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Thread: What are you seeing? What have you seen? (Theater Edition)

  1. #466
    worth a million in prizes .chris's Avatar
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    Yeah, the one that started in London in the pie shop that transferred to NY. It was wonderful how small and intimate it was. Everything was just lit by candles. I really loved it. It was also my first time seeing a production of Sweeney Todd (I've wanted to see one for so long!).

    ETA-
    I should also mention I saw a fantastic benefit reading of the Tales of the City Musical as well. Not mind-blowing stuff, but just so much fun!
    Last edited by .chris; 12-17-2017 at 01:13 PM.

  2. #467
    'If you existed, I'd divorce you.' spyk_'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by .chris View Post
    Yeah, the one that started in London in the pie shop that transferred to NY. It was wonderful how small and intimate it was. Everything was just lit by candles. I really loved it. It was also my first time seeing a production of Sweeney Todd (I've wanted to see one for so long!).
    Oh I wish I'd seen that, it sounds wonderful. How have you managed not to see a production of Sweeney until now? I'm glad you've rectified that.

  3. #468
    'If you existed, I'd divorce you.' spyk_'s Avatar
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    I saw Hamilton on Saturday. It's obviously very good, I don't think many people (apart from certain journalists from The Daily Mail) would dispute that. It has so much energy behind it, and the plot moves on at lightening speed. I was quite disappointed that the female characters, especially Angelica Schuyler, pretty much vanished from the show after they were introduced, and I found the final image of the show a bit silly, but I think you'd be pressed not to be completely swept up in it from the start. It'll probably run for a million years and win all the awards and that's great because at least it isn't another fucking Disney Theatrical musical. I've never been in a theatre with people so excited to see a play - except maybe for Cursed Child, which as a pre-existing brand is quite different - that was almost like a rock concert. There was a girl sat behind me dressed in an 18th century gown. People really, really, like this show.

    But let's talk about shows that *I* like from this year. This list will be tilted towards the things I saw most recently because they're fresher in my mind, and I don't have time to write loads about each one, but I've just looked through my 2017 diary and picked out productions that really stick out;

    Twelfth Night at the Olivier Theatre, National

    The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth at the Royal Court

    Life of Galileo by Brecht at the Young Vic

    An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins at the Orange Tree

    Barber Shop Chronicles by Inua Ellams at the Dorfman Theatre, National

    Hir by Taylor Mac at the Bush Theatre

    Nassim by Nassim Soleimanpour at the Bush

    Road by Jim Cartwright at the Royal Court

    Follies at the Olivier Theatre, National

    The March on Russia by David Storey at the Orange Tree

    Albion by Mike Bartlett at the Almeida

    Bad Roads by Natal'ya Vorozhbit at the Royal Court

    The Suppliant Women by Aeschylus (version by David Greig) at the Young Vic

    The Jungle by Joe Murphy & Joe Robertson at the Young Vic

  4. #469
    worth a million in prizes .chris's Avatar
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    I just got tickets to see Hamilton in NY. AHHHH!!! It has been such a long wait. I'm so excited!!!

    I'm also going to see Hello Dolly and the Boys in the Band!
    Last edited by .chris; 06-11-2018 at 06:16 PM.

  5. #470
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    Ugh, I saw Shen Yun in Seattle last night, only to learn it's religious propaganda from a homophobic bunch of sky friend lovers. Apart from that, the dancing and gymnastics were pretty spectacular, but got a bit repetitive, the extremely prevalent backgrounds had a distinctly cheap feel, and the MCs speaking between each routine broke any hope of a spell. Very disappointing experience. Fuck Shen Yun.

  6. #471
    worth a million in prizes .chris's Avatar
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    I got a chance to see the Boys in the Band on Saturday. It was fantastic. I've got to say- I've seen Jim Parsons on stage twice now (before this in A Normal Heart) and he is such a force on stage. I'm not really a fan of the Big Bang Theory, so it has been so refreshing to see him really dig into rich roles. That said, all of the cast was pretty great. They all have their moment to shine. I was also particularly impressed by Robin de Jesus. His portrayal of Emory was heartbreaking. It took me a little while to warm up to Zachary Quinto's interpretation of his character, but I got there.

    All in all, I walked away very impressed. And also happened to run into Cheyenne Jackson after the show!

