The Drawbacks of Distance

With social media, YouTube, and more and more productions touring and being filmed (legally) it is very easy to keep up to date with all things Broadway, even when you don’t live in NYC. In my first post on this blog I talked about the ways I keep Broadway as a big part of my life even though I live in Canada. 

But then there are times when you really notice just how far away you are from New York City and this post is about those times.

Like I said, social media really is great for keeping you up to date with all the Broadway news and lets you see pictures and videos of pretty much everything that happens, but sometimes I find it also just draws attention to all of the things you are missing because you aren’t there. Sometimes it works to think about how expensive some of those things are and knowing that you wouldn’t be there even if you were in the city but being far away, you know there really is no chance at all.

There always seems to be some Broadway-related concert or one-time-only event/performance happening  in New York. Following anything to do with Feinstein’s/54 Below is both a good and bad thing here because I love hearing about all of the upcoming performances and seeing the videos from them when they are posted on YouTube. At the same time though I wish I could see them in person. I have had the privilege of attending one performance at 54 Below (Matt Doyle) and it was a great experience, which also increases my desire to return. Signings and performances at places like Barnes and Noble and the Drama Book Shop also get my attention.

Then there are the annual events like Broadway Barks, Stars in the Alley (which I did get to attend this year), Broadway in Bryant Park, Broadway Barks, the Broadway Flea Market, BroadwayCon (I’ve been able to attend this both years so far and a lot of my New York trip planning has become centred around this particular event). All of these events look like so much fun, whether it’s getting to see performances or having the chance to buy souvenirs and memorabilia and see the stars outside of their shows. Thankfully I have managed to attend some of these but there are just too many to plan trips around all of them, as much as I wish I could!

Then there are the shows themselves. Broadway shows are always opening and closing which can be hard to watch from afar. Sometimes there’s a particular show or performer you wish you could see. There are the shows with limited runs and shows that will never tour, or if they do it won’t be for a long time, or not in a city near you for a long time. Or sometimes your favourite shows (which perhaps you have gotten to see) are closing and you can’t get back to see them before they do.

If I were living in NYC I think I would be more inclined to try for lottery or rush tickets since, if I didn’t win one day, I could just try again another day. As it is when I do go to New York it’s always for a limited time so I usually either get tickets ahead of time or get them at TKTS (with some preparation ahead of time with regards to which shows I want to see and looking at what had previously been available to have an idea of what the options will be). There have been some exceptions to this, but generally, that’s how it goes. I don’t want to risk not getting a ticket for anything at all which could come with rush/lottery tickets, at least the ones for which you have to physically line up. The number of digital lotteries now helps with this a bit. On my last trip we did actually enter the Dear Evan Hansen digital lottery and when we didn’t win that (it was Dear Evan Hansen, we weren’t expecting to win!), which we found out in the morning, we were still able to head to TKTS to pick up other matinee tickets that day. I would certainly be more inclined to try more digital lotteries on future trips, but it would be a lot nicer to be able to try it more often without that potentially being my only chance to see the show.

This month (September) has been one of those when it’s particularly disappointing to not be in New York, as there are/have been lots of events and show closings. This month’s show closings, that stood out for me, included Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 (September 3rd), Bandstand (September 17th), and Groundhog Day (September 17th). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I would have loved to have had the chance to see both Great Comet and Bandstand again. At one point, before its closing was announced, I had even checked to see when Bandstand was on sale until, wondering if I would be able to see it again when I plan on going back to New York for BroadwayCon. At that point it wasn’t, but I had hoped for an extension, not a closing notice! I also wish I had gotten to see Groundhog Day. I had heard a lot of good things about it. The day I saw BandstandGroundhog Day had been my other choice for a potential show to see. I certainly don’t regret my decision as Bandstand is one of my new favourite shows but I wish I could have fit Groundhog Day in too. (And I do love Andy Karl in a show!)

Notable events this month include the Theatre Mania Block Party, which happened on the 10th, and the Broadway Flea Market which is actually happening tomorrow (the 24th). One of my goals in life is to attend the Broadway Flea Market. Someday I will be there!

