Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Theater Recommendations

Summer is just around the corner, which means an influx of tourists to the Big Apple and Broadway.  I am always asked for recommendations.  “What’s good?”  “I like musicals.”  “How about for the kids?”  There are many variables that can dictate my choices for individuals or families.  But, since I cannot personally advise everyone (even though you can email me at Broadway99@comcast.net with your parameters) I have put together two lists--one for musicals and the other for comedies/dramas.  I have given a one or two sentence description as well as an appropriate age minimum.  These are my conservative estimates.  There are not many shows for the very young.

As you will see from the non-musicals, the list is rather skimpy.  This is more a factor that I have not seen all the plays this year even though many—Clybourne Park, Other Desert Cities, The Lyons, and Venus in Fur—have all received critical acclaim.  If drama is your cup of tea you probably could not go wrong with either of these four.  The four I have seen are listed in priority order.

I have also listed the musicals in priority order.  I have left off the list such perennial blockbusters as The Book of Mormon, Lion King, and Wicked.  Finding tickets for these shows, at reasonable prices, is very hard.  It would be better to see one of the other musicals on the list.  If you "have" to see one of the aforementioned productions you may have to go on the secondary market.

There are a number of ways to purchase discount tickets for many shows.  The first place to review is the Broadway Rush, Lottery and Standing Room Only Policies on the Playbill.com website.  Believe it or not there are lottery tickets to most shows-at huge savings-even to The Book of Mormon.

Another great place is Broadway Shows Discount Codes on Broadwaybox.com.  You simply choose a show, print out the page with the specific code and can go directly to the box office to purchase tickets (you can also call, but will have to pay the service charge which could be over $10.00 per ticket).  No waiting in line at the TKTS Booth.  However, the lines at the newly refurbished TKTS Booth snake to the front very quickly.  You always seem to meet interesting people in the queue, which makes it go even faster.  For information about the Booth, go to - http://bit.ly/NLwrh9

One other useful piece of information is finding out your chances of getting into a show or having it listed on the availability board at the TKTS Booth.  Playbill.com posts the weekly grosses for each Broadway show, the week’s percent of capacity, andthe average ticket price.  So, for example, during the week of June 11th – 17th the musical Memphis was playing to 66% capacity and the average ticket price was only $69.00.  Translation – there is an excellent chance Memphis will have tickets at the TKTS Booth and they will have a great coupon on Broadwaybox.com.

So, here are my recommendations.  Shows I have reviewed are linked to the review:

MUSICALS
  Newsies – Since winning two high profile Tony Awards (Best Score and Choreography), Newsies has been selling out.  But you never know if there might be tickets at the TKTS Booth Tuesday-Thursday nights (slower nights).  This is a longshot, but if tickets are available, grab them.  Tuneful, incredible production numbers and charismatic cast.  Good for all ages 6 and up.

  The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess – Riveting, powerful drama with Tony winner for Best Actress, Audra McDonald anchoring a superb cast.  Classic Gershwin score.  Good for ages 12 and up.

  Memphis – Tony winner for Best Musical a few years back.  Strong score, compelling storyline, and the golden voice of Montego Glover.  Good for ages 12 and up.

  Once – I will admit I have not seen Once, but since it was the big winner at this year’s Tony Awards I wanted to include it.  Probably good for ages 14 and up.

  Anything Goes – The 2011 Tony Award for Best Revival of a musical.  Fabulous Cole Porter score and some of the best dancing this side of Newsies.  Closing in early August.  Good for ages 12 and up.

  Nice Work If You Can Get It – A musical, loosely based on the Gershwin’s Oh Kay, this breezy comedy won both Best Supporting Actor and Actress Awards.  Outstanding score, the beautiful Kelli O’Hara and a slightly puffy Matthew Broderick.  Good for ages 12 and up.

  Mary Poppins – Disney magic lives on with a very good adaptation of the classic movie.  Small children will be enchanted.  Good for ages 6 and up.

