Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,
Ellen
ennienyc

The Play's the Thing

I have such a backlog of theater to blog about, I don't remember some of the shows. Might be best to start with those that are still playing.

I get many of my tickets through discount theater clubs which I'm not supposed to talk about, but I can say that "Billy Elliot" was not coming up (nor is it likely to, though one never knows). I finally bit the bullet and bought a full-price ticket on the aisle in the balcony. I actually prefer sitting up high since there's no danger of a tall person blocking the view. And with dance numbers, one gets a better sense of the whole. People are rapturous about this show, but I didn't love it madly. I did like it, and it was certainly worth the price. Haven't seen the movie.

"The Fantasticks" is also still around. The original ran 42 years, and this version began in 2006, in a theater named for original cast member Jerry Orbach (father of crossword constructor Tony). I knew nothing about the play other than the song "Try to Remember." While it was pleasant, I couldn't figure out why it lasted so long.

Project Shaw is a charming series of GBS readings at the Players Club. I had gone last fall, and went twice more in March and May. "You Never Can Tell" (now playing off-Broadway in a different production) included Chad Kimball from "Memphis" and Charlotte Moore from the Irish Rep, and was a comedy of errors with mistaken identities. March's offering had 2 plays - "Annajanska" and "Great Catherine" (as in Catherine the), with the wonderful Jayne Houdyshell as Catherine. Houdyshell previously stole the show in "The Language Archive" at Roundabout, which I really liked.

"Danny and Sylvia: The Danny Kaye Musical" has been running for 2 years and I finally saw it (running into an NPLer who happened to be in the audience). I didn't know much about Danny Kaye other than his classic kids' album "Mommy, Gimme a Drinka Water," so this play taught me about his life, especially his relationship with wife and collaborator Sylvia Fine. The play didn't mention that the couple were long-estranged, though they never divorced.

"Arcadia," which just won the Tony for Best Revival of a Play (originally 1993), was about the inhabitants of a country house in 1809 and the present. Parts of it were interesting and poignant, but I got bogged down in some of its underlying concepts (see Themes). Give me some good, old-fashioned mindlessness. :0

Like, oh, "The Addams Family." It's not really mindless, but won't strain anyone's brain (though one could intellectualize about outsiderdom). The production was lavish and silly, but I wasn't quite caught up in all the fun. I saw 4 plays last week, and this was the worst. I did like Jackie Hoffman, a hoot as Grandma.

Also just saw "Baby, It's You," a "jukebox musical" about the Shirelles and Scepter Records founder Florence Greenberg. The music and singing were great, the plot... eh. Part of the story seemed like a worse version of "Memphis" which some wished used original music of the era. So if you could combine the two, that would be a great show. Turns out Brian Cimmet's sister Alison is understudying lead actress Beth Leavel. Leavel was fine, but I would have loved to see Alison.

I couldn't remember if I'd seen the movie "Born Yesterday." The plot of the play seemed familiar (I know I'd heard the "Drop dead!" line), but maybe I just read about it. In any case, this old-fashioned 3-act play was quite entertaining, with Nina Arianda in a star-making performance.

The reviews for "Catch Me If You Can" were not great, so I wasn't expecting much. But I loved this, almost as much as "Memphis." The cast was high-energy, the music was decent (rarely are scores super-memorable these days), and the acting was good. FBI agent Norbert Leo Butz had a show-stopping number ("Wait, who is that?" I thought as I joined in the thunderous applause; he went on to win a Tony). I'd read the book (not seen the movie) so was a bit disappointed the plot didn't go into more detail about how Frank Abagnale pulled off his scams, but that's just a quibble and this was my favorite of the week.

Last month my young cousin graduated from a New School grad program, so she, her mother (in from Montreal) and I celebrated by seeing "Play Dead" in the Village. This was creepy at times, especially when the theater went pitch-dark, but it was basically fun. Except when... shudder. Teller (of Penn and) directed and co-wrote.

I hate to criticize a Holocaust musical, but "The People in the Picture" seemed generic and cliched. The critics agreed. Ran into an NPLer's son, proving once again that New York is a small town.

I have a lot of movies to review, but the only one still playing is "Super 8" which I saw Sunday. It had its moments, but was too violent for me (crash, bang, fire!).




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