The King and I on Tour

Seen: December 17, 2016
Because I love Rodgers and Hammerstein, because I love classic musicals, and because I have season tickets to the Pantages, I spent a night in Siam with Anna and the King. Having never seen the movie, but knowing my share of the music, I was expecting a nice, enjoyable night at the theatre, and that is what I got. 
 
The King and I is so very classic Rodgers and Hammerstein. So much so that it made me realize something that I, for some reason, had never noticed before: a lot of R+H shows are essentially the same story. A single, strong, leading lady (Anna, Nelly, Maria) is entering a new and unfamiliar territory where she is put up against a strong, stubborn leading man (the King, Emile, Captain Von Trap) where the two bicker and ultimately bond together and realize they complement each other in a unique way that has never happened before. Something happens with the man that the woman does not like and that causes a rift (The King lashes out, Emile has children of mixed race, and Captain Von Trap is going to marry Elsa). All the while there is an impending sense of doom lingering in the air (European imperialism, WWII, Nazi occupation) and a secondary love plot (Tuptim and Lun Tha, Lt. Cable and Liat, Liesl and Rolf) that does not end well. In some way/shape/form the leading couple reunite and make amends with usually a happy ending. 
 
I realized this about twenty minutes into the first act and therefore, the show was predictable. Because I knew essentially how this show was going to end, the story itself started to lose my attention. I found myself paying closer attention to the set and the costumes and realized just how drop dead beautiful it all was. All of Anna’s costumes were just so gorgeous, so big and classic, Catherine Zuber did such a wonderful job. I so badly wish I could just wear just one of her costumes, not the purple ball gown my best friend Nicole likes, but the final dress, the maroon one. God, that was just so beautiful to me. 
 
I was also able to focus more on the individual actors’ performances. Laura Michelle Kelly’s voice is just so pure and a true blessing. She flawlessly took on this role and disappeared into the character, which is a sign of a true great. In a video of her getting into character for Finding Neverland, she mentioned how much she enjoyed working with children and that definitely seemed to transfer to this show. She seemed to be having such a wonderful time with those talented little actors. Jose Llana was also just so great as the king. He had starred twice in the Lincoln Center production and it truly seems like he has taken this role and made it his own and feels really comfortable in it. That is always great to see. 
 
When it comes to the show itself, aside from the fact that its the same as other R+H shows, I think there are some really shitty things about the facts about the story. This isn’t so much about the show, but just about history in general and imperialism and how just fucked up that is. The fact that the King is seen as being barbaric just because of his culture is just not a great thing that happened. The Europeans thinking that they are morally and societally superior than Eastern cultures is something that I just cannot wrap my mind around. Granted, this is coming from the retrospect of a Southern Californian white girl who is of 3/4 European descent. I just do not like the idea that there are cultures that assume they are better than others just because they do not understand it. In the case of Tuptim, the fact that she was given as a gift and forced to be one of the king’s wives, that is the most barbaric thing about the culture. In this story, the other wives don’t really have any complaints about being one of the many, though maybe that is because their voices just are not heard. 
 
In all, The King and I tour was such a wonderful and beautiful production. The talent on the stage is what is the real draw for me, the voices and acting abilities and set and costume designs as opposed to the story and music. Every show has little things that make it great and had it not been for this particular cast and this direction and this lighting design and this costume design and these musicians all coming together for this production, I may not have had as great of a time as I did that night. 
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Hedwig on Broadway, Hedwig on Tour

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I was in New York City the day the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. It was Pride Month, Pride Week, and my friends and I already had plans to attend the Pride Parade at the end of the week. The day it happened there was this strange sort of excitement in the city with the give-no-fucks attitude. Obviously, being in New York, I was going to be seeing a Broadway show that night, Something Rotten! It was wonderful, it was great, but its not what this post is about. We are here to discuss Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
The day after the Supreme Court decision was made, my friends and I went to TKTS down at the South Street Seaport and, by just a random decision, bought tickets to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It was late June of 2015, Darren Criss was Hedwig, Rebecca Naomi Jones was Yitzhak, and the show was strange. It was a 90 minute confusing art piece that made absolutely no sense until the last 10 minutes. And yet, it was perfect. It was such an interesting, different, confusing character that was necessary in the world of theatre, necessary on Broadway. We were forever changed by it. Confused and elated, but changed.
Cut to— November 2016, Los Angeles, California. The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. It’s few days before this country made that decision that still leaves me befuddled. Across the street they’ve opened a Shake Shack, only adding to the feeling of being back in New York. Things are great. 
As my friend Danielle and I sit down at our table at Shake Shack, we talk about how excited we are to see this show again with an actually have an idea of what is going on. There are two older men sitting next to us, one of whom interrupts us to ask if we are excited about the show. Turns out they are going to the show tonight too. He tells us of the multiple times he’s seen this show, going all the way back to New York in 1998 at the Jane Street Theatre. He assumes we are here for Darren, and in a way, we are. To us, he is Hedwig. Neither of us have seen the movie or any other incarnations since, Darren is all we know as Hedwig, and he is all we need to know. 
Now, the show itself. Like I said earlier, its such a strange, confusing, confounding, brilliant, wonderful, and truly touching show. The show is done like a concert, telling the story from Hansel to Hedwig. Along the way we learn that there is pent up aggression and emotional issues that Hedwig has not had to face until tonight where they are all brought to the surface. You don’t see this happening until the very end and actually get a moment to truly process what you’ve just witnessed. Thats when it hits you. Thats when you feel for Hedwig and are still left with a few questions but are overall satisfied. 
My first venture into this show was after a long day in New York, it was rainy, it was hot, I was with the same girls for 3 days straight without a moment to myself. I was not necessarily in my right mind. The show was not easily digestible, so not having a clear mind is a definite hindrance, but the music was rockin’ and the atmosphere was great. Even without really understanding the show, I knew I loved it. Darren was amazing and Rebecca was terrific. I knew I didn’t know what was going on, and I knew I loved it.
My second venture into this show was much different. I spent the day at home with my family, resting, before driving to pick up Danielle (who had actually seen the show with me in New York) and heading over to the theatre. Also, by pure coincidence, a friend I hadn’t seen since high school was there and we were able to catch up, which was nice (a week later she won a contest and saw the show again with a backstage tour and meet and greet). Having an understanding of the show and the story made it easier to digest and enjoy. The local shout-outs were a blast because we actually understood them this time (I’m talking about you, West Covina). The Saturday night audience was living for this experience just as much as we were. With this better understanding and the audience vibing on the experience, the second time around was so much better. As much as I love New York, as much as I love Broadway, this second experience was pure magic. 
Now, as I’ve written before, I can be a tad impulsive. I’ve talked about my body taking over and buying Hamilton Chicago tickets without my brain even thinking about it. This morning I was talking to Danielle about how much I want to see Hedwig again and my finger slipped. We bought tickets again. I’m so excited! Third time’s the charm, so they say, but first and second were definite charmers. I’ll be sure to post an update next weekend.

 

Sometimes my impulses lead to wonderful, wonderful outcomes.