What I’ve seen over the past fortnight or so.
If you’re reading this without already knowing me, I am an Australian who largely moved to NYC around mid 2014 so that I could see more theatre and cabaret than I’d been able to in annual trips. I’ve been doing that pretty consistently ever since. I also sit in the audience at Seth Speaks every week which gives a nice preview of many shows, and insight into the actors themselves. I don’t have a full-time job which makes it easier to see shows during the week, or at 11 pm etc. Also, this is my first attempt at writing reviews longer than a tweet so please forgive my lack of style, I’m learning by doing. I also want to point out that I’m not much of a critic, I usually find something to like in everything I see, and of course I have a major bias in that I mostly only buy tickets for things I think I’ll enjoy.
She Loves Me
Well, I’ve seen it three times already so that’s probably all that you need to know about this one. If you’ve ever enjoyed any romantic comedy and any musical then just run to see this stunning production. The only reason you might not is, if, like the man I sat next to recently at Eclipsed, you are very short of time, and saw the 1993 production which seems to have been just as good, and from my brief youtube research, even quite similar in staging. I would note that I have generally gone to some lengths to see Laura Benanti sing ever since I happened to see her steal the show in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, so my love for this, with Laura in her dream role, is not surprising in the least. I’ll probably go several more times before it’s done, given how much easier it is than going out to Long Island, or Jersey City as I’ve done in the past year to see her in concert.
I do actually go to some straight plays (as opposed to musicals).
This was a hit off-broadway but I didn’t see it until the Broadway transfer. I think it’s fantastic to see an all-female play be that successful, and the story of women who are essentially sex-slaves to African warlords is surprisingly light-hearted during much of the first act, largely due to the men being out of the picture we are viewing. The second act focuses more on the lose-lose choices these women have, to join the guerilla fighters or remain as sex-slaves, and it should remind anyone with rigid moral views that the world at large is not really very black-and-white.
If I didn’t know Lupita Nyong’o was an Oscar winner, I might not have highlighted her in this cast as I think they were all brilliant actresses. Still, it did feel a bit exciting to sit a mere metre or two from someone you know has an Oscar for acting, as they act. Side note: I had a good seat due to a risky manoeuvre that afternoon, in buying a ticket from a man in front of the theatre who said his wife was sick, luckily he was honest, and we sat together during the show.
As someone who really liked the novel (but haven’t read for quite some years), I found the musical cutting and funny, in a very black humour style to my taste, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much it enhanced the sadness and comedy of the original novel. Composer Duncan Sheik deeply understands the music of the period, as it tells us in the playbill, from actually being part of that NYC nightclub scene in the late 80s. I could tell that parts of the audience clearly were as well from the noise they made at the mention of Tunnel.
The cast led by Benjamin Walker as Patrick Bateman were extremely talented triple threats. I loved seeing Jennifer Damiano and Alice Ripley together as I’d seen Next to Normal with them both in 2010, and both gave such moving performances again here (Alice in three roles).
The choreography was closer to music videos of the 80s rather than Broadway, it suited the music, and was quite beautiful. My friend compared it to Vogue. I really loved the remixes of the classic 80s songs as well as the new music, and they were a fun reminder of the deadpan ‘reviews’ of the bands that Patrick gives in the novel (only Huey Lewis and the News was really discussed by Patrick in this show).
Warning: Duh, it’s not for children (simulated sex, drugs, language, serial murder). Also, you may leave the theatre feeling a desperate need to hit the gym due to the extremely thin and fit cast.
Joe Iconis and Family at 54 Below
The Joe Iconis and Family concerts are one of my favourite things to see in NYC, and I’ve been to quite a few since I moved here. Their Christmas shows are legendary. This concert was a thrill for me as a regular, as it included almost all of the family that I know by name, and love, and it included quite a few new songs. We also received a free CD full of demos which was a lovely bonus. Kerry Butler was a welcome special guest, with a hilarious back-story about how she messed up this song Joe wrote for her at a writing intensive 7 years ago. One of the highlights for me was a new tragicomic duet between Katrina Rose Dideriksen (she also sang this) and Eric William Morris (he also sang this) about singers born in the wrong era, and another was Molly Hager singing Broadway, Here I Come (well-known to Smash fans, here is a previous performance of it by Molly) now that she has recently made her Broadway debut in Waitress.
Melissa Errico at 54 Below
I’m pretty predictable in my love for soprano Broadway divas, so it made me happy when I saw Melissa interviewed by Seth Rudetsky back in December and she explained how she’s moving back into showbiz after taking a step back for raising her children. It was so nice to see this in action at 54 Below in a really beautiful, polished concert, loosely themed around marriage and love. She has a stunning voice, and an entertaining banter with the audience, including an honest admission that her dress was rented for the week (smart!). The concert included a not-subtle hint that she had been cast in something, after which she sang “Do I Hear a Waltz?” which was an Encores! show already on sale. I went home and bought a ticket.
The Robber Bridegroom
This musical, off-broadway with Roundabout, is an hilarious romp of a fairytale. The music is sort of in bluegrass style, with much of the action being slapstick farce with a romantic storyline throughout. Slightly reminiscent of Once Upon a Mattress, or at least the version I saw last great with Jackie Hoffman. Steven Pasquale has a gorgeous singing voice and carries off the comedy as well. On the night we saw he messed up a line and broke into giggles, which of course had the whole audience in hysterics. It’s always nice to feel like the cast are having a ball. A lot of fun overall.
Kate Baldwin sings Will Van Dyke at Sheen Center
Another Broadway soprano, one that I’ve actually come to love due to her Off-Broadway work in the past year. I saw her in John and Jen, and then twice in Songbird, in which she actually sang as a country star, and her voice really clicked with me.
This concert is actually part of a three-concert residency, which will hopefully promote the venue to other performers and audiences as it is quite new I believe. I saw the first one, where she sang songs by Michael John LaChiusa, and enjoyed it enough that, when offered a discount for coming back, I did.
I really like her voice singing anything, but I also think it’s impressive that she’s learning so many new songs in such a short time for these concerts. I don’t mind the occasional glance at the music if it means getting so much variety! I also enjoyed the guest stars at both concerts, all are talented stars in their own right (eg. Alexander Gemignani in the first, Jessica Vosk in the second). I hope to be able to go to the third concert, which will be the music of composer Georgia Stitt who I’ve previously seen as music director for Laura Benanti, and as composer of Big Red Sun (concert version at 54 Below).