Awards Show Round Up: Tony Awards 2018

Hey, last night were the Tonys! I haven’t been entering as many Broadway lottos recently, so I’d only seen a couple nominees, but it’s always a fun show regardless, though I have some quibbles. (No theater fan needed that Springsteen monologue, but you know what we do want – the BEST PLAYWRIGHT’s speech!!!!)

Anyway, Josh Gorban and Sara Bareilles were super charming, and started the night with a dueling piano performance, which I was pretty into:

And the speeches started out great too. I love Andrew Garfield a lot:

Give Laurie Metcalf every award, always:

Lindsay Mendez is a National Treasure:

Carousel is one of the only things I had seen, and “Blow High, Blow Low,” is a highlight of this production so I was very glad they chose it for their performances:

(Also, Justin Peck is a genius, and I would have liked the opportunity to hear his speech as well. Thanks, CBS!)

It seems like Ari’el Statchel has an interesting life and I would like to read a long form profile of him, if any papers/writers out there are taking requests:

Then this moment happened with the Parkland theater kids and I just sobbed for a long time:

I’m not a filmmaker, but if I were, and she would agree to it (I don’t think she would), I would make a movie about Glenda Jackson’s life. This woman won 2 Oscars (without ever attending the ceremony to accept either) then quit acting to be a member of the British Parliament, then came back and won a Tony. (And get her director’s name wrong):

I actually very much enjoyed Frozen’s performance, because it felt like an old school musical and the score is good and I think I would like it:

Tony Kushner is the best. That’s just a fact:

I kind of can’t believe that this is Tony Shaloub’s first Tony:

Fashion wise it was a pretty standard night, but there were a few looks I loved!

 

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Carey Mulligan in Giambattista Valli (Photo Credit: Getty)

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Laurie Metcalf in Christian Siriano (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Lindsay Mendez in Randi Rahm (Photo Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

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Uzo Aduba in Christina Ottaviano (Photo Credit: Dimitrio Kambouris/Getty Images North America)

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Melissa Benoist in Dior (Photo Credit: Getty, WENN)

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Christine Baranski in Alexandre Vauthier (Photo Credit: Getty)

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Jessie Mueller in Lela Rose (Photo Credit: Getty)

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Hailey Kilgore in Zac Posen (Photo Credit: Getty)

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Best Picture Baking Project: Chicago

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Hey! Remember when I used to do this! It’s been over a year since the last one (which you may recall involved a botched attempt at mixing, cake, alcohol, and fire), but I finally got my act together last night and made some “Frango” mint brownies in honor of Chicago, the first musical to win Best Picture since 1969 when it won in 2003 (none as won since, though for about 3 minutes in 2016, La La Land thought they had…) Anyway, focusing on an actual best picture winner:

Had I seen this one before? 

Yes. As a musical theater middle and high schooler I watched this countless times. But I don’t actually remember when I last saw it. I had a glowing memory of it as a near perfect movie in my head, and…it doesn’t quite live up to that but it is a really fun adaptation that makes Bob Fosse mainstream somehow, which I appreciate.

Top 3 observations on this viewing? 

  1. Despite what my boyfriend referred to as, “a troubling pattern of violence against men,” this song holds up:
    And see Mya there! This movie is full of cameos! Including Dominic West! And Chita Rivera! And Lucy Liu! I’m sure that I was excited about Ms. Liu at the time, but last night I was the most excited to see Chita, since she was in the original broadway cast of Chicago and it’s pretty cool that she was included here.

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2. I remember people talked a lot about Richard Gere was miscast in a musical, because he can’t sing. But Billy Flynn isn’t a hard part to sing, the issue is that he can’t dance/give himself over to the unreality of a musical number. He sounds fine, he just looks so uncomfortable.

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Look at those shoulders! He is so tense

3. Every single character in this movie is a sociopath, except Amos (John C. Reilly). I knew it was about murders, and the beginnings of a vampiric crime press, but I mean seriously these are all the worst humans. Except Amos, bless his dumb little heart. He deserves so much better than these monsters.