There is just something about New York and the Broadway “scene.” There’s a sort of vibe to it that doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s a place where it seems there are always these theatre-related events happening and even when they aren’t there are still the shows themselves. There are so many of them! And that’s not even counting Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway! The list goes on and on. I know there is a lot of good theatre in other cities too but when your passion is (Broadway) musicals it just seems that New York is the place to be.

Outside of New York City there is also a lack of places to buy Broadway related items (merchandise, books, etc.) which also leads to looking at shipping availability (or sometimes lack thereof) and expenses. Yes there are some book options at Chapters/Indigo (the big chain bookstore we have here in Canada), Amazon, etc., but we don’t have anything like the Drama Book Shop. There used to be a store in Toronto called Theatre Books but, unfortunately, it closed a few years ago. So while it is possible to get Broadway/theatre related books here, it’s not the same as having somewhere (like the Drama Book Shop) to go and browse and be surrounded by those types of books, and like-minded people who are also interested in those books. It gets more difficult if you’re looking for Broadway merchandise outside of the city. New York has stores like Theatre Circle and One Shubert Alley that are full of Broadway merchandise and memorabilia. There actually used to be a store like that in Toronto too. I only managed to go there once and then it closed not too long after that, which was extremely disappointing. There is a lot of Broadway merchandise available from the Playbill Store, which does offer international shipping but it gets quite pricey. It’s probably better for my wallet that there are limited options here in Canada, but the lack of (reasonably priced) options can be annoying.

Obviously when topics like this come up so does the question of relocation. Relocation is one of those issues that varies depending on where you want to relocate from. In all cases, money is definitely a factor, but then it get even harder and more complicated for those of us who’s distance from the city is beyond the borders of the USA. As soon as international relocation is considered visas are involved and things get more complicated. It’s true that non-Americans do successfully make the move to the city, but, at least for me, it isn’t really an option.

This is when I know I just need to focus on all of the ways I can keep Broadway in my life (again going back to my first post here) and I am very thankful for all of the websites, posts, videos, etc. that do bring Broadway to the rest of the world. And I can focus on the times that I do get to make the trip to the city. Every time I get to plan another New York trip, it’s so exciting, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to make it a somewhat more regular occurrence over the last couple years. It’s always nice knowing I’ll be back in the heart of the theatre world I love, even if it’s just for a few days at a time!

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Gone Too Soon

Just recently two of my current favourite Broadway shows posted their closing notices: Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 and Bandstand. In all honesty, I’m not particularly surprised by either (more so Great Comet) but both are very disappointing to me. (I know I just talked about both of these shows recently in my post about my last trip to New York City but both are very special to me and felt they deserved talking about again in their new circumstances.)

With the recent controversy surrounding Great Comet and the lack of any proceeding casting announcements (until announcing the closing and that Dave Malloy would be back), and with Dave Malloy tweeting that the show was in trouble, it seemed, unfortunately, inevitable that Great Comet would close. I had still held out hope that something could save it, but no such luck. It is disappointing that it is closing in such a way and just how everything went down with it. It’s such a unique show with an extremely talented cast. It’s sad that the ticket sales weren’t there without a big star attached. It’s definitely good enough to hold its own without one. I’m also disappointed that I won’t now get the chance to see Great Comet from the orchestra or stage seats. Not that is was actually likely to happen before but now there’s really no chance of it. It’s also sad knowing that I will never get one of the letters from the actors that are handed out during “Letters.”

A lot has already been said about the Great Comet controversy and I’m not sure there’s really much I can add to the conversation. It’s just very a shame how everything worked out. I do think it might have been helpful (for lack of a better word) to have mentioned that the show was that much in trouble when they were releasing statements and why they were happening that way (why Mandy’s run in the show was cutting Oak’s run short). I suppose I can understand why they wouldn’t necessarily want to put that out there initially but I do think it would have helped with the public’s understanding of what was happening and why. But I also understand that there’s a lot more to it all, on all sides, than just that, that it’s a complicated situation, and also that we (the public) will never really know the whole story of how things played out.

With Bandstand I didn’t really see the closing notice coming and hoped that it would run a very long time, but it never really seemed to take off (like it should have!!!). I don’t think I ever saw anything negative about it. And I know they’ve also been getting a lot of recognition for all they’ve been doing working with veterans and portraying the lives of veterans and the sorts of things they go through. It too has an extremely talented cast, with a lot of them playing their instruments on stage too!

