Tag Archives: broadway

MTA (musical theater anonymous)

My name is Derek and I am a Broadwayaholic. I admit this and I am not ashamed. I like musicals, plays and the performing arts, more than the average human.

KINKY BOOTS

2012 Tony winner for best musical, Kinky Boots

My interest in on-stage song and dance originated after I saw my dear cousin Rachel perform in the Hastings High School rendition of Hello Dolly, way back when I was a lad. I saw a variety of marquee shows through high school including Fame, Les Misérables (my first show on Broadway), The Lion King and Sunset Boulevard, with the one and only Petula Clark.

In college, I did a ridiculously fun PR internship at MSU’s beautiful on-campus theater, the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts where I got to see and work on promoting some great shows like Chicago, Urinetown (one of my all time unsung favorites) and Movin’ Out.

Through the latter years I’ve been fortunate to see dozens of other shows, touring, in SF and in New York, including big Tony winners like Rent, Avenue Q, Wicked and Spring Awakening.

One of the things I like to do in New York when I see a show is to camp out by the stage door after, to wait for the cast to come out at the end of the night, because they almost always stop to say hi to fans and to personally sign Playbills (the official programs of a Broadway show). I’ve built up quite a collection of both signed and unsigned Playbills. I recently decided it was time to do something with my accumulation other than let it sit stacked up in the corner of my bookshelf. I decided to pick out a few favorite shows to frame and hang as art in my bedroom.

BEFORE

It was fun to lay all my Playbills out on the floor, try to arrange them in chronological order and reminisce about all the great performances I’ve enjoyed. I didn’t have a specific criteria for deciding which of the programs I’d frame and which would go back in the stack. I ended up with six favorite Playbills, signed by the most talented performers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing on stage…

AFTER

  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – starring and signed by John Lithgow, Norbert Leo Butz, and Sherie Rene Scott, with Joanna Gleason.
  • Promises, Promises starring and signed by Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes.
  • Spring Awakening – starring and signed by Lea Michelle (Glee), Jonathan Groff (Glee and COG) and John Gallagher, Jr. (American Idiot, Newsroom and Short Term 12).
  • Kinky Boots – starring and signed by Billy Porter, and an overall amazing show and Best Musical Tony winner.
  • The Mountaintop – starring and signed by Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett.
  • Newsies – starring and signed by Jeremy Jordan (Smash), Alex Wong (So You Think You Can Dance) and others.

It was hard to pick just six and I may rotate other notable Playbills out when I feel like switchin’ things up.

At Last: The Book of Mormon

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Late last month I finally had the opportunity to see The Book of Mormon, winner of nine 2011 Tony Awards, including best musical. Usually I don’t feel like the last to see great musicals because of frequent trips to New York City and daily monitoring of Broadway blogs to stay on top of what’s good. (I’m proud to have seen half of the shows nominated for best musical in the last three years.)

Seeing it one year and eight months after opening in New York didn’t come easy. I dragged my feet buying tickets during the pre-sale and missed the window of opportunity. As a result I had to make sure I woke up early on the day tickets went on sale to the public, which just so happened to be the day that the Space Shuttle was being flown over San Francisco on a 747 on its way to LA. Of course, I wanted to see that too. No joke, the exact moment I could hear the 747 jet engines flying outside my apartment, tickets went on sale. Unfortunately, I missed the flyover and was forced to instead enjoy all the photos that flooded my Facebook feed from friends. The ticket site crashed multiple times when I was trying to buy 4 seats and then it crashed a couple more times when I tried to buy 2. Eventually I had to accept the fact that this show was going to sell out quickly and that I was only going to be able to get a single ticket, which I quickly did.

This isn’t the first time I’ve gone to see a Broadway show alone. I’ve gone in New York lots of time when traveling solo on business and I even did in San Francisco once to see Wicked a second time. Sometimes you can get really great seats if you are going alone. For that Wicked show I had a great orchestra ticket and was surrounded by (fellow) Broadway nerds… one guy that boasted that he’d seen the show dozens of time and was in the audience for the San Francisco premiere back when it was in previews.

