August Theater pt 1: 54 Below, Hamilton, and stagedooring

Hey all, Adina here, back with more Broadway and theatre stories! As always, you can read the rest of my adventures here. August was so busy, I’m going to break it up into two posts. Here’s part 1!

 

First weekend in August, I met up with my Partner in Crime Ally to see the play Marvin’s Room, put on by Roundabout. (Yay for $25 HIPTIX!) It was a pretty good cast, with Janeane Garafalo and Lilli Taylor heading it up. Plus, Luca Padovan (previously Billy in School of Rock and Les in the Broadway company of Newsies) so you know it’s gonna be good! The play tells the story of two estranged sisters, one of which, Bessie, cares for their aging father and aunt, and the other, Lee, is dealing with raising her two sons on her own. When Bessie is diagnosed with leukemia, Lee packs up her two boys and comes to stay with Bessie. I enjoyed this play, but I think it would have been better off in a smaller theater. It felt too intimate for such a large space. After the show, we stayed for a talkback with some of the actors, including Janeane and Luca. There were some questions about how they viewed their characters and getting started in the acting business. Luca gave a shoutout to Newsies, saying that he’d known he wanted to be an actor “when he grew up,” but seeing Newsies made him realize he didn’t have to wait that long. We cheered for Newsies when it was mentioned, which made Luca happy. We got to see him outside, where he signed Ally’s newspaper and we took a picture.

 

Luca Padovan and A2

 

After, it was still fairly early, so we decided to check out the scene at the Hello, Dolly! stage door, since we couldn’t stagedoor when we’d seen it the previous month (Shubert Alley, where the stage door is, was closed to the public). We came prepared with our playbills from July, so we could collect signatures. Well, wouldn’t you know the first person we see is Gavin Creel! (Previously seen in Hair as Claude and She Loves Me as Kodaly, and Tony-winner for his role as Cornelius in Dolly!) We told him how much we’d enjoyed seeing him in all his shows, and how we’d watched video of Hair many times (just the Tony Awards performance, we promise! No bootlegs, of course!) Gavin: “I was on so many drugs that night… legal ones, I mean!” I believe you, Gavin. Whatever the “drugs,” I’m sure it was a good way to get in character as Claude!

 

Tony-winner Gavin Creel

 

When security announced everyone was done at Dolly, we realized we were right at 45th St about 2.5 hours after a 3PM matinee of Bandstand let out, so why not? Let’s go say hi. As the patrons started streaming out of the theatre, I nipped inside to grab some playbills while Ally held our spot by the barricade. I had stickers to give some of the performers that I’d been holding on to. I was able to give out the drums sticker to Joe Carroll (who plays Johnny Simpson, “a monster on drums” for the Donny Nova Band), one featuring an upright bass to Brandon Ellis (the joke-cracking, bass-playing Davy Zlatic), and the sax sticker to Nate Hopkins (Jimmy Campbell, sax & clarinet-playing law student). Makes me feel good to show them some tactical appreciation! I left Ally and had to run from there around 6:30 so I could make it up to 54th Street, where…

 

…Several of the Bandstand cast were performing in a concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below! They were singing songs of the ‘40s era, big band/swing. Perfect for that cast, right? 54 Below knows how to book events. This was also cool because it was partially a fundraiser for Got Your Six, which if you remember, is an organization dedicated to helping vets integrate into society and make sure the media portrays them realistically. (Bandstand was the first Broadway show to be “6-Certified.”) I knew a lot of the songs, having grown up listening to diverse music genres. It was fun to get to see some of the people featured whose voices aren’t on display that much during the show. Some standouts for me were swings (meaning they are not in the show every day; they come in when someone calls out) Patrick Connaghan and Matt Cusack; Brandon Ellis really got to show off his voice; Nate Hopkins sat at the piano and shared some stories of how he used to work in a piano bar prior to Bandstand. Mary Callanan, an ensemble member of the show, was a perfect Emcee for the evening. I got to chat with some of the performers after the show, which was nice, especially for the ensemble members and swings who don’t regularly come out to sign after performances. I also got to say hi and give hugs to Nate and Brandon before I had to leave.

 

Cast of Bandstand sings music of the swing era

 

Speaking of Bandstand, sad news came that Wednesday when the news broke of its closing date: September 17. It wasn’t that surprising, given the lack of attendance, but I’d hoped it would pull through past the fall. It wasn’t to be, so I’ll just have to keep going as much as I can before the final curtain. I had missed Newsies final performance in 2014, due to some circumstances beyond my control, but I wasn’t going to miss this one. I already have my ticket for the final performance as well as a few more along the way.

