On a Monday evening, I was back at 54 Below for the Newsboys of NY Reunion, which is the Broadway cast of Newsies. Officially, it doesn’t feature any songs from the show, but they often start or end with one. You know you can find me where there’s a group of Newsies cast members! Tommy Bracco (Spot Conlon) emceed, as he’s so good at doing. I learned later he also put together a lot of the fun surprises! This included a Mad Libs of the song “Brooklyn’s Here” and a medley of early 2000s songs sung by the newest Boy Band: “Pulitzer’s Poodles.” (This was Tommy, Adam Kaplan, David Guzman, Andy Richardson, Tommy Martinez, and Aaron Albano.) They even threw in a bit of “Stacy’s Mom,” changing it to “Patrick’s Mom,” which is an homage to the bit in the movie version of “Carryin’ the Banner,” where “Patrick’s Mother” sings to her missing son. I went to both the 7pm and the 9:30 show, and was sitting in the main dining room for the first show (great view of the stage), and at the bar rail for the second show (great access to everyone who was hanging out at the bar after). I also managed to snag a copy of the set list, which is a great keepsake. Many of them signed my Newsies book and I got selfies and hugs, which always makes me happy.
I had a few days off from work, scheduled partially so I could go to both Newsies shows at 54 Below on Monday and not be a zombie at work. What to do? City days/nights! Tuesday afternoon, I headed in early for another trip to see Bandstand. I also was in the front orchestra for the first time and it was incredible. I could see everyone’s faces so much better and the emotion was through the roof. The Act I closer, “Right This Way,” got more and more powerful every time I saw it. There was also a talkback after the show with some of the dancers. This show deservedly won the Tony Award for Best Choreography. I managed to snag a good spot at the barricade after the show for stagedooring to see all my faves. I got to give Geoff Packard (Wayne Wright, trombone) and Corey my gifts for them (as I didn’t have them with me the last time I saw them). I also brought the Playbill for the play The Woodsman that I’d seen in the beginning of 2016. Joe Carroll (Johnny Simpson, drums) was on the creative team for that play, and I asked him to sign the Playbill. We chatted a bit about how different it was, and how he was proud of it (I told him he should be!). Then I spotted Andy Blankenbuehler (director & choreographer of Bandstand; choreographer of Hamilton among many others) come out and I was so excited to chat with him. I told him I’d seen the show many times and how much it means to me. He was even nice enough to take a picture!
The following day, I was back on a bus in the mid-afternoon. I’d missed the matinees, but that’s okay; I was in time to hit up the stagedoor of a matinee. But which one? I decided to try Dear Evan Hansen, take my chances for Mike Faist (currently Connor Murphy in DEH, but also Newsies OBC as Morris Delancey). He’d signed my Newsies book last year when I saw DEH Off-Broadway at Second Stage, but there were better pictures, and I also had Ally’s newspaper that she was trying to get as many Newsies as possible to sign. Well, as chill and laid-back as the stagedoor was at Groundhog Day, this was the exact opposite: super crowded and clustered, people pushing and arguing with security. I’d managed to grab two discarded Playbills from inside the theater when the show let out, and I gave one to the girl who was holding my spot in the crowd. Two of the understudy actors who were on that day came out to sign Playbills, which was appreciated, but I didn’t enjoy myself there, and I’m probably not going to attempt that stagedoor again. Word to the wise, friends: watch the crowd and decide if it’s worth it before being in the crush.
Headed up a few blocks to see what I could get for Book of Mormon that evening. I’d never seen it, and I saw online there were usually some partial view seats available for a decent price, so what better way than to just hit up the box office and see what they can do? I lucked out; I walked up just as they were offering the very last Standing Room ticket for sale. The couple before me in line declined as they were looking for 2 tickets. See a popular show that’s normally very expensive for $27? Okay! So what if I had to stand. I was wearing sneakers; I’d be fine. And I was! It was actually kind of fun to be standing in the back of the Orchestra. My feet didn’t hurt too much, and I could dance around to the fast songs. BoM is a musical written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame, and it pokes fun at Mormon Missionaries. It won the Tony for Best Musical in 2011 and still has sold-out crowds. My biggest problem with doing SRO was the ushers wouldn’t let us sit on the floor during intermission. I suppose it was considered a fire hazard? I joked with a fellow SRO patron that if we’d known that, we wouldn’t have left the ladies’ room until it was time for the second act! (Hey, it’s a seat!)
