hotjohn's New York round-up

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hotjohn's New York round-up#1
Posted: 3/23/10 at 4:33pm
hotjohn's New York round-up

I thought I'd post my mini reviews and opinions about the shows I'm seeing this week all in one place. The photo of Times square was taken this morning in between rain showers on my iPhone and stitched together automatically with the AutoStitch app - not bad,eh?

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Friday March 19th 2010

YANK! The York Theatre Company at St Peter's Church

Saw 'Yank' last night, from the front row no less, so got a nice eyeful of the brief nudity!

A great little show, corny at times, but full of heart and boasting some fantastic musical numbers, particularly good lyrics and all-round good performances. It was really nice to see some good tap dancing for a change, I don't think we get to see it enough, as well as a beautiful dream-sequence ballet straight out of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

When I saw that the venue was inside a church I had my doubts but there was nothing to fear. It's a proper and obviously well-equipped theatre in a very modern building.

Before the show the York Theatre Company artistic director gave a little speech to set up the show, which was a nice touch. He warned us that the show contained profanity, adult themes and nudity (which got a large round of applause) and explained how, in the intermission, the lines were always at the mens' room for a change (which drew applause from the few women in the audience).

I almost hope that the producers of 'Yank' don't get too big for their boots and try to resist the temptation to over-complicate it especially by moving it to much bigger theatres. Its charm owes a lot to the intimacy with the audience that a smaller space allows.

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Monday March 22nd

COME FLY AWAY Marriott Marquis Theatre

As most Broadway theatres don't open on a Monday night there was little to choose from that I hadn't already seen. I did consider the TKTS booth for a half price ticket but the queue was so long and the rain was bucketing down and anyway I don't really do queues. I called into the new box office at the Marquis to see what they had available and it was certainly worth trying - they had one seat in the middle of row C in the orchestra (stalls). It is rather shocking to discover that previews aren't usually discounted but the show has its first night this Thursday so the cast should be pretty well prepared at least.

"Come Fly Away" is the latest dance show to be conceived, choreographed and directed by Twyla Tharp who achieved great Broadway success with "Movin' Out", the show featuring the music of Billy Joel. I was very lucky the night I saw "Movin' Out" because Billy Joel was there, took to the stage at the curtain call and performed the title song and 'New York State Of Mind' - the audience went wild.

This new show features the music of Frank Sinatra - I had an idea that Frank wouldn't be appearing at last night's performance but, thankfully his vocals did. The 19-piece band provided the music with guest vocalist Hilary Gardner who was underused, providing a few live vocals and the odd duet with Frank, I would have liked to hear more from her. I can't figure out how Frank's vocals were cued up to match the live music because it was flawlessly done every time.

But this was far from a rip-off of "Sinatra" which played The London Palladium a few years back, this show stars some of the best, most athletic, sensuous dancers I have ever seen. Combining jazz steps with street dance and the most wonderful modern ballet, the cast of 15 dancers all displayed amazing skills. My favourites had to be Karine Plantadit, sometimes sexy, often fierce, you couldn't take your eyes off her. Charlie Neshyba-Hodges looks the least like a dancer of the lot, short, bald with a very cheeky grin, I guess you might compare him to a young Wayne Sleep. He played the waiter in the nightclub setting and started off with a series of prat falls and rolls so I assumed he was just the comic relief but he ended up displaying the most incredible ballet dancing - his leaps were so graceful you'd think he was on a wire.

There is no story to speak of save the fact that various couples split up and dance with others etc. and in the second act various articles of clothing are removed (yes, I've been to nightclubs like that too!). At just under two hours with one intermission the show felt just the right length - if it wasn't for my dodgy knees I might have danced my way back to my hotel.
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hotjohn's New York round-up#2
Posted: 3/23/10 at 4:59pm
Glad you enjoyed the two shows you have seen so far.

When are you seeing The Addams Family?
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hotjohn's New York round-up#2
Posted: 3/23/10 at 6:24pm
I'm back here at the end of May when I get to see 'The Addams Family', 'Promises, Promises', 'Sondheim on Sondheim', 'Lend Me A Tenor', 'La Cage', 'Lips Together, Teeth Apart' and, hopefully, The Tony Awards.
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hotjohn's New York round-up#3
Posted: 3/23/10 at 7:45pm
Great photo.