I had hoped that both Great Comet and Bandstand would have long lives on Broadway. I think they both bring a lot to the theatre world. Great Comet brings its unique style of storytelling and music and its use of space and all around design (there isn’t really anything traditional about it). Bandstand brings its brand new, original story (something we don’t always see a lot of) and it’s beautiful use of music and dance as part of its storytelling. 

There’s always something a bit sad about a Broadway closing. There are the limited run shows that are only meant to last a short time; there are the runs that are cut short; the open-ended runs that end suddenly, or not so suddenly and have just run their course; and sometimes there are the shows that close before they even open (Nerds comes to mind as a recent example of this last one). Whether it is planned or not it is a sad thing when it comes to an end. I know I’ve been emotional when a show I’ve been working on comes to an end, and they always have set runs).

This is also one of those times when it’s annoying to not live in or near New York- I can’t just go see these shows again before they close. I just have to see them close from afar, and just be happy that I got to see them at all. At least they will live on through their cast recordings, which I have been listening to a lot lately. 

The one silver lining to Broadway shows closing is the opportunity for new shows to open bringing new stories and songs (if it’s a musical) for us to fall in love with. Really, when you think about it, on show’s closing is another show’s opening. But that doesn’t take away from or replace the sadness that comes when a show you love is closing. 

So to Great Comet and Bandstand (and now to Groundhog Day too, even though I didn’t get a chance to see that one), and everyone involved in these shows, all the best in your last few weeks and thank you for bringing these stories to the stage!

The Woodsman

I just watched The Woodsman on Broadway HD and wow! It. Is. Stunning. If you get a chance to watch it, do. The Woodsman tells the origin story (or a version of the origin story) of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. The staging in beautiful and the use of puppets incredible. It’s done so simply but also so intricately.

The set is quite simple and moved around by the actors. There is a single violin player on stage playing throughout while the performers provide other sound effects, for example clapping to indicate the sound of chopping wood and whistling for birdsong.

The lighting design is beautiful, with the added use of handheld flashlights throughout to great effect. They flashlights are used as an indication of magic and the simple act of shining them on a pair of sparkly shoes shows the power of the slippers. There is also a beautiful moment where flashlights are used as fireflies.

There is no dialogue in the piece, except at the beginning which sets up the story and the location, and one other particular moment. Even so everything, every emotion and thought, is conveyed so clearly through the actions, the sounds, both man-made and from the violin. Even through the puppets. Instrumental and vocal music help to set the scene and the mood and emotion.

Puppets are used in a variety of ways including for the Witch, the Woodsman (once he’s been turned to tin), a very intricate, multi-part tiger, and some very effective crows. Some of the puppets require only one person but some are multi-person use puppets. All are amazing to watch.

It’s great that there are filmed productions like this. Ones that show the variety of what theatre can be and do. I’m a sucker for the traditional musical but I also love to see different types of productions like this and I love that things like BroadwayHD are making these recordings available and more accessible. If you get a chance to watch this production, I would highly recommend it!

 

Stage Door: A Privilege Not A Right

This post is inspired by some recent interactions on Twitter, specifically Ben Platt’s Twitter (tweets directed at him and his response) and the discussions these interactions have inspired. If you are not aware of what happened, the gist of it is that people were complaining (rudely) about Ben not coming out the stage door after a performance of Dear Evan Hansen and I’ve seen a lot of responses to the situation, a lot from other actors. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen discussions about the stage door on social media either. British actress, Carrie Hope Fletcher has also talked about this topic on social media and her YouTube channel and just recently Brendon Urie, currently starring as Charlie Price in Kinky Boots on Broadway, announced that he will no longer be going to the stage door. I just wanted to take a moment and throw in my two cents from the fan side of things.

The following is Ben Platt’s response as quoted directly from his Twitter  account, posted on July 3, 2017:

“Performing Dear Evan Hansen every night is wonderful but also hugely tough- as much as I would like to be out there every night, very often I cannot come to the stage door after the performance. My priority must always be self-care so I can recreate the same quality show each night. That’s my job, and what each and every audience member is paying for and deserves. Before you tweet hateful things about how I don’t value our incredible fans when I can’t come to the door, please pause to consider that my responsibility to them is first and foremost to give my all each night. I preserve myself because I value each of them deeply.”

