Great Comet, Great Birthday

Saturday. Matinee. My 22nd birthday. Great Comet

I left Los Angeles for New York two days before my 22nd birthday with tickets for only one show (Bandstand) and an idea of what other shows I wanted to see. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 was at the top of the list. So when I was able to buy next-day matinee tickets at TKTS I was absolutely beside myself.

I had listened to the Off-Broadway Cast Recording for about a year before leaving for New York and had fallen in love with the story and the show itself. I knew that some changes would be made but I had absolutely no idea about how I would feel during this show.IMG_4309.jpg

We, my mother and myself, rolled up to the Imperial Theatre in an Uber after getting myself a birthday blowout at DryBar, ready for what this show would become. Upon entering the theatre, I was immediately transported and disoriented. This is not what a Broadway theatre typically looks like, I felt cramped and a bit like Kimmy Schmidt, trapped in a bunker. But after following the crowd through the entry, I was once more transported into a lush, lavish, and absolutely beautiful Russian supper club.

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When the lights went down and the actors came out to discuss the rules of the club, I was instantly committed to the show. And then they won me over once more by handing out boxes of potato and onion perogies, which I was lucky enough to find myself in possession of. I was in love.

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The lights dimmed, the chandelier rose, and the show began. The prologue makes me so happy with the repeating verses which are insanely helpful. I find that by repeating the names of who is who, it helps the audience get a better grasp of the characters and their personalities.

I wasn’t a fan of Josh Groban, not that I didn’t like him, I just hadn’t had much exposure to his music. I knew him from the 2008 UK Concert of Chess, and thought he was wonderful in that. But he truly shines as Pierre and I feel lucky to see him make his Broadway debut. I also knew that as a fun fact he attended LACHSA, which is one of the high schools that are basically on my college campus.

As for Denée Benton, I actually saw her 3 years ago in the National Tour of Book of Mormon as Nabulungi. From what I remember, she was great in that. As Natasha, however, she soared. I cannot imagine someone more suited for this role than her. Her performance was so wonderful and she truly embodied that naive, love-struck character that is Natasha. Also, this being her Broadway debut was pretty exciting.

For me, however, the absolute standout of the show was Lucas Steele as Anatole. He was able to exude the charm and stubbornness that the character requires all while singing his little heart out. He was funny and, God, he was so charming.

When I woke up on Tuesday May 2, 2017 to the news that all three of these actors were Tony-nominated for their performances made my heart soar.

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A criticism I have heard about the show is that they speak a lot of their actions and some people do not like that. But I think it’s genius for two reasons. ONE, the show has pretty much redesigned the Imperial Theatre and the actors are performing around you all the time, including up in the mezzanine and at the back of the orchestra so nearly ever seat has some sort of obstruction, and so the actions being narrated is necessary. TWO, the show is based on a 70-page section of War and Peace, a book, by narrating the actions, it stays truer to the book, as if they are reading directly out of it. I think that is brilliant.

I love that the show is interactive, the actors are playing with the audience and toasting with them. I remember that during the song Letters, Anatole sends a letter along a row in the audience to Natasha. The row happened to be comprised of mainly older people and the last in the row was an elderly lady who was supposed to give the letter to Natasha. She, obviously, couldn’t move as well as a younger person might have so it took her a bit longer than anticipated to hand the letter over, but the audience gave a big cheer as she went to sit back down, and my heart swelled.

When the cast members came out with egg shakers for Balaga and the audience couldn’t keep the rhythm of the song, I felt so much joy. I love audience participation so much when no one is singled out.

I love how different and immersive this show is. It doesn’t leave you with a warm feeling in your heart unless the idea of no one being happy or in love makes you feel warm and fuzzy. To each their own. Still, this show is special, it leaves you feeling new and refreshed and like you and these characters are given a new start.

Everything about this show, the actors, the set design, the costumes, the book, and the music come together to form a perfect art piece. Not one day has passed since I saw this show that I have not listened to the cast recordings and spoken about this show. Of the three shows I saw on that trip, this is the one that has left the biggest impact on me. The fearlessness this show has by being different than the others is so promising of the future of Broadway, and that gives me hope.

I know this seems like a rave, but thats because it is. I love Great Comet. I love this show and want nothing but the best for this show and these actors. I want to see this show a million more times and I wonder if ever this could tour. I want everyone to see this show. When my friends tell me about the trips to New York they have planned for the summer, I tell them to see this show. Even when Groban leaves in early July, Oak will come in and kick ass.

