Friday, May 30, 2008

Curtain Up! (Cue self aware-congratulatory applause!)

Watching a big mega star on stage is always such an exciting feeling. After all, theatre offers you that rare opportunity to be in the same room as them, breathing the same air, as you watch them act.

Some shows, like Chicago, rely on it. There seems to be an endless revolving door of TV, movie, and B-list celebrities shuffling in and out for 6 week engagements at that show.
The current revival of Gypsy is an extraordinary chance to see a larger then life performer in the role of a lifetime. Patty Lupone as Mama Rose.
Some people have speculated that it's too soon to do another revival, of what some people call the greatest musical ever written, on Broadway when the last revival of Gypsy starring Bernadette Peters closed only 4 years ago.
For me personally, I was fine with it. I have never seen Patti Lupone live, or seen the show. I was only vaguely familiar with some of the score, but not in any context, and was so happy to hear that such an acclaimed production is happening in my life time.
The other day in the NYTimes, Ben Brantely basically bestowed this production of Gypsy with the title of being the definitive version. And while I don't have a true frame of reference to agree with that, I will say that for such an old fashioned show, it was at once true to it's vaudeville style, but still fresh and contemporary, almost as if the show were written today as a throw back.
But an odd thing happens when you have a such a wonderful star, such an acclaimed production, and such a familiar and beloved show. The audience is strangely aware it's watching a play. In a day and age where if an overture is more then 30 seconds people start talking, this audience applauds at the start of the it, and sits quietly listening ever so attently. Then, like most audiences, applauds when the star makes their first entrance. Then even more odd, after "Rose's Turn," the 11 o'clock number to end all 11 o'clock numbers, the audience gave it a standing ovation. This was a Tuesday.
It was the first time this has ever happened at a Broadway show for me. And if you've read my previous entry on rock musicals, you'll know I have mixed feelings about this sort of behavior. On one hand it's a testament to the performers abilities. But if you're paying so much attention to the performer, what is happening to the story?
It's a balance that is never achieved. And when you get one completely, you hate it for not having the other. So with that said, I loved the show and Patti Lupone. I was especially please with Laura Benanti. I had seen her previously in The Wedding Singer as Julia, the Drew Barrymore character, and while thought she was pleasant enough, was not impressed. But she was absolutely fabulous here, and can't wait to see what's next for her.
Overall, despite the sort of odd audience induced post-modern distance, the show was extremely enjoyable and I am very glad I was able to see it and see Patti Lupone live.
On a random side note, this revival is going to get a cast album. Which is awesome, but it's going to be on the Time Life label!!! Ugh... couldn't you just die!!?!? Time-Life??? All I think about when I think of Time-Life is cheesy commercials where the song titles scroll up for "solo piano whispering versions of the pop songs you know and love" with songs like "The Theme from Ice Castles." I thought Patti was a little better then that...

No comments: