Tuesday, January 25, 2011

#12 - My week in the theater

I have had really wonderful theater luck these past few days. That's why I came here, to soak up as much theater in the center of the universe of acting on stage, so I need to reflect on my good fortune. In just this past week, I have seen comedy, spectacle, a fledgling musical and a memorial for a giant. Not bad. All were memorable and the most they cost was $30 and one was free. I do love a bargain.
Jackie Hoffman, comedy genius, is celebrating her 50th BDay by skewering the people who stood in her way, on her rise to the almost top. She is not a household word to anyone out of Manhattan. She has the role of GrandMa in the Addams Family, but they didn't give her anything to do in the second act. Oh the chutzpah of those writers!...She nails them. She has a crackly voice and is not much to look at, but she cracks every funny bone in the room. Joe's Pub is a wonderful place to see a show, and I got a bunch of fun friends together to laugh for the evening, one from Maine, one from Texas and one from Australia. It was perfect. Of course, I related to Jackie's lamenting about getting old, but my friends are blissfully ignorant of such issues. "Just you wait, Henry Higgins!" That's all I have to say.
Next, on the agenda was Spidey. Well, for a show that won't even open until March 15th and has a terrible habit of hurting it's actors, it is maddeningly sold out every night. The only way to see this train wreck is to get "rush tickets" on the day of the show. They sell $30 seats to fools who get there at 7 am, to fill in the few holes they have in the audience, single seats, anywhere that they need a body...well, I am a fool...a smart fool! Got there at 7:45 because the subway was closed down for a police action, one stop before 42nd Street. I watched the policemen pull people off the train I was on and search them and detain the most normal looking people. No one ran or sassed back. It was quite a show in itself, but I was rushing to a box office, so I was most annoyed I had to hoof it 6 blocks (not the walking, but the time). I didn't want to be at the end of the line. They only give out 10 to 15 tickets. When I finally got there, there was only one person waiting. A very nice girl from the real Oz, who was spooked into getting there at 7, because there was a line around the block the day before. Well, by 10 o'clock, there was no feeling in my toes or fingers, and I was certain nothing would make up for that pain...I was wrong. Spidey has a new second act, and it is GREAT. I saw it with Barbara in December, and it was a snore (except for the flying and the set design). Now it is a whole lot of fun! I'll go back again when it warms up a bit. The music is OK, but the singing is fab, and the action scenes are just spectacular. They are selling tickets through May, and it hasn't even opened yet. Glen Beck said it was better than WICKED. He is an asshole. Wicked is a gazillion times better, but it will bring lots of $$$$ to Broadway, and that is a good thing.
From the huge to the small; next up was a baby show called Camp Wanatachi, the pet project of one of my favorite actresses, Bridget Regan, from Legend of the Seeker. She has been pimping this show for months now, and it finally opened, well the proper word is previewed. The opening is Wednesday, tomorrow, and I had such a great time, I'm going back. It is a show about summer camp and falling in love. I'll say no more than that, but it spoke to lots of things I know and understand. I was a camper and those days were formative. I lived for those months I went to camp. Chicago was a place to get out of during the summer. Not like California,where there is lots to do if you go 10 minutes in any direction. Camp was heaven and this camp is great: great singing and music. The girls in this show seem really young, but if you read the program, there is a great deal of Broadway credit, and they were holding notes as high and long as any in the huge shows. How wonderful to see talent that good in a 50 seat black box theater. Actually, the theater is a story in itself: The La MaMa. A most historic spot. A founding institution in the Off Broadway world, and right across the street from the original home of RENT. This is where shows come to grow and actors learn their craft.  It is a 10 minute walk from my apartment. How lucky am I?
Last, comes a history lesson. Ever hear of Fiorello (NYC politics)? She Loves Me (The Shop Around The Corner/You've Got Mail)? The Rothschilds (Mega rich European Jewish power brokers and wine makers)? The Apple Tree (Eden/Barbarians/Cinderella in Hollywood)? Fiddler on the Roof? Oh, that got your attention! Well, the man responsible for all that beautiful music was Jerry Bock. He was one of the last biggies who wrote wonderful melodies. Musicals today are very much influenced by pop and rock and there is precious little lyrical melody around.
Jerry Bock died in November, but they gathered Broadway's giants to celebrate his life: Hal Prince, the legendary producer, Chita Rivera, a Diva, Tony Walton, Julie Andrew's first husband and set designer, Boyd Gains, great actor, Barbara Cook, another Diva and sort of Kristin Chenoweth's godmother, and last but certainly not least, Harvey Fierstein, a Tevye who wishes to be a rich man, but God is his voice gone. They sang and talked about the history of musical theater in the 50's and 60's. It was wonderful. Fiorello was the first real on Broadway show I ever saw. I was VERY young, but as a Chicagoan, I related to the graft and political chicanery of a song such as "A Little Tin Box". There were always such boxes, with lots of cash, in the newspaper stories when I was growing up. So, I had a history lesson and a concert of classic songs sung by the originators of the roles. I was in heaven, which is where most of the people thought Jerry Bock was as well.
Looks like I wrote a book today and no photos...sorry Richard. They frown on me using my camera in the theater (not that it isn't done). I will leave you with a picture I took at the Farmer's Market recently of a crazyass bunch of cauliflowers. I never saw this before, but it is green, and I am thinking I will never see that color again...I miss green. Oh, that reminds me....Teal Wicks becomes the Green Girl next week. Company is coming from SF to celebrate that event. I have a full house and not enough beds, but so what, Teal takes over Broadway. TWickies, bring it on!

