Diary of a theatre addict: Back from Broadway & napping at the National

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Midnight tonight, order in case you’ve not voted yet, here is the deadline for the #AlsoRecognisedAwards that I have co-founded with Terri Paddock on MyTheatreMates.com.

That’s the most important message of the day. But by tonight I’ll have also had another ten-show week. And what a ten-show week! I’ve been in New York on my annual pre-Tony Awards catch up, as a veritable flood of shows open back-to-back, all seeking to get in under the wire of the last day to be considered eligible for the year’s Tony Awards.

Tony-AwardsThat day is this coming Thursday, and between tonight and this Thursday there are six big openings — one each night and two on Thursday. Between last Sunday and Thursday just gone, there were four more. So that’s TEN openings in less than a fortnight. And  since April 1, there have been four more. So that’s 14 openings across a 23 day span. Given that the previous 11 months produced a total of 22 openings (including two limited ‘speciality’ engagements of a magic show and a music show that brought The Temptations and the Four Tops to Broadway on the same bill), you can see just how unbalanced the Broadway year is, with so many shows crowding into such a small window.

That creates a critical unbalance, too, in every sense: not least for my New York critical colleagues, who are being run ragged (it’s not as if off-Broadway stops producing either around now; never mind the regionals). And it means that there’s no time at all for the reviews — good or bad — to register with the ticket buying public, before they’re immediately being confronted with yet another show wanting their attention, too. It truly becomes a Darwinian struggle of the fittest – or the fattest, at least, who have reserves they can draw on while they weather it out.

Still, it certainly makes coming to town now exciting. As an out-of-town critic (I’m filing a round-up for The Times on what I’ve seen later this week), I’m seeing many of the shows with other New York critics. (Since they follow a system of holding a number of critics’ previews here in advance of the actual opening, I’ve already seen Living on Love and Something Rotten, both of which open respectively tomorrow (April 20) and Wednesday (April 22), so I can’t comment on them yet. I’m also seeing a preview of Dr Zhivago tomorrow (Monday), ahead of its official opening the next night.

I’ve already commented briefly on some of what I’ve seen on Twitter, but I’m not going to pre-empt what I’m going to say in my Times piece by commenting any further here! Suffice it to say, I’ve had a busy week, which of course regular readers of this weekly diary will know is nothing new for me. But being in New York means I come charged with even more energy than usual. It helps that everything is so convenient — my apartment is two blocks to the theatre district (actually, one and half to the Worldwide Plaza’s New World Stages complex on the same street, and two blocks to my first Broadway theatres, the Gershwin and Circle on the Square).

Nor does the day job go away while I’m here, so I’m still filing daily and weekly columns for The Stage, and writing up and conducting new interviews. Just this last week I had a long “phoner” back to London with Kenneth Branagh on Wednesday, ahead of the public launch of his new theatre company on Friday, which I wrote about here, another phone chat with Sonia Friedman yesterday, and I met composer Jason Robert Brown for a face-to-face interview last Thursday.

In the next three days, I’m also interviewing Ben Brantley and Jonathan Groff, the latter of whom is currently in Hamilton (which I’m seeing again tonight at the Public), ahead of coming to London for the concert performance of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying at the Royal Festival Hall next month.

All that, and of course I’ve got lots of friends to catch up with too: it was a particular pleasure to sit in Scott_alan_pianoScott Alan’s apartment, just a few blocks from mine, and hear him sing two brand-new songs to an audience of one (me!), ahead of his forthcoming sold out run at the St James in May! Scott was also my plus-one guest to two of my theatre outings this week: It Shoulda Been You on Tuesday (he is friends with its composer  Barbara Anselmi) and the Radio City Spring Spectacular yesterday (starirng Laura Benanti, with whom he is appearing on the bill of an evening devoted to Tori Amos songs tomorrow; I can’t get to it, but he also previewed the song he is doing for me the other day in his apartment along with his own two new songs).

Being here, of course, means that I’ve missed some London treats — I was particularly sorry not to have been at the first night of the transfer of Gypsy last Wednesday (though I was able to review it as the producers allowed me in early last Saturday), since Angela Lansbury — the last London Momma Rose — was there (she also went to see the pie shop Sweeney Todd when she was in town!) By all accounts, I didn’t miss too much by missing the opening of The Twits at the Royal Court, nor of Death of a Comedian at Soho Theatre; though I must catch up with Michael Longhurst’s production of Simon Stephens’s Carmen Disruption that opened on Friday at the Almeida.

