Report by Len Power
April is a good time to see shows on Broadway. Producers are falling over themselves to get their shows previewed and opened by the end of April to be eligible for consideration for the Tony Awards which are announced in June.
First up for me was ‘Bullets Over Broadway’, a big, brassy musical still in previews based on Woody Allen’s very funny movie of the same name. Imaginatively directed by Susan Stroman and starring Marin Mazzie as a tipsy Broadway diva who drinks paint stripper, this is a highly entertaining, fast-moving and great looking show that is a real audience-pleaser. The music, chosen from the American songbook, almost sounds like an original score, due to the large number of unfamiliar songs amongst some well-known standards.
|Bullets Over Broadway|
My next show was ‘A Gentlemen’s Guide To Love And Murder’ which had opened a few months previously to excellent reviews but wasn’t doing great business. Based on the novel on which the British classic film, ‘Kind Hearts And Coronets’ was also based, this production used the same device as in the film of one actor playing all of the murder victims. It was fun to watch the imaginative murder sequences and good performances but I found the show too earnestly American in its depiction of Edwardian England.
|A Gentlemen's Guide To Love And Murder|
|Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale in 'The Bridges Of Madison County'|
The revival of ‘Pippin’ has been running over a year. It’s a stunning Cirque De Soleil style production re-imagined in a circus setting. The entire cast undertake many dangerous-looking stunts during the show and, as well as being beautifully sung and acted, it’s a highly entertaining show. Unfortunately the audience it‘s now attracting screamed with delight at every crescendo in the music, as if they were at home watching ‘The Voice’ on TV.
Still in previews when I saw it, ‘If/Then’ starring Idina Menzel from ‘Wicked’, was an interesting new musical with an appealing score by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey who had had a big success previously with ‘Next to Normal’. Idina Menzel was wonderful in it and she really lifts you out of your seat when she hits those high notes. Still, it was a pity that the show had a storyline that was hard to follow.
|Idina Menzel and the cast of 'If/Then'|
I also saw two new plays. ‘Mothers And Sons’, with the marvellous Tyne Daly, was a quiet but emotional story about a mother who suddenly appears on the doorstep of the ex-boyfriend of her son who had died of AIDS during the 1980s. Written by the prolific Terrence McNally, it ultimately delivered a strong emotional punch, but took far too long to get there.
|Tyne Daly (centre) and the cast of 'Mothers And Sons'|
The other play, ‘Casa Valentina’ by Harvey Fierstein concerned a guesthouse in the Catskill Mountains in 1962 where heterosexual men could go for a weekend and relax, dressed as women. The play was inspired by ‘Casa Susanna’, a book about an actual guesthouse of this type that existed in the 1950s. This excellent drama boasted some superb performances by an ensemble cast. I was expecting a comedy, but, like the rest of the audience, I was stunned to be suddenly confronted by characters who, although having a need to dress as women, displayed the same prejudices against homosexuals as most other people in that era. It was a very thought-provoking and unusual play.
Well, I managed to see seven shows in six days. You might be interested to know that, even though I managed to get tickets for most shows at half-price, I was paying an average of $80 a ticket. Was it worth it? Yes, definitely!
Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7's 'Dress Circle' program on Sunday 18 May.