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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up

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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#1
Posted: 5/29/10 at 11:57am
Hot-John's (new) New York round-up

Friday May 28th 2010

MY TRIP DOWN THE PINK CARPET at Midtown Theatre

Leslie Jordan, the diminutive, silver-haired and extremely camp actor, best known for his role of Beverley Leslie on 'Will & Grace', in his own one-man show.

Wickedly funny with plenty of gossipy tid-bits about fellow thespians and some interesting facts - for instance, the role of Beverley Leslie was written for Joan Collins! This ninety minute show, while offering plenty of laughs for a general audience, really caters to the gayest of crowds, the camp is certainly spread thick and Mr Jordan (not to be confused with Louis Jourdan) even gyrates to 70s disco tunes a few times. Towards the end, the story of his gay life and especially his coming-out (although, I do wonder if maybe he was never in to begin with) offers a slightly more serious side to the performer with insights that will resonate with every gay man, particularly those who, like Mr Jordan and myself, once felt like the only gay in the village.

We only chose this show because it starts at 9pm giving us a bit of time to recover from our flight - we arrived in New York at 4.15 yesterday afternoon on the BA London City flight via Shannon. US customs and immigration are handled very speedily in Ireland meaning that you arrive at JFK as a domestic passenger - a brilliant idea as queues at JFK can often take hours. We even arrived an hour earlier than scheduled!



Updated On: 5/31/10 at 11:57 AM
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#2
Posted: 5/30/10 at 12:43am
Hot-John's (new) New York round-up

Saturday May 29th - Matinee

PROMISES, PROMISES at The Broadway Theatre

After she missed a week's worth of shows due to a bad throat infection, we had to prepare ourselves for the fact that Kristin Chenoweth would not be performing this afternoon. Imagine our surprise and delight to find that she was back and, from the excellence of her singing, you would never think she had any problems (she reckons she's better but still not entirely well). It was especially brave of her to go on for two shows today (assuming she made the evening perf).

Sean Hayes is delightful in the role of C C Baxter, with a more than decent singing voice and great coming timing, his physical comedy was terrific and, after reading that hate-filled Newsweek article, it never once occurred to me that he couldn't play it straight, as it were.

As mentioned in most of the reviews, Katie Finneran pretty much steals the show although she doesn't appear until act two, scene one and exits the stage soon after. At one point, in the scene where she and Hayes desperately try through their drunkenness to pick one another up, I did get the slightest whif of Karen Walker (or am I just overdosing on Will & Grace alumni this weekend?).

For all her bravura at returning to the stage after her trachea infection, Ms Chenoweth is badly miscast in her role, being at least 10 years too old for the character - I understand why the producers needed a name to fill seats but, even from the 8th row, she looked more like I would imagine Mr Sheldrake's dowdy wife rather than his nubile, young mistress.

The score is full of those gorgeous, jazzy Bacharach tunes and lush orchestrations from Jonathan Tunick but too many songs sound alike and what was Hal David thinking when he wrote the lyrics for 'It's turkey lurkey time'?

The real reason that this show works for me, apart from Sean Hayes, is the great book. It seems no musical will ever prosper without particular attention paid to the story and text and here Neil Simon has adapted the movie screenplay of 'The Apartment' into a near-perfect musical book, removing many details and scenes from the movie but substituting them with some wonderful theatrical moments.

I still don't know how I managed to get such great seats, slap bang in the middle of row H in the orchestra and, with Kristin's return, today started out pretty well.
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#2
Posted: 5/30/10 at 1:11am
Hot-John's (new) New York round-up

Saturday May 29th - Evening

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES at The Longacre Theatre

Taking our seats at the cabaret table in the Longacre we thought we were back in the Playhouse in London, the set was almost identical, maybe a little wider.

Douglas Hodge has obviously honed his performance since the Menier Chocolate Factory, the only time we saw him in the role previously. He still channels Dame Shirley Bassey at times but now adds Edith Piaf, Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich to his repertoire and to great comic effect. The role of Albin really fits him like a glove and so does the role of Georges feel totally natural as performed by Kelsey Grammer who has a surprisingly lovely singing voice. I realised that I had only ever heard him sing on the end credits of 'Frasier' but he doesn't disgrace himself by any means and, sitting on the edge of the stage as I was, I got the full effect of his unamplified voice.

