Anyone go to the first preview tonight? How was it?
I saw it up at ART and really enjoyed it and am looking forward to seeing the changes when I get a chance to!
I was there tonight and had several issues with the piece, but there are also some powerful scenes and I was misty-eyed during the finale. I really hope they work out what they need to because I think it could end up being a special piece. The themes and plot points are not your typical Broadway musical fare, which is very refreshing, and no one will accuse the creators of having a lack of ambition.
The story is a true one; the co-writer (Griffin Matthews) is also the star of show playing himself, or at least a version of himself. Some may cry "vanity project," but I think it's more of a passion project. Still, some of the same pitfalls can apply. The biggest problem, I think, is that he is too concerned with telling what really happened and being honest with these Ugandan teenager's stories that may feel he can't fictionalize or condense the true occurrences into a more streamlined story. Right now the show is too long and tries to cover too much ground. Corey Mach is doing a nice job, but I really think his character could be cut completely and the show would become so much tighter. His character sometimes plays a major role in the proceedings, but he's also often superfluous and Griffin could absorb any absolutely necessary actions. This would write Griffin's real life partner out of the piece, and maybe that would hurt him in real life, but they need to think about what's best for piece too.
The story centers around Griffin, a gay, black struggling actor in NYC and his journey to Uganda to help build a school. (Side note: is there a less sympathetic, overdone character than the whiny out of work actor?) Once in Uganda Griffin realizes building the school is not all it's cracked up to be and decides to start teaching some local teenagers himself in an abandoned building.
The teenagers are all very good with special praise to Adeola Role for delivering in a powerhouse book scene near the end. Some of the book scenes are so good that you almost think this should have just been a play with music.
The whole thing felt a little Book of Mormon meets Fela!, especially with the set and choreography aping the latter. The music is interesting and often beautiful, if somewhat unmemorable. The orchestrations are strong.
I wish the show well and would happily see it again. It's in far better shape than some of the shows that have played Broadway recently. I hope they work on tightening things up and really making this the special piece that it has the potential to be.
Oh, and I also don't like the new title at all. Invisible Thread is so generic and invites the audience to wait with dread for someone to make a speech about how we're all connected by some invisible thread, blah blah blah. Puke. Witness Uganda is bold and intrigue. Witness is a great word and acts as both a verb and a noun. I hope they consider changing it back.
I went there tonight, knowing nothing in advance except I got a great Halloween discount, and had a very enjoyable time. Nothing Whizzer says is untrue, but I honesty just enjoyed myself and really got pulled into the piece. Some things seemed a bit too tidy, but I figured they may just have happened that way? I thought it was in very strong shape for a first preview, though...
You can't argue with that Halloween discount for $10 seats!
I was pulled into the piece too, especially during the last 30 minutes. If they can bring the rest of the show up to the level of the final act I think they'll be golden.
WhizzerMarvin said: "You can't argue with that Halloween discount for $10 seats! "
What was the running time?
Saw this at ART, how has it changed?
And even without seeing this new production, I feel like the title is a definite downgrade.
Great review as usual, Whizzer. Now I plan to add this show to a slot we had available for our trip this month. Thanks!
(I'd like to know running time too)
I don't know the run time- or at least this one wouldn't be much help because there was a technical difficulty that caused a delay. I would guess this will end up running between 2:15 and 2:30.
The Josh said: "Saw this at ART, how has it changed? "
I didn't see it at ART, but the guy I talked to at intermission had, and he said Griffin's boyfriend wasn't a character in that version? And that role was female up there? So if that's true, that seems pretty major.
I thought there was a sign on the way in that said the show ran 2 hours and 5 minutes, but that seems too short, even with the delay.
^ Wow, those ARE huge changes if what that person told you is indeed true. Maybe that's why the boyfriend felt tacked on at times rather than organically coming out of the action like the other characters.
Seems to be the case: "Griffin remarks to his sympathetic best friend Ryan (Emma Hunton), herself an aspiring singer-songwriter with body-image issues." Griffin is still gay in both, so it's not like they really tried to switch it up.
Having seen this at ART, that is definitely true! I'll be seeing it at second stage next week, but it seems they have definitely done some pretty major work on the show!
Thanks for linking the article...well if they have to choose between the female best friend or the boyfriend I think the latter is stronger. Maybe they could make that part work better than it does now. The problem is that Griffin begins the show by saying this is my story, when it really is their story with one of them getting short shrift. And if Griffin is playing Griffin why isn't Mach playing Matt Gould?
