Monday, September 21, 2009

Ragtime Redux

Fall officially arrives Tuesday and with it, an exciting array of new (and old) Broadway shows. One that I'm quite excited about is the revival of Ragtime, and interviewing composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens for this Time Out New York online feature brought back sweet memories of seeing the original production in 1998 at the then-brand-new Ford Center for the Performing Arts (now the Hilton).

I was in tears before the end of the opening number, a big, beautiful, buoyant showstopper that outlined the different ethnic and racial factions whose worlds soon collide in early-20th-century New York. Not just because it so deftly depicted the fear and frustration that ensue when everything around you changes too quickly, but for the way it also demonstrated that when song, dance and story come together in perfect harmony, no other medium is quite as moving as musical theater.

It was a hard act for the rest of the show to follow, and even though I was fairly close to the stage of the cavernous 1,800-plus seat theater, I felt distanced from the characters and story as often as I felt a connection to them. But this time around the show's in a more accommodating house, and I'm excited about the possibilities.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Twisted Sister

Since there was a heavy metal band called Lizzy Borden in the '80s, why not a 21st-century rock musical called Lizzie Borden that's as sharp as an axe and more melodious than many new tuners?

My only regret is that I couldn't work a "twisted sister" reference into my review, hence this blog title.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Q Rating

The passes to the swank Avenue Q "closing night" party at Del Posto Sunday night contained a subtle clue about producer Kevin McCollum's surprise announcement that the show wasn't actually leaving New York but returning to Off-Broadway glory next month at New World Stages. "A 'for now' closing party," they read, and given the size and the scope of the festivities (three levels in a Meatpacking District enclave), I'd say producers aren't terribly worried about selling enough tickets (top price now down to $86.50) to keep the show solvent.

I hope the move pays off. I agree that Avenue Q's final Broadway performance was nearly as solid as it was when I first caught it at the Vineyard in 2003, and the show has aged gracefully. I was happy to see two actor-puppeteers that I interviewed a couple of years ago for an article about the touring production were part of the cast, Robert McClure (one of John Tartaglia's successor) and Christian Anderson.

There were only a couple of instances when it seems as if the times had caught up with the show. Closeted gay puppet Rod's fear of coming out to his roommate and neighbors didn't seem as weighty as it did six years ago — a positive sign of how far we've come. On the other hand, the scene where he sighs to Christmas Eve, "I'm an investment banker. And a Republican," and she replies, "Stay in the closet then. You're good for nothing" drew quite the applause — also a sign of the times.

I was among those clapping at that and, along with many others in the audiences, at the line, "Crabby old bitches are the backbone of this nation!" Perhaps that was in honor of my late grandmother — or perhaps because I feel I'm already on my way to crabby-old-bitchdom!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Genesis of Genesius

Some of my fondest memories as a teenager involve the rehearsals and performances of the high school plays I performed in — not that far from Reading, Pa., where the new musical Genesius, which I reviewed for Time Out New York, is set.

It's not without its charms (audience members even receive a St. Genesius charm as they leave the theater), but ultimately, this show, which chronicles the life of the woman who founded an amateur theater company for teenagers named after the patron saint of actors, is likely to have a longer life at high schools and community theaters than in New York. Still, it stirred lots of sweet memories for me, and even prompted me to Google Steve Hatzai, the high school drama teacher who impacted my formative years. (He's now a theater professional in Philadelphia.)