Mike Faist getting Tony-nominated for Connor just reminds me of what a travesty it is/was that Aaron Tveit wasn’t for Gabe in Next to Normal and it is clearly something that I will never get over
When I first heard that Gideon Glick was going to star in an Off-Broadway play about the twenty-something single experience, I was pumped. A horrific knee injury that left me unable to walk and housebound for weeks put in a crimp in my plan to actually see Significant Other, so I was so excited when it was announced long after that run had finished that the show would transfer to Broadway. Sadly, that run ended today, and it’s a shame.
For those who think theater skews to a older crowd, particularly straight plays, Significant Other was the answer about how to engage millennials in theater. A funny, heartbreaking, and at time, painful, look into the single life, Significant Other perfectly encapsulated so many of my feelings about the dating life today. I truly connected to Jordan Berman, minus being a Jewish, gay, male. It’s hard being single, and it’s hard when you feel like you’re behind all your friends. Jordan’s fantasy sequences, as well as his freak out over whether or not to send an email seemed to be scenes taken out of my own life. And that feeling of being alone, exacerbated when your friends are all partnered of were so searing, yet beautiful.
Gideon Glick was fantastic, and I think he deserves tons of awards recognition for deftlessly carrying the show. He made me laugh, he made me cringe, and he brought me to tears. Whether or not he always is that emotional, or if the end of the run brought out something extra, I do not know, but I do know that my heart continued to break for him, and in a way, for myself. Two of my other favorites, Lindsey Mendez brought great humanity and warmth to the schoolmarm, another character I sadly related to.
Joshua Harmon is a great new voice in the theater, and has written a piece that speaks to every young person that’s seen Significant Other. The haunting ending gave me chills and led me to tears, and I know it’s a lasting image that I’ll be sure to remember as I continue on my single struggle. I need to befriend a real-life Jordan to find my person so I too can dance the night away.
I must say that I’ve been terrible at seeing plays this season. The latest casualty is Jitney at Manhattan Theatre Club, which has been selling out for weeks now. While I’m happy that so many people want to see August Wilson’s new piece on Broadway, I’m selfishly mad that I couldn’t get in and digital lottery tickets were snatched up the minute they went on sale. But kudos to you, New York theatergoers, for proving yet again that a show featuring actors of color can be a commercial success!
Before 2016 is officially in the books, I wanted to recap my non-Hamilton favorites from 2016 because I never have enough time to write posts after seeing shows!
Best Musical, Broadway: Shuffle Along…
Unfortunately placed in the same season as a juggernaut, Shuffle Along was great for many of the same reasons as Hamilton. With a beautiful cast of superstars, the story of how forgotten stories and legacies provides an emotional journey. It’s upsetting that its run ended so soon, and will be just another footnote in the musical history books, just hoping to be remembered.
Best Musical Revival: She Loves Me
A charming throwback to the days of yesteryear, She Loves Me left me utterly enthralled with its fantastic cast from top to bottom (despite the fact that each and every one of them was white!). I still think it’s a travesty that Gavin Creel wasn’t nominated for his devilishly charming performance as Kodaly. The lush orchestrations were everything I would want from an old-school musical, and the jewel-box set was a revelation.
Best Off-Broadway Musical: Hadestown
Great original music with a beautiful diverse cast. An actual post lives here!
Best Off-Broadway Musical Revival: Sweet Charity
As Charity, Sutton Foster gets to do exactly everything you want Sutton Foster to be doing. She sings, she dances, she gets her leg extended way farther than should be humanly possible, all while in arms’ reach of the audience. It also lends a fantastic performance from Joel Perez, who gets to stretch all his acting muscles. Every dance sequence had me sitting there with a giant smile on my face. This show just made me smile, which is ironic, given the subject matter. I guess I’m just always rooting for Charity! Also dripping with diversity and an all-female band!
Best Broadway Play: Eclipsed
A total eclipse of the heart, this show and its history-making black creators and stars left an indelible impression. This show stayed with me for days afterwards and really made me think. I dismissed a comment from one of the actresses who thought all five actors could get nominated; then I saw the show and realized it was a distinct possibility. I jumped in my seat, I cried, I thought about the show the whole way home and then some. A brilliant Broadway debut from Lupita Nyong’o, who I have to commend for bringing huge star power (aka box office draw) to show that probably wouldn’t have made anywhere near as big of a splash without her.
Best Play Revival: A View from the Bridge
After finally seeing the show closing weekend, I was wondering what everyone was gushing about. And then it happened. A masterful use of a box set, the raves do it no justice. A brilliant concept from director Ivo van Hove, and great performances, lead by Mark Strong, this production completely invigorates the writings of Arthur Miller.
Best Off-Broadway Play: Aubergine
I literally started crying during the opening monologue of Aubergine and was practically weeping by the time the show ended. An extremely emotional play, Julia Cho’s play explored how our relationships with food are tied to the people and moments in our lives. Intensely emotional, intensely satisfying. One of the best nights in the theater for me this year (and also for Kleenex!).
I’ve often joked that my idea of a perfect Friday night is staying at home and watching PBS. This past Friday proved my point when Theater Close-Up played The Woodsman, an absolutely stunning off-Broadway show depicting the Tin Man’s origin story. In the midst of a busy spring season, I never got around to seeing The Woodsman live, and perhaps it was even better seeing the filmed version. In a show that’s so heavily movement-based, it was great to be able to have close-up on the brilliant performers and to get a better look at the gorgeous puppets. The puppetry and movement is dazzling, and there were quite a few moments when I was thankful to be able to rewind and rewatch the powerful images on my screen.
