May Theater: Tours, Regional shows, and Broadway Birthday

Hello theatre fans! Let’s talk May, shall we? It wasn’t that long ago. You can check out my April post or the rest of my theater escapades. May ended up being a really busy month, theater-wise. I saw two touring shows, three Broadway, two Off-Broadway, and a regional show, which was a total of eight shows in the month of May alone!

 

First weekend in May took me and Ally down to the State Theatre of NJ in New Brunswick for the 20th Anniversary tour of Rent. It’s always enjoyable and it’s her favorite musical of all time, so we knew we had to catch the tour at some point. We made decent time and immediately hit up the merch stand. (We may or may not have spent too much money… I bought a magnet, a souvenir program, and a set of buttons. Ally had a similar lack of resistance.) Then we headed up to mid-mezzanine to our seats. I’ve seen Rent a few times. I saw it on Broadway back in ‘06, I saw the final Broadway performance as a Fathom Event in the movies, I saw a tour in ‘09 (with Adam Pascal & Anthony Rapp in the roles they originated), I saw a community theater production a few years ago, and I’ve seen clips of the OBC. And the movie, of course, but since a few things are different, I’m not counting that. The audience was fun for this one, being made up of “Rent-Heads” overall. We “moo’d” with Maureen, cheered for Angel when she walked in before “Today 4 U,” and overall knew the right reactions. This cast was decent, but I thought overall that Maureen was the strongest of the principals. Maureen actually is my least favorite character of the core 7, so that’s saying something. Angel was probably next, and you have to be good to be Angel, but not everyone can be Wilson Heredia or Telly Leung. The biggest problem with this particular production was that the bromance between Mark and Roger was lacking. The true heart of the story is the relationship between Mark and Roger. (You can “ship” them in a romantic sense or just in a friend sense, but the connection has to be strong.) Anyway, it’s always fun to see Rent.

Rent 20th Anniversary tour
Rent 20th Anniversary tour

 

The next day, I was down in the Union Square area at a small theater for a new play called Can You Forgive Her. This also happened to be Amber Tamblyn’s NY stage debut. The official plot description: “It’s Halloween night, and Miranda is desperate for a way out. She’s drowning in debt, may be falling for her sugar daddy, and is on the run from her date who has threatened to kill her. Then she meets Graham and Tanya, a door opens, for all of them. But is what lies beyond a treat or a trick?” I really enjoyed this think piece; all the actors did an incredible job and they brought you into their characters right away. Miranda, played by Amber Tamblyn, was a mess and you could pretty much tell what kind of person she was from the moment you saw her. I hung around the upstairs lobby for a bit after — both because it was raining and to try to catch the actors. There were only five actors in the play, and I managed to see four of them to tell them what a great job I thought they did. (The only one I missed was Amber, who was the one I really wanted to meet.) It’s not a theater that really lends itself well to the stage-dooring concept, so I played it cool. Ella Dershowitz, who played Tanya, was so surprised I called out to her that she asked if she knew me.

Can You Forgive Her play
Can You Forgive Her play

 

A rare weeknight brought A-Squared to 46th St for an evening showing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Lunt-Fontanne, a new musical starring Christian Borle as Willy Wonka. The show is a new interpretation, bringing some of the beloved songs from the 1971 movie (“Pure Imagination,” “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” and “The Candy Man”) side by side with a more true-to-the-book plot, similar to the 2005 movie. This show did not get great reviews, but we went in with an open mind. Christian Borle is fantastic in everything he does; this was my 3rd time seeing him live (Something Rotten, Falsettos, and now Charlie). Besides, we all know the reason I go to see a lot of shows is there’s a Newsie somewhere in there, right? Well, Ryan Breslin (original Race) was in the ensemble. I brought my Newsies book and we good-naturedly harassed the security guard at the stage door, but alas, Bres snuck out on me. Alas, I will have to find him another time. The show overall was cute and enjoyable, and I’m glad I saw it, but overall, it deserved the Tony nominations it got, or didn’t, as the case may be. I think the star power of Borle, the beloved story, and the novelty will only last for so long. Then again, I could be wrong!

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory on Broadway
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory on Broadway

 

My dad and I started a tradition in 2014 where we spend Mother’s Day together in New York and see a show. Last year, we saw Fiddler, which I wrote about here. In general, Dad doesn’t like to see a show I’ve already seen, because he wants it to be fresh for both of us. This tends to limit our choices a bit. I had picked out Groundhog Day for us to see together this year, and monitored the TKTS booths for discounts. Chances it would be there looked good, so we set out on Sunday and headed to Times Square. Unfortunately, this was the one day it wasn’t on the boards. So we had to pick a second choice. I lobbied for Kinky Boots, even though I’d seen it at the beginning of 2016. Kinky Boots tells the story of a young man who inherits his father’s shoe factory but it’s failing. He meets a drag queen, Lola, and partners with her to start making sexy boots that are sturdy enough to be worn by men. There were new actors playing Charlie and Lola than I’d seen last year, and I knew Dad would have fun. He agreed, and we ended up in the center orchestra. Premium seats! Well, the show was just as much fun as I’d remembered and Dad had a lot of fun as well. The weather even held up just for us — it was threatening to rain all day, but rained only during the time we were in the theater! By the time we came out, it was all done and we had clear skies.

