Friday, March 30, 2018

REVIEW: Three Tall Women

Review of the Saturday, March 24, 2018 matinee preview performance at the Golden Theatre in New York City, New York. Starring Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill, with Joseph Medeiros (uncredited). A play by Edward Albee. Scenic design by Miriam Buether, costume design by Ann Roth, lighting design by Paul Gallo. Directed by Joe Mantello. 1 hour, 45 minutes, with no intermission. Limited engagement through June 24, 2018.

Grade: A+

I'm guessing that like me, other bloggers and legit critics will be consulting their thesaurus to find enough different superlatives when evaluating the revival of Edward Albee's Three Tall Women, which opened last night. I will start off simply: this brilliant masterpiece is the best play I have seen in years, on-, off- or nowhere near- Broadway.  And the same can be said for the entire production of the play, as well.

The scrim rises to reveal designer Miriam Buether's elegant, well-appointed bedroom suite, so tidy it borders on sterile. The room is a carefully calculated arrangement where everything is in its place, covered with the sheen of wealth and all masking the turmoil within its walls. The nearly frigid lighting (designed by Paul Gallo) has the feel of life draining from the air.  All of this remarkable physicality mirrors the room's chief inhabitant, an ancient, miserable woman who spends her days fighting pain and tormenting her caregivers, even as she torments herself with a myriad of memories that pop in and out of her head on a cruel whim.  The second half of the play includes a jaw-dropping change to that remarkable physicality, which further mirrors all of the inhabitants of that room.

How wonderful to report that as jaw-dropping and perfect as the set is for this production, the biggest thrills come from Albee's often hilarious, always sharp, and thoroughly thought-provoking script, some of the tightest direction, by Joe Mantello, who creates a lot of poignant physical movement in a very wordy play, and three Tony-worthy star turns by three generations of actresses. Three tall women, indeed.

In a role that will likely always seem like the least of the three, Alison Pill's performance is one that creeps up on you.  For about the first third of the play, she comes across as a pragmatic, almost supercilious millennial lawyer, and as such is not the most sympathetic of the three ladies. She also seems to have the least to contribute to the forward motion of the plot. But as the play progresses, and you see her not only survive, but hold her own against a barrage of acidic barbs, you come to respect her efforts. Then as the play enters its enlightening second phase, Ms, Pill not only holds her own against two titans of the stage, she joins their ranks as an equal, delivering a powerfully emotional performance that perfectly captures the arrogance of youth and the heart-breaking reality that all of us face as we start to age.

Again, I'll state it simply. Laurie Metcalf is one of the greatest actresses of her generation, and certainly one of the greatest currently on our stages. Like Ms. Pill, Ms. Metcalf plays two different variations on a theme - this time of middle age.  As is her trademark, she plays every moment with an astonishing immediacy as if it is really happening for the first time, and each of those moments reveals a rapier wit with an undercurrent of sadness, regret and a certain been-there-done-that attitude.
The role also offers her a few well-chosen chances to show off some nice physical comedy skills in the first section, while it offers ample opportunity for her to explore the darker end of human emotions. During a late play monologue, she held the entire audience in silent captivity as we hung on her every word while tears streamed down her face. Will she be winning a Tony two years in a row? Quite possibly.

I rarely make such a prediction in a review, but, barring a HUGE late season surprise, the winner of the 2018 Best Actress in a Play Tony will go to the glorious Glenda Jackson, who is giving one of those performances that people will be talking about for years to come.  That is no small feat, considering Ms. Jackson's career which is filled with many such pinnacles. Like the others, she plays two distinct characters in the course of the play, and yet she is the only one who actually plays the same character the entire time.

To say more would be to give away too much of the story, but suffice it to say Ms. Jackson is at the top of her game, delivering sometimes lengthy stream of consciousness monologues that often change emotion mid-sentence in the first part, which makes the relatively more subdued second part of her performance all the more delicious, as she strolls around the stage in full command. Two distinct facets of the same hard diamond, I was almost afraid to take my eyes off of her - will she break or explode? Either way, I don't remember blinking. Or breathing.

With three such amazing performances, such terrific visuals and beautifully timed direction, Three Tall Women fires on all cylinders and time flies. The result is a riveting, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride, the kind often reserved for the latest roller coaster. This is a don't miss production.

