Broadway theatre

Music Monday … No Good Can Come From Bad

A consequence of my listening habit of last week would be to share something from Big Fish, but I couldn’t find a clip of one of the songs I’d dying to share on Youtube or anywhere else.

Instead I’m gonna go back to a show I was obsessed with around that time last year: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Although dramaturgically it’s not the best show you could ever imagine, I love the concept – I’m very much into audience participations – and the recording of the 2012 Broadway revival is just gorgeous.

“No Good Can Come From Bad” is a song happening towards the end of Act 1, right before Drood disappears and is assumed to be dead. I just like the way the different conflicts sound (in order to make every other person in that song a potential suspect of mudering Edwin Drood).
And, I mean we all know me: Stephanie J. Block. Still. And Jessie Mueller (who’s playing the Indian Helena Landless).

So, let’s have a listen.

A Nerd’s Guide to New York City Pt. 2

After loooooong weeks of other posts I finally return to my Nerd’s Guide to New York City with a second part, a post dedicated to Theatre and Theatre activities.

A lot of the time of our NYC trip was occupied by theatre and theatre stuff. Watching performances, seeing theatre related stuff. So I guess I have something to tell you….

Seeing Shows….

I felt like a pro when I booked our tickets to see Pippin just the week before the Tonys because I had a feeling they’d win some awards. They were the first tickets I ever booked to see a Broadway show. Then I booked the tickets to see Big Fish, First Date and by the end of August I had booked our tickets to Matilda as well. For First Date and Big Fish I used discount codes provided by Playbill’s free Playbill Club which gave me the opportunity to book our tickets in advance and at least save a little money….

For the other two shows we got to see, Once and Newsies, we went to two of the three TKTS booths located in NYC, where we got tickets for both shows 50% off on the day of the performance. So we saw Once from brilliant seats in the rear orchestra and Newsies from a not so crowded mezzanine (with the air conditioning working on the highest setting right over our heads…) for an at least pretty resonable price. They also have an app where they post their discounts each day and I sometimes have fun just checking on them here in Germany every now and then.

In addition to that (almost) every show has special rush-, lottery- or student policies – which I never used back in September, but probably will be trying on my next visit to the city (or when I finally maybe will an intern with a theatre company over there one day…).

As I German/European girl every theatre building I knew before I went to see Broadway shows had a (more or less) huge lobby, with the Broadway theatres I saw it was more or less only a small lobby giving pretty much only room for the box office – what causes long lines of theatre goers in front of the theatres before the show. It’s a weird scene to see….so many people lining up in front of theatres every night – weird, but fun. After you enter the theatre you almost imediately stand right in the back of the orchestra seats.

In case someone doesn#t know that already: As soon as you enter the theatre an usher will approach you and show you your seats (or maybe it was our looks…although we weren’t looking THAT touristy) and give you a playbill (or two)with basic information about the show such as the cast and cast changes for the night, running time, a list of songs….Very handy and pretty and I love mine (so does my mother, they are kind of displayed on our coffee table in the living room)

Other Activities

I already wrote about the tour I took with Broadway Up Close in a special blogpost and I’ll just repeat: It was a very, very nice experience (and again, I’m not sponsered or anything…). I loved every second of it. Our guide Tim was so nice explaining everything to my Mom, me and the married couple being on the same tour. Since seeing shows (mostly) is a very immobile activity, you normally hardly move it was nice to have something theatre related requiering some walking – not that my Mom and I didn’t walk all the time, but still. Just after we took our tour in October they established a brand new tour, some kind of second part – and I literally can’t wait to take that once I’ll go back to NYC (and maybe I can make a special arrangement to be able to take my sister with me next time? If I promise to fill her in?).

I also already wrote about 54below….twice or even more (and a little teaser: it will be featured again in this week’s Favourite Friday Post….). I highly recommend that for a little more splurgy evening in style and everything – as soon as I spoke to the doorman over there I became the theatre lady I hide most of the time. 😉

Plus: I regularly got sucked into Barnes&Noble to buy tons of cast recordings because that’s something you don’t find in Germany very often. Cast recordings in regular book- or record shops. I bought like 10 recordings I wanted very badly or I came across and thought “Wow….that Sondheim….you should listen to that….!” – for example the revival recording of Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last 5 Years” (wanted very badly), Sondheim’s “Company” and “Follies” and “Passion” (see the pattern there?), “Once on This Island” and “Ragtime” (after that 54below-concert honouring Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty it was just a logical consequence…) and others.