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win? 

Gangs of New York – I’ve never seen all of this, I’ve heard good things, and it’s Scorsese…

The Hours – I love this movie, but it is so small and quiet, this nomination feels like its win

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers  – I have attempted to watch this multiple times and fallen asleep each time. (I will eventually see it when I get to Return of the King on this list…I promise).

The Pianist – Ooomph. This one is a gut punch.

So, it was a real grab bag of a year. At the time I was thrilled for Chicago and probably I’d still give it to them today. The Pianist is probably a better film, but Chicago is a more impressive production, which is technically what the Best Picture award is for.

Bechdel Test pass? 

Yes! They may all be horrendous criminals who murder men for revenge or money but they also have names! And they talk about their ambitions and fears and crimes.

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I wanted an old timey Chicago dessert, and all I could think of was Frango mints. I found a recipe for Frango mint fudge. But longtime readers know how fudge tends to go for me. So I adapted this recipe for mint chocolate brownies (mostly by simplifying it) and invented my own version of the classic treat:

Frango Mint Brownies 

Ingredients 

  • 1 box of fudgey brownie mix
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 tablespoons of butter softened to almost melted
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 1.5 teaspoons mint extract
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions 

  • Mix and bake brownies in a 9 by 13 in pan (I baked mine only 28 minutes for more of a cakey texture)
  • While they’re baking/cooling (I popped mine in the freezer) combine powdered sugar, milk, butter, and mint extract in a large bowl using a mixer
  • When brownies are cool, spread mint cream mixture evenly over the top
  • Top with a layer of chocolate chips
  • Place in fridge or freezer to cool/solidify
  • Slice and serve!

 

 

 

And the Nominees Are 2018: Round 4

All the nominations are out! You can see my reactions to today’s Oscar noms on Twitter. (They are generally positive!) But I haven’t done an update of what I’ve seen in awhile. I still have a couple of big nominees to see, and a lot of documentary and foreign films to catch up with, but I’m excited that the BAFTAs give me an opportunity to share a few other favorites!

Lady Macbeth

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I really thought I had written notes about this after I saw it. (This will be an unfortunate theme.) But other than my poem (link below) I don’t seem to have recorded my response to this anywhere. Which may have been a problem, except for certain images of this are burned into my memory.

It’s not a Shakespeare adaptation, but Florence Pugh‘s protagonist has the bard’s twisted lady’s cold power (and misguided passion) and she conveys more with a lifted corner of a lip than many actresses do with a monologue. This is a thriller not for the faint of heart. (I honestly don’t know if I would have gone if someone had told me the whole plot.) But it, like Mudbound actually now that I think about it, does a great job of exploring the ways that various forms of oppression and power intersect, magnify, and counteract each other, often with violent, heartbreaking consequences.

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You can read my poem about this film, here.

God’s Own Country

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I somehow forgot to write notes about this beautiful film after seeing it this fall. Which is a shame, because I remember being overcome with its beauty and humanity. It’s a quiet, lovely story about an isolated, fuck up of a farmer (Josh O’ Connor), meets and falls for the soft spoken migrant worker he hires to help with the lambing (Alec Secareanu).

The plot synopsis could make it sound like a romance novel, but in the hands of writer director Francis Lee, its a nuanced portrait of a young man coming to terms with the fact that he may not be as stuck as thinks (and therefore he has to take some responsibility for his actions.) It’s also a beautifully shot portrait of a life connected to the land of northern England, something that is disappearing in our modern age. (The farm it was filmed on had been converted to a housing development before the movie was released in the states.) But more than any of those philosophical things it’s a love story and it’s a good one and you should watch it.

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You can read my poem about this film, here.

