Archive for January, 2009

Review – Entertaining Mr. Sloane – Trafalgar Studios

January 28, 2009

Last night I went with Katy and the West End Whingers crewe to see Entertaining Mr. Sloane at Trafalgar Studios. I did my best to shield myself from any information about the show before I went – I mean, the tickets were bought, I was going, why pollute the experience with a bunch of preconceived notions? All I really knew about it was that it was by Joe Orton (who I’d heard a bit about but never seen or read anything by) and starred Imelda Staunton, who is a super nova in my tiny pantheon of stars I really quite like. I figured it was likely racy and possibly had some gay themes in it, to which I said, hurray! I was just looking for a good evening out and I figured this was going to be a great start to my theatrical year.

Well! What I didn’t expect was that this show was going to be hysterically funny and the kind of top quality event that makes me grateful to live in London. (Sadly, the rest of the cast can’t be found on the Ambassador Theatre’s website – what’s wrong with them? Richard Bremmer and Simon Paisley Jones were fantastic!) Staunton was great as sexually chained Kath, the landlady who is utterly taken in by the brash and physical Mr. Sloane (Matthew Horne), the swaggering young man who comes looking for a place to live and acts like he owns the place before he’s even agreed to move in. The cast is rounded out by the twitchingly stiff brother Ed (Simon Paisley Jones) and the doddering DaDa (Richard Bremmer).

The whole thing feels like a sort of madcap Pinter, as if the bleak living situation of “The Birthday Party” and the freakishly charged sexual politics of “Homecoming” (and all of the implied class attitudes and repression of the 50s, which didn’t smell much like it had changed even in ’64) had been shaken up with “Boeing Boeing.” Kath can’t keep her pants on, but in the environment of this play, it just seems like so much comedy that she’s spent her whole life locked up by her brother and unable to create any sort of existence for herself because of some teenaged sexual shenanigans. And her brother could come off as a rigid tyrant and supporter of sexual oppression, but his own, visibly vibrating self-repression (best during the scene when Mr. Sloane’s recital of his various forms of exercise leaves Ed nearly cross-eyed – only to end the scene all but drooling on the floor as he describes the leather chauffeur’s uniform he will have to outfit Mr. Sloane in once he comes to work for him) makes him a figure of comedy. And Da is just brilliant – an old, weak man who seems like a fool but has a sharp mind under his failing body (Richard Bremmer in a performance of complete genius).

With a script that borders on ludicrous, it takes an amazing cast to pull of its cheesy lines without having it completely disintegrate – and this group of actors delivered in spades. Every one of them completely holds the stage (as if they were all attempting to upstage each other simultaneously), and while a leather-clad Mr. Sloane might catch the eye, the glowering Ed is just as powerful – though Staunton prancing around in a horrid, see-through negligee pretty well steals the show (and had nearly all of my party falling out of their chairs). She really just has the verve and wow and timing and … God, just the whole package! I really had no idea she was such a brilliant comic actress, but she is just the highlight of this show. And Bremmer’s crotchety old man was great – such a sense of menace in his own way, but absolutely no dummy, and a keen hand with a hot poker.

Who knows, maybe there was some kind of extra energy with the preview audience, but it was just an electric exchange between stage and stalls and I feel lucky to have been able to see it. Trafalgar Studios is a smallish theater, this play is just a revival, not a premiere, but damn, here I am living in London and this kind of stuff is just going on all of the time. Or not, really, because there are certainly plenty of dogs out there. But if you’re looking to get your laughs in, I gotta say, get your buns in a seat in Studio 1 and get ready for great night out – Mr. Sloane will deliver.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, January 27th, 2009. For an alternate, yet similar take, please see the West End Whingers’ review. It runs through April 13th – don’t wait too long or it will be gone!)


Great deal on Les 7 Doigts de la Main (French-Canadian circus) “Traces” show at the Peacock Theatre – Metro reader deal

January 28, 2009

The Metro had an offer for the French-Canadian circus troop Les Sept Doigts de la Main’s show “Traces” in the paper today. The deal is for half off the top two ticket prices (£36 and £28, so already a good deal) and is good for 3-19 of February, not including Saturdays (so not quite on Valentine’s day, alas). To get the deal, either call 0844 412 4322 and quote the “Metro Offer,” or buy on the Sadler’s Wells website and use the promo code pcdmetro when prompted.