I 100% agree with Ben. The fact that he even felt it necessary to respond, and that he should be made to feel bad about not coming out the stage door is ridiculous to me. He (and any other actor who is put in this position) doesn’t owe anyone an apology, no matter their reason for not coming out the stage door.

I, myself, am someone who goes to the stage door when I see a Broadway show (I’ve been to some in other cities as well but it’s not the same vibe as on Broadway). I’m actually planning a post in which I will talk about some of my own personal stage door experiences, but that’s another post for another time. I do understand being a bit upset if someone you were hoping to meet doesn’t come out the stage door when you’re there, possibly waiting specifically for them. But if that happens, you don’t have to show it. Just move on.  And whether or not someone comes out the stage door doesn’t (and shouldn’t) affect your experience of the show you just saw or their performance in it. Sure, it can heighten the experience, getting to meet the actor(s) you admire, but even if you don’t, you still got to see theatre (and when it comes to Broadway, it’s usually great theatre). I can admit that I’ve been disappointed if I didn’t get to meet someone at the stage door, but I’m still happy with those that I did meet and it didn’t change my experience of the show at all. I still left having had a great experience.

I don’t see any point in getting mad at someone for not greeting fans at the stage door. For one thing, the actors DO NOT owe us (the audience/fans) anything, beyond the show itself. You’ve paid for a ticket for a show and that’s it (unless it’s some sort of VIP ticket that includes a meet and greet, but that’s a whole other story!). It’s simply a bonus to be able to meet anyone at the stage door. I’ve waited around for someone to come out before, when there has been indication that they would indeed be coming out and then it turned out for some reason or other they didn’t. And it was fine! Other people who had been waiting as well were getting upset but I didn’t see the point in that. It was only going to be a bonus to meet that person but I also understood that they had no obligation to come out and they had another show to do that night (I had seen the matinee) so it wasn’t really all that surprising that they didn’t end up coming out and it was totally understandable.

In my experiences I’ve generally found the security people at the theatres are good about letting those who are waiting know whether anyone else or anyone specific is still coming out, especially when it’s getting closer to the end.

I also completely get it for someone like Ben Platt who is performing such a demanding show 8 times a week. Like he said is in response, his priority is the show. He has to look after himself first so that he can do the show 8 times a week (because you know that people also get upset when understudies go on, which is a whole other thing that could inspire its own specific post!) Just because someone doesn’t come out the stage door doesn’t mean they care about the fans any less. Sometimes it’s because they care about the fans, and want to make sure that they can see the best show possible that they don’t come out. Sometimes actors have other plans after a show and need to leave quickly, or there’s a reason they need to stay at the theatre, or they have friends/family visiting, or they need/want to relax between shows on a two show day, or maybe they just don’t feel up to it. Whatever reason they have  for not coming out is OK (and really, they don’t need a reason).

It sucks that actors are made to feel guilty for not coming out when they have a valid reason (valid meaning any possible reason they have for not coming out, whatever it may be). It’s their choice to leave as much as it’s your choice to wait. A Broadway actor’s job isn’t to pose for pictures and sign stuff after performing a two and a half hour show (and perhaps 2 in one day). Their job is to perform the show. That’s it. Don’t make them feel bad for doing just that.

I’m sorry the performers have to put up with stuff like this because they really shouldn’t have to. It’s also annoying (for everyone) because for the majority of fans it’s all OK, it’s just that select few that have a tendency to ruin things for the rest of us.

Stage dooring can be a great experience and I’ve heard about great experiences from both sides of it. We, the fans, just need to remember that it’s not about us and there’s no need to take it personally if someone doesn’t come out after the show.

 

Theatre Awards Shows: Tony Awards 2017

It’s been a few weeks since the Tony Awards, but I thought I’d make a quick post about this year’s ceremony.

I did enjoy the ceremony this year. I wasn’t sure about Kevin Spacey hosting going in to it but I was pleasantly surprised. I particularly enjoyed the opening number. I liked how it embraced the fact that Kevin wasn’t necessarily the obvious choice for host and that he’s not a big “musical theatre person” like Neil Patrick Harris or James Corden but he still did a big, entertaining production number with all of the references to the shows of the season. I particularly liked when they moved the Evan Hansen cast to Kevin’s leg for the Groundhog Day part. I also thought it was good that they focused on Kevin Spacey’s strengths (ie impersonations) and that they worked to embrace what they had, which I think was a good way to go about it.

