way. Lindsay Mendez plays a wonderful best friend to Jordan, Laura, who gets caught up in wedding madness when she finally gets engaged. She was able to be strong even when hurt by Jordan’s page and a half tirade on the evening of her bachelorette party. And, last but not least, Rebecca Naomi Jones is the hilariously dark Vanessa who gives no fucks about anything until the day of her wedding.

The men in this show are not at all the focus. Hence why two actors play all six male characters (in addition to Jordan). John Behlman and Luke Smith both do a lovely job playing the various boyfriends and husbands and coworkers of the four main characters.

Because of its incredibly depressing tone, and it’s suicide-inducing ending, I’m not sure it’ll find it’s audience on Broadway, but I know that a lot (most) people could probably relate to Jordan’s feeling of being alone and feeling hopeless. There are lots of parts to make you laugh, and many to also make you feel all the feels. Like any good play should.

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. 

And next time on Broadway…

I went through Playbill’s list recently and there are a ton of plays, and some interesting new musicals coming up (as of yesterday) this season. So, here goes in case you missed it, because I definitely (almost) did, your next theatre season will include….

Anastasia – 1st prev. 4/24/17 – Even though they changed this quite a bit from the animated movie, I’m still excited for this. If not just for the costumes and the score. Between this and The Great Comet, there is a heavy Russian-vibe to this season in musicals so far.

A Bronx Tale the Musical – 1st prev. 11/3/16 – I went to the final dress rehearsal of the play based on A Bronx Tale in 2007, but the musical version should be interesting. It’s based on the movie, obviously. 

The Cherry Orchard – 1st prev. 9/15/16, RTC – I’m not a Chekov fan. But this has a pretty awesome cast with Chuck Cooper, Tavi Gevinson, Celia Keenan-Bolger, etc.

Come From Away – 1st prev. 2/18/17 – Interesting premise, awesome cast: Chad Kimball, Jenn Colella, Rodney Hicks. I saw a production photo today and it looks like the second incarnation of Once

Dear Evan Hansen – 1st prev. 11/14/16 – I kicked myself for not catching this off-Broadway at Second Stage, but I’ll definitely see it this time around. Jennifer Laura Thompson is back!

The Encounter – 1st prev. 9/20/16 – So this will be on Broadway. I know nothing more. 

Falsettos – 1st prev. 9/29/16 – This show is fine. It’s sad. It’s moving. I guess it’s an appropriate time for it to be revived. Great cast: Stephanie Block, Andrew Rannells, and Christian Borle.

The Front Page – 1st prev. 9/20/16 – Jefferson Mays! John Goodman. John Slattery. Nathan Lane. So seeing this!

The Glass Menagerie – 1st prev. 2/14/17 – I don’t know why this is being revived again so soon after an exquisite revival a couple of years ago but Finn Wittrock, from The Big Short, is in it!

Heisenberg – MTC – 1st prev. 9/20/16 – This doesn’t really sound interesting but you know who is interesting? Mary Louise Parker. 

Hello Dolly – 1st prev. 3/15/17 – I guess it’ll be nice to see this show live? Bette Midler and David Hyde Pearce are in this, which I guess is nice. I’m not really excited though.

Holiday Inn – 1st prev. 9/1/16, RTC – I’d go see this solely for Bryce Pinkham because he is lovely.

In Transit – 1st prev. 11/10/16 – This sounds really cliche and bad. I’m not sure you could pay me to see this. 

Jitney – MTC – 12/28/16 – August Wilson! Yay! 

Les Liaisons Dangereuses – 1st prev. 10/8/16 – Liev Schreiber! 

The Little Foxes – MTC – 1st prev. 3/29/17 Laura Linney AND Cynthia Nixon? Sign me up. 

Miss Saigon – 1st prev. 3/1/17 – I’m so excited for this. I saw the original production when I was 10, maybe 11. I loved it. It’s about time this is back with all the shit that’s seen revivals recently.

The Great Comet – 1st prev. 10/18/16 – Like I’ve said before, this show is great and I’m excited to see it on Broadway. 

Oslo – LCT 1st prev. 3/23/17 – Also kicking myself for not seeing this off-Broadway. Michael Aranov is great.

The Present – 1st prev. 12/17/16 – More Chekov! This time with Kate Blanchet. Still not excited for Chekov. 

The Prince – RTC – 1st prev. 2/16/17 – I don’t know what this is about, but John Tuturro!! After my fandom of The Night Of, I will certainly be seeing this.

Significant Other – 1st prev. 2/14/17 – I need to know who had money to burn because they can buy me a bigger apartment next time instead of bringing the Most Depressing Modern Play Ever Written to Broadway. Excited for Gideon Glick, who is adorable, but this play should stick to a small theatre. This way only small amounts of people can commit mass suicide when the curtain falls.

And that’s it (for now) folks. Happy theatre-ing! 

It’s been a long day’s night.

I knew Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night was long. I supervised wardrobe on it in college and sat through it (backstage) about a dozen times. That was the longest week ever. But I’d studied it in multiple classes in college and John Gallagher Jr. was in the cast (alongside the amazing Jessica Lange) so I wanted to see it. 

I remembered it was 3h15m, maybe 3.5hr. But when I found out it was 3.45, I was a little nervous. And when I found out there was only one intermission, I was totally scared.

Let me just start by saying that it is certifiably insane to only have one intermission. Two one-hour-and-forty-five-minute acts with only a 15 minute break is criminal. 