For our next visit I can’t wait to also visit The Drama Book Shop on West 40th street (did someone just mention books? Drama Books? And I haven’t already been there? Are you kidding me?).

As a fan of NBC’s (cancelled) TV show Smash I needed to eat at the West Way Diner (where Julia and Michael met up twice during the first season….) which was more fun to just be at than to eat there – I really can’t take diner food. 🙂 And there are so many locations yet to try for theatre lovers, I’m eager to have a drink at Joe Allen – does anyone have further recommandations for (after show) drinks or something? I’d be very happy to hear what you like to do before or after shows and how you get your tickets – tell me in the comments or on my facebook page!

Merry Christmas, my dear readers!

Next to Normal in Germany

Two weeks after returning from the US I left home again for another theatrical adventure. We drove about 450 km down South to what I consider to be Bavaria (I learned some people call it Franken), to Fürth to be exact. Fürth is a small town extremely close to Nuremberg and Erlangen and their local theatre dove “head first into fate” by producing the German premiere of Next to Normal.

Speaking of Next to Normal: I’ve always admired the music, it goes so well with the story which is so much different from most of the things we get to see on musical theatre stages. I got the recording right when it came out and I’ve always wanted to see the play itself. So Fürth was kind of my chance. And then they also assembled a cast I was beyond excited about. Both of the women I’ve seen serveral times on stage and I loved the thought of Pia Douwes playing Diana from the start, while I was kind of sceptical about Sabrina Weckerlin as Natalie – since she’s already in her mid-twenties and I’ve never been too amazed by her acting (her voice is great, no question, but everytime I saw her perform I ended up being like: I KNOW she can act but somehow she never has to because either the directors aren’t that clear about what they wanted her to do or it was some kind of laziness…okay, that was mean.). I also saw Dirk Johnston who played Gabe perform in the show every class of UdK (Universität der Künste/University of Arts)-graduates in Musical/Show puts together and he’d already recorded two songs from Next to Normal translated into German. I also knew Thomas Borchert (Dan) as a performer so the only ones left unknown were Dominik Hees (Henry) and Ramin Dustdar (Dr. Madden).

Staging-wise I was almost 100% sure that it would be a not that original production (and I was right, I have a strange feeling it copied most of the staging and staging-ideas from the Broadway production, it even has the same set, only a lot smaller and fitted exactly onto that stage) in some points it worked well, in some it didn’t – at least in my point. There were so many hits showing a very specific way of reading the material, but in my opinion they were too few to actually be a way of reading the material. If you know what I mean.

For example there were some moments in which Gabe gives things to people (his mother and sister in particular) that might actually destroy them or the things around them (Natalie only ‘finds’ her mother’s pills after Gabe put them in front of her…) but I have a strange feeling this thought wasn’t taken as far as it could have been.

Anyway, I wasn’t there to see a brilliant production, I was there because I really wanted to see this cast and I was too curious about the translation by Titus Hoffmann (who was also the director). I am very picky about translations and I have to say as sad (and funny at the same time) as some things (aka mishaps…) in this translation are it has its great lines. One of my favourite lines is the translation of “Can you tell me, what it is you’re afraid of” (Dan in “I am the one”) into “Kannst du sagen, was es ist, dass dir Angst macht” (“Can you tell me, what it is you are fearing”), I think what Diana is experiencing is in deed fear. And “Angst” is actually a word that sounds very much like what it means. Note: If you’re a regular visitor to my blog you might already know that I’m weird…

As far as the mishaps are concerned I won’t get started. The funniest moment is in fact during “I am the one” right when Dan reaches the end of his arguments and he bursts into singing-shouting “Oh YEAH YEAH” and I’m not even sure about how ridiculous that is in English but I’m pretty sure it’s the most ridiculous things of the ridiculous in German. I actually had to laugh in the auditorium. And I couln’d stop. It was very sad, because it’s one of my favourite songs. For a really sad one….no, I won’t even get into writing about the translation of “Superboy and the invisible girl”. No. NO!

