Scene: January '12
La Cage aux Folles (+ Theater Look-in)
When? January 31, 2012
Where? Eisenhower Theater, The Kennedy Center, Washington, DC
Why? I haven't seen this show in over 20 years and it's one of my favorites. It has so much heart (it's the show on which the film "The Birdcage" was based), great music and loads of laughter. This tour features another of my favorite actors, Christopher Sieber, who has been nominated for two Tony awards in the past ("Spamalot" and "Shrek") and has been in numerous TV shows.
Well? I was so pleased to finally see Christopher Sieber on stage, and he did not disappoint. His charisma is abundant and this show is so charming that there was no way not to have a great time. George Hamilton also brought a great deal of charm, humor and the perfect suave demeanor, but his voice really wasn't up for the role, unfortunately. On the other hand, The Cagelles, the troupe of drag performers in the show (and always an important element!), did a fabulous job and it really is quite remarkable to see them transform.
Look Back in Anger
What? John Osbourne's play about friends and lovers.
When? January, 2012
Where? The Laura Pels Theatre
Why? I am a fan of Roundabout Theatre productions and this one also happens to feature a favorite actor of mine, Matthew Rhys from "Brothers & Sisters," an all-time favorite television show of mine. If you've never seen it, check it out on DVD.
Well? The acting in this play was phenomenal; the action rather emotionally brutal. The love/hate/fear/pain flowing back and forth between the three main characters on a truncated, trash-filled set that reflected their self-imposed trapped circumstances permeated the theatre. Matthew Rhys was cruel and tortured~and utterly compelling. I don't always find plays like this comfortable; and I didn't walk out of the theatre humming a happy tune, but this kind of theatre often says out loud human truths that we simply can't talk about in real life, and that's important.
Godspell (3rd visit + lotto + 1 cushion seat)
What? Return trip to my current fave musical to experience the fun of the pre-show ticket lottery for (hopefully) seats in the cushion sections at the stage corners.
When? Wednesday January 24, 2012
Where? Circle in the Square Theater
Why? The cushion sections next to the stage at either end (4 sections total) are an integral part of the fun of this show.
Well? Well this exceeded all my expectations! :) I got the perfect spot on the cushions; Hunter Parrish gave me a hug during the show (from the stage as he was sitting down next to me) and told me he was happy I was there; Angela Lansbury & Edgar Lansbury (her brother; one of the original and current producers of Godspell) were in the audience; there was a talkback after the show with George Salazar ("Light of the World"); both the director (Danny Goldstein) and the producer (Ken Davenport) were at the theater and I got to meet and talk to both of them. Yep, it was a good time.
What? Comedy about the challenges of doing business in a foreign country where the language, customs and perspectives are "worlds away" from your own.
When? Saturday, January 21, 2012
Where? Longacre Theatre
Why? Intriguing premise; some great reviews (Top 10 Plays and Musicals of 2011 in Time Magazine)
Well? I loved it; and so did the audience at my performance, who laughed heartily throughout. The sets for this show are incredibly clever and effective; they move in and out and around in an almost choreographed dance of puzzle pieces. The sets shift with the lights turned low so that the shifting is visible to the audience, as if to underscore the subtle shifts in understanding that can make or break human communication. I particularly loved the use of subtitles projected in various places on the set while the Chinese characters spoke their native language. The humor was smart and, even when you thought you knew what was probably coming, felt fresh and unexpected. And still, the show had an emotional center in the relationships between the main characters that was believable and accessible. I really am unsure as to why the early closing...about the only criticism I could make is that the first and second acts are unbalanced; i.e., the first act is too long and the second act a bit rushed. I think that this might have been a play better done without an intermission, a la "Seminar" or "God of Carnage."
Dancing at Lughnasa
What? 20th anniversary production of Brian Friel's play about Irish sisters and their journey to find the emotional strength in family.
When? January 20, 2012
Where? Irish Repertory Theater, W. 22nd St. & 6th Ave.
Why? I have always wanted to see this play and this is the time.
Well? An intimate portrait of an Irish family in crisis during the harsh economic times of the late '30s is staged beautifully in an equally intimate setting. It always amazes me that a play can take place only on one set, yet make you feel transported across time/space. The actors in this show have a wonderful chemistry; and the use of the music and narrator (seen only as an adult by the audience, but an unseen presence as a child) to move the story was very effective. It is a reflection of the skill of the storytelling that the young woman behind me was begging the woman in her row, who was reading the synopsis out loud to her companion, to please be quiet because she didn't want to know what happened in the second act. I felt the same way. I already felt connected to the characters and wanted to take the journey with them. A wonderful evening.
What? A one-woman tribute to the former governor of Texas, Ann Richards, written and performed by Holland Taylor, a personal friend and admirer of Ann.
When? January 10, 2012
Where? The Eisenhower Theater @ The Kennedy Center Washington, DC
Why I want to see it: I love all things Texas, especially Ann Richards, one of the most important women in American politics in my lifetime.
Well? Fantastic show! Holland Taylor quite completely brings Ann Richards back to life on stage, and by the end of the show I also loved Holland Taylor for her affectionate tribute. It was warm, loving, uproariously funny; and creatively staged. The show starts as if the audience is a Baylor University graduating class and their parents and friends before whom she is speaking. Ann acts as narrator of the story of her life, but to recount her time as governor, we see her in the governor's office conducting business, which made for some of the funniest moments of the evening as she fields phone calls from everyone from Bill Clinton to her children. We waited to meet Holland Taylor after the show and got the bonus of seeing Hillary Clinton leaving the stage door after visiting backstage. Ms. Taylor could not have been kinder or more appreciative that we would have waited to thank her. Great experience!
