Thursday, August 4, 2011

CAUGHT ... Again

We’re back. That, of course, assumes someone reads this and missed us. Either way, here we are. What a wonderful way to return, by going to a cocktail party before an Actors Fund special performance of a show. Even better, the show was CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.

Never mind that we saw the show in March (in previews). Never mind that we showered at the beach in a 2x2 cabana and fought traffic and incredible heat to make it to Gallagher’s on time. We knew the evening was going to be spectacular…it was one of those rare nights when we actually found a free legal parking spot just yards from the restaurant and the theatre.

Very delicious filet mignon on toast but even more delightful was being there a little early and pretty much having Nick Wyman (President of Actors Equity and the actor playing one of the dads in the show and just a terrific guy) to ourselves for some great theatre talk. We spent some quality time with Barbara Davis, the amazing COO of the Fund and then it was on to the Neil Simon Theatre. A very special thank you by the way, to Barbara Toy of the Actor’s Fund for two fabulous seats in our favorite spot - center aisle – right behind Joe and Nan Benincasa.

Hard to believe but this show is even better the second time around. This might be because it’s just a fabulous show but no doubt the extra effort that the company put in, gratis, because this special night was for the FUND, really showed and you could hear it in every note. An over the top performance by non-Tony-nominated Aaron Tveit whose character may have cheated some people of some money but who as an actor was definitely robbed of a Tony nomination, at the very least.

We forgot how many show stopping numbers were in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN and how incredibly talented this ensemble is. Aaron opens the show with LIVE IN LIVING COLOR and it was really hard to not stand up and cheer when he finished. Veteran Tony Award winning actor Norbert Leo Butz’s DON’T BREAK THE RULES simply brought the house down. Kerry Butler shows a range in FLY, FLY AWAY that also left us breathless. Kudos to the entire cast including Tom Wopat, Rachel deBenedet, Nick Wyman and Linda Hart for outstanding performances and to Terrence McNally for an amazing book as well as Mark Shaiman and Scott Wittman for memorable music.

This is a big, wonderful, fabulous, colorful Broadway musical that tells the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr, a legendary con man who ultimately so charmed his captor that they became not only friends but working colleagues (at the FBI). Abagnale is today a world famous lecturer who has helped countless banks and corporations prevent and detect fraud. The show takes place several decades ago and the many references to changing technology resulted in some serious laughs. Go see CATCH ME IF YOU CAN which won’t prevent fraud but will transport you for a few hours to where the best of Broadway always does – total entertainment!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The evening started off quite well. A delightful dinner at Angus McIndoe, where we sat in the front window, able to do some people watching. Pretty cool seeing actors from other shows we have seen on their way to the theatre and as it turns out, we were seated next to one of the performers in AMERICAN IDIOT, which was the show we were going to see.

It had to happen eventually - a show that one of us liked/loved and the other disliked/hated. Cathy was absolutely miserable during the performance of AMERICAN IDIOT, which was due in part to a rather large and wide man seated directly in front of her, blocking the view, exacerbated by cigarette smoke from the stage wafting into the audience. Even without the large man and smoke, Cathy just hated almost everything about the performance. While Jeff certainly did not think this show is a real contender for the Tony Award for best musical (although buzz is that it may in fact be the front-runner), he found the show quite enjoyable.

AMERICAN IDIOT features the music of Green Day with lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong, who co-authored the book with director Michael Mayer (EVERYDAY RAPTURE, SPRING AWAKENING, THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, etc, etc, etc). John Gallagher, Jr. (SPRING AWAKENING), Stark Sands & Michael Esper were well cast as the male leads who brought electricity to the stage (says Jeff). The female lead usually played by Rebecca Naomi Jones was played by understudy Leslie McDonel. Kudos to the design team, consisting of Christine Jones, Andrea Lauer, Kevin Adams, Brian Ronan and Darrel Maloney for fabulously over the top special effects and scenic design.