But, let’s talk about the performers. Sadly the men didn’t really catch me, no. I don’t know if he was ill or this throat was sore, but Mr. Johnston had to do some scary things with his voice in both shows I saw making him sound like he has no body at all. He really didn’t sound like I remembered his voice – but he did some acrobatics with/on/around a pole connecting the two floors of the set and he did that well, I have to give him that. You didn’t see that much of Ramin Dustdar, his Dr. Fine with a huge viennese accent was quite funny. I liked Dominik Hees’ portray of Henry and I like Henry as a character (can I have a Henry, please?). Thinking about Thomas Borchert as Dan (“Oh YEAH YEAH!”) I come to the conclusion that I really, really liked his acting. Especially in the last third of the show when everything is really concentrated on the acting (no light-effects, almost no colours….) I realized how much of a strong actor he is.

Now….the ladies. Pia Douwes might have shown me the strongest performance of a female actor in musical theatre I saw this year (the male one HAS to be Norbert Leo Butz. Like…there’s not even room for discussion). Her Diana is so fragile and over the top and strong at the same time, she’s clueless and over-reacting and Mrs. Douwes voice gives a very specific tone to all of these characteristics. Right in the beginning she just takes you along with her on Diana’s journey through the plot. From what I saw in videos her Diana thinks kind of more clearly than Alice Ripley’s and some might say: A clear Diana, really? And then I say: How much scarier is that when you see someone seeming to be so clear in her head and then doing these strange things? Because, yes, she does strange things and they develop from a – what seems to be – clear state of mind. Regarding her singing: I’m still a little speechless after two weeks… (I’m very looking forward to the recording, they announced a live recording of that production shortly after my visit.) I still can’t get over how intense that performance was. By the way the same applies to the performance of her ‘daughter’ portrayed by Sabrina Weckerlin. She definitely can play funny (we learned that there) and sad and crazy but most of all: She can act! Yay! I was proven right! And I especially liked the chemistry between those to ladies – and their voices. They both have very strong voices, of course, and very special, unmistakable ones – but very different from each other. That being said they didn’t mix well, the didn’t blend in together that much – a thing that many people might dislike but for Diana and Natalie I loved that. Those two characters are so alike and so different from each other at the same time it is actually great that the actresses can sing together and not together at the same time. (if that makes any sense at all)

Now two weeks after my visit I love that Next to Normal was brought to Germany with that kind of a kick-off-production and it even was reviewed on the very serious German theatre critic website Nachtkritik, which mostly reviews straight plays only. For any musical theatre expert media I am very excited for the review in the German musical theatre magazine musicals. But while I’m waiting for that I’ll read the libretto and the score for my dramaturgical concept of a piece of my choice for my admission exam in dramaturgy in musical theatre.

Have you ever seen any production of Next to Normal, maybe even the one in Fürth? I would be very happy if you shared your thoughts!

Broadway Up Close

IMG_2545After I published my Broadway thoughts/reviews/whatever you wanna call it here, I thought I’d share a Broadway-related activity with you I really enjoyed.

Somewhere in spring I read on playbill.com (best website yet, where I get all my B’way-knowlegde) about Broadway Up Close Walking Tours and since I enjoy Broadway and walking tours I booked a tour for my mother and myself. (small disclaimer here: Broadway Up Close is in no way sponsoring me, all thoughts are my own)

On Oct. 1st, 1pm we met Tim, owner of BUC and our guide, in front of the Nederlander Theatre (currently home to Newsies, the show we saw the night before) along with our two fellow tour-goers, a married couple from San Diego (I believe). From there we started our almost two hours long tour into Broadway history. I consider myself to be some kind of Broadway-“expert” (as far as being an expert can go living on another continent….), I’m a frequent visitor to playbill.com and broadway.com and I spend hours and hours on gaining more knowledge of Broadway-repertoire because someday it will come in handy when I might be a dramaturg for musical theatre. But almost everything of what Tim told us was completely new to me. Mostly historical stuff (which I love.) and the magical things about Broadway’s early history. I’m very into digging up old pieces of information or discovering new things about old stuff like Tim did at Belasco Theatre (also known as Broaway’s most haunted theatre).

