Tuesday, October 23, 2012

M. Bitter's October Recommendations

Recently I got an email from a friend looking for theater recommendations for her parents who were coming into town.  I thought I would try something new on the blog and make some recommendations beyond my reviews.  If it is helpful or interesting I might make it a regular thing. If you hate it, well I'm sure you'll tell me.

One of the hardest things about recommending shows is that everyone likes very different material.  My stepfather will only see musicals that are funny.  I'm sure there are other people who want to see only shows they have heard of or already know the music to.   But maybe you do not know where to start and you need a quick list of some ideas to recommend to family or friends coming to town.  or maybe you are planning a trip to New York and would like to know what's happening this month. 

Here is a list of some suggestions that you can either consider or ignore....because we live in a democracy.  I think...it's still a democracy right?  Well at least until Election Day.

Let's give this a whirl, shall we.

Recommended for...

...Out of Towners/Tourists/Once a Year Theater Goers

Annie:  Little orphan, abandoned dog, orphanage related shenanigans.  Something familiar, musical and good for the family.  I wasn't particularly interested in this show until they cast Tony award winner Katie Finneran as Miss Hannigan and Anthony Warlow (Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables) as Daddy Warbucks.  But they are performers worth seeking out.  I haven't seen it yet but it's definitely one to consider if you need a family musical. 

Newsies:  Newsboys strike against Joseph Pulitzer but there is also love, adventure, and a young man trying to figure out who he is.  Another family option, based on the Disney movie, this musical is more appealing to those tween girls or ladies who are still girls at heart because there are lots of cute boys, high flying choreography and some delightful ballads.  Uplifting and very enjoyable.  Everyone will leave with a favorite Newsie...though you cannot actually take them home.   Do not try this.  That is kidnapping.  My review here.  Though Jeremy Jordan is no longer in the cast (loud, girlish sigh), I've heard good things about the actor who replaced him as Jack Kelly.  Discount tickets here.

The Heiress:  Awkward single woman and heiress living with her wealthy father on the elegant Washington Square meets a handsome ne'er do well and falls in love despite her father's suspicions that the man is only out to get her money. Traditional costume drama for grown-ups.  It's got pedigree since it is based on the Henry James novel Washington Square.  Older folks (or those who like old movies) may be familiar with the 1949 film version starring Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift (dreamy).  It stars Downton Abbey favorite Cousin Matthew Crawley, or as he is actually known in life, Dan Stevens, film star Jessica Chastain (The Help, Tree of Life) making her Broadway debut, and well-known character actors David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck, Eight Men Out) and Judith Ivey.  It's serious drama for the most part but nothing too outrĂ© and if you like period dramas then you might enjoy it.  People clapped for the gorgeous set when the curtain came up. 

Cyrano de Bergerac:  As an alternative to The Heiress.  Swordsman and giant-nose bearer, falls in love with his cousin Roxane, but she loves his handsome and irresistible army co-hort Christian.  Cyrano helps Christian woo Roxane because Cyrano is a poet and Christian is a hottie and together they form the wonder-twins...or something like that.  Then there's a war and bloody battle is never good for romance.  Starring Tony Award winner Douglas Hodge Cyrano is an oft-revived play and there is a lot in Hodge's performance worth seeing here.  Again, a period drama with a little bit more comedy and lightness than The Heiress. My review here.

The Other Josh Cohen:  Do you like fun and laughter and a bit of silliness thrown in?  If so, this is my pick for you.  About a down on his luck guy who is not sure if a check that he finds in the mail is meant for him--maybe his luck is actually turning around.  Sweet, cute, and very funny 80 minute new musical playing Off-Broadway.  Affordable tickets.  Neil Diamond-style music with catchy tunes and comic lyrics.  A feel-good, rom-com of sorts.  My interview with the co-creator and star here.

...The More Adventurous, But Not Too Too Weird

Once:  Winner of Best Musical.  Based upon the film of the same name about a street performer and a Czech immigrant who help each other out musically and otherwise.  Full of well-known indie music makes it feel like it's not an old traditional Broadway show.  It's got gorgeous cast members you are sure to fall in love with conveniently named Guy (Steve Kazee) and Girl (Cristin Milioti) in the show so you can fill in your own fantasy names for them.  It's a bittersweet love story so probably not the show for your anniversary night out, but as a regular night out to the theater you'll probably think back on it fondly.  My review of the Off-Broadway version of this show here.


If There is I Haven't Found It Yet:  This Off-Broadway British play addresses issues of bullying, global warming, chaos, violence and family drama.  The cast is very strong and the director has chosen a very unusual staging technique that is something to see.  It stars Jake Gyllenhaal.  For those who moon over him, here's a chance to see him in the flesh.  With the heady topics of the play, it might give you some worthwhile discussion afterwards but it is not light-hearted that's for sure.  Also 90 minutes with no intermission, so it's a quickie.

...Snobs/Theater Aficionados/Those Who Like It Weird

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?:  Classic American play about a husband and wife who invite a couple over for drinks and the liquor-soaked evening goes wildly off the rails. Maybe you've seen the fantastic film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, which was Mike Nichols cinematic directorial debut. Tough and dynamic material but not for the faint-hearted.  Also NOT for your anniversary night out.  Funny, explosive, powerful performances.  My review here.  Discount tickets here.

Tribes:  Fascinating British family drama involving a hearing family and their adult deaf son who falls in love with a girl who is losing her hearing.   Inventive staging and beautiful writing combine together to form a thought-provoking and emotionally invigorating night at the theater.  My review (which included some cast members who have since left the production) here.  Discount tickets here.

Wooster Group's Hamlet:  It's Hamlet--Danish prince, mother marries father's brother, dead King haunts son, Ophelia, madness, everyone dies.  I haven't seen it yet but it is a show I am very much looking forward to.  Many nights are already sold out but if you are looking to see an experimental, deconstructed Hamlet unlike any other then I would snap up a ticket to see this production starring downtown performer Scott Shepherd (Gatz).


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