I didn't know about autostitch: must come in useful if you rip your underpants as well.
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hotjohn's New York round-up#4
Posted: 3/23/10 at 10:57pm
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Tuesday March 23rd

A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE - Schoenfeld Theatre

Wow, what a weird evening!

The most gloriously grimy, sleazy hotel room, four misfits, a suitcase containing... a canister of gasoline etc.

Not the most wonderful play ever but Christopher Walken certainly delivers (I'm not even sure if he acts the role or is just being himself). If you like the prospect of 90 minutes filled with profanity (the Oedipal noun is used to great effect), a one-handed, trigger-happy psycho who's spent the last 47 years searching for his missing hand, talk of lonely zoo monkeys and an elderly mother breaking both her ankles trying to retrieve a balloon from a tree (!) then this is definitely the show for you!

It wouldn't surprise me to discover that Martin McDonagh had written the role of Mr Carmichael with Walken in mind - I can't really think of anyone else suitably weird and spooky enough to take on the role so successfully. In fact, the whole mad episode reminded me of an extended scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie (when is QT going to direct another Broadway play, I'd like to know?).

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Mr Walken was walkin' away with the Tony Award for Best Actor In A Leading Role this year - now if there was an award for weirdest character, he'd have the award sewn up.

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hotjohn's New York round-up#5
Posted: 3/24/10 at 6:17pm
I get the impression that you did not like 'Behanding' John?

Keep your reviews coming.....
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hotjohn's New York round-up#6
Posted: 3/24/10 at 11:18pm
Actually, I did enjoy "Behanding" but I feel quite dirty for having enjoyed it, if you get my drift.
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hotjohn's New York round-up#7
Posted: 3/24/10 at 11:43pm
Wednesday March 24th (Matinee)

ZERO HOUR - DR2 Theatre, Union Square

Jim Brochu must have something of an identity crisis, so absolutely does he inhabit the soul of Zero Mostel, I seriously wonder if he can ever be himself when not on stage.

You would think that Mr Mostel was there on stage in front of you (and not that far away, wherever you sit - the theatre is pretty small). Okay, so it's probably got something of a limited audience (hey, I felt like the youngest person in the theatre and I'm not exactly a youngster!). Brochu is obviously a huge fan of Mostel, he wrote the play after all, and is fortunately blessed with a frame that lends itself to the depiction of the larger-than-life character.

Much time and attention is devoted to the McCarthyite witch-hunt of the 1950's, thus providing a worthy history lesson and dramatic central point to the piece - I wasn't even aware that Mostel was tied up in the blacklist so found the details to be the most interesting and enthralling aspects of the one-man show. Of course there were many references and gossipy tidbits pertaining to the Broadway shows that Zero Mostel appeared in and plenty of backstage stories about his fellow actors and directors - most of them far from complimentary.


Updated On: 3/24/10 at 11:43 PM
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hotjohn's New York round-up#8
Posted: 3/25/10 at 11:41am
Wednesday March 24th

LOOPED - Lyceum Theatre

Faded star, Tallulah Bankhead, spends the entire play trying to record one line of dialogue for her last movie, "Die, Die, My Darling" and, as far as plot goes, that's it!

Virtually a two-hander between Valerie (Rhoda) Harper as Bankhead and Brian Hutchison as Danny the editor. Michael Mulheren, playing Steve the recording engineer, never leaves his booth above the stage and hardly has any lines.

A very slight play, there is only one possible reason to see this show and that's Valerie Harper. She certainly sounds like a woman barely existing on booze and cigarettes and is very funny and very camp. Some kind souls have mentioned Harper as being in with the chance of the best actress Tony - if the play was considerably better and she had more to work with, possibly but I'm sure there have been many more memorable performances this year.
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hotjohn's New York round-up#9
Posted: 3/25/10 at 4:20pm
So far, the only thing that sounds remotely tempting is Yank.

Two plays about deceased actors certainly doesn't sound inspriring.