Phantom Thread

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I went into this knowing that the folks at the Next Picture Show were planning to pair it with Hichcock’s Rebecca and so I spent a lot of the movie making connections between these two stories, and they aren’t hard to find. This is a moody, tense story of a relationship between a quiet young woman (the new-to-me but luminous Vicky Krieps) and a persnickety, yet glamorous older man (the always fantastically compelling Daniel Day-Lewis). There’s even a steely, Mrs. Danvers character in the form of his sister, Cecil (the creepily stoic Lesley Manville).

But, this movie also has its own, unique strange beauty. Although the relationship machinations are often excruciatingly awkward, the world they take place in, a post World War II London fashion house, is sumptuous and captured beautifully by Paul Thomas Anderson. (Of course, because he is a genius.)

My boyfriend called this an “emotional horror movie,” complete with jump scares and almost unbearable tension. He found it much harder to watch than I did, but the description is apt. But I mean that as a compliment, not a moment of screen time is wasted and while their actions get increasingly crazy as time progresses they never fall into cliché.

Also, the score, by Johnny Greenwood, is a fantastic indicator of mood and motion. It may be my favorite soundtrack of the year. (And I’ve already added two other film scores to my phone this year, which I never do.)

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You can read my poem about this film, here,

yI, Tonya

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Well, this one is wild. Its jarring tone could definitely be off-putting, but I loved it’s freewheeling, winking style. Tonya Harding’s story is so strange that is a screenwriter invented it, we wouldn’t buy it. But Steven Rogers gets around that by acknowledging the purely subjective and “wildly contradictory” accounts of those involved in the infamous case.

The performances are all fantastic. Allison Janney and Margot Robbie of course, but my favorite may have been Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly. He best embodies the film’s quick careening from campy fun to chilling violence. He was a revelation for me.

Also, the skating scenes are great, and the soundtrack is outstanding.

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You can read my poem about this film, here.

All the Money In the World

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Michelle Williams is a marvel. She kept me interested in this mess of a movie, even as it went past the 2 hour a mark. To be fair, Christopher Plummer‘s last minute step-in is also a great turn, but this is really Williams’s movie and I’m here for that. (As for Mr. Wahlberg, I’ve liked him other things, but here he could be replaced by a cardboard-cut-out here and be equally compelling.)

I didn’t know much about the Gettys before this and their particular brand of conspicuous consumption and dysfunction is depressingly interesting, but I feel like Ridley Scott never decided exactly what he wanted the tone of this to be, so it felt a bit muddled.

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You can read my poem about this film, here.

The Greatest Showman

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I was baffled by the gulf between the ridiculing critical response to this and the incredibly enthusiastic audience reaction. Well, after seeing it last night, I think I understand, but am now slightly baffled by the film itself. This is a good old-fashioned movie musical. It’s bright and shiny and filed with large production numbers.

Hugh Jackman is as charming and magnetic as always. Michelle Williams, though underutilized as an actress here, is luminously beautiful and can sing! The assembled “human oddities” Jackman’s P.T. Barnum collects are all talented. The duet between Zendaya and Zac Efron is genuinely moving.

But…um…I have about a million questions.

  • Why didn’t they use the score of the already written, Tony- winning musical about P.T. Barnum?
  • If this was set in the 1800s why are they dancing like they are in a Michael Jackson video? Or an old-timey installment of High School Musical? 
  • What are Michelle Williams and Rebecca Ferguson doing here? Give them something to do or don’t waste their time.
  • Is it wishful, revisionist history to look at Barnum’s “freak shows” as spaces of empowerment for the marginalized? I’d like to read actual scholarship on this if anyone knows of any.
  • But like, again, they could have had this song:

 

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You can read my poem about this film, here.

Weekly Adventure: After the Blast at the Claire Tow Theater

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I’m not usually a huge fan of dystopias. I know that might seem odd given that the last time I actually got around to writing a theater review was when I went to 1984, but it’s true. So the premise of After the Blast, generations after an ecological disaster people live in highly regulated underground compounds where they rely on chips in their brains to taste food or experience the outside world, wouldn’t have exactly grabbed me on its own. But the name Zoe Kazan almost always will. I love her as an actor, and her debut film as a screenwriter (Ruby Sparks) as always stuck with me.  So I was very excited when I got an email from Lincoln Center Theater that I could get LincTix to her new play.