Friday, January 14, 2011

#11 - 3 Queens (and the sky was on fire)

All Hail the Queens...Hail yes! Royal and dignified and very large!
Last night was an historic evening. Cunard Lines had a gathering of it's 3 famous cruise ships at the base of New York Harbor and threw a fireworks show in front of Lady Liberty, to mark the occasion.
Queen Mary2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth set sail at 6:00pm, January 13th, for world cruises and points South. The largest, QM2 was docked in Brooklyn and the 2 matching other ladies were birthed off 57th street at Piers 90 and 88. I got some pics just before the sun set of Vicky and Liz. Note that they are too large to get in one shot of my fancy camera/phone.
Queen Victoria Pier 90

Queen Elizabeth Pier 88

Queen Elizabeth 2nd half

QLiz Bow

The Intrepid looks sooooo small

So, as you can see, they are impressive and magnificent ships. A camera can't capture the feeling of standing next to them. I have always been a boat person. Living on Lake Michigan does that to a person. I've been a sailor since I was 10. I can't go too long with out checking into whatever body of water I live near. I was always driving out of my way to take the Shoreline Drive in Alameda to look at the Bay. I do it here, as well. It takes exactly 16 minutes to walk from my apartment to the East river. There is a lovely park there. Actually there are lovely parks all over the river fronts on Manhattan.
Anyway, after freezing all my extraneous body parts off taking these shots, I worked my way down to Battery Park, where I was going to perfectly time a trip on the Staten Island Ferry around 6:45, when the special fireworks show was to start, as The Ladies met up near the Green Torchbearer. It didn't exactly happen as I had planned.
While waiting in the modern (and warm) SI Ferry Building, I met a nice couple from England. I talk to people. This is a fact. They, most interestingly, had just disembarked that morning off the QLiz after her maiden voyage from South Hampton. These two spend their retirement traveling all over the world on the Cunard Lines, my good luck to meet them. Liza and Gerald have been on all the ships and are like Super Frequent Sailors or what ever the ultra passenger list is called. They were just so much fun. I learned lots from them, and we had such a great time, that eventually, when the ships did line up to view the fireworks, I didn't even want to get on the Ferry. It was being routed away from the ships, anyway, so I stayed there, and we oohed and aaahed together like little kids. She is 75, and he is 80...they have been married 25 years (and they have a home in Mallorca, Spain)...not a bad situation.
The pics I took of the fireworks were ruined by the glare of the glass, so I give you a very short video I pulled off the Internet. It captures the ships lined up and the fireworks.
It is shot from the opposite side of the harbor on the New Jersey side, and shows the QMary2 leading the other ships out to the Verrazano Bridge and the Atlantic Ocean. Leaving us....I'm still sad.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

#10 - What A Year! Oh, Nevermind...

Has it been since last year that I blogged? Guess so. Well, I've been busy, traveling and sick. That's my excuse, but that's lame, so perhaps I should shut up and catch up.
First, there was The Barbara Visit:
We had too much fun. Went to too many shows. Ate at too many restaurants and walked miles and miles every day. I showed her all over this island. We saw Spidey for $20, ate THE BEST street food at the corner of 6th and 53rd, and saw the worst production of Cirque du Soleil (Wintuk, never spend any money on that show). She had a great New Years Eve, and so did I...not together.
So, as a result of all that flouncing around, I got sick. A damn head cold that migrated to my lungs. 2 weeks later, and I am still coughing...now I don't care about being sick...I'll get over it, but the thought of my illness interfering with my visit to Cambridge last weekend was intolerable. My peeps from SF were in town to see Teal Wicks in The Blue Flower, now that is serious! This was our second trip up on the bus to Cambridge. We do that, drive or fly or trek all over the planet to see Teal. We are TWickies. 
Took the T, a far nicer Subway than the non escalatored NYC version. They call the admission a "Charley Ticket". Kingston Trio memory anyone? Oh, you are all too young, sorry. You don't remember Folk Music. 
Anyway, we saw the 3 final performances and were blissfully happy. It is a wonderful show, as I reported a few posts ago. It will be back. There is talk of taking it to Europe. That may inhibit my attendance. My traveling may be limited for a while to the boundaries of this island.
On that subject click here http://vimeo.com/18554749  and see a wonderful video of NYC (I did not shoot it but I wish I had).
Speaking of the island. Kate and I had a really fun close encounter with a Sopranos kind of guy on a trip out to Staten Island. We had taken the free ferry ride out to see the harbor and sneak a peek at Lady Liberty freezing in her long skirt on that cold waterway and had lunch at one of the local diners. Really local diner, I'm sure we had "tourist" tattooed on our foreheads when we walked in the joint. So, I ordered a Gyros sandwich and the man sitting next to me at the counter (always sit at the counter, you can see how they handle the food) asked how it was that I knew how to pronounce that word properly. We got into a discussion about Chicago Greek Town and his trips to Greece and before you knew it we were all best buds. He is a part time actor, played the bouncer at the BadaBing and has a daughter in Harvard. I didn't ask how he can afford that tuition on a part time actors wages, but it made for a good story, and I think he is "connected". We hung out there 3 hours just shooting the breeze. Too much fun. He gave me his business card. That's something I need to do, have some cards printed up. Bettie Laven, Theater Whore and 2 year explorer, then have my blog http and phone number. Just might do that.
So now my visitors are off to their home towns, I am hunkered down to rid myself of this cough and get healthy for February. They are all coming back February 1st for Teal's opening week as the Green Witch...you know, that show I have an attachment to....a WICKED addiction.
Tomorrow I will report on the 3 Queens. I'll let you think about that for a while. Hee Hee
PS: There was another blizzard, but it was only 9.2 inches, hardly worth mentioning.