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hotjohn's New York round-up#10
Posted: 3/26/10 at 12:34am
Thursday March 25th

BIG GAY SING 2 - NYU Skirball Center

If you count up all the people on stage at the finale - The New York City Gay Men's Chorus, the dancers, the drag queens, the band, the costumes, the hilarious host, Scott Nevins and, to top it all, Petula Clark - at $59 for the top-priced ticket, this has to be the best value-for-money ticket in New York.

Oh, and it has to be the campest show in New York and I'm guessing there's plenty of competition.

Just picture it - Dreamgirls, West Side Story, Judy Garland, Lady Gaga, It's Raining Men, John Phillip Sousa, a plethora of Chers - what's not to like?

It's obvious that so much love and attention went into producing these two shows - I understand that one chorus member is responsible for all the 100-plus costumes. Oh, I almost forgot - thanks to on-screen lyrics for many of the numbers, we, the audience, got to sing along with the chorus - how fabulous is that? Does that mean that I can say I've performed musical theatre in New York?
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hotjohn's New York round-up#11
Posted: 3/27/10 at 4:53pm
Saturday March 27th (Matinee)

ALL ABOUT ME - Henry Miller's Theatre

Well possums, despite what all those miserable, old, hard-hearted critics had to say, I absolutely loved it.

The show finished an hour ago and I'm still exhausted from laughing so much. I now understand the format - Michael Fienstein performs his musical numbers to allow you to catch your breath after laughing at Dame Edna so much. I really think that the Dame is on top form in this show or maybe a matinee suits her (as it does so many of the seniors in the audience - I felt like one of the youngest people there!).

I do wonder if some of the reviewers, tired and jaded from one-too-many productions of Hedda Gabler or Uncle Vanya just don't get the central conceit of the show - it's meant to be cheesy, people! Like a cross between a Las Vegas lounge and a 1970's TV musical spectacular (most of which, frankly, weren't so spectacular), ALL ABOUT ME positively revels in its gloriously camp tackiness.

The highlight, as with any show featuring Dame Edna, has to be her attempts at conversation with some of the elderly members of the audience - that woman can still think on her feet and the improvised results provided some of the biggest laughs of the show (at one point, bewildered by the answers she was getting, even Dame Edna couldn't keep a straight face).

The finale features the front half of the orchestra, or those lucky enough to catch one, holding their gladioli aloft and singing the ridiculous song, jointly written by Fienstein and Everage - typical lyric rhymes gladiloi with e-coli!

There are more great details in the show such as a hilarious medley that gets sillier and sillier as one syllable melds into another resulting in the weirdest juxtapositions of songs. There are two copies of the Playbill, one for him and one for her, neither of which mentions the other star - I imagine some people, who only get to see one copy, will get very confused. Even the overture is laugh-out-loud funny.

Also Dame Edna gets closer to singing a serious song all the way through than I can ever remember her doing. After declaring the theatre a Sondheim-free zone she sings 'The Ladies Who Lunch' because "I don't think little Stephen really wrote it - too catchy".
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hotjohn's New York round-up#12
Posted: 3/27/10 at 4:55pm
You posted that very quick!!!!!

Glad you liked it.
Updated On: 3/27/10 at 04:55 PM
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hotjohn's New York round-up#13
Posted: 3/27/10 at 4:57pm
Yes, and I managed to collect my dry cleaning before they closed!
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hotjohn's New York round-up#14
Posted: 3/27/10 at 5:21pm
great, hope you enjoy a little night music later, I managed to get a ticket for Memphis for tonight.
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hotjohn's New York round-up#15
Posted: 3/28/10 at 12:29am
Saturday March 27th

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC - Walter Kerr Theatre

I was very pleased to see that the staging for this show hasn't altered dramatically from its first incarnation at the vastly smaller Menier Chocolate Factory. Trevor Nunn realised that the simple, unconfused settings added to the chamber-piece feel of this production and he has stuck with them.

Now onto the casting - Angela Lansbury, while not being called on to do a great deal (the woman is 84 after all), is as delightful and articulate as you might imagine and, after seeing her in 2 non-singing roles in the last few years, it was a treat to finally hear her sing.

