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Theatre Talk: In Our Own Little Corner

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Schuyler sisters reunion!

Solea Pfeiffer and Emmy Raver-Lampman will star in world oremiere of new musical Gun & Powder

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Current The Light in the Piazza star Solea Pfeiffer (Evita) and Emmy Raver-Lampman (The Umbrella Academy) will star as the Clarke sisters in Signature Theatre’s upcoming world premiere of the new musical Gun & Powder. The two reunite after playing Schuyler Sisters Eliza and Angelica in the first national tour of Hamilton.

Directed by Robert O'Hara (Slave Play), the production will run January 28–February 23, 2020, in the MAX Theatre in Arlington, Virginia.

Pfeiffer and Raver-Lampman, who will play Mary and Martha, respectively, will be joined by Marva Hicks (Motown: The Musical) as Tallulah Clarke, Dan Tracy (Waitress) as Jesse, and Donald Webber Jr. (Hamilton, Motown) as Elijah.

[...]

Gun & Powder, featuring a book and lyrics by Angelica Chéri and music by Ross Baum, is inspired by the true story of Mary and Martha Clarke —African-American twins—who pass themselves as white to help settle their mother’s sharecropper debt and seize the funds by any means necessary. However, their bond of sisterhood is tested when they fall in love with two very different men.

“Gun & Powder is a period piece that transcends its period and takes two women of color on the most thrilling adventure of their lives during a time in which People of Color were regularly seen as the supporting characters of other people’s adventures,” said O’Hara. “I’m excited to bring this boldly talented multi-cultural cast of musical powerhouses together to sing and dance this Wild West story created by two young extremely talented new voices, Angelica and Ross, who will themselves be beginning their own exciting journey at Signature Theatre.”

 

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I saw Frozen last night and was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was really good and was happy to see Caissie and Patty before they leave. Even though the audience was filled with little kids, they were very well behaved.

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Norm Lewis will star in Children of Eden musical in Chicago

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Lewis will play the role of Father in the Chicago staging, which is scheduled to open August 7, 2020, at Chicagoland’s Arcada Theatre. The musical will feature a cast of over 50 actors from Chicago and New York stages.

Brenda Didier will direct and choreograph the production with co-choreography by Christopher Carter, music direction by Jermaine Hill, choral direction by Tom Vendafredo, lighting design by Alexander Ridgers, projection design by Kevan Loney, and scenic design by Jeff Kmiec.

Based on the book of Genesis, Children of Eden has a book by John Caird and a score by Stephen Schwartz and provides a unique telling of the story of creation through the epic of Noah and the flood.

 

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I already have my tickets for Caroline or Change but this casting has me excited/confused.

https://www.roundabouttheatre.org/get-tickets/2019-2020-season/caroline-or-change/

There are two kids from John Mulaney's Sack Lunch Bunch on Netflix. Alexander got the whole song where he danced with Annaleigh Ashford. Jonah has the bigger part as Noah but I don't remember him too much from the Netflix special except in the interviews.

John Cariani and Chip Zien are in this... yay!

I have heard Tamika Lawrence's name a lot in recent years and I swear I saw her in If/Then as an understudy but I don't know her work well enough to know if she'll be a good Dotty.

Caissie Levy as Rose is the most interesting to me. What? She seems young. Though I guess she can't be that old if Noah is her son. And to me, if someone is like: we need a Veanne Cox, it's weird to come back with Caissie Levy both in terms of voice and character type. But I am intrigued. 

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On 9/21/2019 at 7:05 PM, aradia22 said:

Alison Luff blew me away. She was fantastic. She's got a combination of Sara's vocal power and facility with the way the score is written and a touch of Jessie Mueller's accent. She has toughness but also humor and I found her to be the most gregarious Jenna. She was also the most flirty with her Dr. P. Sara's Jenna seemed tired and worn out. Alison's Jenna was more overtly angry at the hand that life had dealt her. I really liked that choice.

....

Todrick was good. He was freer to add little touches to Oggie. He added some runs and put some sass on his line readings. He was completely miscast. He played against type and it was clear. But I still found his performance enjoyable and his dancing was okay though no one is going to live up to Chris Fitzgerald to me. 

Very late reply here as I have been page-catching.

I wasn't planning on seeing Alison but her version of SUBTM that was posted somewhere (it might have been Broadway.com) blew me away that I had to go and see her. I have already seen the show multiple times and I think by that time she was my fifth Jenna (after Jessie, Sara, Nicolette, Stephanie) and she was absolutely fantastic. Her version of SUBTM and What Baking Can Do (the two songs that I use as a measure as to how good a Jenna is, vocal-wise) and she blew me away as well. I liked what you wrote about her portrayal about Jenna because, you're right, it definitely had that edge of anger to it which is more overt than with other portrayals.

Also agree on what you wrote about Todrick. Absolutely miscast and I thought his personality was overshadowing Ogie (which is hard to do since it's OGIE) and that should never ever happen.

I went to stage door after and since it was Colleen and Todrick's last show (I think it might have been Alison's last show, too, I don't remember) it was CHAOS so I didn't even bother.

Since that show, I have seen it two more times (Jordin Sparks and Kat McPhee) and I'm proud to say that aside from Betsy Wolfe and Shoshana Bean, I have seen most of the Jennas and as much as I adore Jessie and Sara, Nicolette was, for me, the best Jenna.

Last week was the closing show and of course I was there (probably the 15th time I've seen the show) and it was an amazing experience. I've been to the closing shows of Anastasia and Beautiful last year but this one was definitely my favorite. The majority of the audience being repeat visitors helped a lot because they were attuned to the nuances onstage and if anything didn't go as scripted. We all had a laugh at one or two audience members who had never seen the show before and audibly gasped when Jenna said she didn't want to keep the baby.

Kat had a few mistakes which she played off masterfully and it was so great to see the audience appreciate each cast member and giving them standing ovations after their respective solos. There were so many memorable moments but I think the most memorable one and my favorite was the extended standing ovation for Stephanie Torns (she would fill in as Jenna in-between the replacements) when she made her appearance as Francine Pomatter. There was not a dry eye in the house. Heck, everyone onstage, including her, were bawling their eyes out.

Sara was there at curtain call, of course, along with Diane and the rest of the fantastic creative team. Sara briefly came out at stage door carrying the girl who played Lulu and it was the mos adorable thing.

This show (and Sara) turned me into a Broadway fan so I will forever be grateful for that and I also met one of my best friends through this thanks to our love of Sara. Gonna miss this show and this cast and they will always have a special place in my heart.

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Also, finally saw To Kill A Mockingbird the last Sunday of 2019 and I think I need to go see it again because my viewing experience was marred by the fact that the guy in front of me leaned forward in his seat the whole time so he was blocking my view of the center stage so I only saw 75% of what was going on onstage.

I liked what I heard of the show and the actor playing Dill definitely stole the show. He was fantastic.

Up next for me is Medea with Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale next month. I'm a huge fan of Rose so seeing her in person is going to be awesome for me and Bobby is always so great in everything he does. Should be interesting to see this real-life couple interpret this play.

I also have tickets for The Minutes for March and Jessie Mueller is the main reason I'm going to see this (pains me that she's not going to be doing any singing here) and Armie Hammer is just the icing on the cake.

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Also, finally saw To Kill A Mockingbird the last Sunday of 2019 and I think I need to go see it again because my viewing experience was marred by the fact that the guy in front of me leaned forward in his seat the whole time so he was blocking my view of the center stage so I only saw 75% of what was going on onstage.

Ugh. That's the worst. There's a whole thread on BWW about bad audience behavior. I don't remember if I mentioned it, but when I saw Shuffle Along, the woman in front of me was leaning forward like that (and we were in the mezz) and the guy next to me was manspreading. No, MANSPREADING. I was so miserable I complained (which I almost never do) at intermission and luckily there was a seat free in the orchestra. 

I thought about Medea. Probably by the time I decide to see it, it'll be sold out. 

I'm seeing Oklahoma! again. There was a cheap ticket and Rebecca is back so hopefully I'll get to see her Laurie. Aside from that it's just a bunch of concerts. I'll report back if the concerts are interesting. 

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On 1/12/2020 at 11:48 AM, unicorn23 said:

Last week was the closing show and of course I was there (probably the 15th time I've seen the show) and it was an amazing experience. I've been to the closing shows of Anastasia and Beautiful last year but this one was definitely my favorite. The majority of the audience being repeat visitors helped a lot because they were attuned to the nuances onstage and if anything didn't go as scripted. We all had a laugh at one or two audience members who had never seen the show before and audibly gasped when Jenna said she didn't want to keep the baby.

I watched the closing night bows and speeches thanks to the kind souls on youtube. It was a very sweet conclusion to the Broadway run.

 

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I saw Oklahoma again tonight. Full OBC, I think. They were filming it for the archives.

Rather than review the whole thing I'll just talk about the cast members I didn't see last time. 

I thought Rebecca Naomi Jones was better than her understudy but still wasn't 100% in the part. She managed the vocals better but I think another actress could have done an even better job. Even with the keys lowered, her belt was kind of off and she was having trouble negotiating the high notes. Sometimes she found them in the belt and sometimes she sang them very quietly. Sometimes it was more like talk-singing and sometimes she sang them more legit. Even with the keys lowered, I don't think she has the range, at least not where she could easily pop up to the high notes. She wasn't one of the actors who figured out how to make the country-style vocals work for her. Actually, having seen her I think it was a choice to have Laurey have less of an accent than the others. There's nothing in the text but it does make her stand out a little as somewhat more ladylike or educated or upper class if there was such a thing. Of course there's nothing in the text to suggest she had an education or that she and Aunt Eller had any more money than the others. I feel like compared to her understudy, she had a much clearer preference for Curly. I was watching very closely and even at the dance, she is dancing with Jud but she doesn't look at him a lot and keeps gravitating towards other partners or making eyes at Curly. I did think a lot of the light choreo made much more sense with Rebecca. It's clearly something she helped develop and/or something that's more lived in for her. I don't know what those reviews about her stomping around being angry were about. The only stomping comes in the dancing. The rest of the time, it's pretty clear that she is attracted to Curly but spurning him because he's too proud to come out and say that he likes her. He's always softpedaling or giving her backhanded compliments. She just wants him to treat her well. I didn't really sense her having bigger aspirations than being pretty and finding love/passion and then settling down to have a family. And when Jud dies, she felt more complicit than her understudy in this production's decision to make it seem like an overt cover up. That goes along with her being less affectionate towards Jud than her understudy.