AMERICAN IDIOT is (at least according to Jeff) to 2010 what HAIR was to the 1960’s and what RENT was to the 1990’s; a hard hitting musical about the trials and tribulations of youth. Cathy agrees with this with one major caveat - she feels it lacked the emotion its forerunners had. Back to this show: Johnny, Will and Tunny, played respectively by Gallagher, Esper and Sands, are three young men who are best friends and embark upon life taking very different paths. Will finds out that his girlfriend is pregnant and he cannot join his friends; he spends almost the entire show sitting on a couch singing and smoking from a bong. Tunny joins the army and is sent overseas to fight; he spends most of the show in a hospital bed, although the dream sequence where he flies through the air with his army girlfriend was pretty cool. Johnny runs away and keeps on running while doing serious drugs. He is actually the American Idiot, who destroys his relationship with Whatsername (usually played by Rebecca Naomi Jones). Johnny is drawn on and off to an androgynous character named St. Jimmy, played by Tony Vincent. Although not obvious, it seems that Johnny goes back and forth between Whatsername and St. Jimmy. Whatsername leaves Johnny; Will’s girl leaves him, baby in tow and Tunny and his girlfriend stay together. The three guys eventually settle into normalcy and eventually return home and reunite.

Interesting to watch the differences over forty plus years (HAIR, RENT & AMERICAN IDIOT) and even more interesting to note the recurring themes; desire to break away from parents, sex, drugs, rock & roll, more sex, more drugs & more rock & roll, war, protesting war, return to normalcy.

AMERICAN IDIOT is quite loud with lots of flashing lights, an electric performance one might say, although the other may say “boring” despite the loud noise, music and lights. Nice that we disagree so amicably.

NEXT UP: THE 2010 AMERICAN THEATRE WING TONY AWARDS (unless we manage to see something else between now & June 13th).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Nothing like wolfing down a couple of slices of pizza before a show but Tuesday night’s 7:00 pm curtain at most Broadway theatres often leads to a rushed dinner if the demands of the day run past 5:30 or 6:00 pm, which was the case last Tuesday when we saw NEXT FALL.

Not a great start to the evening but definitely uphill from there. Geoffrey Nauffts’ well written script follows the lives of a gay couple who meet at a party, fall in love and move in together. Adam, ably played by Patrick Breen, is a 40ish nebbishy kind of guy who obsesses about almost everything, while Luke (Patrick Heusinger) is a good looking twenty something aspiring actor who is far more carefree, except when it comes to religion. Adam, you see, is either an agnostic or an atheist (never really clear which) while Luke is a devout Southern Christian, who believes without question that acceptance of Jesus as the son of God is the only way that one can get into heaven. This extreme dichotomy between the characters gives rise to much of the very interesting storyline.

Just as Adam is leaving for home to attend a reunion that Luke decides not to attend with him, they have words over the religion thing and we learn much later in the play that Luke was in a terrible taxi accident right after Adam left, which will ultimately lead to his death.

Wilson Chin’s scenes very cleverly and easily switch back and forth between the hospital waiting room and Adam & Luke’s apartment. The cast is rounded out by Cotter Smith as Luke’s father Butch, another devout Southern Christian who threatened to forbid Luke’s younger brother from ever seeing him again if he ever found out that Luke was gay (did we forget to mention that unlike Adam, Luke was not out to his family?) Connie Ray as Luke’s free spirited mother, apparently had little to do with his upbringing (Luke’s parents are divorced but amicable), Maddie Corman as Adam’s best friend Holly and Sean Dugan as Luke’s gay (but not out – another Christian fundamentalist) former best friend Brandon.

Much of the story line revolves around the difference between Luke and Adam’s religious beliefs and Luke’s parents not knowing that their son is gay. Towards the end of the play, Adam tells Luke’s mother that they were lovers and while Cathy was sure that Luke’s father also knew, Jeff was just not convinced of this.

