This past weekend, Liz and I went to New York to see a preview performance of Bye Bye Birdie. We also ended up going to The Strand, eating at Joshua Tree (hee!), and seeing the madness that is Broadway on Broadway. Needless to say, by the time we got back on the bus Sunday afternoon, we were exhausted.
So, let’s start with the show, shall we? There’s good and there’s bad. I’ll start with the bad, since there’s really only one negative to the show. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty big negative: Gina Gershon. I’m sorry, cast and producers, but your Rosie is terrible. Awful. She might be great in the right role, but this isn’t it. Rule number one when casting a lead in a musical: cast someone who can SING. At the very least, cast someone who knows their limits. (Readers of this blog may recall I saw Guys and Dolls earlier this year. A lot was said about Lauren Graham’s voice. I agree that she is not a singer. However – she knew her limits, didn’t try to stretch them, and generally has great charisma. Is that a biased review? Perhaps. But I also think it’s pretty accurate.)
Earlier that day, we met up with a mutual friend, who said she had read reviews on Broadway.com that were pretty disparaging to Ms. Gershon. We decided not to pay any attention to that, because after all, it is the internet, and it is message boards, and it is theater, and all three of these things can add up to catty, mean-spirited, and ridiculous behavior.
After Ms. Gershon finished “An English Teacher” (where, in addition to being off key, she went up several times), I knew the posters on Broadway.com were correct.
It’s really a shame, too, because this show could be great. In fact, the rest of the cast is fantastic. John Stamos is very charming, has a pleasant voice, and is the right casting choice for Albert Peterson. (He also wears suspenders in one scene, which is adorable.) He was nervous, and is obviously still adjusting to the role, and to being on stage again, but it’s apparent that after a couple more weeks, he’ll be great. Allie Trimm (Kim MacAfee) has an incredible voice, and is excellent as the young teenager selected to kiss Conrad Birdie goodbye. Nolan Funk, in addition to having a hilarious name, is fabulous as Conrad Birdie. Matt Doyle is adorable, and reminded me that Hugo Peabody is actually funny, not an annoying sap, as I had remembered. Also, even though he only sings in one song, he has a beautiful voice.
And then there’s Bill Irwin, who really is on a different level and needs his own paragraph. He’s delightful as father Harry MacAfee. He tips his hat a few times to Paul Lynde, who originated the role, but for the most part, makes it his own. (Also, sidenote and tip for Gina Gershon: Bill Irwin is not a singer. But he knows his limits.) Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that the director takes advantage of Mr. Irwin’s clowning and physical comedy background.
Also, he was the only “main” actor who came out after the show. We did the stage door from a distance, happy to observe without actually interacting with any of the actors. Liz because she says she’s afraid of famous people, and me because I don’t want the illusion shattered. (Though, if what we observed was accurate, I had nothing to worry about. Mr. Irwin was all smiles, happy to sign and pose for pictures, and talked with everyone he signed for.) He’s the smiling one in the hat in the picture above.
The Telephone Hour – which is reinvented, but in a good way.
Hymn For a Sunday Evening (I forgot to mention that Jake Schwencke, who plays Randolph MacAfee, has a stunning voice at 10 years old.)
One Last Kiss
A Lot of Livin’ To Do
Baby, Talk to Me
Sunday, we woke up early, intending to get downtown early, have brunch and get a good spot for Broadway on Broadway. Well…even with good intentions, it didn’t quite happen that way. We didn’t get on the train until 10, got into Grand Central around 10:40, had to wait in an obsurdely long fare card line, and didn’t get to the concert until just after it started. HOWEVER, it was insanely crowded, so we felt justified in knowing that, had we gotten there an hour earlier, we still would have been stuck in the crowd. All things considered, we had a great view – we could see the screens, and even the stage at times.
In the Heights
Next to Normal (Superboy and the Invisible Girl)
Chicago (All That Jazz – despite the sound issues, they rocked it – and the dancing was incredible as always)
Bye Bye Birdie (One Boy)
Hair (I have no desire to see the show, but that cast can sure sing)
Burn the Floor (anyone want to go? Those dancers are nuts!)
…and probably more, but those are the ones that stuck out.
The show ended with a group sing of New York, New York, and then….
Crazy confetti! Confetti everywhere! I now never need to go to Times Square at New Year’s. Also, who drops it? Where does it come from? Anyone know?
All in all, it was a fabulous weekend. Huzzah for Broadway!