I still found the portrayal of Jud interesting for the same reasons but he was slightly less sympathetic/compelling as a character when Laurey didn't seem to reciprocate his feelings at all.

Ali Stroker was good but I don't know why she got a Tony Award. Like Damon and Mary Testa, she really figured out how to negotiate the score using a country twang. But she also has more facility with her upper range than Rebecca. It's more natural for her to belt and still manage the high notes. Credit where it's due, she sang very well. However, her performance was very broadly comedic. I don't think she's really improved as an actress since The Glee Project. It was all very one-note. The other actors were just at a different level. There was more subtlety and depth and sophistication to their performances. It's not just about them having more interesting characters. Her face just didn't register that much, especially reacting to a scene partner. It stood out in comparison to the other actors who have no trouble reacting when they aren't the driving force in the scene and/or have no dialogue. 

I think I like the other Ali Hakim I saw better. I don't like the character or his songs/dialogue regardless but the other actor was less annoying. 

I still hate the dance. I talked to another audience member who said this dancer originated the dance. I suppose she was a little more natural but the choreography is still nonsense. It's too unfocused to communicate anything. Every time you think it might be suggesting something, it fails to come to a satisfying conclusion. 

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I finally watched Sutton Foster's Live From Lincoln Center special. I really enjoyed it. I wouldn't say it's a must-see but if you've got whatever PBS subscription you need to access the archives, I'd recommend it. What sets it apart is that it's a really thoughtful concert. The songs are well chosen, the arrangements are beautiful, and there are really clever mashups. 

I'm hit or miss on Younger and this concert reminded me of why I fell in love with Sutton. She wasn't a perfect ingenue because she was a young girl with a pretty voice. She was a perfect ingenue because she has always had the ability to convey a sense of optimism. She can truly sell an "I Want" song. And when she has good material, she can act the hell out of it. You can tell she's thought about it but you never see her thinking behind her eyes. She's always 100% in the moment. She also has incredibly bright vocals that border on being sharp/shrill without ever crossing over. She's not a screlter. She just has a voice that can cut through. Even though she's definitely a mezzo, watching this concert did make me think if they lower the keys a little for The Music Man, she can probably sell those songs. It won't be quite the same but she does have a sweetness in her upper register. That doesn't make me think I want to pay for full price tickets but I might see it if they end up discounting even if it's not one of my favorite classic shows.

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“I’m letting everyone know that this is one part of my life, and the other parts of my life continue,” she says. “I’m a mother, I have an eight-year-old daughter who’s very busy, and I will continue to sing and perform as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton. I had surgery last fall and am still currently going through treatment.”

https://people.com/theater/hamiltons-mandy-gonzalez-reveals-shes-fighting-breast-cancer-while-continuing-to-perform/

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Mean Girls: The Musical will get a movie adaptation

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“I’m very excited to bring ‘Mean Girls’ back to the big screen,’ Tina Fey, who wrote the film and stage production, said in a statement. “It’s been incredibly gratifying to see how much the movie and the musical have meant to audiences. I’ve spent sixteen years with these characters now. They are my Marvel Universe and I love them dearly.”

[...]

It was also announced that producers are in final talks to bring the stage show, which was directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw and recently recouped its capitalization, to London’s West End next year.

 

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I need to hurry up and do some work before bed but I wanted to write a reminder to myself to post my full thoughts when I have time later. 

I attended the Tituss Burgess Sondheim tribute concert at Carnegie Hall tonight. It was SO SO SO good. Beyond my wildest expectations. He turned it out. And he couldn't have been nicer at the stage door. 

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On 2/4/2020 at 9:16 AM, Spartan Girl said:

This was shot back in 2016 so it was just a matter of time before they finally released it. Honestly, I thought they were going to hold on to it for at least a decade so that they could keep selling tickets for the sit downs and tours. I'm glad that they've decided to release it sooner rather than later. I'm guessing they will probably do a movie adaptation somewhere down the line, but I am so happy that first we are getting a straight up filmed version of the Broadway production.

I do wonder how ticket sales are going though. Chicago's sit down (Eliza) closed recently and it sounds like they're planning to close the open-ended SF sit down late this year or early next year. They still have the Broadway show, the West End show, and two other tour casts (Angelica and Philip) so are they getting to the point where the market is saturated and ticket sales are softening? I know that here in SF, the ticket prices have dropped a lot. Center orchestra tickets used to cost $678 (face value). The exact same seats are now being sold for $147. I mean, obviously they're still making money every night, but that's a pretty big difference in profit margins.

Variety reported that Disney bought the rights for this filmed version for $75 million! I'm sure they will make their money back easily. Even if they put $0 into marketing, people would still flood the theaters to see this.

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@ElectricBoogaloo Yeah, I've known about the Hamilton recording since it happened. I think there was buzz in NY and people knew they weren't just filming it for the Lincoln Center archives. And Lin has mentioned the professional filming before to try and dissuade people from making and sharing bootlegs. But I also thought we'd have to wait at least 10 years since the Broadway premiere for them to release it.

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I do wonder how ticket sales are going though. Chicago's sit down (Eliza) closed recently and it sounds like they're planning to close the open-ended SF sit down late this year or early next year. They still have the Broadway show, the West End show, and two other tour casts (Angelica and Philip) so are they getting to the point where the market is saturated and ticket sales are softening?

I have never seen any version of Hamilton. I was content to wait for this and listen to the cast album. I'm generally not that motivated to see shows that are out of my price range or where I have to put in a lot of work to acquire tickets. But the chatter I've gathered from the Broadway production and some of the tours/other sit-down productions is that the casting isn't always the greatest and doesn't live up to the OBC. Obviously this isn't the case for every actor. I've heard good things about Daniel Breaker, Denee Benton, etc. But there have been a lot of criticisms, particularly for the actors playing Lafayette and Angelica. Much was made of the way Harold Prince would check in on Phantom. Thomas Kail is certainly busy these days. Maybe there isn't enough effort maintaining the standard that people expect?

There's a suggestion that gets floated on BWW from time to time that I'm not sure that I buy. Some people think Hamilton is difficult to translate internationally because they have no interest in American politics (how did 1776, Assassins, etc. do outside of America?), it's too wordy and difficult to translate, and non-American audiences will be less receptive to the style of music. I do think a show that can both have sit-down productions outside of English-speaking countries and also continue to appeal to tourists has the best chance of longevity. Basically, I'm thinking of Wicked. It's not the greatest show but there have been times where it's had multiple sit-down productions in other countries and that hasn't eaten into the box office at the Gershwin. 

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13 hours ago, aradia22 said:

I have never seen any version of Hamilton. I was content to wait for this and listen to the cast album. I'm generally not that motivated to see shows that are out of my price range or where I have to put in a lot of work to acquire tickets. But the chatter I've gathered from the Broadway production and some of the tours/other sit-down productions is that the casting isn't always the greatest and doesn't live up to the OBC. Obviously this isn't the case for every actor. I've heard good things about Daniel Breaker, Denee Benton, etc. But there have been a lot of criticisms, particularly for the actors playing Lafayette and Angelica. Much was made of the way Harold Prince would check in on Phantom. Thomas Kail is certainly busy these days. Maybe there isn't enough effort maintaining the standard that people expect?

I think it's fair to say that there are a lot of shows where the Broadway replacements or tour cast don't live up to the OBC. I know that I've seen some national tours where I thought a particular actor just plain sucked. But I think that a large contributing factor to the whole "the new people aren't as good as the OBC" complaint is that Hamilton is one of those shows where a lot of people have listened to the OBC recording obsessively before ever seeing the show live and they now know every note, every quarter rest, every flourish by heart, so when they hear anyone else's interpretation it sounds like a deviation of the version they are familiar with.

I have seen three of the tour casts (and two of the tour casts I have seen after major casting changes after contracts were up so realistically I've seen five completely different casts). There were some people who I personally didn't like for very specific reasons (one guy was a constant scooper - like EVERY note) but there have also been some really amazing performers too (and let's be honest - I think LMM is ridiculously talented, but he is not the best singer to ever grace a Broadway stage).

But I don't think that it's an issue of the maintaining the standards of the original version. It's not like they're hiring tone deaf actors for any of the tours or the sit downs. A lot of the current cast members have come up through the ranks. The current Hamilton on Broadway (Ryan Vazquez) started in the ensemble of the Angelica tour. The current Broadway Aaron Burr (Daniel Breaker) started as a replacement Burr for the Angelica tour. The King George on the Philip tour (Neil Haskell) started in the ensemble during the pre-Broadway run. The one person I've heard the most complaints about is Mandy Gonzalez who has played Angelica on Broadway since Renee Elise Goldsberry left in 2016. Lin loves her so there is no way they're getting rid of her until she chooses to leave. She refused to quit even after she was diagnosed with cancer so she is never leaving the show.

14 hours ago, aradia22 said:

I do think a show that can both have sit-down productions outside of English-speaking countries and also continue to appeal to tourists has the best chance of longevity. Basically, I'm thinking of Wicked. It's not the greatest show but there have been times where it's had multiple sit-down productions in other countries and that hasn't eaten into the box office at the Gershwin. 

Ha, I agree that Wicked is not the greatest Broadway show ever but man has it made a lot of money with a lot of productions. I really wanted to like the show because I loved Winnie Holzman (MSCL stan here) and I'd read the book but I still came away from the show feeling like it had three or four really good songs and some good costumes. I honestly thought it wouldn't last long on Broadway once Idina and Cheno left. Obviously I was wrong on all counts because everyone loves this show (except me). I think part of the appeal is that people already know the basic Wizard of Oz story (including non-Americans).

I don't know how much the Hamilton film will cut into ticket sales for Broadway or the tours. A lot of people just assume it's super expensive or hard to get tickets and just don't bother trying (the SF sit down has been here for a year and I know there are some people who still haven't tried to get tickets because they've made that assumption - despite the fact that I just went online and bought center orchestra seats in the seventh row for $147 without any sort of hassle or waiting). Other people live in cities where the tours still haven't gone. I think that leaves a lot of people who realistically would not be buying tickets for Broadway or the tour but would happily pay to see it in a movie theater.

When they announced that the Chicago sit down was going to close, one of the producers said they could have kept the production there and still sold a lot of seats and made money but the demand had decreased and they want a full house every night.