(Photos by J. Kyler, B. Lacombe)

Friday, March 23, 2018

THE FRIDAY 5: Things I Miss in the Theater District


I'm getting to that age where more and more I'm getting nostalgic - especially about things I love.  Since I LOVE all things Broadway, it stands to reason that there are things I'm nostalgic for in the Theater District. I've been going there regularly since 1983, and I can tell you that, by and large, the massive amount of changes that have occurred there have been for the good.  It's much cleaner, safer and easier to get around.  In fact, there will soon be a Friday 5 of Things I'm Glad to See in the Theater District.  But for now, here's what I'm missing:

Jeff's 5 Things He Misses in
The Theater District

The Celebrity Deli was just to the right of this picture!
5. The Celebrity Deli at The Milford Plaza

Okay, I miss The Milford Plaza period. The old "Lullaby of Broadway" ads, the cramped rooms, the decent rates.  But on the corner of 45th and 8th Avenue was a great place to eat.  The sandwiches were huge, the breakfast was great (and they had awesome fries and gravy).  And there was something about the cramped tables and the disinterest of the wait staff.  Pure magic!

The only place better to get vocal books from Broadway shows was Colony
Records - another place I miss a lot!
4. The Broadway New York shop at the Marriott Marquis

I know there are still the 2 Broadway gift shops (and I visit them both every time I go to NYC), but I like the one in the Marriott Marquis.  Sure, they had the same stuff the other places did.  But I loved the set up, the super nice guys behind the counter (one of them is still working at the one by the St. James Theatre) and the bargains in the back corner and the old show programs back there, too.  And I loved looking at their windows.

3.  The Times Square Museum and Visitor Center

There was something really cool about stepping into this place.  The immediate quiet when the door shut you off from the cacophony of Times Square...the beautiful marble walls and crystal light fixtures... the tiny, but really nice bathrooms... it was like stepping back in time.  And the museum displays - I loved the Andrew Lloyd Webber memorabilia collection, and the displayed Gypsy Robes.  The history was palpable!

2. The Triton Gallery storefront on 44th Street

I have only purchased posters from them twice since they moved from the quaint old store front across from the Martin Beck Theatre. The warped floors, the musty smells, the subway one sheet of Mame - my first show - that no one ever seemed to buy.  The guys who worked there that would talk about each show you got a poster for... they way they packed up your purchases if you told them you were travelling. It lost all of its charm when they moved.

Man, what I wouldn't give for a bowl of their cabbage soup!
1. The Edison Cafe

We tried the new place that is there now.  It isn't bad, but it's kinda expensive for what you get, and even though you can still see many of the historic architectural details, it has the cold charm of a new Starbucks.  I really miss the big portions, the inexpensive final bill, the fast service, and especially the signs in handwritten magic marker. I'm too sad to write any more... sigh.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

#MyBroadwayThing: Show-Specific Merch

As you may have guessed from my previous #MyBroadwayThing blogs, I'm a collector.  And so it follows that over the last three and a half decades, I've done my fair share of show merch collecting. I buy far less of it these days, mostly the occasional souvenir program of a newly beloved show. But I remain interested in it, even if I don't buy much anymore.

I am particularly interested in merch that references some thing or some aspect of a show; I'm less interested in the "standard" merch: t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, pins, magnets. (Full disclosure: I have at least one of each of those...).

Two of my favorite show specific pieces that I actually own are my Show Boat playing cards (does anything say riverboat gambling like playing cards?) and Starlight Express poker chips from the Las Vegas production (does anything say Vegas like poker chips?) Note: neither of the items pictured below are my personal items.

One of my all-time shows, Next to Normal had one of my favorite of such items: a pill case.

Current shows certainly have their share of show-specific merch, some obvious, some clever:

Hello!: Dress like a Mormon; Stick it to the man!: School of Rock

Dress like your favorite undersea squirrel!

Nothing says "Broadway" like a pennant and an oven mitt


What all the chicest Ozians are wearing this season...


Why not take a replica home with you? Both the Phantom and Anastasia would approve!


You can conduct your own band at home, just like Twefiq!

Start your own band at home!


(I hear you may need to use all of the above just to get through it...)


Are you as self-absorbed as Evan Hansen?
If you aren't from Greenville, SC, do you need to waste your shot on this Hamilton poster?