 

The following week, Tuesday was finally time to use the tickets I’d purchased back in November. The 2016 Tony Award winner (and nearly impossible to get tickets to): Hamilton: An American Musical. I was filled with excitement and there was a certain anxious tension in the air where everyone was in the “room where it happened,” to quote a song from the show. The cast was phenomenal. Mandy Gonzalez, previously original cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, was a confident and strong Angelica. Lexie Lawson, one of the many actresses who was a Mimi in Rent, was lovely as Eliza. I adored Thomas Jefferson, played by James Monroe Igleheart, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Genie in Aladdin. He totally killed it during “What’d I Miss,” especially encouraging the entrance applause! Javier Muñoz, who was in the original Hamilton cast as the alternate for Lin’s Alexander, took on the role full time when Lin left. Everyone was top-notch, including the ensemble. I’m glad I finally saw it, although I don’t think I’ll rush back. By the time I was able to see it, the hype was too much and I didn’t feel it quite lived up to everything that was said about it. That being said, if tickets become more affordable and more accessible, I would see it again.

 

In the Room Where it Happens!

 

The next day, I was back in the city and back at 54 Below for another event! This one was celebrating 100 years of Broadhurst Theatre (one of the prominent Broadway theatres), current home to Anastasia. Unlike most of the others, this one didn’t go through any name changes and has actually been the Broadhurst for 100 years! This was run and hosted by Jennifer Tepper, author of the Untold Stories of Broadway series, along with Rob Schneider (no, not Rob Schneider of SNL fame!) who hosts a Broadway podcast. There were stories of the Broadhurst, which was designed by a man named Herbert Krapp (how unfortunate!) and songs from many shows along the way, concluding with “Journey to the Past” from Anastasia. Some of my favorites were Jim Brochu (who I’d seen in Zero Hour) singing “The Caper” from 70 Girls 70, an upbeat tongue twister of a song; “Cabaret” (from the musical of the same name) which was done to perfection by Marcy Harriell, who had been in Lennon (a bio-musical about John Lennon); and Sarah Charles Lewis, singing a song from Tuck Everlasting, which she’d starred in at the Broadhurst in 2016.

 

54 Celebrates 100 Years of the Broadhurst Theatre

 

I’d heard Groundhog Day was closing in September so I knew I had to see it once more. It was such an intricate show, so clever and too easy to miss things, so I’d always planned to see it more than once. I tried my luck with the lottery, and won! I picked a seat in the front mezzanine, and it was off to the city I went on Saturday night. All the principals were in this time, so I was excited to see Andy Karl in the role of Phil. I had a fantastic seat, the best view of all the action – all the quick changes and dizzying moves. How is it that most stage musicals take something that was already good and make it that much better? I’m sad this show is closing; even glowing reviews and two visits in two days from Bill Murray couldn’t save it. It deserves so much more, but hopefully will tour or something. I definitely enjoyed this show even more the second time, trying to pick out more of the nuances. After the show, lots of the cast came out to sign. The stagedoor crowd was so chill; it was great. No pushing, no screaming. It wasn’t even that crowded! It was a pleasure. One of the actors I was excited to meet was Michael Fatica, who played the “chubby man” (how he dances in that fat suit and wig night after night without overheating is a Broadway secret!) in GHD, but was also in the OBC of Newsies. He signed Ally’s newspaper from when we saw the show in Pittsburgh, and my Newsies book. Got a great picture and he sounded a little sad when he said he couldn’t come to the 54 reunion on Monday because GHD had a show that night. Andy Karl (Phil) was the last one to come out, and he took a while, but it was Saturday night! What did I have to run home for? It was a pleasure meeting him and telling him how much I enjoyed the show.

 

Groundhog Day musical: Andy Karl (L) & Michael Fatica

 

Sunday brought “A2 + Mom” (Me, Ally, and her mom) on a road trip up to western Massachusetts, where Barrington Stage Company was putting on a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company starring Aaron Tveit as Bobby. I’d never seen Company live before–I’d only seen the 2011 version with the NY Philharmonic Orchestra and Neil Patrick Harris as Bobby, which was released in movie theaters and later, on DVD. It’s a fairly small theater, which was nice, and nestled in a tiny town without much there. Company tells the story of Bobby on his 35th birthday. Bobby is a single man unable to commit fully to a steady relationship, let alone marriage, while his best friends are five married couples. There’s no direct narrative of a plot, with a beginning, middle, and end. It’s more of a character study, of Bobby and his friends, with vignettes showing scenes from his life at this time. This was an excellent production, and Aaron didn’t disappoint at all. He absolutely killed the 11 o’clock number, the solo “Being Alive,” belting with emotion. After the show, there was a crowd around the stage door, and we got signatures from most of the cast. We even had some Tveit stickers for Aaron to sign: some from the Les Mis movie, where he’d played Enjolras, and some general ones (including one that said “Tveiter Tot” over a picture of him!) He laughed and signed the stickers as well as our programs, and took pictures with us.

 

A3: Adina, Aaron, Ally

That’s all for now; join me again soon for the rest of August! More Newsies, more stagedooring, more 54 Below, more Bandstand, and more Broadway joy!

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