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On 1/24/2020 at 7:23 AM, ElectricBoogaloo said:

I mean, I enjoyed Hairspray's musical remake, so this should be decently good. Hopefully. I am glad this isn't a straight remake. I always thought that when Footloose and Heathers did their reboots, they should have gone with the musical versions.

I was honestly kind of expecting that when they were doing the t.v. reboot of Dirty Dancing, but it doesn't look like they did. (However, I refused to watch so I can't be for sure.) In any event, Baby and Johnny don't even sing in the musical. I really wondered what was even the point of it. Don't get me wrong, I had fun watching the touring version, but they couldn't even let Johnny sing "She's Like the Wind" to Baby?

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I got another one of those show-score emails. Last time it was putting out feelers about the off-Broadway Little Shop that ended up casting Jonathan Groff and Christian Borle. This time it was about Passing Strange.

Also, I spent Valentine's Day seeing the NY Pops at Carnegie Hall featuring Mandy Gonzalez, Alex Newell, and Carrie Manolakos. I have some critiques but on the whole, it was an enjoyable night. Good song selection. Everyone pretty much in good voice. 

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I cannot find evidence of it, but I feel like when I bought a ticket for Simon Boccanegra, it was starring Placido Domingo. Anyway, now I'm feeling less enthused about the opera so I'm soliciting opinions for a ticket switch. This late in the season the offerings that appeal to me are: Der Fliegende Hollander, Tosca, La Traviata, and Turandot. 

I do like Wagner but I don't know that I'll be captivated by the story of the Flying Dutchman. I find that production of Tosca boring but I do love Netrebko. The production of Traviata is pretty but I was bored last time I saw it without Damrau. Of the four, I like Turandot the most but I told myself I wasn't going to see it unless they cast an Asian actress... and they still haven't.

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12 hours ago, aradia22 said:

Of the four, I like Turandot the most but I told myself I wasn't going to see it unless they cast an Asian actress... and they still haven't.

I understand this point of view and respect it, but it's a hard one to hold to in the world of opera sometimes. It's not as if they have their pick of hundreds of candidates and are ignoring the Asian ones; at any given time there are maybe half a dozen sopranos in the world who can sing the role of Turandot acceptably. I suppose the answer would be to leave this opera (and Otello and Aida and...) unperformed until the right singer comes along. But to my ears there are fewer and fewer really big voices coming into the business each year. I don't know the reason, or the answer.

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@Rinaldo I've heard some pretty good Asian sopranos over the few years I've been going to the Met. I think they tend to be South Korean and more ingenue-ish. Hui He sang a good Madama Butterfly. I don't know Turandot and I can't differentiate between the quality of operatic sopranos (lyric, coloratura, etc.) well enough to know who can and who can't sing Turandot. But I think that as with anything else, there's talent out there that could be developed if someone wanted to put the effort in.

I saw Turandot once in the movie theater as a Live in HD broadcast. I think it was Nina Stemme and Matthew Polenzani. It's not a show I feel compelled to revisit. I would certainly like to see it again but I don't need to.

As for the question of big voices, I'd be hard pressed to argue that someone should pursue opera as a career. Even compared to classical instrumental music and musical theater which are competitive enough, it seems like there's not a lot of opportunity for someone to break out. Who knows what compelling voices are buried in the chorus? 

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3 hours ago, aradia22 said:

@Rinaldo I've heard some pretty good Asian sopranos over the few years I've been going to the Met.

Oh, for sure, there are some terrific examples around. (And in other range categories too.) But as you say, they're in the lyric, ingenue vein -- which is what almost all young sopranos of any national background seems to be now. Such voices don't "become" dramatic sopranos (which is what's needed for Turandot -- it was a real rarity for decades, until Birgit Nilsson came along) through training or aging. I have my own theories why truly big dramatic voices are becoming more and more scarce, but I won't propose them here as fact. 

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Such voices don't "become" dramatic sopranos (which is what's needed for Turandot -- it was a real rarity for decades, until Birgit Nilsson came along) through training or aging.

Ah, sorry. I didn't mean to imply that those singers would become dramatic sopranos. Just that there are talented Asian singers out there who maybe don't get as many opportunities and as many people investing in developing their talent. Like, maybe there's a kid who has the potential to be the greatest chess master the world has ever seen. But he lives in Harlem or Louisiana or Alabama and even if he does happen to encounter chess, there's no reason for him to seriously pursue it. What are the chances of him making a career out of it? With certain disciplines where you really have to start young... opera, ballet, violin, figure skating, etc. there's so much working against you and so much commitment and support you need to become great. I feel like so many people doing the hiring expect perfection to be delivered to them fully formed. At best they might scout around for talent at the college level. 

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Well, there's a whole conversation possible about whether our current schedule for training classical voices is the best way. And a lot of societal complications: college age is almost too late to start thinking about one's voice, and the usual way until about 1960 was to do it via private teaching outside of any curriculum. But that was also an age when such singing was much more "in the air" in everybody's life (and when microphones didn't influence all public communication), and it was natural to start imagining oneself as such a singer at an early age. All of that has changed permanently, so it's hard to know what to do about it now. I certainly don't have any answers. And probably I have no more to say on this.

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12 hours ago, MikaelaArsenault said:

 

Speaking of Nathan Lane, I will always regret not having seen The Frogs. I have read that the show dragged but I enjoy the cast recording so much I still wish I could have seen it.

Re: Everybody Ought to Have a Maid, I am partial to this version:

 

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I saw Mack & Mabel tonight at NYCC. I was able to get an excellent balcony seat, dead center. It was a very competently performed production of a flawed show. As a concert with excellent costumes strung together with some book scenes it was excellent. All the big songs sounded great. As a coherent and compelling book musical, it was a flop for me. Thoughts in spoilers...

Spoiler

General thoughts...

The decision to structure the book as Mack telling us the story was clunky and distancing. The framing device just felt like lazy writing. It's more cinematic than theatrical. And there was no need for it. It's not like The Drowsy Chaperone which needed a way to involve the Man in Chair character and stitch all these pieces together. You can very much tell this story without having Mack jump in to guide the audience along. It just seemed like an excuse for a lot of telling instead of doing the work of showing. 

There was too big of an age difference between Douglas Sills and Alexandra Socha (30 years) and nothing in the script to suggest what the real age difference was. In part because of the age difference/physical appearance of the two actors but also because of the way the characters were performed and how the book portrayed them... I could not understand Mabel's attraction to Sennett. 

Mack & Mabel kept reminding me of other, better shows. There was a lot of On the Twentieth Century, (which I know came later but the movie came first). I don't love that musical but at least it gives Lily more agency than this book gives Mabel. It's a much stronger story for Lily to have some talent and for Oscar to need to pursue her than the story in Mack & Mabel which is apparently that yes, Mabel was nothing without Mack and the lesson he needed to learn was to save her from the bad man sooner because she's an idiot who can't make decisions without him. Speaking of stronger stories, there's also some A Star is Born energy. Except while you'd logically think that the show is structured for Mabel to do better once she leaves Mack who is hiding the fact that other directors want to work with her and let her be a serious dramatic actress and who is limited by making short comedic films with lots of shallow physical comedy... instead her career is the one that goes into a decline. 

Mabel's alleged drug problem is weirdly developed in this show. Two times in act 1, you catch her hurriedly taking pills and swallowing them with water. Then in act 2, there's a big reveal where Ben Fankhauser's paperboy/later screenwriter character tells Mack that her drug problem started on the sets of Mack's movies to keep up with his demanding schedule. And then it got worse with William Desmond Taylor who gave her cocaine (referred to as angel dust in the show) and heroin. What in the what? 

As a depiction of show business there are better musicals. There's a number where the cast thanks their new money guys. I kept thinking, I'd rather be watching "Have an Eggroll, Mr. Goldstone" from Gypsy right now. 

Again, at the end of the show, I didn't get what the point was. I didn't need a strict moral but I needed the show to tell me what it was about. Even though we have Mack as a framing device, he never tells us what he learned except that he was too late to save Mabel. Is the point that pushing himself so hard with that demanding schedule was not worth it if he ended up without Mabel in the end? He should have realized what was important in his life instead of leaving it too late and always expecting her to come back? Is the point that Mabel was talented and no one respected that and she deserved better? You need to know what your story is about and build the narrative around reinforcing that or else you get something that just meanders about.

Spoiler

Specific thoughts...

The show started off on an odd note with "Movies Were Movies." I'm not good at music theory but the dips into a minor key and some other musical flourishes + Douglas Sills performance made this number come across as far too sinister. I kept thinking, this would be handled better by Sondheim or Kander & Ebb.

The entire show, but especially "Look What Happened to Mabel" does not at all challenge the idea that Mack completely created Mabel. He took a girl delivering sandwiches and turned her into an actress. There's a bit when he first sees her about how she had something special about her but the rest of the show never goes back to that and it's like she has no real talent of her own. Because the show depicts her career as going into a decline after she leaves Mack, it seems to confirm that she isn't a great actress and suggest that anything positive he says about her hindsight is him idealizing his lover.

Lilli Cooper was fantastic. She was great every time she was on stage but she really shined in two numbers. The show oddly gives a lot of characters their own moments given that no characters are developed aside from Mack & Mabel. 

The development of Mack & Mabel's relationship made no sense to me. First it was very Lily meets Oscar in On the 20th Century. Then they share this moment that feels a lot like "They Say It's Wonderful" in Annie Get Your Gun on a train. And then suddenly she's cooking him dinner and it's very "You Are Woman, I Am Man" in Funny Girl when Nick seduces Fanny. And then "I Won't Send Roses" just happens. Now, "I Won't Send Roses" is a GREAT song. Douglas Sills sang it fine but I prefer Brian Stokes Mitchell's version. But it's a great song that's plopped in the middle of this confusing romance plot that doesn't earn such a great song. I don't know if this is part of the edited book but what the bond over is an incredibly stupid bit of dialogue where they both make up poems. Because this is a thing that people do??? There is no good explanation of why this apparently very religious girl is willing to be seduced by this older man. In neither Douglas Sills' performance nor in the book of the musical is there any explanation of what she sees in him. He's not that handsome. He's not charismatic. He doesn't say nice things to her. It's not like I'm terribly picky. Take Annie Get Your Gun. Frank Butler is not the greatest guy but I get what Annie sees in him. He's handsome and charismatic and a big star. It's easy to see why this country girl is swooning over a guy who is basically a matinee idol before she realizes he's a lug with a big ego. With Mabel, I don't get why she's got a crush on a guy who has never said a kind word to her and is constantly yelling at everyone. "I Won't Send Roses" is the kind of thing I can imagine Mr. Big singing to Carrie if Sex and the City were a musical. But you understand why Carrie wants him so much. Big tells Carrie not to romanticize him or push him for more than he can give at the moment. This does not work in Mack & Mabel when you don't understand what Mabel sees in Sennett and he is singing a song disabusing her of any romantic notions. I needed some dialogue or a song before this to establish why Mabel was so into him and to suggest that she was harboring romantic dreams anyway, thinking she understood him in a special way... that there was something under the tough exterior.

