Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet The Nutcracker has been given a burlesque makeover at the Minetta Lane Theater off-Broadway with Nutcracker Rouge. Created by Company XIV, this eye-popping dance piece has been splashed with baroque drapings (sets and costumes by Zane Pihlstrom) and puts the audience inside a setting that would be a mouthwatering Vanity Fair photo shoot. Director and choreographer Austin McCormick sets his cast of talented dancers loose on the stage, acting with feverishly sexual flare and singing in smoldering cabaret style, some songs as modern as “Material Girl.” Read more
Seeing My First Time at New World Stages isn’t just seeing a play—it’s an experience. Go with a friend (not a parent), and if you have a good experience, the play should have you discussing the night’s subject matter long after you leave the theater. You and your buddy will walk in and find a survey (and a My First Time pen!) on your seats. Take a deep breath—they’re anonymous. The survey asks you to share how old you were when you lost your virginity, what your partner’s name was, where you did it, if you still keep in touch, if you felt pressured, how good the experience was, if you used contraception, and what you would say to your partner if they were with you today. Ushers collect the cards and they become part of the show (calm down! I already said they were anonymous).
While the audience waits for the performance to start, a projection screen flashes statistics, both domestic and worldwide, about people’s first sexual experience: average ages, percentages of people that felt pressured into it, as well as quotes from famous authors about sex. Minutes before the show begins, the statistics projected are ones tabulated from the audience’s surveys—a funny and effective way of getting the audience involved. Throughout the show, the actors pull out the survey cards and read from them—a segment which provided uproarious laughter when I saw the show. Read more
The show is flashy. Flashy, glittery, loud, wet, upside down, and in your face (or down your throat, as I experienced with the confetti). Fuerza Bruta (meaning “brute force” in Spanish) is an optical spectacular in the vein of Cirque du Soleil that doesn’t really have a story (unless your imagination is on overdrive, which it should be) and surrounds the audience, forcing them to interact. If the thought of audience participation makes you clench, you have no choice at Fuerza Bruta. Yes, a few audience members do have advanced participation, in that they hop on platforms and groove with the actors, subsequently being smashed over the head with confetti-filled pizza boxes—not everyone has to do that. But in terms of audience participation, every theatergoer must participate in that the group has to be constantly moving, as the “stage” (there really isn’t one) keeps changing shape and direction. Massive (and I mean massive) treadmills, platforms, aluminum foils sheets, and ladders are wheeled out into the performance space. If you choose not to “participate,” then you might find yourself road kill.
Keeping that in mind, it struck me how inappropriate this show could be for someone elderly or disabled. You have to be able to move around easily and not be inhibited by tight spaces. There are. no. seats. at this show—you stand for a full 70 minutes. Furthermore, it could also be inappropriate for someone dressed nicely! I, for one, usually dress for the theater. Unless you have deep, prior knowledge of this show, the only warning you get about the water that’s flung is when you arrive and collect your tickets, as there’s a slip of paper handed to you. (I suppose you’d receive the notice if you had your tickets mailed to you in advance, but I received my tickets at the performance and… here at this blog, we don’t do tickets in advance.) No, Fuerza Bruta is not Splash Mountain, but it’s not exactly the place for a silk tie, either. (Coat check services are available, but for $2, which I think is ridiculous. Besides, you’ll need the protection!)
Last night was an official Twitter Night at Fuerza Bruta, and unlike Hugh Jackman and Patti LuPone, the producers encouraged the audience to tweet and take pictures (minus flash) throughout the entire performance. Stage Rush was there, tweeting away like a maniac and stepping on many people’s feet. It was a really unique experience to report during a show, but it was a ton of fun and, for me, brought out a completely different and new angle of theatergoing.
In case you missed it, here is my Twittercast from last night. I have not corrected any of the grammar or spelling errors, as they reflect the chaos and rapidity of the scene. (Although let’s all take special note of the most awesome typo in tweet #14: “catboat” box. Could that possibly have meant to be “cardboard?)
1. This place is like a club. And $2 coat check? No bueno. Do we have to rush the coat check??
2. Show wasn’t started yet, but it’s CREEPY in here! I feel like something’s gonna fall from the ceiling!
3. My companion, @LizzLovejoy, thinks a bomb is going to go off and that this “show” is just a distraction.
4. “I think we made a wrong turn and walke into a gay club.” – @LizzLovejoy
5. Jess: No, Fuerzabruta means “brute strength” in Spanish. Liz: Exactly.
It isn’t often that we see a stage family that gets along. Recently, we’ve seen the Goodmans in Next to Normal throw things at each other (OK, maybe only Alice Ripley does), and the Gordons of Dividing The Estate are at each others’ throats, as are the Westins of August: Osage County, literally. That the King family in Broke-ology is so close and jovial contributes to the warmth that emanates through this play by Nathan Louis Jackson. But hey, I didn’t say they were free of problems.
This Lincoln Center Theater production finds Malcolm (Alano Miller) returning home to his brother and father in Kansas City, Kansas, just after completing his master’s degree and securing a local job for the summer at the Environmental Protection Agency. His blue-collar father and restaurant-employee brother are both happy for his achievements, and even happier that he’s home. Both are in need of his aid, and assume Malcolm’s summer job means an indefinite stay.
Patriarch William (Wendell Pierce) is suffering from multiple sclerosis, and the homebound son, Ennis (Francois Battiste), is his caretaker. Ennis also has a pregnant girlfriend, and it doesn’t take long to see that he is stretched thin by his responsibilities. Malcolm is wrecked with guilt, torn between his needy family and even higher career aspirations tugging at him from Connecticut. 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
Editor’s note: In the spirit all the exciting changes that are occurring with this blog, it is my pleasure to present Stage Rush’s first guest blogger, Kym Formisano.
When Jesse asked me to be the very first guest blogger for Stage Rush, I cannot deny the wave of complete and utter fear that washed over me. I certainly questioned his sanity briefly; after all, handing Stage Rush over to little old me is akin to entrusting a homeless man on the subway with your firstborn. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration. But there was a huge amount of trepidation and anxiety on my part, especially when I discovered I would also be covering the first off-Broadway play to be discussed on the blog. Gulp.
As it turns out, I had little need to be so concerned. Actually, what began as a nerve-wracking trip to the always-beautiful Union Square turned into not only one of the easiest and most efficient rushes I’ve done, but also a powerful and vivid theatrical experience matched only by the energy and undying vigor of the show’s star.
Colman Domingo, one of the players in the gone-too-soon masterpiece Passing Strange and its recent film adaptation by Spike Lee, stars in the one-man show he authored, A Boy and His Soul, at the Vineyard Theatre. The Vineyard, previous home to shows like [title of show] and Avenue Q, is an unassuming brick structure with a quaint sensibility (before a certain time, one must be buzzed into the lobby) and an interior that brings to mind a combination of a small-town theater company and a modern art gallery. Because of the erratic nature of some off-Broadway theaters and their rush policies (I’m looking at you, Atlantic Theater Company), I decided to check with the receptionist well before show time to make sure I had the correct rush policy information. After being buzzed in by a super-pleasant voice, I entered the lobby and was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic and helpful box office attendant. The rush policy here is fairly standard: show up two hours prior to curtain with cash in hand and receive up to two tickets at $20 each. It is also a general rush, so don’t worry if you’ve lost your student ID. I left with a sense of confidence, ready to return at 5 p.m. and purchase my tickets. Read more