Category Archives: Treading the Boards

I am trying to get close to the stage. Any stage really. Front row or small theatres and I am there!

Hanks and I

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Last night, after months of New York City living, meeting many of my screen and stage heroes, I finally got to sit in a Broadway theater and watch my lifelong love Mr Tom Hanks.

tom-hanks-title

 

From Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle

For a hint to my emotional state, minutes before the curtains went up on Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy, I refer you to an older blog post.

Tom Hanks’ Thumb

Well then. Now you can better picture the smile on my face when that familiar Tom Hanks voice hit me in real life. A smile that remained planted there for nearly 2 hours as I sat marveling at how close I was to someone so strangely valuable from my childhood memories.

The play itself was OK. Based on the true story of 1980s tabloid news journalist Mike McAlary, we were told the tales of his rise to fame and Pulitzer through the anecdotes of his peers. I quite enjoyed that format. The characters were strong, easy with the swearing and played by well established and professional actors (Courtney Vance– brilliant, Christopher McDonald– amused). However, I am not sure I was able to sway from the inherent decency we associate with Hanks, to accept him whole-heartedly into this role of an ambitious, arrogant and at-any-cost tabloid hack.

I wanted to believe him because he plays a good part as always, but a tiny (but oddly loud) voice inside of me screeched,

“NO NO NO. Tom Hanks is a lovely guy. A lucky AND a lovely guy. I will not believe all this swearing business. And I certainly will not believe he is not absolutely dedicated to his marriage and family life. I WILL NOT”

But then I found myself smiling again as his silky voice wins me over. And the giggling scene. Oh how that made me happy.

Thanks Tom. That’s another bucket list tick for me.

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Al Pacino

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Pacino and Cannavale discuss their salesman prowess

I can’t honestly think of a better title for this post. It’s Sunday evening and I have just finished watching the second feature in my Al Pacino film marathon. Scent of a Woman is of course a classic (and don’t just take my word for it. Pacino got an Oscar for his role) and it has left me exhausted, with a bit of a headache really and absolutely amazed that last night I was 8 rows away from the great man himself.

An impromptu, reckless Broadway purchase yesterday morning, I spent a crazy sum of money for the privilege of sitting near to Johnny, not far away from Frank (Slade and Serpico), hey and of course in touching distance of Michael Corleone (if I nipped out the row and ran really quickly, and before anyone tackled me, to the stage that is!). Last night at 8.05pm, for those of you not following along well, there were 8 heads between me and Tony Montana! And now, as meringues bake in the oven, I am trying to piece together the surreal blur that was Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway.

[The meringues are a desperate attempt at consuming sugar, since my only source comes in the form of cane and with a dozen eggs in my fridge and not much else I have had to resort to Delia Smith meringues to get me through my movie run this evening.]

I was sat very snuggly between two large-ish men. One, I noticed after a few moments sat next to him, was quite clearly drunk (he fell asleep and mildly snored at points but luckily the prolific shouting on stage kept that to a minimum), and all around me, tourists. You know the type. Buying Broadway tickets for the main star! Cheeky so-and-sos. As the curtain was raised and that man sat in a makeshift Chinese restaurant, with a fellow actor, we heard a scream from the back of the orchestra,

“I love you Al Pacino!”

Tourists! By Jove it is hard work going to the theatre with all this rif raf!

Anyway what about his voice? It was all there. His intense eyes, his hair, his expressive mouth as he repeated his lines over and over. Mr Al Pacino is on stage people. STOP COUGHING!

The play was good (well it does have a Pulitzer). Mamet’s dialogue is excellent. It has a similar feel and frustration to Death of a Salesman and I was really impressed with the fast paced exchange between the actors. I had watched a preview online, in the few hours before the show, and some actors had commented on the musicality of the script. I saw that in action. Bobby Cannavale was wonderful. Playing Pacino’s Ricky Roma (from the 1992 movie–earning Pacino a Best Supporting nomination in the same year he won Best Actor for Scent of a Woman) he really made an impression on me. I also loved seeing Richard Schiff (The West Wing’s Toby Ziegler) in real life. A little behind on the series (by almost a decade) I have been religiously watching West Wing episodes, most nights now for the last few months, and feel very close to the cast. So seeing, possibly my favourite, only EIGHT heads away was divine.

My buddy Schiff (Tobes)

I really cannot say much else. The whole evening was like a dream. Al Pacino has been a staple legend in my household since I was a little girl (less Serpico, more Scent of a Woman before you blame my parents) and just like with Dustin Hoffman, and with Jane Fonda, I was all of a flutter.

Al Pacino, I may not entirely remember last night, but you were definitely worth every penny.

My Battle with Celebrity and a trip off-Broadway

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Again I find myself swooning over a man I don’t actually know. I understand that I am not the only one, but obviously the likes of Alec Baldwin, and in this case Jake Gyllenhaal, do not know I exist. It is all in vain.

This recurring theme with me and the celebrities is a constant battle. I struggle constantly with the knowledge that these people are just like you or I, but then my heart leaps at the sight of them and I must have their signature (or some such interaction. Indeed a smile would suffice). For example, I come out of a theatre and am strangely compelled to lie in wait for their exit and then what? For the empty smile as they perform their perceived duty: signatures and posing for photos? For the possibility that they may befriend me as their new BFF? Do I really believe that is an option?

Jake Gyllenhaal: my new BFF?

