Month of Broadway
The past month has been a blur. So many shows to see, so little time! I saw two Broadway shows and two Off-Broadway shows. Because I like providing my opinion and also educating you on what these shows were really like I'm going to do a quick review.
The incomparable Idina Menzel headlined this Broadway show for over a year before it closed on Broadway at the beginning of April. To put it mildly- she is a powerhouse. There wasn't an empty seat in the Richard Rodgers theatre and I'm sure many people (including myself) would pay to hear her sing the phonebook.
The show is about a recently divorced women who moves to New York for a fresh start. The show follows her as she goes down two paths- "high powered urban planner" Elizabeth or "totally in love with a guy she met" Liz. The back and forth between the two storylines was a bit confusing because the only thing distinguishing the two characters apart are a pair of glasses, her name and colored lighting.
Every scene happens twice- one with Liz and one with Elizabeth. The whole show begs to question What If? What if I do this instead of that? What if I do that instead of this? The premise is very poignant and even unexpected at times. If/Then is the most modern musical I've ever seen, drawing on classic New York moments and daily annoyances for comedic relief. This probably went above tourists' heads because if you're not from the area then you probably don't have the same animosity towards the subway or parts of city life. At the very least, the refreshing honesty and vulgarity was right on point. Not overdone, but the perfect amount to be laughable. There's an entire song and sequence called "What the Fuck?" that is definitely worth a listen.
Didn't catch it in New York? That's totally fine because they're hitting the road for a national tour! Check out the website for upcoming dates.
The oldest running musical in the world is about to close in May- boy do I have impeccable timing! Performed in the quaint Jerry Orbach Theatre to an audience of no more than 30, I enjoyed the performance as if I was chilling in my living room. Due to the small nature of the theatre, the comfy chairs and the modest stage area (not raised), it was quite an intimate show. To give you an idea of how small, the cast didn't use microphones. There was a one person "orchestra" and a piano player.
The story revolves around two young neighbors/ secret lovers, their parents and the wall between them. It's narrated by El Gallo, a character in the story himself. The cast's comedic timing is impeccable and they really used the limited props to their advantage. I was very impressed with Samantha Bruce (The Girl). Her voice was singsongy and high pitched but she didn't miss a note and projected better than a Bose sound system. I can definitely see her on Broadway one day (The Fantasticks is Off-Broadway) because she has the oomph needed to leave a lasting impression.
Overall, something fun to do on a Saturday night but nowhere near a Broadway experience.
Directed by Andy Sanberg, this one woman show with Christina Bianco is a parody on the New York City world of kindergarten admissions. Yes, uptown parents fight and bribe and lie to get their children into a prestigious elementary school. Yes, they spend thousands of dollars a year for their child to get a world-class education. And yes, they really do take their 5 year old on kindergarten interviews.
A simple office set, clever props and the most outrageous of accents make this one woman show a delight. I got bored only a few times before Christina brought us back in. Since this is a play, no band or orchestra is present. However, a sound guy sits in the back to cue the telephone ringing, voicemail and various other hilarious sound effects.
While it was funny, I felt kind of "meh" about it. I'm more of a Broadway musical person and this being Off-Broadway and not a musical it didn't hit my sweet spot. That said, you can't compare apples to oranges so it did very well in the category of parody plays.
Headlined by Vanessa Hudgens, this remake is modern and funny despite being set during the Belle Époque in Paris. About a young girl coming of age, it's slow moving to start. Vanessa isn't on stage any more than the rest of the ensemble- surprising since her name is plastered all over the place to generate buzz. She has talent no doubt but is occasionally outshined by Victoria Clark and Dee Hoty, Gigi's grandmother and great aunt, respectively. They are on stage the same if not more than Vanessa and are clearly seasoned professionals with their opera-like voices.
This show doesn't feel as timeless as others on Broadway like Wicked or even Matilda, but is nevertheless entertaining. Vanessa is effervescent and carries her child-likes spirit all over the stage.
The costumes are great though and so are the sets. The ensemble really makes the costumes and wigs work for them as they play a variety of characters throughout the musical, all of which are equally funny. The music is catchy and the delivery from the cast is spot-on. A girl no more than 10 sat next to me and didn't get a lot of the jokes (she looked eternally bored while eating her Lays potato chips- seriously?), so although a High School Musical star is in this I personally wouldn't take anyone younger than 14 to see Gigi.
If you have money to spend on Broadway tickets, I would recommend seeing another show like Matilda (my favorite!) or whatever production Kristin Chenoweth is in at the moment (that would be On the 20th Century) for a guaranteed "wow" moment.
You never know until you see it, so I'm glad I saw all four to satisfy my curiosity.
I'll leave you with my view of the Empire State Building from a cab recently, enjoy!