2012 was an amazing year in my relationship with Broadway. I got to travel to New York three times and see 33 (I think) shows on and off-Broadway. I am so grateful for the opportunities that my lifestyle and privilege allow for. There were some amazing things and some that I would not choose to see again, but there wasn’t really anything so bad that I needed to leave or felt cheated. In December, I got to see Annie, Bare, Elf, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking, Picnic, the Heiress, the Mystery of Edwin Drood, the Other Place, Sleep No More, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Golden Boy, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Grace. Quite a list.
I have a special childhood connection with this show. I also have fiery red curly hair and the TV movie—the one with Kathy Bates, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, and Victor Garber—was a huge part of my early years. Then, when I was 11—the same age as our favorite orphan—I played the title role at my theater school. I have an old-fashioned Little Orphan Annie doll and my dad has always crooned the songs of the show to me.
So anyway, I already was invested in seeing the new revival that opened this winter. Then, I found out online that Lilla Crawford was going to be Annie! I worked with Lilla at YADA, my theater school, before she went to the great white way and got cast as Debbie in the closing cast of Billy Elliot. We were excited back then, but I hit the roof when I heard about her latest role. Then when she appeared in the opening of the Tony’s this year, I just lost it. She was on my TV! Singing with Neil Patrick Harris! Insane.
My friend Ryan—who also works at YADA—tagged along for a few days of my trip. It was his very first time in New York and he was like a puppy in a candy store. Our very first day in the city, we won the lottery for first row Annie tickets. It was a small group, so everyone ended up getting in, but it was still so exciting to win. Annie ended up being Ryan’s first show on Broadway ever, and he was completely satisfied.
You walk in to an intriguing display of white clothes hung on crisscrossing lines that covered the whole front of the stage. I liked the set design a lot, but I thought it could’ve used better execution. For example, the Warbucks mansion seemed like a glorified paper dollhouse. They had a really cool idea with this life-size “book” of sorts for the different rooms of the house. Flats of different rooms were joined with a book-like binding and they could fan out the pages and switch them easily during songs like “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here”. Otherwise it seemed very flat. Even with the Broadway budget for a big revival, they used flats for balcony railings and fancy columns, which made the set look cheap. I loved the concepts and designs, but the end product left me wanting more.
Katie Finneran was a dream. She really played into Miss Hannigan’s insanity, though she sometimes went too far into character-actor-land. Her rendition of “Little Girls” was loads of fun and boy does she have a set of pipes. Her costumes were beautiful and fancy, which really accentuated the contrast of the glamorous and womanly life she wanted and the poor and tough life she ended up with. Lilla was amazing of course. She has such acting chops for such a little munchkin. I remember her as Millie at YADA. She blew us all away. The orphans were great, although scarce. There were only five (without Annie) and it seemed small on the big stage. Emily Rosenfeld, who played Molly, was perfection. She had such comedic timing and was insanely cute. There was a hilarious moment in the first scene when Annie pulled Molly out of a drawer, where she had been sleeping, to comfort her. I loved Brynn O'Malley as Grace and newcomer Anthony Warlow as Warbucks.
At our show, we got to experience true live theater and everything that entails. Three songs before the end, I noticed the conductor pick up a phone and then quiet the band. I saw a slight commotion upstage right and then they brought the curtain down and we heard a calm woman come onto the loudspeaker and announce, “Ladies and Gentleman, we will be holding the show as Lilla has fallen,” or something along those lines. We heard Lilla’s crying before they shut off her mic. They lowered the main curtain and brought up the house lights. We sat there for maybe ten minutes when the woman came back on and informed us that Lilla was alright but her standby would be going on for the end of the show. They started up again in five minutes and the standby was wonderful. It blows my mind that adults are able to be ready to jump into a show in a situation like that, but a twelve year old girl? Absolutely insane. Katie Finneran carried Lilla out for the bows to a standing ovation and held her for the entire company bow. The sense of love, community, and support makes me tear up as I write this. It was horribly sad, but also kind of wonderful in retrospect. It makes a great story and we got to share in truly a unique experience. I know Lilla won’t forget it any time soon. And we’re lucky we were there that first matinee of our trip or we wouldn’t have gotten to see Lilla! She was out for a week to recover. Quite an experience for Ryan’s first Broadway show.
