This could be a multi-part blog series. And it has nothing to do with the People issue that just came out, though Bradley Cooper was a nice choice. Instead, it has to do with the theater weekend I just had in New York. I saw three shows, all of which featured handsome men. Paul Gross in Private Lives, Alan Rickman in Seminar and Hugh Jackman in Hugh Jackman Back on Broadway. My focus for this post is Hugh Jackman.
I have seen him in the movies. And I have watched him host the Tonys. But I had never seen him live. And while I was prepared to enjoy the show, I was not prepared for how enormously talented Hugh Jackman is. He is charming and charismatic and has a nice singing voice. But it is the dancing that got to me.
I love old movie musicals, with a very special place in my heart for Fred Astaire, with Gene Kelley coming in a close second. I love their easy way of telling a story through dance, and layering romance with athleticism. Hugh Jackman is that kind of dancer. Lovely, at ease and really, really good. Truly a talent that may have been better served in another era, when he could have made some movie musicals a la Gene Kelley (or Fred Astaire). Wolverine the Musical? I don’t think so. But maybe take his Wolverine cache and make a big old fashioned musical with production numbers? A girl can dream.
Hats off to Hugh Jackman. You surprised me.
When I heard that Lyric Stage Company here in Boston was doing NICHOLAS NICKLEBY I applauded the scope. When I heard members of the company talk about it, I applauded the passion. And now that I’ve seen both parts, I applaud the production. Two parts, three hours each. Twenty-four actors playing dozens of parts. Stunning elements by Boston designers. Big and bold.
And wonderful. I was transported and sorry when it ended. I could give you specifics, but instead I encourage you to go see it. Try to see both parts. If you can’t, see at least one of them. Then we’ll talk.
I was fortunate enough to see a one man CHRISTMAS CAROL that blew my mind. It starred Patrick Stewart. He wore a green modern dress suit and played all of the parts himself. He used a few pieces of furniture as props, and that was it. The rest was all him.
Now Dickens himself did readings of A CHRISTMAS CAROL on tour, so the conceit wasn’t new. And I have heard of other one man versions. That said, Stewart made the piece his own. That one man could capture the entire Fezziwig party may not be believable, but it happened. Each character existed onto him or herself, and together they filled the imagination. It was a moment that truly exemplified the magic of theater.
When TNT announced Patrick Stewart was playing Scrooge in a new version, I hoped it would be the one man version. Alas, it was not (though it was a fine production which I will talk about later on this month).
There is a CD of Patrick Stewart performing (for it transcends a reading) A CHRISTMAS CAROL which is well worth listening to. You won’t have the physicality of his performance, but you do have the vocal storytelling. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen.
My friend Stephanie and I went to the BCA on a Saturday and saw all three Shirley VT plays. Haven’t heard of them? You will. If not them, you will know about the talented playwright, Annie Baker. All three plays take place in the fictional town of Shirley VT, but Ms. Baker and her voice are the thread that weaves them together.
I liked them (as you will see in the video), but more than that, I was grateful for them. Because they are plays. Not screen plays on stage. They are theatrical, contained within their world and helping you explore your world through them.
CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION closes Sunday. BODY AWARENESS and ALIENS close on the 21st. If you live here, don’t miss them. Ben Brantley didn’t.
Just back from Sarah Ruhl’s IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY at Speakeasy Stage. A great production under the extremely talented guidance of Scott Edmiston, with a wonderful cast and stunning production elements. All of these things create an amazing evening of theater. But then you add Sarah Ruhl.
Sarah Ruhl is an amazingly talented playwright. She does not aspire to be a scriptwriter, or a TV scribe. She is a playwright. And her works are very theatrical. They live in the theater. They require theater in order to live. I am awed and inspired and so grateful that she is still young enough that I will be able to enjoy her career for a long time.
See the play at Speakeasy. And then keep thinking about it. And thank Sarah Ruhl for that.
Here’s an interview with her from Downstage Center.
On Monday I went to see Phèdre at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. Phèdre was a live theater production in London, at the National Theatre, last spring. It filmed as part of the NT Live series, where theater is broadcast live around the world. I suspect what we saw was edited down (it ran around two hours). Dame Helen Mirren (and a host of other very talented actors) were in it, and it was very good. But it wasn’t great. And that is wonderful.
Let me explain. In this world where live performance is struggling to “prove” its worth, I think that filmed plays are a slippery slope. Plays aren’t movies, or tv. Plays are unique. And they are magic. I truly believe that–the interchange between the audience and the production produces a unique experience that is akin to magic. And so the idea of something capturing that magic on film…that makes me nervous for live performance. But while Phèdre was a fine movie experience, it made me wish I’d seen the live performance.
During the film the camera kept panning to different actors. Of course. You can’t stay with a wide angle the whole time. It would be too boring. But I bet seeing it live, and watching the other actors react was far from boring. I bet seeing the lighting effects and hearing the sound design was brilliant. I bet seeing the costumes on that fascinating set was striking. It was all good on the screen, but made me regret not seeing it live.
How great is that? A film that makes you miss theater. I’m already looking forward to seeing the NT Live version of King Lear with Derek Jacobi. I’d rather see it in London, but that is not in the budget. A good alternative. Not perfect, but that in itself is perfect.