I'm sure I'll have more blogs about show merch. Some day, I might even share my adventures as a merch seller for Wicked and Phantom...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


The end of season push has begun again, and there are a ton of shows opening this spring! That means we've got lots of work to do to add new members to the Broadway Olympics Team.  This week, the amazing cast of Disney's Frozen is competing for your votes in 4 categories: Leading Actress, Featured Actor, Female and Male Ensemble Members.

So... which cast members are HOT enough to melt a snowman? You decide!

A few things to remember:

  1. You DO NOT have to have seen the show to vote!
  2. You can vote for as many (or as few) cast members as you wish.
  3. Yes, this is just like the old "HOT or NOT" contests of previous seasons. And the "heat level" can be looks, of course, but it could also be talent, career, and potential.
  4. The survey is secure. It dies not collect any data from you, and I can't see any identifying data, only the results of your vote.

MOST IMPORTANT! YOUR VOTES WILL NOT COUNT UNLESS YOU CLICK "FINISH SURVEY" ALL THE WAY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POLL.  Since there are 37 cast members, you'll have to scroll pretty far down to hit that button!

Thanks for participating! The results will be posted on Monday, March 26!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Remembering Sammy Williams

I'm sad to have learned of the death of Tony Award-winning actor Sammy Williams over the weekend. I never had the privilege of seeing him perform, and I never had the honor of meeting the man. But he impacted my life nonetheless. And I'm sure I'm not the only one.

The first time I ever saw A Chorus Line, when it got to the part where Williams' character, Paul San Marco launched into his monologue, I found myself holding my breath and clinging to every single word. And I wept. Lots of other people all around me were sniffling - it's one hell of a monologue and very touching. But I was full-on crying, and I couldn't stop.  It was the first time this then-14 year-old ever saw someone like me - gay, scared, self-loathing, and terrified of being discovered - come to life on the stage. It was a life-changing, life-affirming moment.

Thank you, Mr. Williams. I will forever be in your debt. Rest in peace.

Friday, March 16, 2018

THE FRIDAY 5: LOVE, SIMON for Musical Theater Fans

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing the new film, Love, Simon at a preview screening last night.  I wish a film like this was around when I was a teenager struggling with my identity. It's funny, touching, romantic, infuriating, and just a plain old good time at the Bijou.  I highly recommend seeing this movie!

Anyway, it probably comes a no surprise to anyone reading this, that musical theater wasn't far from my mind even as I was enthralled by Simon, his friends and family.  And there were (at least) five reasons why this movie has got something for musical theater fans!


Okay, so it's not done to a show tune, though it may have been added to the stage version of The Bodyguard, I'm not sure.  But it is a big dance number with lots of dancers and costumes!

Besides being patient (mostly), great with a snappy quip (frequently), and an amazing advocate for the LGBTQ community (fierce!), Ms. Albright (played by Natasha Rothwell) gave up a career on the stage to be a drama teacher.  Listen closely to find out what show she was an "extra" in before becoming a teacher! (I won't spoil it for you, but it's a show currently on Broadway!)

I don't know about any of you high school Thespians, but we frequently went to our local diner (no Waffle House in my town) and ran lines after rehearsals. Okay, that was our intention, and we always started to run lines until either the food came, or the waitress told us to "pipe down!"  In the movie, some lines from the school play are run, but the waiter had other business to take care of,,,

First of all, how awesome is it that this suburban high school gets to do Cabaret? But also how cool that the school has embraced color-blind casting with an African-American girl (Alexandra Shipp) playing Sally Bowles!

Sure, he has his school play poster on his bedroom wall, but every time he's at his desk, there's a Hamilton Playbill tacked to the wall by his window. I'm betting he has the cast recording on vinyl.

Monday, March 12, 2018

2017-2018 Broadway Playlist: Once On This Island (Revival)

This week, we'll be picking the ONE song from the New Broadway Cast Recording of Once On This Island.  If you've seen this spectacular revival, you know how beautifully sung this score is.  If you haven't seen it... why not!? Get your tickets!

The best news is that this recording is top notch in quality, so every song is a gem.  Of course, that means picking your ONE favorite song for the 2017-2018 Broadway Playlist may be difficult. So, I'll let you pick up to THREE of your favorites!