Yeah, I think I do. On some level at least. I honestly think that one day I will be discovered by a “celeb” and probably spend hours discussing Gilbert Grape with Leo in his Upper Westside apartment. Or go bear hunting with Maximus (and by hunting I mean finding and then running away and leaving Russ to wrestle with it for a while), as I imagine that is what he gets up to in his spare time. Or hang out with Kevin Spacey. I would call him Kev. We would go for walks discussing new plans to bring theatre to the masses.

Delusional can be cute right?

Well anyway. I know they are just normal people and Mr Jake Gyllenhaal probably doesn’t always want the crazy adoration I witnessed last night after his play off-Broadway, but when he wandered out of the stage door my heart and eyes just lit up. A rugged beard and big arms and you likely don’t need an Oscar to impress me.

PS “If there is I haven’t found it yet” is playing at the Roundabout Theatre just off Broadway. If you are under 30, as winner and I are, you get tickets for just $22 all in. The theatre is intimate and so the back row of the mezzanine offers prime viewing of that hair flicking jarhead. Boy does he have a good head of hair on him.

Now about the play.

I found the staging to be the most impressive. Water, water, everywhere.

A moat-ish pool surrounds the front of the stage and at the centre of the dry space stands a disordered arrangement of household pieces: a fridge, a bed, shelves and tables. As the play progresses, with Tony-award winning Irishman O’Byrne (George) neglecting his family, each piece is brought forth to define the space and then discarded violently in the body of water before them. Chaos is spreading.

Climate change is George’s mission. He wants to inform the public, through his book, that the world is doomed if we don’t buck up our ideas. He wants to show them the world we will be left with if we continue on our selfish path to destruction.

But in the meantime his daughter (Annie Funke) is overweight and bullied. His wife (Gomez) is lonely and frustrated. His brother (Gyllenhaal), who arrives unannounced at curtains up, attempts to warn him, inarticulately, that the world might be on a course for disaster, but there are some issues much closer to home that he probably needs to deal with.

As the play builds to its climax we see the whole stage flooded and the actors sploshing about in fun a metaphor for melted ice caps, I presume. Gyllenhaal was fidgety, aggressive and an unlikely role model for his niece. O’Byrne is wonderfully bumbling, in the way professors always are. And Anna, his troubled daughter, is brave, believable and worrying. I was concerned I was going to see something sinister as she spiralled out of control and I was not to be disappointed?

In summary: thoroughly entertaining and some great English accents on show.

My only concern is for the actors. At the end of the show’s 13 week run there is a distinct possibility of trench foot.

Anything Goes

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I have not hidden my less than enthusiastic expectations for this musical. But with no reason whatsoever in fact. I just thought it was a bit too light on the sing songs and not one of “those classics” (see My Fair Lady, The Lion King, Chicago etc.)

But, since I found a good deal, at 8pm last Saturday night, dressed to the nines, I was ready for another camp Broadway experience. Divine. And boy was I wrong about this one. It was genius in fact. And I knew a surprising number of the songs, which only added to my amusement.

Anything Goes is truly delightful. Yes it definitely is De-lovely (see score).

Does it get any more beautiful than Mitzi Gaynor??? I think not. OK let’s have another clip of her looking spectacular

As usual I found myself madly in love with the lead (fickle as I am) and watching him trot around the stage (read cruise ship) was delicious.

And funny? Oh yes it was terribly funny. Joel Grey would have stolen the show if it hadn’t been for Mr “Billy Crocker” English and the wonderful Stephanie “Reno Sweeney” J. Block who had us all dancing in the aisles (or at least dreaming of it). This was a heavenly 2 and half hours and once again I was asked (politely) to resist shimmying down the streets of Midtown on our exit.

Please Beth. Do not swing around that lamppost and hop over that fire hydrant while all the time showcasing your interpretation of jazz hands and high kicks?

And for the finale I could have “tap” danced all night (oops wrong musical but you know they do get me all of a tither)

Marie’s Crisis

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You probably remember my debut in the West Village a while back. A Barbara Streisand classic no less on the Stonewall Inn karaoke stage. Unfortunately it was not that big break moment for me but that is probably because I can’t sing a note in tune.

But never one to give up on a dream, and it being a Friday night, I jumped at the chance of a singalong piano bar dedicated solely to show tunes.

A crowded bar just off Sheridan Square, Marie’s Crisis welcomes a clientele of musical junkies. From My Fair Lady magnificence to Disney’s The Little Mermaid  (note this video has the singalong words you definitely need a click). We had Sound of Music tunes, Mary Poppins’ supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and of course the leg kicking cell block perfection of Chicago’s All That Jazz.

Truly the happiness in the air was palpable. Grins on all their faces as we eagerly belted out the oldies and the goodies.

Waitresses stepped in to silence the audience with unsurprising ease

and I absolutely concur with Eliza Doolittle. I could have danced (and sung) ALL night. Oh no wait. I did.

And we are on the subject of singalongs I would just like to put out a little number that the sister and I love a bit too much!? Hercules is truly the unsung hero in Disney flicks (pardon the pun). Ahhhh musicals. You make my heart sing but luckily no one can hear that.

Preparing for Richard

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Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is such a treat. It’s faux crumbling interior is so cosy and there are no bad seats in the house. And they also send out a very informative email to get you prepared for each show. A mixture of blogs, interviews and production notes so you can make the most of the experience. Tomorrow I will get to enjoy some Kevin Spacey genius in his title role of Richard III.

So, I thought I better get some reading done so I can slip into the World of Shakespeare with ease. Fingers crossed.

BAM sent me this gem of a link. Start with Sir Ian McKellan’s description of the opening speech. My goodness it is fun.

Sir Ian McKellen