The real revelation of the show for me is Catherine Zeta Jones - wow! As good as Hannah Waddingham was in the Menier production, the role of Desiree really cries out for a mega-star and CZJ is certainly that. She not only sings the part beautifully but acts every number with such finesse and subtlety, I'd be very surprised if her name isn't read out on Tony Award night (and not just as a guest presenter or nominee). She's been in that awkward place for a number of years where she was known as much for being Mrs Michael Douglas as for her work - this fantastic performance should enable her to rise above the tabloid lifestyle and pave the way for a glittering Broadway career - hopefully she is taking every opportunity to press Ms Lansbury for advice on theatrical longevity.
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hotjohn's New York round-up#16
Posted: 3/28/10 at 10:45am
Thanks for the reviews so far John. Did you attend 'All About Me' in all of your sartorial splendour?

I enjoyed some of the performances in the London production of ALNM - notably Alexander Hanson & Hannah Waddingham - but overall it didn't match the sum of its parts. I would have been fascinated to see Angela Lansbury's performance though. What was the general audience reaction - were there mutterings of it being too cheap and pared down a version as seems to be the consensus on the Broadway board?
Seen some shows in my time....
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hotjohn's New York round-up#17
Posted: 3/28/10 at 11:15am
First of all - I attended everything in sartorial splendour! Granted, I didn't visit ALL ABOUT ME dressed as the Sydney Opera House but I always make an effort, a suit and tie, blazer and bow-tie, Thursday night was silver dinner jacket and pink and red bow-tie! For the two cabaret shows, tonight it's Christopher Fitzgerald at Feinstein's and, tomorrow, Elaine Stritch at Cafe Carlyle, I'll be in my best white tux and black bow-tie, patent leather shoes, the works.

I didn't get the feeling of ALNM looking cheap or pared down and didn't hear anyone else express such views. Of course, the stage is so much bigger and therefore the sets are automatically grander than at The Menier. I just think the lack of too much clutter on stage let's you concentrate on the performers and the music and I think the audience in general appreciated that.
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hotjohn's New York round-up#18
Posted: 3/28/10 at 11:50am
Now I'm disappointed that you didn't go dressed as the Sydney Opera House, though I expect you cut a dash anyway. hotjohn's New York round-up

Very jealous of your two cabaret outings, will be particularly interested in hearing about the sort of song choices Christopher Fitzgerald makes.
Seen some shows in my time....
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hotjohn's New York round-up#19
Posted: 3/28/10 at 11:53am
guess you are not going to see the new NY cast of HAIR? I only saw one of them who is Vanessa (Chrissy) and she is fab. great thoughts so far hotjohn. thanks.
"it's a dirty little war"
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hotjohn's New York round-up#20
Posted: 3/28/10 at 12:33pm
We've booked ALNM as part of our May NY trip...we saw it at the Menier but I really want to see Angela Lansbury..I'm pleased Zeta Jones was impressive.

Our others are Sondheim on Sondheim, WSS and Promises, plus another (Memphis?).
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hotjohn's New York round-up#21
Posted: 3/28/10 at 11:19pm
Sunday March 28th

NEXT FALL - The Helen Hayes Theatre

When I saw that writer Geoffrey Nauffts is also a writer on popular TV drama 'Brothers and Sisters' I wasn't particularly surprised. Just like the gay characters in the TV show, Adam and Luke, the gay couple at the centre of NEXT FALL, are a regular couple who just happen to be gay. The fact that one, Luke, the ruggedly handsome aspiring actor, is a devout Christian and his partner, nerdy Adam (channeling Woody Allen at times), is a forthright atheist provides the central drama in the piece. But this is no preachy, maudlin melodrama. Using the well-known conventions of TV drama and sitcom, the play eases the viewer into the story then provides much food for thought. You will spend two hours laughing, maybe a little time with a tear in your eye, and a much longer time afterwards pondering the big thoughts and conflicts in the play.

The creative team, who are currently collaborating on a movie project with Elton John have wisely persuaded him and his partner, David Furnish, to lend their names to the production as producers. A very wise move, in my opinion, as that's precisely what drew my interest enough to check out the reviews and it was the extensive New York Times review that convinced me that NEXT FALL was worth seeing.

