Friday, February 26, 2010

A Behanding in Spokane: The BroadwayGirlNYC Review

Thursday night I saw A Behanding in Spokane. What a weird fucking play, you guys! But believe it or not, I mean that as a compliment. It is strange and disturbing – but also funny and thought-provoking. Anyway, what else do you expect from Martin McDonagh?

The premise is odd: A one-handed man named Carmichael (Christopher Walken) is on an obsessive quest to reunite with his missing body part. The journey takes him to a hotel where he meets up with two kids (Zoe Kazan as Marilyn, Anthony Mackie as Toby) who attempt to sell him a disembodied limb they claim once belonged to him. When he finds out that it isn’t HIS hand… let’s just say he freaks. His freak-out, and the resulting frenzy, make up the body of the play.

The actors are all first-rate. Walken is Walken, of course; while at first his start-and-stop signature line-delivery is distracting (the audience laughs at lines that aren’t funny, in delight over seeing this oft-caricatured man in the flesh), the novelty wears off and we settle in to getting to know Carmichael. The character’s plight may be crazy, but Walken delivers believably enough so that even if we don’t quite relate to him, we can accept that he’s for real. Zoe Kazan and Anthony Mackie are adorable – her Marilyn is dumb but still savvy enough to know when to use her feminine wiles; his Toby is a street-smart (and book-smart) kid who, it seems, has fallen prey to the lure of cash that dealing drugs – and in this case, hands – provides. And Sam Rockwell… where do I start. He’s gorgeous, of course, but that takes a backseat to his acting in this role. He is my favorite part about Behanding: his Mervyn, the former speed-freak now working at the hotel’s front desk, is twisted and adorable, with a Prince Charming complex and a chip on his shoulder. He’s also the one who finally gets into Carmichael’s head, allowing the behanded man himself to become more relatable to all of us. Bravo to Sam Rockwell for rising to the challenge of this quirky, multifaceted, hilarious part.

Depending on your disposition, you’ll be either pleased or disappointed to learn that there isn’t a lot of on-stage brutality in this particular McDonagh work. But not to worry, it’s both sinister and entertaining… just what you’d hope for (or cringe at, or both) from the master of theatrical black-comedy.

Not everyone likes this kind of show. If Mamma Mia is your thing, for example, you probably want to skip Behanding. But I dig weird shit on Broadway. I like plays that are fucked up and darkly hilarious. You might go see it and react like the lady sitting next to me, who turned to her husband during the curtain call to say “I want to get as far away from this play as I can.” But then again you could also respond the way I did – with supreme appreciation for the fact that risky theatre still gets produced, and we get to see it on as grand a scale as Broadway.

P.S. Notes for stage-door autograph seekers: Zoe was lovely, signing for everyone and chatting with those who asked questions. Anthony was friendly, and signed for many but was in a clear hurry. Sam Rockwell wanted nothing to do with the stage-door crowd (marking a small line on a few playbills closest to the door, but nothing resembling a signature) before sprinting off into the night. And Walken did dutifully sign – knowing he was the main attraction – but made no eye contact and spoke to no one, not even a “thank you” to those effusing about his performance.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rant: Have some Pride, Media

A brief rant, by BroadwayGirlNYC:

Why does every interview I read with Hugh Dancy have to ask whether he had any hesitation in playing a gay role, or about whether people around him were concerned about him playing homosexual onstage? Not once have I EVER seen an interview with a gay actor where they asked the same questions about playing straight, and they do it ALL THE TIME. Dancy is a professional ACTOR -- it's his life's work to pretend to be something he's not in real life. Why the obsession over kissing another dude, as if it's the most deplorable thing in the world? Grow up, media. Ask Hugh Dancy about some issues people actually care about: like whether Claire Danes ever calls him "Jordan Catalano" in bed.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

BroadwayGirlNYC Exclusive: American Idols confirmed for HAIR

Attention hippies…

And attention, American Idol fans.

TWO familiar faces will be joining the HAIR Tribe, my sources exclusively confirm.

Get ready for Ace Young (AI’s season 5’s seventh-place finalist) as Berger, and Diana DeGarmo (season 3 runner-up) in a role to be announced.

DeGarmo returns to Broadway after previously appearing as Penny Pingleton in Hairspray. Most recently, she played Sarah in The Toxic Avenger at New World Stages off-Broadway.

Young played Kenickie in the 2007 revival of Grease.

Tell me… will YOU be running to this Idol-infused Be-In at the Hirschfeld?

(P.S. I almost titled this post "Am-HAIR-ican Idol". I decided to spare you. You're welcome!)

Laura Bell Bundy performs LIVE at Splash

“New York is the greatest city in the world.” This is my thought as my plane lands at JFK, after a whirlwind trip to Houston to see Frank Wildhorn’s Wonderland: The Musical. Yes, there is theatre in other cities, but there is nowhere else in the world where a fan can have a Broadway experience at any hour of the day or night.

Case in point: in checking my Twitter feed in the cab home from the airport, what do I see? Laura Bell Bundy, with the following message to her fans: “New Yorkers! I'm performing at Splash in 45 mins. Come on down. 50 west 17th street!”

Was it past my bedtime? Yes. Was I exhausted from the trip? Yes. But you KNOW I did what a dedicated BroadwayGirl has gotta do.

“Driver? We have a new destination!!”

