Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More on our trip to Broadway

Our trip to Broadway over the weekend was quite successful. We got to see quite a bit of Manhattan and some of Queens, ate a few good meals, had a nice snowstorm, and saw three Broadway shows in three nights. I already wrote about Ragtime, but the other two were highlights as well.

First, we saw Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. Being the Broadway fan that I am, I have been a bit slow warming up to Sondheim, though most consider him a genius. But I did enjoy a concert production of Follies and a local production of Assassins, so I am getting there. A Little Night Music, however, pushed me over the top.

It is as if Sondheim was the Shakespeare of the musical theatre world. His dialogue is witty and thoughtful, truly intellectual. And his songs are superb, full of meaning and interaction with the show that you rarely see. The show is a period piece, both a farce and and a drama at the same time. It has only one famous song in it, Send in the Clowns, which most people know as a stand-alone iconic piece, but which, when fit into the context of the show, is something that works perfectly with its setting.

This production had the added star power of both Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones as its two leading female characters. Yet neither of them rested on their laurels – they played their parts beautifully. Lansbury, whose character spends most of the show in a wheelchair, made joke after joke without ever cracking a smile. And Zeta- Jones fit in perfectly and truly demonstrated her musical theatre roots, which substantially pre-date her turn as a movie star. Her rendition of Send in the Clowns could not have been better.

Following this, plus an exemplary performance of Ragtime on Friday night, we went on Saturday night to see Next to Normal, which Abby was so excited to see. It is a true rock musical, performed by only six actors, three of them teenagers. And it is no happy Broadway musical – the show tells the story of a family torn by bi-polar disorder, manic depression, suicide attempts, and death. Not light fare – but it was extraordinary. All six actors (one of them an understudy, no less) were superb. The singing was sensational, the acting just as good, and the tension and sorrow were almost overwhelming. Alice Ripley won a Tony for her role in the lead – hard to imagine how she could not. But all of the cast was terrific, and if you get to NYC, you should see this show.

So, three Broadway shows, all with their original casts. Not a bad way to spend a weekend.

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