Review: Come From Away

The day after my birthday in April, my parents and I celebrated by seeing the matinee of the new, immensely popular Broadway musical, Come From Away, with book, music, and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. I’d been watching this piece come to life through a friend’s Instagram posts and I thought it looked cute, but I wasn’t really dying to see it. But once my parents heard about it and it’s popularity spiked just before their opening night, I finally stopped finding reasons to not get around to see it and I’m certainly glad I did.

A lot of the music sounds very Once-esque, which I was immediately annoyed by (despite being a big fan of Once because that is music for Once and not this, etc. etc.) but I warmed up to this folksy music as well as the rest of the score over the next 100 minutes. (Yes, it’s 100 minutes, no intermission. #best)

I’m pretty resistant to anything and everything that co-ops 9/11 which is probably responsible for some of my resistance to sit down in the Schoenfeld, but Come From Away doesn’t do that. They barely mention what happened and they never say “9/11” explicitly. It’s purely about humanity and this tiny town in Newfoundland named Gander and how it’s citizens come together to host these ~7,000 strangers who are stranded there for a week-ish) by this catastrophic event.

The cast is amazing – filled with some of my favorites from my teenage years as a Renthead, among others – Rodney Hicks, Kendra Kassebaum, Chad Kimball, Jenn Colella, etc. The cast uses very subtle costume adjustments to change characters in an instant when they flip-flop between planes (people were trapped on the plans for 28 hours!). I’m pretty sure this is no easy feat and I’d 100% screw up what character I was when if I had to do that.

My favorite subplot line was the one about the SPCA director in Gander, Bonnie Harris (played by Petrina Bromley) and how she basically forces her way into the cargo holds on the planes because she has the foresight to suspect that there are animals onboard and they need to be taken care of (#squee!). She’s right. There were 19 animals on all the planes – something like 7 cats, 9 dogs, and one pair of rare Bonobo monkeys, among others, all of whom she takes care of while they’re there. This obviously warmed my heart. She deserves a medal.

There are many other touching and tear-jerking story lines which I won’t give away, but you should get yourself to the Schoenfeld and see this heartwarming little show as soon as you can (if you can, because tickets are selling out at each performance).

Sweat, by Lynn Nottage

A couple of weekends ago I saw SWEAT, the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Lynn Nottage, on Broadway. I had no idea what it was about but I’d heard everything from “weird” to “intense.” It was no at all what I was expecting. It was about a group of friends in the factor town of Reading, PA and how they’re adversely affected by NAFTA. Could it be more timely? I think not. Anyways, here’s my brain dump on it:

This piece reminded me a lot of Clyborne Park, probably because of the timeline of the plot. Clyborne Park took place in two different decades and although Sweat switched between past and present, both pieces used time jumps to show how things have declined in their respective neighborhoods.

Sweat was the perfect representation of racism in America, especially after there are layoffs and people who look like immigrants are hired because said-immigrants are desperate for higher paying jobs. The promotion of one of the African American member of the primary group of friends also brings out her friend’s true colors (“they get tax breaks because she’s a minority”).

The ensemble cast was ace, with not a weak link onstage from where I was sitting, and these characters go for a ride on a very emotional rollercoaster. Shitty acting would’ve made this unwatchable.

There’s excellent writing onstage at Studio 54 to bring to life something that’s very current. It’s over two hours, but it flies. It’s playing through June 4th.

What the Fuck, Disney.

After a full day at work, and my yoga class, I wanted nothing more than to veg out with my sweet potato pasta dish and my cats. I clicked on HBO Go and started scrolling through movies. One of the first three movies to come up, since it’s alphabetical with numbers first, was 101 Dalmatians, the real-life version made by Disney years ago. I thought, “Oh, puppies! And Natasha Richardson!.. RIP.” (Yeah, I know, it’s her sister Joely, not her.)

Anyways, I started watching it and it’s cute and adorable and OMG!Puppies! and Playbill (on the right) is clearly enjoying it, too. Then it gets to the basic plot. Cruella DeVil wants to make a dress out of the fur of dalmatian puppies. This means she has to capture, kill, and skin a lot of them. She’s already done this to a rare white tiger in the beginning of the movie, which is bad enough. But now: PUPPIES?

Jesus H. Christ on a Cracker: What the fuck, Disney? Who decided that this was a good idea for a children’s movie? Steal the puppies to sell them on the black market as pets? OK. Maybe. But steal them so she can make a piece of clothing out of them? Fuck no. This movie is not appropriate for children. It’s not even appropriate for me. The thought of any animal dying so someone can wear it is disgusting so the thought of inflicting it on children makes me cringe.