All the time during the tour you can definitely see Tim loving what he does and loving Broadway (‘s history). He knew that my mother’s English wasn’t that good and he talked rather fast and at one point he walked up to me and asked “How’s mom doing?” which I found very caring (she was doing just fine, she loved his way to talk and act something out from time to time….). For everyone who wants to take the tour I don’t want to spoil anything so I will not go into detail here, I’ll just end saying for Broadway lovers it’s definitely worth the money and the time.
I loved it!

Pippin on Broadway

ImageThere’s a funny story about me and Pippin.
When I first read about the revival of Stephen Schwartz’ Pippin on Broadway and I also read that Bob Fosse was being mentioned as some kind of inspriring person I new that I need to see that. (our trip to NYC already had been booked by then)

As time was passing and I really didn’t want to get into booking tickets for the shows I realized that Pippin actually had been nominated for 10 Tony Awards – so I booked our tickets to see it literally in the week before the Tony’s and Pippin ended up winning 4 out of their 10 nominations. You could say I was quite lucky – because basically the show sold so many tickets after the awards, that it might have been hard to find tickets.

When we sat down on our seats in the Music Box Theatre (we went on Oct 1st, a Tuesday, we thought it started at 7pm, it did start at 8pm….better than the other way round, right?) we already were Broadway-pros with three shows already under our belt. And we weren’t too easy to touch anymore.
You remember me writing about me not liking to many things to go on onstage at the same time like showing off things? And yes, again, Pippin does that but it’s not like some random person came and went like: “Hey, I found these Hobos outside our Stage Door, they can do funny things like hand stands and jumping through hoops, let’s just do something with them!” (therefore it was okay and I’m sure if I had been older my stage manager- and assistant director-self would have died of serveral heart attacks because of the circus tricks)

The show basically follows a “play in a play”-dramaturgy. There are circus artists lead by the Leading Player (originated as a male part, in the revival played by the perfect and stunning Patina Miller) in their tent, with trapeze and everything acting out the coming of age story of Pippin son of Charles The Great (for the German readers: Karl der Große).
They are – more or less – comparable to the mechanicals from A Midsummer Night’s Dream acting something they don’t really now and they need help with (here provided by the Leading Player who gives them instructions on how to…) or some of Brecht’s plays. The circus setting gives the story the craziness which – in my opinion – is needed to display the weirdness of the story and the mania of Leading Player as some kind of dictator over his/her actors.

This revival is – for the most part – some kind of circus show. People showing off their tricks and dancing very (very, very, very!) fancy and gorgeous chereographies in Bob Fosse’s style, top hats, colourful costumes, Clowns doing funny things. But at some point, midway through the second half it changes and suddenly becomes a ‘real’ coming of age-story and one about emanzipation, the characters leave the parts they play in the Pippin-storyline and become ‘real’ humans. Of course they are not real by any means but more real than the artificial characters they play in the saga.

Although – as already said – that plot and the setting is rather simple it’s a nice production even besides the Cirque du Soleil-artists. Even though they are acrobatical highlights they are exposed only very few times during the show. Mostly there is so much going on at the same time (some walking on hand here, someone climbing a pole there….) that only “virtuosity on the whole” is shown and not by all means the virtuosity of someone on his own.
As someone who spend a rather large ammount of her studies thinking and writing about performances of travesty – men portraying women, women portraying men the performance of Patina Miller is stuck in my head as a very special performance. Writing about that here, now would be boring for most people and to only give my final thought on that: I’m glad they let a women take her chance on playing the Leading Player. Very, very, very glad.

My Week #10 Oct. 7th – 13th

what I saw 
sadly I didn’t make it to see any theatrical performance at all. So all I was left with was the latest episodes of the TV shows I watch.

what I read    
MIchael Riedel’s theatre column. random news on the internet.

what I listened to
basically all I listened to was the recording of First Date I brought home from NYC as well as “Wheels of a Dream” from the original Broadway recording of Ragtime. And “Fight the dragons” from Big Fish which I found some videos of…

what I bought 
an avocado! Yay!

what I did  
I de-jetlagged. I worked two nights, worked at my university job and I met my new classmates for the first time. We’ll see how they are next week.

where I travelled
Rostock, Baltic Sea. For work, we drove up there and returned the same night after the performance.