Thursday was a busy day! I went in early and took another tour with Broadway Up Close; this was the Act I tour that started at my favorite theatre: the Nederlander (famously home to Newsies and Rent). I learn so much on these tours about Broadway history. So many theatres I didn’t know had existed – for example, the AMC Times Square movie theatre used to be a Broadway house! I’m going to have to hit them up again for the middle theatres (“Act II” tour) another time.
From there, I visited Grand Central Station for their “Summer Send-Off” series where they had performances from Broadway shows such as Anastasia, A Bronx Tale, the upcoming Once on This Island, and Bandstand. For Bandstand, they had two performers: Jonathan Shew, ensemble and Donny [lead, usually played by Corey Cott] understudy, and Becca Peterson, swing and Julia [lead, usually played by Laura Osnes] understudy. They each sang a song: Jon sang “Donny Novitski,” and Becca sang “Love Will Come and Find Me Again.” They were both outstanding and I’m only disappointed I couldn’t see their full takes on the characters. I got to say hi to both of them and grab pictures. Jon doesn’t normally stagedoor, and Becca isn’t in the show all the time, so it was cool to see them at this event and tell them how much I love the show (and their performances that day). One of the performers from Once On This Island, Isaac Cole Powell, had previously been in Pittsburgh CLO’s production of Newsies and he came up to me to say hi, because he remembered me! (Screaming in the front row and stagedooring after will do that.) What is my life when a Broadway actor recognizes me before I do him?
There’s a line in Newsies’ “Carryin’ the Banner” that says “Uptown to Grand Central Station; down to City Hall; we improves our circulation; walkin’ ‘til we fall.” Because of this, I’d always wanted to try walking Grand Central to City Hall. Also, City Hall Park is where the second statue of Horace Greeley (founder of The NY Tribune) stands. The statue featured heavily in the 1992 movie version of Newsies, and the one by City Hall is known as the “real” one by Fansies because it’s near where The World offices were. Well, since I was at Grand Central anyway, this was the perfect time to try it! I walked down the east side and made it all the way down to City Hall Park, near the Brooklyn Bridge (it’s about a 3-mile walk). I found Horace and a bonus in the form of a plaque commemorating Joseph Pulitzer and The NY World. Pretty cool.
Back in my area (theatre district), I had purchased a ticket to see Waitress that evening. I’d seen it in February, but enjoyed it and heard Besty Wolfe as Jenna [main character] was a sight to behold. Unfortunately, I was already pretty tired by that time and hadn’t checked the schedule that closely when buying a ticket, and the show was at 7:30, not 7:00 like I originally thought, which pushed back my trip home. Also the rest of the cast was the same as when I’d seen it the last time. I enjoyed the show, and Betsy was phenomenal, but I was not in the mood to be out late after my busy day. Plus, after I’d seen the show for the 2nd time, Will Swenson (Berger in Hair and Javert when I saw Les Mis) was announced as coming back to the show! He plays Jenna’s good-for-nothing-husband Earl. I would have liked to see him the first time, but he was only there during Sara Bareilles’s run, and prices skyrocketed during her tenure. I definitely feel like I wasted my return trip to Waitress; I would have rather gone when I wasn’t so tired and there was more of a cast turnover (especially Swenson!). Oh, well. Not every Broadway decision I make is the right one! At least the pie was good. 😉
One cool thing, however, was that across the street from Waitress was the opening night of Prince of Broadway! Someday I will be invited to attend an Opening Night, but in the meantime, it was fun to see it from a distance.
That’s all for now, folks! Join me again in September for more stagedoor stories, Broadway Week discounts, Broadway Flea Market, and saying goodbye to Bandstand.