These Are a Few of My Favorite Searches

So with my WordPress blog, I get a fancy little dashboard that tracks my posts and site statistics. The statistics include how many hits each post is getting or where in the world my readers are based. The dashboard also has a section called “Top Searches.” These are the searches on Google, or whatever people like to search with (Bing?), that brought readers to my blog. They type something in, it has enough in common with the tags I’ve used on past posts, and Becca on Broadway pops up in their search results.

Why am I telling you all this? Because some of these searches are AMAZING. Over the past couple years, I’ve saved my favorites, and I thought I would share them with you now (with my comments in italics below). I hope you get as much enjoyment out of them as I have.

“what scene in rent does idina menzel show butt”
Clearly the most important part of that musical.

 “a million miles away ARADIN”
Um…

“80 minute sex”
I can only assume this brought up the blog because of my Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man review. Don’t get any ideas.

“understanding hedwig”
It’s a tricky one I suppose.

“hedwig and the crazy inch”
That inch is inSANE.

“i’d dan lauria starring in s christmas story in 2014”
Someone is in desperate need of spellcheck. And no, unfortunately Dan Lauria left A Christmas Story when the run ended at the very end of 2013.

“in the book of mice and men what are 3 things that lennie contributes to his friendship with george”
Sparknotes, anyone?

“change in mood comes when swastika is sceen in cabaret”
I’ll say.

“clint eastwood aladdin”
Now this I need to see.

“what was the reality show that aired briefly about conjoined twins”
Oh Side Show, I miss you.

“fren gully broadway tickets”
Yes! Great movie! Make it happen!

“mailchimp podcast”
Mail…kimp?

“twins on broadway show really conjoined”
Seriously?

“does steven pasquale have a girlfriend”
Mmm. I hear ya.

“rosie odonnell character cosette”
Okay, actually THIS is what I need to see.

Here’s hoping these keep pouring in, and this can be a regular installment!


IF/THEN

If/Then

So any excitement I initially had for If/Then had mostly been diminished by the time I got to the show due to the mixed reviews and word of mouth saying it was confusing and hard to follow. But what can I say? I enjoyed myself regardless (check out the highlight reel here). The new musical is certainly not perfect. It’s a little all over the place. I could have done without the choreography. Characters are underwritten. There are a few too many moving parts if you will, but it does have a lot going for it.

Idina Menzel is a powerhouse. Say what you will about her TV performances; she belongs on that stage and subsequently brings the house down. She’s famous, folks. The rest of the cast is amazing, talented, and sadly under-used. LaChanze gets her chance to shine as does Anthony Rapp (who, I must say, has never sounded better), but Jenn Colella’s character doesn’t get the chance to develop. Same with Jerry Dixon, Jason Tam, or even the male lead James Snyder. It’s Menzel’s story through and through. The rest of the characters tend to just circle around her.

So If/Then is about Elizabeth. She’s nearing 40 and having just gone through a divorce out in Arizona, is moving back to New York City to start her life over. What’s holding her back is her tendency to overanalyze all her decisions – playing out all the possible results of every possible action – therefore making her hesitate over every little thing, from huge life decisions to how to spend her afternoon. The big convention of this musical is that one of these smaller decisions ends up splitting her life in two, and we get to see how the two sides of the coin play out, prompting the question: how can one seemingly unimportant decision potentially affect the rest of our lives?

As a result of this setup, many people have said the plot is difficult to follow, or they didn’t realize that two different stories were being told. I honestly didn’t think it was that challenging. True, I went in knowing it was going to happen, but even so, I think it’s spelled out quite clearly in the first number. And then they set up blatant clues as to which “timeline” you’re in – it’s either Liz wearing glasses or Beth without. It’s “Sliding Doors” the musical, as Laura Benanti says. Side note: I’ve also been calling it “RENT 2: Mortgage.” It’s fun to see Anthony and Idina together again. There’s a scene where they talk about how the term “squatting” is dated, and that gets quite the laugh from RENT fans in the house.

The score is the thing. I’ve had the cast recording on repeat on Spotify for weeks. If you don’t know Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, they won the Tony for Next to Normal. These guys know how to write a score. Here are a few sample songs of theirs: Some Other Me, Superboy and the Invisible Girl, and the Next to Normal Tony performance of “You Don’t Know” / “I Am the One.” A couple weeks ago the If/Then cast recording debuted at No. 19 on the Billboard charts. A Broadway show hasn’t done that since 1996. You may have heard of it; it was a little show called RENT.

I won’t talk about how the storylines play out or what ends up happening. I will say that I think the show deserved a little more acknowledgement than it received. Although it’s flawed, and I honestly would recommend seeing other shows first, the fact that it’s a brand new musical should be supported and recognized.

IF/THEN
Music by Tom Kitt, Book and Lyrics by Brian Yorkey, Directed by Michael Greif
Richard Rodgers Theatre, Open-Ended
Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich
Pictured: Idina Menzel and the cast of If/Then


tick, tick…BOOM!

tick, tick...BOOM!

“In one week I’ll be thirty.”