I always think it's a good sign when, even though you've seen a production multiple times (3 times in London for this one), it feels like you're seeing it for the first time. My sense of excitement was just as high as that Friday night in Southwark and I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised to find that La Cage makes history by winning its third Tony for best show, having won best show for its initial run and best revival 5 years ago. I also think that the race to the best actor in a musical Tony is a close-run thing between Douglas Hodge and Sean Hayes - having seen them both in one day my money would be on Hodge.

As you can see from the above photo, I couldn't just turn up in jeans and t-shirt, especially as we had a cabaret table. My feather-covered jacket that I wore last time in London wouldn't have survived the journey, I decided, so I went with this subtle, pink-flowered number - needless to say I got noticed and commented on from the stage.

One very nice touch is that on Saturday and Sunday nights, immediately following the performance, the third floor of Hurleys bar, next door to the theatre, becomes Club La Cage with live music, drag performers, booze and food - the perfect way to end an evening of delightful drag and debauchery.
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#3
Posted: 5/30/10 at 6:58am
Nice one John because she wasn't suppose to do the matinee- her first show back was billed as the evening one!
Nice show, nowt special.
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#4
Posted: 5/30/10 at 4:13pm
How is the atmosphere / audience reaction at the Broadway? It seems such a barn of a theatre.
Seen some shows in my time....
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#5
Posted: 5/30/10 at 4:27pm
It's actually really comfy..it's one of those older theatres which has been built around and above..it has a decent sized lobby. We were at the front of the mezz (!), and the distance/view was excellent.
Hayes was great..quite touching at times...he carried the whole theatre
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#6
Posted: 5/30/10 at 5:42pm
My views of the Broadway are probably coloured by seeing Shrek there when the place was half-empty and half the audience seemed to be under 10. Not exactly my most enjoyable theatre experience on that particular trip!

Thanks for the reviews, these are probably two of the shows I would most like to see in NYC (but probably won't get to).


Seen some shows in my time....
Updated On: 5/30/10 at 05:42 PM
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#7
Posted: 5/30/10 at 8:23pm
John, glad you have enjoyed all 3 shows so far, I thought Promises, Promises was very good and glad you caught Kristin, no doubt I would of loved La Cage, it wasn't open when I or we were there.

Well no inadvertently bump in to you, I am on the West Coast, just left Las Vegas and stopped for something to eat, on my way to the Grand Canyon.
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#8
Posted: 5/30/10 at 9:23pm
Tiggy, I saw the Tuesday after it opened and the audience was great. Great atmosphere. The whole place just felt a little more cosy compared to when I saw Shrek there and I loved Shrek.
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#9
Posted: 5/30/10 at 10:37pm
The Broadway theatre didn't feel like so much of a barn to me as I was in the 8th row of the stalls (not like the Hilton Theatre, now there's a barn!). The audience loved Sean Hayes, they seemed to laugh at everything he did or said. If the Tony was awarded for the love from the audience then Sean Hayes would have it stitched up.
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#10
Posted: 5/30/10 at 10:50pm
Hot-John's (new) New York round-up

Sunday May 30th, Matinee

THE ADDAMS FAMILY at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre

The show looks great, all the roles are splendidly cast, Nathan Lane is hilarious, the puppet work is fantastic (the show could use more), about half of the songs work but, oh boy, the book absolutely stinks!

It seems fairly obvious that, after extensive rewrites to the point where there is no story to speak of, songs were dropped or rewritten and the show suffers terribly. Why, when "trying out" a show out of town, do the writers/producers never give themselves enough time to fix their show before their already-booked Broadway engagement begins?

My heart sank when I realised the flimsy plot centred around daughter Wednesday's burgeoning relationship with a 'normal' boy and her attempts to get the family to act as normal as possible when his parents visit the Addams home - didn't they just steal that plot idea from "La Cage Aux Folles"? Too much time is spent on the boy's parents who, frankly, no-one cares one bit about. By the second act this storyline is all but forgotten and after a number of turns or party-pieces from the headliners the story is quickly and messily wound up. It's such a shame because with a little more thought, imagination and work it could be a great show instead of the mess it has become.

