What do Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, and Next to Normal all have in common? Lighting designer Kevin Adams. Widely regarded as contributing factors to the evolution of the American musical, these shows all have creative teams that have collaborated on subsequent projects, but Adams is the only one to have worked on all three. The Tony-winning lighting designer brought revolutionary looks to these acclaimed productions with his use of bare light bulbs and fluorescent tubes—what he calls “electric objects.” Now Adams is nominated for his fifth Tony award (he won for Spring Awakening and The 39 Steps) for his work on American Idiot, which blends the creative teams of all three rock musicals.
Yet Adams, just shy of 48, says lighting was never a thought in his mind during his education. With an MFA in set design, Adams began working as a set designer in Los Angeles, when he was asked to do his own lighting. Local artists who had seen his work began asking him to light their pieces in galleries. A self-taught lighting designer, Adams then moved to New York to focus solely on that work. “I can’t believe I’m still doing this,” Adams said. “After I do a Broadway show, I think, ‘This will surely be the last one I ever do. No one’s going to come up with another Broadway show that suits what I do.’ But then American Idiot came along.”
The Tony winner (who keeps his two awards at his parents’ houses, claiming they make him nervous) invited Stage Rush into his Manhattan apartment to discuss Tony nominations, his style departure on American Idiot, and what happened when he first met Green Day in a cramped dressing room at Saturday Night Live.
This is your fifth Tony nomination and you’ve won twice. Is it still exciting to get nominated?
It is very exciting. It was exciting to be nominated twice last year. It’s exciting to be nominated for American Idiot. That first time [being nominated], you’re so excited to win and then once you win, then you feel you have to win again. You feel like, “I want to win!”
So you feel pressure to win?
I don’t feel pressure; it’s just that you become much more grotesquely competitive about it. [laughs] And I know other people who have won that agree and say, “Yeah, I’ve felt that way too!” It’s not that it’s competitive, it’s just that the first time you’re nominated, you’re like, “It would be cool to win,” and then the next time, you’re like, “I’ve got to win!”
- Brian d’Arcy James to return to Next to Normal
- The four shows I saw this week… in 30 seconds: Million Dollar Quartet, Next to Normal, La Cage aux Folles, and Everyday Rapture
- The At This Performance concert inspires with stellar understudy talent
- Broadway grosses
- How I fell hard for Broadway
- Attending the All About Me press conference
- Seeing Phantom of the Opera and my upcoming Q&A with Phantom understudy Jeremy Stolle
- The media goes spoiler-crazy with Next Fall
- Jersey Boys sells a shockingly-low number of tickets (for them)
Two months ago, I winced at the news that Next to Normal was axing their general rush policy and starting a ticket lottery. For the obvious reasons, you can control a rush—how ambitious you are depends on you—but a lottery is completely up to chance. If you’ve planned your day around seeing a show, do you really want to leave it all up to chance? (And if your response to that is, “Buy a ticket!,” why are you reading this blog?)
So yesterday, I ventured to 45th St. to try my hand at Next to Normal’s fancy new lotto. I entered my name at 6 p.m. and retreated from the 45-degree drizzle to the covered passageway at the Marriott Marquis. One Scrabble victory on my iPhone later and it was time to report back to the Booth Theatre for the drawing. Since Next to Normal has a bit of a Broadway monopoly on Monday nights as most other shows are dark, I expected a larger crowd. By shrewd estimation, I counted 25 to 30 people. The theater representative announced there were 26 seats up for grabs—more than the usual 18 I’ve heard for this show. Maybe not enough people know about the Monday night performances.
The names kept being pulled and none were mine. Particularly grating was the fact that most of the winners only wanted one ticket (like me), so more names being called that weren’t mine was even more torture. The theater rep announced there was only one seat left. Just under the wire, he pulled my entry! I was definitely amused by the timing.
Being the last name called, I missed out on the front-row seating. But this being my sixth time seeing the show, a different perspective is always interesting. I was the last seat in the left box. At first I groaned at the extreme side view, but being that I was the furthest seat back, I was practically sitting in the mezzanine and had a fine view. Besides, with a slight lean over the right pole, no one’s head was in front of me. (I could also see director Michael Greif sitting in an aisle orchestra seat taking notes. Would love to know what ended up on those index cards!)
Of course, a lottery is only satisfactory if you win it. But victory aside, the lotto is still two tickets for $25 each with great seating. Next to Normal is still one of the best rush deals on Broadway.
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
In the words of Melchior in Spring Awakening, “HHHHNNNOOOOOO!!” Next to Normal will end its excellent rush policy October 12 and begin a ticket lottery for day-of seats. Granted, this means no more cold, early mornings, but with it comes the uncertainty of seeing the show. I am greatly disappointed by this news, not only because it makes getting rush tickets for the Yorkey/Kitt musical significantly more difficult, but I’ve always felt the “snobby,” we’re-too-good-for-you shows employ ticket lottos.
Let the facts speak for themselves. Hair, In The Heights, Rock of Ages, Shrek, West Side Story, and Wicked all hold ticket lottos. With few exceptions, these are shows that generally sell at least 90 percent of their tickets every week. Shrek is an odd beast in that it hasn’t consistently sold well since it’s opening last December and it also has a (overly-priced) student rush policy. In The Heights was a huge seller for a year after its 2008 Tony win for Best Musical, but has recently dipped to dangerously low numbers (some suspect it might close in January). But Hair, Rock of Ages, and West Side Story are monster-sellers and crowd pleasers, not to even mention the mega-bucks earnings of Wicked, which always sells out the 1,809-seat Gershwin (aka. the largest Broadway theater).