(Invisible Thread does segue nicely from Whorl Inside a Loop where the star was playing someone else playing a version of herself.)
Great review, pretty much said what I would have said after seeing it at the ART, if I was a much better writer.
Was the stage still a very large rectangle with not much in the way of sets?
My comment leaving the show was "too much knowledge, not enough candy for a large audience"
Wee Thomas2 said: "Was the stage still a very large rectangle with not much in the way of sets?"
It was a red dirt stage with two screens and other things that descended from above, with projections. And an elevated section on each side of the stage.
I saw it at A.R.T and really liked it. Seems they made some major changes so maybe I should see it again. Agree with WhizzerMarvin 100% that the new title is really really bad.
I missed this in Boston, hope I can catch it in NY. I've heard wonderful things.
I was at the first preview as well and share many of the same thoughts as Whizzer. Hopefully I won't be repeating too much but I found the show to be just alright.
Some of the music was good but there wasn't anything memorable about it with the exception of the now title song. I agree that WITNESS UGANDA is a much better title than the bland new one because it gives you more of a sense of what the show is about. INVISIBLE THREAD seems so cliché. The story itself was interesting but I think it could have been a really tight 100 min musical without intermission rather than the meandering nearly 2.5 hours. A lot of the first act is repetitive and spends too much time trying to make Griffin come off as relatable but none of it did.
I really enjoyed the performances of the students but thought the strongest actor in the show was Adeola Role. She did an excellent job mixing comedy, sinisterness and sympathy into the character of Joy. The person I enjoyed the least was Griffin himself. While Whizzer may not think this is a vanity project, I have to disagree. If it were truly a passion project then I think he would have chosen a better actor to portray him on stage. There is never a sense of strength in the character which is certainly needed during the second act. He honestly just came off as a whiny bitch the whole show. I also found it difficult to relate the character because all of his problems seemed very nothing. "The church won't accept me because I'm gay. I don't have any money because I'm an actor. The Africans call me 'white.'" It just came off really whiny and nothing made me want to sympathize with that character. Corey Mach did the best he could with the boyfriend character whose main characteristics were Jewish and musical theatre song writer. After reading some of the other posts about changes from Boston I understand why that character seemed under developed and one note.
The staging worked for what it was. I probably just went in expecting a little more panache from Diane Paulus. I liked some of the projections but found them to be very overused. I don't need to see some weird designs constantly projected on the ground and I don't need to see the letters and emails written out when the actors are going to recite them. The most puzzling thing was a fairly elaborate market set that is lowered from the ceiling but only used for maybe 30 seconds during the show. I think that was unnecessary and could have been conveyed through a few props brought out onto the stage.
Since this was coming from a tryout in Boston I would have thought the show would have been in better shape but it definitely still needs some tightening up.
And on a random note, there is a gospel number in the second act that really just amounted to a Jewish chant repeated over and over yet the crowd went CRAZY waving their hands in the air and then giving the song a standing ovation. It was completely mind boggling to me because it seemed like a very nothing song to garner such a reaction.
Yeah, at ART it was a female character played by Emma Hunton.
this is so strange. Now two shows that seem to have lessened in intensity leaving from Boston to NY. (This and FN.) I know nearly a dozen peeps that saw and loved Witness Uganda, here...to the point that I was upset not to have gotten tix.
Well, this show hasn't opened yet, and I don't know that there is any consensus that it has been lessened, aside from the name. Only one person so far saw both versions.
ClydeBarrow said: "And on a random note, there is a gospel number in the second act that really just amounted to a Jewish chant repeated over and over yet the crowd went CRAZY waving their hands in the air and then giving the song a standing ovation. It was completely mind boggling to me because it seemed like a very nothing song to garner such a reaction."
Clyde, I went last night and while I wasn't part of the standing ovation I was certainly clapping loudly for (to me) the sheer power of their voices. They were hitting some amazing notes, effortlessly, and I think our crowd went nuts over that power and not necessarily the song itself.
Nearly a week later, and I still have the melody from the title song stuck in my head. FYI, heh.
PJPAN, I was there last night too. I feel like it was a mixture of both for me. I thought their voices were beautiful but also was effected by the events on stage (wont't say what as don't want to spoil!) I have the chorus of the title song stuck in my head still too and pretty much every time I think about the show I want to cry because I was just so unbelievably touched.
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