Guess who, your friendly neighborhood theater fan! I’m trying to get caught up on all my experiences this year! You can always read the rest of my adventures in theater or check out March here. Okay, April! I have a lot of stories for April. Seven, to be exact.
Let’s start in Jersey, with one of my favorite places: Paper Mill Playhouse. This is where Newsies started in 2011. They won a Tony award in 2016 for Best Regional Theatre. Currently on Broadway are two shows that had their world premiere at Paper Mill: A Bronx Tale and Bandstand (more on that one later). This time, they were showing Million Dollar Quartet, which is about a legendary night at Sun Records in Memphis, TN. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis all got together and jammed for the one and only time. I was mostly interested in this particular production because Alex Boniello, who had been Moritz in Deaf West’s Spring Awakening revival in 2015. I also knew a lot of the music from that era. What was fun about this show was the other actors playing the musicians — specifically Nat Zegree, who played Jerry Lee and Scott Moreau, who played Johnny Cash — make a living playing these people specifically. Scott’s voice sounded so much like Johnny Cash, you’d swear it was the real thing. And Nat was filled with so much energy as the young Jerry Lee Lewis, it was almost tiring just watching him!
The following weekend, it was back to NY two days in a row! Saturday brought me to Roundabout Theatre Company’s off-Broadway house, the Laura Pels Theater. I’d seen Love, Love, Love here in November as well as The Robber Bridegroom in April 2016. This time, it was a play called If I Forget about a Jewish family and how they relate to one another. It was good to see with the group I went with; I think we all recognized members of our family in that play. Roundabout always puts on good or interesting shows.
Sunday was a two-show day! I ventured outside of my usual area over to the east side to see the off-Broadway play The Hairy Ape at Park Avenue Armory. This play got excellent reviews, both from critics and people I knew who saw it, so I figured it was interesting enough to check out. The main reason I went, though, was that Tommy Bracco (Spot in the OBC and filmed stage version of Newsies) was in the ensemble and I wanted to go support him. I’m glad I went, especially for Tommy, but it’s definitely not my usual preference. It was more of a spoken-word performance with dance, rather than a linear play with a plot. Bobby Canavale, who played the main character of Yank, was mesmerizing. The set was minimal, and rolled in and out. The space is huge and is set up like bleachers looking down on a black floor. Naturally, I kept picking out Tommy every time the ensemble was onstage!
Back in the theater district, I visited the Circle in the Square theater for In Transit’s last performance and got to wish the cast well. Also got to say hi to Justin Guarini, who didn’t come out when I saw the show in February. Then next door to the Gershwin to see if I could catch Kara Lindsay after Wicked. Luckily, she came out! She signed my Newsies book, and I got to tell her I loved seeing her in the stage movie and she was my favorite Katherine. Also got to tell her that I’d just seen Tommy’s play and she was a little envious on that; she wouldn’t have time to see it. She’s amazing, though, and I hope to see her as Glinda again soon.
Then I caught the 7pm showing of Significant Other before it closed. Well, I don’t know what I expected from this, but I certainly didn’t expect it to feel so relevant! The play concerns the lives of four college friends and their search for relationships. Three of the friends, Kiki, Vanessa and Laura, all age 29, are engaged and are preparing for their respective weddings. Their college friend, Jordan Berman, is seeking a boyfriend of his own, and hoping to be as lucky in love as his friends are. Jordan Berman confides in his grandmother, played by Barbara Barrie. From the empty seats in the mezzanine, I’m not surprised it closed. What I am surprised about is that it didn’t have more audience members! It really was brilliant, emotional, and relatable. The fact that Gideon Glick didn’t get a Tony nom for Best Actor in a Play was shocking. I was originally not planning to stage door after, because it was a Sunday night and there wasn’t anyone in particular I needed to see. However, after that incredible performance, I had to go to the stage door to say hi and thank you to the actors. Fun tidbit: also in attendance that evening? Mike Faist and Will Roland of Dear Evan Hansen fame.
