Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm sold! Again! On N! YC!

Sheesh! How long can a boy take to blog about his favorite thing in the whole wide world? (I mean besides Tool Academy.)

So the domestic partner and I went to NYC over Halloween weekend (remember Halloween weekend? it was like six months ago or something. back when I used to write blog posts.) to see multiple Broadway shows! He was there overnight for work and I had free airline tickets so I got to have a Big Gay Broadway Weekend for the cost of theater tickets, food and cab fare. Everyone wins!


New York City cabbies are a not-very-cooperative bunch. There, I said it. Every second cab that pulled over for us all weekend didn't want to go wherever we were going. And the one that took me back to LaGuardia on Sunday didn't even know where to drop me off. So the New York City cabbies were a big ol' Fosca to the Giorgio of my Big Gay Broadway Weekend.


I got to LaGuardia Saturday just before noon and I Clara-ed my way right to the theater district to get tickets for my target matinee. (We tend to operate on a hope-we-can-get-tickets theater plan in our family. So far we've never not gotten tickets to the shows we wanted to see, though we've been reduced to standing in return-ticket lines for a couple hours when we could have been spending our New York City time wandering around Times Square feeling superior to the other tourists who plan ahead for months to see Phantom of the Opera.) I got a ticket right away, ran to grab a bite to eat and then settled down for my first Broadway experience of the weekend. But more on that later.

Because first I want to talk about celebrities!

I apparently have horrible celebrity-dar. Because I saw my first show, waited in line right by the sidewalk for an hour for return tickets for our second show, enjoyed a long early dinner at a sidewalk cafe, and stood on the sidewalk watching people go by for another hour while I waited for the domestic partner to show up from work, and I never once saw a celebrity. Not even Evan Marriott.

But the moment the domestic partner showed up—the moment!—we suddenly bumped into—in rapid succession! right on the sidewalk! out in public!—Marcia Gay Harden, David Hyde Pierce and Tony Roberts. Either the domestic partner is the Celebrity Piper whose magical flute playing enchants celebrities right out of their hiding places everywhere he goes or celebrities walk by me all the time and I just don't notice.

But there's more! As we settled down in our Jake-waited-for-an-hour return seats for our evening show, Annette Bening sauntered down the aisle and sat herself a couple rows in front of us. Of course I didn't notice her until the domestic partner pointed out the merry jig she was dancing to his whimsical little flute canticle. But still! That's four celebrities in one night! If I had a celebrity punch card I'd totally earn a free Diet Pepsi!

But that's not all!

As I was sitting at a foo-foo gay sidewalk cafe in foo-foo gay Hell's Kitchen between foo-foo gay shows on Saturday, I saw a familiar face amble up the street toward me. My New York blogger friend David—of Someone in a Tree, which I can't look at at work because he booby-traps his posts with pictures of naked men whose bodies make me feel bad about mine—emerged out of the crowd on his way to perform in Brigadoon. And while it was fun to run into him so randomly in big ol' New York City, it was more fun to think how something like that probably wouldn't happen again for a hundred years.

And the coincidences keep coming!

Because as soon as David wandered off to his show, I saw a guy walk up the street toward me in a Rehobus shirt. Rehobus is a defunct bus company that shuttled gay people between DC and Rehoboth a couple summers ago, and all that's left of the company is its very cool shirts. And I have the same shirt this dude was wearing because the guys who ran the company are the friends I stayed with in Rehoboth twice this summer. So I chatted this dude up and, sure enough, he totally knew my friends. So he was a random-friend-on-the-sidewalk-encounter-by-proxy.

Anyway, let's move on to the important part of this blog post: where to find a free bathroom in Times Square. (Upstairs at the Marriott—turn right when you get off the escalator.)

Also: the shows I saw!

