Monday, October 23, 2017

So many shows, so little time to blog

I have been a very fortunate girl lately and have been the recipient of tickets from generous friends.  But work has kept me so busy (and my friends have been so generous night after night!) that I haven't had time to blog.  So I guess I'll try to fit my thoughts from last week's theater (and ballet) extravaganza into one post.  We'll see how it goes - I think it goes without saying that this will be a loooooooooong post...

An extremely generous theater friend invited me to join her, as her guest, at a performance of Anastasia, one of her favorite shows.  I've long wanted to see Anastasia for several reasons: I love the Ingrid Bergman/Yul Brynner film; I love the score to the animated film; I love all of the creators of the current Broadway musical.  It's been selling so well, however, that discounts are really few and far between and finding room in my budget for a full-price ticket just wasn't happening.  So my generous theater friend's offer came at a great time.  PLUS, I got to celebrate her birthday!  So it was a wonderful night all the way around.

photo credit: Matthew Murphy
I had a grand time at Anastasia.  The show is simply gorgeous, with stunning sets and costumes (we were in the second row and seeing those clothes up close was AMAZING, I am coveting the czarina's white dress in a major way) and I liked the new songs along with the old ones from the animated film.  In some cases, the old and new music co-existed, which was also fun.  The scope of the show is enormous, though it never lost the heart or emotion.  I loved the performers, especially the actress playing Anastasia and the actor playing Gleb.  I'm not completely sold on his character (he's an odd amalgam of Yul Brynner and the animated film's Rasputin), but the actor was terrific.  He's making some really bold, quirky, almost-odd choices that at first seem askew with a brassy Broadway musical, but they really work.  I'm so glad I finally got to see Anastasia and I'm already planning a return trip, now that standing room and rush tickets are available.  You should go, too.

Thursday night, I went to a performance of ABT's fall season.  I chose that particular program because I wanted to see David Hallberg dance in Jerome Robbins' Other Dances, and I wanted to see the ballet Her Notes, because it was choreographed by a woman and there aren't enough ballets programmed that are choreographed by women.  I want to support changing that dynamic as often as I can.

I'd seen two of the ballets performed before: Symphonic Variations (you can see my previous review HERE), and Serenade after Plato's Symposium (you can see my previous review HERE).  My thoughts are mainly the same and since my brain is pretty full, I won't go over those pieces again.  I would like to say that Calvin Royal III was in both pieces and he is simply enchanting to watch.  So beautifully elegant and controlled.  I look forward to seeing more from him as his career progresses.  The other two ballets were new to me.  

photo credit: Rosalie O'Connor
Her Notes, choreographed by Jessica Lang and set to music by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (played by solo pianist Emily Wong), is a lovely and delicate piece, with gorgeous music by a long-overlooked female composer (and the sister of Felix Mendelssohn).  The ballet begins with a woman seemingly seen in a picture frame, with a group of people looking at her.  She steps out of the frame and begins to dance.  The other dancers soon join her - there are five movements in this piece, each smoothly moving into the next, with duets, trios and group sections.  The music and the steps are well-matched and though I didn't notice anything overly special or unique about the piece, it was lovely and terrifically danced.  I think I liked Misty Copeland better in this ballet than I ever have.  But everyone was good.

Other Dances was created by Jerome Robbins for Baryshnikov in the 1970s.  It was danced last week by David Hallberg and Hee Seo, two of the most gorgeous dancers I've ever seen.  They're both so classical and stunningly beautiful, if a bit remote for the bits of humor in the piece.  Again, Emily Wong was the piano soloist (yay, a female soloist this time!), and it was just her, her piano, and the two dancers on stage.   The music was by Chopin, so just imagine all the beauty throughout this ballet.  It was lovely and it was so pure, classical and gorgeous, I could see it again and again.  Sorry I can't be more descriptive - just imagine two beautiful people floating through space and music and that's pretty much Other Dances.  How bad can that be?!

photo credit: Sara Krulwich
Saturday night, I went with a handsome friend to see an early preview of M Butterfly, David Henry Hwang's beautiful play, which is finally having a Broadway revival.  The original production is one of my 'time machine' plays, in that I wish I had a time machine so I could go back in time to see it.  I remember vividly watching a scene on the Tony Awards and finding John Lithgow and BD Wong completely compelling, even in just that tiny scene.  I read the script as soon as it was published and I have loved the play ever since.  I've just never seen it staged.  Since we saw an early preview, I'll only discuss the production briefly.

Julie Taymor is directing this production and, if you've been reading any of the pre-show news articles, you'll see what partially drew her to the piece was the idea of creating of a 'Chinese puzzle box' as her main set pieces, using moving panels throughout.  I will say that sometimes the panels were glorious (hello, it IS Julie Taymor), and sometimes they were just a pain in my neck (hello, it IS Julie Taymor).  I could've used maybe 30% fewer panels.  But the play itself is still stop-the-presses brilliant, and I need to take a look at the script to see what changes have been made.  David has mentioned in interviews that when the show opened on Broadway, the story of the real person the play was based upon was mainly unknown to almost everyone.  Now, that element of surprise is gone.  But the real person's story has had more strange twists and turns over the years, so David did some rewriting to his play to reflect the things we know now.  I'd have to say the changes were pretty seamless in that they weren't readily obvious as "HEY, that's new!", but I think I could tell where some of the updates/fleshing out parts happened.  I just have to read the script to see if I'm right.  And Clive Owen and Jin Ha are spectacular!  I can only imagine how much more wonderful they'll be as previews continue, so I will totally have to go back later in the run.  I'm so glad I finally got to see the play - it's just so beautifully constructed and says so much about love and blindness and East/West relations.  Plus, it's funny and touching and terrifically smart.  I say go see it - the Peking Opera stuff is practically worth the price of admission in itself.

Finally (aren't you glad I'm almost done?  Aren't you tired, too?), I saw the closing performance of Michael Moore on Broadway: The Terms of My Surrender.  I don't know what I expected, but my goodness, I loved it!  It was nearly three hours of laughter and tears.  It was a rallying cry - he kept talking about how one person can make a difference and he kept showing concrete examples of that.  I had no idea about his Elks experience, or his experience as the youngest elected official in the U.S., or the experience about meeting Reagan at a cemetery in Germany, but his stories were so inspiring!  They were funny and scary and sad, all at the same time.  I can't tell you what a good time I had.  Yes, I'm in the choir that he's preaching to, but I was just so engaged.  His librarian story had me laughing and crying at the same time - and the librarian was in the theater!  His impassioned pleas for the people of Flint were wonderful - and one of the rallying mothers of Flint was in the audience!  His special guest was Senator Kirsten Gillibrand - yikes, what a terrific woman!  It was just a wonderful wonderful afternoon, and I'm so grateful to my Tony-voter boss for taking me.  Oh, and before the show, I happened to be waiting for my boss on the sidewalk when Michael Moore arrived.  He got out of his car and proceeded to take videos of everyone waiting outside the theater, and selfies with anyone who asked.  It was quite sweet.  And the speech he gave at the end of the performance was truly beautiful, where he talked about how this experience has changed his life and he thanked US, the Broadway audience, for changing his life.  Yes, I cried even more.  It was a roller coaster of emotions, but thumbs WAYYYYYYYYYYY up for Michael Moore, who I think can be a showboating bully at times, but he's also so passionate, you can't help but get on board.

No theater this week, though I am headed to the Austin Film Festival on Thursday.  I'm sure I'll have lots of stories from there!  Enjoy your week - I just hope I can reset my tired brain so I'm ready for more wonderful experiences around NYC!

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