For more information on the show, please go to Sadler’s Wells site, which includes a video. I unfortunately can’t take advantage of this deal as I’m already booked for March 3rd but it should be a great evening.

Also, saw “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” last night at the Trafalgar Studios, which was fantastic. More details to come.

Review – “It’s Behind You” – Union Theatre, Southwark

January 22, 2009

I am a big panto fan, no doubt about it. I spend the year looking forward to my next trip to the Hackey Empire and the most fun I’ll have in a theater all year long. I’m also a big fan of the Union Theatre in Southwark ever since seeing their Annie Get Your Gun” last spring. So I was very excited at the thought of this intimate, gritty space being used for a panto, especially on that was billed as “not for the kiddies” (as The Lyric Hammersmith’s Cinderella should have been). So off I went, adult companion by my side, to a Saturday afternoon performance for which I had very high hopes.

Things got off to a good start as our deliciously creepy narrator (Phillip Lawrence) escorted us into the tiny theater (set up with back and side seats, the stage itself forming the other side of a rectangle in combination with the seats). The set was particular low budget – just two painted drops showing “Pantoville.” We had a song and dance number featuring our various bizarre cast members – Stinkerbelle (Victoria McKenzie), “Mayor” Hook (Anton Tweedale, whom the narrator encouraged us to boo), a wheelchair-bound Cinders (Alison Edmunds), the bearded and hairy “Ugley” sisters (Warren Rusher and Richard Aloi), and the shockingly gay looking Buttons (Darren Munn). (By “shocking” I mean in a 80’s Richard Simmons kind of way, with a sweatband, fluffy hair, and eyeliner completely encircling his eyes.) These seemed to be a much darker version of the normal Panto crew, and quite the contrast to the various members of Mother Goose. The Ugley sisters were sex shop proprietors, Prince Charming (Victoria Jeffrey) was a corset-clad dominatrix, and, well, our Narrator appeared to have snuck off from Cabaret. So far, so good.

Our leads then appeared – a sort of Brad and Janet, but in this case, a Gary (Ross Henry Steele) and Karen (Carina Reeves), a couple who were apparently about to get hitched in the registry office before the male half disappeared into the loo (and Pantoland), leaving his very pregnant bride behind. The various plots then began to manifest – Gary (who kept not being found by Karen) seemed to be unwilling to admit he was getting married, Karen was hiding the fortune she was to inherit if she married, and (dah dah DAH!) people were being mysteriously murdered in Pantoland. A runaround began as Gary and Karen tried to find (or not find) each other, and various people attempted to either solve the murders or pull Gary and/or Karen.

Unfortunately, the energy for most of the first act just wasn’t enough to sustain all of this to-ing and fro-ing. There were some songs and a bit of dancing and some comedy, but I wanted things to be way more up and in your face. I’m not sure if it was because this was a matinee and almost the very end of the run, but the sparkle just wasn’t there. So much of the fun for pantos for me is watching actors hamming it up and having a good time, especially when things go not quite right and they have to start improving. For It’s Behind You, the line delivery, special effects, and acting all seemed to be quite where they wanted to be … and it was lifeless. Sure, the vanilla characters are always a bit dull, though Carina was actually quite on depicting a rather poor girl trying to make the best of a bad situation, but the rest of the characters just weren’t able to pump it up enough to make up the difference.

Oddly, I actually got intrigued by the late-arriving plot twist: Gary was actually gay and only with Karen to keep his reputation up. This actually got into a more nuanced analysis of this kind of situation than I would have ever expected from some silly flip of a play – how do you deal with this? It’s really just all too common, both pretending to be what your not and dealing with a person who doesn’t really love you even though they really want to – but can’t. It reminded me of high school rather a bit too much. This was enough of an impetus to get me to come back for the second act, which did manage to get quite a bit goofier and had a truly amazing ball scene in which people were sprayed with perfumes (“Anger!” “Honesty!” “ORGY!”) that made them all act most amusingly. It was a bit like the “Time Warp” scene of Rocky Horror, only far more pleasant. And there was a nice twist at the end as it turned out the bad guy wasn’t the person we thought, and Karen gets to (mostly) solve the murder, as a new mother – and comes to accept the fact that she needs to move on and let Gary find his own way … with Buttons.

