The lovely Erica is out and about people! She’s watching the stars shine on BROADWAY! Yes, Broadway! Where a star can be made, or broken into tiny shreds of NOTHING! AHHAAHAHHAHAHHHAAHAAHHAHAHAHA
Today, Erica is doing just that! Erica is our resident theatre Connoisseur and she LOVES it! So, she is going to write her… wait for it… Wait for it… Erica’s Spring Season round up!
She has reviews of the awesomely bad Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark! Arcadia! Book of Mormon! American Idiot with Billie Joe Armstrong! House of Blue Leaves! Catch Me If You Can! And… How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with Harry Potter… I mean Daniel Radcliffe!
Love, love, love this play! I fell in love with this Tom Stoppard masterwork when it first came out in London. It’s funny, intriguing, provoking and even profound.
It’s also a really cerebral play and a difficult piece to stage just right. Not many productions can find the right way to balance the themes of chaos theory and landscape architecture, the second law of thermodynamics and history, etc… However, this is a good production which serves the outstanding material well and I’m just so delighted to see this play again!
The cast is all very solid and includes Billy Crudup (Watchmen, Mission Impossible III, Almost Famous) who returns to the play that really launched his career — this time he’s playing Bernard Nightingale instead of Septimus Hodge. Broadway stalwarts Raul Esparza (also in Pushing Daisies) and Margaret Colin (Independence Day, Gossip Girl) also star.
Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark
So, yes, I definitely came to this show ready to ridicule things and certainly found a lot of that. But I was also looking for a couple of the visually cool moments and they were there as well. But overall, this is a mess and the names above the title are all to blame.
Since the story is slapped together and the director, Lion King’s Julie Taymor, does not trust her own abilities to create a coherent story line, there is a Geek chorus to tell you what is happening and to connect some of the random dots together. This is a visual director who must show because she cannot tell.
There is no character development, the ensemble numbers go on way too long and there is too much vamping for time as we wait for the enormous set pieces to get in place.
The score by Bono and The Edge is rather disappointing with only a handful of interesting songs. The main anthem “Rise Above” is very U2 and is the strongest number in the show. The extra guitar players on stage are laughable. We know this is a rock score so they are not needed and are distracting.
The two lead good guys (Spidey and Mary Jane Watson) were out for our performance, but their understudies were solid. Patrick Page seems to be the one person who can act beyond the cumbersome costumes and masks and manages to inject some personality to his character. TV Carpio is cute as Arachne, but is limited by a character trapped in wires (for flying) and by the inconsistencies in how the part is written.
Still, the flying sequences are amazing (no one died during our performance!) and they really want you to see the $65 million investment in the sets. Certainly if you turn off your brain, the visual eye-candy is interesting and some folks seemed to enjoy it.
So, yeah, bring on the major book re-write and adjust the score. Maybe you can find something in this, but it will take the ability to let go of Taymor’s darling ideas and a lot of deep pockets to create a coherent story. Not sure it would be a great musical, but being sensible would definitely be a step up! Good luck to the new creative team and cast!
The Book Of Mormon
Not having read any reviews, I knew this would be funny, but it was strange to see how ready to laugh the crowd was. Seems like reviews and word of mouth really do set expectations which color the experience.
But, yes, this is a funny show and a surprisingly traditional show for all its snark (and profanity and drug use so don’t bring the kids!). Although there are some witty jabs in here, it’s not a huge insult to religions or Mormons which was also kind of surprising.
The songs are tuneful and sharp and the crack ensemble gives it their all. This is the future Tony winner for best musical, book and lyrics so get your tickets while you can!
Ok, this was my least favorite show of the trip, but this one wasn’t really for me. Not being a Green Day fan, I knew only a few songs and this wasn’t a musical where they were looking to write a new story — this was more about adapting ideas that were already in music and expanding them out further.
It’s the story about a couple of guys and what their lives are like. Life basically sucks. I think there is more to the story than that, but it’s not really clear what’s going on and some heavy work will be needed for any film adaptation.
Unlike Spider-Man, the band is really involved with the show as Green Day front man. Billie Joe Armstrong is returning to play the role of St. Jimmy as the show closes in just a few more performances. Billie Joe Armstrong is fine as St. Jimmy. He’s in a couple of the numbers and I’m not sure I would’ve known he was a rock star just by watching him. (That may or may not be a compliment.) His fans were definitely out in force since it closes in 10 days.
The curtain call was the best part as everyone in the cast gets a guitar and they sing “Time Of Your Life” for an encore. Strangely Billie Joe kicks off the song with the declaration that he had his wisdom teeth pulled out and starts to sing with a lisp. As we all laugh, he stops playing and says (deadpan) “Ssssssstop laughing.” The ensemble looked at each other, shrugged and proceeded to sing their verses with lisps as well. Nice, if somewhat random, ending!
After the show there is a ton of people waiting for him to leave. After about 40 minutes, he leaves and signs Playbills for most of the people up front.
The House of Blue Leaves
I didn’t know much about this play and I’m not sure I know much more after seeing it. It’s a bit wacky and not at all what I expected.
The Pope’s visit to America is the catalyst for a story about watching life passing you by. The story revolves around an amateur piano player (Ben Stiller), his mentally unstable wife nicknamed Bananas (Edie Falco) and their neighbor (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
Edie Falco is fine in her role, but she doesn’t have to do much — just occasionally act strange (ie…bark like a dog). Jennifer Jason Leigh is playing a bit against type, but I thought she pulled it off. Ben Stiller sings and plays the piano which is surprising. A couple of times he slips into his schtick when his character gets angry, but he stays away from that for the most part which is good.
Catch Me If You Can
This is one of those shows where things just miss being great. There are good things in here and certainly the creative team is really, really talented, but it just falls a little short of the mark.
They fortunately don’t take the movie and add music. This is created specifically for the stage with new twists which is a good thing. The score is not particularly strong (disappointing since Marc Shaiman wrote Hairspray), but it was nice to see the full orchestra on stage.
While Aaron Tveit (Gossip Girl) sings and dances the lead role of Frank Abagnale Jr. wonderfully (Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie), there’s something off with the character and I don’t know if it’s Aaron or the part itself. He doesn’t quite steal the show which is a tall order, but something you really need for this part. His counterpart, the former Tom Hanks role of Carl Hanratty, is played by Norbert Leo Butz (original Fiyero in Wicked) who is as funny and entertaining as ever.
Overall, this is an enjoyable show, but not quite great.
How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying
Last show of the trip! This is my second show in a row about a con, but that’s not how it’s played in this version. This time, J. Pierrepont is very earnest in his desire to succeed. Not a lot of irony.
A little strange way to play it, but when you have a book by Abe Burrows, a Frank Loesser score and an adorably earnest star, it works.
In the lead role, Daniel Radcliffe is the hardest working man in the show . He plays his role very straight, but it works for him. He sings fine, but his voice is a little tired at this point. He is, however, a good dancer. Surprisingly athletic and with choreography that nods to the height difference between him and the rest of the cast, Dan is most charming when he is dancing.
John Larroquette is also terrific as Mr. Biggley. He’s funny and silly and as appealing as ever. Rose Hemingway as Rosemary is spunky while Tammy Blanchard is funny as Hedy LaRue.
Lots of fun and a great show to cap off the trip!
This is also fundraising time for Broadway’s pet charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Every year the shows compete to see who can raise the most money for charity. This year I’m betting it’ll be this show as they auction off Daniel Radcliffe’s bright blue bow tie from his costume. There were two fierce bidders in our performances and they raised $8000 between the two of them. Amazing! There are additional things sold online so check out eBay and look for the BC/EFA auctions.
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