Speaking of the yelling, "I Wanna Make the World Laugh" is a confusing number to develop Mack's character and worldview. All we've seen up until now is this intimidating, almost sinister director. He blusters. He's domineering. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy who should be selling the perspective that he makes his movies just for fun. He is played and written like Oscar in On the 20th Century. Now you can make comedic movies and be a jerk. But the book doesn't do anything to make that contrast. So giving him this song feels incongruous. 

Alexandra killed "Wherever He Ain't." She sang the hell out of it and it was a great number. But going along with the sense of this being a good concert this felt like it came out of nowhere. Mabel goes off to meet with another director so Mack takes another actress to bed and Mabel discovers them and then gets a big number as she's leaving him. Why is this happening? Mack's petty retaliation might feel true to life but in the context of the way the show was plotted, it felt arbitrary. Since they felt comfortable changing other real life details, I don't see why they couldn't have built up to it more to make this number feel more earned. 

"Hundreds of Girls" was a solid number but it felt gross in the context of the show. Mack decides Mabel was not so special after all so he replaces her with a bunch of girls because men will like the variety and all the skin on display. And he succeeds with it. What is the lesson here? I'm not talking about morality. I'm talking about storytelling. I did not understand what story they were trying to tell with Sennett being terrible and then continuing to be rewarded. 

Meanwhile the book tells us that Mabel has 5 flops working with Taylor as a dramatic actress. Sennett's Bathing Beauties are still making money but with diminishing returns. 

There's a big number ("When Mabel Comes in the Room") where Mabel comes back to Keystone and everyone sings to her. It's a weak echo of "Hello, Dolly." 

There's a number about the joys of physical comedy ("Hit 'Em On the Head") that features the Keystone Cops that feels like there's suddenly a vaudeville number stopping the momentum of the story. I get that it's fun. But The Producers managed to have fun numbers that moved the story along. 

"Tap Your Troubles" away was a glorious number and a big showstopper for Lilli. But it didn't work to me as a number in the show. Again, I kept thinking Sondheim or Kander & Ebb would have handled it better. The latter are particularly good at doing the whole thing where an upbeat number is ironic cover for something darker. This is mostly a tap number and then there's a lot of silent miming to depict William Desmond Taylor's behavior getting wilder as he romances a woman, gets into a fight with her date and ends up shot. This number does not help express that. 

Mack sees the mess that Mabel's life has become and goes back to her with the script for Molly O. Mack hocks the studio and makes the film, this time taking it seriously. It fails. Mabel dies. Mack goes on doing... stuff? 

The show ends with some cute clips of Socha as Mabel running around NYCC in silent film style comedy antics and I don't know what the point of it all was. 

Right after the show I decided to turn to the You Must Remember This podcast to fact check the story. Assuming the research is correct, I feel like this was the true story that was making Mack & Mabel ring false to me. Instead of this shallow echo of other, better musicals, the facts presented in the podcast paint a very different picture and give a hint of the story that could have been told.

Spoiler

Mabel and Mack had similar backgrounds. Working/middle class and some combination of Irish and Canadian. Before she met Mack, she already had a career as a portrait model/Gibson girl and then a brief career as an extra for D.W. Griffith films. Their age difference was still bad as she was very young when they met but it was closer to 12-15 years than the casting would suggest. The musical undersells her comedic sensibilities and her gift for physical comedy. Mabel was a prankster whose gift for comedy made her a poor fit for other directors but Mack took advantage of it. This is very different from depicting her as a girl plucked from obscurity who Mack directed by counting out her actions like she was a trained seal.

While working with Sennett, Mack allowed her to direct 10 movies. Some of them involved Charlie Chaplin who openly challenged Mabel's authority. Mack backed her up when this happened. 

Mack and Mabel had a volatile relationship. Once when Mabel went out dancing with an actor friend, Mack hid in her bushes and attacked him (and possibly her) when they got back to her home. 

Before their wedding could take place, Mack did cheat on her with another actress.

Actually, Sennett's other stars left before Mabel did. She was the last one who stuck by him. 

 Mack set up Mabel with her own production shingle. It made one movie titled Mickey which had a huge publicity campaign and accompanying song and ended up the highest grossing film of 1918.

When Mack's Triangle company had financial problems, Mabel left for Samuel Goldwyn. He had fallen in love with her onscreen persona and actively pursued her, making her accompany him to events as his date. At some point in this relationship, she had a stillborn child.

Mabel suffered from respiratory problems for her entire life and died of tuberculosis. There is no definitive evidence of a drug problem besides tabloid rumors and claims in memoirs. But she did drink what she called "goop" which was an OTC cough syrup containing opium. And she did have a well-documented problem with alcohol/binge-drinking.

As for tough times in her career, she had a brief stay in a sanitarium. Afterwards, she returned to Sennett to make the films Molly O. and Susannah. The boycotting and banning of Fatty Arbuckle's movies affected Mabel since she also starred in many of them. Then as they were filming Susannah, William Desmond Taylor was killed and Mabel visited him the night before the shooting and was the last to see him alive. The negative press around this made Susannah a flop. In 1923, she made another Sennett film called Extra Girl. In 1924, a millionaire had an altercation with Mabel's chaffeur and was shot (non-fatally). The resulting press and scandal finally sunk Mabel's career in the atmosphere of moralizing that preceded the Hayes Code. 

Sennett lied to Mabel that Will Hayes had banned her movies as a way to get out of his contract with her. 

Mabel had an appendectomy and a fellow patient's wife named her in her divorce proceedings. Mabel denied even knowing the man and sued the wife for libel. 

Mabel did a Broadway show in New York. 

Mabel made 5 short films with Hal Roach in 1926. 

Mabel married another actor, seemingly as a prank. 

In 1930, she died at age 37.

Rather than being her drug pusher, it seems like Taylor was a good, close friend.

Here's the alternate plot of Mack & Mabel, as I see it, sticking closer to the historical facts. 

Spoiler

Mack and Mabel are both ambitious young people hoping to make it in the movies. Mabel has already found a way to make money as a Gibson girl sitting for portraits and working as an extra but no one seems to know how to utilize her talents. She wants to have fun and do comedy but people don't really expect that of a girl. She's being treated as a damsel or a vamp or any of the other shallow archetypes because of how she looks. She meets Mack. There's a considerable age difference, especially considering how young she is but she's drawn to him because of their similar backgrounds. He shares her sense of humor and he wants to make movies where she can really shine. Put "I Wanna Make the World Laugh" here as a song that persuades Mabel of who Mack is as a director. She goes with him because she thinks she's finally met a man who sees her for who she is and who will respect her and take her seriously. "Look What Happened to Mabel" is rewritten to correct the inaccuracies and put here. He even lets her direct her own movies and stands up for her when sexist Charlie Chaplin tries to challenge her. Their relationship is volatile (maybe put in the story about him hiding in the bushes and maybe include her heavy drinking) but Mabel thinks she can rely on Mack when it counts. But then before they can get married, he cheats on her. Mabel realizes for all his talk, he's still a man and sings "Wherever He Ain't" as she walks out the door after this huge betrayal of everything she thought they had together.

Mabel goes to work for Samuel Goldwyn but she's disgusted by the way he pursues her and coerces her. You could possibly include the stillborn child and the sanitarium. Meanwhile Mack is having success with his Bathing Beauties. "Hundreds of Girls" can go here. But in the end, Mabel finds her way back to Mack. This is the time he sings "I Won't Send Roses." It makes sense after he has cheated on her but she's still drawn to him and remembers the good times. She's also had some rough times so she's seeing the past through rose-colored glasses. The scandals happen with Fatty Arbuckle, William Desmond Taylor, and Dines getting shot by the chaffeur. "Tap Your Troubles" away functions better as an ironic song as the scandals pile up through no fault of Mabel's. Through this song, it can be clear that her health and her looks are fading from the respiratory problems and the drinking is not helping. Her career is tanking in this atmosphere of moralizing groups railing against the sin and licentiousness of Hollywood. Mack is regretting working with Mabel again and lies to her that Will Hayes has banned her movies so he can break their contract. After this betrayal, Mabel sings "Time Heals Everything" and walks away again, this time for good. She realizes she was stupid to put her trust in Mack again. There is irony in "Time Heals Everything" because she came back to him after his first betrayal but also because she has to know that she's dying at this point and she won't have much more time. Mack watches old footage of Mabel and thinks about his failings as a romantic partner and a business partner. He sings "I Promise You a Happy Ending" as he laments on the mistakes he made and continues to watch the footage as though he can rewrite the story. 

 

Edited by aradia22
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10 hours ago, aradia22 said:

I saw Mack & Mabel tonight at NYCC. I was able to get an excellent balcony seat, dead center. It was a very competently performed production of a flawed show. As a concert with excellent costumes strung together with some book scenes it was excellent. All the big songs sounded great. As a coherent and compelling book musical, it was a flop for me. Thoughts in spoilers...

  Hide contents

General thoughts...

The decision to structure the book as Mack telling us the story was clunky and distancing. The framing device just felt like lazy writing. It's more cinematic than theatrical. And there was no need for it. It's not like The Drowsy Chaperone which needed a way to involve the Man in Chair character and stitch all these pieces together. You can very much tell this story without having Mack jump in to guide the audience along. It just seemed like an excuse for a lot of telling instead of doing the work of showing. 

There was too big of an age difference between Douglas Sills and Alexandra Socha (30 years) and nothing in the script to suggest what the real age difference was. In part because of the age difference/physical appearance of the two actors but also because of the way the characters were performed and how the book portrayed them... I could not understand Mabel's attraction to Sennett. 

