Diary of a Theatre Addict: (Not Quite) Taking a Theatre Break

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IMG_1561I managed another nine show (plus one movie!) week, with one of those theatre visits in Southampton, and even managed to have one night off in the middle of it for an office dinner! So I’ve hardly had time to catch my breath all week, but am looking forward to three weeks off now as I head back to the US tomorrow — or at least ‘off’ from London, with only a few theatre outings planned while I’m out there for a change.

I am, of course, going to catch Hamilton on Broadway this week — it’s the biggest transfer of the year, having seen it twice in its original off-Broadway incarnation at the Public Theatre, it is moving to Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre where it officially re-opens on Thursday, and I’m going to a press preview on Wednesday. Otherwise, I’m re-visiting On the Town (for the fourth time), my musical revival of the last year.

the-fixThen I have my annual week in Provincetown from Friday — there’s some theatre there (and no, I can’t skip seeing Norm Lewis in interview and song at the P-town ArtHouse on Friday) but that’s not the reason I’ll be there. After that, we get back to NYC and have an overnight trip planned to DC (to catch The Fix at Signature, pictured left, which we’re travelling down to see with its composer Dana P Rowe and his fiancee Andrew — as I’ve previously mentioned here, I’ll be officiating at their wedding in October!); and I’m also making a road trip to Williamstown to catch Audra McDonald and her husband Will Swenson in A Moon for the Misbegotten.

But ahead of all of that, I’ve had a mad scramble to squeeze everything in before I go! Last week I covered openings for Three Days in the Country and Impossible (both of which I saw a day early) and Bakkai and Tommy (both of which I saw a day late) and caught the new regional tour of Annie in Southampton (which I’m parking to review later!).

I also revisited three more shows — the absolutely stunningly sung Songs for a New World at the St James (before conducting an onstage post-performance talk with the cast, director and musical director), Everyman at the National and The Car Man (newly revived at Sadler’s Wells, which I’ve not seen since its original production at the Old Vic all of fifteen years ago, and is now almost entirely re-cast — though rather beautifully, Alan Vincent, the show’s original Luca is now Dino, the husband who is murdered in the show, while it was thrilling to see ABT principal dancer Marcelo Gomes as Luca. The other reason I wanted to be there was to see Liam Mower, now all grown up since his Olivier winning debut as one of the original trio of stage Billy Elliot’s, as Angelo).

I’ve provided links to shows where I’ve reviewed them, but my re-visit to Everyman (post image with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role is below) was purely personal — my husband and I were so moved by it the first time that we booked (and yes, paid!) to see it again yesterday.  (We also booked and paid to see the first screening last Wednesday of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation at the IMAX last Wednesday: payback for my husband for all the theatre he has to endure with me!)

EverymanI was shocked that the National wasn’t packed to the rafters, though — there were lots of empty seats on the sides and rear of the stalls.  I was also struck most forcefully yesterday by how acutely Everyman’s own journey towards (a posthumous) redemption mirrors those followed in 12 Step recovery fellowships: taking searching and fearless moral inventories (Step 4) and making amends to those we’ve harmed (Step 8) are all in there (and so, of course, are references to a Higher Power). I met a friend from the cast afterwards who confirmed this: 12 Steps were mentioned frequently in rehearsals!

Recovery through the 12 steps is, of course, also a big part of The Motherfucker with the Hat, the National’s unmissable current import from Broadway, so the National feels like it is helping to fulfil Step 12 — “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

I’ve certainly had a spiritual awakening myself over the last twelve months that has entirely changed my life — and so these plays have resonated very strongly with me. There isn’t (yet) a fellowship for recovering theatre addicts – but I’m not sure that this is an addiction I want to be rid of. Writing this column every week is a way of embracing it — but also giving it some kind of shape!
I’m finally on holiday — for the last six years now, my husband and I have made an annual visit to Provincetown (or P-town, as it is usually abbreviated) on the farthest tip of Cape Cod, reached by a 90 minute ferry ride from Boston.

