Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dreamcasting Anais Mitchell's Hadestown

I'm still awaiting more news on when we'll see a full stage production of Anais Mitchell's brilliant Hadestown, a depression-era folk-opera retelling of the story of Euridice and Orpheus. In the meantime, I can't help but do a bit of dreamcasting.

Listen to the show recorded live at Club Passim (legally) then tell me your dream cast!

u/s Elizabeth Davis, Arielle Jacobs [NOT Laura Osnes!]

u/s Stark Sands, Bobby Steggert

Hades, king of the underworld: TOM WOPAT
Persephone, who runs a speakeasy: SARA RAMIREZ
The Three Fates: HEATHER ROBB (of The Spring Standards), ASPEN VINCENT, and HOLLY BROOK (of Duncan Sheik's Whisper House)
u/s Alysha Umphress, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Lauren Pritchard

Hermes the storyteller (a hobo): RAUL ESPARZA

Director: John Tiffany

Choreographer: Steven Hoggett

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thank god for Broadway tours (American Idiot is back!)

Boston is an amazing city with tons of great local theater. Plus it's a doable bus distance from New York. It also launches shows that later transfer to New York, hosts Broadway tryouts, and always brings in big Broadway tours. And I am SO thankful for that, especially when dearly departed Broadway shows come around on national tour. (Billy Elliot just closed, and I'm already ready for the tour to get here. I can't believe I have to wait until July!)

This week, I finally get to see American Idiot again. (A lot.) Oh, how I have missed this musical since it closed on Broadway nine months ago! And I'm so excited to see familiar faces from the Broadway cast, especially Van Hughes reprising his role as Johnny and two excellent former understudies now in leading roles: Leslie McDonel as Heather and Joshua Kobak as St. Jimmy.

Mostly, I'm in love with Tom Kitt's gorgeous arrangements of Green Day's cathartic music and Steven Hoggett's powerful choreography. I really can't get enough of either. Sure, eight shows in one week is excessive. But surely that's not surprising to any of you who have read this blog before.

I'll write up a review at the end of the week, but I can tell you now that it will be mostly positive!


A special hello to my new theater friend, Jorge. It was great talking with you before the show, and I look forward to seeing you at other performances in Boston and New York. Theater people are the best!


ETA: There is a ticket lottery for $28 seats in the first 2 rows. Cash only. Submit your name 2.5 hours to submit your name. Winners will be chosen 30 minutes later.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Weekend in review (1/7-1/8/2012): The Mountaintop, Chinglish, Billy Elliot closing

I started the weekend with three very funny shows about serious topics: The Mountaintop (closing Jan. 22), Chinglish (closing Jan. 29), and Billy Elliot (closed Jan. 8). What a way to start my year in theater!

First up was Katori Hall's The Mountaintop, a strange fictional account of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s last night on earth. I'm not a religious person, but I do care about civil rights, so it's really a shame I don't know more about the man. And this play really didn't do much to correct that ignorance, I suspect. Was he really a philandering, chain-smoking, sometimes-foul-mouthed megalomaniac? Ok, that might be overstating the play's portrait of him a bit. A bit.

I went in excited to finally see Samuel L. Jackson in something that wouldn't be curse-strewn, to see him act in a role different from anything else I'd seen him in. (I'm pretending those terrible Star Wars prequels didn't happen.) While it's true that Jackson doesn't curse--much--Angela Bassett more than makes up for him in her role as a maid/newly minted angel. (Huh? Yeah, it makes about that much sense a lot of the time.)

Jackson is great, which doesn't surprise me at all. Bassett disappoints me, though, and I suspect it's because the writing for her character is pretty awful. I appreciate the effort to humanize MLK and inspire everyone to "pick up the baton" and make the most of the time we have on this earth. It isn't a very good effort, and it shouldn't have worked on me at all. But it did. And it rains on stage, which almost always wins me over. Mostly, though, the show sucker-punched me at the very end with a weird spoken-word bit that made me think of The Normal Heart, a play that rocked my worldview last season. (More on that soon!)

Up next was Chinglish, my first encounter with Henry David Hwang. I laughed a lot at this display of the communication troubles and culture clash that results when American businesses expand into the Chinese market. The enormous supertitles showing the correct translations for the words misspoken on stage are hilarious, as is its somewhat charming example of sad-sack American As Buffoon. The performances are excellent, and the set movements are fun. The show is basically great fun with a few serious points thrown in. I liked it well enough that I insisted that Arthur see it the following weekend. I'll talk more about this show in connection with another Chinese-English bilingual play, Zayd Dohrn's Outside People, which I saw the following weekend at the Vineyard Theatre.