One thing that had me really excited about this year’s awards was that there was some real competition, as opposed to last year when I don’t think anyone was surprised by a Hamilton sweep. (Not that it was bad that Hamilton won so many awards, but it is also fun to have more unsurety this year.) There were a couple of categories I was fairly certain about (Best Leading Actor being one of them) but there were also a lot that seemed up in the air to me. It was also exciting for me because I had actually seen a few of the nominated productions and performances this year and ones that actually stood a chance of winning! That also meant that I had my own favourites to win in certain categories, even if it wasn’t likely that they would actually win. Of the wins I was hoping for, I was really happy to see Great Comet win for both Set and Lighting Design (both incredibly deserved, in my opinion), and I was so happy that Andy Blankenbeuhler won for Choreography for Bandstand (1 of its only 2 nominations).

Those two winning shows also had two of my favourite performances during the ceremony (Great Comet with a medley of “Dust and Ashes” and “The Abduction,” and Bandstand with “Nobody”), both of which I have watched multiple times since the broadcast. Ben Platt’s performance of “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen was (not surprisingly) beautiful and it was nice that he was well enough to perform. I can only imagine what was going through his head leading up to Tony Day, which I’m sure would have been stressful anyway! (If you weren’t aware Ben had to miss a few shows of Dear Evan Hansen on June 9th and 10th as he was put on vocal rest, but he was able to perform on the Tonys on the 11th). Come From Away also had an excellent performance which, again, just made me want to see it more and regret missing it in Toronto. I think one of the funniest moments in a performance was the fact that Christian Borle was wearing a wig for the Falsettos performance, one that did look like his hair before he shaved his head.

I liked the way they had the playwrights of the Best Play nominees introduce their own plays. To me, it made sense as a way to get a good summary of/introduction to the plays, since they clearly know what they’re talking about when it comes to their own shows! Speaking of the plays, another highlight occurred during the acceptance speech for the Best Play winner, Oslo, when there was a shoutout to the front of house staff at the theatre! (As someone who works in front of house, it’s always great to see that side of things get some recognition!)

What can I say, I love Tony night! And this year I was able to actually watch the broadcast live (hooray for friends with cable!) and had a small Tony party with a couple friends, complete with Tony ballots and Tony bingo. I think my final count for accurate predictions on my ballot was 14.

I said this last year too  but I do still think there needs to be another alternative for watching the Tonys (live). As I said, this year I was able to watch it on TV at a friend’s house but if I had been at home (where I do not have cable) I wouldn’t have been able to. In Canada, CTV was airing the awards and they do offer a streaming service on their website, BUT in order to access that streaming service, you have to sign in with your TV service provider information. If I had a TV service provider I wouldn’t be needing to stream it online! (Thankfully I was able to rewatch clips from the awards online on the CTV site afterwards without singing in!)

With the Tonys and the end of the Broadway season, it also gets me thinking about the upcoming season and I can’t wait to see what it has in store! From everything I’ve seen and heard so far, it’s certainly shaping up to be an interesting one!

(And thank goodness they’re bringing the Sound Design Tony Award back next year!!!)

Stars in the Alley

If you saw my last post on this blog, you know that I was in New York City recently on a very theatre-filled trip. What I didn’t include in that post was another theatre related event we attended during our time there and decided to dedicate a separate post to this most Broadway of events: Stars in the Alley!

For those of you who are not aware, Stars in the Alley marks the end of the Broadway season and takes place in Shubert Alley, located beside the Shubert Theatre (the current home of Hello, Dolly!).

As we were planning our trip we found out that Stars in the Alley was happening on the day we were going to be leaving the city. Thankfully we were able to work out our travel plans to accommodate a few hours at Shubert Alley before flying home. I always hear about events like this (and things like the Broadway Flea Market, Broadway Barks, Broadway in Bryant Park, etc) but have never been in the city when they were happening so I was so excited to be able to fit this one in! (It is still a goal of mine to someday be in the city for the Broadway Flea Market!) When we were originally planning our trip we were thinking of going a couple of weeks earlier which would have actually coincided with Broadway Bakes (when Broadway actors are selling cookies at Schmackary’s), which would have also been exciting, so it was nice that the timing change worked out to include a different Broadway event!