  Jersey Boys – One of the most popular musicals of the last few years, the show has been creeping up on the TKTS Booth board as of late.  Even if you are not a huge Four Seasons fan you will find the story compelling.  The music ain’t bad either.  Good for ages 10 and up.

  Ghost the Musical – I will admit I did like Ghost.  It is not a great musical and I disliked the projections, but if you are looking for an entertaining show this could be it.  Good for ages 12 and up.


PLAYS
  One Man, Two Guvnors – One of the funniest shows you will ever see.  Tony Award winner James Corden is priceless.  Tom Edden (who should have won the Best Supporting Actor Award) is hysterical.  Good for ages 10 and up.

  War Horse – The 2011 Tony Award for Best Play, War Horse has been playing to about 72% capacity which means tickets should not be a problem.  Probably the best drama I’ve seen in the past ten years.  The life-size puppets are truly amazing.  The end will have you on your seat (and a hanky in your hand).  A must see.  Good for ages 10 and up (NOTE:  the war scenes can be a bit scary for small children).

  The Best Man – A superb all-star cast.  With the presidential nominating conventions just around the corner, what better show to see.  Good for ages 14 and up.

  Harvey – Classic, Pulitzer Prize winning revival of a man and his imaginary six foot rabbit.  Jim Parsons, from TV’s Big Bang Theory is perfectly cast.  Good for ages 12 and up.

 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

2012 Tony Award Musings

Just a reminder that I will be updating throughout the Tony Award telecast...

The opening number from THE BOOK OF MORMON to start off the show.  One of the best songs from the musical.  Why THE BOOK OF MORMON on tonight's program?  Purely to sell more tickets and tease people that cannot pay $477.00 for premium seats.  Oh, no Josh Gad.  Right.  He just left the show for TV stardom.

Neil Patrick Harris is hosting for the 3rd time.  Ties for second with Julie Andrews, Robert Preston, Rosie O'Donnell, and Hugh Jackman.

Opening number - not one of the best.  Only livened up with the guest stars popped in like Patti Lupone and Annie.  where's Hugh when you need him?

Do you think Judith Light didn't rehearse her speech?

NEWSIES - Should have done "King of New York" as their number.  "Seize the Day" is also excellent, but "King of New York" was much better.  Would have been nice if they also sang the song.  Haven't seen such acrobatics since WEST SIDE STORY.

I have loved Michael McGrath - Best Supporting Actor Tony Award - since I saw him on the Goodspeed stage many years ago.  He has always been so solid in his comedic roles.  When I first saw him performing all I could think of was a younger Nathan Lane.  I thought Dave Alan Grier should have won, but no regrets.

Great number from FOLLIES with Tony Award nominee Danny Burstein.  So glad they didn't sing the old warhorse, "I'm Still Here."  FOLLIES or PORGY & BESS for Best Revival?  Too close to call.

Who's the guy whining behind THE LION KING?

GHOST song too loud and uninteresting.  There were better options.  Not going to bring in the crowds .  HINT:  the guy bathed in blue is dead.

Two director awards at once...Yes, the inevitable run of ONCE to Best Musical begins as John Tiffany wins the Best Director of a Musical.  My choice, NEWSIES, will probably just settle for Best Choreography and Best Score.  Like with WICKED, beaten out by AVENUE Q, NEWSIES will have the last laugh at the box office over the years.

Trivia question - what person has won the most Tony Awards for directing a play?  Answer - Mike Nichols with five...now six!

Did they have leisure suits back in the days of Jesus?  Are those blue suede shoes?

SPIDERMAN bit was quite good.  Ted Chapin and Angela Lansbury were good sports.

Trivia question - who was Christian Borle once married to?  Answer - Sutton Foster!  He was good in PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (congratulations), but Tom Edden in ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS, was absolutely hysterical.  Would have liked to see him win.

Love Kelli O'Hara.  She's excellent in NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT.  Matthew Broderick is one of my favorite actors, but he just seems to sleepwalk through his role in the show.  Not much energy.

Why a musical number from a cruise ship?  Is this the same cruise line that is advertising on the Tony Awards?