There are some wonderful wisecracks which put me in mind of the writing style of 'Friends'

eg: "Is this the $39 bottle of wine we just bought?", "Well, it was but I topped it up with the $10 bottle." "So now it's a $29 bottle of wine?" "Mmm, woody, muddy, s***ty. Just drink it."

There is also a hilarious scene which I know will ring true with many gay couples when Luke, anxious at his uber-religious father's arrival at their apartment, proceeds to de-gay the place. Not entirely unlike the similar scene in 'La Cage aux Folles' actually.

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Sunday March 28th

CHRISTOPHER FITZGERALD - Fienstein's at Lowe's Regency

Having seen Fitzgerald perform in 'Young Frankenstein' and 'Finian's Rainbow' we knew to pretty much expect comic songs and not a great deal else so were very pleasantly surprised that his 70 minute show in this very intimate setting featured a much more varied repertoire.

Numbers such as “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love,” “Something to Live For,” “Josephina, Please No Lean-a On the Bell” and “Frankfurter Sandwiches” together with many charming songs that I'd never heard before and one lovely duet between Kermit The Frog and The Great Gonzo!

As this was a one-off performance and Christopher's second only one-man show in 25 years, I was pretty sure that we would see at least a few Broadway stars in the room. Well, we celeb-spotters did very well by spying Debra Monk, Andrea Martin, Kevin Chamberlin, Kate Baldwin and Victor Garber as well as a few familiar faces that we couldn't put names to. In the lobby of the hotel I also saw Blake Edwards!
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hotjohn's New York round-up#22
Posted: 3/29/10 at 5:28am
HotJohn, thanks so much for all the reporting.
Have really enjoyed reading all your reports.
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hotjohn's New York round-up#23
Posted: 3/30/10 at 1:12am
Monday March 29th

ELAINE STRITCH - SINGING SONDHEIM...ONE SONG AT A TIME - Cafe Carlyle

What a trooper Ms Stritch is. Even at the age of 85 she feels compelled to perform on the stage (or as my partner suggested, is it just to get a huge reduction on her accommodation bill? - she lives at The Carlyle Hotel after all).

This has got to be the most intimate setting you could ever see someone of the calibre of Stritch in - technically it is her home, after all, which sounds quite good, doesn't it?.

Opening with 'I Feel Pretty', she followed up with a blistering version of 'Rose's Turn' from Gypsy (as she commented, she never got the chance at the role so she intended to make up for it tonight). Then onto some of Sondheim's most complicated numbers including 'The Little Things We Do Together' (I can attest to the difficulty with this song - I've performed it myself), a few obscure songs cut from various shows, a beautifully poignant version of 'Send In The Clowns' (as good as Catherine Zeta Jones was on Saturday, Elaine made the line "Losing my timing so late in my career" especially chilling).

One highlight for me was her spoken rendition of the lyrics of "Every Day A Little Death", emphasising the poetic quality of many of Sondheim's lyrics. As she recalled a comment from an audience member from her first show back in January - "It was a very bold, brave move but it worked even with the creme brulee".

Okay, so she forget her lyrics a few times, but, as I said, Sondheim's lyrics can be a bugger to remember at the best of times - but she always turned her memory loss to her advantage ("You thought all those pauses were me being dramatic and poignant, didn't you?").

She is back at the Cafe Carlyle for 9 show from April 20th - I implore you, if you have the slightest chance of catching this sublime show, jump at the chance.

-------------------------------------------------------

Well, that's it from me for this trip. We're off to Las Vegas tomorrow for a week and, apart from Donny and Marie at The Flamingo, we don't have anything else booked. We'll probably see the new Cirque du Solei show, 'Viva Elvis' and maybe we'll catch Barry Manilow at his new home in the Paris hotel.

I hope you've all enjoyed reading my reviews as much as I've enjoyed writing them and almost as much as I enjoyed seeing all the shows.
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hotjohn's New York round-up#24
Posted: 3/31/10 at 2:15pm
Thanks for posting HotJohn. I've enjoyed reading too.