And I am so glad that I did! Despite it’s extremely high concept premise, this is really a character study, or maybe a relationship study. The main female character, played wonderfully by Cristin Milloti, is a woman struggling with depression and Vitamin D deficiency (hard to image that they all wouldn’t be), who wants to start a family with her husband, the charming William Jackson Harper, but hasn’t yet passed the mental health evaluation to be allowed. So, naturally, he sets her up with a companion robot.

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Photo Credit: TheaterMania/Jeremy Daniel

It should be hokey, but it isn’t. It’s emotional and funny and raw. It’s both a glimpse at a possible (maybe uncomfortably so) future and a meditation on why it is important to keep fighting for hope in the present. It’s really good and I want a copy of it to read and underline and think about for a long time. If you’re in New York you should go.

The show runs through November 19th at the Claire Bow Theater at Lincoln Center 

 

 

Weekly Adventure: 1984

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When I first read about how people were fainting and vomiting during previews for 1984, I was rolling my eyes a bit. Typical buzz hyperbole, I assumed. But, after sitting through the last 20 minutes of this truly visceral production I can honestly say that if I had been closer to the stage (I was in the balcony) I may have lost consciousness myself.

Anyone familiar with this story (and in these times it can feel like we all are even if we haven’t read it) knows going in that this isn’t going to be an easy watch. But it is a vital one. Directors Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, mix technology and pathos in interesting ways to keep the pace unrelenting. This makes the rare moments of calm between Winston (a befuddled but intense Tom Sturridge) and Julia (Olivia Wilde) all the more heart wrenching in their doomed peacefulness.

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The kicker of 1984 has always been for me that it doesn’t offer a clear road map for what we are supposed to do in the face of Big Brother and this is really hit home here by the unrelenting calm of Reed Birney as O’Brien. It doesn’t matter what Winston (or an interrupting audience member) says to him, the Party’s will will continue apace. It’s terrifying, and like Orwell, I’m not sure how that is to be resisted, but its worth thinking about and this play will make you do that. Once your heart rate returns to normal.

Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Award Show Round Up: Tonys 2017

Is it just me, or was last night’s Tony’s telecast sort of underwhelming? I mean, don’t get me wrong, an underwhelming Tony’s is still one of my favorite nights of the year, but still. Maybe it’s just hard to follow the Hamiltonys, but also, Kevin Spacey didn’t ever really seem very comfortable up there. Maybe having the running joke of the evening be “why is he hosting?” without ever really giving an answer to that question wasn’t the best strategy. (An answer other than a string of 90s-era impressions I mean.)

But enough snark, here were my favorite moments of the night:

I haven’t seen Oslo, or had any real desire to really, but I liked that this was the first speech of the night:

I also have zero desire to see Hello, Dolly! (Sorry, but it’s just not actually a good play, you won’t convince me that it is. You certainly won’t convince me by having David Hyde Pierce sing a song that was clearly originally cut for a reason.) But…I have loved Gavin Creel for a very long time (once he hugged me on stage at the end of Hair and it was thrilling:

(And I love that Sutton presented his Tony!)

But I would have given the Tony to Andrew Rannells for Falsettos, I loved their performance (it’s a hard show to excerpt from), but I am so excited it’s going to be broadcast. You should all go see it, even if you didn’t love this clip, because the show as a whole is a masterpiece.

Anyone who happens to have an extra ticket to Dear Evan Hansen I am an excellent theater date:

It’s pretty gross that James Earl Jones’s Lifetime Achievement Award was relegated to the commercial break. Especially to make time for what, an extended Bill Clinton joke that seemed to be aimed pretty squarely at being mean to Hillary? (Sorry guys, the more I think about last night, the more I realize I may hate Kevin Spacey.)

