I had a wonderful birthday yesterday… in spite of being cold and wet. I did have a moment last night, between shows, when I was standing in a quiet plaza with snow falling gently all around me and it just felt… perfect. Do you have moments that in the grand scheme of things are quite ordinary but for some reason, at that moment, they just feel magical? That’s what I was feeling.
I had another one of those moments a few nights before we left for New York. It was late and Michael and the dogs were already in bed when I turned in. I laid down and ended up nose to nose with Roxie (one of my Boxers) and she was in and out of sleep, occasionally opening her eyes and licking my face. Such a simple, ordinary thing– but it felt magical.
Birthday In New York. I spent several hours at Starbucks yesterday writing and post blogs and pictures. I love starting my New York days that way. Michael came over from the hotel with his new iPad and sat with me for a while and then we got ready to head out for our last day of shows before our cruise.
A Sure Thing… Or Not. I purposely booked our shows the way I did, thinking I was guaranteeing ‘the best for last’, so to speak. One, a star-studded revival, the other– my most anticipated show on the trip. Our friend Amee was able to get rush tickets and join us for the latter.
Mystery of Edwin Drood. I’d been a fan of Drood for years. I saw a non-equity tour of it years and years ago and frequently listened to my out of print CD copy of the original cast. (Now available digitally.) Now you have to understand that Drood is not, for the most part, your typical musical. There is audience interaction with the cast and in the end, the audience votes for several of the outcomes to the story. (Drood is based on an unfinished Charles Dickens novel.) The show takes place in an old music hall and the actors, play actors playing roles in the story. Confusing? It’s really not.
Roundabout Theatre Company at Studio 54, pulled out all the stops casting this production. Some big Broadway names, past and present make up the core of the casting. Is it a wonderful piece of theatre? No, probably not. The framework is unique, though and I really love most of the music. Especially the haunting Moonfall the sweet Perfect Strangers and the energetic There You Are and Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead. The show is brilliantly sung by the seasoned cast, both powerfully and intuitively. Vocally, there are some glorious moments in this production.
The staging is perfect here. The high melodrama style of the piece is brilliantly played. (This is where it could quite possibly go terribly wrong in staging the show.) Now you have to understand, I am not a ‘laughter’. I’ll smile, grin or chuckle during productions but it is rare that I laugh out loud. I laughed. Multiple times– out loud. Let’s just say, that apparently my laughter shocked Michael enough for he to comment on it later. I was having a wonderful time.
Michael, on the other hand, was not. He’d never seen it before– and at the conclusion stated, “I never want to see that again.” He really hated the format and period style, comparing it to watching an old Gilbert and Sullivan piece. (Not sure where that comes from.) His review would be: “I wanted to see it, I saw it– never again.” (Which makes me laugh out loud, in itself!)
I LOVED it! Can I say that again? I really, really loved it! And lucky for me, I get to see it again in a few weeks. The directing, staging, design elements and spectacular performances all came together perfectly for me.
Me: That villain guy? Don’t you know who that is?
Michael: No, I didn’t look.
Me: OMG! Michael, that was Will Chase!
Michael: And? … Like I’m supposed to know who that is?
Me: Seriously? Roger in Rent… Story of My Life… SMASH?
Michael: Who? The cheater guy? That was him?
Me: OMG! Yes, that was him!
Michael: How was I supposed to know? I didn’t recognize him. Like I know EVERY performer! (pregnant pause) He was good though.
I just found the conversation highly amusing for some reason. And Will Chase wasn’t just GOOD he was BRILLIANT!
BARE. This was my most anticipated show. I’d been a fan of the material since they released a concert sampling of the songs years ago. When a full studio recording was released, I quickly snatched it up and my interest, or love for it– grew substantially. I won’t go in to detail about the plot or subject matter here. Partly because in this ‘refocused’ staging… it’s now unclear what it wants to be. Hence, the title of this blog post.
All I can say for lack of space and clarity. The bittersweet, tragic coming of age story is now a big mess. Characters were cut, characters were combined, well developed characters in the original conception are now disconnected and their purpose, muddied; and new characterizations (or characters) are started but not developed and leave the audience hanging, wondering why we were introduced to them in the first place. Nothing was left untouched. The music, lyrics, dialogue, characters… all have been altered.
Now, I want to say that though I’m a fan of the original conception, I don’t consider myself intimately involved in the material to the point of not being open or accepting of changes. Here, the show is almost unrecognizable. Now that I’ve seen it, I can totally understand the NYT’s review of it. I think they’ve destroyed its commercial appeal and dumbed it down for maybe to junior high crowd… except most parents won’t be taking their children to this, due to the subject matter.
I understand a few of the changes that adapted to the current trends, updating the piece that was written about ten years ago; but those changes could have easily been made without the huge unnecessary alterations that were made. The choreography, or musical staging, is completely awkward here too. There are hints of the physicality used so brilliantly in Spring Awakening that in this production are just a cheap copy-cat attempt, not well executed. In addition, I thought much of the cast lacked the overall experience or vocal skill required for a ‘New York show’.
So, what I thought was a sure thing– wasn’t. My ‘birthday show’ was beyond a huge disappointment. It was a disaster.
Less Than Half. In total, Michael and I saw three Broadway plays, one off-Broadway play, four Broadway musicals, one off-Broadway musical, one cabaret performance and one movie. We only both LOVED two shows: The Other Place and Chaplin. In addition, I really loved Mystery of Edwin Drood… but it’s not for everyone. We both really disliked: Golden Age, Grace, Bare (actually Michael said it was ‘ok’ but not good) and the movie, Les Miserables. The rest fell in the middle. Not a very good average and not very encouraging with the prices they charge for tickets.
Luckily, we have two more shows to see when we come back after our cruise: Spiderman (which I’ll probably end up loving since I’m so sure I’ll hate it) and The Book of Mormon (which I’m supposed to love, so I may not.)
I don’t expect to love every show I see but I do expect to be entertained. If it were possible, I’d be asking for a few refunds this trip. Don’t worry, it didn’t spoil my birthday. I’ve had a wonderful time so far. Now I need to get back to my room and finish packing to start the Bahamas cruise portion of the trip. I’m not sure when I’ll be posting. Internet is expensive on the ship. I’ve been writing these posts online ‘live’ and if I write offline on the cruise, I might be able to post. Otherwise, I may not be able to post for a week.
Just in case, Happy New Year everyone!