Photo by Don Kellogg

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Mary Poppins

It's a good idea to go see what a whole lotta cash can buy! Let me start off first by saying that I don't like the idea of Disney on Broadway. It's commercial and popular. Just look at the lines outside the New Amsterdam Theater - mostly tourists who are more than willing to drop $110 a ticket (discount, what's that?) for the chance to see "the show" of the season. And let's not forget that they all buy their 3 year old kids a soda in a souviner cup and a bag of chips for $20 - both of which are shockingly allowed in the theater during the performance! I spent the first 30 minutes thinking something was wrong with the sound system. No, it was just all those moron parents letting their stupid kids eat the potato chips (crinkle, crinkle crinkle x 500) during the performance!

Well, back to my original thought - It's a good idea to see what a whole lotta cash can buy. Disney has it and this show flaunts it. The sets (and there are more than I've seen in a long time) are opulent. The fly space (the space above and around the visible stage) in the New Amsterdam seems to be one of the best in the industry - allowing for huge backdrops and sets to come and go effortlessly. There's a doll house cut-away and an upstairs bedroom that alternatively raise and lower along with a rooftop and a park. The actors float around the stage, climb the proscenium, walk upside down and fly out into the audience - all effortlessly and magically.

What else can money buy? Costumes (an endless colorful supply of them); Lights (all sorts of colors and sizes); Special effects (rain, flying birds, stars); and let's not forget the magical effect of Mary and Bert flying all over the place - floating like birds and sliding up the staircase.

Disney money can buy a lot of things that many productions can't afford, but I have to admit, I was transported to #17 Cherry Tree Lane. It does work. But let's not forget - a large cast, a terrific score and the dark interpretation of the P.L Travers stories are also part of the formula of success. Ashley Brown and Gaven Lee certainly do dazzle and delight. They, along with the rest of the cast, really do seem like they are having fun from curtain to curtain. I'd believe it if they told me they all worked for free (OK, well sort of).

So, while I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and revel fondly in the memories while perusing my Showbill (what's that all about?) back at home, it does worry me that all those people who saw it (and loved it too, I'm sure) will just expect the next show they see to be bigger and better. How disappointed they will be when they go see Spring Awakening or Grey Gardens and find out there's only one set per act and people don't fly.

What is all that money buying us in the long run?

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Playright Brian Friel shows up on Broadway once again (Faith Healer -2006). A well performed work, albeit slow and a bit boring and a bit of a dirge. A fine cast, all unknown (to me anyway), did an excellent job at staging the new work.

I mean how could a show with a stage covered in dirt, dirty looking actors, and the British army come out with a happy ending? Just a little hint. It can't. And it didn't.

The title, Translations, comes from the fact that the actors, although speaking to us in English, are really supposed to be speaking in Gaelic (Irish). It becomes most obvious when the British Army shows up and must try to communicate with the locals. They are "mapping" the small towns in Ireland. The Irish are proud to speak their own language and have their own culture on the beautiful isle, but are not very well educated and one can soon tell what the British army is bound to do. The proud are doomed to fall.