  7. #472
    Gone Andromeda grapefruit_is_winning's Avatar
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    Apropos of nothing @.chris, I hate BBT. Awful, wretched show. Glad you enjoyed Boys.

  8. #473
    'If you existed, I'd divorce you.' spyk_'s Avatar
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    In 2018 I tried to see fewer plays, as I usually spend all my time and money at the theatre, but I ended up breaking my own record by seeing 114 different productions across the year. So that didn't work. The performances that stick in my memory the most vividly are the ones that bent the rules of structure or form. What I'd say was one of the highlights of the year for me was the National Theatre's production of John by Annie Baker. It's an allusive Rubik's Cube of a play. Although it is creepy around the edges (the play is set in a guest-house in Gettysburg decorated with hundreds of dolls), there is a central sense of optimism. The story is simple - a couple on the edge of breaking up visit the guesthouse in a last ditch attempt to have a good time together. The slightly bonkers landlady offers them a different room, as the one they booked can be a bit 'unreliable'. We're constantly unsure of what is real and what isn't, where the lines of reality begin and end. But I think one of the many things the play could be about is about the limits of possibility within existence. It looks at what it's like to be haunted, by the past, by a lover's perception of you, by inanimate objects. Most of all it's an impossible play to explain. But I do think it's a contemporary masterpiece. I'd put it up there with the best of Pinter or Beckett or Churchill or whoever else. But that was on in January, and there have been a lot of other great new plays on since then. I was really invigorated by Ella Hickson's The Writer at the Almeida, which looked at the ways in which patriarchal structures impact art, and vice versa. It seemed to argue that there is no divide between the personal and the political, and it was all shot through with really dark humour. Anna Deavere Smith's Notes from the Field got its UK premier at the Royal Court and I'm so thankful I went to see it. Deavere Smith conducts interviews and then acts out her interviewees answers on stage. This play focuses in on police brutality against people of colour in the United States. The detail and humanity with which Deavere Smith relates the often horrific things she has heard sucks all of the air out of the room. In an incredible section she reenacted the pastor speaking at the funeral of Freddie Gray. Her calls of 'NO JUSTICE!' were answered with shouts of 'NO PEACE' from the back of the Dress Circle, for anyone pretending that police bias against minorities is a US-only issue. David Harrower's new version of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the Donmar was darkly funny, and Laura Wade's Home I'm Darling at the National looked at 1950s nostalgia with a keen but benevolent eye. Dead Centre's really wild version of Chekhov's First Play broke down a 'production' of the great playwright's earliest work (literally; there was a wrecking ball). The audience were given head-sets in order to hear a live 'director's commentary' of the play, that gradually fell into something like a meditation on meaning in art. It was super fun, I loved it.

    There were some great revivals this year too. Tennessee William's lesser-known play Summer and Smoke got an impressive re-invention by Rebecca Frecknall at the Almeida, and Nicolas Hytner's promenade version of Julius Caesar was probably the first production to really fit well in the new Bridge Theatre. Robert Icke's deconstructed version of The Wild Duck was a pretty interesting introduction to that play for me, as it openly questions authorial intent and whether we can (or should) separate a writer from their work, and how meaning on stage is influenced by what the audience bring to a performance. I saw Richard Jones's production of La bohème at Covent Garden for the first time and loved it; Jones can really get singers to listen to each other on stage and it pays off. I was also mesmerised by the English National Opera's revival of Phillip Glass's Satyagraha at the London Coliseum - a three-year and half hour meditation on the early political life of Gandhi, sung in Sanskrit. The RSC's excellent West African-set Hamlet came to the Hackney Empire and I was bowled over by Paapa Essiedu in the title role. The setting worked naturally for the play, every scene felt like a new investigation, and Essiedu is going to be a great star (he is also currently being excellent in The Convert at the Young Vic, Danai Gurira's 19th century drama set in Zimbabwe). I've been really surprised by how much I've enjoyed Jamie Lloyd's Pinter at the Pinter season - he's producing pretty much all of Pinter's short plays in a rep season featuring a selection of starry casts. It's all ending later this year with Tom Hiddleston in 'Betrayal'. I've managed to catch a few of the collections and, although they could sometimes use a dash more energy, they show of Pinter's wit and trust in his audience brilliantly. I'm seeing another one tomorrow night and really really looking forward to it.