What? An abrasive, abusive writing professor "teaches" a writing seminar for 4 talented students with issues-issues with each other, issues with the professor and issues with themselves.
When? January 8, 2012
Where? The John Golden Theater 45th St. between 7th and 8th Aves.
Why I want to see it: Alan Rickman. Enough said.
Well? Alan Rickman was pitch-perfect ...the play was biting, painful yet hilarious thanks to the amazing comedic timing of this cast. Lily Rabe (Jill Clayburgh's daughter) and Hamish Linklater were particularly great...Alan Rickman very generously signed every single Playbill at the stage door (which took forever as there was quite a crowd), but was incredibly reserved-very "Snape"-like; definitely more pleasant than Snape :), but intense and reserved :)...it was interesting the effect his reserve had on the crowd; i.e., there was no yelling or shrieking-everyone else got quiet too :)...
What? A weekend at "The Vineyard" with the members of a privileged black family, their guests, their issues and their secrets. Unvarnished discussions of race and humanity ensue.
When? January 7, 2012
Where? Cort Theater 48th St. between 6th and 7th Aves.
Why I want to see it: Fabulous cast, including Dule Hill (West Wing), Condola Rashad, Mekhi Pfifer. Produced by Alicia Keys, with accompanying scene-transition music composed by her. Intriguing story.
Well? Riveting and powerful; funny and tragic; love and loss-this play has it all. Phenomenally acted-with standout performances by Condola Rashad (Phylicia Rashad and Ahmad Rashad's daughter), Tracie Thoms and Rosie Benton. Yes, the women steal this show. If you like rich characters, plenty of good, no-punches-pulled drama-see this show. And Alicia Keys' music is wonderful.
Bonus: There was a "talkback" session with the cast and Alicia Keys after this performance (there are others scheduled as well), and it was great to hear the actors talk about their experiences and how much they like and respect one another. Condola Rashad, who has an extremely emotional scene during the second act, spoke about making a conscious effort to keep the emotions in check, rather than trying to become "emotional;" saying that it happened more authentically that way. Alicia Keys was asked if she had any push back over dealing with these issues as straightforwardly as this and she said no, and gave credit to the writer, Lydia Diamond, for making it work so well. She was also asked if the show could become a movie-her response? "Hell yes!!"...
Rosario Dawson and Jesse L. Martin were both in the audience tonight.
What? Based on the play "Lysistrata" by Aristophanes, okay loosely based, a college co-ed at Athens University attempts to inspire a winning spirit in the men's basketball team by taking a cue from her namesake and encouraging her fellow cheerleaders to refuse to "give it up" until the team wins a game. Hilarity abounds.
When? January 7, 2012
Where? The Walter Kerr Theater; 48th St. between 7th and 8th
Why I want to see it: It just seems fun, playful and unique. I have heard/read wildly differing reviews, and will be interested to see for myself.
Well? Ok, "Lysistrata Jones" is the kind of show that proves to me that it's worth taking a chance on a show that not everyone liked...this show was silly (in a great way), fun, energetic, thoroughly entertaining, with some great songs, a stellar lead and great supporting cast-and the audience had a blast! It is so sad that it's closing early...it's an original musical and, while probably not a Tony-caliber show, it was so worth seeing....it had a very successful Off Broadway run, and I read one critic say that perhaps it would have survived if it hadn't moved to Broadway...I can see that point. But what fun!
The Road to Mecca
When? January 6, 2012
Where? American Airlines Theater 42nd St.
Why? The cast includes actors I have long wanted to see on stage and I am a fan of The Roundabout Theater Company and this is one of their shows.
Well? As both Carla Gugino and Rosemary Harris said at the stage door after the show: "this is a really special play." They're right. That said, its long monologues can be tough, especially in the first act. There is a lot of talking and not a lot of action. But the talking is rich and poetic. And, more importantly, it's Rosemary Harris delivering many of those monologues. And Jim Dale (of "Barnum" and Harry Potter audio book narrator fame), who shows up in Act II, and Carla Gugino each have a lovely chemistry with Harris. The set is gorgeous; which is important because the story is heavily dependent on the physical surroundings.
What? Based on the 2006 Irish movie about two musicians, one Irish and one Czech, whose common language is music, their brief momentary togetherness and the music they made.
When? January 5, 2012
Where? Off Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop / Bernard Jacobs Theater on Broadway (starting Feb. 28 '12 in previews)
Why? I loved the movie. It's currently playing Off Broadway to great reviews, and I always like seeing a show in a smaller, more intimate venue if possible-at least the first time. It's moving to Broadway in March, 2012.
Well? Wow. Lovely, lyrical theater. The staging was my favorite part-action moves within the same set via bursts of movement that shift props, tell story, function as dance/choreography. More than traditional "dance," the movements are subtle body movements, down to gentle ticks of the fingers and turns of the head. The leads appear to inhabit their characters and have a palpable connection; Cristin Milioti is perfection as Girl. The ensemble of actors playing the peripheral characters (literally peripheral; they sit on the sides of the stage for much of the show) do quadruple duty as musicians, singers, dancers and actors. The casting, to my mind, is flawless. It is emotional, appropriate for the family (language can be bad, so I'd say 12 & over) and unique.
What? Farce centered on the famous "fiddler" of ancient Rome, Nero
When? New Year's Day 2012
Where? Arena Stage/Washington, DC
Why? Read intriguing review-seemed like fun; discount ticket thru Goldstar
Well? Light, silly and fun take on Roman emperor Nero-set in ancient Rome with time-traveling references to American Idol, reality television and the selling out of artists...uniformly strong performances, but uneven timing and writing left me feeling as if it didn't fulfill its farcical promise...