Boy, ONCE is cleaning up.  They've won almost all the creative awards so far.

Judy Kaye was fun in NICE WORK...I remember her in her Broadway debut.  She took over when Madeline Kahn suddenly left ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY back in 1979.

Dear Ms. Barkin--the reason for a buffo year at the Broadway box office is because of the huge amounts producers are charging for premium seats.  I'll be impressed if the attendance figures are way up.

I saw PETER AND THE STARCATCHER and was just not impressed.

I thought the year in plays montage was great and then stopping for a few minutes for the nominated shows.  They might have finally gotten it right.

Neil Patrick Harris' musical interlude was entertaining, but he lacks razz-ma-tazz.  Sheryl Crow writing the score for the upcoming DINER.  Could be interesting.  Best score to NEWSIES!  What a surprise.  :-)  Alan Menken's first Tony Award.  Can you believe it?  All the shows he's written.  He has a ton of Oscars.  Now maybe, one day, Stephen Schwartz will win one.  Of course, most of the good songs from NEWSIES were in the movie.  Just a few new ones for the musical.  Most not so great.  Still cannot believe that the scores for PETER AND THE STARCATCHER and ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS were nominated.  LYSISTRATA JONES had a tuneful, catchy score.  It most definitely should have been nominated.  Even SPIDERMAN and GHOST were not terrible and should have been given consideration over the two plays.  I can't even remember anything from PETER AND THE STARCATCHER.

Wow!  Audra McDonald has such a dynamite voice!  Good performances from Norm Lewis and David Alan Grier in a well-coordinated segment from PORGY AND BESS.

 "Gold" - one of the songs from ONCE I played on my radio show this evening, which was music from all Tony Award nominated shows.  I know ONCE will probably win Best Musical, but I am more of a NEWSIES type guy.

I was never a fan of EVITA, even the original with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin.  Did this segment lack oomph?  It was more ho hum then holy moly.  Wouldn't you have Elena Roger sing a bit more?  She is EVITA?

Uninspiring GODSPELL.  Nuff said.

Love seeing Mandy and Patti on stage together.  I wondered if they cringed during the EVITA number?  Whoa!  Best revival to PORGY AND BESS.  Good for them.  It was a powerful show.  Are Norm and Audra next?  Wonder what Sondheim is thinking?

I think I'll keep my musical theater going to terra firma, thank you.

Very nice, Hugh Jackman's wife surprising him with his special Tony.  He is so smooth.

Toot!  Toot!  The ONCE steamroller keeps chugging along.  Nice heartfelt acceptance speech.

YEAH!  for James Corden.  The funniest show on Broadway.  Corden was very gracious.  He was in such incredible company.

Can we get the LEAP OF FAITH number over with so we can finish the broadcast?  It's not like it's still playing.  Is that too mean-spirited?  Still can't believe this was even nominated.

Audra McDonald wins her FIRST leading actress award in a musical.  Previously, she was two and two--Best Featured Actress in a play and in a musical.

So, winners and losers from the musicals?

WINNERS:
-Obviously, ONCE with 8 awards including Best Musical
-PORGY AND BESS with Best Revival and Best Actress
-NEWSIES with two major awards for Best Score and Choreography

LOSERS:
-NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT with only two Best Featured Player awards
-FOLLIES with one minor award out of eight nominations

Finally, I'll give Neil Patrick Harris a solid "B" for his hosting efforts.  Tough job anytime.  You just want to keep the show moving which he performed admirably.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tony Award News

On my radio show tomorrow I'll be playing music from Tony nominated shows including NEWSIES, BONNIE & CLYDE, ONCE, LYSISTRATA JONES, and PORGY AND BESS.  The program, "On Broadway," airs Sunday from 5:30-6:30pm EST on WRTC-FM, 89.3, in Hartford, CT.  It streams live via our website at http://www.wrtcfm.com so you can listen anywhere in the world.

I will also be blogging live during the Tony Award telecast to give you my take on the ceremony, the winners and losers.  I hope you will tune in.