Thomsen Talk: June 2017
“New York! New York! It’s a wonderful town!”
A short while ago, I made my almost-yearly pilgrimage to New York City to do my equivalent of Netflix binge watching, but with live theatre, sitting in an overpriced uncomfortable chair instead of my cheap, comfy couch. I was there Thursday afternoon through Monday afternoon and saw six Broadway shows (My record was 13 in seven days!).
In case you’re interested, here are some short reviews of each show:
Glenn Close won the Tony Award back in 1995 for playing faded silent film star Norma Desmond. 22 years later, she has returned to Broadway, playing the role again. This production did away with the literal scenery, and its place was a 40-piece orchestra front and center on the stage. The actors entered down staircases that were amidst the musicians. I fell in love with the movie when I first saw it when I was kid, and I have listened to the cast album of the musical version many, many times. I was surprised then when I finally saw it live that I became bored with the music. The opening number especially repeated the same musical phrase again and again. I then remembered that I usually skip over the tracks with the ensemble songs and get right to the solos. (No such luck with live theatre.) I was captivated by Glenn Close in Act One, and it was the first time I thought of Norma as being lonely – not just a diva. It was a treat to see an acting legend live on stage.
Come from Away
The surprise hit for me! It’s a quick, 100-minute, intermission-less musical, based on a true story. On September 11, 2001, airplanes were forced to land in a remote village in Newfoundland. What was a town of 7000 people almost doubled in size when the planes’ passengers were left stranded for five days. The musical is done with 12 actors playing both the passengers and the citizens of Gander, who care for the “temporarily homeless.” The musical sparks such joy for community.
A somewhat true, somewhat fictionalized musical of real-life rivals Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, this new musical starred Broadway divas Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone. The musical was interesting but never quite packed a punch. Like seeing Glenn Close, it was wonderful to see these legends on stage together.
Bette Midler has absolute star power. Her stage presence was captivating; it was hard to take your eyes off of her. The audience loved her and cheered everything she did. She actually got confused with her lines and stopped the scene and said, “I’m lost.” She repeated some lines and then found her way again — the audience cheered her. For me, the true standout of the show was David Hyde Pierce. He filled the role of Horace Vandergelder with such nuances. Oh, and the costumes!!! My goodness. They were gorgeous.
A Doll’s House Part 2
This was a quick 80-minute play that starred Laurie Metcalf alongside three other phenomenal actors. The play was surprisingly funny and sparked an excellent debate about marriage: Does it enslave you or make you want to work at committing to your vow. The set was just a bare room, with a floor that jutted out into the audience. There were just a few chairs, and that was it. All the focus was on the impeccable actors.
If you’ve seen the movie, you can imagine how difficult it would be to turn this story into a musical. When a man has to relive the same day over and over and over again, it gets pretty monotonous. At times, it grew tiring seeing the same thing or hearing the same dialogue – we certainly got an inkling of how the character Phil was feeling, but the staging and “special effects” kept the proceedings interesting.
That’s a brief overview of my trip. I am thrilled to be back at QCT, directing our very own Hello, Dolly! I am so proud of this organization and its work, and I’m honored to be a working theatre professional.