Oslo: #Not90MinutesNoIntermission

 

I’d mentioned a few weeks back that Kristen and I had bought a bunch of tickets on TDF after the Tony Nominations were announced and one of those shows was Oslo at Lincoln Center. It had a great cast and it was historical. How could it be bad?

Oh yeah, it was three hours long.

Should we get large coffees at Joe beforehand so we’re properly caffeinated?” I’d texted Kristen that morning. She concurred and with large cold brews in hand, we walked over to the Vivian Beaumont. We took our seats in the orchestra, off right of center. The seats were, once again, fantastic. TDF is really killing it lately in that sense. Although it must be mentioned that there’s literally not a bad seat in that theatre. I’ve sat in all of the sections, top and bottom, and they’re all good. A few minutes after 2pm, the incomparable Jefferson Mays walked onto the stage and the lights shifted.

In case you’re living under a rock, Oslo is about the Olso Accords that took place in Oslo (duh) from 1992-1993. Given that I was 6 years old when this happened, and we all know how anything we weren’t responsible for directly is skimmed over in the US school system, I was unaware of everything that went down.

Mays played Terje Rod-Larsen, a Norweigian sociologist and politician, who had a method for conflict resolution that he greatly wanted to attempt to use to solve the conflict between Israel and Palestine. His wife, Mona (the fabulous Jennifer Ehle) worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and together they worked “in developing the back-channel communications that (reportedly) saved the Oslo negotiations from collapsing.” Because despite what our current president might think, it’s pretty hard to negotiate peace in the Middle East and the US and major world powers in 1992 were attempting the same thing and fucking it up royally. His theory was, I believe, that it was more affective for people only associated with two side’s governments to be at the table, rather than the government officials themselves.

It’s incredibly sad to see how hard people worked on this and then how quickly it all fell apart. The last sequence is the cast onstage together reciting the events that lead to the atrophying of the peace agreements and the eruption into the chaos that we know it is today.

Besides Mays and Ehle, Michael Aronov, Anthony Azizi, Dariush Kashani, and Daniel Oreskes all gave powerful performances as the people who involved in the actual negotiations.

But let’s get back to the length for one second. This was by far the quickest 3 hours in a theatre that I’ve ever experienced. I sat through (the slightly longer) August Osage County and that felt lightyears longer than Oslo. Oslo was so engaging that I was never, ever, even for one second bored. I never flipped through my Playbill or checked my watch. THAT’S how you know you’re experiencing a solid piece of theatre.

Oslo just won the Outer Critics Circle Award and I bet that’s not the last award it will win this season, at least I hope not. This is a simple, yet thoroughly engaging production on a timely AF topic with a top notch cast. Get your tickets.

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.

When I was working in advertising for the first time in 2013, that was the first time I heard of Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812. It’s now headed to Broadway and I can’t wait to see it in an actual Broadway theatre, since that’s where they planned to put it in the first place.

The lead producer, Howard Kagan, when he signed on with the agency originally planned to produce it in a Broadway house. Shortly after he changed his mind and thought an off-Broadway house would be better suited for the unique show. Finally, though, they decided they’d build their own space in a vacant parking lot in the meatpacking district. Is this show ever going to go up? we’d say quietly in our seats.

It did, though. I saw it that spring and it was lovely. They transformed that parking lot into an awesome nightclub (way better than anything that’s currently in the Meatpacking District) and the food and atmosphere were incredible. The performances were also awe inspiring.

The next incarnation of The Great Comet hit the vacant parking lot on the corner west of the Richard Rodgers Theatre on 46th Street and 8th Avenue. I didn’t see that version but I’d imagine it was more of the same – which would be nothing short of a great show.

But it’s finally here. With Josh Groban attached to it. It has a theatre which I’m certain is under a massive amount of construction and I will totally go see it. There won’t be a free meal, most likely, but it’ll be a smart score and fantastic voices. 

I’m excited and you should be, too.

I saw Fun Home towards the end of it’s run at the Public back in December 2013. I really liked it but it was dark as fuck. I finally made it around to see the transfer to Broadway last night, courtesy of The League. I never really thought the transfer was a good idea, but apparently some people did.