One of the advantages of being away is that you can cherry-pick what to see (and what to miss) after you get back. But first I have five more shows to see here. Today I’m seeing Audra-McDonaldAudra McDonald (left) in concert in New Jersey (as I won’t be here for her next Carnegie Hall gig next week on April 29), then re-visiting Hamilton tonight (a ticket I bought ages ago, when the extension of the season was first announced and I knew I’d be here then, before I got a press ticket to see it when I was here in March). Tomorrow (Monday) is Dr Zhivago, then Gypsy on Tuesday and Fun Home (that opens tonight) on Wednesday afternoon, from where I depart directly to JFK for my flight home… arriving Thursday morning at Heathrow, from where I head direct to ArtsEd to teach without going home first, then straight to the National for the revival of Caryl Churchill’s 1975 play Light Shining in Buckinghamshire that evening!

And then the crazy juggling of schedules begins all over again back home. On Friday, I’m going in early to American Buffalo at Wyndham’s, as I also need to go in early to Bugsy Malone at Lyric Hammersmith the following Monday, ahead of their respective openings on April 28 and April 27, to meet my print deadlines.  Next Saturday, I’m heading up to the Sage, Gateshead to catch Sting singing his score to The Last Ship — my favourite original musical of the year so far. And on Sunday, I’m going to see the late Pina Bausch’s company Tanztheater Wuppertal perform the 1987 piece Ahnen, described as being about “love, loss, longing and desire, and the eradicable human will to survive all”. So basically it’s just about living!

See you here next week, and elsewhere, I’m sure, before that.
Midnight tonight, viagra in case you’ve not voted yet, is the deadline for the #AlsoRecognisedAwards that I have co-founded with Terri Paddock on MyTheatreMates.com.

That’s the most important message of the day. But by tonight I’ll have also had another ten-show week. And what a ten-show week! I’ve been in New York on my annual pre-Tony Awards catch up, as a veritable flood of shows open back-to-back, all seeking to get in under the wire of the last day to be considered eligible for the year’s Tony Awards.

Tony-AwardsThat day is this coming Thursday, and between tonight and this Thursday there are six big openings — one each night and two on Thursday. Between last Sunday and Thursday just gone, there were four more. So that’s TEN openings in less than a fortnight. And  since April 1, there have been four more. So that’s 14 openings across a 23 day span. Given that the previous 11 months produced a total of 22 openings (including two limited ‘speciality’ engagements of a magic show and a music show that brought The Temptations and the Four Tops to Broadway on the same bill), you can see just how unbalanced the Broadway year is, with so many shows crowding into such a small window.

That creates a critical unbalance, too, in every sense: not least for my New York critical colleagues, who are being run ragged (it’s not as if off-Broadway stops producing either around now; never mind the regionals). And it means that there’s no time at all for the reviews — good or bad — to register with the ticket buying public, before they’re immediately being confronted with yet another show wanting their attention, too. It truly becomes a Darwinian struggle of the fittest – or the fattest, at least, who have reserves they can draw on while they weather it out.

Still, it certainly makes coming to town now exciting. As an out-of-town critic (I’m filing a round-up for The Times on what I’ve seen later this week), I’m seeing many of the shows with other New York critics. Since they follow a system of holding a number of critics’ previews here in advance of the actual opening, I’ve already seen Living on Love and Something Rotten, both of which open respectively tomorrow (April 20) and Wednesday (April 22), so I can’t comment on them yet. I’m also seeing a preview of Dr Zhivago tomorrow (Monday), ahead of its official opening the next night.

I’ve already commented briefly on some of what I’ve seen on Twitter, but I’m not going to pre-empt what I’m going to say in my Times piece by commenting any further here! Suffice it to say, I’ve had a busy week, which of course regular readers of this weekly diary will know is nothing new for me. But being in New York means I come charged with even more energy than usual. It helps that everything is so convenient — my apartment is two blocks to the theatre district (actually, one and half to the Worldwide Plaza’s New World Stages complex on the same street, and two blocks to my first Broadway theatres, the Gershwin and Circle on the Square).