Anyway, flash forward a few months and I saw The Book of Mormon!

And I enjoyed it.

It’s extremely funny. There’s lots of great choreography and a handful of memorable songs (Turn It Off ! ). There’s some fun Orlando humor which totally cracked me up given the amount of time I spent there this year. Oh and there are lots of fit, cute, dancing boys in the show.

There is a part of me that wishes I had tried harder to see it sooner. There’s something about this type of satire and humor that isn’t timeless. Given the fact we had a Mormon in serious contention for the Presidency this year makes some of the religious inappropriateness slightly less scandalous and over-the-top.

With that being said, I 100 percent recommend anyone and everyone try to see this musical (as soon as possible). It’s one of those shows you can enjoy without having hardcore appreciation for musical theater and one that will most definitely make you laugh out loud.

My Broadway love affair

One of my absolute favorite things to do while visiting New York is to see a show on Broadway. The first time I went to New York this year for work I saw Promises, Promises (by myself) and Next to Normal with Emily. The second time I saw American Idiot with Meagan and the third time I saw A Little Night Music with Meagan. All three shows uniquely good although I’d easily rank American Idiot at the bottom and the only reason anyone even put on Promises, Promises was was to put Sean Hayes on Broadway (barf) and to give Kristin Chenoweth another good run. But I digress.

Last week I unexpectedly found myself in the Big Apple again. Knowing my stay was for 3 full nights, I was feeling the Broadway itch. On both my free nights I ended up seeing a show. While I wasn’t planning to go solo both times, sometimes it’s just easier. You can get a really good seat and you don’t have to worry about coordination and busy Manhattan schedules.

On Thursday night I easily chose to see Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. I had heard a lot about it and it had been popping up left and right on Broadway Buzz, one of the various blogs I read every morning. I was actually supposed to go see it the week before with Emily but the trip got postponed at the last minute. She ended up seeing it without me and gave it high marks. (She interned at Wharton Center (forPerforming Arts Center) while at MSU, like me.)

Joyfully, I was able to snag a ticket via a post-election (random) sale and got a decent orchestra seat for $50. From the moment I walked into the theater and it seemed to be oozing red everywhere, with hundreds of red holiday lights strung all around the theater, I knew I was going to experience something different.

The show was not exactly what I expected but it did not disappoint. It was kind of a biopic on Andrew Jackson, our 7th President, but it was kind from a hipster point of view. It totally made fun of that time in history with silly scenes like people literally dropping dead left and right from causes we no longer identify with like cholera or funnier yet, grief. It was campy, cheesy and a little bit dorky. But the music was decent and it was fun to have my eyes opened to the strangeness that was Andrew Jackson and the fact that history never really decided if he was a great President or an awful President. Did I mention the show featured a short scene with disco balls and the music of Cher?

Anyway, I wasn’t too impressed with the talent in the show, which I guess is not surprising since the show came so far off Broadway. But overall I enjoyed this show and give it one and a half thumbs up.

On Friday night, I was a little torn on what to see. I knew I was going to go to the TKTS booth in Brooklyn (like I did with smashing success when I saw American Idiot in September) so I narrowed down my options to The Scottsboro Boys and The Pee Wee Herman Show. Very opposite shows. To say the least.

Similar to Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, I had been hearing and reading a lot about The Scottsboro Boys. I even made note of some tweets from Kristin Chenoweth about a month ago when she saw it. She raved afterward that this was the kind of show that made her proud to be on Broadway. The Pee Wee Herman show, on the other hand, was just a personal childhood obsession wanting to come out and play after a long, long haitus.

Ultimately and not until spending an hour reading dozens of reviews, I walked up to the Brooklyn TKTS booth and I chose The Scottsboro Boys. The reviews kind of reminded me of Urinetown, one of my all-time favorite shows, which never really took off. It was funny, witty and smart, but most people blamed its lack of success on its unappealing name. Anyway, I bought the ticket, went back to my hotel room to rest, watched a little local NYC news and eventually walked the 10 short blocks or so over to Times Square and to the theater to see my second show in as many days.