Until next time,

Katie

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Legends Take the Stage in War Paint

A Broadway fan can only dream of seeing the legends that are Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole take the stage, but can you imagine how utterly overwhelming it can be for that fan to witness them take the stage TOGETHER?! It sure is something, I tell ya.

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On April 21, 2017, I had the most wonderful pleasure of witnessing two of Broadway’s most iconic performers play two of the most iconic women of the makeup industry. Patti Lupone as Helena Rubinstein and Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden.

Upon purchasing tickets from TKTS at Lincoln Center, I was informed that Patti had been out of the show for the past few performances and it wasn’t a guarantee that she would be in the show tonight. Still, I took my chances even though I knew it was a possibility she would not be in because it was her birthday. I had faith and figured that I would at least see a new musical about strong powerful women.

There’s a rule I heard about once or twice, that if a lead will be out of show, two of three things need to happen: a notice must be posted on the board the audience sees upon entering the theatre, a flyer must be put inside the playbills, or an announcement must be made over the PA before curtain. None of these happened, but I would not believe anything until I saw her with my own eyes. And there she was, Patti Lupone in all her glory, commanding a stage like the legend she is.

The audience erupted with applause and cheers when Christine Ebersole and Patti Lupone took the stage. We all must have felt the profound energy they exude upon making their entrance. They were absolutely impossible to take your eyes off of.

Christine Ebersole’s performance was flawless. She portrayed Elizabeth Arden with such poise and class. A strong woman who understood the difficulties she was up against, making makeup a common household item rather than one saved for the stage, film, and prostitutes. When, towards the end of the second act, Arden sings about her board’s desire to step down, Ebersole showed such passion and pain for Arden who was being told subtly that she was only wanted for her name and her signature color, pink. This was the part of the show that made me feel the most emotion. For a woman to work so hard her entire life and only be summed up by a color has got to be the most dreadful experiences a woman can have.

Patti Lupone portrayed a different type of woman that Helena Rubinstein was. She was a woman who came from nothing, who worked hard to get passed the barriers set by society concerning her look and religion, strong in different ways. Both of these women had to break past the gender stereotypes and glass ceilings of the time, persevering through the second World War and helping America in what ways they could to show their alliance. Patti sounded so wonderful in her singing, though it was hard to understand. She spoke with an accent like Helena Rubinstein had, also singing in it which, when mixed with the music, ended up a cacophony. However, Lupone brought humor and wit and power to the stage, that I feel blessed to have witnessed.

The sets were so intricate and the costumes reflecting the time so that the audience could differentiate between the 30 years the show takes place. There’s a definite stylistic difference between the Arden and Rubinstein salons, Arden’s being more feminine and Rubinstein’s being more clinical.

My only critical comment about the show is that the fact that they were women was brought up quite a bit. Hear me out for a second. Obviously, we all know the hurdles women had to go through then and continue to go through, bringing it up over and over again is just redundant. We know these women were powerful and commanded companies successfully, but you can show their power without talking about that gender gap. Personally, I believe that only widens the divide and makes it a bigger issue by enforcing the idea that women were/are not as powerful as men. Clearly, they are and can be.

This show was the epitome of a lavish Broadway musical, the sets, the costumes, the legends on stage are what the show really has going for it.

La La Land is a Feminist Film!

