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!