Kevin Kline will always make me happy:

Also, in shows I need to see:

Do I know anyone who has seen Bandstand is this the only good number or something? I keep hearing it’s not good, but this looks very good! I need opinions:

Before I get to dresses one last snarky question, does Kevin Spacey know he’s not actually Bobby Darin? (Though I do love Patti of course.)

Now, fashion!

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Rachel Bay Jones in Christian Siriano (Photo Credit: Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

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Olivia Wilde in Michael Kors Collection (Photo Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

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Laura Linney in Derek Lam (Photo Credit: CNN)

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Cynthia Erivo in Chris Gelinas (Photo Credit: Jemal Countess)

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Sarah Paulson in Rodarte (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Alison Janney in Cristina Ottaviano (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Laurie Metcalf in Christian Siriano (Photo Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision, via Associated Press)

Weekly Adventure: Present Laughter at the St. James (with Kevin Kline!)

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I won a Broadway lotto this weekend! That hasn’t happened in such a long time. (To be fair, I haven’t been entering as obsessively lately, but still.)

I have loved Kevin Kline for a long time. I can probably pin point it to either this scene or literally any moment he is onscreen in The Big Chill. (Side noteL I’m going to rewatch The Big Chill tonight I think,) So when I saw super excited to get to see him up close, (from a box seat!) in Present Laughter on Saturday.

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Photo Credit: Emilio Madrid-Kuser/Broadway.com 

I know this is theater-nerd and anglophile sacrilege, but I’ve never completely connected to Noël Coward. Sure, he’s witty, but I have always had a hard time with farce. But, Present Laughter has enough of a sense of humor about itself that I was able to shut off the (overly) analytical part of my brain for a couple of hours and just laugh at Kline’s character’s preening insecurity. He is as fantastic in the role as I expected, and his supporting cast, especially Ellen Harvey as the eccentric “Spiritualist Swedish” housekeeper and Kate Burton as his semi-estranged wife, are excellent.

The sets (David Zinn) and costumes (Susan Hilferty) are as extravagant and beautiful as Coward’s rich world demand. And the play zips along with seductions and lies and “lost latch keys” but never gets so complicated that its frustrating. A delightful way to spend a Saturday evening.

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Kline with Cobie Smulders (Photo Credit: Joan Marcus)

The Shakespeare Project: Henry VI, Part III

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The Writer’s Almanac helpfully reminded me yesterday that it was Shakespeare Day (both his birth and death day, or at least as far was we know), which was good encouragement to finish reading Henry VI. I only had a few scenes left, but was having trouble motivating myself. Because, as I have now mentioned multiple times, I’m pretty over this particular interpretation of the War of the Roses. I admit this is because I have, based on very casual personal research, and a crush on this well-cast actor, I’m pretty much decided that the Yorkists were right and therefore this whole conflict was wasted bloodshed.

I basically had made up my mind at the end of Part II how I felt about all characters involved in this tragic miscommunication, and at first it felt like there was a possibility for poor Henry to escape away to a monastery and pray, letting York and his sons take back the throne (as clearly based on patriarchal genetic inheritance ridiculousness was theirs). But of course, this is a Shakespearean history play so 1. there must be heads cut off and 2. a woman must ruin everything.

I wrote last time about how I appreciated Queen Margaret’s badassery, and I still kind of do, but it turns to folly in this part. Not just because she loses the ultimate battle, but because she has no foresight. She and her son should have stayed in France and they would have lived long, prosperous lives, claiming to be wrongfully exiled but with their heads intact. But, no, the all important crown must be won back for “poor Ned.” (Side note: why did they all name all of their sons Edward? I appreciate the comparative lack of Henrys in this installment, but still…diversify for the sake of clarity at least.) She does seem to love her son, but it’s clear that she really wants to hold power for herself and as she is female this is evil, I get that. But the scene where she and Clifford murder York is a bit heavy handed on the hand wringing villainy. Great wordplay sure, but it must be tricky to play and keep her seeming even remotely human.

