Monday, February 18, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W7: The Cher Show, We Are The Tigers, My Fair Lady, Merrily We Roll Along, The Ferryman

2/12/19: The Cher Show
What: A musical about the life and times of icon Cher.
And? This is the show that Summer: The Donna Summer Musical wished it had been. It knows exactly what it is, and it's very good at it. Is it life changing? No, but it's a fun time, tongue firmly in cheek, eyebrow knowingly raised at both itself and the audience. Bolstered by a gorgeous costume design parade by Bob Mackie (who is also a character in the show) and three brilliant belters (Stephanie J. Block, Teal Wicks, and Micaela Diamond) as three aspects of Cher herself, the show tracks the star's triumphant rise to fame and continued place in the world's affection, without spending too much time on when that star has waned. I had a few complaints, sure--chiefly that I think the show was too quick to forgive Sonny for being such a bad partner (although, since the show is Cher's lens, if she's willing to forgive him, it makes sense that the show would try to, too. I'm just not on board with that). But on the plus column, I really appreciated that the show didn't once misgender or deadname Chaz Bono, and I enjoyed how much the different aspects of Cher (Star, Lady, Babe) supported each other, so that it was a conversation and not just taking turns as she aged up (as it was done in Summer). Also hot damn, that dance number. Hot damn. (you'll know it when you see it)

Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. Block, and Micaela Diamond as Lady, Star, and Babe.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

2/13/19: We Are The Tigers
What: A cheerleading squad for a perpetual underdog (but prestigiously private) school is having a bonding slumber party that turns surprisingly bloody. After a series of workshops and readings, this is the show's official Off-Broadway debut.
And? There's a lot of potential here, though it still needs some work. The cast is dynamic and diverse (I almost don't want to pick a favorite, but I'm doing it anyway: Cathy Ang as the bright-eyed freshman Mattie), the score is catchy (I had a few issues, including too many moments of characters singing the exact same lines underlining the lack of specificity in the lyric; some syllable/melody issues where the wrong word is getting emphasized; but it's overall enjoyable), and Ann Beyersdorfer's scenic design is pretty impressively flexible for the limitations of the space. I think my biggest issue with where the show is now is a tonal problem. The show is written as a black comedy--like Heathers or Jawbreaker, the characters (at least at the outset) are more types than complex humans--but it's not directed quite archly enough to match the text. So when it veers into the bloody, and the characters start making increasingly bad decisions, there's a disconnect. Heathers the Musical leans into the absurd and violent in a way that makes the escalation seem organic to the world; that justification and style haven't been leaned into enough yet for Tigers to make the escalations seem like the next inevitable step. But with more work, they can probably get there, and We Are The Tigers can join the pantheon of Murder Musicals like Heathers and Sweeney Todd. (thanks to Reesa Graham for her insight in the analysis of this show)

Photo by Mati Gelman.

2/15/19: My Fair Lady
a repeat visit, this time with LAURA BENANTI YOU GUYS. The production is still a mixed bag for me, in terms of design and staging (and how those two elements combine to delivery some pretty disappointing sightlines), though I still dig the ending, as honoring Shaw's intentions. Getting to see the show again, with Laura Benanti as Eliza and Danny Burstein as Alfie, I felt like I was at last seeing what this production was meant to be (don't get me wrong, I love Norbert Leo Butz generally, but this wasn't his best work, whereas Burstein stepped into it like a second skin). And BENANTI. I got emotional the moment we first see her face, finally getting to see her in a role she was born to play. She was hilarious, heartbreaking, and human (and that voice!). I'm so grateful I got to see her interpretation of the role, and am only sorry we won't get a cast album with her on it.

Laura Benanti as Eliza Doolittle. Photo by Joan Marcus.

2/16/19: Merrily We Roll Along
What: Sondheim and Furth's cult favorite/notorious flop (I love it) gets a new revival, courtesy of Fiasco Theater and Roundabout.
And? I had a lot of trepidation going in, though I love Fiasco's aesthetic, because their Into the Woods, also hosted by Roundabout, featured some sub-standard singing. Here, though, they've assembled six performers who sound great and work fluidly well together. On the whole, I think they've handled the numbers and transitions well (Mary's transformation is a particular treat), but there's something lacking in the book as it is. No, I don't mean because Merrily's book has always been a problem (though it has), but in this particular cutting, which includes a lot of paring down to get it to one act, but includes a combination of the various incarnations of the script, including the original play by Kaufman and Hart. However, I never felt, in this cutting, that the work was done to really show me who any of the characters are to each other, either forwards or backwards. Beyond that, some of the new insertions show that, with the possible exception of the final scene, no one in this story is ever really that happy when they're around each other. Normally, there's a beautiful ache in this show for me, of friendships and idealism lost; here, I didn't feel that there was anything to lose and be mourned in the first place.

Jessie Austrian, Ben Steinfeld, and Manu Narayan as Mary, Frank, and
Charley. Photo by Joan Marcus.

2/17/19: The Ferryman
a repeat visit, at what turned out to be the final performance for a number of the principal players (which made for an emotional curtain call). marvelous work.

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