Baker’s Dozen + 1 extra

Twice a year Broadway sheds a number of shows as limited runs ends and shows run out of steam.  It generally happens in January and June as the months after are a generally lower ticket sales/fewer tourists zone.  This is a good thing as theater is a live experience that is not there forever like movies or theme parks.  This year is no different.

I’ll go through by closing date, theater name, show closing, my notes and what is coming next.  Warning, this will be a longer post  than usual.

  • December 31 – BROADWAY – Fiddler On The Roof – what a great production of this beloved classic with innovative features and going on tour.  See it if you can.  Another of my favorites, Miss Saigon, comes along after.  Looking forward to that.
  • January 1 – PALACE – The Illusionists, Turn of the Century – pretty good and very enjoyable magic show.  To be followed by a new production of Sunset Boulevard, limited run with Glenn Close.  I saw the original some decades ago and not likely to catch this one as discount tickets will be nowhere to be found.
  • January 1 – ST. JAMES – Something Rotten! – Terrific show and one of the rare Broadway shows I saw twice.  If you like theater and can catch the tour, do so.  This closed earlier than it deserved.  To be followed by Present Laughter, a Noel Coward play featuring Kevin Kline that sounds quite interesting.  Soon after the theater will close to absorb the alley between it and the Helen Hayes to expand their stage and make room for the rumored residency of the new Frozen stage musical.
  • January 1 – SHUBERT – Matilda – enjoyable show that got a nice long run.  TO be followed by Bette Midler in the return of Hello Dolly!
  • January 8 – BOOTH – Les Liaisons Dangereuse – Didn’t work for me.  Coming into my favorite Broadway house is Significant Other, a show that was praised in it’s Off-Broadway and Boston runs.
  • January 8 – WALTER KERR – Falsettos – Haven’t seen yet and may not before it closes.  The ticket lottery requires taking some control of my Twitter feed which I will not allow so maybe not this time.
  • January 8 – JOHN GOLDEN – The Encounter – great sound, interesting staging, fascinating story, good performance that never came together for me as a well rounded show.  Coming next is the play A Doll’s House Part 2, essentially what happens after Nora walks out.  Sounds interesting and always happy to welcome a new play to Broadway.
  • January 8 – BERNARD B. JACOBS – The Color Purple – John Doyle does it again with a great staging.  I loved it.  Coming next is Bandstand, an interesting project with Laura Osnes.
  • January 15 – STUDIO 54 – Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical – Lots of fun, though hardly new.  Coming next is the new Lynn Nottage play Sweat.  I admire Ms. Nottage’s writing and again – a new play on Broadway.  Reviews for this play off-Broadway were terrific.
  • January 15 – GERALD SCHOENFELD – The Humans – One of the best new plays on New York stages this year, highly recommended if you can catch a good production.  Coming next is Come From Away, a new musical about a small Canadian town that unexpectedly plays host to 38 plane loads of people suddenly grounded on September 11, 2001.  Sounds interesting…
  • January 15 – AUGUST WILSON – Jersey Boys – This long running energetic musical should be seen at least once and I assume will continue touring for a while.  Following that is another expected blockbuster, Groundhog Day, which got great reviews in London led by Andy Karl.
  • January 22 – LYCEUM – Oh Hello on Broadway – extended twice and funny to a generation after mine.  Thought it pretty good but entirely too much tuna.  Coming next is a show that also had good London reviews, The Play that Goes Wrong.  Let’s see if they can come close to Noises Off!
  • January 29 – BROADHURST – The Front Page – a star studded vehicle who’s 1930’s script has gotten some poor reviews.  Thought I wouldn’t get a chance to see, but some openings popping up on my discount services so we shall see. To be followed by a stage adaptation of the animated Anastasia.

And the one extra?  The underdog a cappella musical In Transit at the CIRCLE IN THE SQUARE has low grosses and attendance and is heavily rumored to close any day now.  A pity as I was surprised how much I liked it.  Rumored to being pursued by the Daniel Craig Othello and perhaps after that by the Tony Shaloub The Band’s Visit.  Personally, if it must close early, I would love to see Small Mouth Sounds move in.

Whew!  Lots happening here on Broadway, hope you have a prosperous 2017!

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Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Well it was bound to happen.  With all the theater I get to see it would eventually occur again.  I would leave at intermission.

Very seldom do I consider doing such a thing (especially if I am paying for the tickets!).  But on an exceptional evening, I am afraid it happens every decade or so.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses was such a play.  What should be sprightly and sharp, a fencing match of wits and devious doings should capture our imaginations and draw us forward in our seats.  Done all in grays and browns both in setting and in mood, this production did no such thing.  To top it off there was a graphic sexual manipulation of a character termed as 15 years old (and an actress looking younger than that) as a primary topic.  Things have changed even in the last few decades (let alone the last few centuries) that make it uncomfortable to sit through.

Sidenote diversion, I have always found sex and violence more intimate and personal on stage than on screen and so also much more impactful.  There are no camera tricks available and it feels much more in the moment.

Anyway, hopefully not an early departure for another decade or so!

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As always you can find more at my website http://www.walterthinnes.com or on Twitter @walterthinnes

In Transit – On Broadway

Saw the a cappella musical “In Transit” (#InTransitBway) last night at the Circle in the Square Theater.  I’ve read the poor reviews and watched the low grosses and attendance number.  I was prepared for a tuneful but disappointing evening diversion.