So instead of a heading directly to bed at a reasonable hour, I redirect the cab to Splash, a Flatiron gay bar known for its pole-dancing go-go boys and tiny, expensive drinks. I’d never been there before, but I can hang at a gay bar, ladies. I’m so excited that I overtip the cab driver, pay the (admittedly steep) $25 Splash cover, and make my way inside.

The crowd is bumpin’, grindin’, fondlin’ and dancin’ up a storm. But all attention turns to Ms. Bundy when the spotlight swings her way.

She looks AMAZING, y’all! (Isn’t it funny how one night of country-pop has me abbreviatin’ and using words like “y’all”?) And her set is really fun. Too short, to be sure (she only performs 3 songs), but can you really ask for more at 2am, when you’re standing 3 feet away from one of Broadway’s hottest stars?

I wish you all could have been there with me. However, since you couldn’t, I’m bringing you the next best thing: VIDEO!!!!!

Check out my exclusive videos (uploaded on my brand new YouTube page!) of Laura Bell Bundy, performing her hit single “Giddy On Up,” as well as the debut of a NEW tune, “I’m No Good For You, Baby”.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

BroadwayGirl's Adventure in Wonderland

I've just returned from Wonderland!!

I spent last night falling in love with a White Knight, dancing with a smooth and smiling Gato, taking advice from a Caterpillar, facing down an angry Jabberwock, and finally finding my way home.

Ahhhh you guys. I’ve wanted to see Wonderland: The Musical since I first heard that it was being created. The story of Alice was one of the first literary works that really fascinated me as a child, and being as obsessed as I am with musical theatre, I had to see what it would become on the stage.

Of course I was nervous; a butchering of my favorite tale had the potential to ruin it for me forever. But I just couldn’t know it was out there, and not give it a chance.

I should say that I was very much relieved to find out that Wonderland: The Musical is in fact a NEW story about a NEW Alice – this one a red-headed adult, not a small blonde child. Rather than simply adding songs to a story we all know, book writers Jack Murphy and Gregory Boyd (who also directs) have created an entirely new adventure for a complex, adult woman. She encounters characters we know from the children’s story, but unlike Shrek or Beauty & The Beast, this show allows us to meet their new incarnations for the first time. True to Lewis Carroll’s vision, everything might be familiar, but then again everything is strange and new.

In this version of Wonderland, Alice – played by In the HeightsJanet Dacal – is an accomplished but over-extended working mom, teetering on the brink of alienation by her husband (Darren Ritchie) and their daughter Chloe (Julie Brooks). When Chloe runs away from home, Alice follows her down the big-city version of “the rabbit hole” – an immeasurably deep elevator shaft originating in their high-rise apartment building. Upon landing, Alice embarks on a quest to find Chloe – who is, unbeknownst to her mother, a regular visitor to Wonderland.

After maneuvering her way through a sea of Chloe look-alikes, Alice is granted an audience with the Caterpillar (Tommar Wilson of HAIR). He presents her with a riddle, which, when solved, permits her entrance into the next door along her journey.

There are eight doors in total. Behind each door resides a resident of Wonderland (who, in a nod to “The Wizard of Oz,” resembles a character from Alice’s above-ground life), each providing a riddle to help Alice in the mission to find her daughter. El Gato (the Cheshire Cat), the White Knight, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts – they’re all here. And, each in his or her own melodious style, they present their riddles and clues through song.

Wonderland: The Musical overflows with singable tracks. Frank Wildhorn pulls out all the stops – using Latin, Pop, R&B, Rock and Big Band music to create a versatile yet seamless score.

My favorite tunes are “Worst Day of My Life” (Janet Dacal’s opening number); “One Knight” (sung boy-band style, complete with choreography borrowed from the Backstreet Boys); “The Mad Hatter,” Nikki Snelson’s introduction as the scheming, power-hungry Queen-of-Hearts sidekick; and “Misunderstood,” the woeful tale of Tad Wilson’s carnivorous, isolated Jabberwock. (These songs, and twelve others, can be heard on the Wonderland Concept Recording, available at

The design of the production is top-notch. From bright, imaginative set-pieces to a complex use of projected images – not to mention exciting, colorful costumes (my favorites are the Queen of Hearts’ over-the-top gown and the multi-legged zoot-suit worn by the Caterpillar) – the visuals alone are enough to keep me in the world of the play. But it’s the music and the cast that make me want to go back and see this show again.

Wonderland is the perfect antidote to the Disney musical. Young audience members will love the bold colors and the sight gags (watch as Alice rewinds time and the actors move and speak backwards!) but it won’t feel like “kids theatre” to their parents. On the contrary, Jack Murphy’s lyrical wordplay is sophisticated, and there are enough “adult themes” (i.e. divorce) to ground this fantasy story in a reality we can recognize.

Listen, I’m not saying that Wonderland is the most perfect show I’ve ever seen. The storyline is wobbly in parts (is the appearance of author Lewis Carroll really necessary?), and I hear that the creatives are still experimenting with the order of the songs. It’s not particularly edgy or dangerous. But I do believe that the show has the chops to make it in New York. The songs are catchy, the cast is strong and the visuals are impressive. Broadway needs a show like this.

Wonderland: The Musical runs at the Alley Theatre in Houston through February 14.

After that… its future remains unknown.