Nor does the day job go away while I’m here, so I’m still filing daily and weekly columns for The Stage, and writing up and conducting new interviews. Just this last week I had a long “phoner” back to London with Kenneth Branagh on Wednesday, ahead of the public launch of his new theatre company on Friday, which I wrote about here, another phone chat with Sonia Friedman yesterday, and I met composer Jason Robert Brown for a face-to-face interview last Thursday.

In the next three days, I’m also interviewing Ben Brantley and Jonathan Groff, the latter of whom is currently in Hamilton (which I’m seeing again tonight at the Public), ahead of coming to London for the concert performance of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying at the Royal Festival Hall next month.

All that, and of course I’ve got lots of friends to catch up with too: it was a particular pleasure to sit in Scott_alan_pianoScott Alan’s apartment, just a few blocks from mine, and hear him sing two brand-new songs to an audience of one (me!), ahead of his forthcoming sold out run at the St James in May! Scott was also my plus-one guest to two of my theatre outings this week: It Shoulda Been You on Tuesday (he is friends with its composer  Barbara Anselmi) and the Radio City Spring Spectacular yesterday (starirng Laura Benanti, with whom he is appearing on the bill of an evening devoted to Tori Amos songs tomorrow; I can’t get to it, but he also previewed the song he is doing for me the other day in his apartment along with his own two new songs).

Being here, of course, means that I’ve missed some London treats — I was particularly sorry not to have been at the first night of the transfer of Gypsy last Wednesday (though I was able to review it as the producers allowed me in early last Saturday), since Angela Lansbury — the last London Momma Rose — was there (she also went to see the pie shop Sweeney Todd when she was in town!) By all accounts, I didn’t miss too much by missing the opening of The Twits at the Royal Court, nor of Death of a Comedian at Soho Theatre; though I must catch up with Michael Longhurst’s production of Simon Stephens’s Carmen Disruption that opened on Friday at the Almeida.

One of the advantages of being away is that you can cherry-pick what to see (and what to miss) after you get back. But first I have six more shows to see here between today and Wednesday afternoon. Today I’m seeing Audra-McDonaldAudra McDonald (left) in concert in New Jersey (as I won’t be here for her next Carnegie Hall gig next week on April 29), then re-visiting Hamilton tonight (a ticket I bought ages ago, when the extension of the season was first announced and I knew I’d be here then, before I got a press ticket to see it when I was here in March). Tomorrow (Monday) is Dr Zhivago, then the annual Easter Bonnet competition on Tuesday afternoon (the annual charity fund-raiser forGigi on Tuesday and Fun Home (that opens tonight) on Wednesday afternoon, from where I depart directly to JFK for my flight home… arriving Thursday morning at Heathrow, from where I head direct to ArtsEd to teach without going home first, then straight to the National for the revival of Caryl Churchill’s 1975 play Light Shining in Buckinghamshire that evening!

And then the crazy juggling of schedules begins all over again back home. On Friday, I’m going in early to American Buffalo at Wyndham’s, as I also need to go in early to Bugsy Malone at Lyric Hammersmith the following Monday, ahead of their respective openings on April 28 and April 27, to meet my print deadlines.  Next Saturday, I’m heading up to the Sage, Gateshead to catch Sting singing his score to The Last Ship — my favourite original musical of the year so far. And on Sunday, I’m going to see the late Pina Bausch’s company Tanztheater Wuppertal perform the 1987 piece Ahnen, described as being about “love, loss, longing and desire, and the eradicable human will to survive all”. So basically it’s just about living!

See you here next week, and elsewhere, I’m sure, before that.
Midnight tonight, viagra buy in case you’ve not voted yet, is the deadline for the #AlsoRecognisedAwards that I have co-founded with Terri Paddock on MyTheatreMates.com.

That’s the most important message of the day. But by tonight I’ll have also had another ten-show week. And what a ten-show week! I’ve been in New York on my annual pre-Tony Awards catch up, as a veritable flood of shows open back-to-back, all seeking to get in under the wire of the last day to be considered eligible for the year’s Tony Awards.

