Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Road Show

I was glad to experience "Road Show" but to be honest its a Sondheim show that just has not stayed with me. Back in 2003, I saw the previous version, "Bounce".

Most of the Sondheim musicals have "hooked" me, taken me to a new place, and given me a new vocabulary. With "Road Show" I have failed to get caught up in the world of Addison and Wilson Mizner. With today's economic struggles, their story and version of the American Dream is more timely than back in 2003, but I find their characters interesting I have yet to discover their magic.

John Doyle's staging with his sweeping distribution of cash as important moments in the piece is striking and certainly a visual metaphor for two men unable to hang on to the fortune that they made. But John Weidman's book does not make the case for this Road Show as much as Sondheim's score. Since Sondheim always gets his musical language correct, much of Bounce's vamps and melodies remain. A new anthem the father sings early on and is reprised is downright ravishing. I am hoping there will be a new recording, especially in the light that the performance I attended on November 7 did not list individual numbers.

Now that Road Show has oppened, I am looking forward to another masterwork in the Sondheim cannon. No one writes like Steve. No one!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I would rank Gypsy as the best "show biz" musical ever. It stands up overtime because it is more about the people than show biz. It is about how you can't live your life through your children and that eventually your kids will become responsible for you. All told through the saga of how Gypsy Rose Lee got to become a stripper and the metaphor that she doesn't become who she is until she sheds her ties to her mother.

Rose always dominates Gypsy but in Patti LuPone (who does give a star performance) Rose takes a back seat to the drama of the other characters. This production is so well directed by Arthur Laurents who should know the material since he wrote it.

Here are 3 examples of what is brilliant about this Gypsy...
1. All the vaudeville acts look like that were staged by the same limited mind, Rose. She insists that all the inflections of Baby June, Dainty June, and Louise are one and the same.
2. In the Tulsa/Louise scene Herbie has some dialogue and from the physical staging there is no physical contact between Herbie and Louise. After all these years there is no closeness...so when in the next scene Rose focuses all her attention on making Louise a star...her only refuge is Herbie as Rose sings "Ev'rythings coming up Roses".
3. In Rose's turn you don't know if Rose will get through the number. She is having a break down, she's fragile, and its shows.

There are more powerful things about this Gypsy...but I won't spoil it...hopefully it will tour...I want to see it again. If Laurents did these great things with Gypsy his upcoming West Side Story revival should be interesteing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

August: Osage County

You know you have had a great afternoon in the theater when you are still talking about it a week later. Normally, musicals are the priority on our trips to New York, but with the recommendations from friends, we made this part of our theater agenda.

This is a great play with serious dysfunctional family themes but extremely funny. The humor comes out of the characters but they can surprise you as revelations and relationships are stripped away. The running time is three and a half hours with two intermissions. At the first break my wife who was born and raised in Western Oklahoma, turned to me and admitted "I grew up with these people". There's a lot of truth in the writing!

All of the Steppenwolf company are doing the play in London. Estelle Parsons is playing Violet and is fragile, strong, and great to watch. But this is an ensemble piece and the rest of the cast and their quirky characters. The play reads as good as it plays!


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back from New York

The marathon trip to New York is over. November 5-9. Eight shows in five days! We are doing what we can to stimulate the economy. We left the morning after the election and clearly from the people we encountered the result is something that has energized a lot of people. Had we not had the early flight, we would have gone down to the rally in Grant Park the night before. We were on the go constantly and saw in this order:
Young Frankenstein
The Little Mermaid
Road Show
Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular
August: Osage County
Shrek: The musical

Will post reviews of that along with stories from the Drama Book Shop presentation by Carol dc Giere, my trip to NYPL and other great things that just happen when you are in New York.