Diary of a theatre addict: New York weddings, interviews, shows and (very) cloudy views from the WTC

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addictI’ve just arrived in New York yesterday, healing with another busy week ahead that encompasses 6 shows, visit 3 big interviews and a wedding! One of the interviews has even forced me to change my return flight this Friday from the morning day flight to the evening overnight flight, dosage but it is with Andrew Lloyd Webber, so worth making the change.

The other two interviews are with Alex Sharp, the British-born but American-trained actor who graduated from Julliard only last year but beat Bradley Cooper, Bill Nighy and Ben Miles to this year’s Tony for Best Actor for the Broadway production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (which I’m going to revisit here on Tuesday); and Michael Feinstein, the great singer and archivist of popular song who has invited me up to his house on the Upper East Side.

I’ve met and/or interviewed Lloyd Webber and Feinstein each many times in the past, but never here in New York — where the former will premiere his new musical School of Rock in December (his first show since Jesus Christ Superstar 44 years ago to debut on Broadway instead of the West End),  while the latter is bringing his latest Big Band show to the Adelphi in September.

kristin-chenoweth-and-andy-karlThere are times, it has to be said, when I know just how lucky and privileged I am to be doing what I do as a job. But I also find time for pleasure, too, and this afternoon I’m re-visiting (for the third time) the current Broadway revival of On the Twentieth Century starring Kristin Chenoweth (pictured left with Andy Karl), one of my all-time Favourite Musicals (it was in my final Top 10 of in my series for The Stage of my fifty favourite musicals of all time).

And on Friday afternoon, I saw the musical that occupies my top slot in that list — Guys and Dolls, in a spirited and engaging student production at Guildhall School of Music. No, the vocals weren’t always pristine enough, but every single time I see this show I marvel anew at the utter perfection of its writing: the melodic warmth that melts over you, and the intricate wit of the lyrics that are unsurpassed (even by Sondheim) in modern musical theatre. (Is there a fuller — or filthier — image around than this one about falling in love: “Ask me how do I feel, ask me now that we’re fondly caressing/ Hell, if I were a salad I know I’d be splashing my dressing”)

KNOX-AlexOne of the great joys of Guildhall productions is that, being a music school as well as an acting one, the orchestra is one of the best I’ve heard in a musical in ages, featuring 23 players under professional maestro Michael Haslam. The other stand-out performances in the show come from Alexander Knox’s Nicely-Nicely Johnson (pictured left, and how nice to see a Nicely-Nicely who isn’t portly for a change!) and Luke Dale’s Sky Masterson. (Also fun to spot in the chorus someone called Marina Bye – Ruby Wax’s daughter!)

I also saw a couple of cabarets this week in London: the return of Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway in Sibling Revelry, 17 years on from when they first did it at the Donmar Warehouse (which I reviewed here), and the glorious and gorgeous Sally Ann Triplett (whom I wrote about here).

Also on the work front I reviewed the brilliant UK premiere of Orson’s Shadow at Southwark Playhouse (see review here), and went in early to see both The Mentalists (that opens tomorrow at Wyndham’s) and What’s It All About? at the Menier (opening Wednesday), both of which I’ll be reviewing for The Stage this week. (On my last trip to NYC at the beginning of June, I also interviewed the latter’s creator Kyle Riabko for a feature here)

Matthew_TennysonBut it was not all work and no play – at least one of the plays wasn’t work at all, but just me catching up. On Thursday afternoon I braved the tube strike and awful traffic to drive to Regent’s Park to see the matinee of The Seagull (Matthew Tennyson pictured left, who played Konstantin), a favourite play of mine re-imagined here in a stunningly designed production complete with an onstage lake on which two of the more minor characters took a skinny dip. It was hot enough day to wish I could join them.

