Hey all and welcome to June theater! June is my favorite month to go see Broadway because it’s Pride month and Playbill changes the header on all their programs to be rainbow. I mentioned this last year as well: I support LGBTQ+, but I also think the rainbow Playbills are really cool. Every year, I go to as many theaters as possible and ask for Playbills. I think this year I missed only a few: A Doll’s House, Part 2 wouldn’t give me any unless I saw the show, and Wicked didn’t have any at the box office (security directed me to the box office). The Gershwin Theatre is so big, the actual theater where the Playbills are kept are far away from the street, unlike most other theaters where there’s a small vestibule and then the seats are just beyond that. Also, I didn’t get uptown to the Vivian Beaumont. Most of the Broadway houses are within a 15-block area around 7th and 8th Avenues, between 41st and 54th, but the Beaumont is all the way up at 65th. That’s only 11 more blocks from Studio 54, but I was short on time. Other than the theaters that are currently dark (and therefore do not have any Playbills currently), I only missed 3 Broadway houses this year. I think that’s a new record!
I also attended as many shows as I could around work, travel, and other plans. Ended up with 8 shows (6 Broadway and 2 Off-Broadway).
I tried the lottery for Groundhog Day and didn’t win, but Jujamcyn Theaters then sent me an email offering me $50 tickets since I didn’t win the $39.50 lottery. Good deal; I’ll take it! I headed into the city on a Tuesday night, heading up to the August Wilson on 52nd. I hadn’t been to the August Wilson since 1999 when Smokey Joe’s Cafe was there and it was called the Virginia Theatre. The lead actor, Andy Karl, was out that day, but the understudy, Andrew Call (yes, say that 3x fast- Andy Karl vs Andrew Call!) was excellent. This show, which was nominated for several Tonys including Best Musical, is based on the Bill Murray movie from the early ‘90s, but as is usually the case: the stage version is better. The stage had several turntables on it and there were a lot of dizzying quick changes and turns where you almost didn’t know where to look. I can definitely see why it was nominated, but it didn’t have a chance of winning against Dear Evan Hansen. This might be one of those shows to see more than once to catch everything.
A Saturday matinee brought me an opportunity to see the revival of Sunset Blvd starring Glenn Close with my partner in crime, Ally. It hadn’t been high on my list, but when offered a chance to see a show, I rarely turn it down. I knew only the very basics about this: Norma Desmond, washed up movie star; and the famous line: “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille,” which I wasn’t even 100% sure was from this. I also knew about the behind-the-scenes drama with the original production after reading Patti LuPone’s autobiography. She originated the role of Norma in London and was supposed to transfer to Broadway with the show, but somehow got screwed over by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I don’t remember the exact details; you’ll just have to pick up Patti’s book to get the full story! Anyway, this was a magnificent production, with a 40-piece orchestra onstage. The actor playing Joe, Michael Xavier, is one of the Broadway pretty-boys (in addition to being good-looking, these “Broadway pretty boys” are also damn talented) and he let us objectify him at the top of Act 2 as he climbed out of the “pool.” As in, he was wearing tiny swim trunks and when the audience started cheering, he actually paused for a minute and let us whoop and holler for him on display. Glenn Close was excellent; she brought vulnerability to the craziness of Norma. After, there was no stage-dooring. The barriers were not set up and the security guard advised us no one was coming out (not that we expected Glenn Close, but perhaps Michael? Or Fred Johanson, who played Max.) No matter; at least the security let us know before we stood there for ages waiting for people who weren’t coming.
After no stage-dooring at Sunset, we quickly went down a few blocks to Anastasia to see if there was any new merch. No music boxes, but there were magnets (when they were sold out when we’d seen it) and a brand-new souvenir program. We saw Christy and Derek (Anya and Dimitry) inside the theater entertaining groups. Well, if they were inside, we weren’t missing anything at the stage door. We got our merch, and some Playbills, and headed outside to the edge of the crowd for stage-dooring. Christy and Derek were in a bit of a hurry, but they were nice enough to ensure they got autos and pics for everyone. We let some young girls in front of us because it was more important for them to get their autographs and pictures than us, and then as everyone else filtered out, Christy asked if there was anyone else. Well, we were the last ones, but I had my camera ready for a selfie, so as soon as they were finished signing both Playbills, we grabbed a really nice pic with the four of us.