I usually take this time off from going to the theatre as much as I can. But this year, I have succumbed to the lure of theatre several times over. norm-lewis-arthouseLast Friday, the first day we got here, Norm Lewis was appearing here in conversation and song with musical director and Broadway personality Seth Rudetsky, in the intimate environs of the P-town Arthouse, whose annual Broadway series — produced by Mark Cortale — this year has also already included Laura Osnes, Sutton Foster, Lea DeLaria, Sam Harris and opera diva Deborah Voigt, with Kerry Butler, Christine Pedi,  Jane Krakowski and Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner (reunited from the original production of Sideshow) still to come.

Cortale is also presenting a few, even more high profile, shows at Provincetown Town Hall, including Neil Patrick Harris and husband David Burtka tonight and tomorrow (yes, I’m going!), and Audra McDonald and husband Will Swenson (on August 24, and God, do I wish I were going!). I actually saw Audra do one of Seth Rudetsky’s Q&A cabarets a couple of years ago, and it was one of the highlights of the trip.

Rudetsy is an amazing interviewer — full of knowledge and random references to the person’s career who is interviewing. (I’ve seen him do the same routine with Patti LuPone in London once, which elicited a truly hilarious story about co-starring with Sherie Rene Scott in the original Broadway production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown that it would be impolite to re-tell here…..) And Norm Lewis, who appeared in the West End as Javert in Les Miserables as well as in the 25th anniversary performance at the 02, is a truly wonderful singer, too: Rudetsky introduced him as the best Broadway male voice of the last 30 years, and it’s hard to disagree.

Johnny Mathis is, Lewis said, his inspiration, and he has the same mellow, effortless way with a song. There’s a pure and total connection with his songs and purity of tone throughout. He sang ‘Stars’ and ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Mis, as well as songs from A New Brain (that he took over the lead in, and recorded the cast album of), Porgy and Bess (that he last appeared on Broadway opposite Audra McDonald in, and I saw both in Cambridge during its pre-Broadway try-out en route to another trip to P-town, and twice again on Broadway) and David Friedman’s extraordinary ‘We Live on Borrowed Time’ that he called his favourite song. I’m so glad I borrowed some time with him.

norm-lewis-breakfastThe next morning my friend Bruce Glikas (a Broadway photographer), my husband Mark and I had breakfast with Lewis (pictured left), and he was as charming in person as he was onstage. We also made a day-trip back to Boston yesterday, for another Cambridge try-out at American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T) of a new musical called Waitress, with a score by singer-songwriter Sara Bareillis, that stars Jessie Mueller (Tony winner for the original Broadway production of Beautiful). Its still previewing, but I bought a ticket so I’m free to say: I loved it! I hope Broadway beckons, and soon.

Broadway stars feature strongly on the dance card here in P-town; another promoter at the Crown and Anchor also stages an annual Broadway series now, whose bill this year has already featured Bernadette Peters, Barbara Cook, Jennifer Holliday, Jeremy Jordan and Linda Lavin. Tomorrow I’m seeing Shirley Jones as part of that season, and still to come (though not when I’m here) are Billy Porter, Kathy Griffin and Charles Busch.

But that’s it — I’m not planning on any more theatre in P-town, at least. And last week in New York, I actually had two nights off from the theatre entirely — a first for me! But I nevertheless managed two shows across the three days I was there, catching On the Town (for the fourth time — my favourite revival since Pippin, which later last week announced its closing for September 6, after 28 previews and 368 regular performances) and a press performance of Hamilton (for the third time — I’d also seen it twice downtown at the Public, ahead of its official opening on Thursday).

And the night before I travelled to New York, I caught a preview of Grand Hotel at Southwark Playhouse— with the permission of the director and producer, I hasten to add, so in reviewing it for The Stage here, I was hardly breaking any Hamlet-like embargoes as erupted last week, and I wrote about here.