Ultimately I found this show rather disappointing though it wasn’t wholly bad – I think I might have just caught the cast on a bad day. Or, who knows, maybe it did need a lot more editing and more fun stuck in the first act. At any rate, my enthusiasm for Union Theatre does continue and I look forward to seeing their next in-house production, which I think is going to be Jeckyll and Hyde (but can’t verify as their website is down as I write this).

(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday, January 17th, 2009. This production closed on January 17th after the 7:30 performance.)

Webcowgirl’s review of London theater 2008

January 15, 2009

Well, it’s been the busiest show year for me in my entire life. Sadly, I don’t think I can speak to the entirety of London theater even with some 93 shows under my belt (all paid out of pocket, which does impose limits on what I can see), but I think I can at least say I made a good attempt at covering the scene …

Best dance performance:

New York City Ballet’s Jerome Robbins Program (Four Seasons, Moves, The Concert). I am a big fan of the mixed rep performance (because it provides you with a chance to see many different styles in one night), but often a really strong program will be marred by one piece that’s a real dog. But when you take a world class company like City Ballet and pair it with choreography by Robbins – well, this was the kind of night that had me walking out of the theater gasping for breath. Whew!

Best theater I “discovered:”

The Arcola Theatre, way off in the eastern wilds of Dalston, became the theater I most wanted to visit this year. I saw two productions there (Lady from the Sea, The Only Girl in the World) and kept trying to see more. The intimacy of the two spaces within the theater really pleased me; the coffee shop made waiting for the show to open pleasant; the inventiveness of the directors engaged my mind. Why is it that it always seems like when you give people less, they can do more? The biggest problem with this theater: getting home an hour and a half after the end of the show really killed me and kept me from seeing at least two shows. Still, they have another exciting season ahead and I will try to go back often.

Worst seating:

I know the Menier Chocolate Factory has recently started reserved seating (on a “show by show basis,” God knows why), but I actually got scrapes on my thighs from the seats I had for “They’re Playing Our Song,” and my front row seats for “A Little Night Music” put my eye level at about the height of my knees. Do these people never actually watch the shows from the seats or what?

Best cheesy musical:

though my seats were far from ideal, the most fun West end musical this year was absolutely “Zorro.” This panto for adults also wins the prize for best musical to take out of town visitors to see. I expect it will be around for a while, and deservedly so.

Best musical:

the Union Theatre in Southwark knocked my socks off with their “Annie Get Your Gun.” First you’ve got the most awesome music ever (it was just one hit after another), then you take a pile of brilliant actors and pack them in a room so tightly they’re practically sitting in your lap, then you make them sing and dance and ham it up, and there you have the incredibly overstimulating Annie/Gun experience. I’ve only not made it back to that theater because of the Union’s tendency to sell their shows out so far in advance. MUST remember to make reservations earlier from now on!

Best show:

it wasn’t just the hype: for me, “August: Osage County” was a “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” kind of show, with a on the mark script that in the hands of its stellar cast managed to get me through three hours of chatter without once boring me. The characters were sharp and realistically written; their conflicts believable; and, ooh, even if many of the plot points were pulled straight out of the O’Neill bag of tricks, how fresh they seemed. Oddly, both it and “Gesthemane” seemed to be critiques of a world gone rotten through bad politics (this rot seeming to extend to the family), but it’s my belief that “Osage County” will stand the test of time and O’Hare’s show will be forgotten in another year or so. It’s all about great characters and timeless themes, folks, and Tracy Letts’ play has got ’em in spades. (For a long time it looked like it was going to be the theatrical magic of “Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter” that took the prize, but Deanna Dunagan just blew me out of the Lyttelton.)

Worst show:

well, you know, there was the pretentiousness, and then the farting jokes, and then the incoherent plot, and the boringness, and then the pretentiousness, and that’s not even including the overall horror that is what happens when you try to use rhyming couplets as a medium for telling a show. Yes, I am talking about “Fram,” a play so bad that it’s become legendary, a point of reference for badness (the “baddicle”), and the inspiration for my only rhymed review of a show. Does a play have sleeping bags, or dogs, or perhaps a reference to Westminster Abbey, or even a banquet scene? Then, sir, you may be hearing a joke about how it makes me think of Fram. One member of my party had to leave in a rush at intermission due to an impending panic attack; I had to buy drinks for the remaining members of my party (who trickled out at the end of intermission) as an apology for inviting them. Who knows: perhaps some day the National will remount Carrie: The Musical as an apt pairing with this other turkey. God only knows it is good to support new works but sometimes you can take it too far.

