Monday, December 22, 2014

Best of New York City Theater 2014

As we come to the end of 2014, I wanted to recap some of my favorite show/moments on stage this past year (in no particular order).

I thought The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime was an amazing evening of theater. From the way it was adapted to the incredible storytelling - this show created a new genre of theater for me.

Side Show returned to Broadway and even though (like it's predecessor) it's closing too soon, this version gave the story of the real life conjoined twins a grittier look and more compelling story. I am very sorry to see it end in January.

I am a huge fan of Terence McNally and he did not disappoint with his play Mothers & Sons (which I saw twice). Tyne Daly and the rest of the cast gave riveting performances and McNally's words of how we have grown to view that horrible period when AIDS was first mentioned was spot on.

The Realistic Joneses
I'm not usually a lover of the juke box musicals, but Beautiful didn't feel like one (even though it followed the format of using one singer's music). I felt we got to know Carole King's story and Jessie Mueller's performance as the legendary singer/songwriter was  wonderful.

Audra McDonald can make anything she touches turn to gold, but with Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill - taking us through a real-time concert of Billie Holiday - it was more than gold: it was electric! What an evening. What a performance. And one to catch when HBO airs it.

Hedwig & The Angry Inch
I can't even tell you why, but The Realistic Joneses was a play that stuck with me after I left the theater. The 90 minutes in that theater felt real and fresh and I ate up every second of it.

The most energizing and captivating moment in the theater this season was witnessing Neil Patrick Harris in his Tony Award-winning performance as Hedwig and the Angry Inch. What a show!

The time I spent with Alan Alda and Candice Bergen while they read Love Letters to the audience is a moment I'll definitely remember as we leave 2014.

One of the last things I saw this season was off-Broadway, but definitely makes my list with the musical that takes women's empowerment to a new level with all of the princesses we know from Disney films. Disenchanted! was completely enchanting! 

Honorable Mention:

Bridges of Madison County
I must give a shout out to Bradley Cooper who blew me away in how he escaped into the role of The Elephant Man.

Sex With Strangers
If Bridges of Madison County had only shown us the interior chamber musical of the two lovers, it would definitely had been on my list. Everything about that portion of the musical was wonderful.

I didn't love the musical as a whole, but the final scene of Rocky was pretty incredible to see on stage.

The chemistry between Anna Gunn and Billy Magnessen in Sex With Strangers was something to witness first hand.


Benjamin Scheuer's one man show The Lion was wonderful at MTC.

Nick Offerman's riveting performance in Annapurna was a masterclass in acting. The man completely disappeared into the role.

Can't wait to see what 2015 brings to New York City on and off Broadway!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Views of Others

When I was young, I always hung out with older people and thought I knew so much…now as I get older, I realize how much I still had to learn during those years. And yet - I don't want to be those older people that think their views are the only ones that are valid. Recently as Whoopi Goldberg played the "I'm a 60 year old woman" trump card on THE VIEW, it occurred to me the oldest in the room many times wants to share that badge with everyone. As if age always equals the most knowledge. Yet there is much to learn from a younger generation. Look at how quickly technology has changed the past ten years. Social media becoming a large part of marketing…and our lives. All from a new generation.

There have been many major events in the news this month and many of those have to do with history and change. From the changes in our relationship with Cuba to the racial tensions that continue to plague our country to even a certain film being shut down because of relationships with another country, history plays an important part in everything we discuss. 

I notice it even on a personal level. I started a new job this year where I must balance the incredible history of the place with the desire for change to occur. I realize this is similar to the events in the news. Everyone is seeking a balance. 

Change is never easy in any situation. People become afraid of it. Some don't even want to
Different 'Views" Should Matter
see it happen. But thankfully, it's the younger generation that doesn't carry all of that history with them and in those cases turning to them can be smart. They allow us to move forward because they don't hold on to the past. Yes, they need to listen to the oldest person in the room that announces their age and honor that history, but that older person needs to realize there are other possible ways to view a situation. It can be a peaceful protest, an online movement, or yes, Whoopi - even those not-of-color realizing what racism is…but sometimes the younger generation may have an answer that will work if we are all just willing to stop and listen.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Princesses Take a Stand

It's amazing how our views of fairy tales are dictated by the mouse over at Disney. A land where every woman waits to be 'saved' by the man on a horse. (I actually think that Frozen did so well because that was one story about sisters taking control and not waiting for the dude…but I digress.) Over on 46th and 9th Ave in New York City, princesses are taking back the power, sharing their TRUE stories and making audiences laugh out loud (yes, a real LOL) in the musical Disenchanted!

I first took notice of the show when I saw a snippet on TV about it, but this show has been playing regionally for a few years (including the Orlando International Fringe Festival not too far from those other princesses walking around at Disney), and has finally made its way to New York (with many of the original cast in tact).

What a fun show! A mix of a vaudeville and variety show all hosted by Snow White as she (along with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty) try and set the record straight about who they are and where they came from. (Check out original stories on the musical's website.) Along with Belle, Mulan, Rapunzel, Pocahontas, and several others - each woman gets a chance to shine in this one act musical evening. 

These women are fabulous! And I mean that in every sense of the world. From their acting,

their timing, the camaraderie on stage, and those voices…WOW! I was completely blown away by each of them. (With a shout out to Snow who can belt with the best of them and then turn into an operatic soprano…look out Kristin Chenoweth!) Michelle Knight reminded me of a spunky Leah Remini with the control of a CEO running the show. Becky Gulsvig rides the naive line well as Cinderella without ever going too far in either direction. Jen Bechter is a wonderful Sleeping Beauty that teaches not all princesses need to be cut from the same mold. Alison Burns gets to show great comic chops as several princesses (and gives us a little Lisa Marie Presley at times). I fell in love with Lulu Picart the moment she stepped out as Mulan and found my eyes going back to her all night. And when Soara-Joye Ross shows up as the princess that kissed the frog…she had our audience in the palm of her hands.

Fiely A. Matias and Matt West keep the evening moving along quickly with a wonderful team that has paid special attention to costumes and the look/feel of the show. But it is the songs that make this show. Dennis T. Giacino has written the book, music and lyrics and I want a cast album of this show NOW! This man knows how to write for theater. Each song constructed perfectly with ingenious lyrics, beautiful melodies and a heck of a lot of soul!

Give yourself the gift of a fun night out this holiday season! Get a group of friends and go see this show  (limited run). You will not be disappointed. 

April 2015 update: The show has been moved to the Westside Theatre on 43rd street with an open ended run (officially opening April 7th). I saw it again here and loved it just as much. Go to the website, get tickets and see these princesses!