Now in my mind, Next to Normal is the best musical currently on Broadway. But we have to think of this from a mainstream perspective: Next to Normal is no Wicked. The show has been on a massive high from its Tony wins, but attendance has slipped to the high 80s in recent weeks (still strong, but a decline nonetheless). And Broadway’s prized theatergoers—families with kids—are not going to see this show. And there is nothing wrong with that. Next to Normal caters to theatergoers who aren’t afraid of a dark, depressing, thought-provoking show. But this is not the show to start a ticket lottery with. As much as I’d hate to see its sales suffer, I would be surprised if it maintains its current momentum into the post-holiday winter.
Lotteries are for shows—such as Wicked and Hair—that have certain longevity. But if recent trends have taught us anything, is anything on Broadway certain?
What do you think, Stage Rushers? Are you happy about this new lotto policy for Next to Normal, or are you clenching your fists in an anguished grip?
PS: In perusing the updated show rush policies, I noticed that the new musical Memphis, currently in previews, has a rush policy “in effect only for preview performances.” Memphis, I really want to see you; I do. But let’s not play the we-can’t-have-a-rush-policy-because-we’re-going-to-be-too-popular card until we’ve opened, shall we?
Welcome back, Stage Rushers! A new Broadway season has begun, and I don’t know about you, but I feel absolutely overwhelmed by all the shows that I want to see. So let’s start off the 2009/10 season with a bang.
I was terrified to rush A Steady Rain. I couldn’t even fathom the masses that would flock to a production starring the men that brought the Drover and Tuvia Bielski to life on the big screen. (Sigh) Ok, fine—Wolverine and James Bond! This play starring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig stands as one of the starriest marquees in recent memory. Sure, there’s been Julia Roberts, Geoffrey Rush, and Jane Fonda in recent years, but both of these actors in one play is huge. The last films in their respective franchises each earned over $150 million domestically, and they also share critical adoration. Their appearance in a 1,071-seat theater is something of an event, to say the least.
In preparation of my plans to rush the show last Friday while it was still in previews (it opened last night), I decided to swing by the Shoenfeld Theatre the day before on my way to work to scope out the rush crowd. I was trying to gauge what time I should arrive at the theater the next morning. Times that were running through my head were 7, even 6 a.m. But to my great surprise, at 9:35 a.m., there were only eight people in the rush line for A Steady Rain. I didn’t know how it was possible, but I ditched my next-day plans and got in line right away. There’s no time like the present, right? Read more
The rush for Next to Normal is about as organized as a rush can get. Let this one stand as the example for all rushes. Theater employees distribute wristband numbers to the people in line (no, you don’t have to wear the wristband). This eliminates line cutting and allows people to run briefly to the bathroom or get a snack. I can’t express how many times the pals of people in front of me have joined them in line while I’ve been in place for hours. This isn’t a problem on the Next to Normal rush (just watch that it doesn’t happen before the wristbands are distributed).
Not only is this rush organized, but it’s generous. This is a general rush, meaning you don’t have to be a student to take part. The tickets are $25 a piece (each person can buy two, and the box office doesn’t tack on the usual $1.50 facilities charge). Furthermore, the seats are in the front row, which is a special experience for this show (more on this later). I’ve heard that once the front row is filled, rushers are put in the mezzanine and sometimes a box. Read more
Kym, my date, and I arrived at Radio City Music Hall at 6 p.m. We had butterflies in our stomachs and were laughing because it wasn’t like we were nominated or performing. As we lingered around the entrance at 6th Ave and 50th St, trying to figure out how to approach entering, Best Featured Actor in a Play nominee John Glover from Waiting For Godot passed by. We twiddled our thumbs for a few more minutes, waiting to cross paths with more arriving celebrities, but soon decided we better find the commoners entrance and start making our way in. The entrance line for regular ticket holders stretched nearly around the entire block. We waited in line and felt the discriminating eyes of the tourists parked on Rockefeller Center benches meandering over our outfits. As we crawled toward the security check, we saw Heidi Blickenstaff from [title of show], accompanied by Christopher J. Hanke. As we entered the venue, we realized that Heidi had to enter the same way we did—which we felt extremely bad about. The girl was not only in a Tony-nominated show, but she was also Ursula in The Little Mermaid! [title of show] just gets no respect (which we realized again during the ceremony). Read more
Accompanied by my fellow rushing pro friend, Kym, we headed over to the Booth Theatre in the early a.m. to rush Next to Normal. I will admit – I have gotten complacent while rushing. Chalk it up to too many successful and easy rushes, or maybe my rushing ego was getting in the way. But I made a misstep. We arrived at the Booth at 8 a.m. Some might say that’s early enough, but during the week of the Tonys, with Next to Normal being nominated for 11 awards, and it being something you and a friend have your hearts set on seeing – it’s not a good idea to get lazy. There were 18 people ahead of us. I knew we wouldn’t be able to get rush tickets. I did, however, think we were a cinch to get the $36.50-priced tickets that Normal offers (a fantastic deal, and a great backup option to rush). But believe it or not, the new musical that started out with tepid ticket sales is now boiling hot – the performance was sold out. The person in front of us snatched the last two rush seats and there were no other seats available. Read more