Although Adam was sometimes annoying and Brandon at first seemed to have a stick you know where, the actors meshed quite well together and were clearly all very well cast. We cannot think of a boring moment in this show; we never looked at our watches and walked out talking about what might have happened to the characters after what was revealed on stage, all signs of a very well written, acted and produced play. Don’t miss this one.

Next up (after Cathy’s birthday): AMERICAN IDIOT


…for making A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE a truly wonderful theatrical experience.

This is not typical Mother’s Day fare but since we see almost everything on Broadway it was very difficult to find four tickets to a good show on Mother’s Day. Wanting of course to be with their mom, Jason & Danielle (Cathy’s kids) joined us. The day started with a great brunch at 44 & X that we would have liked to linger at a little longer but as Jeffrey pointed out, Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for most restaurants, so we left after eating and walked a bit. We actually tried to get tickets to FENCES however; when we got to the box office at 2:50; we were told (at the Advance Sale window) that they would not sell us tickets for a future performance until after 3:00 pm. Since we had to be at the Schoenfeld Theatre for a 3:00 pm curtain, that didn’t work. Being somewhat obstinate, Jeffrey announced that we would boycott FENCES because of this. We’ll see. Rushing to the Schoenfeld, we tried to figure out what “behanding” meant as we dodged an unusually cold and windy day.

We had great seats and were thrilled the show would have no intermission (we typically love a show that runs straight through). With really no idea what to expect and still wondering what “behanding” meant, the tattered curtain rose on a great set if you like a very, very dingy motel room. Christopher Walken was center stage and remained there for most of the 90 minutes. During the scene in which Sam Rockwell had a monologue we were amused but were already missing Walken.

So what is this about? Walken lost his hand when he was a young boy and has apparently been terrorizing people his whole life in search of said lost hand. We both agreed this is certainly a never before used idea and playwright Martin McDonagh wrote a rather clever script. The supporting cast, including Rockwell, Zoe Kazan and Anthony Mackie were perfectly cast and did a great job interacting with and supporting Walken. Need we say more? The show is Walken. Several of the very best moments of the show are when he is on the telephone with his unseen and unheard Mother; those scenes were just wonderful.

We can’t say you can’t live without seeing a BEHANDING but it is good solid theater and Walken is worth your time and money and perhaps even deserves the Tony Award for this performance.

Next up: NEXT FALL

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


We were actually quite disappointed to learn that at the last minute, Megan Mullally cancelled her appearance in LIPS TOGETHER, TEETH APART, causing non-profit Roundabout Theatre Company to cancel the production entirely.

Kudos to Sherie Rene Scott, who came to the rescue with EVERYDAY RAPTURE, which she co-wrote with Dick Scanlan. Ms. Scott describes herself as a "semi-star" but she has a powerful star quality voice. The show is really a cabaret act gone Broadway, almost like what Michael Feinstein & Dame Edna’s ALL ABOUT ME tried to be. The show uses existing songs which take on new meaning when for example; one hears the theme song of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood become a tale of sexual awakening.

The show is much about Scott’s own life and the story is simple. As she says in the opening by talking about 2 little pieces of paper she is never without, one of which says that she is a speck of dust and the other says the world is all about her. Ms. Scott talks about her beloved cousin with love and emotion, which is her way of publicly presenting her position on AIDS and how hate still exists in many parts of the US.

The show is very loosely woven together but it is hard to ignore the musical highlight of Scott signing “Get Happy” to a room full of mental patients at the Menninger Psychiatric Center. Back up vocals by Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe are terrific. They are the most unlikely looking Broadway backup singers but their voices and stage presence match Scott’s in power.

One of the true highlights of the show has Ms. Scott is one side of the stage watching Eamon Foley on the other side as he records himself lip-syncing Scott for a YouTube video. Eamon is over-the-top campy and the sketch is both hilarious and heartwarming. The show is entertaining but we wished for a more meaningful ending, something to bring it all together. It is still a show worth seeing if you want to see a powerhouse of talent.