Mother's Day with Kinky Boots
Mother’s Day with Kinky Boots

Next, it was back down to the State Theatre in New Brunswick, this time for the touring production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I’d seen it on Broadway a few years back, when Andrew Rannells was the titular Hedwig. Sometimes, I think it’s more fun when you know what to expect. This was an excellent production and the two leads (playing Hedwig and Yitzhak) were incredible. Hedwig is the story of a genderqueer person who started life as a young boy in East Berlin. Hedwig tells the audience her life story directly, in a one-person show on the set of the failed musical The Hurt Locker. Throughout the show, we find out about Hedwig’s former lover, Tommy Gnosis, whose musical career took off thanks to Hedwig’s songwriting. The back door of the theater keeps getting opened and we hear snippets of Tommy’s concert. Toward the very end, the atmosphere changes and we see “Tommy” (played by the same actor playing Hedwig) stripped down to nothing but a pair of black boyshorts, reprising one of the songs Hedwig sang earlier, “Wicked Little Town.” It’s a powerful moment. The finale was even better this time around, and I saw most everyone in the theater “lift up [their] hands” and “shin[e] like the brightest star”!

Hedwig and the Angry Inch on tour
Hedwig and the Angry Inch on tour

 

Sunday the 21st was my official Birthday Celebration. I’d picked War Paint, the new musical about makeup icons Elizabeth Arden (played by Christine Ebersole) and Helena Rubinstein (played by Patti LuPone). It looked fun and who could go wrong with those two legends? You know me, though, and you know I have reasons that lie beyond that — it’s playing at the Nederlander (my favorite) and co-stars John Dossett (OBC Joseph Pulitzer in you-know-what musical!). Ally, her mom, and I rushed the show in the morning. We were the first ones there at 10 AM, so it was nice not to be too crazy in the rush line (this isn’t the Hamilton cancellation line!) We kept joking with the theater staff, trying to convince them to let us onstage/backstage, to no avail. We got decent seats on the side orchestra. It was considered partial view, but there were very few things we couldn’t see, only a few things on the far left. We stagedoored after, hoping to meet John Dossett, who decided to sneak out on us. We did get to meet Patti and Christine, though, which was fabulous! Patti takes fun selfies, mugging for the camera, and Christine was lovely.

Broadway Birthday at War Paint
Broadway Birthday at War Paint

 

That evening, Ally and I headed downtown to the Public Theater for an evening showing of Harvey Fierstein’s play, Gently Down the Stream. This was my first time at the Public (although I’ve been to the Delacorte in Central Park many times) and it was a nice little space. They have multiple theaters within the building, of varying sizes, so the small theater where we were was not where Hamilton was! This a different kind of play, focusing on Beau (Harvey) and his relationship with a young man and how it grows and changes over the years. It’s part romance and part history lesson, as Harvey’s Beau tells his story, culminating in how he lost a love to the fire at the UpStairs Lounge arson attack in 1973. It was interesting and different. We hung around the lobby after, hoping to meet Harvey, but we were thwarted again. There might have been a party on another level of the building that everyone went to because we didn’t get to see anyone from the cast, or any other show that was playing in the building that evening. Oh, well, there will be other times to meet him. Hopefully he’ll be at the Flea Market again.

Gently Down the Stream
Gently Down the Stream

 

On the day of my actual birthday (Tuesday the 23rd), I was back in the city for the evening performance of my fave new show of the season, Bandstand! This was my second time seeing the show; my 3rd if you count Paper Mill. No better way to continue to celebrate my birthday than with this amazing show! (Except maybe if Newsies was still playing, of course…) This show keeps getting better every time I see it. I’m definitely going to try to catch it again. I heard a rumor they weren’t doing so well at the box office, so please go catch it if you can. The house looked pretty full, especially for a Tuesday night, which pleased me. I got a decent spot at the stage door after, and was wearing my birthday tiara which got me a little attention. I got a birthday hug from James Nathan Hopkins, who wails on the sax and clarinet as Jimmy Campbell. He was the only one I didn’t grab a picture with, though–which is okay! I would take a hug over a picture if I had to choose. The fans around the barricades started chatting about Tony nominations. The show was nominated for Best Orchestrations and Best Choreography — both of which were well-deserved and they won for Best Choreography! While Corey was signing playbills near me, I happened to be talking to some other fans about the Tonys the show was not nominated for, specifically Corey for Best Actor. “I was shocked he didn’t get a nom,” I told the other fan, not even realizing Corey was standing right there within earshot. He was super sweet about it, though — “Who needs awards when we have such great audiences like you?”

Bandstand Broadway Birthday!
Bandstand Broadway Birthday!

Final show for May was on the 28th up in Connecticut at Goodspeed Opera House, a gorgeous old building. The show was Thoroughly Modern Millie, based on the 1967 movie musical, and was a 2002 Broadway musical starring Sutton Foster and Gavin Creel. This production came to my attention because Dan DeLuca (Jack in the Newsies national tour) was starring as Jimmy. I mapped it, and since the theater was only a little over two hours away, I told Ally I was kidnapping her and taking her to CT with me to see it. Not only is East Haddam the quaintest little town (it might give Stars Hollow a run for its money!), the Opera House is beautiful and right on the Connecticut River. According to the history, the house was built in 1877 and was always designated for putting on plays. I was a little familiar with the differences between the stage version of Millie and the original movie; I’d seen a production of it at Paper Mill a few years back (starring Laurie Veldheer [Newsies OBC Hannah] as Millie). This was a small theater and such a delightful show! Dan was sensational as Jimmy. We did notice a little bit of Jack Kelly in Jimmy; initially we thought it was just because of Dan, but the two characters do have a few similarities (the least of which is a penchant for NYC rooftops.) We stood up and applauded for Dan during curtain call, then again for the production as a whole! We hung around the side of the building to catch him after, and had a really nice conversation with him. His birthday was May 31st and I came prepared with a card for him. I was wearing my Newsies skirt — because it’s me — and he loved it. Turns out it wasn’t just me and Ally who saw a little bit of Jack in Jimmy; Dan thought so too!

Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Goodspeed Opera House
Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Goodspeed Opera House

 

That’s all for May! Join me in June for Pride Month featuring Rainbow Playbills!

 

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