After seeing the transfer last night, I think I liked the full 2.5-hour version at the Public more (shocker, I know). The transfer feels semi-gutted. It felt more like a play with music than a musical, to be honest, and I wasn’t a big fan of the score. The score doesn’t do much to drive the plot along. The cast though is phenomenal all around and Cerveris definitely deserved his Tony Award. 

That said, even though I didn’t go head-over-heels for it, I still think it’s an important piece of theatre. Kudos to all involved.

Is that a Yogi-ism?

Last night one of my token straight male friends and I saw the Broadway transfer of Bronx Bombers by Eric Simonson. I strongly dislike the Yankees, but I think of it more as a history lesson than anything else. This wasn’t my first Bombers experience though: I saw it in October while it was off-Broadway at Primary Stages. I enjoyed Lombardi and Magic/Bird, so I figured I’d enjoy this too and I definitely enjoyed it, so I knew I’d like it at the Circle in the Square as well.

The Yankees pretty much made baseball a fanatical sport in America. A big part of Bombers was Yogi Berra’s (played by the fantastic Peter Scolari) struggle to make sure the fans kept coming back, entwined with a bit of fantasy and a few heated arguments between famous players. I didn’t notice a lot changes from the off-Broadway incarnation, except for a couple super fantasy moments in Yogi’s head. 

The ensemble cast, playing different roles in both acts, gelled excellently and played the multitude of roles expertly. In addition to Scolari, the cast included Christopher Jackson (Derek Jeter), Bill Dawes (Thurman Munson/Mickey Mantle), Keith Nobbs (Billy Martin), Francois Battiste (Reggie Jackson/Elston Howard), Tracy Shayne (Carmen Berra), CJ Wilson (Babe Ruth), John Wernke (Lou Gehrig), and Chris Henry Coffey (Joe DiMaggio). 

I can imagine that hardcore Yankees fans would get worked up emotionally when Berra (Scolari) describes what it means to be a Yankee. In that sense, I think Bronx Bombers will be a hit. If they can get the word out to their fans, that is.

Afterward my friend and I waited for our respective friends in the cast, his being Wenke and mine being Dawes. Bill snapped this photo:

Does he look like Mickey Mantle? I wish I could give a definitive answer, but I have no idea what the real thing person looks like. If you think he does, you should come see the show. 

If you’re a Yankees fan, or even just a history fan, I think you’ll enjoy Bronx Bombers

On Tuesday afternoon, I saw tickets pop up on TDF for a few nights last week for Once and after seeing the way the rush lines were, I knew this was probably my best chance to see the show for under $140 (or you know, getting up at 4am on a Saturday – no, thank you!). I bought a ticket for Thursday night and quietly anticipated the night to come. I loved Once at New York Theatre Workshop three months ago but had no idea if they’d be able to translate it well to a Broadway house. Wellluckily, it did and it’s still brilliant.

From what I remember, the show is the same as what you would’ve seen downtown as is the gorgeous score, and the brilliant cast. The set looks exactly the same, and you can still venture onstage before the show starts and at intermission to buy a $13 glass of wine! While the price of the wine might not be smile-inducing, the standing on the stage certainly is. (And yes, you can go up without any intention of buying a drink.)

Once tells the story about a week between two strangers in which one (a character called Girl) changes the others’ (called Guy) life, for the better. It’s far from a love story, as the ‘girl’ is trying to reconcile things with her distant husband but there’s definitely an instant connection between these two after the ‘guy’ lets himself be taken along on her ride. There are bits of comic relief interspersed too provided by Girl’s zany Czech family and flatmates.

Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, as Guy and Girl, are both from the original downtown cast and are both inexplicably beautiful and touching in their roles. Other standouts in the cast are David Patrick Kelly (as Guy’s calm and supportive ‘Da’), Elizabeth A. Davis, Will Connolly, David Abeles, and Andy Taylor (the banker who moonlights as a musician).  The entire cast is inundated with expect musicians as well, since they provide the orchestrations themselves (and unlike any of Doyle’s productions, it works and feels natural).

It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, having the courage to go after your dreams, and also letting yourself go when you know you should. Everyone can relate to some aspect of this show and it will most likely make you shed a tear at the end (as myself and many of my fellow theatre goers were). 

If there was one show that was worth of a 5am call time to stand in line for tickets, this would be it and you would not be disappointed.