Tony-AwardsThat day is this coming Thursday, and between tonight and this Thursday there are six big openings — one each night and two on Thursday. Between last Sunday and Thursday just gone, there were four more. So that’s TEN openings in less than a fortnight. And  since April 1, there have been four more. So that’s 14 openings across a 23 day span. Given that the previous 11 months produced a total of 22 openings (including two limited ‘speciality’ engagements of a magic show and a music show that brought The Temptations and the Four Tops to Broadway on the same bill), you can see just how unbalanced the Broadway year is, with so many shows crowding into such a small window.

That creates a critical unbalance, too, in every sense: not least for my New York critical colleagues, who are being run ragged (it’s not as if off-Broadway stops producing either around now; never mind the regionals). And it means that there’s no time at all for the reviews — good or bad — to register with the ticket buying public, before they’re immediately being confronted with yet another show wanting their attention, too. It truly becomes a Darwinian struggle of the fittest – or the fattest, at least, who have reserves they can draw on while they weather it out.

Still, it certainly makes coming to town now exciting. As an out-of-town critic (I’m filing a round-up for The Times on what I’ve seen later this week), I’m seeing many of the shows with other New York critics. Since they follow a system of holding a number of critics’ previews here in advance of the actual opening, I’ve already seen Living on Love and Something Rotten, both of which open respectively tomorrow (April 20) and Wednesday (April 22), so I can’t comment on them yet. I’m also seeing a preview of Dr Zhivago tomorrow (Monday), ahead of its official opening the next night.

I’ve already commented briefly on some of what I’ve seen on Twitter, but I’m not going to pre-empt what I’m going to say in my Times piece by commenting any further here! Suffice it to say, I’ve had a busy week, which of course regular readers of this weekly diary will know is nothing new for me. But being in New York means I come charged with even more energy than usual. It helps that everything is so convenient — my apartment is two blocks to the theatre district (actually, one and half to the Worldwide Plaza’s New World Stages complex on the same street, and two blocks to my first Broadway theatres, the Gershwin and Circle on the Square).

Nor does the day job go away while I’m here, so I’m still filing daily and weekly columns for The Stage, and writing up and conducting new interviews. Just this last week I had a long “phoner” back to London with Kenneth Branagh on Wednesday, ahead of the public launch of his new theatre company on Friday, which I wrote about here, another phone chat with Sonia Friedman yesterday, and I met composer Jason Robert Brown for a face-to-face interview last Thursday.

In the next three days, I’m also interviewing Ben Brantley and Jonathan Groff, the latter of whom is currently in Hamilton (which I’m seeing again tonight at the Public), ahead of coming to London for the concert performance of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying at the Royal Festival Hall next month.

All that, and of course I’ve got lots of friends to catch up with too: it was a particular pleasure to sit in Scott_alan_pianoScott Alan’s apartment, just a few blocks from mine, and hear him sing two brand-new songs to an audience of one (me!), ahead of his forthcoming sold out run at the St James in May! Scott was also my plus-one guest to two of my theatre outings this week: It Shoulda Been You on Tuesday (he is friends with its composer  Barbara Anselmi) and the Radio City Spring Spectacular yesterday (starirng Laura Benanti, with whom he is appearing on the bill of an evening devoted to Tori Amos songs tomorrow; I can’t get to it, but he also previewed the song he is doing for me the other day in his apartment along with his own two new songs).

Being here, of course, means that I’ve missed some London treats — I was particularly sorry not to have been at the first night of the transfer of Gypsy last Wednesday (though I was able to review it as the producers allowed me in early last Saturday), since Angela Lansbury — the last London Momma Rose — was there (she also went to see the pie shop Sweeney Todd when she was in town!) By all accounts, I didn’t miss too much by missing the opening of The Twits at the Royal Court, nor of Death of a Comedian at Soho Theatre; though I must catch up with Michael Longhurst’s production of Simon Stephens’s Carmen Disruption that opened on Friday at the Almeida.

