Long Time No Blog

The Understudy Rehearsal

First, let me say: please excuse my absence these past couple of weeks. I have shows to share with you and drafts piling up, but we are very much closing in on the opening of The Understudy. Hence, my brain capacity is at its max. So allow me to stray from a typical review for the moment to simply say hello and share a few tidbits.

Hello!

Have you seen the Annie trailer yet? There’s this one with song and dance and another one I saw in theatres that pretends it’s not a musical at all. You gotta admit – that’s smart marketing to get some other folks in the seats. What are your thoughts on the cast? Mainly Cameron Diaz and Electro? I’m trying not to have any pre-conceived notions. It’s coming out this Christmas along with Into the Woods. Much to discuss. We’ll check back in about the latter though once there’s a real trailer released.

Tony nominations were announced on April 29th, which means we are quickly approaching one of my favorite days of the year (aka Tony night). What did you think of the nominations? Any snubs that really bothered you? Poor Daniel Radcliffe; that’s three snubs for him now. I was particularly excited that Outside Mullingar got recognized, and all of the Twelfth Night nominations made me quite happy. I’m eager to see what happens with some of those intense competition categories.

I’m seeing Hedwig and the Angry Inch on July 1st! Just a heads-up: it is POPULAR, and it’s only going to get crazier once it starts collecting Tony Awards on June 8th. So if you have any interest in seeing it and/or NPH, get your tickets now. When Matt and I went to the box office last week to buy ours, they were already sold out through the end of June.

Here are the reviews that will be coming your way soon: Murder for Two, Mothers and Sons, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and perhaps another Spotlight on TV!

And lastly, a brief moment of self-promotion if I may: The Understudy is one week away! Performances are at The Secret Theatre from Wed, May 28 through Sun, June 1. It was officially announced on Theatremania today! Get your tickets here, and enter the code KAFKA by this Friday at midnight for discounted tickets. I’m so excited about this production and incredibly proud of everything we have accomplished in such a short time. I love this play, and I think you will, too. Hope to see you there.

The Understudy
Written by Theresa Rebeck, Directed by Jenn Haltman
The Secret Theatre, May 28 – June 1
Photo Credit: Jeff Schneider Photography
Pictured: Brian Byus and Becca Schneider

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So You Want to See Sleep No More?

Odds are by this point you’ve heard about Sleep No More. It’s been quite the sensation in NYC. What started as a super limited engagement over two years ago is still running to sold-out houses. I’m here to tell you to catch it before it’s gone. As far as interactive, theatrical experiences go, this is top-notch and one of the coolest nights at the theatre I’ve ever had. If you choose to go, it’s good to be prepared so below is my list of tips to fully enjoy the evening.

But first, a few words on what Sleep No More actually is. It’s a Punchdrunk production – a British company known for their interactive, site-specific theatre. A warehouse in the meat-packing district has been turned into this 1920s dark, creepy hotel called the McKittrick. There are five floors and countless rooms. The audience moves through the space freely wearing white masks. Meanwhile, the performers also run around from room to room (without masks so you know who to watch). It’s primarily a dance piece, and through movement, they tell the story of Macbeth. Very little is spoken, it’s super avant-garde, and like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Okay, my suggestions. Go.

-Review Macbeth. If you don’t know the play, read it first or get an idea of the synopsis and characters. This will be helpful when you catch a scene out of context, but at the same time, don’t worry if you don’t know what’s going on or who someone is. Just enjoy the performances!

-Wear comfortable shoes. And dress comfortably, not too heavy. It’s hot in there.

-Check everything when you arrive. Really. Don’t carry a bag, phone, purse, loose change, etc. You don’t want to worry about that stuff when you’re running around in the space.

-Follow your instincts. If you’re bored or want to check something else out, go somewhere else. That’s why the show is brilliant. You can do whatever you want; you create your own unique experience. No two people have the same night at the theatre.

-On that note, if you go with someone, I highly encourage you to split up. This way you can truly follow your gut and do what you want. You’ll likely run into each other throughout the evening anyway.