Last up was the closing performance of Billy Elliot, the dancing/mining/Thatcher-hating musical that I have been lucky enough to see many times with various casts and will miss very, very much. There were so many Billys on stage over the course of the show. Brilliant! The scene of the dance class interwoven with the police brigade is still one of my favorite stage scenes ever.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I can't get the SOPA / PIPA blackout code to work. But I support the movement to prevent Internet censorship.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Farewell, 2011 (the best and the worst)

I've already organized the theater shows I saw in 2011 into categories ranging from Best Ever to Kill Me Now. So I'm doing a different kind of wrap-up post here.

2SD's favorite things about theater in 2011, in no particular order:

* Steven Hoggett took over the city. On stages across New York City this year, you could see Hoggett's magic in theatricalizing the history of the Scottish military's Black Watch, Green Day's disaffected Aughts soundtrack American Idiot, the otherwise-awkward Peter Pan retelling Peter and the Starcatcher, and the stage adaptation of the Irish indie-darling film Once (at NYTW and now transferring to Broadway).

* We found out that the Handspring Puppet Company exists. Their puppet horses made a bleak WWI children's story a hit (but also proved that the Tonys need separate categories for playwriting and production). I actually hated the treacly story of War Horse, but all the design and puppetry aspects of the production are fantastic. The National Theatre knows how to make a gorgeous, stunning production (see also Frankenstein, below). And the puppets are unbelievable in their believability. I trust we'll see more from Handspring in coming years, and I can't wait.

* London's National Theatre took pity on those of us stuck on this side of the pond by screening awesome productions in movie theaters. Thanks to National Theatre Live, which screened both versions of Danny Boyle's lead-swapping Frankenstein play, I got to see my longtime movie obsession Jonny Lee Miller and my current TV obsession Benedict Timothy Carleton Cumberbatch (best name ever) swap roles as Dr. Frankenstein and his Creature. It's one of the most visually stunning things I've ever "seen" on stage. I wish it would kick War Horse out of the Vivian Beaumont Theater immediately. Alas, I missed the screening of One Man, Two Guvnors--but I definitely plan to see James Corden in it on Broadway this season. And I really wish they'd broadcast Sinéad Cusack and Ciarán Hinds in Juno and the Paycock.

* We got a second chance to savor the perfection of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan. I first saw this Druid production at the Atlantic Theater in Feb. 2009, and it is still the most perfect performance of anything I have ever seen on stage (just edging out Conor McPherson's The Seafarer on Broadway). I'm not sure why it didn't transfer to Broadway, but I'm so glad it went on a short U.S. tour so that I could enjoy it again. I love ArtsEmerson for bringing shows like this to Boston. I wish they could convince National Theatre Scotland to bring us Black Watch.

* Stephen Karam rewarded Roundabout Underground's investment in the young playwright. Sons of the Prophet in Boston in the spring and the streamlined production that just closed in New York showed the same wit as Karam's Speech & Debate and much more depth. I really love the play and hope Karam continues to work on it. If it doesn't jump to Broadway, it should have a great future in regional theaters.

* Anything Goes had an awesome, never-ending tap number. It lost a bit of its surprise by being blasted via every medium to advertize the show, but HOLY CRAP that performance is amazing to see live.

* The Normal Heart ripped ours out. I am not being hyperbolic when I say that this play inspired me to change my life. I'll post more about that in a few weeks. (Also, it gave rise to Ellen Barkin's F-bombing Twitter domination campaign.)

* Reed Birney was perpetually employed. As he should be. The most natural everyman I've ever seen on stage. His sheer honesty in every moment grounded even Adam Rapp's increasingly bizarre Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling.

* Mark Rylance made two fairly gross characters kind of hot and sexy. In the same season. He won the Tony for his jaw-dropping performance as Rooster in Jerusalem, but I think his work in La Bête was even more impressive. He made a twenty-minute monologue (an exaggeration, surely, but it was wicked long)--part of which was delivered while he was flatulently on the pot--riveting and almost charming, even in pompous, rhyming couplets. Rylance's awards acceptance speeches are themselves award-worthy (2011 and 2008).

* DanRad is a righteous dude. Daniel Radcliffe proved himself to be a true theater fan and completely a dedicated performer. He can come back to Broadway any day. Or out with me for a cup of coffee. Or out to a drag show with me. Or whatever, really. He seems charming and hilarious, and I can't wait for the next time Susan Blackwell gets a hold of him.