After the opening narration, a couple’s love story is shown without words. It reminded me of Up‘s opening montage of Carl and Ellie’s love story, a wordless look into the entirety of two lives, set to beautiful music. Then the show continues without dialogue and I wondered how long they could keep this up for. And the answer is the whole show. For being a series of grunts, whistles, hisses, and screams, along with a beautiful score by Edward W. Hardy, provided by a lone violin, the show is surprisingly engaging and completely captivating. The show, for all its simplicity in concept, is so full of heart (it is the Tin Man’s story, after all). It actually feels like an extended a capella piece. Each of the actors is utterly brilliant. I don’t know how many “names” would be able to give such a nuanced performance without any dialogue, but I found myself crying on the couch on a Friday night, completely transfixed by what was happening on the stage. It is rare that a collective breath taken on stage can completely enrapture an audience. It left me breathless. In turn, each word uttered is given even more power, and shout-out to Jen Loring for her beautiful lyrics. In particular, “Rusting Tin Man” kills me each and every time I listen to it.
While I’m disappointed to have missed this show live, I’m glad I can revisit it any time I want thanks to PBS. I’ve already watched it a second time, and I know it won’t be the last! I’d be remissed if I didn’t mention James Ortiz, creator extraordinaire, leading man, set and puppet designer, and co-director, who is unequivocally brilliant and masterful in all he does! The show as a whole is completely breathtaking, imaginative, innovative, and quite simply beautiful. For knowing how the story will end, the show itself completely captivating. Not a single movement is in excess, and I didn’t dare blink, afraid to miss a single moment of brilliance. This is what all theater should be. Bravo to the amazing company and crew. I am in awe of their collective creative genius and I cannot wait to see what they do next!
Today, Hadestown ended its brilliant extended run down a the New York Theatre Workshop. The show is absolutely beautiful. From the first moments when Lulu Fall, Jessie Shelton, and Erica Sweany enter the stage with their lanterns and open their mouths, each Fate with their own beautiful, soulful voice, that all blend together perfectly, I just knew I was in for a treat. Nabiyah Be is a star in the making, and it’s refreshing to see a black lead for a role that doesn’t call for a black actress, and instead is just a fantastic voice and brings a gentle spirit to Eurydice. As Orpheus, Damon Daunno is the perfect mix of adorable, affable, and charming, and is given the sweetest lyrics that would make anyone fall in love with his lovable artist with a goofball grin. Amber Gray was so captivating and magnetic as Persephone, and Patrick Page has the perfect deep voice as a sinister and tantalizing Hades. Rounding out the cast, Matt Saldivar as the narrator looks like a badass Mark Ballas who manages to break your heart by the end of the show. All in all, the show is perfectly cast with a group of phenomenal voices that perfectly blend in Anais Mitchell’s score. The music was fantastic, catchy, eclectic, soulful, and beautiful and is one of the best scores I’ve heard in awhile. And under Rachel Chavkin’s direction, the movement of the show worked so well in NYTW’s space and the show felt organically diverse.
Despite knowing the outcome of Orpheus and Eurydice, Hadestown still manages to be a moving, thoughtful show on the price of love, artistry, and power. I am anxiously awaiting the cast album to be released, but I couldn’t let the run end without shouting my praise for the show out into the universe!
No, this post isn’t about Hamilton, but instead Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. The number of parallels between Shuffle Along and Hamilton are crazy. It’s a shame that the two shows are in the same season, because while Shuffle Along did pretty well in terms of Tony Award nominations, the show’s message is so similar to Hamilton and really brings issues of representation and diversity at the forefront. Here is a story that focuses on a real-life team, the challenges they faced, and how they changed the country. While we complain about #OscarsSoWhite, we forget the work that F.E. Miller, Aubrey Lyles, Noble Sissle, and Eubie Blake created that allowed for black performers to make it on Broadway and beyond. It’s a story that needs to be remembered, and what better way to tell the story then a Broadway musical love letter to the creators and performers who were changing the world in 1921?
Despite all the brilliant names above the marquee, it’s the ensemble that’s the heart of the show. These tap dancing fools light up the stage and bring so much energy to the show. It is truly a stacked cast, but it’s the giant tap numbers (particularly the tap battle) that stand out to me. Savion Glover’s work is astounding and it’s so great to see so many talented black dancers take center stage. While Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon, Joshua Henry, and Audra McDonald make the most of what they’re given, they individually do not have much to do, and all five actors felt underutilized to me. Dixon, who had Blake’s own backstory in addition to a love triangle, had the most to do, and was rewarded with a Tony nomination. To have big Broadway stars sign up for a show for the sake of telling a bigger story, rather than time in the spotlight is truly a beautiful thing. Of course, they each have a number that reminds you why they’re stars, but it’s the ensemble that carries most of the heavy lifting.
Much praise must go to George C. Wolfe, who directed the show and wrote the updated book. Kudos to him for realizing the potential in a behind-the-scenes story that happened during the creation of a game-changing show and for bringing it out for today’s audiences. This is a story that should be remembered, and needs to be part of our narrative. As we continue to talk about diversity in Hollywood and Broadway, this is a show that should be seen. In a banner year for diversity on Broadway, it’s only fitting that this was the show to close out the season. I fear that diversity will take a big hit next season, but hopefully Shuffle Along will continue to play and sweep everyone’s hearts with it.
The end of the show was heartbreaking and as the lights go down, it’s a beautiful reminder of the sacrifices that people made in the name of art. It’s a shame that art often gets disrupted by money and that the team broke up after creating Shuffle Along. And it’s a bigger shame that the producers think the show cannot run without Audra McDonald and is closing prematurely. As one critic said, this show will probably never be revived, and it’s a real shame that the world will no longer have Shuffle Along around to remind them of where black Broadway started. A moving and exciting production, this story deserves to be seen and remembered. Shuffle down to the Music Box Theater while you can!