Friday, December 27, 2019

The Friday 5: 5 Shows We Saw...Again

I see and read on social media of fans who have seen their favorite shows dozens of times. I find myself both shaking my head (why don't they try and expand their horizons and see other shows they can be fans of?) and feeling crazy envy (I wish I was in New York enough - and had the money - to see shows I love over and over). That's not to say that there aren't shows I've seen multiple times. (Cats was my jam for years. Don't judge me.) But since even "cheap tickets" aren't that cheap these days, repeat viewings are fewer and farther between. Oddly, having said that, this year Mike and I managed to see five shows for a second (or more) time. That is the subject of this week's Friday 5.

The Friday 5:
5 Shows We Saw...

Come From Away (2nd trip to the rock)

Why we went again: This is one of those "feel everything" shows - smart, poignant, and surprisingly funny given the subject matter. 

What we got out of it this time around: Able to watch for details that a repeat viewing affords, I particularly enjoyed watching the intricate staging, and tracking how different characters came to life as the actors changed costume pieces, accents and postures.

See it again? Well, as much as I truly love this show, twice is probably enough. I'd hate to lose the fond memories I have to boredom with the piece. Never say never, but not in the foreseeable future.

Dear Evan Hansen (2nd visit, 1st on Broadway)

Why we went again: I just had to give the show another chance. I mean, all those Tonys, SRO business, cultural phenomenon, etc. But I hated it the first time around, particularly the overwrought histrionics of one Ben Platt. But a chance to see someone remotely close to Evan Hansen's age, coupled with cheap front row seats (not lottery) was too good to pass up.

What we got out of it this time around: I loved it! Yes, I still have problems with the plot and some of its themes, but what a difference a less...aggressive... portrayal of Evan Hansen makes. Andrew Barth Feldman was superior in every way, and the company was just as great.

See it again? Oh yeah. I'd like to see different casts' take on the material. Maybe I can like the plot more?

Hamilton (2nd time at the turntable)

Why we went again: It's Hamilton. Seriously, we were hoping that we'd find the show to be more than a triumph of style over substance. Was it?

What we got out of it this time around: I actually thought the replacement cast was mostly better than the original - particularly Michael Luwoye as Hamilton, Denee Benton as Eliza, and understudy Ryan Vasquez as Washington. But a second viewing revealed/clarified the flaws, and yes, fans, there are flaws. While I enjoyed the staging very much, it is also too regimented and specific (not to mention tediously repetitive). The result is that when certain cast members aren't as sharp as others, it comes across as lazy and sloppy.

See it again? Nope. I appreciate it for what it is, and respect its place in musical theater/pop culture history. I just don't think it deserves it.

Moulin Rouge! (2nd time at the Spectacular Spectacular, 1st time on Broadway)

Why we went again: It's simple. We saw and loved the pre-Broadway try-out in Boston the previous summer. We had to see how they worked on it.

What we got out of it this time around: Well, it was fun trying to see what they changed, which turned out to not be much, though it seemed tighter. Still wish they had done more with the Baron (Tam Mutu). But we loved it nonetheless. It's been a long time since we've seen something so theatrical, extravagant, and just plain fun.

See it again? Hell, yeah. But not right away. Maybe see some replacements down the road?

The Phantom of the Opera (3rd time on Broadway)

Why we went again: Funny enough, we went specifically to see Jay Armstrong Johnson, who was out the day we saw it. But still, why not see if Broadway's Longest-Running Show still holds up?

What we got out of it this time around: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the show is as if it was brand new. Would that shows that are less than a year old look as good. We appreciated the grand scale and opulence of this classic. We also discovered perhaps the best Phantom ever, Ben Crawford, and the glorious orchestra under the baton of the show's original musical director, David Caddick.

See it again? Sure! In another 10 years or so. It'll still be there. 

*****     *****     *****

EXCEPTional Broadway 2019

1. All of the following 2019 shows feature scores made up of pre-existing music EXCEPT:
a. Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
b. The Cher Show
c. Jagged Little Pill
d. Moulin Rouge!
e. Hadestown (Yes, there was a concept album, but the idea was always a show. And it did win the Best Score Tony!)

2. All of the following 2019 shows had off-Broadway runs prior to Broadway EXCEPT:
a. Be More Chill
b. Betrayal (It came from London.)
c. The Lightning Thief
d. Slave Play
e. Oklahoma!

3. All of the following 2019 shows won Tony Awards EXCEPT:
a. Tootsie
b. Choir Boy
c. Ink
d. Beetlejuice
e. The Ferryman

4. All of the following shows featured teenagers playing teenagers in 2019 EXCEPT:
a. Be More Chill
b. Mean Girls
c. Dear Evan Hansen
d. Jagged Little Pill
e. The Cher Show

5. All of the following shows were broadcast or televised in 2019 EXCEPT:
a. Kinky Boots
b. SpongeBob SquarePants
c. Head Over Heels (We would love that, though!)
e. Les Miserables


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