Each season (winter, spring, summer, fall, that is) I try to take stock of what I've seen and what I am looking forward to over the next three months. But first, let's take a look at the last season and compare my expectations then to what actually happened.
In my "Looking Forward to Fall" column, I discussed shows I was interested in that were scheduled to preview and/or open between September and December. I am happy to report that of the four plays I wanted to see, I managed to see one - Brief Encounter, which is easily the best play I've seen in years. And of the five musicals I wanted to see, I saw four and have tickets to the fifth - TOMORROW! (see below). Before I go on, I'd like to say a few words about those shows:
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson - Love it or hate it, it is a victory for those of us who are looking to the future of musicals - boundary extending, inventive, creative and MOST OF ALL ORIGINAL! I'm sad that it is closing prematurely (in my opinion) and I applaud the producers for trying something new, but take them to task for pulling the plug so fast. Well, at least we have two new voices writing shows, and several new up and comers to look forward to, including the charismatic Benjamin Walker. I hope he doesn't regret dropping a film to do this show.
The Scottsboro Boys - By far the best new musical so far this year, with a stunning story, presentation and score, I am again saddened by its early demise, and while I know the world turns on making a profit, the Weisslers can afford a little more patience. This is an important story, daringly told, that needs to be seen. And, unless The Visit or The Skin of Our Teeth (or what ever title they are using now) makes it to Broadway, what a sad way to end the career of two masters, Kander and Ebb, as history will always write that their last show was a flop.
Elf: the Musical - This show again proves my rule of thumb: the shows I expect the least of I enjoy the most. Well, I went in knowing little about it and hating "holiday" shows. I left on a high, smiling and whistling "The Story of Buddy the Elf". Funny, fun, touching, and grounded in reality, I loved that it wasn't kiddie sweet, but very grown up. Hope it comes back next year, and I hope even more that Sebastian Arcelus gets into a new show where he can shine!
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - Was the show great at the second preview? No, but it was entertaining and fascinating to watch. Accomplished actors, technicians and directorial staff at work right in front of me - an experience I will value and treasure the rest of my life. AND I am going back to see the finished product in January. I still hope that we are not in the beginnings of a dangerous trend where by the Internet postings, etc. do more than give producers and creatives a real time finger on the pulse of a work in progress (a good thing) but actually skews critical opinion to the point where reviewers can only see what everyone has griped about, and go in with a negative predisposition. I still say it is not a bad show, just one with unrealistic expectations on it.
Which brings me to what's coming up in the winter months: December, January and February. Not much.
(NOTE: I have only included shows that start previews in February where the majority of previews are in that month, as no shows are officially opening in February. Shows that begin previews the last days of February will be discussed in my "Looking Forward to Spring" blog this March.)
Of the three that are previewing/opening during this period, The Importance of Being Earnest, Good People and That Championship Season, only the last one even mildly interests me.
That Championship Season intrigues me for the obvious reason, the casting of Kiefer Sutherland, who I think is a decent actor, but have to wonder about is personal life interfering with a schedule of live performances. What if he decides to get drunk and wrestle another Christmas tree in a Manhattan hotel? But the play itself also intrigues me as it is another about sports, and I would love to see how the drama of sport plays as drama on stage.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is technically a holdover, but since it did exactly 1 preview prior to December, I am putting it here. Finally and at last! The show I've been blogging about since blog #2 is happening and I am seeing it tomorrow! I am very excited to see it for myself. I do not expect it to be the epic flop everyone seems determined that it is and will be - this reminds me of Titanic and the constant headlines about how the ship wouldn't sink during previews, how the piano only played during some songs that were being out in, blah blah blah. And my feelings about Michael Reidel will be saved for another day. OK, so when I got the tickets, I expected that we'd be much further into the preview period (like WOTV) but I am thrilled to see another show where I can them create it, not just do it for the umpteenth time. And I can always go back after it opens. In case you are wondering, I will not review the show this early in the process, but I will offer my thoughts, much like I did for WOTV.
The Book of Mormon is, for me, like Elf: The Musical in that I have very little knowledge of the whole South Park thing, and therefore know little about the humor of its writers. But I trust the Avenue Q guy and the South Park guys to work toward a decent evening of theatre. They are all successful, and for good reason, I am sure. And you watch: low or no expectations usually means I'll love it! I guess there is something to the idea that if you don't expect, you won't feel disappointment. I am really looking forward to this, too, because the whole Mormon religion and the door-to-door conversion thing they do is really intriguing to me.
How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying! is one of my all-time favorite old-school musicals. I adored the last revival, and see no reason why I won't love this one. And the casting, at least on paper, seems fantastic... Daniel Radcliffe, John Larroquette, Christopher Hanke and Mary Faber! Good potential - I'd watch Faber wallpaper a square room and pay top ticket prices to see it.
Priscilla: Queen of the Desert: The Musical is one that I have high hopes for. Not because I expect my view of live theater to be forever changed, but because I think it will satisfy my need for fun fluff with a touch of humanity in it. I don't know the film, but I love the music from it, and every single picture I've seen of the production looks exciting, colorful and leave-your-troubles-outside FUN! Plus Will Swensen and Nick Adams? YUMMY! And three divas singing disco hits? FABULOUS! Get me to the Palace!!!
Lombardi with so little to look forward to in the cold months, if this one hangs on, I hope to see it.
Mamma Mia! I am seeing again tomorrow - fun and mindless, I know what I'm getting into, the security of which I may or may not need after I see Spidey.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown I am going to see the finished product and to revel in all the diva glory on display at the Belasco. No worries, though. If they haven't fixed it to my liking, my review will be honest.
What are you seeing this winter? Write in and let us know!