Saturday, August 8, 2015

April 2015: NYC

Hand to God (now on Broadway)

We ran from one theater to another to take this one in at the last minute after Kristin Chenoweth called out of On the Twentieth Century. It was on our list, but we didn’t think we would have a slot to fit it in. Boy, am I glad we did! This is one of the funniest plays I’ve ever seen and the set reveal in act 2 is unbelievably hilarious. The subject matter of a mother and son dealing with the loss of their husband/father is very serious, but the play is not, almost to a fault. Still, it’s pretty thrilling to watch as the evil puppet Tyrone, created in a Texas church puppet class for kids, takes over the boy’s hand that created him and wrecks havoc on everyone involved. The all-adult cast is riveting and this is one play that I actually will pick and read soon.

Bjork at MoMA

I fear the world-wide success of David Bowie Is will spawn a whole host of rocker retrospectives. This one is relatively small, consisting of a theater showing all of Bjork's music videos, another one with a dual-screen music video created especially for MoMA, and a short walk-through of various costumes (including the infamous swan dress the singer wore to the Oscars). The interest in these type of exhibits will be totally dependent on how one feels about the individual artist. Though I've seen her in concert and have at least one of her albums, I was mostly ambivalent about this show, mainly because I can hardly ever understand her.

The Visit (finally on Broadway)

It’s too bad that what will probably be Chita Rivera’s last Broadway role wasn’t in a better show. This dark musical by Kander and Ebb had been kicked around for 10 plus years before finally arriving on Broadway. The musical’s main positive is its dreamy score, which at some points is so hypnotic as to be sleep inducing. While I’ve never seen this story in any form, I find it hard to believe it would ever be satisfying. There’s just no redemption to be found in this unrelenting story of an elderly woman revisiting her hometown to claim the life of her first love who jilted her so long ago. Some interesting directing choices and Chita do elevate the proceedings though to far too little avail. The townspeople are more than willing to give the man up in order to cash in. Roger Rees as the grown-up version of the lover looked very frail and it wasn’t a big shock to learn of his death shortly after the show closed (without him).

The Spring Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall

No place does cheese like Radio City! But there’s enough to thrill, mainly the Rockettes, even in a schlock fest like this one. We wouldn’t have bothered if they didn’t have non-standard showtimes. I hope all involved (Laura Benanti, Diane Paulus, etc.) got a huge payday for this because they definitely “sold-out.” Dancing with the Stars alum Derek Hough was out injured but it didn’t matter, nothing could save this one except for the Rockettes, who unfortunately can’t be onstage the whole time. The story, about an angel (Hough) sent to redeem/prevent a heartless corporate raider (Benanti) from taking over a small-time tour operator, is just an excuse to cram in as many NYC scenic highlights as possible.

The King and I at Lincoln Center

I was looking forward to this revival because I loved, loved, loved the one of South Pacific by the same team (director Barlett Sher with his muse Kelli O’Hara using Lincoln Center’s money) in the same theater. Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed, especially having been bowled over by the Donna Murphy/Lou Diamond Phillips Broadway revival in a production by Christopher Renshaw that played all over the world. Things got off to a good start when a seemingly full-size ship came forward with its mast sweeping out over the audience (it’s best not to sit too close for this one). But it’s inconceivable that an actor, even one of such high acclaim, be allowed to play a lead role if he can’t be understood in every line that comes out of his mouth. I hear that we were actually lucky since supposedly none of Ken Watanabe’s lines as the King could be understood in the first week of previews. I had a problem too with Kelli O’Hara, who just wasn’t believable to me as a refined English woman and I hated some of her (or Sher’s) acting choices, especially in “Shall I Tell You What I Think Of You?” The highlight for me was Here Lies Love star Ruthie Ann Miles’s always watchable, always interesting Lady Thiang. That’s how you do it!

The (new) Whitney Museum of American Art

The Whitney has new digs and boy are they a beauty!!! In its move from a longtime residence on the Upper East Side to a huge, interesting space by Renzo Piano (!) in the Meatpacking District (!!) over the High Line (!!!), the Whitney will be the art world’s must-see for some time to come.

The opening exhibit, entitled America Is Hard To See, plays out over the entire museum and brilliantly shows off the Whitney unmatchable collection of 20th century American art. Likewise, the building itself is a marvel with a great mix of indoor and outdoor spaces. Go! See! Enjoy!

Something Rotten

This completely original musical (how often can you say that anymore?) was an unexpected delight! Yes, it’s silly and jokey and hokey, but it’s also fun and entertaining from start to finish as we watch the world’s first musical be born (not really). The Bottom Brothers are tired of competing against Shakespeare, the cocksure rock star of the theater world as portrayed by Christian Boyle. With the help of Thomas Nostradamus (nephew to the famous seer), the Bottom Brothers do in fact create a musical, but it all goes hilariously awry since their Nostradamus misinterprets most of what he foresees. While nothing that follows can match the “It’s A Musical” number led by the hilarious Brad Oscar’s Nostradamus, the rest of the show is still a delight.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch with John Cameron Mitchell (take 2)

While I hate seeing the last performance of any show, we didn’t have a choice this time around and it’s not like we hadn’t seen this Hedwig multiple times already. John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig is of course definitive. While continuing to be hobbled by the knee blowout that prevented us from seeing him in February, he still amazes in the role and the injury provided much new fodder. The show has a new Yitzhak in the form of personal favorite Rebecca Naomi Jones, who sings and plays the role brilliantly (with her hair in corn-rows!). After the bows, the cast attempted a singalong to Lou Reed’s "Satellite of Love," but not enough people knew the song to make it the love-fest I’m sure they were hoping for.

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