Second Stage Theatre
Saturday, Aug 10 @ 2PM
A fun sit-com of a musical where a snotty grad student goes on a reality dating show to prove that reality shows are a scam. And of course, ends up falling in love. It's totally predictable, but the characters and actors are so likable that you excuse the trite set-up and inevitable conclusion.
The score is tuneful, generic pop musical theatre, but the talented cast elevates it beyond what it probably deserves. It's crammed full of media and technology references that scream "aren't we clever" and for the most part, they are. Although many of the gray-haired matinee ladies were looking around in confusion as the younger set laughed over hashtags and texting acronyms.
I wish Leslie Kritzer had more to do, but she does the most she can with a big ole stereotype of a character (incidentally, all the characters as written are big ole stereotypes). Heath Calvert is perfect as a hunky, dim narcissist of a television host. And Rory O'Malley displays his comic versatility in a range of characters from douche bag frat boy to flamboyant gossip queen.
It's harmless fun with a top notch cast.
Saturday, Aug 10 @ 8PM
It's been months now, but what I remember most was my surprise at Nathan Lane's heartbreaking performance in a dramatic role. Ever since The Producers, it seemed Lane was stuck in a never-ending loop of wacky, flamboyant comic character roles. He'd become a caricature of himself.
In The Nance Lane plays Chauncey, a 1930s burlesque comedian trying to come to terms with his sexuality at a time when homosexuality was still considered a mental illness. Things get complicated when a handsome young stranger forces Chauncey to question his hedonistic lifestyle (to whore, or not to whore?).
The play's structure consists of period musical and comedy skits intercut between traditional dialogue scenes, with the skits commenting on the action of the play. Cady Huffman, Andrea Burns and Jenni Barber are the lovable activist strippers trying to stand-up to the evil censoring Republicans looking to shut down the burlesque houses. The only thing missing is a trumpet, some butterfly wings and a light-up bra.
Refreshingly, this isn't the campy romp we usually come to expect from Douglas Carter Beane, who appropriately leaves most of the bitchy one-liners within the skits.
Jonny Orsini is affecting as the young object of Chauncey's lust. The straightforwardness and simplicity of his acting - as well as some full frontal action - quickly earn the audience's sympathies.
The Glass Menagerie
Sunday, Sep 8, 2PM
I'm now officially an aging theatre queen. It's depressing enough that producers are reviving shows I've seen in their original productions. But now I'm on to multiple revivals of the same show! Sigh. Pretty soon I'll be lamenting the bygone era of LPs and mix tapes and reminiscing about the good ole' days when MTV used to play - gasp - music videos.
Anyway, the most striking aspect of the most recent revival of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie is the stunning set and lighting design. The designers have interpreted the "memory play" aspect of the script into a literal visual image. The set and players seem to float within the dark expanse of the theatre's proscenium.
As always, Cherry Jones gives a thoughtful, intelligent performance as Amanda, the fading southern matriarch. She infuses her Amanda with a grounded, earth-mother vibe that I'm not totally convinced is the most appropriate route for the character. It's a growling, fierce performance that seems at odds with Amanda's genteel debutante past. It's definitely original and unexpected, but I prefer my Amanda's a bit more, well, southern. Maybe it's because my first Amanda was the delicate, oh-so-southern, Jessica Lange.
Zachary "Spock" Quinto is lending a not-so-subtle gay subtext to Tom, and there is some pretty overt homo-eroticism going on between Tom and the gentleman caller in the second act. No such undertones in the Lange production, where Christian Slater (yes, that Christian Slater) played Tom as just a schlubby loser.
The director, John Tiffany, adds some interesting impressionistic flourishes to the staging. Some work wonderfully - characters literally teetering on the "edge" of the set (i.e. their memories) - while others seem gimmicky - repeated movements reminiscent of acting class exercises.
And in case your wondering, I'm in the camp that likes the woman-eating couch. Don't ask.
It may not be the perfect production for Menagerie purists, but this is a genuinely original take on the well-known melodrama.
Romeo and Juliet
Sunday, Sep 29 @ 3pm
Beside the several phone interruptions and clandestine photo-taking by the teenager and her mom sitting next to me, I found myself not hating this recent Broadway revival of the Bard's classic love story. It's not ground-breaking or revelatory, but the well-known story still packs an emotional punch and Bloom and Rashad are charming and likable.
Sure, the loud, clanging incidental music and sleek modern design obviously caters to the attention-span challenged tweeners and star-fuckers feigning class by attending "Shakespea-uh on the Broadway," but it's entertaining nonetheless.
Thanks to a second row orchestra seat (go TDF!), I got an eyeful of the strapping Orlando Bloom and lovely Condola Rashad. But the unfortunate placement of the balcony at the lip of the stage left me with a stiff neck and aching lower back by the end of the evening.
Even up close, the 30-something Bloom still passes for a twink - must be some kind of Middle Earth elf magic - and he gives a charmingly earnest, unaffected performances. I'm a Rashad fan, but surprisingly I found her the weaker of the pair, trying just a tad too hard to feign the glow of youthful naivete. But Bloom and Rashad have a palpable chemistry and from the balcony scene onward, they literally can't keep their hands off each other.
Director David Leveaux has a weird obsession with two-wheeled vehicles. Romeo enters on a motorcycle (for no apparent reason other than for the "cool" factor) and the nurse spends most of her time walking a bicycle around the stage. Oddly, she never rides it.
There are some inconsistencies in the acting styles within the company and the production doesn't really seem to take place in any specific time or period, but it didn't bother me much since the language is so darn beautiful.
Not a total waste of an afternoon, but sitting in the Rodgers I was reminded of a former tenant, a show that I enjoyed much more, In The Heights.