I tried to take a picture of myself in front of every show I saw over the weekend. Which is really hard to do with a cell phone on a crowded sidewalk. And not only because I–who can usually be counted on to feel no shame about acting goofy in public–was suddenly overcome with a rare case of the What Will People Think Of Me's as I tried to discreetly snap self-portraits from arm's length as bored tourists milled about me in their pleated capri pants and their purses crammed with money-saving sandwiches and maps of New York City landmarks. Plus, I had to wait 20 minutes for some damn tourists to move away from this sign so I could take a self-portrait I call "Next to Next to Normal" ... and once I got it out of my phone and blown up to readable size, I realized I had been in front of the wrong sign all along because this sign was obviously for a show about a girl who sat alphabetically beside Marilyn Monroe in grammar school:
(This is my Serious Face, by the way, worn in deference to the pain and suffering endured by the characters in the show. Poor Norma.)

In any case, Next to Normal—which I saw with the original Broadway cast, thank you very much—is pretty spectacular. For those of you not familiar, it's a rock opera about a family torn apart by mental illness. Tony winner Alice Ripley rips into the role of the family matriarch struggling to find a sense of normal in her haze of delusions and disorders. And she. gutted. me. The show is a roller coaster of chaos and despair and hope and challenge and absolute emotional destitution. I don't want to say much more about it, though, because the show's awesome powers are better discovered in real time. But I will say this: If you go to see Aaron Tveit—the family's son, who is so handsome he's almost a distraction—in his underwear, don't blink; the scene goes by pretty fast. And he's still pretty covered up. So it's best to come to the show for the show itself. (Also: Don't read any reviews before you see the show. The less you know, the better. Trust me on this.)

The domestic partner and I saw God of Carnage—with the original Broadway cast, thank you very much—on Saturday night. Which means I didn't have to take a self-portrait with my camera phone. I had been under the impression that the show was a dialogue between two couples that devolves into an apocalyptic collapse of Albee proportions. But I was only half right. The couples do say and do vicious things to each other, but the play is really just a dark comedy with a lot of slapstick. Including a gratuitous vomit scene that completely undermines what little verisimilitude the show clings to (if a character vomited that much vomit with that much force in the real world, she would at the very least be too sick to move for the rest of the show ... and the room that she sprayed would not be inhabitable by humans for another whole hour of exposition). But once I'd adjusted my expectations for the show, I laughed and giggled my way through it with the rest of the audience. Including Annette Bening! The actors are spot-on in their roles, particularly Tony winner Marcia Gay Harden, whose nuanced slide from uncomfortable gentility to even more uncomfortable vitriol is matched only by the fabulously horrible outfit she wears: a helpless explosion of patterns and textures in exactly the wrong proportions for her body type. The set—a riot of brilliant reds and winter whites accented by a scorched-earth wall hanging and two massive vases of white tulips—provides a plush boxing ring for the characters to attack and retreat for 90 minutes. (My only unformed opinion: I'm still trying to figure out the significance of the show's many visual and verbal references to African tribalism, though I'm probably just overthinking.) The original cast—Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden—is leaving soon, but the show opens with a new cast—Christine Lahti, Annie Potts, Jimmy Smits and Ken Stott—on the 17th.

So how random is this: Three people I know from my Iowa home town (and by "I know" I mean "I only very distantly know and have never even personally met one of them") are in Broadway shows right now. And two of them are in one together: Bye Bye Birdie—which I saw with the original Broadway revival cast, thank you very much. The show is not getting very good reviews—it has lots of energy and color and fun, but it doesn't gel ... particularly the relationships between some of the leads ... and the choreography is both show-choir-y and sloppy—but there were only four seats left when I walked up to buy my ticket. So what do the reviewers know? Before I went to the show, I left a note at the stage door for the two people I "know" in it: a girl I watched grow up while her mother and I did millions of shows together and a guy who was in my dad's scouting troop before I was even born. They both have some of the most fun jobs in the show: chorus people who occasionally get pulled out for featured numbers. And they're both pretty fabulous, which is not just the Iowa pride talking. I was hoping to meet them afterward for a drink and a possible moment alone with John Stamos, but I had to race to catch a plane with no help from the cabbie who couldn't find the right departure gate for me. Fun fact! Bye Bye Birdie was the first book musical I ever did, way back before I even realized I would grow up addicted to tattoos. And I still know every word and every note and it was all I could do to not sing along in the audience.

WHEW. So thank you for your patience while I've been busy worshipping the gods of weekday work and weekend exhaustion. Come back soon for reports of my next adventure. Which will also include pictures! And text! Just like a real blog post!

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