Sunday, May 04, 2008

Broadway '08 - Part 2

Sunday in the Park With George
A couple weeks ago I went to Studio 54 to see the Broadway revival/London transfer of Sunday in the Park with George.

This Stephen Sondheim musical has been updated visually now. When it opened in the 80’s the set and stage of Suarat’s images was illustrated using pop-up scenes. This new, contemporary stage is white, floor to ceiling. The art and imagery is all done with computer-generated images on the blank walls and canvases. The entire staging comes alive as the artist arranges the people in his life into his piece “Sunday Afternoon.”

The musical follows the life (a fictional generation) of artist George Seurat. The show captures his quest to create a new and different type of artwork. Using millions of dots of varying color he discovered that from a distance the overlap created a completely different color and shade.

I can’t say Sunday in the Park with George is a favorite of mine but I was glad I got to see it and I loved seeing this production.

Then there’s Passing Strange

Passing Strange
I kept hearing about this show. It was in Time magazine…Entertainment Weekly…and a dozen more. I didn’t know anything about it except that it isn’t the anti-Broadway show that made its move from the Public Theater to Broadway.

An inexpensive ticket became available, so I decided to check it out.

I was taken by its style and energy. Passing Strange is a hybrid of sorts: a cross between a concert and show. I’m not sure if it’s a Broadway musical, in fact I’m pretty sure it isn’t, but I do think that it brings a unique voice to the table.

When I walked out of the theater I kept thinking that I’d witnessed the evolution of Broadway. I look at the current musicals on Broadway…shows like Gypsy, In the Heights, Spring Awakening, Avenue Q, etc. and I think the genre of musical is hitting a growing spurt in its evolution. Passing Strange is perfect evidence of that.

The show incorporates a wide variety of music styles and performances and spans the globe telling the story of an Artist finding himself and his sound.

Adding Machine
I love dark
I love comedies.
I love dark comedies and dark humor.

Adding Machine is darker than anything I’ve ever seen. It was described as “darkly comic and heartbreakingly beautiful” – so it sounded like something up my alley.

I don’t normally get swayed by reviews but when I saw a 5 Star review from Time Out New York, I thought that, coupled with the description above, should mean that it would be worth checking out.

So I did.

The one-act musical, running off-Broadway down in the West Village lived up to all its hype. It is dark and the whole show seems to be written in a minor key. When the show started I fear that it’s droning monotony would get the best of me. I knew that it was part of the tone of the musical but I wasn’t sure I could take a whole show of it.

But it got me. It pulled me. I can’t remember one song from the score but it moved me.

"Sunday Afternoon" by Seurat and two stage images from the Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park With George.

Broadway '08


Tony season is upon the theater community here in NYC and I’ve been making some rounds to really incredible shows.

In no particular order...

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The all African-American production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams opened a couple months ago and I recently got to see it. It boasts an amazing cast featuring the legendary James Earl Jones, powerhouse Phylicia Rashad, recent movie Dreamgirl: Anika Noni Rose and movie star turned theater newbie: Terrance Howard.

This is one of my favorite classic plays and I really enjoyed the layer having an all Black cast added to the production. I love the show’s language and less that subtle subtext.

It was thrilling to see Mr. Jones embody the role of Big Daddy and Ms. Rashad as Big Mama. I’ve never gotten to see either one of these fine actors on stage, so getting to see both of them…on the same stage…in two amazing roles was simply incredible.

A few years ago I got to see Anika Noni Rose in the musical, Carolina or Change. She picked up a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and only great things have followed. She was in the motion picture Dreamgirls with Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson and now she’s back on Broadway sharing a stage with some of the industry heaviest hitters. What a brilliant career…with more to come.

From Up Here

A year ago I raved about Julie White in the play, Little Dog Laughed (she did go on to win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play), she’s back in NYC and is off-Broadway in the play, From Up Here.

I went to play knowing little about it except that Ms. White was in it. That sold me. The play was great and showcases some of the strongest acting I’ve seen on stage in a while. The entire cast pulls their own weight and seem to bring out the best performances in each other. A true ensemble.

The play frames a complicated, troubled teen and his family with biting, real humor. In the beginning you don’t know exactly what the son has done but the fall out seems to ripple through the entire family.

August: Osage County
A whole other beast…the play August: Osage County. The play just won the Pulitzer Prize and as collected the most amazing, completely deserved reviews. For the first time in Broadway history (I think) a show has moved next door to the theater it was in. Shows move on occasion but it’s rarely next door.

It played out like this…August: Osage County was at the Imperial which is now going to be the home of Billy Elliot. Billy Elliot it isn’t there yet, but they need to get the joint ready. So August: Osage County moved next door to the empty Music Box theater. The cool thing is the marquee is up for August: Osage County at both theaters.

I snapped a few pictures the other day to commemorate the happening.

On to the show…I can hardly articulate the experience of this play. Coming in at over 3 hours with 2 intermissions this show is a marathon of talent.

This play is filled with emotional landmines, verbal sabotage and transcendent performances by almost the entire cast of 13. The dinner table scene in the second act is the stuff actor’s dream of. Even with the show clocking in over 3 hours – I would’ve sat down and watched the second act all over again.

The show is brilliant. Absolutely…start to finish brilliant. As I walked out of the theater and toward the subway…I just kept shaking my head and saying, “Wow.” Pulitzer Prize aside, this show will sweep the Tony’s.

The play was so intense and packed that I picked up a copy today and started reading it right away.

Prepare yourself and check out:

A Catered Affair

If August: Osage County was a loud, brash, family drama the other end of the spectrum would land at A Catered Affair. This is the new Harvey Fierstein musical that is really more of a play with music.

The show has divided musical theater lovers. People seem to either love it or hate it. I’ve yet to find anyone who’s thought it was just Ok.

For the record: I loved it. I thought it was gentle, poignant and heartbreaking. There is nothing else like it on Broadway and that’s why it belongs.

It also just got nominated for 12 Drama Desk Awards...not too shabby.


The Last Lecture

I just finished The Last Lecture a few minutes ago.

A couple of months ago I saw Randy Pausch on Oprah and I was so impressed with his character and presentation entitled, The Last Lecture.

The other day in a bookstore I noticed that the lecture had been released in book form with his thoughts, ideas and childhood dreams scattered throughout.

I picked it up and was moved immediately by the honesty and power of his words.

I’ve already shared passages and quotes with friends, family and co-workers. I’ve never met Randy Pausch but I’m a better friend, co-worker and human for his words and life.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Backwoods Barbie Tour - Dolly Parton at Radio City

On Thursday night...with my friend Joshua...I sat 4th row center for the one and only Dolly Parton.

It was a sold-out show at the famous Radio City Music Hall and she did not disappoint. She sang everything from Coat of Many Colors to Jolene to Jesus and Gravity. She also pulled out the stops's not uncommon to see her playing guitar but at this show she not only played her guitar but also the violin, the piano, the harpsichord and piccolo (each bedazzled with rhinestones).

Thursday, May 01, 2008

4 Year Anniversary

My how time flies.

4 years ago today, May 1, my dear friends Greg (from Atlanta) and Damon Bishop (from Astoria, NY) moved me into my Manhattan apartment.

It was many, many, many trips up and down the four flights of stairs but that evening I slept in New York City.

Street View...Roof Top View.