Mack & Mabel kept reminding me of other, better shows. There was a lot of On the Twentieth Century, (which I know came later but the movie came first). I don't love that musical but at least it gives Lily more agency than this book gives Mabel. It's a much stronger story for Lily to have some talent and for Oscar to need to pursue her than the story in Mack & Mabel which is apparently that yes, Mabel was nothing without Mack and the lesson he needed to learn was to save her from the bad man sooner because she's an idiot who can't make decisions without him. Speaking of stronger stories, there's also some A Star is Born energy. Except while you'd logically think that the show is structured for Mabel to do better once she leaves Mack who is hiding the fact that other directors want to work with her and let her be a serious dramatic actress and who is limited by making short comedic films with lots of shallow physical comedy... instead her career is the one that goes into a decline. 

Mabel's alleged drug problem is weirdly developed in this show. Two times in act 1, you catch her hurriedly taking pills and swallowing them with water. Then in act 2, there's a big reveal where Ben Fankhauser's paperboy/later screenwriter character tells Mack that her drug problem started on the sets of Mack's movies to keep up with his demanding schedule. And then it got worse with William Desmond Taylor who gave her cocaine (referred to as angel dust in the show) and heroin. What in the what? 

As a depiction of show business there are better musicals. There's a number where the cast thanks their new money guys. I kept thinking, I'd rather be watching "Have an Eggroll, Mr. Goldstone" from Gypsy right now. 

Again, at the end of the show, I didn't get what the point was. I didn't need a strict moral but I needed the show to tell me what it was about. Even though we have Mack as a framing device, he never tells us what he learned except that he was too late to save Mabel. Is the point that pushing himself so hard with that demanding schedule was not worth it if he ended up without Mabel in the end? He should have realized what was important in his life instead of leaving it too late and always expecting her to come back? Is the point that Mabel was talented and no one respected that and she deserved better? You need to know what your story is about and build the narrative around reinforcing that or else you get something that just meanders about.

  Hide contents

Specific thoughts...

The show started off on an odd note with "Movies Were Movies." I'm not good at music theory but the dips into a minor key and some other musical flourishes + Douglas Sills performance made this number come across as far too sinister. I kept thinking, this would be handled better by Sondheim or Kander & Ebb.

The entire show, but especially "Look What Happened to Mabel" does not at all challenge the idea that Mack completely created Mabel. He took a girl delivering sandwiches and turned her into an actress. There's a bit when he first sees her about how she had something special about her but the rest of the show never goes back to that and it's like she has no real talent of her own. Because the show depicts her career as going into a decline after she leaves Mack, it seems to confirm that she isn't a great actress and suggest that anything positive he says about her hindsight is him idealizing his lover.

Lilli Cooper was fantastic. She was great every time she was on stage but she really shined in two numbers. The show oddly gives a lot of characters their own moments given that no characters are developed aside from Mack & Mabel. 

The development of Mack & Mabel's relationship made no sense to me. First it was very Lily meets Oscar in On the 20th Century. Then they share this moment that feels a lot like "They Say It's Wonderful" in Annie Get Your Gun on a train. And then suddenly she's cooking him dinner and it's very "You Are Woman, I Am Man" in Funny Girl when Nick seduces Fanny. And then "I Won't Send Roses" just happens. Now, "I Won't Send Roses" is a GREAT song. Douglas Sills sang it fine but I prefer Brian Stokes Mitchell's version. But it's a great song that's plopped in the middle of this confusing romance plot that doesn't earn such a great song. I don't know if this is part of the edited book but what the bond over is an incredibly stupid bit of dialogue where they both make up poems. Because this is a thing that people do??? There is no good explanation of why this apparently very religious girl is willing to be seduced by this older man. In neither Douglas Sills' performance nor in the book of the musical is there any explanation of what she sees in him. He's not that handsome. He's not charismatic. He doesn't say nice things to her. It's not like I'm terribly picky. Take Annie Get Your Gun. Frank Butler is not the greatest guy but I get what Annie sees in him. He's handsome and charismatic and a big star. It's easy to see why this country girl is swooning over a guy who is basically a matinee idol before she realizes he's a lug with a big ego. With Mabel, I don't get why she's got a crush on a guy who has never said a kind word to her and is constantly yelling at everyone. "I Won't Send Roses" is the kind of thing I can imagine Mr. Big singing to Carrie if Sex and the City were a musical. But you understand why Carrie wants him so much. Big tells Carrie not to romanticize him or push him for more than he can give at the moment. This does not work in Mack & Mabel when you don't understand what Mabel sees in Sennett and he is singing a song disabusing her of any romantic notions. I needed some dialogue or a song before this to establish why Mabel was so into him and to suggest that she was harboring romantic dreams anyway, thinking she understood him in a special way... that there was something under the tough exterior.

Speaking of the yelling, "I Wanna Make the World Laugh" is a confusing number to develop Mack's character and worldview. All we've seen up until now is this intimidating, almost sinister director. He blusters. He's domineering. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy who should be selling the perspective that he makes his movies just for fun. He is played and written like Oscar in On the 20th Century. Now you can make comedic movies and be a jerk. But the book doesn't do anything to make that contrast. So giving him this song feels incongruous. 

Alexandra killed "Wherever He Ain't." She sang the hell out of it and it was a great number. But going along with the sense of this being a good concert this felt like it came out of nowhere. Mabel goes off to meet with another director so Mack takes another actress to bed and Mabel discovers them and then gets a big number as she's leaving him. Why is this happening? Mack's petty retaliation might feel true to life but in the context of the way the show was plotted, it felt arbitrary. Since they felt comfortable changing other real life details, I don't see why they couldn't have built up to it more to make this number feel more earned. 

"Hundreds of Girls" was a solid number but it felt gross in the context of the show. Mack decides Mabel was not so special after all so he replaces her with a bunch of girls because men will like the variety and all the skin on display. And he succeeds with it. What is the lesson here? I'm not talking about morality. I'm talking about storytelling. I did not understand what story they were trying to tell with Sennett being terrible and then continuing to be rewarded. 

Meanwhile the book tells us that Mabel has 5 flops working with Sennett as a dramatic actress. Sennett's Bathing Beauties are still making money but with diminishing returns. 

There's a big number ("When Mabel Comes in the Room") where Mabel comes back to Keystone and everyone sings to her. It's a weak echo of "Hello, Dolly." 

There's a number about the joys of physical comedy ("Hit 'Em On the Head") that features the Keystone Cops that feels like there's suddenly a vaudeville number stopping the momentum of the story. I get that it's fun. But The Producers managed to have fun numbers that moved the story along. 

"Tap Your Troubles" away was a glorious number and a big showstopper for Lilli. But it didn't work to me as a number in the show. Again, I kept thinking Sondheim or Kander & Ebb would have handled it better. The latter are particularly good at doing the whole thing where an upbeat number is ironic cover for something darker. This is mostly a tap number and then there's a lot of silent miming to depict William Desmond Taylor's behavior getting wilder as he romances a woman, gets into a fight with her date and ends up shot. This number does not help express that. 

Mack sees the mess that Mabel's life has become and goes back to her with the script for Molly O. Mack hocks the studio and makes the film, this time taking it seriously. It fails. Mabel dies. Mack goes on doing... stuff? 

The show ends with some cute clips of Socha as Mabel running around NYCC in silent film style comedy antics and I don't know what the point of it all was. 

Right after the show I decided to turn to the You Must Remember This podcast to fact check the story. Assuming the research is correct, I feel like this was the true story that was making Mack & Mabel ring false to me. Instead of this shallow echo of other, better musicals, the facts presented in the podcast paint a very different picture and give a hint of the story that could have been told.

  Hide contents

Mabel and Mack had similar backgrounds. Working/middle class and some combination of Irish and Canadian. Before she met Mack, she already had a career as a portrait model/Gibson girl and then a brief career as an extra for D.W. Griffith films. Their age difference was still bad as she was very young when they met but it was closer to 12-15 years than the casting would suggest. The musical undersells her comedic sensibilities and her gift for physical comedy. Mabel was a prankster whose gift for comedy made her a poor fit for other directors but Mack took advantage of it. This is very different from depicting her as a girl plucked from obscurity who Mack directed by counting out her actions like she was a trained seal.

While working with Sennett, Mack allowed her to direct 10 movies. Some of them involved Charlie Chaplin who openly challenged Mabel's authority. Mack backed her up when this happened. 

Mack and Mabel had a volatile relationship. Once when Mabel went out dancing with an actor friend, Mack hid in her bushes and attacked him (and possibly her) when they got back to her home. 

Before their wedding could take place, Mack did cheat on her with another actress.

Actually, Sennett's other stars left before Mabel did. She was the last one who stuck by him. 

 Mack set up Mabel with her own production shingle. It made one movie titled Mickey which had a huge publicity campaign and accompanying song and ended up the highest grossing film of 1918.

When Mack's Triangle company had financial problems, Mabel left for Samuel Goldwyn. He had fallen in love with her onscreen persona and actively pursued her, making her accompany him to events as his date. At some point in this relationship, she had a stillborn child.

Mabel suffered from respiratory problems for her entire life and died of tuberculosis. There is no definitive evidence of a drug problem besides tabloid rumors and claims in memoirs. But she did drink what she called "goop" which was an OTC cough syrup containing opium. And she did have a well-documented problem with alcohol/binge-drinking.

As for tough times in her career, she had a brief stay in a sanitarium. Afterwards, she returned to Sennett to make the films Molly O. and Susannah. The boycotting and banning of Fatty Arbuckle's movies affected Mabel since she also starred in many of them. Then as they were filming Susannah, William Desmond Taylor was killed and Mabel visited him the night before the shooting and was the last to see him alive. The negative press around this made Susannah a flop. In 1923, she made another Sennett film called Extra Girl. In 1924, a millionaire had an altercation with Mabel's chaffeur and was shot (non-fatally). The resulting press and scandal finally sunk Mabel's career in the atmosphere of moralizing that preceded the Hayes Code. 

Sennett lied to Mabel that Will Hayes had banned her movies as a way to get out of his contract with her. 

Mabel had an appendectomy and a fellow patient's wife named her in her divorce proceedings. Mabel denied even knowing the man and sued the wife for libel. 

Mabel did a Broadway show in New York. 

Mabel made 5 short films with Hal Roach in 1926. 

Mabel married another actor, seemingly as a prank. 

In 1930, she died at age 37.

Rather than being her drug pusher, it seems like Taylor was a good, close friend.

Here's the alternate plot of Mack & Mabel, as I see it, sticking closer to the historical facts. 