No, Disney. Nice try, but fuck off. /End Rant

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). 

My parents and I are going to Philly on Saturday to see my best friend, who is currently recovering from chemo, and her parents. My mom called me today and said she was shopping in Marshall’s and going to buy some really tasty, fattening snacks because the bff has no appetite and is losing weight. She was running a bunch of stuff by me: Swedish fish, M&M’s, chocolate covered something-or-others.

Then I blurted out to nope, forget it all. I know she was coming from a good place but I told her that I was going to go to Trader Joe’s to get some not-as-mass-produced and not as unhealthy snacks because thinking about feeding my chemo-recovering bff processed sugar and garbage makes MY insides hurt and if it makes me hurt, it’s probably not going to be much better for her health either. 

So, while some of this may not be the height of health, it HAS to be better than the discount candy that sits on the shelves at TJ Maxx for months on end, right? I’m going to tell myself it is. 

My haul above included: sweet potato tortilla chips, chocolate covered pomegranate seeds, chocolate covered almonds, dried mango slices, fruit juice gummy penguins, candied walnuts, whoopi pies, and cowboy bark (which is chocolate and pretzels, etc). 

Yes, this is indeed better than Marshall’s selection. 

Tumblr, meet Ares.

Two weeks ago, Justin and I went to Koneko Cat Cafe on the LES to meet a cat named Sammy who seemed like he’d be an awesome fit for Playbill. He’d been at the cafe the longest, and I felt bad for him because he was (is) super adorable. We arrived to hear that an application for him had just been approved but we were hurried in nevertheless and introduced to a four-and-a-half-year-old Tabby named Ares. We fell in love as he licked the dried tuna treats off our fingers and stared at us with his permanently grumpy face and said OK. I filled out an application and we picked him up from the UWS Petco last Sunday.

I didn’t know how hard it would be to integrate him into my apartment with Playbill, but it’s been a process. We were told to let her smell him in his carrier when we got home and we did. And she hissed so we rushed him into the bedroom, let him out of the carrier, and he immediately fell asleep on my bed.

Playbill’s area of the apartment has always been the living room, so he obviously gets the bedroom. He has his own food bowls, cat tree, and litter box in there. Justin stayed over most of the week to keep him company in the bedroom while I slept out on the couch with Playbill, so she’d know I was still here and she wasn’t alone, or being replaced. 

We bought a baby gate this weekend and that’s been helping. I try to feed them both at the same time on opposite sides of the gate and I always close the door when I leave the apartment. I have a (clean) sock that I will occasionally rub on Ares and then give to Playbill to smell. Oh, and I’m also using Jackson Galaxy’s ‘Stress Stopper’ serum. 

Playbill is still stressed, but Ares is a big loaf. He came from the cat cafe where he dealt with other cats all the time so he is not phased by her very occasional hissing. He will literally fall over and sleep anywhere (okay, mostly the bed right now). We might rename him Loaf, but his grumpy face just says ‘God of War,’ right?

So, it’s an ongoing process. If you have any stories to share, I’d LOVE to hear them! 

PS: If you’re looking for a cat, Sammy’s application sadly fell through and he’s still available for adoption through Anjellicle Cats! He was a sweet and active little kitty.

A couple of weeks ago I saw On Your Feet!, The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan at the Marquis Theatre. I only remembered some of her music growing up in the 90′s and I knew nothing about her life growing up in Miami. This was bound to be a history lesson on all fronts.

The timing of this show is perfect – a show about (a lot of) immigrants who do good shit and work their asses off. We need this right now in this country. I don’t think Gloria lived an extraordinary childhood by any means, but she was a very talented kid and to say that she’s lucky that Emilio found her is an understatement. The most amazing part of her story, though, was her recovery from her tour bus accident. I had zero idea this happened and her path to walking and dancing again is an inspiring one. (Sorry, spoiler alert?)

Luckily, this is a jukebox musical that is structured very well. The story flows and boredom is never really a thing that happens because every time you might find yourself looking for your Playbill, another one of her hit songs blares over the speakers and the energy in the audience spikes. Ana Villafane as adult Gloria and Alexandria Suarez as young Gloria were both excellent. Villafane sounded like an exact replica of Gloria herself. And lastly, Omar Lopez-Cepero, whom I remember from American Idiot, duh, was excellent as Emilio. 

On Your Feet! is a must-see for Estefan fans everywhere, at the very least.

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.

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. 

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.