Wrong.  Unexpectedly I loved this show.  I have not seen Pitch Perfect or Glee which was reportedly required watching before attending.  I am not a huge a cappella fan, though they market the show heavily on that basis.  But, boy did I have fun.  Most especially because it was ultimately a love letter to the city I love so much, New York.  The subways are ultimately the arteries and veins that keep this place alive, and yes, I’ve had plenty of serendipitous interactions therein.

The joyful music, tremendous performances and clever staging brought me in and close and reminded me why I love being here.  Go to the show, relax and enjoy.  This is fun.

But do it soon as they are struggling heading into Broadway Deep Freeze months.  They may not survive much longer past the holiday tourist season and that would be a shame.  Though rumors point to worthy shows such as the current Daniel Craig “Othello” and Tony Shaloub “The Band’s Visit” as hoping to move in (and I think this would be the perfect site for a “Small Mouth Sounds” Broadway mounting), I will be disappointed when this show closes.  I don’t feel it got enough of a chance and many more people would love it if they gave it a try.

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Love, Love, Love

This was the third of the three hopeful playwright redux this fall.

Simon Stephen’s Heisenberg further dazzled after his Punk Rock (and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime).

Stephen Karam’s adaptation of The Cherry Orchard disappointed after his amazing The Humans.

And now, Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love after his amazing King Charles III falls someplace in between.  The play is fine with terrific dialogue, insightful observations, well performed and thoroughly enjoyed.  Still it does not climb to the heights of King Charles III and seems petty in comparison.  Still recommended theater going if you have the chance and I look forward to the future scripts of all these writers.  May 2017 bring more joy by these fine playwrights.

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The Illusionists – Turn of the Century

The current magic show on Broadway is an extension of The Illusionists franchise which has done two previous holiday season shows when short term theaters become available and also has an active touring presence.  The premise is that you will get to see a handful of different magical styles in an evening doing everything from escapes to mentalism to children magic to you name it.  This has proved a popular format perhaps due to a lack of dominant magical personalities today or perhaps a reflection of our splintered attention span in today’s world.

Not only have I seen and spoken with some great magic personalities of the last few decades (Harry Blackstone Jr., David Copperfield, Penn & Teller) but I still perform a bit of magic myself when I host evenings of new plays at Polaris North.  I started performing magic when I was an actor and preferred other stage gigs to waiting tables.  While these Illusionists shows have a sheen and feel of something new, I have news for you folks.  Pretty much every concept in magic was included in a collection of 8 books called the Tarbell Course in Magic that was written between the 1930’s and 1960’s.  It is a great addition to my library.  All the “new” acts and tricks are taken from those principles and wrapped in a shiny new dressing.

I did not see the previous two Broadway incarnations of this show but heard they were loud and aggressive.  Because they have themed this for the turn of the century (the last century in the golden age of magic) it is more restrained and stylish.  It is pretty darn good and lots of fun to watch.  Pamela finally had to tell me to stop showing her how it was done so she could just sit back and enjoy the wonder.  Highly recommended and good for all ages.  See it if it tours near you, which it likely will eventually.

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A Bronx Tale, the Musical

What a great show.  Unlike most of the world I was not familiar with Chazz Palminteri’s previous iterations of his childhood immersion in the mob world of The Bronx.  He did a one man off Broadway show, a movie, a Broadway version of his one man show and has now turned it into a musical.  Pretty good results from one story.

So this tale was new to me but it was clear most of the audience was already familiar with it.  The music by Alan Menken was perfectly fitting and a welcome break from some of his Disney work.  He’s terrific in many realms but I like when he writes for adults.  The sound was perfect for the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s milieu of the story.

The performances were first rate and full bore, the direction and design elements excellent.  Could be a big hit for the Longacre and a musical that can hang around a while.

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The Cherry Orchard

There is good news and bad news in the Roundabout’s production of The Cherry Orchard.  The good news is the performers on stage.  They are luminous and talented and committed to their work and they are a joy to watch.  Diane Lane and John Glover are special standouts (Joel Grey was not in the night I saw it) but the entire cast is outstanding.  The rest is bad news.

I was immensely impressed with Stephen Karam’s play The Humans now onstage on Broadway and was looking forward to his translation of an Anton Chekhov classic.  Unfortunately I did not find it to have the sparkle of other translations I have seen and some curious choices were made.  He used “serf” only once or so and then changed to “slavery” and I do not see why when he retained the Russian location and character names.  A miss in my opinion.

Other directorial and design choices also seemed random from the multi-racial casting to the occasional inclusion of modern dress to odd perspective set design choices.  It felt as if many different styles were tossed in for effect and not for a unified vision.  I am all for modernizing or placing classics in unique settings but this production did not seem to do so for any rhyme nor reason but just to mix things up.  I would have preferred a strong directorial choice.

All that said I have no regrets spending a few hours in the company of Mr. Chekhov and these amazing performers.

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*as usual you can find more at my website http://www.walterthinnes.com or on Twitter @walterthinnes*

Get thee to the St. James

Saw Something Rotten! on Broadway for the second time.  Needed to introduce Pamela to the show before it closes January 1.  Any person with a passing knowledge of theater and musicals would enjoy it and recognize many references in the show.  For someone as passionate as Pamela and I are about theater one spends the entire night laughing and applauding as there is so much to love.  We both very much enjoyed it.  If you have the chance before end of the year or if you see it coming to your town on tour, do not miss it.

I saw the original cast but this group is just as good and plays it well.  Brad Oscar is still there and why not?  To get to sing the It’s A Musical number every night must be heaven for him.  Go man go.

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