As I’m sure a lot of people know, the movie La La Land has been surrounded by a lot of buzz in both conversations and award shows for the past couple of weeks. This is all for good reason, because this movie is like nothing I have ever seen.
Movie musicals are something that seem so rare these days, but when you think back to a lot of the classic early Hollywood movies, and even up to the 1960’s, most of them are musicals: Singin’ in the Rain, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Music Man, The Wizard of Oz, and the list goes on. Seeing a brand new musical set in today’s Los Angeles about passionate people trying to achieve their dreams just simply warms my heart. 
From the get-go I was excited about this movie because of the names attached to it. Not Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, we’ll get back to them, but Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the lyricists. I have been a fan of Dogfight since it premiered Off-Broadway years ago, and from what I’v heard of A Christmas Story and Dear Evan Hansen I knew that at least the songs would be good. I was not disappointed. 
The first number “Another Day of Sun” is such a fantastic song. In my opinion, this song sums up living in Los Angeles and trying to remain hopeful in the pursuit of dreams. I am from the Los Angeles area, I go to school in the city, I have interned in the city, and I am constantly seeing theatre in and around the city. I understand why people want to live here, why they move here. We do have wonderful weather, I mean as I write this it is currently 65 degrees in January which apparently is not the norm for most parts of the country. Los Angeles does have a lot of beautiful parts, the skyline, the beaches, and Disneyland. I love being able to surround myself with culture in museums, art, and theatre, I understand and appreciate how lucky I am to be living here. I think that this first number is so much more impactful for those who are here. We just have to keep doing what we need to do to get to where we want to be. Also, as a side note, this song has basically been on repeat in my car for the past three weeks.
I also really enjoy the way this film was shot. I think that Damien Chazelle is such a wonderful director, especially during the song and dance scenes. They all seem to be single-shot scenes which make the talent of those on screen that much more visible. There are no cutaways to other, more trained dancer’s feet pretending to be Mia and Sebastian, they hold on the action in wide shots and makes it feel that much more like a Broadway dance number. In “Another Day of Sun”  the camera follows dancer to dancer as new people come into shot, and it just feels like we are getting a glimpse at each of these dancer’s personalities. It’s different than other movies and media of today where there are jump cuts to avoid pauses in order to maintain attention spans. Its refreshing. 
The use of block colors in the sets and costumes make the film so beautiful and exciting and aesthetically pleasing to watch for two hours. It makes it so simple and easy, not distracting from the story that is going on. 
Something that seems to be an issue for some people is that they believe that this movie is not feminist. I whole-heartedly disagree. I understand where they are getting it from, a man is teaching a woman about music, telling her what she should do, but there are such feminist aspects to this film. For starters, Mia heard the music from the street, was intrigued by it and entered the restaurant by herself because she liked what she heard. Mia worked the job she had to work in order to be able to surround herself with what she loves and audition to be a part of it all. When Mia realized that she wasn’t getting any parts, she wrote her own part, produced it, and performed it. She was so happy with this decision and even though only a few people showed up, there was “Someone in the Crowd” who saw her work, really enjoyed her storytelling, and brought her in to audition for a role that would change her life and allow her to achieve her dreams. Also, there is nothing anti-feminist with following the advice of a man, she clearly didn’t even think to write a play before he brought it up. Sebastian is nothing but supportive of Mia, he believes in her when she was lost and it doesn’t even cross his mind that her gender could even possibly be a hinderance to success in her career and aspirations. If women following the advice and teachings of men is seen as anti-feminist, then people surely do not understand what feminism truly is. 
This film tells such a phenomenal story of following dreams and learning how to forge your own path. This film shows that what some consider to be a “typical” path might not work for everyone, and that lesson is something that can be applied to anyone who feels a little lost in their career path. I just so happen to be one of those people. 
I love getting to watch people who are so passionate about something, especially creative arts, and seeing them work towards achieving those goals. Watching characters that you can relate to go through situations that are similar to yours and working through their tough times can be so inspiring and helpful that your can get through anything. 
Now, to talk about Ryan and Emma’s performances in this film. Emma Stone starred as Sally Bowles in Cabaret a few years back, so I knew that she had to have some singing and dancing chops. I was so impressed with her work, her dancing seemed so natural that I’m surprised we haven’t seen anything like this from her before. Her singing wasn’t Broadway belting, but the role did not require it and I think that she did such a wonderful job doing what was given to her. I think that Emma Stone is such a wonderful, comedic actress and knowing that she is capable of something like this makes me completely ecstatic for what is to come from this. 
Part of me remembers in the way back of my brain the small fact that Ryan Gosling was a member of the Mickey Mouse Club, a TV show just a little before my time in which the members would sing and dance. I knew he was on this show as a kid, meaning he had to have been able to sing and dance a little as a child, but I think the collective American memory has forgotten this over the past twenty years. Clearly, he has brushed up on his skills and put them to use in this film where he danced gracefully.
Seeing these two perform the way they did in this film warms my heart and makes me so happy. I have a feeling that the silver screen will be seeing a couple more movie musicals in the coming years as an answer to this. In the past few years it seems like the American public has been allowing themselves to be open to musicals on a bigger scale than just Broadway. I mean, part of me is still impressed Smash was created, produced, and aired for two seasons. This and the fact that NBC has been doing live musicals for the past 4 years and now Fox has gotten in on the game. I am so excited to see where this leads for the production of musicals not just on Broadway but on film and television. I am inspired, I am hopeful, and I am loving every minute of it.