Broadway Geekery: Ryan's Latest Theater Run

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My wife, Sara, and I are huge theater nerds that frequently hit New York to see as many shows as we can. Here are the results of our latest theater run, for those interested.

The Audience

Of course Helen Mirren is great as the queen. That’s expected. And we’ve seen her do the role on screen before.  But if you want to see it in person, here’s your chance!

The play is interesting in structure. It’s an attempt to tell Elizabeth’s life through her interactions with several prime ministers and some odd flashbacks to her life as a child which she somehow gets to interact with. I couldn’t help but think we would get more out of it if we knew anything about these prime ministers and what they did. I imagine this is a bit like British audiences would feel if they watched Lee Daniels’ The Butler. If anyone saw that movie.

Score: 5/10 regal waves.

Hamilton

When Sara told me that Lin-Manuel Miranda was writing a hip hop musical about Alexander Hamilton I was convinced he had lost a bet and this was the punishment. But Sara was convinced it would be hot and got us tickets. Wow was she right. This isn’t a great musical, this is one of the best musicals I have ever seen. I went from questioning why the greatest living musical creator wanted to do a show about Hamilton to wondering why nobody else has ever covered the subject.

There are definite connections between Miranda and Hamilton–both were incredibly talented at a young age and prodigious writers. But the show that he crafted is amazing beyond words. Cabinet debates become rap battles. The revolutionary war is both center stage and put in the background. And Brian D’Arcy James turns in one of the greatest performances ever as King George. He has exactly three songs and steals each scene. This was his last weekend and it’s a true pity. He would have been a lock for the Tony Award.

Hamilton is currently off-Broadway but it just announced plans to transfer. Sadly, it will be after the Tony deadline so it will only be eligible for the 2016 awards. It is already the front runner and I expect many, many awards. Get tickets now. Go see it as soon as you can.

And in one of my favorite social media moments of all time the tweet I sent about the show was favorited by the actors who played both Hamilton (Miranda) and Burr (Odom).

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Score: 10/10 tossed pamphlets (you’ll understand when you see it)

Application Pending

This was a one-woman show that attempts to paint a searing portrait of the inner workings at the admissions office of an ultra-competitive pre-school. Instead it makes the same old jokes you’d expect and doesn’t surprise at all.

It stars Christina Bianco. She’s an insanely talented singer who had a viral hit with her performance of Let It Go as many different singers. Her ability to do singing impressions and still perform is impressive, sadly it’s a waste in this show except for the time she’s put on hold and she sings Celine Dion. Sara got a bad migraine that night and missed the show. Lucky lady.

Score: 3/10 tiger parents.

On The 20th Century

Our last day had an open slot so we went for this revival musical starring Kristin Chenoweth. It was miserable. It’s one of those musicals from the 30s that should stay in the 30s. Songs are repetitive and boring. Nothing happens for much of the show. And the entire story could be a 10 minute short. Instead they stretched it into nearly 3 hours.

The only interesting part of the show was when there was a technical hold halfway through the second act. Playbill had an article where they interviewed a conductor and a quote says how you never want one of the two red lights connected to the phone to light up during the show.

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See? Totally says it!

 

Both lit up this time and they had to announce a hold. Ten minutes or so later they resumed.

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This is what a technical hold on Broadway looks like. Zoom in and you can see two red lights on the conductor’s keyboard. Those are bad.

 

Chenoweth was the only saving grace. Of course she can sing but the only funny lines in the show were ones she ad libbed on stage.  The first was after the hold. They started a song over and she replaced one of the lyrics with “I think I sang this song before.”  And towards the end there’s an exchange with the male lead where they toss insults at each other. She replaced one of the insults by calling him an “overacting understudy!”  He was, in fact, the understudy. That was great.  We saw Chenoweth in Wicked before it came to Broadway where she also ad libbed a line–I wish she’d do more improv related works because she’s funny. This show is not.

Score: 2/10 technical glitches.

ryan

Gabbing Geek co-founder, podcaster

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