If getting there wasn’t easy, getting home was even harder: my car’s alternator chose to shut down when I was in the middle of three lanes of gridlocked traffic on Gower Street just south of Bedford Square. Fortunately my husband was with me, so he pushed the car to the left hand lane — and then he waited for the RAC to turn up while I continued on foot from Bloomsbury to the Menier for my evening show!  That meant I got some walking in, but I also found myself having to stop off en route at the National to buy a fresh tee-shirt from the bookshop there so I wouldn’t be sitting in a sweat-soaked shirt all evening….
addictI’ve just arrived in New York yesterday, website with another busy week ahead that encompasses 6 shows, 3 big interviews and a wedding! One of the interviews has even forced me to change my return flight this Friday from the morning day flight to the evening overnight flight, but it is with Andrew Lloyd Webber, so worth making the change.

The other two interviews are with Alex Sharp, the British-born but American-trained actor who graduated from Julliard only last year but beat Bradley Cooper, Bill Nighy and Ben Miles to this year’s Tony for Best Actor for the Broadway production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (which I’m going to revisit here on Tuesday); and Michael Feinstein, the great singer and archivist of popular song who has invited me up to his house on the Upper East Side.

I’ve met and/or interviewed Lloyd Webber and Feinstein each many times in the past, but never here in New York — where the former will premiere his new musical School of Rock in December (his first show since Jesus Christ Superstar 44 years ago to debut on Broadway instead of the West End),  while the latter is bringing his latest Big Band show to the Adelphi in September.

kristin-chenoweth-and-andy-karlThere are times, it has to be said, when I know just how lucky and privileged I am to be doing what I do as a job. But I also find time for pleasure, too, and this afternoon I’m re-visiting (for the third time) the current Broadway revival of On the Twentieth Century starring Kristin Chenoweth (pictured above with Andy Karl), one of my all-time Favourite Musicals (it was in my final Top 10 of in my series for The Stage of my fifty favourite musicals of all time).

And on Friday afternoon, I saw the musical that occupies my top slot in that list — Guys and Dolls, in a spirited and engaging student production at Guildhall School of Music. No, the vocals weren’t always pristine enough, but every single time I see this show I marvel anew at the utter perfection of its writing: the melodic warmth that melts over you, and the intricate wit of the lyrics that are unsurpassed (even by Sondheim) in modern musical theatre. (Is there a fuller — or filthier — image around than this one about falling in love: “Ask me how do I feel, ask me now that we’re fondly caressing/ Hell, if I were a salad I know I’d be splashing my dressing”)

KNOX-AlexOne of the great joys of Guildhall productions is that, being a music school as well as an acting one, the orchestra is one of the best I’ve heard in a musical in ages, featuring 23 players under professional maestro Michael Haslam. The other stand-out performances in the show come from Alexander Knox’s Nicely-Nicely Johnson (pictured left, and how nice to see a Nicely-Nicely who isn’t portly for a change!) and Luke Dale’s Sky Masterson. (Also fun to spot in the chorus someone called Marina Bye – Ruby Wax’s daughter!)

I also saw a couple of cabarets this week in London: the return of Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway in Sibling Revelry, 17 years on from when they first did it at the Donmar Warehouse (which I reviewed here), and the glorious and gorgeous Sally Ann Triplett (whom I wrote about here).

Also on the work front I reviewed the brilliant UK premiere of Orson’s Shadow at Southwark Playhouse (see review here), and went in early to see both The Mentalists (that opens tomorrow at Wyndham’s) and What’s It All About? at the Menier (opening Wednesday), both of which I’ll be reviewing for The Stage this week. (On my last trip to NYC at the beginning of June, I also interviewed the latter’s creator Kyle Riabko for a feature here)

Matthew_TennysonBut it was not all work and no play – at least one of the plays wasn’t work at all, but just me catching up. On Thursday afternoon I braved the tube strike and awful traffic to drive to Regent’s Park to see the matinee of The Seagull (Matthew Tennyson pictured left, who played Konstantin), a favourite play of mine re-imagined here in a stunningly designed production complete with an onstage lake on which two of the more minor characters took a skinny dip. It was hot enough day to wish I could join them.