    There were some huge beasts in London this year; notably Matthew Lopez's gay epic The Inheritance, which ran in two parts at the Young Vic and is now in the West End. The play does pander mostly to a middle-class white gay audience (somewhat inevitably, as it's loosely based on Howard's End), but its long, meandering plot a kind rarely seen on modern stages, and its study of the legacy of the AIDS epidemic among a group of young(ish) gay men is immensely profound. Lopez clearly loves his characters, and shows the importance of a community to have a sense of its past in order to build its future. It would make an obvious Broadway transfer. I'm going to try and see both parts again before it finishes in London in a few weeks. Another mammoth play was Ben Power's English version of Stefano Massini's The Lehman Trilogy at the National. Adam Godley, Ben Miles and Simon Russell Beale shared some 100 characters across a three-hour history of the Lehman Brothers. Ethereal and gentle, without ever crossing into sentiment, the plays shows the fate of a family tied inexorably to history.

    There were some fantastic musical theatre productions in London in 2018 too. I've been waiting to see Hadestown since I first heard Anais Mitchell's album and the production at the National is not a disappointment. The play works superbly as a piece of ensemble story-telling, and ends with a heartbreaking message of hope and resilience. The arrangements have been ramped up for the stage and the music works wonderfully in this format. Marianne Elliott's gender-switched Company completely refreshes the piece and features a wonderful cast - it's such a treat to finally have seen the great Patti LuPone in a musical. I've loved Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori's Caroline or Change since I heard the original cast album as a teenager, and although I saw it down in Chichester I've already seen it twice since the same production has transferred into the West End. It's one of my all-time favourite shows and it won't have a West End run again any time soon so I'm making the most of it. Sharon D Clarke's performance is immense and I keep finding new things to admire in the staging every time I see it. It's a complex piece, containing so many thoughts about the world, I don't think I could ever see it too many times. Another Jeanine Tesori musical, Fun Home, got its London premier at the Young Vic to great acclaim. It's another memory piece, like Caroline, and has a complex score that almost defies genre. It's only a shame it wasn't staged in the same in-the-round configuration that it got in New York; the end-on staging flattened some moments slightly.

    There are loads of other things I've seen I could talk about (I also really loved Tim Crouch's Beginners at the Unicorn; a beautiful play for children that deals with complex problems like disease and death, and the line between childhood and adulthood, as well as The Grinning Man at the Trafalgar Studios, a really darkly funny musical version of the Victor Hugo novel), but this post is already way to long for anyone to bother with. There were some huge misfires this year, as well as some slightly overcooked productions, and others that didn't feel they hit at the right moment in time (that is what makes theatre so difficult, you never know the temperature of the audience until the production is already up and running), but I thought I'd mostly focus on the highlights. There are some 2018 productions that have received great notices that I haven't seen yet, like the Simon Godwin's version of Antony & Cleopatra at the National (seeing it tonight), and the Donmar's premier of Lynn Nottage's Sweat, that I'm not seeing until mid-January. 2019 looks like it could be a really exciting year for theatre in London - it should be, given the political turmoil that surely lies in store for the country - and I only hope that theatres continue to discover new voices to tell ever more interesting stories.

  9. #474
    ^ Nice to see you posting again, @spyk_. If you'd like to elaborate, I was wondering: What were some of the misfires you saw?

  10. #475
    'If you existed, I'd divorce you.' spyk_'s Avatar
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    Oh thank you. I don't have loads of free time in front of a computer very often so I don't get to post that much, but I still check in regularly.

    As for the misfires, there were several plays by big-name writers that just fell short for me personally. It's how the world works of course, but it's disappointing when you can tell instantly that a play wouldn't have gotten anywhere near being programmed were it not attached to an established writer. There are more good plays around than buildings to put them in, so merit can only carry something so far, but I wonder whether some playwrights just get too powerful to the point where theatres are so keen to have them in that they won't send anything back. The prime example of this, for me, was Martin McDonagh's A Very, Very, Very Dark Matter at the Bridge. Some people found McDonagh's depiction of racism in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (which I haven't seen) questionable, and I certainly found some real issues here, aside from the lazy writing. Desiree Baptiste wrote really eloquently about that play in the theatre magazine Exeunt, which you can read here if you're interested, and I pretty much agree with her points. McDonagh can be fantastic and it's the fact that earlier in his career he did so much better that makes a lacklustre effort feel more disappointing. There were also new plays by writers like Alan Bennett and Joe Penhall (probably more in demand after Mindhunter) that just seemed amazingly sub-par.

