2016 has become the Year of Theatre for me. Relatedly, I also dubbed it the “Year of Playbills.” I have been a fan of theatre in general, and musical theatre in particular, for a long time. My first Broadway show was Fiddler on the Roof when I was 9 years old, and then I was hooked. I’ve slowly been increasing the number of shows I see over the past few years, but this year, the goal was a bit different. In the first of multiple pieces, I’ll talk about my “Year of Playbills”
Playbill is a monthly theater magazine, mostly based out of New York, but also published nation-wide. For Broadway shows, and some Off-Broadway, Playbill serves as the official program for the show. The articles are the same in each month’s issue, with the differences being each show’s specific info.
This year, my goal was simple: I needed to get at least one of each month’s Playbill. Simple, yet not always simple to achieve. Because I live and work in NJ, getting into the city on weekdays is nearly out of the question for me. It’s not impossible, but it’s difficult and takes a lot of advance planning, leaving work early and getting home late. So weekends it is. Weekends do fill up quickly though with other things going on, so it’s been a challenge. Being aware of the time in each month in which I had to see a show has made me more aware of what’s out there and what shows are closing when. This challenge has certainly pushed me to see some shows that I might have missed otherwise.
My Year of Theatre started out with BroadwayCon in January. I sometimes refer to it as the “Best Blizzard Ever” – NYC was hit by a 26” of snow that immobilized the city. Even Broadway shows were cancelled on Saturday! However, the Hilton midtown was safe and warm and filled to the brim with theater fans, having singalongs and impromptu events. It was an indescribable feeling—to be in a room with so many people who are sharing the same passion as you. We had panels about specific shows (Hamilton! 20-Year Rent Reunion!), aspects of theater (choreography, women, history, etc.), and impromptu blizzard panels. It was THE place to spend the storm.
Blizzard Party Line, where the creators and staff called their Broadway friends for us
Although we got a Playbill as the official program book for BroadwayCon, it didn’t count toward my goal. Luckily, I had two shows on the horizon for January: Kinky Boots (with Wayne Brady in the starring role) and a revival of Noises Off starring Megan Hilty, Daniel Davis, and Andrea Martin. Kinky Boots is the story of Charlie Price, owner of the family shoe factory in England. The factory isn’t doing so well until he meets drag queen Lola (Brady) and starts making shoes that are more fun, such as thigh-high red boots. This show won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2013 and it’s a fun way to spend the evening. The music is upbeat and hummable and everyone gets a happy ending.
Wayne Brady as Lola in Kinky Boots
Noises Off is a farce, a side-splittingly funny play about a theater group trying to put on a British farce and all the hijinks that entail. The show-within-a-show is called Nothing On, where several people all show up for a weekend at a cabin and they all think they’re going to be the only ones there. Megan Hilty was fabulous as the ditzy young actress, and Daniel Davis was equally brilliant as the alcoholic older actor who needs to be kept away from the whisky. There’s actually a movie version starring Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, and more. The movie is fairly true to the stage show and is highly recommended if you need a good laugh.
The 2016 revival of Noises Off
February was a little tougher. My one full free weekend was the most brutally cold of the year, and it wasn’t in my best interest to make a city trip at all. The original plan of rushing a show was off, and I only had the following Saturday night to pick a show. I went outside the norm and chose an experimental show Off-Broadway at New World Stages called The Woodsman. February Playbill: check. Something different: check. The Woodsman is an Oz story, a different origin story of the Tin Woodsman. It has hardly any dialogue, and although it has music in the background, it is not a musical. The story is told through puppetry, movement, and sound effects. Very different.
On stage with the Woodsman puppet after the show
I’ll continue to detail my year long journey with Broadway (and Off-Broadway) in upcoming posts, so come back for more!