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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#11
Posted: 5/30/10 at 11:01pm
Hot-John's (new) New York round-up

Sunday May 30th, Evening

BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON at The Public Theatre

This year's 'Rent' or maybe 'Spring Awakening'. The theatre has been completely decked out in debris, moose heads, fairy lights, cobwebs and a whole lot else. When Benjamin Walker took to the stage in the title role my first thought was Adam Lambert, the glam-rocker from last year's American Idol. This was obviously the point to his appearance as it turns out that Jackson, the seventh President of the USA was something of an idol in his own right.

The rock score, while it got me tapping my feet, is instantly forgettable and not something I'd want to listen to again. The script is very funny and played to great effect by the ensemble cast. There are plans to transfer this to Broadway - my advice to the creators - write some catchier tunes and you just might have a hit on your hands.
Updated On: 5/31/10 at 11:01 PM
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#12
Posted: 5/31/10 at 5:08am
well at least you didn't choose The Burnt Part Boys, which we did, as Jackson hadn't extended at the time....that was thoroughly competent, but, er, dull
Updated On: 5/31/10 at 05:08 AM
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#13
Posted: 5/31/10 at 7:30am
I don't think Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson would be right for a Broadway transfer. It's very much a fringe or off-broadway show, ideal for a small space and pretty avant-garde, certainly not mainstream. VERY funny and I loved the score - can't wait to get hold of a copy of the CD.
THEATRE 2019: ASPECTS OF LOVE**** FRANKENSTEIN (Paris)**** AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE**** COMPANY***** [title of show]**** CAN CAN*** THE CEREAL CAFE**** BAD GIRLS**** RAGS***** LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE***** FOLLIES***** ROMANCE ROMANCE**** THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES*** LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE***** QUEEN OF THE MIST**** SIX** THE PRICE***** MAGGIE MAY **** CALENDAR GIRLS** MAN OF LA MANCHA**** WAITRESS***** FANNY AND STELLA***
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#14
Posted: 5/31/10 at 12:05pm
Leslie Jordan's show sounds fun. I would have liked to go to that but by the time I found out about it on my recent trip I couldnt fit it in.

Personally, I loved Chenoweth in PP. I was 2nd row orchestra and yes, she is a little old to play the part but I really didn't care & I never even thought about it during. I'm not getting all the negativity about her in this show, like I said, I loved her performance. (I think I saw the last show before she got sick. Maybe the last but one. Thank goodness I went when I did!) I thought Hayes was utterly fabulous. And he had the audience eating out of his hand. I did get a weird moment of "Jack & Karen" in the bar scene (Finneran was superb!) but I didn't mind, lol

I found the Addams Family extremely frustrating for many of the reasons you stated. I counted at least 6 people around me (I was 3rd row orch) who left at intermission. Shame, cos it could have been so GOOD, especially with that cast. With Nathan Lane & Bebe Neuwirth in the leads why oh why would you focus on the teenage daughter and waste Terrance Mann & Carolee Carmello in roles that don't matter? My brother, who came with me, said he "didn't get it" cos it wasn't "The Addams Family". I kind of agree ... it just didn't feel like the Addams Family. It's sad when the biggest applause of the show went to the 20 second appearance of Cousin It, lol

Enjoy the rest of your trip!
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#15
Posted: 6/8/10 at 2:50am
Oh, I've been so chilled out here in Las Vegas (despite the 108 degree temperature) that I completely forgot to post my review of Tom Wopat at Birdland last week, so here goes...

Hot-John's (new) New York round-up

Monday 31st May

TOM WOPAT at Birdland

Well, I couldn't resist the chance to see Luke Duke perform his one-off cabaret and his first for five years in a very intimate venue and I'm so glad I went along. The man has a great voice and chose a very interesting, eclectic repertoire including a few jazz standards, some raucous blues and numbers by Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen and Steely Dan. The highlight for me had to be a song from the upcoming Broadway production of 'Catch Me If You Can' called 'Fifty Checks'. Written by the 'Hairspray' team of Shaiman and Wittman, it has the style and quality of an old-time big band number - Wopat has been cast in the role of Frank Abnergale Snr (played in the movie by Christopher Walken).