Weirdest show:

the “Shen Yu Divine Performing Arts Ensemble Chinese Spectacular gets the prize here. I’m a big fan of Chinese culture, but when you combine cheesy special effects with a religious revival, you get me looking for the doors. I’ve never seen a mainstage performance that was also pushing a political and religious agenda at the same time, and nowhere on the promotional literature did it say that this was the Fa Lun Gung religious cult’s take on China, Chinese culture, and Chinese art – with lots of pro-Fa Lun Gung songs, done in a horrible European style, sandwiched between the dance bits. I prefer to keep my dance separated from my politics, and I don’t like people doing a bait and switch like happened here – telling me I was going to see “art” and instead giving me a bunch of “religion.” I much preferred the Peony Pavillion, which gave me a chance to see a truly classical Chinese performance (and over three nights!).

Best cheap place to eat before a show:

there were a few great entries in this category this year. Paul’s given up its Covent Garden crown in favor of Wahaca; Bangalore Express has the Old Vic and Young nicely covered; but the restaurant I dreamed of was 19 Numara Bos Cirrik, around the corner from the Arcola. It’s the only restaurant that made me look for excuses to be in the neighborhood. Mmm, meat! (And there’s another one around the corner from the Hackney, but I only go there at panto time so that didn’t influence me much.)

Best website for London theatre fans:

there’s a lot of shows out there, and while price is important in determining which to see, it’s even more important (to me) that I not waste my time on turkeys (Thanksgiving is only once a year!). So I thank the West End Whingers not just for being attentive to the many things that can make a good evening better, but also to the horrible, glaring, single thing that can make an evening bad: a completely crap show. They’ve sent me to shows I wouldn’t have considered (Zorro) and done their best to save me from the dogs (Gone With The Wind – The Musical! – saved! Fram – oops), all while doing so with a writing style that keeps me entertained consistently (more than I can say for many of the shows they’ve seen). They even inspired me to do my own blog. Thanks, Phil and Andrew!

Best website for London theatre deals:

of all of the things people seem interested in reading about on this site, it’s my post on the 12 best ways to get cheap theater tickets in London that keeps the punters coming. So I’ve started adding more deals to the site as I see them come through. That said, for me personally, has done the most to make it possible for ME to see as many shows as I do. I don’t have an unlimited budget, and when times are tight, I know I can pop over to their site with a good chance of being able to find something for £10-£15. I can’t always find the show I want when I want it, and I’m occasionally going to get not very good seats, but when the option is not going at all … to me, it’s more important to have been there and seen most of it than to have not been able to go at all. Thanks, – and for the rest of you people who keep trying to flog your crappy, overpriced scalper seats on my site – buzz off!

A break from our regularly scheduled programming

January 9, 2009

Sorry no theater posts this week – I’m busy moving and haven’t had any free time.

However, I DO have enough time to complain about something. This is, I believe, what the internet is for!

I wrote to Ebay seller iluvjazzy-2008 saying that their $6.95 cost for shipping a sweater was high and asking for a reduction … because USPS Priority mail rate is $4.80 and includes a box, so anything above that is basically pure profit …

And she blocked me from bidding on her stuff! I’m quite insulted.

Anyway, while I’m here: what show should I see to celebrate having moved house?

Great deal for tickets to the Royal Ballet’s “La Bayadere” (January 2009)

January 7, 2009

Today’s Metro had a great deal for the Royal Ballet’s La Bayadere – main floor (orchestra) tickets for only £42.50 on the performances taking place January 13, 21, 22, and 26th at 7:30 PM. I haven’t ever made it to the main floor (normal prices around £80 make this a ridiculous extravagance for me), but this is tempting – I saw the Bolshoi’s Bayadere and it’s really pretty cool, a classic (yet over the top and somewhat camp) 19th century story ballet, complete with a third act that takes place in the land of the dead that’s up there with Swan Lake and Giselle and basically a must-see.

Anyway, the details are thus: go to WWW.ROH.ORG/BAYADERE, type “metro” (or maybe METRO) into the “have a code” box and click go.

Good luck! I would assume it’s not the A cast performing on these nights, but given that it’s the Royal Ballet, you can’t really lose – it’s not exactly a company with only one or two great dancers, and seeing who’s “up and coming” is still a pleasure.