If getting there wasn’t easy, getting home was even harder: my car’s alternator chose to shut down when I was in the middle of three lanes of gridlocked traffic on Gower Street just south of Bedford Square. Fortunately my husband was with me, so he pushed the car to the left hand lane — and then he waited for the RAC to turn up while I continued on foot from Bloomsbury to the Menier for my evening show!  That meant I got some walking in, but I also found myself having to stop off en route at the National to buy a fresh tee-shirt from the bookshop there so I wouldn’t be sitting in a sweat-soaked shirt all evening….
I’m just back from a(nother) crazed addictive week in New York, medicine built around the wedding on Thursday of my friend Vivien Goodwin — former managing director of Samuel French Ltd, and now MD at R&H Theatricals, managing the licensing of their musical theatre catalogue in London and Europe.

IMG_1730It coincided with the 3rd anniversary last Tuesday of my own wedding in New York three years earlier. And continuing the wedding theme, I also visited City Hall on Wednesday morning to get myself registered as an officiate to hold weddings in New York, having been ordained in the Universal Life Church the week before, so that I can officiate at the early October wedding of my composer friend Dana P Rowe (who I first met when he came to London to premiere The Fix at the Donmar Warehouse in 1997) and his fiancee Andrew Scharf (pictured left on our trip to City Hall: Andrew and Dana in front, me and my husband behind them).

So weddings were very much part of this trip. But then I also used the opportunity to set up a few interviews in New York — with Michael Feinstein, at his home on the Upper East Side a few blocks from Bloomingdale’s, ahead of his London return for a concert at the Adelphi at the end of September; with alex-sharpAlex Sharp, the 26-year-old British-born but Julliard trained actor (pictured left) who won this year’s Tony for Best Actor for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (we met in a  restaurant across the street from the Barrymore Theatre where it is playing, but then discovered that we both have apartments on the same Manhattan street a few blocks away!), and with Andrew Lloyd Webber (who’s just 13 blocks away from me but could be in another world, with glorious views over Central Park from Central Park West), and is in town to prepare for School of Rock, his first musical since Jesus Christ Superstar to be receiving its stage premiere in New York, not London.

I also saw six shows and a film (the new Woody Allen, Irrational Man, on the day of its release on Friday; his 46th feature and counting!) between last Saturday and Wednesday, including the new musical Amazing Grace ahead of its official opening on Thursday and On the Twentieth Century (for the 3rd time) ahead of its closing today. We also saw extracts from four more musicals (Broadway’s IMG_1756Finding Neverland, from which star Laura Michelle Kelly is pictured left, Chicago and Mamma Mia!, and Off-broadway’s Sistas The Musical) in the weekly Broadway in Bryant Park summer lunchtime concert series, presented by 106.7 Lite FM and sponsored by TDF. I love how you can find Broadway everywhere in New York, and not always have to pay Broadway prices to do so!

We also paid a mostly abortive trip to the top of the new WTC1 observation deck – abortive because the rolling in of heavy cloud cover rendered the view all but negligible. Fortunately a visit to client services as we left meant that they’ve re-booked us to return for free when we’re back in New York in a couple of weeks time!

And then we were above the clouds again as we returned home overnight on Friday to land yesterday morning, in time for me to catch the last matinee of debbie tucker green’s hang at the royal court (her lower case affectation is infectious, but the play turned out to be an utterly gripping, gruelling account of retribution), and then catch the return of Bette Midler to London for the first time in 35 years — she turns 70 this December, so that’s nearly half a lifetime ago for her. I’ve seen her many times in the US — in New York at Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall, and several times in Las Vegas at Caesar’s Palace; none of them exactly intimate venues, but they seem like the Union Theatre compared to the 02. So I was sorry that she wasn’t somewhere smaller, but I’m glad she’s finally come back to London.

And today I’m back at the Menier Chocolate Factory myself for a return visit, already, to What’s It All About?, the Bacharach revue that I saw (and reviewed for The Stage here) at a preview just before I left. That’s a treat trip — I’m going again purely for pleasure!