  • Check up to 3 songs from the list below, and click the "VOTE" button.  It's that easy! (And be sure to tell your friends!) Voting will close at 6PM on Sunday, March 18.

Friday, March 9, 2018

THE FRIDAY 5: Theater District Watering Holes


Over the years, Mike and I have been known to enjoy an adult beverage or three during our Broadway binge trips. We like to try new places, but tend to go with the familiar.  Here are our 5 favorites in the theatre district.  Most are also restaurants, and we do eat at these places, but this list is based on the drinks, not the food. Both of us separately graded about 10 of our favorite places on ambiance, quality of drinks, value, location relative to the Times Square area.  Here's how the tally shook out:

5. MOTHER BURGER (329 W. 49th Street) 

This place is small, but it is CHEAP, and not just for NYC. That's why this place got the highest score for value. I love the red sangria, and they have some great frozen drinks, as well. Not a bad burger, either... Great for a matinee day or pre-show drink (only open late on Fridays and Saturdays). Close to: Avenue Q (and anything at New World Stages - it is literally over the space!), Wicked, Once On This Island, The Book of Mormon, Chicago, Bruce Springsteen on Broadway, A Bronx Tale, Angels in America, Waitress, The Band's Visit

4. IRON BAR (713 8th Avenue) 

This place feels both comfortable and trendy, and always seems packed, but we've never waited for a seat or table.  It is pretty pricey, but what you get is high quality.  Mike recommends the tasty, but small margaritas, and I enjoy their strong rum and Cokes.  What this place has in spades is hours (open daily 12PM - 4AM) and location.  Close to: Kinky Boots, The Phantom of the Opera, Anastasia, Hello, Dolly!, Lobby Hero and Frozen

3. JUNIOR'S (1515 Broadway, but you access it from 45th Street and Shubert Alley)

Here's another place high on the location scale.  The food here is really the star - their cheesecake is world-famous. The menu and the portions are enormous, and it isn't too expensive, but not cheap, either.  This is also the most family-friendly place on the list, so it might surprise you that thee drinks are pretty terrific.  They serve a big margarita, and I've had an equally large rum and Coke and screwdriver there over the years. Get in line - the wait is rarely as long as they tell you it will be, and you can eat at the bar if available. But again, location, location, location! Close to: The Lion King, The Boys in the Band, Come From Away, Three Tall Women, The Iceman Cometh, Carousel and Dear Evan Hansen

2. CHEVY'S (249 West 42nd Street)

Okay, so a chain Mexican restaurant might not be high on your list in the first place, but we love it there, because the food is decent, and the drinks are high quality.  Margaritas by the pitcher or glass, other exciting specialty drinks and very well poured classics - the bartenders here are great.  Go early, go late, we never have to wait long, and they encourage you to linger!  Upstairs is quieter, but sometimes the hustle bustle downstairs and at the bar can be a blast, too.  Close to: The American Airlines Theatre, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Aladdin, Beautiful, Pretty Woman

1. REUNION (357 West 44th Street)

This place is small, and close to 9th Avenue, but you can't miss it.  There's a giant surfboard and life guard chair and lots of colorful lights to tell you where it is.  It is in the basement of its building - be careful going up and down the steps! It looks small, but holds a lot of people comfortably.  They have a small menu of things to eat, including interestingly stuffed hot dogs.  Hit this place for happy hour and it is super cheap.  Off happy hour isn't that much more.  We've tried a variety of their drinks and they are all good and very nicely poured.  Reunion scored highest in ambiance - take the time to read all the signs! And the location is great if you want to be close to the Broadway action, but not overwhelmed by it.  It's also close to some great eats. Close to: Kinky Boots, The Phantom of the Opera, Frozen, Lobby Hero, Hello, Dolly! and Schmackery's (for cookies), Two Boots Pizza (for gourmet slices) and 5 Napkin Burger (for...burgers).


We just discovered this place on our most recent trip, since we treated ourselves and stayed there.  But we'd go back.  It's a nice, bright open place, with a great view of Times Square.  As you might guess, it's pricey, but not too outrageous.  We had excellent service at both the bar and in the lounge seating area.  Large drink menu and decent sized menu of eats. (Try the house made chips and dip - maybe the best onion dip I've ever had!) Close to: Escape to Margaritaville, Hamilton, Summer, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Parisian Woman, School of Rock, The Band's Visit, Waitress
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