LATER: Holy cow, the cast on the 13th includes total hotties Tamara Rojo, Marianela Nuñez AND Carlos Acosta, SIGN ME UP!

Review – South Pacific – Lincoln Center

January 5, 2009

South Pacific is one of the two shows that a positive review in the New York Times left me drooling to see. “This ‘South Pacific’ recreates the unabashed, unquestioning romance that American theatergoers had with the American book musical in the mid-20th century”? Ooh baby. That is the era of musical theater I worship, and Roger and Hammerstein are its deities. With a trip to New York on my schedule, South Pacific became the one show I had to see (thanks to the fortuitous temporary relocation of the Steppenwolf to these shores).

But by the time I got around to trying to buy tickets – fuggedabout it! Even with extra shows added for Christmas, there was nothing available until after I left! And the prices – good God! Who would have thought I’d been spoiled in London? But at straight prices, we were looking at $75 for the row D & E seats in the balcony (“loge”), and $125 for ALL other seats, both main floor (Orchestra/stalls) and the front three rows of the balcony! GOOD GOD! This was going to wipe my budget out in one fell swoop!

I can’t say whether or not there are any kind of discounts availble for this show (i.e. for students or groups), as I wouldn’t have qualified for them. I found myself thrown in the arms of a horror I’d attempted to avoid for years – the ticket scalper reseller. This is, unsurprisingly, QUITE the business in New York. I spent a lot of time popping around from one online site to another – easy enough when you’re at work, online, and singlemindedly focused – and the site that I like a lot was Tickets Now, which gets creds from me for being legitimate (it’s owned by Ticketmaster) and for having a really wide variety of dates and prices. I can’t say just how it works – it seemed like some of the tickets might have required meeting someone for a handoff – but it DID have tickets even below cost. And it had a deal that let you get $100 off your order if you applied for the American Express blue card – but be advised if you do that, your coupon may take a week (or more) to show up – in this case, not soon enough for me. And at costs starting rather too often at around $250 per ticket … well, I could find other things to do for that kind of money, which would get me through an entire season at the Royal Ballet. (Note: this site seems to be a good one for single tickets – keep this in mind.)

What was I to do? Well, I went to Ebay at a friend’s recommendation, and there I found a pair of tickets for sale for the princely sum of $170. Wait … at $125 per seat, this turned out to be below cost! These were offered by Ebay seller CalPaul47, and while I was a bit nervous about the whole thing, a note appeared (after I started buying the tickets?) saying that all Ebay ticket purchases made with/in New York were protected by New York’s laws on ticket resalers – which still left me feeling quite nervous about the whole thing. With overnight shipping, this was almost $200, the most I’d ever paid for anything on Ebay! How horrible if it all went wrong somehow!

As it turns out I needn’t have worried. The tickets made it to my friend’s office on time, as promised, and when we met her at the bar (just after getting off the plane and dropping off our bags), she had them in her hot little hands. These were “etickets” of a sort I hadn’t seen before – they had a bar code on them which the usher scanned (the next day) on our way into Lincoln Center – so far so good! We wound up with seats 515 and 516 in row A, and I was actually quite grumpy about this when I realized that in the big arc surrounding the stage (imagine the seats forming the curve of a letter D, with the stage as the straight bar), we were at the very point where the curve met the bar. This, I think, accounted for the lower price – but to be honest it wasn’t really that bad, as there was only ONE scene (when the girls were finishing “I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair”) when there was important action happening on stage we couldn’t see. Otherwise, FOR THE PRICE, they were just fine – but they were NOT $200 seats each, no way, Jose. The price we paid was more or less right.

And, after all of that build-up, how was the show? It seems like it’s difficult to add much to a show that’s already been so effusively reviewed. But I had this advantage: despite knowing a few of the songs, I didn’t know most of them, and in fact didn’t really know much at all about the plot, as I’d given up on watching it the one time we rented it (the tape was destroyed and no fun at all). So for me, this was practically a completely new show which I was seeing as a blank slate.

So what happened after the curtain came up and the orchestra finished the overture (and the floor rolled back over the orchestra so that there was a nice thrust stage for people to perform on)? Well, Kelli O’Hara, our little Nellie Forbush, came out singing “Cockeyed Optimist” with a voice that sounded like melting honey … and I was totally sold on everything, for the whole show. Was David Pittsinger (Emil DeBeq) maybe a little creepy to be wanting to date a girl who looked to be 35 years younger than he was? (He looked to be fifteen years older than his character’s backstory seemed to indicate.) Well, with a deep, strong voice like his, who cared? And how was it I’d never heard “Some Enchanted Evening” before? (Picture me getting goosebumps as I type this)?