  Reveal spoiler

Mack and Mabel are both ambitious young people hoping to make it in the movies. Mabel has already found a way to make money as a Gibson girl sitting for portraits and working as an extra but no one seems to know how to utilize her talents. She wants to have fun and do comedy but people don't really expect that of a girl. She's being treated as a damsel or a vamp or any of the other shallow archetypes because of how she looks. She meets Mack. There's a considerable age difference, especially considering how young she is but she's drawn to him because of their similar backgrounds. He shares her sense of humor and he wants to make movies where she can really shine. Put "I Wanna Make the World Laugh" here as a song that persuades Mabel of who Mack is as a director. She goes with him because she thinks she's finally met a man who sees her for who she is and who will respect her and take her seriously. "Look What Happened to Mabel" is rewritten to correct the inaccuracies and put here. He even lets her direct her own movies and stands up for her when sexist Charlie Chaplin tries to challenge her. Their relationship is volatile (maybe put in the story about him hiding in the bushes and maybe include her heavy drinking) but Mabel thinks she can rely on Mack when it counts. But then before they can get married, he cheats on her. Mabel realizes for all his talk, he's still a man and sings "Wherever He Ain't" as she walks out the door after this huge betrayal of everything she thought they had together.

Mabel goes to work for Samuel Goldwyn but she's disgusted by the way he pursues her and coerces her. You could possibly include the stillborn child and the sanitarium. Meanwhile Mack is having success with his Bathing Beauties. "Hundreds of Girls" can go here. But in the end, Mabel finds her way back to Mack. This is the time he sings "I Won't Send Roses." It makes sense after he has cheated on her but she's still drawn to him and remembers the good times. She's also had some rough times so she's seeing the past through rose-colored glasses. The scandals happen with Fatty Arbuckle, William Desmond Taylor, and Dines getting shot by the chaffeur. "Tap Your Troubles" away functions better as an ironic song as the scandals pile up through no fault of Mabel's. Through this song, it can be clear that her health and her looks are fading from the respiratory problems and the drinking is not helping. Her career is tanking in this atmosphere of moralizing groups railing against the sin and licentiousness of Hollywood. Mack is regretting working with Mabel again and lies to her that Will Hayes has banned her movies so he can break their contract. After this betrayal, Mabel sings "Time Heals Everything" and walks away again, this time for good. She realizes she was stupid to put her trust in Mack again. There is irony in "Time Heals Everything" because she came back to him after his first betrayal but also because she has to know that she's dying at this point and she won't have much more time. Mack watches old footage of Mabel and thinks about his failings as a romantic partner and a business partner. He sings "I Promise You a Happy Ending" as he laments on the mistakes he made and continues to watch the footage as though he can rewrite the story. 

 

I'm seeing this tomorrow night. Expect my review to be either "I agree"  or "I don't agree "  😄

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I'm trying to nail down my 2020-2021 Met Opera season. I'm going to be good this year. 6 operas is enough for a flex subscription. I can't keep doing a ton of operas every year. I get bored and it's difficult to keep schlepping over to Lincoln Center. I run late or tickets go unused or I have to exchange them for other dates and it becomes a whole thing.

I've decided that Aida, Nabucco, Il Pirata, and Die Frau ohne Schatten have compelling enough plots and singers that I want to see them live even though they will also be shown in movie theaters. I had a huge back and forth on Dead Man Walking but I'll leave that for Live in HD (I assume it'll be on Great Performances at the Met). 

That means I have two more operas I can see live. I've narrowed it down to five options: Don Giovanni, Fidelio, The Fiery Angel, Roberto Deveraux, and Hansel & Gretel. I'm torn with Don Giovanni. Ivo van Hove's concept sounds stupid and I hate the ugly set and modern costumes. I do like Isabel Leonard but she doesn't have the kind of voice I need to hear live so I'm leaning towards seeing it at the movie theater. Fidelio has one of the more compelling plots but I don't find anything else that interesting about the production. The Fiery Angel has a baffling plot and the music that I've listened to is... challenging. The production seems weird af with the tattoos and the hotel room but it's not going to be a Live in HD broadcast so I'm tempted to see it as a wild card choice. I don't love bel canto singing but I do like big productions and fancy costumes so Roberto Deveraux is on the list. Basically the only reason I'd see Hansel & Gretel is to see Thomas Hampson.

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NYTW is committed to making tickets available to every production via its CHEAPTIX initiative. For Three Sisters, all tickets for the first two performances on May 13th and 14th plus a limited number of tickets to all other performances will be sold to the general public for $25 via a CHEAPTIX Digital Lottery in partnership with TodayTix. The lottery is offered in lieu of NYTW's standard CHEAPTIX RUSH program to ensure that tickets are available at every performance.

After the first two $25 CHEAPTIX performances, single tickets for Three Sisters range from $50-$125 and vary by performance date and time. All non-lottery tickets will go on sale Wednesday April 1 at 12pm EST at NYTW.org and by phone from the NYTW Box Office at 212-460-5475. No in-person sales will be available at the box office on April 1. Single tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Standard ticketing fees apply. There will be a limit of 8 tickets per person for this production. Ticket pickup for each performance begins two hours prior to curtain. Tickets will only be released to the purchaser and an ID is required for pickup.

https://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Steve-Buscemi-Quincy-Tyler-Bernstine-and-More-Join-NYTWs-THREE-SISTERS-Full-Cast-and-Creatives-Announced-20200224

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Have been watching some Masked Singer videos and I found out in the comments, that Wayne Brady was in the Chicago production of Hamilton. WHAT!?! If any press clips exist from daytime talk shows, etc. please post them here. 

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On 2/22/2020 at 3:00 AM, aradia22 said:

I saw Mack & Mabel tonight at NYCC. I was able to get an excellent balcony seat, dead center. It was a very competently performed production of a flawed show. As a concert with excellent costumes strung together with some book scenes it was excellent. All the big songs sounded great. As a coherent and compelling book musical, it was a flop for me. Thoughts in spoilers...

  Reveal spoiler

General thoughts...

The decision to structure the book as Mack telling us the story was clunky and distancing. The framing device just felt like lazy writing. It's more cinematic than theatrical. And there was no need for it. It's not like The Drowsy Chaperone which needed a way to involve the Man in Chair character and stitch all these pieces together. You can very much tell this story without having Mack jump in to guide the audience along. It just seemed like an excuse for a lot of telling instead of doing the work of showing. 

There was too big of an age difference between Douglas Sills and Alexandra Socha (30 years) and nothing in the script to suggest what the real age difference was. In part because of the age difference/physical appearance of the two actors but also because of the way the characters were performed and how the book portrayed them... I could not understand Mabel's attraction to Sennett. 

Mack & Mabel kept reminding me of other, better shows. There was a lot of On the Twentieth Century, (which I know came later but the movie came first). I don't love that musical but at least it gives Lily more agency than this book gives Mabel. It's a much stronger story for Lily to have some talent and for Oscar to need to pursue her than the story in Mack & Mabel which is apparently that yes, Mabel was nothing without Mack and the lesson he needed to learn was to save her from the bad man sooner because she's an idiot who can't make decisions without him. Speaking of stronger stories, there's also some A Star is Born energy. Except while you'd logically think that the show is structured for Mabel to do better once she leaves Mack who is hiding the fact that other directors want to work with her and let her be a serious dramatic actress and who is limited by making short comedic films with lots of shallow physical comedy... instead her career is the one that goes into a decline. 

Mabel's alleged drug problem is weirdly developed in this show. Two times in act 1, you catch her hurriedly taking pills and swallowing them with water. Then in act 2, there's a big reveal where Ben Fankhauser's paperboy/later screenwriter character tells Mack that her drug problem started on the sets of Mack's movies to keep up with his demanding schedule. And then it got worse with William Desmond Taylor who gave her cocaine (referred to as angel dust in the show) and heroin. What in the what? 

As a depiction of show business there are better musicals. There's a number where the cast thanks their new money guys. I kept thinking, I'd rather be watching "Have an Eggroll, Mr. Goldstone" from Gypsy right now. 

Again, at the end of the show, I didn't get what the point was. I didn't need a strict moral but I needed the show to tell me what it was about. Even though we have Mack as a framing device, he never tells us what he learned except that he was too late to save Mabel. Is the point that pushing himself so hard with that demanding schedule was not worth it if he ended up without Mabel in the end? He should have realized what was important in his life instead of leaving it too late and always expecting her to come back? Is the point that Mabel was talented and no one respected that and she deserved better? You need to know what your story is about and build the narrative around reinforcing that or else you get something that just meanders about.

  Reveal spoiler

Specific thoughts...

The show started off on an odd note with "Movies Were Movies." I'm not good at music theory but the dips into a minor key and some other musical flourishes + Douglas Sills performance made this number come across as far too sinister. I kept thinking, this would be handled better by Sondheim or Kander & Ebb.

The entire show, but especially "Look What Happened to Mabel" does not at all challenge the idea that Mack completely created Mabel. He took a girl delivering sandwiches and turned her into an actress. There's a bit when he first sees her about how she had something special about her but the rest of the show never goes back to that and it's like she has no real talent of her own. Because the show depicts her career as going into a decline after she leaves Mack, it seems to confirm that she isn't a great actress and suggest that anything positive he says about her hindsight is him idealizing his lover.

Lilli Cooper was fantastic. She was great every time she was on stage but she really shined in two numbers. The show oddly gives a lot of characters their own moments given that no characters are developed aside from Mack & Mabel. 

The development of Mack & Mabel's relationship made no sense to me. First it was very Lily meets Oscar in On the 20th Century. Then they share this moment that feels a lot like "They Say It's Wonderful" in Annie Get Your Gun on a train. And then suddenly she's cooking him dinner and it's very "You Are Woman, I Am Man" in Funny Girl when Nick seduces Fanny. And then "I Won't Send Roses" just happens. Now, "I Won't Send Roses" is a GREAT song. Douglas Sills sang it fine but I prefer Brian Stokes Mitchell's version. But it's a great song that's plopped in the middle of this confusing romance plot that doesn't earn such a great song. I don't know if this is part of the edited book but what the bond over is an incredibly stupid bit of dialogue where they both make up poems. Because this is a thing that people do??? There is no good explanation of why this apparently very religious girl is willing to be seduced by this older man. In neither Douglas Sills' performance nor in the book of the musical is there any explanation of what she sees in him. He's not that handsome. He's not charismatic. He doesn't say nice things to her. It's not like I'm terribly picky. Take Annie Get Your Gun. Frank Butler is not the greatest guy but I get what Annie sees in him. He's handsome and charismatic and a big star. It's easy to see why this country girl is swooning over a guy who is basically a matinee idol before she realizes he's a lug with a big ego. With Mabel, I don't get why she's got a crush on a guy who has never said a kind word to her and is constantly yelling at everyone. "I Won't Send Roses" is the kind of thing I can imagine Mr. Big singing to Carrie if Sex and the City were a musical. But you understand why Carrie wants him so much. Big tells Carrie not to romanticize him or push him for more than he can give at the moment. This does not work in Mack & Mabel when you don't understand what Mabel sees in Sennett and he is singing a song disabusing her of any romantic notions. I needed some dialogue or a song before this to establish why Mabel was so into him and to suggest that she was harboring romantic dreams anyway, thinking she understood him in a special way... that there was something under the tough exterior.

