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August 12, 2010

5

Broadway in Bryant Park recap: ‘American Idiot’ and ‘La Cage aux Folles’

by Jesse North

The weather didn’t get the memo that Broadway in Bryant Park still had one more week left in the season. It drizzled on the massive crowd that gathered for the free lunchtime concert’s final show of the summer. But judging from the crowd’s reactions to the buzzy shows that performed, they didn’t seem to mind the rain.

The Cagelles of La Cage aux Folles, this year’s Tony winner for Best Revival of a Musical, took the stage first. I wasn’t surprised that Kelsey Grammer didn’t participate in the event, but Douglass Hodge, the Tony winner for Best Actor, could have showed up to belt out “I Am What I Am.” Instead, their merry mass of transvestites entertained the crowd to exuberant applause. Not donning any feminine garb for “We Are What We Are” did come off a bit strange (“Look under our frocks,” what frocks?!), but their energy was through the roof, especially as they spiked extra large beach balls into the audience. The song began strangely though, as the announcer introduced the song as “What Are We Here For,” and then interrupted the already-in-progress number to give it the correct title. Dale Hensely and Chris Hoch went on as Albin and Georges, respectively, for “With You On My Arm,” which came off dull. The duo then joined the Cagelles for their closing act, “The Best of Times,” in which they paled in comparison to the effusive ensemble.

Video: “We Are What We Are”

The rebels of American Idiot thundered the stage for their set next, which I think was a mistake in planning, putting the day’s only new Broadway shows in succession. Happily though, all were in attendance, including John Gallagher Jr. and Michael Esper (Stark Sands was out, he has missed a few performances this week). As usual, Idiots brought intensity to their opener, “American Idiot” (predictable, but appropriate). They followed that with a lesser-performed number, “Last Night On Earth,” which displayed the marvelous (and underappreciated *cough* Tonys *cough*) Tony Vincent. The gorgeous Rebecca Naomi Jones (looking newly svelt) led the ladies in a deliciously feisty “Letterbomb” to close out the set. It was clear from the crowd’s response that most in attendance were there to see this showcase.

Video: “Letterbomb”

After Green Day’s musical finished, the tired musicals of the Great White Way came plodding on stage. “Lay All Your Love On Me” was a completely disposable performance. Beth Leavel belted a genuine “Winner Takes It All,” which would have closed the set on a sturdy note. But no, the cast had to trudge through “Mamma Mia” (without any mics visible on stage. Hmmm…) and “Dancing Queen” for the bajillionth time. As the actors exited the stage, the announcer proclaimed, “I didn’t miss Meryl Streep or Pierce Brosnan at all!” which isn’t saying much.

The demented nanny of Mary Poppins flew to the stage next. For the past three years, I’ve had to suffer through the maddeningly precise diction of “Prac-ti-ca-lly Per-fect” during their set. There are upwards of 20 songs in the show—why must they perform the same number every year at Broadway in Bryant Park? After Laura Michelle Kelly tortured me with… that song, Nicolas Dromard performed a charming “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” (that’s the nicest thing I can say). Then the ensemble joined the stage for “Supercali”…you know what it is. After the cast performed the song with choreography that spelled out each of the 34 letters of the word, the announcer praised them with, “And you thought the ‘YMCA’ was tough!” (OK, that one might have been funny.)

For the last performance of the season, West Side Story sent Matthew Hydzik to perform “Something’s Coming,” which he did sweetly. Pinch-hitting for Josefina Scaglione, Haley Carlucci joined him for “Tonight,” which sounded great, but included too much dialogue. The announcer—quite pleased with cracking himself up—followed their elegant performance with a boisterous, “Muy caliente!” that would make any gringo blush.

Set lists:

La Cage aux Folles
“We Are What We Are”
“With You On My Arm”
“The Best of Times”

American Idiot
“American Idiot”
“Last Night on Earth”
“Letterbomb”

Mamma Mia!
“Lay All Your Love On Me”
“Winner Takes It All”
“Mamma Mia”
“Dancing Queen”

Mary Poppins
“Prac-ti-ca-lly Per-fect”
“Let’s Go Fly A Kite”
“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”

West Side Story
“Something’s Coming”
“Tonight”

So brings the 2010 season of Broadway in Bryant Park to a close. It really was a great season with strong performances, but there are lessons that I would like to see realized in 2011. A-list stars should realize the importance of this event and allow their pretty faces to soak up some of the glorious, afternoon sun. Although, huge credit goes out to the many understudies that stepped up this season and nailed their performances. There needs to be more balance in the number of songs each show performs, ideally with priority going to the newer productions. And finally, directors need to make greater use of the Bryant Park stage. Too many shows have sent their leads to stand still in front of a mic stand. Let’s get a little creative here. If these improvements can be made, this summer series will surely remain to be one of the best tidings of the hot weather, right next to lemonade.

Are you sad Broadway in Bryant Park is over, Rushers? Which week was your favorite? What improvements, if any, do you think should be made to the concert series? Leave your summer thoughts in the comments below!

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kym
    Aug 13 2010

    I take offense to “newly svelte” as referring to Rebecca Naomi Jones. If she wasn’t “svelte” before, I guess most of us are fat pigs.

    Controversial, Jess ;)

    Reply
    • Aug 13 2010

      @Kym: You didn’t see her yesterday. I’ve never seen her this tiny.

      Reply
      • Linda
        Aug 13 2010

        I made it yesterday just in time for the American Idiot performance and I thought the same thing about Rebecca Naomi Jones, Jesse. It’s probably because the show is one big workout. I was really disappointed that Eric William Morris didn’t go on for Sky in “Lay All Your Love On Me.” He’s not a big star, so I figured he’d be there. The highlights for me were “Last Night On Earth” and “Something’s Coming.” Matthew Hydzik was so much better than Matt Cavenaugh.

        Reply
  2. Kathy
    Aug 14 2010

    What impact has Broadway in Bryant Park had on ticket sales?

    Reply
  3. Aug 14 2010

    I went to Broadway in Bryant Park last summer during one of my trips to New York and it was fun. It’s free – what’s not to like?!

    My guess is the A-list stars would be there if the producers thought it would sell tickets. But I’m not sure listening to a couple of songs for free in the park during your lunch hour would translate into ticket sales.

    I don’t think that for a lot of people, Broadway tickets are that kind of purchase. Unless they’re die-hard theatre fans, in which case they’ve probably seen the show already.

    Reply

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