That night we saw Bare at the New World Stages (where I saw Rent last year). I really loved it. The music/plot/cast completely pulled on my hormonal and angsty teen heartstrings in the best way. It takes place at a co-ed Catholic boarding school (oy) and the main plot revolves around Peter, the quirky gay boy and his hidden relationship with Peter, the so-far-in-the-closet jock. In order to “fix” himself, Peter sleeps with Ivy, the pretty, slutty popular girl. Entanglements ensue. The show is a revamp of the 2004 pop-opera. The original didn’t do very well commercially and closed shortly, but became an underground cult favorite. I listened to the original soundtrack when I learned about the new production. They added/changed songs and made the whole sound more angsty and Spring Awakening-esque.
I like both versions in different ways. I think the original is more about telling the story through clearer lyrics and more traditional musical-theater-type songs. The newer versions are more about the tone and feeling. In Spring Awakening, the lyrics are poetic and convey the feelings rather than actually pushing along the story. I think both methods have pros and cons. Travis Wall, of So You Think You Can Dance fame, choreographed the show. It was beautiful, but hard to forget how very Spring Awakening everything was. He even put a continuous angsty loop dance, like the Mama Who Bore Me/Totally Fucked/Mirror-Blue Night motif. The highlights of the cast were Taylor Trensch as Peter, Barrett Wilbert Weed as Nadia, and Alice Lee as Diane. Missi Pyle was hilarious and heartfelt as Sister Joan/Mary. The set was very 2012. The walls of the church were collaged with instagram pictures and projections of specific instagram pictures were vital to the plot. If you’re a teen or teen-at-heart, definitely go see this show.
Loads of corny Christmas cheer! Totally fun. Beth Leavel was great as the mom and the kid, Mitchell Sink was fantastic. Jordan Gelber played Buddy and really committed. No Will Ferrell, but fun fun fun. The elf costumes were so bright and cheery—I totally want one. Wayne Knight from Seinfeld was Santa. I love sassy Santas. Speaking of, there was a funny song where all the depressed Santas are hanging on Christmas eve for free Chinese food and they sing, "Nobody Cares About Santa". This famous chocolate guy made a big “ELF” masterpiece for some auction and the stage door guard gave me a piece which was so nice. It was quite tasty.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
I think everyone should see this at least once. I probably wouldn’t have gone if Ryan wasn’t with me, but I am so glad I did. The Radio City Music Hall is a masterpiece. So gorgeous and the technology is awesome. I also recommend taking the backstage tour. They teach you about the mechanics of the stage and it’s insane. It’s revolutionary now but I can’t even imagine what it must’ve been like back when it was built. The Rockettes are so impressive and I just never get tired of seeing thirty-something women in a line moving as one unit. Plus they can kick damn high. The classic toy soldier routine was so great. Great Christmas tradition.
Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking
This show is just so good. I saw Newsical the Musical earlier this year and was heavily disappointed. It felt uncomfortable at times cause it was supposed to be amazing and fell so short. This, however, surpassed my expectations. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a big fun musical that parodies all its Broadway neighbors in hilarious songs and impersonations. It used to run every year and closed in 2008, I think. I had heard of it as a kid, but didn’t really connect with it until I got to experience it in person. The four actors were so darn good. They had the perfect mix of over-the-top silliness at times with the killer pipes to back them up. They were also did impeccable impressions. I absolutely recommend this show to lovers, and love-to-haters, of Broadway.
I saw the first preview and I was super impressed. I didn’t know the show (or movie version) at all and I really enjoyed it. Maggie Grace was lovely as Madge, Madeline Martin was sad and hilarious as Millie, Sebastian Stan was kind of odd, but definitely looked the part. I love him as the Mad Hatter on Once Upon a Time. Mare Winningham was fantastic as Flo. I loved Elizabeth Marvel in Hyde Park on Hudson and she was fantastic in this as Rosemary. I recommend this revival. Very well-executed.
"Picnic" inpsired food options at the concessions bar.
L: Dan Stevens and I. R: Jessica Chastain and I.
I quite enjoyed this play. I went in with low-ish expectations which I believe helped me. I mostly went to see Jessica Chastain and Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley). I was pleasantly surprised. It's an interesting, if slightly dated, story and I loved the old-fashioned costumes and set. I got to meet Jessica and Dan at the stage door after the show which was amazing.
I think I am going to split this into two posts. Tune in soon to hear about The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Other Place, Sleep No More, Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf, Golden Boy, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Grace.