This show has comedic relief, sometimes, but overall it’s four hours of a depressing day for the Tyrone family. Jessica Lange carries this show effortlessly as the morphine addicted Mary Tyrone. I can’t imagine how tired she is at the end of this show. Gabriel Byrne gives a brilliant performance as the short-tempered and stingy James Tyrone. John Gallagher Jr. and Michael Shannon as Edmond Tyrone and James Tyrone Jr. (respectively) put their hearts entirely into their performances.

I won’t lie: I was maybe falling asleep during the last 45 minutes. It had already been a long day and the show was the longest day that I’d ever endured. 

I’m glad I saw it but I have to say that you should drink at least a triple espresso before you take your seat.

It Only Takes a Taste

Last Wednesday I went to my final show of a marathon (for me nowadays) of 7 shows in 2.5 weeks, Waitress. I hadn’t (and still haven’t, though it’s on my queue) seen the movie, hadn’t listened to any of the music, and I don’t know any of Sara Bareilles’ music (maybe a partial lie – I’ve heard, like, one song before), but I heard it was good, and the last row of the mezzanine is super cheap (and actually not awful, take note!). I’d also not yet had the pleasure of seeing Jessie Mueller in a leading role so I was quite excited for that, too. 

I arrived at the theatre to the scent of baked goods (good job, producing team, that was the right choice), immediately became hungry, and took my seat. The rear mezzanine seats at the Brooks Atkinson are not bad at all. It’s not like the St. James where you feel miles above the stage (that’s the balcony, I guess, but still, they’re awful seats). I looked at the cast and only recognized a few of the names in addition to Mueller’s. A cast of unknowns – awesome!

I knew the basic plot of the show – waitress in a redneck town gets knocked up – but not more than that. It’s a pretty typical plot as far as plots about girls getting knocked up in redneck towns go. Abusive husband? Check. Witty group of friends/colleagues? Check. The boss who’s also a semi-father figure/advice giver? Check. A new love interest? Check. 

Jenna (Mueller)’s friends at the diner Dawn (Kimiko Glenn) and Becky (Keala Settle) were both hysterical, and super talented. I realized at intermission that Kimiko is So-So from Orange is the New Black and she has a terrific voice and she’s a great actress. Drew Gehling (who plays Jenna’s new love interest, and her OBGYN, Dr. Pomatter) was just delightful. He was nervously awkward but very genuinely sweet. Dawn’s love interest, Ogie (Christopher Fitzgerald), totally steals every scene he’s in. Give him an honorary Tony Award for comedy or something. 

The show’s conclusion is logical, but disappointing. I guess such is life, too. I really enjoyed the score (good job, Bareilles), as well as the lighting. To be honest, I don’t remember much of the choreography. Side note: the sets are all automated. At the end of the first scene of the second act, an announcement went over the PA system saying they were taking a 10 minute break for technical difficulties. Shortly thereafter we got back on track. #livetheatre

I’m not sure whether it was the short pause in the second act, or the overall length of the show, but although I really enjoyed it, it felt it was 15-20 minutes too long. It definitely worth a visit though, especially if you like Sara Bareilles. 

Last thing: I totally bought the $10 pie-in-a-jar at intermission. You just want some baked goods, any baked goods, after the first act. Nom.

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. 

Chipping away

I’m slowly chipping away at my list. 

Tuck Everlasting was on Saturday (review to come). Waitress is on May 18th. Today I bought a ticket on TDF to The Crucible for tomorrow (Tuesday) night and then I bought two more tickets for @endotique and I see to see The Color Purple on May 17th. 

What’s left: Bright Star, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Fiddler on the Roof, and Blackbird. Possibly Fully Committed and She Loves Me, too. 

Lazy

You know how I stopped working in theatre a year and a half ago? (Maybe longer? I’ve lost track.) Well, I sure don’t miss it (save for the free tickets) but my theatre-going has slowed a bit. Oftentimes afterwork, I’m just all, “I just want to go home,” or, “I’m just going to go to yoga.” Trying to get a super cheap back-of-the-theatre or rush ticket just doesn’t sound appealing. 

I know, I’m so whiny – I’d have to take the train 3 stops, then get off and check, and then possibly get back on. The horror. I guess, technically, I also want to hang out with my cat while she’s still getting used to living with me. (Secretly I think she counts down the minutes until I leave in the morning but I could be wrong.)

But I’m slowly rectifying that. I purchased a ticket yesterday for Saturday’s matinee to Tuck Everlasting for starters. I really think it sounds 100% boring, but it has a great cast and it was the only show that had a Saturday matinee on TDF, so why not

Secondly, while I contemplated going to see a show last night, specifically Waitress (because @endotique says it was great), I decided against it and bought a ticket for May 18th instead. Afterwards I picked up tickets for an irreverent musical for J’s birthday in a couple of weeks. I’m not saying what it is here incase he reads here, but he’ll love it. 

What else do I need to see? Blackbird, Bright Star, Fiddler on the Roof, possibly Fully Committed, Long Day’s Journey Into Night (amazing cast), The Father (why not?), She Loves Me, The Color Purple (I’d have no interest after seeing the original production but I hear this one is fantastic), The Crucible (I’ve never seen it live and who doesn’t love a 3-hour play about McCarthyism?) and, oh yes, Hamilton. I guess. (I’ll do the cancellation line sooner or later before Lin leaves.)

I’m pretty sure that’s about it. Ten shows. It’s a play-heavy list, that’s for sure. I want to see American Psycho again soon but hopefully that’ll be around for a little while.

Writing it out in a list like that makes it not seem so insurmountable. One show every week? Every two weeks? Done in no time. Except for Hamilton. I’ll have to take a Monday or Tuesday off from work to sit in the cancellation line to get tickets for my dude and I to that fucker. Goddamn you, Lin-Manuel.