We got  to Shubert Alley early for the event, which ended up being a lot of fun because we got to see the sound checks for a lot of the performances which meant we got to see some numbers twice, or in some cases three times if they went through it twice during sound check. Tituss Burgess was hosting Stars in the Alley this year (and yes, I am a Kimmy Schmidt fan) and Brandon Uranowitz was the social media correspondent, so it was really cool seeing both of them! Brandon even walked right by us a few times! It was so cool getting to see performances from so many of the current Broadway shows, most of which I was familiar with already but there were some that I didn’t know very well or at all. Just the fact that so many Broadway shows are featured/take part- both new shows from the current/most recent season and other longer running shows (including some of the longest running like The Phantom of the Opera and Chicago) is amazing.  I liked that plays were also included too, with cast members coming out to talk about their shows. I often don’t know as much about the plays as I do the musicals so I like learning more about them (and really should look into them more on my own) and it is nice to see them getting the attention too because when it comes to Broadway a lot of the focus is on the musicals.

As I’ve gone to New York more often in recent years I’ve gotten to see more shows, and more current shows, and to see performances at Stars in the Alley from some of these shows that I had actually seen, both on this trip and on previous trips, and getting to re-experience those songs/performances was so much fun! Shows like School of Rock (though the cast is mostly different from when I saw it), WaitressBandstandAnastasia, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. I got to enjoy encore performances of Corey Cott singing “Donny Novitski,” Christy Altomare singing “Journey to the Past,” and Christopher Fitzgerald singing “You Are Never Getting Rid of Me.” Dave Malloy sang from Great Comet and it’s always so cool seeing composers performing their own songs!

Then there were the performances from shows I have not seen. The Come From Away performance was amazing. They sang “Welcome to the Rock” and it made me regret even more missing it when it was in Toronto! The Dear Evan Hansen performance was also great. I wasn’t sure which song they would perform (and I was not surprised at all that Ben Platt wasn’t there) but it was great seeing Rachel Bay Jones (now Tony winner!), Will Roland and Kristolyn Lloyd perform “Good For You.” It pretty much goes without saying that I really want to see this show too! (We did try entering the digital lottery for it while we were in New York but, not surprisingly, we did not win.)

With events like this it’s fun to see which songs get performed from each show. There always seem to be some “standard” numbers that get performed, the ones that are sung at every similar event, but it’s still great to see them. It’s also fun to see the current casts of the longer running shows, like Abby Mueller who is currently playing Carole King in Beautiful on Broadway (and you can totally tell she and Jessie are related), and the casts of revivals, when you’re more familiar with previous casts, like Mamie Parris (who I did actually see in School of Rock) who is the current Grizabella in Cats.

The one downside to our experience was when it started getting sunny and a tent/cover was put up just a little ways ahead of us, which I’m pretty sure was to cover some equipment, which is totally understandable in itself BUT they put it up during one of the performances (I think it was the Kinky Boots performance) and then when it was up it was crooked with the front corner angled down, which affected our view of the stage. There was a screen visible to the side of where we were standing and we could see some of the stage, looking between the tent and the crowd, so we could still see what was happening on the stage but it was a bit disappointing. Overall though it was a good day- you can’t really go wrong with an afternoon filled with showtunes! The real downside to the day was having to fly home at the end of it!

I love that events like this exist and that I was able to witness this one! Also the fact that it’s a free event makes it even better! Anything that makes Broadway more accessible is a great thing! Broadway tickets are not always the cheapest things to obtain so it’s great that there are free ways to experience what Broadway has to offer. And I’m sure it doesn’t hurt ticket sales either since it also serves the purpose of introducing people to more shows. If I had been staying in New York longer some of these performances might have influenced which shows I would have bought tickets for. It’s also so great seeing that Broadway events like this (and things like BroadwayCon) can draw such crowds! And crowds of varying ages! It’s great to have these events/places where Broadway fans can go and celebrate Broadway and be surrounded by like minded people, where we can obsess to our hearts’ content! And really it just goes to show the impact that Broadway/theatre can have on anyone and everyone!