Let me just deviate from the review for a moment to say that when going to shows by yourself you always run the risk of either feeling like a freak or meeting other solo freaks. This time I am happy to report I met another solo freak! It actually was the guy behind me in line at the Brooklyn TKTS booth. Not that crazy really. He just happened to be getting a ticket to the same show at the same time, so he obviously got the next available ticket which was next to me. He instantly recognized me and we started chatting immediately. I love meeting random, new people. He was an older, trendy 50-something gay man that lived in Brooklyn. He said he tries to see a one show a week but he often he explores shows off Broadway, something I haven’t really done but have now been encouraged to do. Eventually the show started and we sat back and enjoyed together.

As expected from my good taste 🙂 this show did not disappoint. It had talent. It had humor. It had great music and lyrics. It pushed boundaries. It was emotional. The whole Scottsboro rape scandal is such a touchy subject to begin with, it’s a wonder that the writers, producers, directors and stars were able to put something together that is was many things good. I loved it. And I don’t know when Tony season officially begins but I have to imagine this show and maybe even Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson will be in the mix for some awards.

Overall it was a smashingly successful Broadway adventure and I am counting down the days until I return to New York and try to squeeze at least one or two more shows into 2011, one of them most likely being Pee Wee. I love Broadway!

Stay tuned!

Trip report: New York, New York


Coming in for a landing!

I spent the better part of the past week in New York City for a work event. This was my third visit to the Big Apple this year, but it was by far my favorite trip. I left the last two stays with a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth and very uninterested in the city overall (it was hot, I didn’t go out, I was lazy). This time around however, I sorta feel in love with the city. I don’t think there was one or two particular thing about this visit that made it a stand out trip, rather the compilation of many positive factors.


Evening run around Central Park

First of all, I was traveling with great company (Kevin and Whitney from my team at work) and we spent quite a bit of time out enjoying nightlife, including time in fun neighborhoods like the West Village, Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, with plenty of chill time at fun places like the Standard Hotel Beer Garden, a few random gay bars and an awesome bar with Jenga tournaments.

Second, the weather was beautiful (oh, except for those tornado warnings in Brooklyn on Thursday night).  Third, I loved my hotel location (Midtown this time, versus Gramercy Park and SoHo the last two times). I took advantage of my proximity to Central Park (and the great weather!) and did some great mid-week runs.

My favorite NYC pastime!

Fourth, quality time with Meagan is always great, especially because it’s so easy to convince her to see Broadway shows with me. This time around we saw A Little Night Music starring Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch and it was great. I had no desire to see this show when Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury were in it but Bernadette and Elaine were  a big draw (justifiably so). If you are a discount ticket fan, I highly recommend getting TKTS tickets from the Brooklyn booth. Times Square is always packed and the South Street Seaport location is hard to get to. The Brooklyn booth is two subway stops past where you’d get off for South Street Seaport and there was no line when I went on a Thursday afternoon.

Frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity

And finally, it’s especially awesome when Meagan is down for hitting up tick-tackity tourist traps like Serendity 3. Not only was the service awful but the prices were completely out of whack, the food was not that great and they sold some really stupid crap in their little gift shop.

The big takeaway from the whole trip was that this city and the people that live here really never do sleep (and I question whether the people actually work). I know its an overused saying but I’ve always carried with me this story of when Dave and my sister came here in 2001. We stayed in Murray Hill and we got back to our hotel late one night after a show or day of touristy activity and couldn’t find a  single open pizza place nearby. This made me question that whole “city that never sleeps” mantra. No one that lives here ever believes that story but I swear it’s true. This time around I spent more time out late into the night (and in a few instances early into the morning) and I can definitely say that people are out and about until the very wee hours and there are pizza places open at single digit hours… during the middle of the week, no less.

Overall it was an amazing 4 day stay and I look forward to coming back very soon and continuing my explorations!