I just got to go to New York for a week and see a bunch of shows. That’s literally all we did – we just saw shows. Eight of them, actually. In a week. And ya girl wanted to write some brief reviews for all of them!! So here we are.
Thankfully, I liked every single show I saw this trip at least to some degree. I’m going to be ranking these on enjoyment, but bear in mind that I am very much a musical girl and am extremely biased. Basically, I loved all of these. Not much of a review.
Assassins – Sat. matinee, 3.5 stars
Asssasins is about killing presidents. No, really; it’s about every single person who has tried to kill a president. Did you know that two women have tried, and both did so within twenty days of each other? I didn’t either. As a musical, I loved this, but there were a few flaws in production.
If you like Sondheim’s style, or even tolerate it, you’ll probably like this musical. It’s the same strange blend of thematic significance and humor as his normal fair.
So my issue wasn’t with the show, it was with the production. First of all, there was the very weak set. But that could’ve been ignored if not for one thing – the cast was not given enough time to prepare. I saw this musical at a five-day showcase at Civic Center, and unfortunately, it showed. In terms of acting, everyone was quite solid – I especially liked a few performers. I loved the John Wilkes Booth (not a sentence I ever thought I’d say), the man on the stage who sings “why did you do it” with Booth, the Manson Murderer girl, and the Santa Claus dude. Yet even they were under-rehearsed. There were some obvious dropped cues and missed lines, and at one point the cast had their books out. At another point, someone went onstage when they were obviously not needed. She played it off quite well, but you could still tell what had happened.
Come From Away – Thursday, 4 stars
I really enjoyed this!! This is one of the most <I>hopeful</I> musical I’ve ever seen.
Come From Away doesn’t focus on any specific character, so there aren’t many solos; instead, the show used gorgeous harmony to evoke emotion. This differentiates the show from just any show, as well as leading to some really gorgeous musical builds. That being said, I think I would have preferred more character focus and development.
Not my favorite ever, but definitely a show to see.
Chicago – Friday, 4 stars
This was great, obviously. I’ve never seen Chicago live before, so it was fun to contrast this to the movie.
The major difference between the show and the movie is the aspect of comedy. In the movie, Cell Block Tango is eerie and almost terrifying with its musical build. In the show, it’s amusing. Same with Mama’s Good To You. Most of the comedic songs were a lot of fun, but I didn’t think those two should’ve been comedic. It’s a really big change and I have to admit, I liked the balance of horror and comedy better in the movie.
Obviously, Chicago is focused around the dance aspect. I have to admit that while I loved the dancing, some of it should be edited at this point. Yes, it’s been around for 50 years. The fact remains that the I Can’t Do It Alone choreo is kind of horrifyingly bad.
Aside from the dancing, I also found the story occasionally disjointed. Chicago is a fabulous show, but it can’t decide what it’s focusing on until the final number.
We actually had a swing actress, Robyn Hurder, for Roxie, and she was fabulous!! I absolutely loved her vulnerability as it contrasted with her selfishness. A part of me despised her, yet I still felt for her. This actress also had some great dancing, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure she was cast for her fabulous acting above anything else. I can’t believe she was a swing. I loved all the side characters as well; Mama was especially amazing.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t as big a fan of the Velma. Her acting and dancing was okay, but her physicality felt all wrong for the character. My mother loved her for the role, so maybe this was just my own interpretation of the character taking over.
Indecent – Wed. Matinee, 4.5 stars
For our Wednesday matinee, my mother and I decided to try this year’s best director of a play winner. Indecent is about a Jewish theater company that managed to get the first-ever kiss between two women onto Broadway in the 1920s. Wow, this made me cry. The ending scenes about love surviving? The two women metaphorically living on? Goodnight. This hit my mother emotionally harder than it hit me, surprisingly. We had an understudy for one of the girls, but I couldn’t tell at all; the whole cast was stunning, especially her.
I do think it went on a bit too long. My heart was absolutely shattered ten minutes before the end and then it… just… kept… going. The actual ending was lovely, but the earlier one almost made me sadder with the same message. Ending #2 left me a little underwhelmed in comparison.
The Play That Goes Wrong – Wednesday, 4.5 stars
After the matinee performance of Indecent, we needed something less heartbreaking. This was just the thing. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a show. This play is a comedy following a mystery play put on by a terrible theater troupe, and as suggested by the title, everything goes wrong. Not just the acting, either; the whole set collapses at one point.
