FringeNYC report: Weekend Edition
As a San Franciscan, I had some initial doubts about the much-hyped Broadway-centric Fringe musical The Legend of Julie Taymor, or The Musical That Killed Everybody! My internal resistance monologue went something like this: “It’s just going to be full of New York industry jokes I won’t get,” and “Oh great, another musical about musicals; like that’s never been done before”, and “They just want to beat up on the most successful female director on Broadway.” All of which turns out to be more-or-less true, but what else turns out to be true is that some shows are worth their hype, and if you want an opportunity to tempt the fates and poke fun at the Broadway machine, The Musical That Killed Everybody! is for you.
Even in California, the on-going delays, budget crises, and injured actors of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, have been a constant source of am-news-ment over the past couple of years, so none of the material presented in the show comes as much of a surprise. But what does is the crack timing, powerful vocals, and buoyant enthusiasm of the cast, and the slickly professional feel of the production as a whole, despite the pointedly low-budget set (six cubes and a triptych painted in the style of Picasso’s “Guernica”) and the cardboard props, which cleverly undermine the related budgetary excesses of the ill-fated Taymor production. Read more
Review: The Book of Mormon
The best thing about the new musical The Book of Mormon is that it is at the same time shocking and familiar. It is difficult to think of another instance where a musical so blatantly laughs in the face of religion—a topic best avoided in any social setting—and holds nothing back in terms of profanity and sexual humor. Yet even so, The Book of Mormon, while setting these precedents, is a beautifully constructed Broadway musical in a very traditional sense.
Written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the duo has made very public over the years their reverence of musical theater. Collaborating with Robert Lopez, co-writer of the Tony-winning Avenue Q, this musical-loving team has done the medium justice. With a story that follows two young Mormon missionaries to Uganda to spread the word of their faith, character traits and ambitions are established immediately and simply. Elder Price (Andrew Rannells) is a handsome, perfect Mormon disciple, determined to rise the ranks in the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Elder Cunningham (Josh Gad) is a goofy, clueless loudmouth who just wants to make a friend and prove his worth to his parents. Audience, we have our newest Broadway odd couple!
Parker, Stone, and Lopez (who, from the sound of it, could open up a law firm if this endeavor fails), present their two heroes and their fellow Mormons as relentlessly cheery drones who have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to the logistics of their faith. It doesn’t matter how you or I perceive the Mormon community; this is the version that Parker, Stone, and Lopez have created for their show, and as a set of characters in a musical work of fiction, they are built on fantastic character devices. Elder Price, while presenting himself as selfless and good intentioned, possesses a dark, narcissistic desire for self advancement. Elder Cunningham, while appearing ignorantly blithe, struggles with a seed of doubt that grows stronger as the show progresses. And the missionary leader in Uganda, Elder McKinley (Rory O’Malley) surprises his homosexual urges so decidedly that he “turns it off like a light switch.” (Yeah, right!) Read more
Stage Rush TV: Episode 47
(Using an iPhone or iPad? Watch on YouTube)
- Avenue Q cast on finding their puppets’ movements
- Broadway Mad Libs with Avenue Q‘s Kate Monster and Anika Larsen
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? Is Avenue Q still strong for you after all these years? Are you amazed by the actors’ oneness with their puppet counterparts? Should I ask Kate Monster out on a date? Leave your thoughts, ideas, and relationship advice in the comments below!
Stage Rush TV: Episode 25
- Seeing the concert reading of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever
- Fela! and Avenue Q make for the strongest Broadway in Bryant Park of the season
- Broadway grosses
Did you catch On A Clear Day You Can See Forever at Vassar Powerhouse, Rushers? Did you have tickets to one of the performances that Anika Noni Rose was absent for? What was your take on Broadway in Bryant Park this week? Any Rushers ever eaten a Wicked brownie? Leave all your thoughts and ideas for Broadway desserts in the comments!
Broadway in Bryant Park recap: ‘Fela!’ and ‘Avenue Q’
After a hiatus from Broadway in Bryant Park last week due to some traveling, it seems the lunch-time concert series missed me, because it put on perhaps its strongest show of the season so far. What seemed like a strange lineup of mostly off-Broadway shows (Million Dollar Quartet and Fela! being the only Broadway offerings) delivered strong performances from each cast that included stars and no less than 10 minutes of stage time—something we haven’t seen in recent weeks.
The concert started off with a bang, with the Broadway newbie Million Dollar Quartet. Coming off of a Tony nomination for Best Musical and a win for supporting actor Levi Kreis, the honored actor and his cast mates took the stage with their instruments. Most casts sing to recorded instrumentals, as an orchestra usually can’t fit on the Bryant Park stage. However, since in Quartet, the actors are the orchestra, this made for a unique performance. The cast of Quartet are fantastic musicians and performers—every performance I’ve seen of theirs has been engaging, and this concert was no exception. It was refreshing to see the actors out of their Lewis/Presley/Perkins/Cash garb, instead donning jeans and Quartet t-shirts; it brought some of the cheese out of the performance, leaving their talent and chemistry alone on the stage. Lance Guest and Eddie Clendening, who play Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley respectively, were not in attendance, but their understudies were, and any difference in performance was nearly unnoticeable. A standout was Elizabeth Stanley, who plays Elvis’ girlfriend Dyanne, and usually fades into the background. On the Bryant Park stage, Stanley was feisty and bubbled over with sex and raw vocals. Her rendition of “I Hear You Knocking,” made an impression on me that hadn’t before upon seeing a musical preview and the show itself. Read more
Avenue Q continues to surprise people, even six years after its Broadway debut. It surprised audiences when it opened because… well, foul-mouthed puppets are a little shocking. It was the upset win for Best Musical at the 2004 Tony Awards, beating out the favored mega-hit Wicked. And it announced what no one saw coming at its closing night performance on Broadway on September 13—the show was re-opening off Broadway!
The announcement sets a sort of precedent for struggling Broadway shows; The New York Times reported that the last incident of a Broadway-off Broadway transfer occurred in 1984. When last January saw the closing of three Best Musical Tony winners (Spamalot, Hairspray and Spring Awakening), enthusiasts claimed the shows were too good to be closing this soon. Of course, if a show’s not making enough to pay the bills, that’s just the way it is. But Avenue Q’s surprise move could start a new trend in New York theater. And it makes perfect sense—Avenue Q wasn’t selling well enough to earn its keep at the Golden Theatre, yet interest in the show was still strong enough to fill an off-Broadway venue. Perhaps Avenue Q’s strategy will give new life to future shows that have slipped in sales, but still maintain a strong fan base.
I saw Avenue Q on Broadway in 2005 and loved it. But a few years have passed and I forgot the reasons that made it great. Viewing it at its new home at New World Stages (where it opened last night) made me remember, and grateful that this show got its second chance. Read more