The following week, it was finally time to see the Broadway production of Bandstand. I’d seen this when it premiered at Paper Mill in October 2015 and was blown away. They announced a Broadway transfer around that time and we didn’t hear anything until almost a full year later! They announced a good sale for Cyber Monday, so I jumped on it with my friend Meredith who I’d seen it with at Paper Mill. When the marquees went up at the Jacobs theatre, I kept going to “visit” the building just because it made me so happy that it was there. Now after all that waiting, it was time to see the Broadway version of the show. Well, not only did they keep everything that was great about the original, they tightened it up, changed some songs, and just overall made it better. I knew immediately I’d have to see it multiple times. Again with the Tony nominations — Corey Cott should have gotten a nom for Best Actor in a Musical. (But no one asked me!) He was that good. Everyone was — Laura Osnes, the other musicians in the band, Beth Leavel, who plays the mom to Laura’s character — but especially Corey is leading that band and pouring his heart out onstage 8 times a week. The show deservedly did get nominated for best choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler (of Hamilton choreography fame) and best orchestrations. Bandstand is not, contrary to the title, a jukebox musical about the Dick Clark era. The musical takes place in the 1940s, and centers around Donny Novitski, just back from serving in WWII, and he puts together a band of fellow vets, featuring the lovely voice of Mrs. Julia Trojan, whose late husband was Donny’s best friend overseas. The piece is so powerful and deals with issues we are still dealing with – how to respect vets and PTSD.
We got to see Corey and Laura after the show, at the stage door, and tell them how wonderful it was, and that we’d seen it back at Paper Mill. I also told Corey he was my favorite Jack. (Which, after much analyzing and discussion with my friend Macrae the following day, that is true and it isn’t at the same time. They all brought something so different to the role that they’re all my favorite.) One fun thing that happened is while we were at the stage door waiting for the actors, some of the ensemble members were hanging out of their dressing room windows facing the street calling down to us. One of them recorded us on their phone, the whole crowd in unison saying “We love Bandstand!”
On a Wednesday night late in the month, 54 Below was having a concert of Ed Sheeran songs. Normally, that wouldn’t interest me that much — I don’t mind Ed Sheeran’s music, but it’s not top of my list. However, this was full of former Newsies attending, and you know I can’t resist that. Josh Burrage, Ben Cook, Kaitlyn Frank, Iain Young, Jon Hacker, Adam Kaplan… so many Newsies. My preferred seating area was open and there was a 35% off Flash Sale. Well, I suppose that settled it. I bought a ticket. Then, the day before the concert, they announced a special MC: Tommy Bracco! It was a fun show and I knew more Sheeran songs than I thought I did. But then I got to see all my faves after. I gave them hugs and we took pictures and I even got Adam Kaplan (who was in both the Broadway and touring casts) to sign my Newsies book! (I found a few pictures of Iain in the book after I got home… next time!) I introduced myself to Shoshana Feinstein and Ashlee Latimer, who are frequent producers at 54 Below and often put their faves in shows. Luckily for me, their faves also happen to be mine. Said Ashlee, “Don’t worry about [mixing up her and Shoshana]! We both have dark hair and are often surrounded by Newsies.” I think that’s my dream.
Finally, the very last day in April, I was back for a Sunday evening show. This time I headed up to the Winter Garden to rock out with the kids of School of Rock. Alex Brightman, who originated the role of Dewey Finn, was back in the role for about 2 weeks. Luckily, I was free that evening and picked up a ticket to go see his last show. It was also a new group of kids from when I’d seen it last fall, which was exciting. I’d seen the alternate as Dewey in September, Will Blum. He was excellent, but I was looking forward to seeing Alex in the role. Well, I was hardly disappointed. I think it was actually more fun this time because I knew the songs. It’s such a rocking good time. Alex was fun after, at the stage door, too. I was wearing my “Wayward AF” shirt and he asked me what it meant, so I told him a little about the “wayward” campaign and how it related to Supernatural. He started busting on me a little, asking why he should watch it. When I gave him reasons, he asked if I was the publicity manager. It was all in good fun, but he said he was going to start watching and then blame me if he doesn’t like it. Gladly, Alex. I will take full responsibility if it’s not your thing.