Has a narrative series ever given a Broadway show such product placement before? Kinda cool, although it’s pathetic that I’m so shocked a TV show would deign to be associated with a lowly Broadway musical, like I can’t believe Theatre is famous enough to be on TV.
Unfortunately, “Glee” promo aside, it has not been a banner time for Broadway. It’s so absurd how they keep boasting about yet another year of record-breaking box office. That’s because ticket prices have skyrocketed to an obscene $120! It’s beating a dead whore at this point but the prices are reflective of prohibitive production costs and thus, a scarcity of new shows. The Tony nominations were announced today. Not much to be excited for. Of the four nominees for Best Score (conveniently renamed Best Music and/or Lyrics), two are straight plays!
Far from the Great White Way or TV, my week began seeing my friend Averyn Mackey sing as part of Mamma Rice N’ Friends, the hip, new recurring variety show at Public Assembly, the performance venue/lounge in the former Galapagos space in Williamsburg. As I’ve griped before, I really like to stay in on Monday nights, but Public Assembly is only a few blocks from my house and Averyn was singing Our Lady J’s brilliant “Pink Prada Purse” so I got off my ass this week. Averyn killed it, as well as “Cool Rider” from Grease 2, and it was a pretty fun evening in general, featuring a wide range of eclectic music, dance and comedy acts (including Fil Vocasek’s hilarious awkward teenage girl character, Tara Hyman) MC’ed by the event’s producer, promoter and star Xavier “Mamma” Rice, who in addition to being an unflappable and congenial host, showed some serious chops, with an impressive “Fever.” I’ll definitely be seeing the troupe again.
Wednesday night, my best friend Marissa and I went to see Everyday Rapture, self-described “semi-star” Sherie Rene Scott’s semi-autobiographical solo show which just opened on Broadway this week (after an acclaimed run at Second Stage last year) to fill the Roundabout Theatre Company’s slot vacated by the cancellation of Megan Mullally in Lips Together, Teeth Apart.
As always, Sherie is a joy to watch and sings gorgeously, and the piece’s exploration of the struggle to balance humility with confidence, against ego and insecurity, feels particularly poignant now that it’s reached the big time. I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but there’s an especially inspired sequence about Sherie’s encounter with a young, gay fan who lip-synchs to her on YouTube. Maybe Broadway’s not so dated and irrelevant after all?
Thursday, I had a packed house of New York intellectual gay Jews (and one lady, to keep the cops out) over for dinner. Once I’d gotten them good and drunk and we’d each taken a single turn at youtube karaoke, my second song (“Meadowlark” and yes, it’s on YouTube/you’re welcome) was cut off in the first verse by a sharp, loud banging on the wall. Then, the distressed voice of my Polish neighbor lady shrieking, “Every night, songing. You want to songing? Take it to Broadway.” Weh-heh-hell, I just might. I wonder if Sherie Rene ever had to deal with this crap! My Jew crew and I had a good laugh (recreating the broken English admonition with substitutions for songing – “You want to performance art-ing? Take it to the Blue Man Group,” etc.) – a good laugh despite the discomfort around my neighbor’s final statement, “One more time, I call police.” Okay, okay, we’ll keep it down. I’m just happy she said “Broadway!”
Friday night, I had planned an epic piano bar crawl for my friend Santiago Venegas (“Santi”), who recently revealed to me the most gorgeous male alto singing voice and who needs to be singing in public (particularly now that my apartment is a no-belt zone). We started with dinner and drinks with some friends al fresco at Mother Burger in New World Plaza (or “The Green Room” as it’s known for the throngs of chorus boys downing margaritas at Blockheads) and warmed up our voices in a private room at Japas karaoke (not enough showtunes, but I can wrap my ragged cords around a Billy Joel or Simon & Garfunkel tune… if I change the key). After a few too many cocktails and worn out from singing forte, I decided to dumb down the intense itinerary and skipping all Hell’s Kitchen stops, we made a beeline downtown to The Duplex, to see Molly Pope and Eric Michael Krop hosting the long-running Friday night musical theatre open mic Mostly Sondheim.
This is the part where my memory of the evening gets spotty, but I have it on good authority that I sang “The Ladies Who Lunch” and I do vaguely remember the brilliant and indefatigable pianist Brian Nash feeding me lyrics to scream at the audience. The last stop of the evening was Williamsburg’s original gay bar, Metropolitan, but we left after they closed the patio. I didn’t like the atmosphere inside – too loud!
Somehow in my boozey haze, I’d accepted my friend Lance Horne’s invitation to have brunch on Saturday and see the matinee of Enron. (Note to self at 4 AM: You don’t want plans tomorrow.) A greasy meal at Café Edison (a.k.a. “The Polish Tea Room” – what is it with me and Poland this week?) did little to assuage our hangovers and walking through Times Square in the newly sweltering sun, we realized we just didn’t have a straight play about corporate greed in us that day and managed to snag some cheapo tickets to Promises, Promises at the TKTS booth.
It’s a big, brassy Broadway show and it was exciting to finally see it on stage, but the production, though gorgeously designed, was hit-and-miss for me. My main takeaway was how much I love Kristin Chenoweth. Having previously enjoyed her in Wicked and Candide, but hated her in On A Clear Day…, I’ve often said that I like her as a soprano and as a clown, but not as a belter or a leading lady. Well, I loved her in Promises, Promises and I don’t know what else you’d call that performance, but leading lady. And she’s certainly not singing soprano there – at one point when she cracked, Lance whispered to me, “It’s hard work belting middle A.” The critics mostly said she was miscast and that may very well be true, but she commands a stage like very few performers, just complete authority, you can’t take your eyes off her. Similar to seeing Patti LuPone or Bernadette Peters in a show, you get excited every time Kristin comes on stage. At the end of the day, you can’t get that on TV.