Thursday, February 15, 2007

We can never go back to before

I usually ignore rumors about whether this or that musical is headed for Broadway, because they're so often depressing; for every potentially exciting new musical there are five unnecessary revivals. But a few headlines have caught my eye this week.

First of all, will the Encores! production of Follies end up on Broadway? I'd say the smart money is on No way in hell, considering that the show was only just revived on Broadway in 2001, and it didn't exactly make money that time around. This production was terrific (see gushing, below), but that had everything to do with the fact that it was a 6-performance concert run. I'm afraid the greatness wouldn't transfer, and we'd be stuck with yet another unloved Follies. But I guess we'll see what the Weisslers have in mind. The article reports that they'd have to recast Phyllis, and one would hope they'd also be recasting Buddy, so maybe this is an opportunity for another reality show? (Title ideas, anybody? I think I'd call it Follies: The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues.) is also reporting that the London production of Sunday in the Park with George will probably end up playing at Studio 54. I'm excited about the prospect of seeing a new Sunday, but not so excited about having to go back to Studio 54. Have you been there? To see something other than Cabaret? Because my impression is that they renovated the place to make it work for Cabaret, and now every other show has to try to fit awkwardly around that design. The one and only time I've ever been there was 2 years ago, to see Pacific Overtures, and of course I sat in the cheap seats. So I wasn't expecting an optimal experience... But they were the most uncomfortable cheap seats I've ever been in, and I've sat in a lot of balconies. Way too narrow, absolutely no leg room -- the guy next to me was practically resting his chin on his knees, and he was no Wilt Chamberlain. And the sightlines were terrible. Talk about your restricted view. The only thing I had a good view of was Paul Gemignani directing some of the orchestra, who were crammed into one of the boxes above the stage. Further evidence that the theatre isn't terribly well outfitted for a musical (although watching PG turned out to be the most entertaining part of the show). I walked away thinking, If I ever find myself motivated to pay for another show in this lousy theatre, I guess I'll have to spring for an orchestra seat. But then Ben Brantley's review came out, and he spent a whole paragraph bitching about his bad sightlines! I'm no expert on theatre design, but if you can't even find a good seat to give Ben freaking Brantley, then I think it's safe to say your theatre sucks. (Brantley, meanwhile, could use a reality check -- he concludes his complaints by adding parenthetically, "In other words, you might be better off in the balcony." As it has probably been a long time since Brantley last sat in the nosebleeds, let me assure him that one is pretty much never "better off" upstairs. And if we're talking the balcony at Studio 54, the theatre ought to be paying you to sit there. Which they more or less would be, if you were Ben Brantley, so I guess that's why he got confused.)

The third rumor about which I have mixed feelings: the New York City Opera is planning a production of Ragtime! Did you realize it's been almost 10 years since Ragtime's Broadway premiere? I have to keep reminding myself of that fact every time I am disturbed by a mention of Lea "The Little Girl" Michele's sex scenes in Spring Awakening. Anyway, I have a deep fondness for Ragtime, which stands peerless among the big, expensive, historical-pageantry-themed musicals of the '90s, so this isn't necessarily bad news. But I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of giving it the Les Miz treatment by bringing back the original cast. It seems silly...but then, why wouldn't you try to bring together Stokes, Audra and Marin, given any excuse? How could you possibly do better?

The main reason I feel ambivalent about this production is that I'm afraid I might need to see it (regardless of who stars), even though I know it's all an elaborate trap to get me on NYC Opera's list of people to harass. I was foolish enough to buy tickets to their most recent mounting of Candide -- I mean, Judy Kaye as the Old Lady! How could I not see that? -- and in the months that followed I was so persistently harassed by their subscription salespeople that I considered changing my number, and possibly even moving out of the city entirely, just to get them off my back. See, they know that people like me, who buy tickets to their non-opera offerings, feel bad that we don't really appreciate opera, and have vaguely resolved to learn to love opera someday. And so they call and call and try to guilt you into committing to an expensive subscription entitling you to tickets to see shows that you don't actually want to see, but feel like you ought to want to see, and they sound like nice people, but they don't take no for an answer. To this day I have "NYC Opera" programmed into my cellphone's memory, just so I'll know not to answer if they start calling me again. I thought I was safe... and now they've counter-attacked with an offer they know I can't refuse! Damn you, NYCO!

Thoughts on any of this? Strategies for dodging arts-related guilt-trip solicitations? Please share. Oh, and also: this production of Ragtime would reportedly include supertitles, and I'm already giggling at the thought of that. Imagine "...and he found that he was standing on a chair" displayed above the stage, for all to see. Or "...fellows with tennis balls." Or the irritatingly ungrammatical "I was your wife, / It never occurred to want more." Other clunkers I'm forgetting? Please comment. I know I'm not the only one who has the whole thing memorized.


Anonymous said...

Hmm. About "Sunday..." in Studio 54, I saw "Assassins", in the first row of the mezzanine, and had a lovely time, but I think I do remember not being able to cross my legs. Aside from the seating problems, isn't that stage a wee bit too small to comfortably house the show? Of course, I've only ever seen the video of "Sunday..." (in Mollie's house in Scranton!!) but it seems like the show would benefit from a slightly larger stage. But what do I know.
I almost choked on a piece of Kashi cereal when I read the Ragtime rumor. The original cast together again?! Am I dreaming? (I'm sure the children are exempt from this, yes? Seeing as how Edgar is now old enough to play Younger Brother, and the little girl, as you said, is off being all sexy in Spring Awakening...) Harassment risks aside, I know *I* would try my best to score tickets to that! (And about the supertitles, just off the top of my head, two quotes I would love to see are: "There were gazebos and there were no negroes" AND, of course, "even the little negro baby who lives in our attic!" Ooh! And all of the baseball song! "Run you bastard!..Kill the kyke!" Ahaha. Inappropriate.)

Mollie said...

I don't know too much about this production of Sunday, but I do know it came from the tiny Menier Chocolate Factory theatre, and is reportedly a scaled-down version of the show. In which the actors play all the instruments! Just kidding.

I'm just hoping the NYCO casting people don't track down Peter "Tateh" Friedman.

Mollie said...

And speaking of Younger Brother, what the hell ever happened to Steven Sutcliffe? I was prepared for a long and happy Broadway crush, and then, after the Tonys, he vanished! NYCO, I hope you have his number...