I know it’s getting a little comical how far behind I’m getting in doing these, but since a lot of these were one-night-only events, which may be repeated in the future, it’s still almost as relevant as if I’d written it in May…
Samantha Spade Ace Detective (54 Below)
This was a musical written by Georgia Stitt, commissioned by TADA youth theatre, although on this evening it was performed by adults. The cast included Adrienne Warren who sounded amazing, and the lead of Samantha was played by Caitlin Kinnunen who was bright and fun. It was a teen detective plot (with the name obviously a play on Sam Spade of Raymond Chandler detective novels). Lots of fun, especially recommended if you know a children’s theatre looking for a smart “girlpower” musical.
Babes in Toyland at Carnegie Hall
This was a one-night-only concert version of a sort of predecessor to a musical from 1903. I say that because the music doesn’t really progress the story, and often feels fairly nonsensical. The drawcard was Kelli O’Hara, who sang beautifully as always. The cast also included two of the most brilliant physical comedians: Bill Irwin, and Christopher Fitzgerald, and they each had some moments of brilliant slapstick which I enjoyed very much. Overall, it was a fairly disjointed bunch of stories, loosely based on some fairytales, and it all felt very silly and dated, but was interesting as a historical artifact, with some great performances.
My favourite non-musical play of the year. It’s a moving, beautifully written and staged play about a Yiddish play from 1907 called God of Vengeance. I think it was interesting as a contrast to the previous show from 1903 in that the level of sophistication and modernity of God of Vengeance (Europe) seemed to have been so far ahead of Babes in Toyland (USA) considering they were only written four years apart. Of course it’s not quite fair to compare a play with a musical.
Indecent covers the story of the playwright, his original company in Europe, successive European productions, and then the various productions in NYC, leading up to the whole cast being arrested for obscenity on the Broadway opening night. This was due to the fact that it contained the first lesbian kiss on Broadway (1923). Indecent is beautifully structured, with music (dancing and singing) throughout, linking everything together. It also conveys the devastation of the holocaust and the loss of Yiddish theatre in a tragic but quiet manner. It has extended for a few extra weeks, please see it if you can.
Linda and Laura Benanti (54 Below)
This was a generally beautiful concert, for those who appreciate fine, soprano voices. The interesting thing was learning more about Laura’s mother, Linda, and how she made certain choices in life which resulted in her leaving the stages of NYC for a quieter life raising children and teaching voice in NJ. It was slightly poignant, but obviously she’s been very successful in that career (I’m referring largely to Laura herself!), and we can all still enjoy her beautiful voice at this time of her life, with their concerts being reprised later in the year, and possibly on an ongoing basis.
Norbert Leo Butz (Rockwood Music Hall)
I had been jokingly referring to a Norbert curse after several failed attempts to see him singing live anywhere/in anything in the three years since I moved to NYC. One concert had been cancelled for a blizzard, I was out of the country for the rescheduled version, one residency occurred a whole week in which I was in Maine, etc. I luckily heard about this gig a week or so before it happened, and was very happily able to go. I had one of his live CDs so I knew the style of music which he sang, which is more rock and blues than Broadway, and this concert was also in that style. He sounded gorgeous, and soulful, and had a really impressive backing band. I also appreciated that he writes a few of his own songs, and they especially showed off his voice. I can’t wait to see him again.
The Little Foxes
The revival of this Lillian Hellman play from 1939 will be largely remembered for the way it used the two leading ladies, Laura Linney, and Cynthia Nixon, to alternate the leading roles of Regina and Birdie. It was a great and generous idea of Laura’s, as she knew that Cynthia also coveted the role of Regina. I wanted to see the play regardless of who was playing the lead, so originally bought cheap tickets for Cynthia as Regina, but it was so much fun, and so clever, that I couldn’t resist seeing it again the other way around. I won’t really compare and contrast, I loved it both times, and both actresses were fantastic in the scheming, conniving role of Regina, although I probably thought Laura was slightly more devastating as the nicer sister, Birdie, when compared with Cynthia as Birdie. I plan to watch the 40s film version as well. It is an interesting play to see for the variety of themes written sharply but subtly, such as rich vs poor, black vs white and children vs their parents.
