Don't bother revving up the clown cannon to shoot me into the whirlpool of Broadway's spring (aka pre-Tony) season – I'm already flying through the air and picking up momentum as I go.So far this week I've seen Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Arcadia – a camp disco-ball of a musical and a classic Tom Stoppard play. Opposite ends of the entertainment spectrum? Absolutely. And yet decadently blissful examples of their genres.
Priscilla isn't a drag queen, but rather a most remarkable bus recruited to transport a trio of drag queens – Mitzi, Bernadette and Felicia from Sydney to Alice Springs, Australia – in the most unconventional road trip ever. Gaudy, glam and sentimental (in a totally tolerable sense), this madly over-the-top extravaganza of talent and costumery sparkles on just about every level – and I'm not just talking Mylar, gold lame and sequins. But more importantly, it's a feel-good musical at a point in time when we all need a booster shot of feel good. I walked into the Palace Theatre with way too much melancholy baggage and came out beaming. You will too.
It stars Will Swenson (Tick/Mitzi) – who won me over big time during his recent stint in Hair; Tony Sheldon – the Aussie actor whose been with the show from its baby step beginnings – and who brings sophistication, beauty, and well-timed lunacy to his Broadway debut as the mature Bernadette (a revelation – I adored every second of his performance); and Nick Adams, a recent La Cage Cagelle expatriate whose buff-i-tude blew me and everyone else in the theatre away, as the young and sublimely sassy Felicia.
Moving on to Arcadia... Awesome script shuttling back and forth between the early 1800s and the early 1990s with a 12-person cast that is actually on the same simpatico page.
I will not go into detail about the historic and intellectual perks that make up this brilliant piece of theatre. Like all Stoppard it's not for the fa-la-la theatergoing set. God knows, even the most savvy and cerebral will miss a point or seven as the dialogue flows along. Almost all the key characters are brilliant and this particular production, directed by David Lebeaux, clips along at a satisfying pace. I didn't want it to end – although the end is gorgeous. Standing ovation? It was like I was being lifted out of my seat by supernatural forces… and I wasn't alone.
As for the actors – not having seen the last Broadway mounting of the play – I found them extraordinary – a casting coup for the ages, from Tom Riley's Septimus Hodge to Billy Crudup's Bernard Nightingale and Raul Esparza's Valentine Coverly to young Noah Robbins' Gus/Augustus Coverly. On the female side of things, I was totally smitten by Lia Williams as Hannah Jarvis --- although all the women were wonderful, including Grace Gummer as Chloe Coverly, Margaret Colin as Lady Croom and young Bel Powley as Thomasina Coverly. My only wish was that Ms. Powley, who starts out as a 13-year-old and ages to 17, would lower her voice a register to project a bit of maturity in her latter scenes.
BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW….
Billy Elliott has upped the momentum for all theatergoers who show up on the doorstep of the Imperial Theatre. The 2009's Tony-winning musical/international sensation now offers audiences ShowTrans, a specialized service providing automated multilingual descriptive commentary for non-English speaking audiences. Rather than a word-for-word translation, it offers less cumbersome/ongoing plot and dialogue info, enabling Billy Elliot patrons speaking Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and French to follow the action, intention, humor, and emotion of the show. Also available is I-Caption for the deaf and audio D-Scriptive for the blind.
On Friday, March 25th, the Tony-winning production of Chicago makes revival history by becoming the fifth-longest running production in Broadway history when it its 5,960th performance. (Oh! Calcutta – the libidinous musical revival that chalked up 5,959 performances in the 1970s & '80s – finally bites the past-tense dust when it drops to number six in the overall scheme of long-running shows.)
Of the four shows topping Chicago onlyThe Phantom of the Opera (at 9,633 performances as of 3/25) is currently running, meaning that it's totally possible for the Kander-Ebb-Fosse master-musical at the Ambassador Theatre could move into second place in about four years. It just has to surpass A Chorus Line (#4 at 6,137); Les Miserables (#3 at 6,680) and Cats (#2, that bowed out at 7,485).
FUTURE STOCK – THE POWER OF THE PRE-VIEW!
Olive and the Bitter Herbs – As of May 1st, Tony nominee Charles Busch's ultra-hilarious Off-Broadway hit The Divine Sister will end its substantial run allowing Mr. Busch to launch into his next project, this new comedy commissioned by Primary Stages following Olive Fisher, an actress (the highlight of her long career being a 1980s sausage commercial) who happens to see the ghost of a mysterious man in her mirror. And, while not the most popular tenant in her building, her neighbors invite themselves over for a Passover Seder, leading her to wonder whether they are there to see her or to check out the supernatural reflection. PrimaryStages.orgNOTE: This play kicks off Primary Stages 2011-2012 season. Current status: Performances begin 7/26; opening night 8/9; thru 9/3.
Once – A musical adaptation of the 2007 Oscar-winning Independent film set in Dublin set against a Dublin backdrop about a guy (busker by day/Hoover repairman by night), and a girl, Czech immigrant, whose shared love of music and personal compositions lead them to work through both their past loves and their feelings for each other. Current status: Coming to Broadway Fall, 2011
Posted on March 24, 2011 - by
About the Author:City Guide Theatre Editor Griffin Miller moved to New York to pursue an acting/writing career in the 1980s after graduating magna cum laude from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Since then, she has written for The New York Times, For the Bride, Hotels, and a number of other publications, mostly in the areas of travel and performance arts. She currently is the theatre and spa editor for Promenade Magazine as well as theatre editor for all NYMetroParents publications. An active member of The New York Travel Writers Association, she is also a playwright and award-winning collage artist. In addition, she sits on the board of The Lewis Carroll Society of North America. Griffin is married to Richard Sandomir, Sports Media reporter for The New York Times.