-The whole show loops three times except for the finale so you very well may see something twice. If you happen upon a scene you’ve already seen, you don’t necessarily have to immediately ditch. You could follow a different actor at the end of that segment.

-It might be a while before you find an actor when you first enter the space. My first time it took me 40 minutes, and my second time I practically ran into one right when I walked in. As soon as you see someone without a mask, follow! Run if you’re up for it!

-I know there are a lot of cool rooms, props, and keys. Enjoy this and feel free to explore, but don’t get obsessed. I know someone who sat in a room and waited for ages, sure that something would eventually happen, and another friend who found a key and spent the entire show trying to find what it opened. The details are fun and you should definitely look around, but don’t dedicate your evening to them.

-Hydrate! I suggest checking a water bottle with your stuff so you have it to drink afterward.

-Wear a watch so you can head to the ballroom at the appropriate time for the finale. If it’s a 7pm show, head over around quarter to 10pm. This is the one thing you want to plan on. Get as close to the long table as possible.

Above all, I would say be ready to adapt. I wouldn’t go in with a plan; it’ll likely just backfire due to crowds or getting lost and you’ll end up being disappointed. I’ve talked to a lot of folks who have been worried that they’re going to miss something. Honestly, that’s the nature of the show. You are going to miss things; you can only be in one room at a time. But who knows what you’ll get to see?

With or without these tips, you’re going to have an excellent, one-of-a-kind evening. Tickets are expensive, but man, is it worth it.


Sleep No More
A Punchdrunk Production, Directed by Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle
McKittrick Hotel through February 16th
Photo Credit: Yaniv Schulman
Pictured: Matthew Oaks


Discount Ticket Tips!

Looking for cheap(er) tickets? Here’s a quick round-up of some of the best options out there.

Still under 30? Manhattan Theatre Club offers a 30under30 program. Basically, if you’re 30 years old or younger, you can purchase $30 tickets (up to 2) to all MTC shows. Your guest does not have to fit the age requirement, but you will have to show your ID to pick up the tickets.

Linctix offers $30 tickets to 21-35 year olds for all Lincoln Center Theater productions. Also, if you sign up, LCT3 shows cost just $20. You can only purchase one ticket though Linctix, but you can enter your friend’s member information when purchasing so you can sit together.

Roundabout Theatre Company has Hiptix which is a $20 deal for folks ages 18-35. You can get 2 tickets for Roundabout productions, but your guest also has to be the appropriate age.

If you’re looking to buy tickets in advance for some of the more popular shows, I recommend checking in from time to time on websites like Playbill, Theatremania, or Plum Benefits. They typically all offer the same discounts. They aren’t the best, but it’s better than nothing! You can join the Playbill Club here. There’s also the Theatremania Gold Club which offers discounts and a pair of complimentary tickets with a $99 annual membership fee.

Playbill also keeps a handy list of all of the general rush, youth rush, standing room, and lottery policies for Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.

Lastly, there is TDF which offers affordable prices for Broadway, Off-Broadway, music, and dance productions. The Broadway shows tend to be around $40-45 nowadays. Now, you’re not going to see bestsellers like The Book of Mormon or Wicked listed on TDF, but you will see a fair share of popular plays and musicals. Shows will more likely pop up during previews or when they aren’t selling as well during a particular week. There’s an annual membership fee. Right now it’s only $25. Check out the site to see if you are eligible to join.

So these are the major outlets I use when investigating ticket deals. There are always the TKTS booths for day-of half-price tickets (tourist central, mind you). It also never hurts to swing by the box office and see what they have available that night.

Good luck and happy ticket-buying!


Times Square Cheap(er) Eats

Times Square is a madhouse, pretty much all the time. Except around 2am after New Year’s Eve. Then it’s just spooky. But most of the time, it’s insane with tourists and packed with restaurants that are bound to rip you off. You’re already spending a boatload on your show tickets, so why go to a chain where the prices are outrageous? Here are some suggestions for more affordable (or at the very least, less touristy) places to eat that are off the beaten path (aka not TGI Friday’s and Applebee’s).