Great Theatre Is Great

I recently returned from a very theatre-filled trip to New York City and wanted to take a moment to share some of my thoughts and experiences from the shows I saw. I was travelling with a friend and we got to New York on a Tuesday morning and left on the Friday. In that time we saw 4 shows (and Stars in the Alley). So all in all a great trip.

*Disclaimer: I loved every show on this trip so the following is just going to be a lot about why I loved them. It’s hard to accurately express all of my thoughts about these shows in a cohesive way so please forgive me if I repeat myself, I just really love these shows!*

Tuesday Night (May 30th): The Little Foxes

First up was Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. This was my first time seeing a play on Broadway (I’d only been to see musicals on past NYC trips). I was not familiar with the play going into it but was very excited. This production stars Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon and on top of that, they alternate their roles. We saw it with Laura playing Regina and Cynthia playing Birdie (the roles for which they received their respective Tony nominations this year). Both women were excellent in the roles we saw them play. The rest of the cast too were so good! I would also love to see it again though with the women in the alternate roles because they both brought so much to their characters as I saw it and the characters are so distinct that it’s hard to picture them portrayed differently (I have heard that their portrayals are very different). There are actually some clips online of Laura and Cynthia each playing Birdie in the same scene and it’s interesting even in that short clip to see the variations. I do wonder too how the other actors’/characters’ performances change with each role switch (obviously the script and staging would be the same but there would be other nuances that would change/differ).

The set was beautiful too. It was one of those sets of a beautiful interior of a house that doesn’t change physically, aside from doors opening to reveal other rooms but then combined with some excellent lighting design there were some really beautiful moments. At the beginning of Act 2 there was one particular moment when the shutters were opened to let light into the house and the light shone in from the side looking just like sunlight streaming in through a window, it was beautiful.

Then to top it off we had an excellent stage door experience. All of the cast members who came out were incredibly nice and we even got pictures with Laura Linney (probably the most famous person with whom I’ve gotten a photo!)

Wednesday Matinee (May 31st): Bandstand

I went to TKTS to get a ticket for the Wednesday matinee and ended up with a 2nd row, centre orchestra seat for Bandstand. I absolutely loved this show! It’s one of my new favourites! It had been a dream of mine to see Laura Osnes live in a show and that dream was fulfilled on this trip. Her performances as Julia Trojan was beautiful in every way. I watched Grease You’re the One That I Want seeing saw Laura win that and have pretty much been following her career ever since. Now I can finally say I’ve seen her in person, and then meeting her at the stage door was the icing on the cake! I am also a big fan of Corey Cott (who I also saw as Jack Kelly in Newsies) and was so happy to see him in a show again (and from a lot closer this time as I was in the back row of the mezzanine when I saw Newsies!). 

As was the case with most of the shows this trip I didn’t really know much about Bandstand beforehand but I loved every moment of it! The whole cast was amazing- principals and ensemble alike. All of the guys in the Donny Nova Band (Alex Bender, Joe Carroll, Brandon J. Ellis, James Nathan Hopkins & Geoff Packard) gave incredible performances. They brought it all, including playing their own instruments. And Corey and Laura- I don’t even really know what to say! The performance of the song “Welcome Home” in Act 2 is one of those performances I won’t forget. Laura’s vocals combined with the song itself (the music and lyrics), the performance from the band, the staging, it made for a powerful and beautiful moment.

I loved the set too and I really liked the contrast between the main set of the club with set pieces (chairs/table/piano/etc.) moving off and on for different locations and the flashier, “modern,” look of the New York City sets in Act 2. Of course I had forgotten until afterwards that David Korins is the set designer for Bandstand (some of his other shows being Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and War Paint, to name a few), and I was already a fan of his work, so I’m not surprised I liked this set!

The costumes too were beautiful. I would love to wear any of Julia’s outfits! (Also, is it in Laura’s contract that she get a cool costume change in her shows?!)

I was so excited to see them perform on the Tonys this year despite not being nominated for Best Musical! And Andy Blankenbuehler won the Tony for Best Choreography!! Now I just have to wait for the cast recording to be released later this month!

Wednesday Night (May 31st): Anastasia

I grew up loving the movie Anastasia (the cartoon from the 90’s) and in fact, still love that (not Disney) movie. It was actually this show around which our New York trip was planned.