There is barely a note of music in Ken Ludwig’s LEND ME A TENOR. What there is though is a terrifically funny script, an outstanding cast and truly sublime comedic direction. Accomplished director Stanley Tucci has a terrific vision, a deft hand, an eye and ear for the hilarious and the ability to turn the physical comedy of this show into what looks like a well choreographed ballet.

Tony Shalhoub sets the tone for the entire show with his opening monologue as the very nervous impresario, Saunders, awaiting the arrival of the famed tenor, Tito Morelli, played by veteran actor Anthony LaPaglia. You know exactly what is going to go wrong, there are almost no surprises. Well actually there is one surprise - Justin Bartha! Bartha, who is making his Broadway debut in LEND ME A TENOR, plays the very nervous, unsophisticated, would-be fiancĂ© of Saunders’ daughter, assistant to Saunders, etc. and he is totally entertaining.

LaPaglia’s entrance is highly staged as is his wife’s behavior but she is so well played by Jan Maxwell that you get lost in her pageboy and swish of fur. The actual physicality between the connected living room-bedroom that makes up the set is so beautifully timed that even though it is totally predictable it is also totally funny. We actually enjoyed every actor and thought each was ideally cast except for Mary Catherine Garrison who as the impresario’s daughter seems totally plastic and appeared as related to the Shaloub character as either of us is.

We didn’t learn anything new or answer any soul searching questions while watching LEND ME A TENOR but we were entertained. And isn’t that one of Broadway’s major jobs?


Tuesday, May 4, 2010


The night started out with our dodging a scheduling disaster; once again the flawed Outlook Cathy uses nearly caused us to miss the show. We made up for lost time and grabbed dinner at Da Marino, good food that would really have tasted just the tiniest bit better if we’d seen Chris Noth again. But then again it was Monday night, not a usual theatre evening.

The New World Theater is a very interesting Off Broadway venue. Built in 1989 as part of Worldwide Plaza, it is quite modern and there is a great deal of activity since multiple shows are going on at once and the outdoor restaurants were packed. Stage 4 is home to WHITE’S LIES which we really knew nothing about except that Betty Buckley of CATS and SUNSET BOULEVARD fame would be in a supporting role, playing Joe White’s mother.

The set is terrific, with no curtain so it is totally exposed at all times. With two front row center seats we had a bird’s eye view of everything, including perspiration! All of the action takes place between Joe’s law office and an ever-changing thematic bar. The modern set is extremely clever and morphs almost seamlessly between the office and bar…the desk becomes the bar counter, etc.

WHITE’S LIES is a comedy with a small, tight cast. Two of the players handle several roles by change of accent and outfit. Ben Andron has written a clever, totally modern and current piece. It was difficult to tell where his script and Bob Cline’s adept direction stopped and started. This is an incredibly well crafted play and the timing was just spot-on perfect. Again, hard to know who to credit here since we thought this show was fabulously cast.

Tuc Watkins is new to Broadway and he’s a keeper. If you are a Desperate Housewives fan then you know Tuc and he is much more than just a handsome face and great body. He did occasionally fumpher over a few of his lines but even that can be forgiven as brief moments in an overall stellar performance. Peter Scolari is a master at physical comedy and his playing off Tuc as his law partner was just delicious to watch. They are total opposites in every way, physically, mannerisms, character and the way they played their roles. Jimmy Ray Bennett as the associate, AKA office assistant (and several other characters), was hysterical.

We wish Betty Buckley would have sung just a few bars but her comedy was fabulous. It was, by the way, quite funny when her son Joe told her that she had a terrible voice! She played the long-suffering mother to the hilt but knew exactly where to stop before becoming a characterization. Andrea Grano and Christy Carlson Romano, as Joe’s college sweetheart and her daughter, are welcome newcomers. They are incredibly talented, their chemistry together terrific and we found them both irresistible.

WHITE’S LIES grabbed us from the very first moment and kept us laughing for the entire evening. This is an evening of theater well worth seeing. It is especially enjoyable if you arrive a bit hassled and kvetchy - truthfully, you will forget all about your worries from the first line.