There are some little clunky bits with the show. “Dites Moi” is just too cute to be tolerated, but I was shocked to find “Happy Talk,” which I’d found nauseating on paper (and on the soundtrack), actually brought tears to my eyes because of the way it fit into the story. God, I’ve become a sap as I’ve gotten older. I found Nellie somewhat lacking in career goals, though the whole fact that she’d left a small town and joined the navy – for rough duty – was still pretty impressive. And, well, the whole bit about Nellie hating the thought of being the mother to mixed race kids … it’s not like the world has really changed that much, and to me it just seemed like facing up to the reality of how America still is in many ways, “under the skin” as it were. And the Bloody Mary character, she just seemed to be a cartoon Polynesian fantasy of Rogers and Hammerstein rather than the least bit real.

The staging was great – I loved the airplane on stage for the “Wash That Man” song, and I really enjoyed the use of light, shadows, and Venetian blinds to create the feel of a plantation during the DeBecque scenes. I was really just sucked into the whole thing wholeheartedly. In fact, at the end, when DeBecque is risking his life along with another soldier, I found myself getting rather emotionally involved. Ah well. Isn’t that what theater is supposed to be like? At any rate, a great evening out, a wonderful show – do try to see it!

(This review is for a performance that took place on December 20th, 2008.)

Review – Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab – 47th Street Theater

January 3, 2009

(Summary: I laughed a lot. Good if you have a few shots beforehand.)

Christmas Day in New York City: what would be the sure cure for not just the claustrophobia of too many relatives, but the saccharine-sweet taste of a Disneyfied Great White Way? Why, a musical revue that mocks all of it, aimed a bitter old gits who’ve seen so many shows they feel free to walk out at intermission if they feel like they’re not getting their $120 worth out of the evening. In short, this play was aimed right square at ME, and it was #2 on my list of things to see in New York, since August: Osage County had blissfully made it to the stage of London’s National Theatre and Xanadu had rather crushingly closed … and I’d manage to score tickets for and see South Pacific already. So Forbidden Broadway was number two on my list of shows to see – especially since this is supposed to be its very final incarnation. With tourists galore clogging the line at the TKTS booth, debating “Little Mermaid” or “Chicago,” we had no problem getting ourselves seats … and we were off!

Per my Playbill (God, it was nice to get free programs again!), the performers for the evening were Christina Bianco, Gina Kreiezmar, Michael West and (listed on the marquee) William Selby subbing for James Donegan (and David Caldwell on piano). The theater itself was tiny, maybe an 80 – 100 seater – decidedly intimate. The evening opened with a sort of “Alcoholics Anonymous” meeting: “Hi, my name is William … I haven’t been to a good show in 60 days. I am a Broadway addict.” “Hi, William.” Each of the group went around to introduce themselves (I liked the celebrity addict, who hadn’t stalked someone for all of six or so hours), then went into their first song, which introduced the theme of addiction to theater … in spite of the thin quality of offerings.

Then we went into an endless series of musical vignettes roasting most of the shows on at the moment, and even a few that aren’t (actually, I think only the Annie bit was for a show not happening – no, they had Xanadu, too – guess that bit was too good to cut!). They repeatedly mocked the Disneyfication of Broadway (I found the Little Mermaid number hysterical, especially after reading the pseudo-story in the Playbill about the actual star of that show – “As a young girl in Denver, Sierra dreamed of two things: being Ariel and going to Broadway.” Not bloody likely!), but countered this with a send-up of Spring Awakening, in which the actors whined about how they were never going to be able to take a show with so much sex on tour.

Straight shows were teased, too. I got a big kick out of the Daniel Radcliffe/Equus bit, which had the actor show up on stage in full Hogwarts gear, then basically strip down to a Fosse-like hat over his crotch. August: Osage County not only had a boxing match between the matriarch and her eldest daughter, but had several of the plot elements’ blatant debts to O’Neill mentioned – highlighting some parallels I’d apparently missed (since I’ve only seen one of his plays). There was also a sort of Sondheim tribute, in which Sondheim complained about how he keeps getting revived with only three piece bands to handle his full orchestration and “Bernadette Peters” begged him to write a new part for her, since he’d fried her voice.