That’s one of the opening lines of tick, tick…BOOM! as the storyteller (and writer), Jonathan Larson, introduces himself to the audience. I have always been one of the many who felt that Larson’s songs and words were meant for me. But this line rang especially true this past Saturday because I could have literally said the same thing. My 30th birthday is this Saturday, July 5th, and what a unique opportunity to be able to revisit one of my favorite musicals at the age up for discussion in the show.

Some background first. tick, tick…BOOM! is a 90-minute rock musical written by Jonathan Larson. Before he went on to write the monster hit RENT, he created this auto-biographical one-man show. After he tragically died of an aortic aneurysm at the age of 35 (and right before RENT’s first preview Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop), this piece was reworked by David Auburn into a three-person show (the character of Jon himself, his best friend Michael, and his girlfriend Susan). The story is about Jon, a “promising young composer,” as he nears his 30th birthday in the year 1990 and battles with the decision of whether he should continue pushing forward along the artist’s path or finally throw in the towel. It’s a beautiful show, for artists in particular, but really it’s for anyone who can relate to the struggle of sticking to one’s dream. Plus it has a fantastic score and a smart, funny book.

The show originally premiered Off-Broadway at the now closed Jane Street Theatre in 2001. I was 17 and an enormous Renthead, so of course, I was all over that sh*t. I went four times and fell in love with Raúl Esparza, Jerry Dixon, and Amy Spanger. I freaked out a year later when I saw Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George for the first time and realized the brilliance of Larson’s song “Sunday” (it’s one big shout-out to the Act 1 finale of George). I wanted to play hooky my senior year of high school and go to the city for the demo CD signing which ended up being on September 11, 2001. I wore out the cast recording in college and would go to the practice rooms at 1am with Brigitte to play piano and sing through the music.

Sooo basically this show and I have a history, and to see it again was very emotional. I was coming in with an entirely different perspective, and it felt all the more personal. All of a sudden I find myself at the age Jonathan is singing about and asking similar questions: what does it mean, what happens next, what choices should I be making, what path should I be following? Do I continue to choose this crazy path of theatre despite the challenges? Or just throw myself fully into a day job? Do I talk about these questions over and over or do I just…act?

Unfortunately I cannot recommend this specific production to you because it was part of the Encores! Off-Center program, running only for five performances after a very brief rehearsal process. Due to the limited rehearsals (sneak peek here), the actors still use their scripts for many of the scenes. There are music stands for some songs, and not every scene is fully staged or realized. But what director Oliver Butler and these three actors managed to do in such a short time was incredibly effective. Fingers crossed it gets to move on like Violet did after its run last summer, because I think there’s more to be discovered.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony-winning composer of In the Heights, is a wonderful Jon. Although his vocals don’t match Raúl’s, his emotional presence is fully felt, and his performance resonates even more since he can so directly relate to the path of a struggling composer trying to change the face of Broadway. Here’s a lovely article written by Miranda as he talks about his journey with Larson’s work. Leslie Odom Jr. is excellent as Michael, and Karen Olivo (Tony winner for West Side Story and returning from her break from show business) knocks the big 11 o’clock number “Come to Your Senses” out of the park. I mean, holy crap. Not to mention that the song is in a higher key! Here’s a bootleg that does not do her justice but will give you a little taste.

I hope the show has more life. I want more people to see it. To hear the music. To hear Jonathan’s story. The ending to his actual story makes it all the more important to remember to embrace the time we have and move forward and hopefully continue to choose to do what we love day in and day out.

I’ll leave you with these miraculous videos of Jonathan Larson himself performing songs from tick, tick…BOOM!:

30/90
Johnny Can’t Decide
Sunday
Why (audio only)

tick, tick…BOOM!
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson, Directed by Oliver Butler
New York City Center, Closed July 28th
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Pictured: Leslie Odom Jr., Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Karen Olivo


On the Horizon: IF/THEN

IF/THEN
It’s another new feature! “On the Horizon” posts will focus on shows that are making their way to Broadway in the upcoming season(s).

IF/THEN recently finished up its run in Washington, DC at The National Theatre and isn’t coming to the Great White Way for another several months (March 2014), but I can’t help but be excited about the possibilities!

First, you’ve got this creative team: composer Tom Kitt and book/lyrics writer Brian Yorkey (the Tony-winning writing team of Next to Normal) and Tony-nominated director Michael Greif. Second, the show stars Tony winner Idina Menzel and features Anthony Rapp, James Snyder, LaChanze, Jenn Colella, and more. Third, and possibly most important, it’s Brand. New. Material.

This is so rare nowadays in the musical world it makes my heart hurt a little. Yes, yes, musicals based on movies can be hits (Kinky Boots, Matilda) and even some jukebox musicals make a huge splash (Jersey Boys), but to quote [title of show]: “Original on Broadway? Baby, that is risky!”

I can tell you that this audio clip got me excited about it. And, well, that’s all I really know. The basic premise is that a woman in her 40s (Menzel) is entering a new phase of her life in New York City and getting a chance at a fresh start.

Who knows? Maybe it will crash and burn, but what can I say? I’m excited to support the risk-takers out there and see something new.


IF/THEN
Written by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, Directed by Michael Greif
Richard Rodgers Theatre, first preview March 5th
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Pictured: Idina Menzel