This revival of Promises, Promises is being force-fed to potential audiences as “Mad Men The Musical.” It’s not, so let’s just get that out of the way. Regardless of being set in the 1960s, it does not embody the darkness that Mad Men does, even when one of its main characters attempts suicide. Instead of trying to appear to be something it’s not, Promises should revel in what it is—a charming musical.
This production has been widely panned by the critics. It’s not the high point of the Broadway season, but I found myself wrapped up in the earnestness of the musical. If you’re someone who identifies with the nice-guys-finish-last school of thought, and rally for that good guy who never seems to catch a break, you should find yourself captivated, as I was, by Sean Hayes. Playing Chuck Baxter, Hayes is an office underling eager to climb the corporate ladder. But he’s the type that people walk all over, so he let’s his lecherous bosses use his apartment for their trysts, in hopes that his loyalty will manifest into a promotion. Meanwhile, the downtrodden Chuck fancies the company cafeteria cutie Fran Kubelik (normally played by Kristin Chenoweth, but at my performance, understudied by Sarah Jane Everman). As you can imagine, things become really sticky for Chuck when he discovers Fran is “the other woman” to his top boss.
It’s Hayes’ show, as he appeals to the audience, constantly addressing us, and we throw our support behind him. Instead of making Chuck a twerp, Hayes turns him into a truly likeable guy, smiling through all his misfortunes, recognizing the ridiculous humor of his bad luck. But it’s not his pursuit of the corporate high life that we’re rooting for; it’s his potential relationship with Fran, the girl of his dreams. It’s important for Hayes to convey that he’s more than just an unfortunate chump, but that that romance and desire lives in him. For me, Hayes’ highlighting moment is the ridiculously sweet song “She Likes Basketball,” in which he realizes that his hopes of romancing Fran aren’t so far flung, that they actually share common ground. Hayes makes you remember what it was like to be a kid, reveling in every hopeful notion that you and your crush were destined to be together. Read more
We all know that Broadway and hamminess go hand in hand. One is just a part of the other as peanut butter is to jelly. Yet the level of obnoxiousness that Sherie Rene Scott reaches in her one-woman show Everyday Rapture is downright off-putting.
To summarize this play would be missing the point. If you don’t understand it (which I didn’t), there is still fun to be had. But for a primer, it’s about a plotting mayor, played by Donna Murphy, who rules over a destitute town. A rock starts spouting water and people flock to the town to see it and the “mayoress” charges them for it. Suddenly, Raul Esparza arrives to sort out the town crazies and the mayor is out to arrest Sutton Foster for questioning the validity of the lucrative miracle. Read more
***VIDEO AFTER JUMP: Dame Edna heckles an innocent waitress who gets too close*** Read more
5 Reasons To Rush Finian’s Rainbow This Weekend
The rush is $27 and box seats might be available. The situation might be different this weekend, as rushers might be getting in their last chance to see Finian’s before it closes, but when I rushed, I was at the St. James Theatre at 8:55 a.m. and was the first and only person on line until a half hour before the box office opened. It’s a student rush, with up to two tickets per ID. At my performance, I got box seats, which gave me a great view of the beautiful St. James Theatre and great, close-up views of the actors. Unfortunately, the box seats are an extreme side view, so I don’t feel I saw enough of John Lee Beatty’s set design to properly review it. Many characters’ entrances were blocked, as well.
Christopher Fitzgerald’s pants. Playing the loveable leprechaun Og who has traveled to Missitucky, USA from Ireland in search of his stolen pot o’ gold, Fitzgerald cements himself as one of Broadway’s greatest current character actors. Having played quirky and riotous characters in Wicked and Young Frankenstein before this, his performance in Finian’s is delightful. A mute performance by Fitzgerald would be equally as entertaining, because the man’s eyes and mouth work to create such animated facial expressions, he can convey almost anything and make it just as enjoyable. While he’s staying in Missitucky, away from his magical homeland, the leprechaun finds that he is growing. Costume designer Toni-Leslie James puts Fitzgerald in different sets of pants throughout the show, each new pair shorter than the last. This simple, not-fooling-anybody gimmick becomes so hysterical, and Fitzgerald wears the joke perfectly. Read more
How do you solve a problem like Fela!? If you’re crafting a musical based on the radical Nigerian musician who created the genre “Afrobeat” and used it to criticize his government, you must formulate a production that is just as outside-the-box as the man was. Director Bill T. Jones presents a Broadway-quality experience that feels unlike anything “Broadway.”
Jones paints the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in Fela’s colors. The show felt like it had already begun when I walked into the director/choreographer’s old Spring Awakening home. The band is already playing, and as I step into the building, I see that covering the walls are murals of African art, enlargements of Fela’s headline-making antics, and strands of lights stretching all the way from the back mezzanine to the boxes. The theater is unrecognizable and I felt like I wanted to get a table and eat a good meal there. For this show, arriving to the theater early allows you time to soak up the mood of Fela’s world and by the time the show begins (forgoing the parental “Unwrap your candy, turn off your cell phones” warning), your interest will be piqued.
I knew nothing about Fela Anikulapo-Kuti prior to this show, and I’m venturing to say few others did too. But being this is a bio-musical, the narrative is supposed to take care of that for you. By curtain call, I did have an understanding of Fela’s life, but I can’t say I’d pass a test on the details. I then thought theatergoers would benefit from a little trip to Wikipedia before taking their seats, but then certain plot points would be less of a surprise, such as Fela’s mother’s death (don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler. It’s made clear in the Playbill that she is dead, but the circumstances surrounding it are the real shocker).
Having the national tour of Dreamgirls kick off at the Apollo Theater in Harlem is a special event. The historic theater is celebrating its 75th year, this incredibly successful show is coming off a much-lauded film adaptation, and it happens that the opening and closing scenes of Dreamgirls take place at the Apollo. So it’s a particularly commendable gesture that the Apollo is making an outreach to the community.
The theater is offering half-price tickets for specific “community performances.” To be eligible, you need to either be a Harlem resident or work in the neighborhood. Since I just happen to be a proud SpaHa resident, I sent my roommate to the Apollo to snap up some tickets before they were all gone. Sammy said there was a good line of people at the theater, and quite a bit of curiosity from passersby as to what the line was for. She was armed with an addressed envelope, to confirm our Harlem residency, and an ID to connect her with the mail. So as to keep this as close to a typical rush experience as possible, I entrusted Sammy not to purchase any tickets over $30.
I received an elated text from Sammy exclaiming, “$18.50!!!!” Ding ding ding! Ladies and gentlemen, we have our record-lowest rush price ever – $18.50! Congratulations, Dreamgirls; let’s see how long it takes for another production to beat that. (I know what you’re thinking. Bye Bye Birdie offered $10 tickets to the first preview. But those tickets were sold way in advance and… well, I didn’t get those tickets. Leave your objections in the comments.) Read more