Generallly, this show required little knowledge of the shows being mocked, as the witty lyrics were more than entertaining enough on their own. I would have got more out of it if I’d seen more of these shows, no doubt: I was about peeing myself during the South Pacific scene, especially when “Nellie Forbush” ran away from “DeBecque” because he had child … actors. And there was a certain amount of Broadway gossip that I’m just not privvy to (living as far away as I do, not that one couldn’t follow the online message boards and probably do a good job of keeping up) and some very, very in jokes that I think only the 14 year old red-headed boy in the audience was fully appreciating.

However, how can you not appreciate a song like (visualize Mary Poppins): “Feed the burbs … tuppence a bag … Tepid! Vapid! Musicals pay …” and the hysterical Frankenstein and Monster top hat and tails duet “Puttin’ up with Shit?” I was all ready to buy the CD to take home with me so I could keep laughing at home, but apparently this version of the show hasn’t been pressed yet. Oh well – seeing it live is what it’s all about, right? But the greatest moment of the night was when Gina Kreiezmar came on to do her Liza schtick. (I thought this was especially great because Liza’s new show had only been on for about two weeks, so I was impressed they’d been able to add it in so quickly.) She mugged, she hammed, she went on about how great it was that people were there to see her, she pretended like she cared about the audience at all, she forgot what she was doing, she rambled, she “subtlely” brought up her mom … she went crazy with the guy in the audience she went to address directly, who was Russian and had a name that sounded like Milk Cow. It was really over the top. Anyway, I thought this was a brilliant evening and really hope I have a chance to see Forbidden Broadway again – somehow!

(This review is for a performance that took place on December 25th, 2008. Yes, we went and saw a play on Christmas Day, then we went to the Village and sang showtunes at Marie’s Crisis. It was a grand day!)

Review – No Man’s Land – Duke of York’s Theatre

January 2, 2009

Well, tonight is closing night for this play, so there’s not really much to say – it looked pretty sold out last night, and it will probably also be so today. We had a hard time getting seats at all, especially given that we’re operating on a tight budget so close to Christmas and our upcoming house move. Thus I was excited to get ten quid seats, as it enabled me to justify a play I needed to see in order to accomplish my goal of seeing every play ever written by Pinter – an easier goal to accomplish now that the list is fixed due to his death, which I’m very sad about.

It should be noted, though, that ten quid tickets with the kind of restricted views we had may not be such a deal. Here is my sketch of the stage from our seats in row C of the upper balcony:

The circle with the nose in my lower right palm is Michael Gambon. There was another actor in this scene, but as you can tell from the pictorial record, I could in no way SEE him (though I could hear him talking). At another point there was a scene with THREE people, of which you could see the lower half of one of them (David Bradley as Spooner) and then the shadows of the other two guys (Rupert Goold and Nick Dunning, never did figure out their characters’ names but they’re available online), which I thought made the whole thing look just quite dramatic – as a painting. As theater, it was very irritating. Wechsler calls it the “Curse of Low-ro,” but it’s the curse of tight budget for me. On the other hand, I was at least able to see it.

Am I glad about that? Well, this play is really quite … Pinteresque, or as my husband would put it, “unfathomable ” (actually the quote was, “I got nothing out of that”), at least when you’re still recovering from New Year’s Eve and some really hard core jet lag. While I could noodle on about what I think the plot MIGHT have been about, I’d prefer to complain about Goold and Dunning, who just seemed stiff and uninteresting. I believe in Pinter, and I believe when actors seem so unconvincing in one of his plays, it’s their own damned fault and NOT that of the script. David Bradley looked like he was having a grand time, hamming it up, really enjoying the packed house (there to pay their respects to the great author, so recently passed?), and Michael Gambon was deliciously confused as the rich old codger who couldn’t seem to remember what he was doing from one minute to the next but still faked it like a pro (with a gorgeous voice). Me, I enjoyed my own delicious confusion, and what I wish I could do is sit down, read the text (with all of its extremely rude dialogue), and then go back and see the play. But it closes tonight. At least, then, I am glad that I did see it the once.

And, again, I am very, very sad about Harold Pinter dying. I had wished I could tell him in person some day how much I enjoy his work. I find them to always be a bit of a puzzle, and I will enjoy working this one out.

(This review is for a performance seen on January 1st, 2009. Rest in peace, great man.)