One of the advantages of being away is that you can cherry-pick what to see (and what to miss) after you get back. But first I have six more shows to see here between today and Wednesday afternoon. Today I’m seeing Audra-McDonaldAudra McDonald (left) in concert in New Jersey (as I won’t be here for her next Carnegie Hall gig next week on April 29), then re-visiting Hamilton tonight (a ticket I bought ages ago, when the extension of the season was first announced and I knew I’d be here then, before I got a press ticket to see it when I was here in March). Tomorrow (Monday) is Dr Zhivago, then the annual Easter Bonnet competition on Tuesday afternoon (the annual charity fund-raiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids) and Gigi on Tuesday evening. Finally, I see Fun Home (that opens tonight) on Wednesday afternoon, from where I depart directly to JFK for my flight home… arriving Thursday morning at Heathrow, from where I head direct to ArtsEd to teach without going home first, then straight to the National for the revival of Caryl Churchill’s 1975 play Light Shining in Buckinghamshire that evening!

And then the crazy juggling of schedules begins all over again back home. On Friday, I’m going in early to American Buffalo at Wyndham’s, as I also need to go in early to Bugsy Malone at Lyric Hammersmith the following Monday, ahead of their respective openings on April 28 and April 27, to meet my print deadlines.  Next Saturday, I’m heading up to the Sage, Gateshead to catch Sting singing his score to The Last Ship — my favourite original musical of the year so far. And on Sunday, I’m going to see the late Pina Bausch’s company Tanztheater Wuppertal perform the 1987 piece Ahnen, described as being about “love, loss, longing and desire, and the eradicable human will to survive all”. So basically it’s just about living!

See you here next week, and elsewhere, I’m sure, before that.
addictI got back from 9 nights in New York on Thursday morning after a 10th night on board a Virgin Airbus back to Heathrow. Thanks to a mileage upgrade, viagra I flew home upper class (a rare treat), mainly so I could get some sleep before a busy day on Thursday, and could use the Virgin revivals lounge after I landed — no, not as the name suggests, a place where you might catch Gypsy or The King and I, but a place when you can have breakfast, shower, and work before heading to town.

I had scheduled it all very tightly: I needed to work on polishing up and finishing my 1,500 word feature on Broadway’s current crop of musicals for The Times (behind paywall) before filing it at noon that day, which became touch-and-go as the Revivals lounge was evacuated owing to a fire alarm.

 

Then I was heading direct to ArtsEd in Turnham Green to spend the afternoon beginning a new course that I’m teaching there to BA Acting students. And then I went direct to the first night of Light Shining in Buckinghamshire at the National (pictured)light-shining-in-buckinghamshire, the first production of Rufus Norris’s tenure as artistic director there (though not directed by him – that’s coming this week, on Wednesday with the opening of Everyman).

 

 

As I wrote in my review for londontheatre.co.uk:

 

OK, I admit it: I nodded off during the first night of Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, though fortunately my companion quickly roused me… Audiences, including and especially critics, need to be fresh for the task and challenge of the evening ahead – no more so than when watching a dense, intense Caryl Churchill play, so I failed myself and the play.

Being an audience member comes with responsibilities – staying awake is one of them. And as we are constantly reminded, one of the even simpler ones is to make sure your mobile phone is off. Within minutes of the play starting however, we were treated to a ringtone rendition of ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,’ that came – it turned out – from the mobile of Nick Hytner, attending the first National Theatre production he’d not programmed himself since he handed over the reigns of the running of the theatre to Rufus Norris.

A few years ago I remember interviewing Hytner around the time that the Orange Tree’s Sam Walters was proposing a zero-tolerance policy towards those who ‘allowed’ their mobiles to go off at the theatre, and Hytner told me then that he couldn’t honestly say it would never happen to him. That was borne out on Thursday; and by the same token, few theatre critics can say they have never nodded off (and there were several reportings of such incidences included in Kelly Nestruck’s blog for The Guardian back in 2008, including a well-alibi’d denial by me at the time!)

More recently, I had to personally rouse snoring colleagues during first nights at the National (sitting directly behind me) and the Royal Court (directly in front of me) as they were creating audible disturbances, but were not with companions to do the honours for them. So I was pleased that I’d brought a young producer with me as my guest to the National on Thursday, who brought me back to consciousness.

Sometimes, of course, snoozing can be a proper critical response to a show: as I pithily wrote in my Times column on dr-zhivagoDr Zhivago that opened on Broadway last Tuesday, it “puts the zzzz into Zhivago”. In his review for deadline.com, Jeremy Gerard writes  that “deafening accents [are] provided by the intermittent firing of guns and cannons, of which [director Des] McAnuff seems wildly enamored (possibly to encourage us to stay awake).”