    I should also probably put that I really didn't like the new Tina Turner musical (imaginatively titled Tina: The Musical). I went because I've loved Turner since I was about 4 or 5 years old, hers is the first music I remember listening to, but I forget that I'm just not a fan of greatest-hits musicals generally, and particularly not when they just recount the life of the band or artist in question. At least some have tried to stretch a new story over a back-catalogue (the most successful, I think, is the Madness musical Our House that was in the West End for about 20 minutes in 2002). It didn't help that the lead, Adrienne Warren, was off, and her performance is usually the element from the show people mention first. I can't be too harsh on it though, as I did something I don't do often and left in the interval.

  11. #476
    worth a million in prizes .chris's Avatar
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    I'm going to see Hadestown on Saturday and can not contain my excitement! It just opened last night to universal praise. I can't stop listening to the NYTW recording. I am so psyched! I also grabbed tickets to see the new production of Oklahoma that is getting a lot of buzz, next month.

  12. #477
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    I was just in Chicago, where I saw Hamilton. It was amazing. I didn't really know what it would be about, I just knew it was going to be kind of like a hip hop musical? It was amazing. I'd totally see it again.

    In New York I saw Chicago. I wanted to go to Mean Girls, but my friend tried getting tickets on his lunch break on the day of the show, and of course I should have gotten tickets days earlier. I enjoyed Chicago (had only seen the movie) but what was constantly on my mind was: some of these actors have been in Chicago for over a decade. That must get so tedious!

    I also saw Burn This, with Keri Russell (FELICITY!!!!) and Adam Driver (MY WET DREAMS!!!). It was good! And the tickets weren't that expensive because of some kind of lottery.

    Man, now I have to come back to New York to see Mean Girls and also Moulin Rouge (!!!!!!) when it opens.

  13. #478
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    ^

    I saw Burn This a few weeks ago, I overall liked it. I thought Driver was very good and that the play was solid but not great. Russell seemed a little uncomfortable on stage, but I thought she was fine overall.

    I'm seeing All My Sons with Tracy Letts and Annette Bening next month. Can't wait!

  14. #479
    Don't turn away Partisan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by .chris View Post
    I'm going to see Hadestown on Saturday and can not contain my excitement! It just opened last night to universal praise. I can't stop listening to the NYTW recording. I am so psyched! I also grabbed tickets to see the new production of Oklahoma that is getting a lot of buzz, next month.
    I saw Hadestown Off-Broadway and loved it, so I'm super curious to see the latest version, especially now that Reeve Carney is in it! I'm glad to see it's getting so much positive attention.

    I'll be seeing Oklahoma! next weekend, and I'm quite excited! I had never seen/heard any version, always assuming it wasn't really my thing, and basically only bought tickets after reading reviews of the new production. I've since watched a couple different versions, including the film, and was completely surprised to find it much darker and funnier than expected. Being that this version supposedly strips everything back and highlights its dark qualities, I'm quite anxious to see it!

    Also, I recently saw Be More Chill on Broadway. I saw it Off-Broadway last year and thought it was brilliant, but thought the new version was even tighter. I can't say enough good things about that show - it's incredibly vibrant and electric (from the staging to the music to the acting), and the whole theater has been decorated to mirror the show's look and vibe. The entire experience of seeing it on Broadway was one of my most memorable and enjoyable.
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  15. #480
    worth a million in prizes .chris's Avatar
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    Just got back from Hadestown last night. What an amazing production! I had high expectations and they were all met. The set and the lighting were incredible! Amber Gray deserves a Tony for her performance as Persephone. She was mesmerizing. I know I'm just coming off that post-show glow, but I really can see Hadestown being in my top 5 musicals.

    The score is jam packed with great songs. It does seem like they added some more harmonies with the bigger cast in contrast to the NYTW recording. It all sounds so gorgeous.

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