Tag Archives: Off-Broadway

All in the family

Turns out you can’t judge a musical by its poster.

Fun-Home-1

The only thing I knew about the Broadway show Fun Home before I saw it last night was a) the critics loved it and b) the Tony voters did, too.

It scored 12 nominations earlier this week.

I didn’t know the soundtrack or the book upon which it was based. I walked in the theatre about as clueless as a person could get.

So imagine my surprise when the show wasn’t the singing, dancing Partridge Family parody that I had cooked up in my head.

If you too are in the dark (and wish to remain so), stop reading now.

Have they left?  Okay.  So the rest of you know why my mind is a bit blown right now.

The musical’s narrator is a lesbian cartoonist. (Yeah, this show’s no Cinderella.) With the help of her very young self and college-aged self — two incredible young performers — she tells her life story.  With captions.

(‘Cause she’s a cartoonist.)

Fun-Home-2How her father was a part-time teacher and part-time funeral director — FUN HOME was the family nickname for the funeral home — and a closeted gay man who slept with lots of boys and committed suicide while she was away at college.

Yeah.

But that’s not to say there weren’t moments of humor and laughter.  Her first girl-on-girl experience in college inspired “Changing My Major to Joan,” one of my favorite songs in the show. And the kids did do a little Partridge Family at one point, so the graphic designer gets to keep his job.

The cast is all-around amazing. I do wish I had seen the show off-Broadway before they were plopped down into this in-the-round venue. It has led to a lot of ‘singing to the audience’ staging that seems amateurish for a story of such complexity.

It is quite a ride.

Advertisements

All keyed up

Oh, the power of the postcard.

I got one earlier this week promoting the new Off-Broadway musical Murder for Two. It intrigued me so much, I bought a ticket to today’s matinee.

Let’s hear it for snail mail!

murder for two

Murder for Two is a small scale production — just two actors, a piano, limited stage dress and no costume changes — but boy, does it impress!

Both actors play the piano; they take turns, in fact, throughout the show. One actor investigates the murder that has brought us all together. The other plays 12 different suspects, distinguishing each with a simple lilt in his voice, a hand gesture, a carefully used prop.

The songs are clever.  The choreography of their movements — exits, entrances, switches between characters and the piano — are on point and brilliant.  And the show is funny.

Just so very funny.

The older gentleman seated next to me summed it up best midway through the show when he turned to his wife and said,

“What have you gotten me into?”

Twice

I loved the movie Once. 

So much that I boycotted the musical when it opened off-Broadway .  The original stars weren’t in it — how could the musical compare?

My heart was closed.

Then the show moved to Broadway, and the TV commercials began.  Yes, ‘guy’ and ‘girl’ were different, but their voices, the harmonies were as beautiful as the movie that inspired them.  So I decided to give the show a shot.

Last night I was in the audience for Once on Broadway. I loved the staging, a working Irish bar — they even served drinks during intermission — that was transformed throughout the evening by creative lighting.  Every actor also played an instrument, so there was no orchestra pit.

Most importantly, every voice, every note was perfection.  There were a lot of tears in the audience.  (People were talking about it as they left the theatre, so it wasn’t just me.)

The only thud in the production — which occurred at the start of the play and made me sad — was the playwright’s need to ‘funny up’ the script, making the characters extreme stereotypes of themselves.  This was especially true of ‘girl,’ who was a quirky, jokey one-liner, which was counter to her gentle spirit in the movie.

But once she and ‘guy’ began to sing, she softened and the music drove the show, as it did the movie.

And all was forgiven.

Alien encounter

A spaceship crashed in Manhattan last night.

You didn’t hear about it?  I did.  I was in the theatre that it hit.

That’s the back story of the off-Broadway musical Voca People playing now at New World Stages.

I hadn’t heard much about the show until Jimmy Fallon gave it a rave review.  Then it seemed like everyone was talking about it.

The eight performers — residents of the planet Voca performing to gain ‘life energy’ for their spaceship so they can return home — act as alien as they appear.  When they first walk on stage, they can’t even speak English; however, linking hands with an audience member quickly engages their ‘universal translator.’

Space age gimmicks aside, the vocals and harmonies of Voca People are — forgive me — out of this world.  The entire act is a capella; they create every note with only their mouths and microphones.  While I could have done without the narrative, the song selection, quality of performance and sheer energy made me an instant fan.

Seriously — they do a rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that is worth the complete price of admission.  And their interaction with audience members is an endearing combination of awkward and awesome.

So, if you’re near the theatre district and see a UFO…

Run towards the light.

Yawn Broadway

The lights on Broadway were glowing a bit brighter this week after its 2010 numbers were announced.

Bigger revenues.  Higher attendance. The Great White Way must be doing something right.

Or is it?

The top money makers have been around a long, long time.  Wicked.  The Lion King.  Jersey Boys.  The Phantom of the Holy-Crap-People-Are-Still-Going-To-See-The Opera.

It’s not to say that many of these productions aren’t wonderful.  I would see Wicked once a week if I had tickets.  (I would see Phantom if it were deemed the appropriate punishment for a truly, evil deed committed.)

But I sometimes feel like the audiences visiting New York City exhibit the same caution towards their theater ticket purchase as they do what street to walk down in Times Square.

Always taking the safe route, the tried and true, and — more and more so — Disney-approved.

So by the time the Tony Awards roll around in June, many of the shows nominated will have already closed due to low audience turnout.

Case in point:  Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.

Bloody was a smash hit Off-Broadway and made the leap to the Great White Way earlier this year.  Critics loved it.  Audiences?  They went to Wicked and Lion King, which I saw in previews in 1994.  That’s 1994.

Come on, people.  You’ve seen the movie.  You probably own the movie.  Your kid lost their stuffed Simba before they started college.

Bloody was funny and irreverent and semi-educational.  And, yes, just edgy enough to remind you all…

You’re in New York City.