John’s Pizzeria does attract tourists, but it’s also popular for locals. Smack in the middle of the theatre district, this restaurant is great for an affordable dinner, not to mention super yummy pizza. What’s that? You like Italian but don’t want to be at a touristy restaurant? Take a stroll over to 9th Avenue for Don Giovanni’s. Or there’s Nizza: pasta, pizza, and most importantly nowadays, a second menu that’s entirely gluten-free!

Kodama Sushi is my favorite sushi place in midtown west. It’s hard to find good sushi in Times Square, but Kodama never disappoints. It has a kind staff, fast service, and delicious rolls. Plus you’ll have plenty of Broadway star sightings.

The best new addition to pre-theatre dining is Bareburger. One of my personal favorites throughout the city, definitely check this out for speedy, organic food. I also highly recommend ordering some onion rings and/or a milkshake. Another affordable burger option is HB Burger which is over by 6th Avenue and a part of the Heartland Brewery restaurant family.

Want to venture out of the theatre district but still have time to get back to midtown for a show? Check out Westville, the Chelsea location. Cute spot, great food, and known for its fantastic market sides. Vegetables galore!

A recent discovery for me is Hourglass Tavern on Restaurant Row. I’ve only been once, but it was a great dinner and much cheaper than the typical restaurants on that strip. Bareburger is also there! Did I mention Bareburger has made it to Times Square? Praise the day.

Alright, that’s what I have for now. I hope this helps with that constant struggle to find a good place for dinner. Happy Fourth of July, everyone! Go see a Broadway show!


A Tony Award Forecast

So with the Tony Awards now very much in sight, I have received a handful of requests for a “Tony Prediction” post. I’ve been hesitant to share my predictions (in print anyway), but here are a few thoughts on what to expect and why you should tune in this year.

What I’m most excited for this season is that there is not a clear winner in the works. Unlike a couple of years ago when everyone knew The Book of Mormon would sweep, or even last year with ONCE, this time around we have a true race between two new shows for Best Musical, Matilda and Kinky Boots. I have not yet seen Matilda at the Shubert, but I did get a chance to see it in London last spring, and I absolutely loved it. I saw Kinky Boots several weeks ago, and it’s like musical theatre candy; the audience eats it up. Personally I’m rooting for Matilda for the big win, but here’s how I think some of the awards will break down.

Word on the street is Best Score will go to Kinky and Best Book will go to Matilda. Best Direction I think will be swiped by Diane Paulus for Pippin. Remember Pippin? Yeah, that’s the big sweep of the year for revivals. It should grab Best Revival, Best Direction, Best Choreography (Chet Walker), Best Actress (Patina Miller as Leading Player), and Best Featured Actress (Andrea Martin as Berthe). It may even take Best Featured Actor (Terrence Mann as Charlemagne), but that’s a tight race between Terrence and Gabriel Ebert as the father in Matilda. For Best Actor in a Musical, it’s a race between two men in drag: Bertie Carvel as the evil Principal in Matilda and Billy Porter as the fabulous Lola in Kinky. My money’s on Billy.

As for plays, I’m thinking Best Play will go to Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang, which I saw last night (go see it immediately. You’ll laugh your face off). Best Revival will likely go to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but The Trip to Bountiful may make some surprise appearances. Tom Hanks will probably walk away with Best Actor for Lucky Guy, although I would like to see Nathan Lane win for The Nance. For Best Actress I don’t know what’s going to happen! I personally want to see Kristine Nielsen win for Vanya, but I only saw two of the nominated performances so I’m honestly not informed enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if Judith Light wins for Best Featured Actress in The Assembled Parties, and Best Featured Actor expectations are mixed. I really didn’t see enough of the nominated plays this season. Instead I was at The Heiress. Ugh.

This is starting to rattle on so I’m going to stop here, and I haven’t even covered all the lighting, scenic, and costume design, not to mention sound design and orchestrations. But no matter who ends up taking home the awards on Sunday night, it’s really about seeing the great performances of new and old shows, enjoying a hopefully fantastic opening number with host Neil Patrick Harris, and celebrating a night of theatre. So tune in to CBS on Sunday at 8pm ET.