Well, I officially saw 13 shows while in NYC for the summer. I was hoping to make it to Nobody Loves You and The Nance, but those didn’t work out for me. However, since my last theatre post, I did see 9 more wonderful shows before leaving NYC. Here are my thoughts!
- Murder Ballad (July 3): I probably wouldn’t have seen this show if it wasn’t for my deep love of Will Swenson, Caissie Levy, and Rebecca Naomi Jones. I decided to go at the last minute when a $30 ticket at a table became available to me. What I didn’t know was that this table seat put me right in the middle of the action on the stage. Will, Caissie, and Rebecca were jumping on my table and singing right to me. I absolutely loved it (I’m enjoying the immersive theatre trend as a whole, especially since learning more about it as an intern at Sleep No More last summer). It was a short rock opera, but it felt like you were truly in a dirty bar in the East Village. The music was insane, and with the fantastic chemistry of Swenson, Levy, Jones, and John Ellison Conlee, this show was something really special.
- Kinky Boots (July 6): Let me start by saying that I absolutely loved Kinky Boots. It was so fun and energetic with just the right amount of heavy emotion. Billy Porter, Stark Sands, and Annaleigh Ashford were absolutely wonderful. Porter, in particular, brought the house down. One song in Act II reminded me so much of watching Jennifer Holliday sing “And I’m Telling You (I’m Not Going)” on the Tonys in 1982 (though I obviously never saw it live), and I’m still so glad he won the Tony for Best Actor this year. That said, I wish Matilda the Musical had won Best Musical. Because I saw Matilda first, I went in with extremely high expectations for the show that beat it. While that may not be completely fair to Kinky Boots, that’s just how it was for me. And while I did love it, the show was not without its faults. I completely understand why the message of this show (“You change the world when you change your mind”) resonated with the theatre community so it doesn’t surprise me that Kinky Boots won. However, to me, the direction often felt boring, and the ending felt extremely rushed. As a piece of pure art and in terms of overall production value, Matilda was the real winner in my opinion.
- Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (July 14): In my Tony Awards reactions post, I said that I was upset that Lucky Guy didn’t win Best Play. However, I am no longer upset. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was absolutely phenomenal. It was funny, emotional, heartbreaking, and heartwarming all at the same time. Sigourney Weaver and Shalita Grant were great, but it was David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen, and Billy Magnussen that really stood out. Magnussen was ridiculously hilarious, and Pierce delivered the best monologue I’ve ever seen live. Nielsen was heartbreaking and wonderful as Sonia. While her chances of beating Cicely Tyson were slim (see below for my thoughts on Tyson’s performance), part of me wishes she had won. Her acting was subtle but spectacular. I definitely would see a production of this show again if given the chance.
- Broadway Stands Up for Freedom (July 22): This wasn’t really a show. It was a concert for the New York Civil Liberties Union, and it included some of my favorite people. The host this year was Susan Blackwell who I absolutely adore. The concert, like last year, had some amazing performances and was two hours of fun. Afterwards, the performers and the guests mingle in the lobby so I was able to talk to Susan for about five minutes. She’s just as fantastic in person as she is in her videos. I also had the pleasure of meeting Erich Bergen. He’s extremely talented and can be seen in Clint Eastwood’s upcoming film adaptation of Jersey Boys! I’m very excited!
- Love’s Labour’s Lost (July 31): I certainly would never say this new musical take on Shakespeare’s play was my favorite. However, it was ridiculously fun. It ingeniously combined Shakespeare’s original text with modern music. The cast, like with every show I’ve seen this summer, was perfect, and I loved the set and the way it blended in perfectly with Central Park. The Public Theater puts on amazing shows, and if you ever get the chance to go to one of their shows at the Delacorte in Central Park, take advantage! They’re always fun, and most importantly, FREE!
- The Explorer’s Club (August 1): My friend and I adored this play! It was farce at its finest, with a hilarious cast and a superb and quick script. The writing in the second act was especially speedy, making it seem like 20 minutes instead of an hour and a 15. There was one running gag that included an actor throwing alcoholic beverages into the air while his fellow actors ran around the stage catching them in elaborate and acrobatic ways. It had the small audience laughing hysterically.
- Pippin (August 3): I have never, ever been to a show where we gave someone a standing ovation in the middle of his or her song. I haven’t even been to a show where the audience gave a standing ovation at the end of Act I. But during Andrea Martin’s rendition of “No Time At All,” when the 65-year-old Tony winner started doing trapeze, the whole audience jumped to their feet. However, it wasn’t just Martin that amazed me. Patina Miller (who won the Tony Award this year for her turn as the Leading Player), Matthew James Thomas, Terrence Mann, and Charlotte D’Amboise all gave stellar performances. And the ensemble is certainly the most courageous, in shape, and talented ensemble currently on Broadway. I fully believe Thomas was robbed of a Tony nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. His portrayal of the titular character really stood out to me, and maybe in a less competitive year, he would have been nominated. And Diane Paulus. Where do I even start with her? I’ve now seen all three of her shows on Broadway, and each one gets a little bit riskier and more creative. She completely deserved that Best Directing Tony Award, and I look forward to watching her win many more in the future.
- The Trip to Bountiful (August 4): This type of show is never my favorite—old-fashioned and a little outdated. But of course, I couldn’t help but enjoy Cicely Tyson in her amazing, award-winning performance. There was something so uplifting about her performance, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. She brought a palpable energy and joy to the stage, and in a weird way, it made me homesick. I found myself unexpectedly crying in the second act. It was strangely moving, even if I didn’t actually love the storyline that much.
- First Date (August 4): This one-act musical comedy was far from a perfect show. In fact, it was full of cliches and stereotypes and had a lackluster plot with a predictable ending. But if the producers wanted to entertain us for 90 minutes, they succeeded. The audience was laughing the entire time, and the pop music of the show was enjoyable. They shouldn’t expect any Tony nominations next year, though Zachary Levi was charming and often hilarious which may be enough to get him a nod, but it certainly was entertaining.