Monday, July 18, 2022

Weekly Margin 2022, W30: The Ninth Hour

What: Joe's Pub presents a concert of Kate Douglas and Shayfer James's new rock-noir musical adaptation of the epic Beowulf.
And? Really cool music and some great voices. I'll be very interested to see where this goes next. (they also gave us a brief interval of songs from some of their other projects, an adaptation of three Poe stories and one of Faust) Special giant shoutout to the two ASL interpreters who conveyed so much character, emotion and journey through each lyric repetition.

Photo source.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Weekly Margin 2022, W29: Into the Woods

What: The Broadway transfer of the celebrated Encores! production of the beloved Sondheim/Lapine fairy tale mashup.
And? It's basically the same show I saw at Encores! in May, with some cast changes. And maybe it's on me for assuming that a Broadway transfer from a concert staging would also expand itself to be a full production, like Finian's Rainbow or Gypsy did, rather than pulling a Chicago. So since there's not much new for me to discuss, we'll just do some popcorn:
  • It's nice that the Encores! orchestra and Rob Berman got to come with the transfer, especially as this was Berman's final Encores! production.
  • I'm still disappointed there were no new choices made for this production. Yes, I loved it at Encores!, but I loved it for what it was: a well staged concert reading.
  • This is nowhere near the first time I've seen an actor go up during a Sondheim song, but it's the first time I've seen one resort to a "doo bee doo, la la" as he flailed through it (Gavin Creel eventually recovered the verse, with some help from Sara Bareilles, and the audience ate it up)
  • The "Dwarves/Dwarfs/Dwarfs" moment was just ... I was laughing for the next five minutes, it was so dumb and hilarious.
  • Relatedly, Joshua Henry (Rapunzel's Prince) should do more comedy.
  • Also relatedly, Joshua Henry should do more everything because he's so damn good I can't stand it.
  • Literally I grabbed my friend Beth's arm as she simultaneously grabbed my arm when he began to sing, it is RUDE how beautiful his voice is.
  • Brian d'Arcy James (Baker), also rude. Made me cry with his "No More."
  • Please tell me we're getting a cast album. I'm so tired of not getting cast albums with BDJ's voice on them.
  • Patina Miller (Witch) is fine but doesn't has as much vocal color or emotional texture as Heather Headley did.
  • This is such a minor nitpick, but if Cinderella's going to throw the sixth bean into the audience, wouldn't it be the most badass thing if Act One ended with a beanstalk climbing up in the audience too? Follow Cursed Child's example and send us into intermission freaking out!
  • I am quietly stoked to see Aymee Garcia, who used to understudy Ann Harada in Avenue Q, inherit Jack's Mother from Harada, and absolutely own the part. Nice to see an understudy make good.
  • Speaking of understudies making good, Cameron Johnson was on for Milky White, and was absolutely wonderful throughout.
  • Love to see Nancy Opel (Stepmother) but she is criminally underused for the talent and voice we know she has.
  • Phillipa Soo makes a three course meal out of Cinderella's midnight spills, and I fucking love it. A+ rule of three and escalation.
  • Weird weird choice for "Hello, Little Girl," where the Wolf has been desexualized and yet Little Red gets flirty toward the end with her "Goodbye, Mister Wolf," and y'all this has always been a pretty explicit predator (and pedo) narrative, and I'm not comfortable with any hint that the actual child is the sexual aggressor.
  • Julia Lester and Cole Thompson remain adorable, hilarious, and in great voice as Little Red and Jack.
  • Casting a tenor as Cinderella's Prince has rendered the vocals in the show, by and large, on the high end, with Joshua Henry's liquid baritone grounding us.
  • Spoiler: twins! Such a cute reveal.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Weekly Margin 2022, W28: Lessons in Survival: 1971

What: Vineyard Theatre presents a play based on Nikki Giovanni's 1971 SOUL! interview with James Baldwin. This piece, conceived and created with The Commissary, continues Vineyard's exploration of documentary theater, and was originally presented digitally in 2020 as part of the Lessons in Survival series.
And? Consummately done. I could listen to Carl Clemons-Hopkins talk for hours in their deep melodic voice, and it is so thrilling to see the powerful and warm Crystal Dickinson in another great performance in less than a year. Amith Chandrashaker's lighting design does so much to sculpt the space and individual moments, bringing the two characters into smaller and more intimate lighting as the discussion digs deeper and deeper into these two great minds' guiding tenets. I will admit I didn't often understand what Josiah Davis's video and projection design was doing, but it didn't undermine the experience for me, so I don't mind (James Wilson's review on Talkin Broadway shows deeper insight into this--probably aided by a slightly higher seat than mine, as I could barely see the sea of static from the second row--so I'm linking it here). The conversation, though rooted in the issues most on their minds at 1971, is infuriatingly still relevant today, in the ways Black bodies and Black artists aren't allowed to simply exist, and the systems in place to keep them from rising. I can see why The Commissary saw the need to revive this conversation, to discuss these issues with such incisive clarity, so that we can, as the program note quotes, "Listen. To hear, not to respond./We need each other./To love is a tremendous responsibility./It's the only one to take. There isn't any other."

Carl Clemons-Hopkins and Crystal Dickinson as James Baldwin and
Nikki Giovanni. Photo by Carol Rosegg.