My September weekend in NYC was filled to overflowing with remarkable theatre and personal moments that remind me why I do this...why I get up early to make the train and run from theatre to theatre and wait patiently (usually :)) at the stage door and trust my instincts on what shows I should see. Any one of the experiences I had would probably have been enough, but they just kept coming and I don't think I stopped smiling the whole weekend.
I wrote this story backwards and, in Part 1 of this post "Fleas," I enthused about the Broadway Flea Market which was the third day of the weekend. But by the time I bought my first find on Sunday morning, I had already seen an Off Broadway play featuring a major movie star, a cabaret performance by a Broadway legend, a Broadway play starring another movie star and an acting legend, a lab workshop of a new disco musical starring a well-known television actor and a new Broadway musical with a remarkable performance by its lead. And before Sunday was over, I would see yet another Broadway star in a wonderful revival of a much-loved play. This, my friends, is why I do this.
My thoughts about the shows I saw are on my Stage Right...Now September page and some mementos from the various stage doors are on the Stage Door Tales page, but here's how it all happened:
Friday evening, after "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet," starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and after braving the stage door experience for Jake :), I raced up 7 blocks to 54Below new nightclub space at the Studio 54 space (it also houses a Broadway theatre on the ground level) to get in line for Patti LuPone's 11pm show for which I had a ticket. I was fairly far back in line, but I still beat Perez Hilton, who climbed out of his cab several minutes later after his performance in the Off Broadway fixture, "Newsical The Musical."
54Below is an intimate, clubby space with a comfortably casual elegance; in other words, people were there dressed to the nines and some in jeans. Its low ceiling, long, communal tables in the center and fringe banquettes and tables made me feel as if I had been invited to a friend's home for a party...ok, an imaginary friend with a LOT of other friends and a HUGE living room :). There is a minimum food/drink requirement in addition to the cost of the ticket, but I found it to be well-accommodated by small plates and yummy non-alcoholic drinks (the non-non-alchoholic drinks looked good too :)).
And when Patti LuPone strode onto the small stage, already filled with the band, it was electric. She sang the heck out of an eclectic mix of songs, from cabaret to Broadway; but the absolute show-stopping highlight for me was the encore, for which ticket holders were given the opportunity via Twitter to make requests. I had been tempted to ask for anything from "Evita" as I'd never had a chance to see her in the original production and had always felt deprived. But I was reluctant to seem too pedestrian, so I didn't make a request. I was saved by someone who was not as foolish as I, and the request granted for our show was..."Rainbow High," (the link is to a YouTube video of Patti performing this on the Merv Griffin show in the 80s; it doesn't include the parts sung by other cast members, but it's worth a listen!); it's one of my very favorites from "Evita." It was exquisite, and featured an audience singalong, as she used typed lyrics given to her at the time to refresh her memory. I was in heaven.
Friday was a very long and truly unforgettable day!
So Saturday had some big shoes to fill...and it delivered.
After relaxing in the morning with the paper, bagel and coffee, I spent 90 minutes being shocked and awed by "Grace," the play starring Paul Rudd, Ed Asner, Kate Arrington (Broadway debut!) and Michael Shannon. This is an intense, dark, punch-in-the-heart play that transfixed me; the instantaneous standing ovation at the end of the show was well-earned, and the stage door was a frenzied crowd thrilled to see Paul Rudd.
The logistical challenge for Saturday was that I was also holding a ticket for a lab workshop of "Last Dance," a new disco-themed musical featuring the songs of iconic disco-era composer, Paul Jabara, and starring Rob Morrow of "Northern Exposure" and "Numb3rs" fame. It was at 6pm on the east side, and I knew I'd have to leave the show early to make it back for the 8pm curtain of "Chaplin." I almost gave up in defeat, thinking there was no way I'd make it across town and back in time...but as you might have guessed, that's really not in my nature and off I went. This was my first production at the York Theatre and I'm sure I'll be back. It was a great space and the workshop made good use of the small stage. The voices of the actors were so good, and the wholehearted embracing of the camp that was the disco era was seriously entertaining. Some of Paul Jabara's family and the writer of the show were in the audience, which was kind of cool.
For me though, the highlight of the weekend, show-wise, was "Chaplin," the new musical about the life of Charlie Chaplin. The set, costumes, staging, etc. are all fantastic; but the treasure of this show is Rob McClure, who plays Charlie. He has potent charm in this performance; Chaplin is not always an easy-to-like kind of guy, but as embodied by McClure, you empathize and continue to root for him to the melancholy end. The mixed media staging, incorporating screen footage created for the show and images of period press coverage, was so effective and evocative. Jen Colella as Hedda Hopper, Zachary Unger as the child Charlie and Wayne Alan Wilcox as Charlie's long-suffering brother, were each pitch-perfect in their roles. "Chaplin" is an elegantly beautiful show, and a great story as well! I hope I can see this one again...
Squeezed into the Sunday Broadway Flea Market dashing about, was a matinee of the Roundabout Theatre Company production of "Cyrano de Bergerac" starring Douglas Hodge, Patrick Page and Clemence Poésy. A gorgeous set and marvelous company of actors made my first time seeing this play a real treat. I was sitting very close to the stage and can attest to the remarkable skill of the make up team for this show; Cyrano's nose is a character unto itself!
Sunday evening was spent in the company of a lovely theatre friend. We enjoyed the hosted wine hour at my hotel (The Muse, a Kimpton hotel, my home away from home, special rates are often available and I depend on them :)), devoured pizza, talked endlessly about shows, the arts, life, and topped off the evening with a trip to Schmackary's, the divine cookie bakery at W45th & 9th Ave. If you have not indulged in the heaven that is a Schmackary's cookie...do it.
In a case of "those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it," more accurately stated in my case as "an elf that does not learn from her mistakes, is destined to repeat them," there I was on Monday morning desperately trying to maneuver a chimney sweep brush, bags of show memorabilia (new and flea market found), the bagels from Zaro's to stock my freezer until my next visit and takeaway containers of Schmackary's cookies and Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, into a cab, into Penn Station, onto the train, onto the Metro, into my apartment. And just like every other time, I swear on that chimney sweep brush, I'll use better planning next time. Yeah. You can imagine how this will turn out.*
*I wouldn't change a thing :).