Cultural Learnings On the Road: Starstruck, Broadway’d and HBO’d

As my Twitter feed has indicated, I am currently in the Big Apple, New York City, on a brief adventure. And since this means a lack of traditional reviews (I guess I’d call this a vacation in that respect), I figured I’d blog a tiny bit about the trip itself, as well as some of the TV I watched when I was dead tired and had not the energy to do much else.

So, thoughts on Broadway’s Next to Normal, being starstruck on the subway, and HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bored to Death and Entourage after the jump.

Sometimes, I feel like a real TV critic – I write reviews, I stay up to date, and now I’ve even received some screeners. Despite being in Nova Scotia, leagues away from everything but Tom Selleck filming the latest Jesse Stone film, I can stay connected with this crazy industry. However, my experience today on the subway proved that if I was an actual TV critic it would be an enormous disaster, as being in Nova Scotia has led to me being legitimately starstruck. Case in point: my run-in with Neil Patrick Harris on the subway.

I was eight feet away from him. We made eye contact numerous times, I quickly looking away and him smiling politely as if to say “This kid recognizes me and can’t stop staring, that’s humorous.” Sure, my reasons for not saying anything go beyond starstruck to respecting his (and his boyfriend’s privacy), but it made me realize that I don’t see or meet celebrities, and that I’ve still got a long way to go before seeing a celebrity is no longer an event in any capacity. Either way, it made for a great story, if nothing else.

I’ve been listening to the original cast recording of Next to Normal since the summer, when a few wins and a performance at the Tony Awards caught my attention. After I came onto the Spring Awakening bandwagon too late to see the show in person (it closed in February), I figured that my appreciation for Next to Normal’s great score should translate into actually getting out to see it while I’m in New York and it’s still playing. And, it turns out I came at a good time: while we saw an understudy for Tony-nominated J. Robert Spencer (Michael Berry stepping into the role), Aaron Tveit is back after his stint in Seattle preparing Catch Me if you Can so the case is all back together and delivering a rather kickass performance.

This is my first Broadway experience (being my first time in NYC, after all), and I was enormously impressed. The show’s unique three-tiered staging structure makes the relatively small Booth theatre feel immensely large, and the relatively small “band” (it’s not really an orchestra, after all) comes to life around the actors as they inhabit their roles. The show has a stylistic flair that is undeniable, one which offers a lot of comedy but also some true dramatic material. The ballads, the one part of the score which often falls flat when listened to independently, emerged here as enormously powerful in the wake of some amazing performances and, more importantly, the addition of staging and lighting and context. It makes me a believer in the power of Broadway, that is for certain.

Alice Ripley, who won a Tony for the role, certainly stole the show, but it’s interesting to see how everything else works out. I had largely known the show’s “twist” (although I was missing a key ingredient of it, hilariously considering how often I’ve listened to the score), but the way it manifested itself was all about staging and Aaron Tveit’s performance. The show also gave me more of an understanding for Jennifer Damiano’s Natalie, a character that is perhaps most dependent on the non-musical elements to really develop as the show goes on. Berry was solid, but he did feel out of place at points as he seems a more traditional musical theatre performer compared to the uninhibited Ripley and Damiano’s vulnerable Natalie. The show, in their hands, ended up a disturbing picture of mental illness in a way that music alone couldn’t convey, so I’m really glad I got to see it in the flesh.

Overall, a great introduction to the star-studded and show-stopping sides of New York.

Cultural Observations

  • I don’t watch Curb usually, but the Seinfeld reunion was really clever and well-developed. I’m curious to see where it goes, and how the ratings come in: did other people watch just for it?
  • Bored to Death was better than it was earlier, but I still find its tone a bit too over the place.
  • The Entourage finale was on the one hand contrived (Seriously Sloan?) and  on the other hand reliable. Ari’s side of things made sense in terms of having an Ari of his own to take over the agency (Lloyd), and the Matt Damon/Bono/Lebron stuff was a lot of fun. Sure, Vince still has no storyline and Turtle’s break with Jaime felt a bit strange and drawn out, but the show ended storylines that really needed to be ended so that’s one thing a storyline can do. Still, though, Eric and Sloan engaged? Such a fantasy – there is no way commitment was the only thing standing in the way of their relationship.
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2 Comments

Filed under Cultural Learnings

2 responses to “Cultural Learnings On the Road: Starstruck, Broadway’d and HBO’d

  1. steffi

    You. Met. Neil. That’s awfsome!! Since meeting him is one of my life goals (quite a goal, since I’m Indonesian but I digress), I’m pretty sure I would have come up to him and said hi.

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