That evening, I was able to catch the play Six Degrees of Separation before it closed the following day. It was an interesting theory, about how everyone is connected by six degrees or fewer. It’s about a con man who plays up to the human instinct to trust. The play starred Allison Janney, who was fantastic as expected. I met some interesting people at the stage door. They were waiting for Allison Janney, but almost seemed to both not know the protocol of stage-dooring (stay behind the barrier!) and also judge the others who were waiting. Allison did come out after a bit of a wait (but it was a Saturday night, so I wasn’t in a rush) and was very sweet to everyone waiting.
Thursday it was back again for a 3rd showing (4th if you include Paper Mill) of my new fave, Bandstand. This time, I brought Ally with me so she could see it and we both loved it. I hit up the merch stand at intermission to see if they had anything new. I’d previously bought a magnet and a lapel pin, but this time I couldn’t resist the t-shirts. They finally had the “Donny Nova Band” shirts for sale (previously only available to cast and crew). I was debating between that one and the “Nobody” shirt, but the sizing of the two shirts made my decision easy and I am now “#WithTheBand.” This makes 3 shirts now that I own with fictional bands. After the show, I got recognized at the stage door by most of the band! That’s what happens when you see a show 3 times in 3 months! (I think it also helped that I greeted them all by name, but anyone could do that.) I think Laura was the only one who didn’t seem to have any recognition, but that makes sense since I didn’t have any significant interaction with her the first time, and when I saw the show in May, I had to leave for the bus before she came out. Even Corey recognized me! I adore him as Donny, and will see Bandstand again, but Jack will always be first for me so this made me very happy.
The following Saturday, it was another 2-show day! For the matinee, I was back at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre for the play Napoli, Brooklyn. I heard some good things about it, and I’m always up for a Roundabout show, so I decided to grab HIPTIX (better get it in now before I age out). I didn’t know much about it, just the basic plot of it being about Italian sisters in 1960 Brooklyn. Well, I was far from disappointed. This is an excellent play, good acting, good staging, and good writing. I won’t spoil anything, but there is something big that happens at the end of Act 1 (that affects everything in Act 2) and it made me jump out of my seat. That’s good theater! A fun side note, sitting in front of me was Jennifer Tepper, who is the author of the Untold Stories of Broadway series as well as Programming Director at 54 Below. I said hi to her after the show and she recognized me. This play is highly recommended, so be sure to catch it!
In between shows, I stopped by the Bandstand stage door, hanging out at the edge, because I had commissioned a custom Jack Kelly Funko Pop figure and I wanted to show Corey. He thought it was cool too!
I met up with my friend Dania for the evening show, Indecent. This won Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Play and Best Lighting Design of a Play, both of which were well-deserved. I’d heard it was closing so I wanted to catch it. Luckily, the show got such a good response after the closing announcement, the closing was cancelled and the run was extended until August! Dania and I (and a few others) had seen If I Forget at Roundabout back in April. We joked that we always end up seeing Jewish shows together, but it was definitely good to see both these shows with someone who gets it. Indecent recounts the controversy surrounding the play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch, for which the cast of the original production were arrested on the grounds of obscenity. It was riveting and intense. Dani and I both agreed that it might read a little differently if you didn’t grow up in the Jewish culture, but even aside from the Jewishness of it, it’s about art and censorship and love and homophobia. It’s about life. An excellent production.
For what I thought my last Pride Playbill of this year, I was back in the city on a weeknight to see the comedy Play that Goes Wrong. I kept seeing it advertised and I like farces, so I found a good deal on a balcony seat and headed in! I would say this play is kind of a cross between Clue (murder mystery, mistaken identities, people who aren’t really dead, etc.) and Noises Off! (a backstage comedy about a play). It was heavy on the slapstick and light on intelligent jokes. The play won a Tony for set design, and I think that was definitely deserved; the set falls down around the actors all through the play, but it has to fall just so in order to not to hurt anyone for real. The audience was roaring laughing through the whole show. I thought it was funny, but maybe not quite as side-splitting as the rest seemed to think. It was a fun good time, though, and due to its shorter run time and the fact that I chose not to stage door, got me on an earlier bus home.
Surprise encore for Pride Playbills: an off-Broadway show called Zero Hour. I actually saw this on July 2nd, but they still had June’s issue of Playbill, so it counts for June. This is a one-man show about the actor Zero Mostel, who had originated the role of Tevye in Fiddler and starred in the movie versions of The Producers and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. It was set up like an interview, but you don’t hear the questions; only Zero’s answers. It did a decent job of portraying Mostel, but it didn’t quite do it for me as a whole.
That’s all for June! Join me again in July for at least Hello, Dolly! starring Tony winner diva Bette Midler, but most likely many more than that. We’ll see what July brings!