I knew going  in to it that there were changes in the musical from how things happen in the movie (for example, Rasputin is not the bad guy). Even with the changes I really really enjoyed this show. There is something great about hearing/seeing some of your favourite songs from childhood (ie “Journey to the Past,” “Once Upon a December”) live onstage. I will admit though I do wish “In the Dark of the Night” could still be included in the stage production- that song would be amazing live! I was happy to hear though that some of the music from that particular song was used in a couple of different places in the musical. (It almost made up for it being cut). I can also see why the various changes were made, it does make it all a bit more realistic and all of the changes worked in the show.

The design of the show was beautiful. The costumes were stunning (the blue dress!) and the set was beautiful with extremely well-executed uses of projections. “Once Upon a Decemeber” was particularly great for this, as well as the scene where Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad are on the train. So cool!

The casting for Anastasia was very well done. Christy Altomare and Derek Klena were excellent as Anastasia and Dmitry, respectively. Seriously, these characters are in good hands with these two! And they are both incredibly nice in person!

This show had a lot to live up to in my books and I am so happy to say I was not disappointed!

Thursday Night (June 1st): Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

I have never seen or experienced anything like this show before. It was amazing. I knew that it was based on a very specific section of War and Peace but I have never read the book. I had also only heard a couple of the songs beforehand. Once I knew I was seeing the show I decided to hold off listening to the full cast album.

It’s hard to really explain Great Comet, it’s just such a different show, in basically every way- the design, the staging, the style of the music, it’s so unique, but I loved it for that! I’ve been listening to the cast album on repeat lately and I just keep loving it more and more. I do wonder though how I would feel about it if I hadn’t seen the show first (or at all) because it is so different. As it is though I absolutely love it! (How many times can I say it?!)

The cast. Oh that cast (and band). Amazing. There were so many unique voices too. It’s not you’re typical “musical theatre-y” sounding cast. And there are so many of them! Principals, ensemble, roving musicians, non-roving musicians and whatever other combinations of roles. Denee Benton (I was actually at BroadwayCon when they announced the casting of Denee as Natasha), Brittain Ashford, and Lucas Steele, to name a few, were amazing. And yes, Josh Groban is great!!! A few times I tried to count everyone when it looked like they were all on stage but I don’t think I ever counted them all! It was so impressive to see them all scattered around and/or grouped together in the space. There was always so much to look at between the actors and musicians and the design elements, and that’s just in the places we could see from our seats in the rear mezzanine! (Who knows what we missed happening on the orchestra level!)

All of the design elements came together to create an incredibly visually stunning piece of theatre but it was the set and the lighting design that really stood out to me. If you are not already aware, the set for The Great Comet is everywhere in the theatre. Audience members are also sitting on the stage and in pockets of space throughout the “stage,” with paths moving through the seating on both the orchestra and mezzanine levels, with staircases on either side going from the orchestra to the mezzanine. The performers use all of this playable space and the layout lends itself well to making it a very immersive and interactive experience. If you want to know just how interactive it can be consider that we were sitting in the very last row of the mezzanine (not on an aisle) and during a song in Act 2 one of the performers who was moving along the aisle, saw that I was holding a wine cup and reached over with her cup to “cheers” with me with! (It definitely made the $14 wine more worth it! That, and the souvenir cup!)

The lighting design too was gorgeous. There were multiple, beautiful chandeliers hanging from the ceiling as well as numerous single hanging lightbulbs that could be controlled individually both in terms of brightness and height. These lights created some really beautiful effects. On top of that there were also little tables scattered throughout the audience, each table having a light on it, which were also cued in with the rest of the lighting cues, turning on and off, getting brighter and dimmer, throughout the show. I was not surprised at all to see the Scenic Design and Lighting Design Tonys go to Great Comet last night (to Mimi Lien and Bradley King, respectively)!

At times it’s a bit of a weird show, but in a good way and it’s such an experience. Now I just need to see it again from the orchestra and the stage seating!

Trips like this, filled with great shows (and great stage door experiences!), just make me so happy. It was a nice change for me not knowing a lot about all of the shows I was seeing beforehand. It was also exciting because it is a goal of mine to see a show at every Broadway theatre and because of this trip I’ve added 4 more theatres to the list, bringing me up to 11! I can’t wait to go back to NYC and add more theatres to the list!