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Gabriela Petrushevska in a Macedonian production available from Shakespeare’s Globe Player

Even if I hadn’t already made up my mind about the rightful claimants to the throne, the really disturbing, onstage murder of the youngest York boy would have turned me against the Lancastrians from then on. (Yes, I know that the York’s then retaliate by killing the also seventeen year old Prince of Wales, but he was actively waging war against the York princes when they killed him. Rutland was traveling home with his tutor and literally begging to spared the sins of his father. It’s heartbreaking and I’m not sure how you can watch that scene and then root for anyone associated with Clifford.)

This play also begins the character assassination of Richard III, which I won’t bore you with all my grievances now, but suffice to say the conflation of physical disfigurement with moral ineptitude is pretty hard to read with a modern eye. You’ll all get to read my full treatise on this if I ever reach the Rs. For now, just one more Henry to go!

Weekly Adventure: Amélie on Broadway

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from Amélie as a musical. I had seen the movie it’s based on in high school, but I admit that I really only remembered the image of Audrey Tautou‘s mischievous smile from the DVD case. Oh and that it was “quirky.” While I’m ambivalent about the current musical theater trend to musical-ize every even marginally successful film, the opportunity to Phillipa Soo (otherwise known as Eliza-freaking-Schuyler-Hamilton) and my longtime love* Adam Chanler-Berat would have been inducement enough to see pretty much any show.

And this one was definitely worth the trip! As my New York godmother, and frequent theater date, put it as we were walking out this was completely “charming.” And it is quirky. (There are extended sequences involving a garden gnome.) But, mostly due to the truly great central performance from Soo, it also has a lovely emotional center about how hard it can be to allow yourself to connect to the people around you.

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This scene/song was lovely (Photo Credit: Joan Marcus for Playbill)

Obviously anyone who has listened to “Burn” already knows that Phillipa is a star, and this role lets her share all of her effervescence, but she’s backed up by a great supporting cast. The production design is also really great, Amélie lives in a daydream world, and set & costume designer David Zinn, created a world and (closet) I’ll be dreaming about for awhile.

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(Photo Credit: Instagram user alisonsimmet)

 

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*Baby (ok 19-year-old) Kath meeting Adam outside iNext to Normal (Photo Credit: Hanna Katz)

Weekly Adventure:The Glass Menagerie

I had a snow day from work yesterday. Which meant that I spent all day eating and finally watching The Crown. But earlier in the week, I had bought a discount ticket to The Glass Menagerie from Lincoln Center Theater, because Sally Field is in it. It was worth the cold walk to the subway (but honestly, house mangers, on the day of a blizzard when the temp is 10 below freezing, let people go to their seats early instead of lining up outside. C’mon.)

Anyway, this play has long been on my list of blindspots. I knew a few references, just enough to get “gentleman caller” jokes without ever having actually read or seen it. Because it was by Tennessee Williams I assumed it was bleak and beautiful. And I assumed right (though I didn’t find the ending to be terribly sad. There’s some room for hope there, or maybe I’m deluding myself.)

This production is strange, non-linear, and lovely. Like a so called “memory play” ought to be I suppose. At first, I was confused as to how I was supposed to believe that Joe Mantello was the younger brother of Madison Ferris, but then I realized that he was stepping into his own memory of the past. A conceit that actually worked really well once I got used to it.

Ms. Field did not disappoint. She is delightfully unhinged, and I don’t think I will ever forget the image of her in that Glinda the Good Witch courting dress. (Since the show is in previews, I can’t find a picture, but trust me it’s perfect.)

The heart of the show me though was the last 20 minutes, with Finn Wittrock, as the long awaited gentleman caller and Ferris*, lit only by candles and a neon sign. It was touching and intimate in a way I expect more from my beloved Chicago store fronts, not a grand Broadway house.

 

*Side note: it’s refreshing to see a disabled character played by an actress who uses a wheelchair rather than an able bodied actress putting on a limp (or something similar). More of that please.