The Golden Apple
This was a bit of a comedic romp loosely using some of the story plots from the Iliad and the Odyssey. It was quite fun and enjoyable, although being a few months on I’ll admit I didn’t find it extremely memorable, except for Lindsay Mendez’ stunning rendition of Lazy Afternoon, and the excitement about soprano Juilliard student, Mikaela Bennett’s professional debut. I hope to see Mikaela much more in the future!
Poor Amélie didn’t run for very long on Broadway, which is slightly strange considering the enormous popularity of the movie. I assume it was due to word-of-mouth which was generally lightly positive to negative. I ran to see it in the final week, and I’m glad I did, although it was fairly light and simple. It didn’t completely capture the whimsy and eccentricity of the film, but I enjoyed seeing a rare glimpse of Paris on Broadway, and Phillipa Soo’s performance (particularly her singing voice). Since I saw it, I’ve been finding the “big” song, Times are Hard for Dreamers extremely catchy, but sweet to listen to.
I won the lottery to see Groundhog Day, so my friend and I had extremely odd seats in the very front right hand corner of the theatre. Our view had some pluses and some minuses, but I adored the show either way. The best thing was being able to see every tiny expression on Andy Karl’s face, which was hilarious and perfectly timed the whole way through, you could not see any of the effort of keeping up with all the machinery whatsoever. The only sad thing was that our viewing side-on meant that we were seeing some of the magic tricks from the wrong angle so they didn’t feel as magic as they would from a normal seat!
I am not a super-fan of the movie but I do like it, but not recently enough to compare too much. I felt the musical took a smart plot from the movie, loosely, and made it into a whole new entity. I thought it was touching and interesting, and never really repetitive despite the central device being repetition. I can’t wait to see it again sometime. The cast album is also fun, and catchy, I’ve been listening ever since I saw the show.
James Snyder (Green Room 42)
Anyone who saw James in If/Then and watched some of his vlogs would probably enjoy his solo concerts a lot. He had a lot of chat in between songs about the nightmares of auditioning and industry-stuff, and it was all very funny. His singing voice is gorgeous, and backed up by a great band. I was interested to visit this relatively new venue, on 42nd street, and it was quite good – their food was delicious, and, possibly their most attractive point of difference with several other cabaret rooms in town, you don’t *have* to buy anything. The ticket was also fairly reasonably priced by itself.
I went to this Shakespeare in the Park on the first or second preview, which was before all the controversy in the media. When I saw that they were depicting Caesar as Trump, I just groaned a little as it seemed a little too obvious in trying to make it relevant for now. It did not warrant all the outright anger in the media, however, as the overall assassination did not end well for either the city or the conspirators, despite their possibly honorable intentions in the beginning. I was just glad to finally see another one of Shakespeare’s works live, as they are such a central part of our culture, and I only read six of them through high school (one each year). I was sitting close to the back row but I was still pleased to recognize two actors I know from TV work, as it’s always appreciated when they also choose serious theatre work on top of that, they were Corey Stoll (House of Cards), and Elizabeth Marvel (also House of Cards, and Homeland most recently for me).
Kathryn Gallagher (54 Below)
Kathryn is a fairly young (23 from memory) actress, most notably in the recent Spring Awakening revival, and extremely talented singer-songwriter. She has grown up in a very arts-focused family, and this was partly demonstrated through a sweet duet with her beloved father, Peter Gallagher (“Anything you can do…”). She’s obviously started singing and playing guitar very early in life, as she already seems so confident and natural on stage. I had seen her do a lunchtime set at BroadwayCon with Lolo (Lauren Pritchard), so it was nice to see them do a duet again, I admire them both separately and together as songwriters (Lauren wrote the musical Songbird which I saw a few times). Check out Kathryn in her many Youtube videos!