* Michael Esper got around. His excellent character development made the couch-ridden Will a character to watch even amid American Idiot's visual barrage of violent choreography and sensory-overloading projections. After he got off the couch, he turned in a beautiful performance in Tony Kushner's new play iHomo and went crazy-pants in Nicky Silver's The Lyons. He did a couple things at Vassar/NY Stage and Film over the summer. And he's just been announced for Assistance at Playwrights Horizons with Bobby Steggert, and that makes me wicked happy. Oh, and on the side, he formed an as-yet-unnamed punk band with fellow Idiots Johnny Gallagher and Gerard Canonico (see photos below).

2SD's least-favorite things about theater in 2011:

* War Horse got the Tony for best play. Just ... NO.

* People created musicals that somehow made awesome things boring. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert made drag queens boring. Catch Me If You Can made one of history's most famous con men boring. And Bonnie & Clyde made sexy, deadly, road-tripping bank robbers boring. How is that even possible?


Here, have some pretty! Look at the bromance! Now with bonus ginger beard!

Michael Esper and John Gallagher Jr. having some bro moments at Rockwood with their unnamed punk band (Gerard Canonico was stuck behind the drum kit)

Photos by Monica Simoes, from

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January is a bitch

In the theater world, January is a cruel, cruel bitch. Productions hang on through the holidays hoping the hordes of tourists will save their ailing shows, but come January, the closing notices go up all over town. Bonnie & Clyde died a violent death. Lysistrata Jones is giving it up this weekend. The relatively unloved Relative Speaking slinks away at the end of the month. It's a sad time for the already underemployed and underpaid. But it opens up theaters for new shows that might do better. And it opens up my schedule, too.

Poorly reviewed Close Up Space, the editorially (un)inspired play starring David Hyde Pierce and Rosie Perez, is closing up early, so yesterday I received notice that my ticket has been canceled. In hunting for something to take its place, I was reading through's listings and almost choked on my Coke Zero when I read that Bobby Steggert and Michael Esper are starring in a play together at Playwrights Horizons, and that I can go see it on my now-free Sunday afternoon.

How is it possible that Michael Esper is going to be in a play and I didn't know? How is it that Michael Esper is going to be in a play WITH Bobby Steggert and I didn't know??? And in a play by Leslye Headland, the woman who gave me Topher from Dollhouse (Fran Kranz) and Fat Pat from Wonderfalls/Shitbrick from the American Pie movies (Eddie Kaye Thomas) as sleazy guys getting lucky at a bachelorette party!

I screamed my question to the Twitterverse and many of my other theater friends hadn't heard of it either. But Steggert himself confirmed the news! So of course I bought the ticket immediately. And now, today, there's an article on Playbill announcing the casting.

In summary: The theater world took away David Hyde Pierce in a mediocre play about an editor (have I mentioned that I'm a book editor?) but it gave in return a chance to see Bobby Steggert and Michael Esper on stage together in a play that's likely to be really good. I call that a pretty big win for me.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012: A Look Ahead

How can it be 2012 already when I still haven't finished my reviews of shows I saw in 2011? Less than twelve hours into the new year, and I'm already disappointed with myself. And not just because of my behavior last night.

But now that I mention it:
1. Next year I shall try to not be the drunkest person at the party.
2. Even when I'm drunk at a NYE party, I still talk trash about theater.

(This time I was complaining about the gay lumberjack outfits for the supposedly straight-dressing gay older brother in Sons of the Prophet at Roundabout. If your flannel shirt is fitted, even in a small Pennsylvania town people will start to wonder if you are gay. Right? And both brothers were way less flaming when the show was at the Huntington. More on this later when I double-back to finally reviewing that show, which I really liked, by the way.)

In exciting news, I already have tickets to 27 theatrical performances for this year (in chronological order):

The Mountaintop
Billy Elliot (closing performance)
The Canterbury Tales Remixed (Soho Playhouse)
Stick Fly
Outside People (Vineyard)
Once (NYTW, closing performance)
Red (SpeakEasy, Boston)
American Idiot (tour, Boston)
CQ/CX (Atlantic)
Assistance (Playwrights Horizons)
Yosemite (Rattlestick)
Merrily We Roll Along (Encores!)
Once (Broadway transfer)
American Idiot (tour, Denver)
Death of a Salesman
Carrie (MCC)
Next to Normal (SpeakEasy, Boston)
Xanadu (SpeakEasy, Boston)

(No, I'm not terrible at math. I'm seeing the American Idiot tour multiple times in Boston. Yes, every performance. It's all Steven Hoggett's fault. Well, mostly.)

It seems unlikely that I'll match 2011's record of 102 theater performances ever again, but perhaps that means I'll read more than 10 books this year.