Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#22 A few things at the tail end of November (one sad)

It is unseasonably warm here. Records are being broken, 70 degrees 2 days ago (normal 45). I have been bike riding in the orange and rust colored Central Park. Well, it's not my bike, I borrow it from my friend Susan, but biking around the paths and parks is heavenly. I get to do that when most people are at work, so it's just the tourists and me, and they rent, so I'm out all day. I have almost circumnavigated the island, just the upper East side to do next. Most of the outer rind of this city is accessible and flat (perhaps I should have said skin, as The Big Apple has no rind). Yes, I wear an ugly green helmet, because the hard part is getting to the rim. The streets of NYC are really ugly to traverse on 2 wheels. Double parking is a natural pastime here and that means the bike lanes are ridiculously blocked. Then again, the real hazard of "death by driver door" is also on all of the approximately 8 blocks to the East or the West from my apartment. Fear factor is a part of every venture out on the ancient black Schwinn, but I figure it heightens my senses, and I need to do that in order to stay sharp in the theater. Oh, I forgot to say that the hilliest and hardest ride for my no longer 20 year old muscles is the aforementioned rectangular park. I will not admit in this cyber public forum to having to get off the bike and walk up some of the steep slopes. No, I won't do that.
Photo taken by Teal's BF Tom 
Now, to the subject of the theater: The sad closing of The Blue Flower happened 3 days ago. The BFBunch gathered and paid respect to this groundbreaking production. The group initially went because I told them it was an outstanding show, but mostly because they are true TWickies, and the Teal Wicks love, from her stint at The Gershwin, flying on her broom in WICKED, convinced them to take on this musical. We all went multiple times. Bless them (some are students) for helping me with $18 tickets. They brought their friends, and I brought some, and in the end we were powerful. We greeted Teal at the last StageDoor, and it was good. Great pictures were taken. Smiles were mixed with feelings of loss, but the authors said they were taking it to other venues, probably London. (note to self: check passport and save money), so we took heart. The remarkable affability of the cast, musicians and creative staff really made The Blue Flower a wonderful run for the fans. I know the actors loved the show. Unfortunately, as I have said before, some were not ready to "get" this work. It's time will come. I'll be there.
One other marvelous thing happened in the last 3 days. I was in the audience of Seth Rudetsky's live radio show at the SIRIUS studios. Not only did he have Neil Sedaka as his first guest, Judy Gold as his second, but Judy Collins was stalking up and down the glass walls of the room waving at Sedaka. Why she didn't come in and say hi, instead of waving, I don't know, but I was having a heart attack. What Seth could have done with all 3 of those geniuses in one room. It was live, so I guess he couldn't ask her in. What a moment! Judy Collins five feet away, wanting to get in! Priceless!
Gotta go clean ThePowderBluePalace. Cali peeps are coming for a Shopping/Dining Spree. The next 5 days will be delightful. TTFN and LLAP

Monday, November 21, 2011

#21 Off Off Off Broadway, and the magic to be found there

Not all the great things happen just on "Broadway". I love to go to off, even off off, and sometimes just clinging by a fingernail, Broadway shows. They are intimate, cheap and usually easy to get tickets to see.
There are 2 off Broadway shows which have been my passions for the last 2 months and sadly, both are closing soon. I initially came to these shows because I follow the Divas who are appearing there, but have returned multiple times because of the acting and music that support them.
First, The Blue Flower: It's not easy to do a musical about lost love, war, death, driven artists, DaDa and German Expressionism, with a touch of Kurt Weill and Country Music.  I won't do a review(see my post of 12/13/10, re: the Cambridge production, it's good), but this is one of the most compelling and riveting pieces of theater I have ever seen. Sadly, the taste for dark musicals is limited, and the people who pay big bucks for a seat in a theater want to smile and be happy, so it is ending too soon. Teal Wicks is the Diva responsible for luring me to this innovative show. Lucky for me that she has good taste in material. Lucky me for being close enough to see both that show and the evolved production that hit 43rd Street in October. It changed in the 4 hour journey to NYC, but Teal's songs and humor remain pivotal. I have brought my NY friends to see the show, 98% are repeat viewers like myself. They have become TheBlueFlowerBunch. They are devoted. I am proud to have introduced them to the show. I wish it would run forever.
Next, Queen of the Mist: It's also not easy to write a show about Anna Edson Taylor, a sad, impoverished but strong woman, who, at 63, decided to make her name by going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She sings "There is greatness in me" for her opening number...chutzpah, perhaps (although she is an Episcopalian), but greatness eluded her, and she did not have a hero's finale. What we do have here is a bravura performance for Mary Testa, the woman in in the flotation device and my longtime favorite Diva, Julia Murney, as comic and vocal support. I have driven 27 gazillion miles to see Julia all over California and taken buses up and down this East Coast. She is worth the effort. How nice of her to do a show that is 10 minutes walking distance from my apartment. This show is literally in a gym's basketball court. Bleachers hold the audience, yet it is a spellbinding work. The music is soaring and the comic genius of La Murney is pure crackalicious (what she does with a typewriter,"Damn Damn, stick a...."). At the matinee performance I saw last Saturday, I witnessed one of the most touching moments I have ever seen in a show. Mary Testa has sung her powerhouse final song, and she is in tears and is exhausted. The audience rises to it's feet when she comes to the floor for her curtain call. Then, at the center of the first row, an older man who has not been able to rise in ovation, puts his arms out in a reaching gesture to her, imploring her to come to him and give him a hug. This is so unusual! Then I look at Julia. She is streaming tears and smiling like a fool. This is Mary Testa's father! The pride on his face and the 3 other members of her family just was almost too much to witness. I feel I am seeing a private moment. I'd love to know the journey of that family to reach that joy. Of course, I went down and spoke with them. They were thrilled that someone would come multiple times to see her triumphant role. (Well, no one really understands my calling, but they are polite and grateful I get keep coming)
The magic wasn't over that afternoon. After saying thank you to all the cast and Hi to Julia and Mary, I left my friends to go their way to the Subway, and I walked towards Washington Square on my way home. More magic! It was about 4:45. The light was dimming to grey. It was crisp cold, but in the square there was a magician doing a show, beautiful people taking wedding shots in gorgeous clothes, french bull dogs, basset hounds, a man playing Chopin on a Grand Piano, British filmmakers shooting children playing in the waterless fountain, 2 women doing romantic poetry out loud, a homeless man singing "Sesame Street"in a powerful voice, laughing children and a group of parents from a day care center selling yummy baked goods for a dollar. All that within a 2 block area. It was overwhelming in it's wonderfulness. I went home...had some hot chocolate...pondered my good luck and fell sound asleep.