One very nice touch - after the show, as we left the venue, Mr Wopat was stood at the merchandise stand to thank everyone personally for attending. Together with the chat and handshakes we all were given a signed copy of his latest cd completely free of charge (as he said, it's his show and he can do what he likes!). What a star!
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Posted: 6/11/10 at 6:13pm
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Wednesday June 9th

WHITE'S LIES at New World Stages

A very funny, knock-about farce by first time writer Ben Adron. The action centres around a divorce attorney, Joe White, whose mother announces she's dying from cancer and her dying wish is to have a grandchild. Joe then conjures up a subterfuge whereby he invents a daughter by way of an ex of his who turns up at his office to secure a divorce.

Very broad comedic performances help to propel an extremely over-the-top scenario - nothing is played straight or for subtlety. Many references are made to the effect that certain cast members play multiple roles, actors even refer to past TV characters they have portrayed, props are shown up to be mere props (coffee cups glued to a tray, for instance) all to great comic effect.

Betty Buckley, the great Broadway diva, gets to camp it up for all she's worth. Best line - when she discovers her fake grand-daughter is called Michelle, she starts to sing the Beatles song but her son says "Mom, please stop, you're a terrible singer!".

We were most fortunate to attend on one of the evenings where the cast gave a Q&A after the show. We discovered that they would have benefitted from a longer rehearsal period, having only had two and a half weeks' worth, which resulted in them entering into previews under-prepared (resulting in less than glowing reviews). It seems, with re-writes, ad-libs and improvs, they are now at a position where the action, while quite break-neck, flows to a point of near-perfection. Ms Buckley is only with the show through July 4th, and Tuc Watkins (he of Desperate Housewives) leaves on July 9th which is a shame, especially as he spends the opening moments in nought but his underwear (see pic above) which can never be a bad thing, right?
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#17
Posted: 6/11/10 at 6:30pm
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Thursday 10th June

STUFFED AND UNSTRUNG at Union Square Theatre

One can't help but ponder that the Jim Henson Company felt, with the huge success of 'Avenue Q', that they had missed out somewhat on Broadway success. Well, with the amazing show that is 'Stuffed And Unstrung', they have more than made up for their shortfall.

I can't remember laughing so much, for so long, in a two-hour show before and, the amazing thing is, every show will be entirely different. About ninety per cent of the show is improvised - the host, Patrick Bristow (very good BTW) ensures that audience suggestions don't duplicate recent suggestions, making it so much more of a challenge for the cast of eight.

Very cleverly, the cast with puppets take centre stage but the action can be viewed on large screens which just focus on the puppets a la Sesame Street but, unlike the kids' show, this one is very much adults only - the audience shout-outs nearly always touch on the risque or pornographic (e.g. the request for an original fairy tale title resulted in 'The Jizz Princess'). Other highlights included the funeral of Jennifer Lopez as told in the style of a Sondheim musical and a Bris (circumcision) performed at Dodgers baseball stadium, complete with cast of various animals, aliens etc!

Go along with a completely open mind, have a few drinks and let yourself go, shout out your (rude) suggestions and, above all, PUPPET UP!
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#18
Posted: 6/13/10 at 4:06pm
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Friday 11th June

SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM at Studio 54

Isn't it bliss? Yes,it is!! This would be a great show for the casual lover of musical theatre but for fans of Stephen Sondheim's work - well, you'll think you've died and gone to musical heaven.

The evening is narrated by Mr Sondheim himself through the numerous video clips, most of them filmed especially for this show, on an array of high-definition moving video screens. Sondheim proves that he can take a joke as well as tell one - his (possibly apocryphal) story about Ethel Merman is particularly funny and well told and the act two opener, 'God', his rejoinder to the similarly titled Newsweek cover, is hilarious.

Thankfully, the show doesn't just recycle all the old songs from the other Sondheim revues, rather it treats the audience to a number of songs that were cut on the road or in previews. One fabulous number that was written for Merman in the second act of 'Gypsy' only ever made it into one performance!

