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Thomsen Talk: Brandon on Broadway

Posted on July 13, 2022 by QCT

Once a year I make the pilgrimage to the mecca of theatre, Broadway, in New York City, a magical place where the lights are brighter and spontaneous singing and dancing down the sidewalk is not uncommon. My last visit was in November 2019, and I had plans to return Summer 2020, but “you know what” changed those plans. Recently, that trip was finally able to happen, and I want to share with you brief reviews of the shows that I saw.   

POTUS

  • The cast consists of seven women, and they were so energetic, and that energy kept the night electric. The audience ate it up! 
  • The set was really cool, on a giant turntable, taking us from room to room throughout the White House. 
  • Fun surprises in the plot that I didn’t see coming. It was fun to walk into a show and not know ANYTHING about the plot and what will come next. 

The Phantom of the Opera

  • This was my fourth time seeing it on Broadway. I sat 5th-row center. Excellent view. The chandelier came right towards me. 
  • Every time I see it, I discover something new. It’s a masterclass in staging and design.  
  • The styles of acting are inconsistent with the style of the design and tone of the show.

The Music Man

  • This was the show that launched the entire trip. I bought tickets to this show the morning they went on sale…. three years ago. Because of COVID delays, the date of my performance changed five times. I was so ready for this. 
  • The reviews were less than enthusiastic, and I was afraid that, after all this time, I wouldn’t care for it. Well………. It absolutely exceeded my expectations. I thought it was so detailed and well-directed. From photos, I expected to not like the design, looking far too brown and green and dour, and yet it totally worked and was much lovelier in person.  
  • Sutton Foster made the role her own. It was very much a Marian of today versus a Marian of 1912, but in the context of the rest of the production, it worked.  
  • There were wonderful directorial choices that expanded character development and relationships. I found myself getting teary-eyed in several scenes — the production was so well-done. 

Company

  • I have listened to various cast recordings and have seen filmed productions of Company, and this was my first time seeing it live. I have finally resolved that I simply do not care for this show.  
  • That being said, this production is fantastic. I marveled at the mind of the director, Marianne Elliot, to dream up this world and interpret the text in the way she did. Like with The Music Man, every moment was thought-out and fully realized. The design was so clever — it had an Alice in Wonderland feel. Constant surprises. 

A Strange Loop 

  • I couldn’t decide if I wanted to see this, and I bought a ticket at the last minute. I’m really glad I did it.  
  • As with POTUS, the performances elevate the material. I was so taken with every single performer. Top-notch acting. 
  • It’s 100 minutes and no intermission, and I actually think it could have been trimmed even more. Some of the songs felt repetitive in what they were saying. 
  • Having seen now both A Strange Loop and Company, there was an interesting connection in my mind — Bobbie in Company was resisting marriage; Usher in Strange Loop was reaching for it. Both characters were trying to find where they fit in the world. 
  • Though very graphic with language and content, A Strange Loop has important things to say, and people need to hear them; and there needed to be a vehicle for those things. Some people will really connect to it, and that’s important. And….. it’s very, very well done. 

Into the Woods

  • This was the classic musical done in a concert setting. The orchestra was on stage, surrounded by platforms and stairs. Very minimal scenic elements.  
  • The cast, which included Neil Patrick Harris and Sara Bareilles, was great. I love this show, and this approach to it was done with great care.  
  • The original Broadway production was filmed, and I have seen that recording many times. The line readings of those actors are etched in my mind, so it was a nice surprise when I laughed at the fresh approach to the new cast.  
  • Milky White (a statue in the original production) was done as a puppet. Kudos to the puppet maker and puppeteer. There was so much humor and pathos!

One thing that really stood out to me on this trip was the enthusiasm from the audiences. They were so engaged — laughing and applauding at every opportunity and with such force. Robust standing ovations at every show.   

My trips to New York serve as a kind of “refresh and re-energize my battery.” I came back to Quincy inspired and so grateful that I get to create theatre. I invite you to attend Legally Blonde at QCT this summer and share in my enthusiasm for this life-affirming art form.