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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Theatre Etiquette Time

Okay, I've held off long enough. Theatre etiquette time.

A few folks have told me that the name of this blog would suggest someone who will only see shows at the Fox or "highbrow" intellectual stuff. Nope. Don't get me wrong, I love the Fox -- it's an absolutely beautiful space, but good heavens it's big. (That's what she said…)  I like small intimate theatres. And as far as intellectual shows go, I'm still waiting for someone to explain Bertolt Brecht to me. I mean, I think I get it, but the only Brecht show I've seen was a tad over my head, and not the greatest production in the world, so I left the theatre a little confused.

Anyway, a more appropriate title for this blog could be "St. Louis Theatre Etiquette Police".  When my friends suggested I start a blog, we thought it would mostly consist of a little good-natured berating of St. Louis audiences for their random atrocious behavior. Little did I know I'd actually start kind of reviewing shows, which I have fallen in love with doing, but tonight, I feel compelled to call out some stuff.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

AS BEES IN HONEY DROWN • Stray Dog Theatre

Who wouldn't want a shot at fame and fortune?  Nowadays, when our culture is drenched with glamour-seekers and reality tv show celebrities, this Douglas Carter Beane comedy about the takers, and the ones who are taken, is right on time.

Evan Wyler (a wonderful Martin Fox with the cutest head of curly hair you've ever seen) is a young, hot, flavor-of-the-month novelist, having his picture taken for a magazine, when he first meets Alexa Vere de Vere (an impressive, once you settle in to her, Sarajane Alverson).  She presents herself as a record producer who would like for Wyler to turn the story of her life into a screenplay.  She's a fast talking socialite seething with the guise of wealth and glamour, and poor Evan falls for it hook, line and sinker.  After paying him one-thousand bucks as an advance, Evan follows her around to document her life, and ends up falling for the facade she presents along the way, paying for things with his credit card, and sleeping with her.  Oh, did I mention Evan is gay?  Yeah.  Alexa's got some mojo, and Wyler and Alverson have amazing chemistry that's incredibly believable onstage.

While preparing for a trip with her to L.A. he discovers that his credit card is maxed out, and Alexa has gone bye-bye.  In an effort to track her down, Evan meets many of the people Alexa has left in her wake, and gets himself a little sweet revenge.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK (Preview) • Foxwoods Theatre


This is one of those shows that I wanted to see primarily just so I can say that I'd seen it.  I had to stand in the cancellation line for about an hour, and snatched up a ticket from a "broker" for a hundred bucks.  But hey, that's why I go to the big city.  It was actually sold out for the entire weekend, so I'm glad I got in.
Readings for this musical began in 2007, and even though it's not set to open until February 7th, it's already achieved historic status for a couple of reasons.  For one, the brains behind this one, Julie Taymor (or Julie "Paymore"), well known in theatre circles for THE LION KING and all of its associated spectacle, has already spent an estimated $65 million on this puppy -- the most expensive Broadway show in history.  It costs about a million bucks in operating costs a week.  Also, SPIDER-MAN (penned musically by U2's Bono and The Edge) ran out of money last year, had to cancel the first originally scheduled previews a couple of times and push back the opening, and there have also been a few broken bones, literally, along the way.  The night I saw it one of the female leads, Natalie Mendoza, was out because she had suffered a concussion after being hit in the head by a rope backstage.  In Taymor fashion, this show was meant to be a theatrical spectacle, with around 27 flying sequences.  The rigging devices for these sequences are similar to the "four point" wire systems that are used for those "eye in the sky" cams you can spot at football games and stuff.  They've actually renamed the traditional "Dress Circle" seating area of the Foxwoods theatre the "Flying Circle".

BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON • Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

When you first walk into the 1078 seat Jacobs, you're met with a theatre that has been adorned with fairy lights, stuffed moose heads, bears and a horse hanging upside down over the orchestra seats.  There are portraits of dead presidents all over the place, and all kinds of assorted stuff on the stage.  This visual onslaught perfectly sets up BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, an "emo" rock musical that looks at how this roughneck frontiersman wound up in the White House.

This cheeky in-your-face downtown musical, recently brought uptown, examines the controversial seventh president of the United States, during a time when the country was in its adolescence -- in the language and music of today, with Jackson being portrayed as an irresistible tight jeans wearing rock star type.  "Old Hickory"'s life is presented in a series of scenes (by a narrator in a motorized wheelchair, infatuated with Jackson) that come off more like skits, with songs like "Populism, Yea, Yea!" and "Ten Little Indians", performed with boundless energy by the young cast and the onstage 3 piece band.  The highlights of Andrew Jackson's life (played by a very compelling Benjamin Walker), include him being orphaned early in his life, his military career, his rise to power as the people's president, and his infamous forced relocation of Native Americans.  There are tons of anachronisms and parallel lines drawn in the show, like when Jackson, dripping with sexual energy, tells us about his "stimulus package".

Sunday, December 5, 2010

WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN • Belasco Theatre

In all honesty, I'm not sure how objective I'm going to be able to be on this one (seeing shows in NYC always kinda clouds my objectivity), but I'll do my best.

Based on Pedro Almodóvar's 1988  film of the same name, WOMEN got a lot of negative buzz when it was in previews last month.  Without the benefit of an out-of-town tryout, this show had to work out the kinks in front of a full-price paying New York audience.  Oof!

You've got the main character Pepa (Sherie Rene Scott), a movie voice dubber, who's just been dumped by her longtime asshole boyfriend Ivan (Brian Stokes Mitchell) at the center of the story.  As the plot unfolds, we're eventually introduced to Ivan's bitter first wife Lucia (Patti LuPone) recently released from an institution and looking to get even with Ivan, their son Carlos (Justin Guarini), his passionless fiancée Marisa (Nikka Graff Lanzarone, who I saw in the Starbucks by 45th and 7th), and Pepa's best friend Candela (Laura Benanti), a model who's discovered she may be dating a terrorist.  Then there's this taxi driver who's kind of like the narrator.  Also, there's Lucia's lawyer, and this motorcycle couple who keeps popping up.  All of these people are rolling with love's punches in some way, and once everyone's stories come together, I thought it was a joy to watch -- but it takes awhile to come together.

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