Thursday, July 28, 2005

Thursday, July 28th - Covering New York, New York

Sorry about the delay in posting something about the second half of the trip. While we had net access in New York, we didn't spend a lot of time hanging around the walk in closet that served as a hotel room at the Milford Plaza. The full size mirror on one wall wasn't enough to disguise that the bed took up most of the room. At least it was cheap, at least for Manhattan.

We drove up to NY from West Virginia on Tuesday through various thunderstorms and a lot of rather dull country in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Got into NYC around 9 PM and did my usual trick of parking in the long term lot at Laguardia and taxiing into Manhattan. It's the one place in the country I refuse to drive and parking at the airport is cheaper than in Midtown. The city was hot and humid, even at midnight, and remained so the entire week.

On Wednesday, we did some retail therapy at Colony music and Patelson's music looking for various and sundry books and songs for both ourselves to sing and the upcoming 'Phantom of the Opry'. Also bought some body make-up for the Emcee role that will hopefully not give me a full body rash the current stuff does. In the afternoon, I had to do a work related conference call. Tommy used the opportunity to see Harvey Fierstein in 'Fiddler on the Roof'. He liked the production, but thought that Harvey was miscast - unless you like Tevye played by Edna Turnblad. Our evening show was 'Rent', which neither of us had ever seen. Glad to have seen it in NYC at the Nederlander as it's one of those shows that I don't think travels well. Talented and energetic cast.

The rest of the week more or less followed a pattern of sleeping in, sniffing out an interesting restaurant or two, and taking in as many shows as we could fit before having to get up at an ungodly hour on Sunday to drive back to Birmingham. We made it in a straight shot. Nearly 1000 miles in 17 hours and were pretty beat by the time we got back. Entered the house to find the air conditioning had gone out and it was 98 degrees in the living room. Fortunately the second unit that took care of the guest room was working so we had someplace cool to sleep.

The other theatrical adventures and thoughts:

'A Light in the Piazza' - Gorgeously designed. Lush and romantic score, but not especially memorable. Great performance from Victoria Clark as the mother, but not necessarily Tony worthy but it was a weak year for women. The juvenile leads were far less engaging and Matthew Morrison seemed all wrong for his part. No passion at all. I liked it better than Tommy who loved the music and design but didn't think much of the plot or performances.

'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' - Amazing technical achievment and great stage craft with huge sets, flying cars (which come right out of the proscenium and over the heads of the orchestra seats - somewhat discomfiting) . Confetti cannons go off and they more or less cram the whole movie in during a two hour and twenty minute stage show. Raul Esparza in the Dick Van Dyke lead was charming, but bland. Erin Dilly was off, the understudy for Truly whose name I do not recall was pleasant but uninspired. Philip Bosco as Grandpa was not given enough to do. Chip Zien and John Sella as the Vulgarian spies, greatly expanded from the film, steal the show although an unrecognizable Mark Kudisch as Baron Bomburst gives them a run for their money. They're having trouble selling it as it's a kids show and it's way to expensive for a family outing.

'Naked Boys Singing' - various friends of ours have been involved with this over the years but we'd never actually seen it. The title says it all. Watching the audience (it was the sixth anniversary performance) was also a lot of fun.

'Sweet Charity' - Christina Applegate has been taking some undeserved knocks for this. She's not Gwen Verdon but she's perfectly acceptable in the singing/dancing/performing category and does quite a reasonable job in a tricky part. Denis O'Hare, as Oscar, is also fine. Unfortunately, this Fran and Barry Weissler production has all their usual hallmarks. Cheap, ugly sets. Uninspired direction. Bad choreography (kick boxing during 'The Rich Man's Frug'?) and a supporting cast of minimal talent that are probably working cheap.

'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' - This one's a gem. Beuatifully designed with a gold and gem studded Riviera set with whirling balconies and palm trees, a cute poppy score, and greatish performances from John Lithgow and Joanna Gleason. The standout is Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz who absolutely throws himself into the best comic role for a male in a musical in years and absolutely nails it. See this one if in NYC, especially if the original cast is still on.