It’s just a comedy, yes, but this is a very high-quality show. While there were a few jokes that got repeated too many times, the continuity throughout the show is impressive. Many of the one-liners translated into further jokes an entire act later.
Anastasia – Saturday, 4.5 stars
This was great!! Anastasia is a lot more of a traditional show and doesn’t necessarily do anything new. And you know what, that’s fine. It’s a fantastically acted and fun ride. This isn’t a musical that will change anyone’s life, but it’s a great one full of catchy songs.
I actually got to go backstage for this because my mother is friends with John Bolton, who plays Vlad. So I’m a little biased towards the performers. But I really loved everyone. I’m really sad the lead actress, Christy Altomare, didn’t get nominated. Her voice alone deserves ten nominations; she can sing like a fucking angel. But her acting was fabulous too, especially in a scene close to the end (I won’t spoil). I loved Dimitri and everyone else too!! I especially loved Ramin Karimloo as Gleb, the Russian man who is sent to kill Anya. He was just unbelievably talented, especially in terms of voice. My favorite performance was probably Caroline O’Connor as Lili, the lady in waiting, who was just hilarious. The acting of The Countess and the Common Man was absolute comedy gold.
In terms of music this was also great. I especially loved the song Russia of Days Past!! The staging of this deserves a shoutout as well, flipping between locations believably in very short periods of time.
Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 – Tuesday, 5 stars
I get why people thought this deserved the Tony now!! I’m still team DEH, but this was lovely.
The music and vocal selection of this is very abstract and different. There are no vocal themes. It’s purposeful, and it somehow works very well, especially onstage. I’d almost compare the dissonance to one of my personal fave underrated musicals, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It’s both the worst and best thing about this show. My favorite songs were probably Charming and the Prologue.
I also appreciated the race-blind casting!! And damn, did it lead them to some fabulous actors. Denee Benton absolutely kills it, with one of the best voices I’ve heard. I just found out via Wikipedia that I saw Oak Onaodowan’s first night ever, and I have to say I’m pretty shocked; his performance rocked so much. (And his actor bio begins with the sentence “surprisingly, I haven’t only done Hamilton”.) I also really loved Amber Grey as Helene and Ingrid Michaelson, one of my favorite singers, as Sonja.
Also, random thought, but this is one of the most subtextually gay shows I’ve ever seen, especially considering it revolves around a love triangle.
Dear Evan Hansen – Sun. matinee, 5 stars
This was the second time I’ve gotten to see DEH. It’s one of my favorite musicals of all time, maybe with the exception of my real fave (Fun Home), so this review contains bias.
This time, we were missing both Rachel Bay Jones and Ben Platt. So now seems the perfect time to talk acting.
Let’s just get this out of the way: the swing for Evan is fabulous. Seriously, he was great. If I didn’t know Ben was the lead, I would not have thought Connor (yes, that’s really his name) was an understudy. I definitely liked Ben a little more, but they’re both fabulous and engaging. Unfortunately, the understudy for Rachel Bay Jones wasn’t as impressive. She was fine, but that role needs to be better than fine.
All the side actors are fabulous as always. Mike Faist (Connor Murphy) is hilarious and heartbreaking. I’m going to be honest and say I don’t love the singing voice of Laura Dreyfuss (Zoe Murphy), but her acting skills are too fantastic for me to want anyone else for the role. I also really love Will Roland’s acting as Jared. I really want to shout out EVERYONE here, because every single actor is so talented. They definitely cast for acting and not singing in this show.
Maybe my one complaint (that’s not a result of having a swing) was the overmiking. Everything sounded fabulous except some of the worded harmonies, which were hard to understand. This was most noticeable during Good For You. The only other song in the show with harmonies on words, rather than on “o-oh,” is You Will Be Found. I didn’t notice any issues during that song, but that might be because I was crying so hard.
To that point – I still can’t get through this show without crying. Yes, this show relevant and important. But I think what I like most about it is how emotionally in-touch it all feels. You Will Be Found is one of the most emotionally cathartic Broadway songs of all time. It makes more sense in context, but if you haven’t listened to the musical yet, please give this specific song a listen at the very least.
To wrap up, I hope you all enjoyed my reviews!! I’m really glad we got to see all these shows – it’s a treat I probably will never repeat.