Speaking of the yelling, "I Wanna Make the World Laugh" is a confusing number to develop Mack's character and worldview. All we've seen up until now is this intimidating, almost sinister director. He blusters. He's domineering. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy who should be selling the perspective that he makes his movies just for fun. He is played and written like Oscar in On the 20th Century. Now you can make comedic movies and be a jerk. But the book doesn't do anything to make that contrast. So giving him this song feels incongruous. 

Alexandra killed "Wherever He Ain't." She sang the hell out of it and it was a great number. But going along with the sense of this being a good concert this felt like it came out of nowhere. Mabel goes off to meet with another director so Mack takes another actress to bed and Mabel discovers them and then gets a big number as she's leaving him. Why is this happening? Mack's petty retaliation might feel true to life but in the context of the way the show was plotted, it felt arbitrary. Since they felt comfortable changing other real life details, I don't see why they couldn't have built up to it more to make this number feel more earned. 

"Hundreds of Girls" was a solid number but it felt gross in the context of the show. Mack decides Mabel was not so special after all so he replaces her with a bunch of girls because men will like the variety and all the skin on display. And he succeeds with it. What is the lesson here? I'm not talking about morality. I'm talking about storytelling. I did not understand what story they were trying to tell with Sennett being terrible and then continuing to be rewarded. 

Meanwhile the book tells us that Mabel has 5 flops working with Taylor as a dramatic actress. Sennett's Bathing Beauties are still making money but with diminishing returns. 

There's a big number ("When Mabel Comes in the Room") where Mabel comes back to Keystone and everyone sings to her. It's a weak echo of "Hello, Dolly." 

There's a number about the joys of physical comedy ("Hit 'Em On the Head") that features the Keystone Cops that feels like there's suddenly a vaudeville number stopping the momentum of the story. I get that it's fun. But The Producers managed to have fun numbers that moved the story along. 

"Tap Your Troubles" away was a glorious number and a big showstopper for Lilli. But it didn't work to me as a number in the show. Again, I kept thinking Sondheim or Kander & Ebb would have handled it better. The latter are particularly good at doing the whole thing where an upbeat number is ironic cover for something darker. This is mostly a tap number and then there's a lot of silent miming to depict William Desmond Taylor's behavior getting wilder as he romances a woman, gets into a fight with her date and ends up shot. This number does not help express that. 

Mack sees the mess that Mabel's life has become and goes back to her with the script for Molly O. Mack hocks the studio and makes the film, this time taking it seriously. It fails. Mabel dies. Mack goes on doing... stuff? 

The show ends with some cute clips of Socha as Mabel running around NYCC in silent film style comedy antics and I don't know what the point of it all was. 

Right after the show I decided to turn to the You Must Remember This podcast to fact check the story. Assuming the research is correct, I feel like this was the true story that was making Mack & Mabel ring false to me. Instead of this shallow echo of other, better musicals, the facts presented in the podcast paint a very different picture and give a hint of the story that could have been told.

  Reveal spoiler

Mabel and Mack had similar backgrounds. Working/middle class and some combination of Irish and Canadian. Before she met Mack, she already had a career as a portrait model/Gibson girl and then a brief career as an extra for D.W. Griffith films. Their age difference was still bad as she was very young when they met but it was closer to 12-15 years than the casting would suggest. The musical undersells her comedic sensibilities and her gift for physical comedy. Mabel was a prankster whose gift for comedy made her a poor fit for other directors but Mack took advantage of it. This is very different from depicting her as a girl plucked from obscurity who Mack directed by counting out her actions like she was a trained seal.

While working with Sennett, Mack allowed her to direct 10 movies. Some of them involved Charlie Chaplin who openly challenged Mabel's authority. Mack backed her up when this happened. 

Mack and Mabel had a volatile relationship. Once when Mabel went out dancing with an actor friend, Mack hid in her bushes and attacked him (and possibly her) when they got back to her home. 

Before their wedding could take place, Mack did cheat on her with another actress.

Actually, Sennett's other stars left before Mabel did. She was the last one who stuck by him. 

 Mack set up Mabel with her own production shingle. It made one movie titled Mickey which had a huge publicity campaign and accompanying song and ended up the highest grossing film of 1918.

When Mack's Triangle company had financial problems, Mabel left for Samuel Goldwyn. He had fallen in love with her onscreen persona and actively pursued her, making her accompany him to events as his date. At some point in this relationship, she had a stillborn child.

Mabel suffered from respiratory problems for her entire life and died of tuberculosis. There is no definitive evidence of a drug problem besides tabloid rumors and claims in memoirs. But she did drink what she called "goop" which was an OTC cough syrup containing opium. And she did have a well-documented problem with alcohol/binge-drinking.

As for tough times in her career, she had a brief stay in a sanitarium. Afterwards, she returned to Sennett to make the films Molly O. and Susannah. The boycotting and banning of Fatty Arbuckle's movies affected Mabel since she also starred in many of them. Then as they were filming Susannah, William Desmond Taylor was killed and Mabel visited him the night before the shooting and was the last to see him alive. The negative press around this made Susannah a flop. In 1923, she made another Sennett film called Extra Girl. In 1924, a millionaire had an altercation with Mabel's chaffeur and was shot (non-fatally). The resulting press and scandal finally sunk Mabel's career in the atmosphere of moralizing that preceded the Hayes Code. 

Sennett lied to Mabel that Will Hayes had banned her movies as a way to get out of his contract with her. 

Mabel had an appendectomy and a fellow patient's wife named her in her divorce proceedings. Mabel denied even knowing the man and sued the wife for libel. 

Mabel did a Broadway show in New York. 

Mabel made 5 short films with Hal Roach in 1926. 

Mabel married another actor, seemingly as a prank. 

In 1930, she died at age 37.

Rather than being her drug pusher, it seems like Taylor was a good, close friend.

Here's the alternate plot of Mack & Mabel, as I see it, sticking closer to the historical facts. 

  Reveal spoiler

Mack and Mabel are both ambitious young people hoping to make it in the movies. Mabel has already found a way to make money as a Gibson girl sitting for portraits and working as an extra but no one seems to know how to utilize her talents. She wants to have fun and do comedy but people don't really expect that of a girl. She's being treated as a damsel or a vamp or any of the other shallow archetypes because of how she looks. She meets Mack. There's a considerable age difference, especially considering how young she is but she's drawn to him because of their similar backgrounds. He shares her sense of humor and he wants to make movies where she can really shine. Put "I Wanna Make the World Laugh" here as a song that persuades Mabel of who Mack is as a director. She goes with him because she thinks she's finally met a man who sees her for who she is and who will respect her and take her seriously. "Look What Happened to Mabel" is rewritten to correct the inaccuracies and put here. He even lets her direct her own movies and stands up for her when sexist Charlie Chaplin tries to challenge her. Their relationship is volatile (maybe put in the story about him hiding in the bushes and maybe include her heavy drinking) but Mabel thinks she can rely on Mack when it counts. But then before they can get married, he cheats on her. Mabel realizes for all his talk, he's still a man and sings "Wherever He Ain't" as she walks out the door after this huge betrayal of everything she thought they had together.

Mabel goes to work for Samuel Goldwyn but she's disgusted by the way he pursues her and coerces her. You could possibly include the stillborn child and the sanitarium. Meanwhile Mack is having success with his Bathing Beauties. "Hundreds of Girls" can go here. But in the end, Mabel finds her way back to Mack. This is the time he sings "I Won't Send Roses." It makes sense after he has cheated on her but she's still drawn to him and remembers the good times. She's also had some rough times so she's seeing the past through rose-colored glasses. The scandals happen with Fatty Arbuckle, William Desmond Taylor, and Dines getting shot by the chaffeur. "Tap Your Troubles" away functions better as an ironic song as the scandals pile up through no fault of Mabel's. Through this song, it can be clear that her health and her looks are fading from the respiratory problems and the drinking is not helping. Her career is tanking in this atmosphere of moralizing groups railing against the sin and licentiousness of Hollywood. Mack is regretting working with Mabel again and lies to her that Will Hayes has banned her movies so he can break their contract. After this betrayal, Mabel sings "Time Heals Everything" and walks away again, this time for good. She realizes she was stupid to put her trust in Mack again. There is irony in "Time Heals Everything" because she came back to him after his first betrayal but also because she has to know that she's dying at this point and she won't have much more time. Mack watches old footage of Mabel and thinks about his failings as a romantic partner and a business partner. He sings "I Promise You a Happy Ending" as he laments on the mistakes he made and continues to watch the footage as though he can rewrite the story. 

 

Here's my review - I agree  😄 

 

Such great music, it's too bad the book sucks so bad.  The orchestra was fabulous.  I thought Douglas Sills was quite good, but didn't think much of Alexandra Socha.  She was fine, but it's hard to get Bernadette Peters out of my mind.  Overall, glad I saw it, but don't need to see it again. 

 

Saw Six last night.  Lots of fun, but another show I don't need to see again.  I'll just continue listening to the cast recording on a loop. 

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Saw Six last night.  Lots of fun, but another show I don't need to see again.  I'll just continue listening to the cast recording on a loop. 

Was the audience rowdy? I'm a fussy old lady. I like everyone to be quiet, not hooting and hollering and yelling "yaaaas, queen!" over all the high notes and runs (especially since it's usually the straight white girls). I was thinking that might die down over previews but I remember hearing that after everyone was familiar with Hamilton, that show got plagued with sing-alongs from superfans.