This has to be the most amazing cast on Broadway at the moment. As if the so-called supporting players (Leslie Kritzer, Matthew Scott, Euan Morton, Erin Mackey) weren't good enough to sustain a show on their own there's a top-notch roster of stars to provide the icing on the cake. Vanessa Williams is sensational - her version of 'Ah, But Underneath', written for Diana Rigg in the London production of 'Follies' was superb and very funny, Tom Wopat has one of the best voices in town and here puts it to great use, Norm Lewis sang 'Being Alive' as good or possibly better than I have ever heard it sung (he reduced me to tears) and then there's Barbara Cook. The woman is truly amazing - at 82 she still has the most powerful and pure voice, putting many of today's stage youngsters to shame.

We couldn't believe our great seats - right in the middle of the front row, which, for this type of show, was just perfect. As I said, musical theatre heaven, indeed!
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#19
Posted: 6/13/10 at 4:24pm
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Saturday 12th June

AMERICAN IDIOT at the St James Theatre

Sex, drugs, rock'n'roll, flashing lights, lots of video screens. The new (punk) rock opera adapted from the last two albums by rockers Green Day.

I must admit, when the curtain went up and the music started, I thought "What have I let myself in for?". It was so loud and I couldn't hear the words - I must be getting old! Thankfully it settled down after a little while and the music, mostly provided by the on-stage rock band, even included some cello and violins.

The set is really well designed, containing something like 50 video screen of different sizes, various doors and windows open up at stages, the video projections and lighting design are terrific.

The performers are all terribly enthusiastic and versatile (they all play guitar at the curtain call) - I was exhausted from just watching them. Many have previously appeared in 'Spring Awakening' with which this show has much in common, notably John Gallagher Jnr, who originated the role of Moritz in 'SA". Particular mention must go to Tony Vincent as St Jimmy (quite appropriate given the theatre the show's in), I'm surprised he hasn't picked up a best featured actor in a musical nomination - he doesn't do a great deal but steals the limelight every time he appears.

There doesn't appear to be much in the way of story - or, if there was, it escaped me. 'American Idiot' sits comfortably alongside 'Rent' and 'Spring Awakening' and, at times, offers a 21st century alternative to 'Hair'. I could possibly be tempted to see the show a second time (there is quite a lot to take in) but I'll take my earplugs for the first 10 minutes or so!
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#20
Posted: 6/13/10 at 4:45pm
Hot-John's (new) New York round-up

Saturday 12th June

LEND ME A TENOR at The Music Box

I know it's a creaky old play and a piece of fluff, you'd think it was written in the 30s not 80s but I guess that's the whole point. With many a company it would just be a so-so, hum drum comedy but here, with a superb cast, it really comes into its own. Director Stanley Tucci obviously understands how to stage a farce and the entire company have been well rehearsed. Anthony LaPaglia is wonderfully funny as opera star Tito Morelli, Monk's Tony Shalhoub exudes witty sophistication and Jan Maxwell earns her best featured actress nom in the relatively short time she has on stage (the woman sure can play manic).The real surprise for me is Justin Bartha ('The Hangover'), he looks perfect for the role of Max and displays near-perfect comic timing - his set-pieces with LaPaglia, where they mirror one another, are hilarious.

I don't know if it's in the original script or not but, after the play proper ends, the entire cast perform a mad dash around the stage acting out the entire story via their own physical gags in about one minute flat - a marvellous and very funny device.

At home I have a programme from the original 1989 London production at The Globe, Shaftesbury Avenue, which prompts me to think that I may have actually seen the play before - I can't, however, remember a single thing about it - not something I will be saying any day soon about this magnificently played production!
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Hot-John's (new) New York round-up#21
Posted: 6/14/10 at 12:45am
Glad you are having a great time, I must of warmed Las Vegas up for you.

Disappointed you didn't care for The Addams Family, I loved it, I thought Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwrith, Kevin Chamberin, Zachary James and Jackie Hoffman (how she did not get nominated I never know), were awesome.

I think you are spot on, with your reviews of Promises, Promises, American Idiot (apart from set) and Sondheim on Sondheim.

What show/s would you like to see come over to the West End?

Loved your outfit for La Cage.