And then there were three… (in 12 hours)

 So yesterday we broke a personal record  – Three shows, 12 hours! Madness! Which means we’re going to share this blog. So here goes…

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Broadway Show #25: The Fantasticks
Where: The Jerry Orbach Theatre
Seats: Centre Orchestra
Favourite Number: Abduction Ballet
Rating: 7.5/10

Tickets purchased with contributions from: Alison Bruce

T here: This show was… fantastic! 😉 We have a bit of a history with this show – it’s become a discussion topic at Red Leap and many jokes and lots of team charades fun has been had with the “Fanta-sticks”! *you had to be there* So it was really great to finally be able to see the infamous show we’ve talked about for years. And as for Broadway, it’s quite famous too. It’s the longest running Off-Broadway show ever! It’s been running since the 1960s so even if we didn’t have our own relationship to the show, we would have gone just for the historical experience! So we were Off-Broadway for this show and we were in the smallest theatre we’ve been to in NYC – maybe about 100 seats – and there were only 25 or so people in our audience. But it was so beautifully intimate because of this. There was a very small stage (even smaller than The Basement) and the 8 actors filled it with fun and laughter.

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The theatre we were in is named in honour of the man who first played the character of Narrator/ El Gallo, so that’s pretty cool. Our version of this guy, played by Edward Watts, seriously looked like McSteamy (if you watch Grey’s Anatomy then you know who I’m talking about). And he was really charming and sang wonderfully and was funny too. And seriously white teeth. What is it with white teeth in this country?!? They must have some serious chemicals in this country or maybe they just implant fake porcelains regularly.. or something. Crazy white.. Anyway, I digress – this show is an ensemble piece and really hilarious. It was very ‘panto’ which we weren’t expecting and it was like bad American acting but deliberate with how heightened it was so we really enjoyed it. Our favourite characters by far were The Old Actor, Henry (played by MacIntyre Dixon) and his sidekick, The Man Who Dies, Mortimer (played by Michael Nostrand). These roles seem to be the sort of roles that retired actors return to after a long career to have some fun. These guys would have easily been in their 70s and they were hilarious! They are the clown roles of the show so there’s a lot of slapstick and self-referencing that takes place. There’s also a lot of Shakespeare references from the character of Henry which made for even more hilarity for those of us who understood the references. And then Mortimer does exactly what his character description suggests – he’s an actor who is an expert at dying. At he gives a few examples along the way which are great. Much fun was had at this gem!

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 One Down! Two to go!

Broadway Show #26: Disgraced
Where: Lyceum Theatre
Seats: Centre Balcony
Favourite Moment: The fight
Rating: 9/10

This show forced us to reflect on our ratings a bit because it was the first time that we’ve been to a serious American play and after the experience we really weren’t sure how to compare it to a musical. So we had to rate it on its own merit with a result of a high score. We chose to see this because after seeing Curious Incident… and really enjoying it, we thought perhaps our enjoyment was because we could relate to the “English-ness” of the play, being from NZ, so we wanted to experience an American play to see how different it might be. And what an experience it was. It was like an exceptional ATC or Silo play (we exited feeling similar to our experience of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit). In fact, we’re pretty damn sure that one of those companies will have it on their radar already, especially considering that it won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013. And well deserved too.  To be honest we picked Disgraced half because of the Pulitzer, half because of cast member Josh Radnor from How I Met Your Mother – although neither were relevant by the end.

The play explore its title – disgrace – in relation to race and the American culture and its relationship to religion, in particular Jewish and Islam, and involves discussion on 9/11. But not in an overt way. Rather, it explored regular individuals and how they relate to 9/11 in a deeply personal and revealing way, informed by their own faith. It was incredible how relevant and poignant it was, especially sitting in an American audience. It was like being a fly-on-the-wall witness to a dinner party and hearing conversations that people would ordinarily avoid or politely change topic on. It became heated and the playwright threw strong opinions into the mix, provoking characters and audience alike. We shared many gasps with our audience, especially during possibly the most shocking moment which included some stunning fight choreography.

And the lighting was something like we’ve never seen before. It was like the set designer and lighting designer had collaborated in discussion beautifully. It was all set in one room in an apartment but many days passed during the show and the lighting is what showed the passing of time. in a gorgeous subtle way. The set was built with large windows in the apartment, allowing for “daylight” and “moonlight” to stream through at different times. And there were clever small revolves allowing for seamless set and prop changes. The sound design was also wonderful, covering the passing time scene changes but again, not overtly. All elements were intergrated perfectly.

Chels and I left feeling quite emotional and we’ve been talking about it since. Not entirely sure how it would sit with NZ audiences – we feel like we only understood many classic New York references because we’ve been here for nearly a month and perhaps if we hadn’t been here for that time there’s some little gems that would have flown over our heads. But that would be a minor flaw outside of the overall experience of this show. The playwright, Ayad Akhtar, has written a beautiful provoking piece and it was amazing to sit at the end and see how he had woven all of the elements that only revealed themselves in the final moments. The protagonist was disgraced on his journey, another character gives a speech on disgrace at the end, other characters are disgraced by their opinions flying out of their mouths, and in a way, the audience is disgraced by their experience at the end. It was all very clever. 

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And what a strange and wonderful night to go from that experience, onwards to our final show of the evening.. 

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Broadway Show #27: Rocky Horror Picture Show
Where: Chelsea Cleaview Cinema
Seats: Side Orchestra
Favourite Number: Science Fiction/Double Feature
Rating: 8/10

Chelsea here, I am taking over for this review! We met with our wonderful friend Natalie and missioned down to the Clearview cinema in Chelsea for a midnight screening of the RHPS! This show had performers acting out the show in front of the screen in beautifully created costumes and great props! What was fantastic though was the lines that were yelled back to the screen during the movie, which is something that has spawned out of the cult following from when the midnight screenings started in 1976 because the content of the show wasn’t widely accepted –these days everyone has relaxed their moral code a bit but at this cinema EVERY Friday and Saturday night this group of performers perform to/with a full cinema.

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Some examples of the screen responses:

In the back row: [front row: “Screw the back row!” while standing] [back row: “Screw the Front Row!” while standing]

Brad: I’ve got something to say. [“It’s a musical, sing it a**hole”]

Brad: Hi, my name is Brad Majors, and this is my fiancée, Janet Weiss. [“Brad, spell ‘urinate’ in shorthand.”] you are… [“Close enough.”]

Brad: Hospitality!? [echo “Horse brutality!?”] All we asked was to use your telephone.

There were also great physical moments – a crew member in the opening credits of the film had the last name Pointing, so a group ran down to the screen and pointed at it; there was a camera tilt upwards for a tie climbing moment; and there is a Crew Member called ‘Sue Blaine’ so throughout the whole show whenever anyone said “Who’s to blame?” everyone yelled “Sue’s to Blame!”.

Also, Natalie added us to the Virgin line (Virgin’s referring to the fact that it was our first time seeing the show) so we all were branded with big lipstick V’s resulting in friendly torment and some rather awkward audience participation. Thanks Natalie. I laughed until I cried and got the hiccups – in summary, extremely hard to explain but BRILLIANT night!!

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So much love!

T & C
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