I saw Agrippina at the Met last night. On the whole, it was very, very good. 7/10. I took off points because it definitely dragged at times and I was feeling the almost 4 hour running time. I normally and do my best to avoid "modern" opera productions. I like the semi-historical fancy costumes and the big productions and even changing the setting to another time period that's still in the past, I feel like a lot of times you lose important context. But I liked the Agrippina update. Because of the names and some other stuff, I don't think you can ever lose the sense that it's Rome. But I don't believe them when they say it's contemporary/set in present day. This is a version of Rome that's very 1960's + some 90's/2000's. Joyce DiDonato as Agrippina was dressed AMAZINGLY. Her black negligee with the robe, all the power suits with deep v's and tight pencil skirts. I loved everything they put her in. The black hair worked about as well as Kelli O'Hara in Bridges but from the family circle, it didn't bother me much. The way the younger characters dressed would not be cool to anyone now. Nero is like a punk/emo kid (more emo) at first with a faux hawk with frosted tips. Then he switches to this perfect slim fitting suit with a skinny tie. One of the gay characters was in a sheer lace top. It all conjures up a feeling of Italian glamour but also tackiness and excess. Perfect as an update of Rome. The costumes were my favorite part. They said so much about the characters and really set an aesthetic for the show.

For me, the problem with this opera is that the music and the libretto are very repetitive. So if a character you're not into is having a moment, they have that moment for 5-10 minutes, singing the same thing over and over without much change in the melody. To me, the worst offenders were Poppea and Ottone because I just found the "heroic" young couple so tiresome. She didn't bother me too much but there's a sequence at a bar when she just will not shut up. With him, I was over it every time he sang. I just don't like Iestyn Davies' voice. I thought I just hated countertenors but I actually didn't mind Nicholas Tamagna as Narciso. He had more of a fierceness and vibrancy that I find lacking in Davies' voice which always sounds very pretty and muted to me. Back to the bar, this production made the hit or miss decision to try and keep the audience engaged even with the repetitive music and the long running time. Some of this was strong acting from the leads. But there was also a lot of movement choreography, if not outright dancing, or miming or fully moving the action to a different setting so there could be something happening during what would otherwise be terribly boring sections. I can see how some people would hate this but given the 4 hour running time, I was grateful they were trying. This is not an opera production where everyone is just parking and barking and the chorus stands around completely still. I felt like there was some actual proper direction closer to what you might see in musical theater and while it was sometimes over the top and obvious, I think it helped more than it hurt. 

To me, the standouts were Joyce DiDonato and Kate Lindsey. She was just incredibly fierce as Agrippina. Sexy and scheming and smart. It was so nice to have a female villain be so clever and to not have to fall apart or be horribly punished at the end. And Nero was the most I've ever enjoyed a trouser role. There was the typical posturing but it worked for the character and Kate Lindsey gave it her all. Hell, at one point she was singing a whole phrase while SIDE PLANKING.

They were taping it last night. If it's on PBS, I highly recommend watching it and fast-forwarding when you get bored. It's definitely worth checking out.

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35 minutes ago, aradia22 said:

Was the audience rowdy? I'm a fussy old lady. I like everyone to be quiet, not hooting and hollering and yelling "yaaaas, queen!" over all the high notes and runs (especially since it's usually the straight white girls). I was thinking that might die down over previews but I remember hearing that after everyone was familiar with Hamilton, that show got plagued with sing-alongs from superfans

The audience was into it, but not rowdy at all.  I actually thing rowdy might have helped because I think this show needs all the energy it can muster.  The Queens were workin' it onstage, but if the audience doesn't respond appropriately, the show can fall a bit flat.  I'm not in favor of singing along or getting up and dancing, but I felt there needed to be a little more happening from the crowd.  

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I saw Six last weekend, too, and it was fun. I'm not a big theater person and this seemed more like a concert, so it worked for me. The audience I was in wasn't over the top with singing along or screaming but they were very into the show as a whole, which made it feel really energetic. There were two teenage boys in the row ahead of me who got their tickets at the very last minute and were SO excited to be there, it was really cute. They were bopping along with the music and living their best lives. 

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I saw We're Gonna Die at Second Stage tonight. It was decent. I'm glad I saw it. I had a fine time. I would see it again. But it didn't move me and I'm quickly forgetting it. 

It's definitely closer to a cabaret act/concert than a musical or a play with music. And that helps and hurts it. The pros are that the main performer is very charismatic. She's got a great voice (great clear straight tone you'd expect from a pop singer but also a touch of smokiness that was really pleasant and warm) and she's a good storyteller and she's great at delivering the lines so they feel natural. The musicians backing her up are all great. Having the music definitely keeps you engaged and threads the different elements of the story together as each thing discussed ends in a song. The cons are that this is still a one-woman show aside from the musicians who do not have lines (but sometimes sing back up) so ending each monologue with a song means the actress can't dig deep. Or maybe she doesn't want to. But personally, I thought it would have been stronger if she could have found some real emotion. It's the kind of performance that projects out instead of pulling you in. You sympathize when the character tells you sad things but you don't empathize because the play resists making you feel anything with any depth for too long. Even when the music isn't ironically chipper, it's still music. It feels distancing and resists intimacy. I was torn about it because I can see wanting to let this be as big and joyous as possible. Again, the performer was great and had so much energy even with a pretty flat typical theater crowd. But even if you excuse it as this being who she is inside, an extrovert who is alone by no choice of her own, it didn't read as a depressed person. The different monologues are varying degrees of successful.

Spoiler

She mentions her uncle, her childhood friends, an ex-boyfriend, an older female relative embracing death in her old age, her father's lung cancer, her friend's marriage falling apart, her own feelings about death. To me the uncle was one of the weakest sections because it's a theatrical/presentational idea of what it's like to struggle with self-loathing as it relates to mental health.

The childhood friends were interesting as a way of talking about that period of socialization where kids begin to understand ostracization and you might experience loneliness for the first time. You're friends and then suddenly you're not. But I don't know that it was fully cashed out. After the boyfriend, the story swerves into death which is not exactly the same theme as the loneliness/depression of the first few monologues.

I did like the boyfriend part. It didn't go deep (I thought it was going to build up to something) but that kind of loneliness and alienation was closer to my experience of depression than the uncle part. I guess the song she sings in this part is about death but for me it was more about this connection to another person which is important in a one-person play when you don't have anyone to bounce off of. I forget the exact lyrics but when she was singing about having someone to hold her hand until she dies or at least having a safe place while he's alive, it felt less like an obsession with death and more of an expression of that bond with her partner. 

The thing with the older female relative was a little over the top. She clutches (I think) the main character's mom as she's dying and goes into a spiel (which is represented in song) about how your body deteriorates after you die and it's actually a good thing because it prepares you to do rather than fight to cling to life.

The part with her father was a sad story but it was very theater-y. I was far too aware that this was a story that the playwright invented because the play and the performance wasn't giving me a deep sense of a character feeling all these feelings. I couldn't get lost in it. Also, it felt like a Moth story or an audiobook being read to me. I didn't feel the immediacy of it. I think perhaps it was a mistake to make it a one-woman show with all these musicians on stage who could have participated a little more even if they weren't staging full on scenes. 

Her friend's marriage falling apart because the husband cheated and then her friend had an accident destroying her cornea was dramatic but again, it felt like something the playwright invented. For me, it didn't have the impact of either a true story or something you don't see coming in the middle of a narrative. I get where the idea of not being special enough to be spared tragedy is coming from but it didn't work for me. Partly, it was the story about her dad's illness feeling like a departure from the building theme of loneliness and partly it was because, for me, that's not particularly helpful. 

This is where the reasons I might like the play are actually the reasons I'm maybe too close to it. Like, none of this is new to me. Depression, loneliness, alienation, suicidal ideation, etc. I don't have complicated feelings about death. In fact, one of my favorite songs (at least to me) does a better job of summing up this play... Everyone Will Die by Sky Pony. The songs were enjoyable but I don't find any joy or uplift in a lot of the ideas behind them. To me, there's a cynicism in Everyone Will Die that I find comforting at times. But if I want to be uplifted, I have to force myself to feel connected to other people. I have to find some meaning in life. Making peace with death is not an issue for me.

I would really like some recording of the music. The songs vary in quality but they all worked for what they were called to do. Except maybe the last one. The "we're gonna die" song at the end didn't do anything for me but maybe that was because it had the most work to do, bringing everything together and I didn't find the whole play or the ending that satisfying. 

The staging was interesting but I'm not sure it went anywhere. Before they find their instruments, the musicians seem to be occupying a waiting room with the main actress. It's unclear if it's a hospital waiting room or purgatory but there are a bunch of plastic chairs and a vending machine. There's also a big staircase. It descends below the stage (though that isn't clear until much later in the play) and extends up (possibly past the top of the stage though I'm sure there's lighting and whatnot up there). The easiest reading of this given the subject of the play is heaven/hell but the performers never interact with it that way. I can only clearly remember one time when she really climbs the stairs and it's not that significant. The play ends with a big dance sequence and then a lighting effect. 

Lastly, at multiple times during the evening (which was only an hour) I thought that this play would read much differently in a different space with a different audience. I kept thinking of Jomama Jones' Black Light. In a more intimate space with an audience who was able to have fun and maybe dance around or at least groove to the music, it would have felt more like a party and less detached. Even as a LCT3 production, with a crowd used to something more experimental, it might have worked better.

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My Fair Lady was spectacular! Alfred Doolittle was definitely the standout performance. And now being old enough to appreciate just what a POS father he really was, I loved how right before "Get Me to the Church" (best number of the show) Eliza turned down his "invitation" to his wedding, she coldly gives him a flower for his suit before leaving with Freddie. THIS Eliza was so done with the crap men in her life.

And yes I looooved this version of the ending, making it clear that she wasn't going back to Higgins. Kudos to the actress for her slow and subtle anger of how Pickering and Higgins congratulated each other after the ball without giving her credit. And if you pay attention to the play, Eliza was never in love with him, I think she saw him more as a father figure. She didn't want romance, she wanted appreciation and respect. In the final scene where she comes back and he asks about his slippers, right before she leaves, she just pats his cheek briefly like "Thanks for all you did for me, even though you're the worst." I feel like she understood he just didn't have it in him to be the kind of person she needed and there was no point in expecting any more from him. Well done.

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I know the appropriate response to the Coronavirus is not, “This better not eff up my theatre tickets”, but, nevertheless.....

I have “Assassins” tickets dammit!

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3 hours ago, Silver Raven said:

Does anybody have tickets for Girl From the North Country yet?

 

Saw it last week and loved it.  I was thoroughly captivated during the whole show.  It's quiet and very moving.  I had a small nitpick at the end, but it didn't tarnish the evening at all.

If you're sitting in the orchestra, I'd suggest sitting house left and not in front of the drum kit because it's loud. 

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