Another New York critic Elisabeth Vincentelli hits the nail on the head when she said in her review for the New York Post,  “At a time of heightened competition on Broadway, Doctor Zhivago is so dull, it may soon be Zhiva-gone.”

The Tony nominations are being announced this Tuesday, and that’s when the first shows will start tumbling: as Michael Riedel wrote in his New York Post column on Friday, there’s a positive bloodbath ahead:

“Clear the flop wall at Joe Allen! We’re going to need the space!”

That’s how one wag sizes up the situation on Broadway this week. To accommodate the coming bloodbath, Joe Allen may have to remove some of the posters on the long brick wall of his West 46th Street restaurant — of shows like “Nick & Nora,” “Carrie” and “Dude” — or start putting them up next door at Orso.

Mentioning that the revival of The Heidi Chronicles has already announced a May 3 close, he proceeds to cite trouble ahead for Living on Love, Dr Zhivago (it “may be headed for Siberia by the end of the month”), It Shoulda Been You and Gigi.  I saw the last four (but not the first), and it’s simply the fact that there’s far too much competition around for them all to survive, even though (at the performances I saw at any rate) Living on Love and It Shoulda Been You were both determined crowd-pleasers.

it-shoulda-been-youAnd truth to tell, I had a better time at It Shoulda Been You than I did at Something Rotten, the most hyped new musical about (very old) musicals in town, mainly because it has arguably the most luxurious and accomplished cast of any new musical on Broadway: Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, Chip Zien (pictured left, with Michael X. Martin) and Edward Hibbert are each brilliant comic actors, and Sierra Boggess and Montego Glover serious vocalists. And there’s also terrific work from Lisa Howard, Josh Grisetti and David Burtka.

As Chris Jones wrote in one of the few non-grudging reviews of the show for the Chicago Tribune,  “a great deal of the content in this show lands with its audience. I have a feeling I’ll be at this particular wedding again and again, in some suburb, somewhere.”

And I have a feeling that, assuming it survives, this is one of the shows I’ll want to re-visit when I return to New York for the Tony Awards weekend in early June, along with the glorious Chita Rivera in Kander and Ebb’s dark, insinuating The Visit. Though part of me hopes that Chita might actually be off when I do — her standby is Donna McKechnie, another Broadway veteran (who actually won the Tony over Rivera in 1975 when they went head-to-head: Donna for A Chorus Line, Chita for the original Chicago).

As much as I loved the spectacular new King and I at Lincoln Center, I hope that the revival of On the Town (at the Lyric) isn’t forgotten for the Tonys: it’s my revival of the year, and the one I most want to revisit, too, in June.

The other show I hope isn’t forgotten is The Last Ship, Sting’s original musical that arrived on Broadway last October, but closed back in January, and has what I consider to be the best original score of the year there. Yesterday I heard it again sung by Sting himself, in concert on his home territory at the Sage, Gateshead, and hope it prefigures a proper UK outing for the show. (It was previously workshopped at Newcastle’s Live Theatre in 2012 before it went to Broadway). The show may need some structural work, but the score is a thrillingly original, folk-tinged masterpiece.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward this week to re-visiting three more musicals: Closer to Heaven, the original Pet Shop Boys scored musical that’s returning to open at the Union on Tuesday, Carrie (the RSC’s notorious flop musical returning in a new production at Southwark Playhouse) as well as Bugsy Malone, brought back to the stage to re-open the refurbished Lyric Hammersmith.

howard-goodallI’m also planning on heading to Peterborough Cathedral on Friday to hear Howard Goodall conduct local musicians in a performance of Every Purpose Under Heaven, the oratorio he composed to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible and previously premiered in Westminster Abbey in 2011.

Also this week I’m hosting a live Q&A with Elaine Paige as part of Mountview’s 70th Anniversary celebrations at the Hospital Club on Thursday, and my good friend Scott Alan begins a four-night residency of his work at the St James next Sunday with a concert in the main house joined by surprise guests, before he does three nights in the downstairs studio with Cynthia Erivo. I can’t wait to be there (on at least three out of the four nights!)