Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudville

This is a workshop run so I can't be too critical.  That said, the rather long name of this show could be shortened and clarified.  It really could be titled "The Mandy and Mac Show". 

I saw the immense talent on stage in both Mandy Patinkin and Taylor Mac. (There are no names to the characters they play).  Yes, it's a vaudville-esque show for sure.  I believe the theme is generally that they're the last two men alive on the planet after a flood (queue thunder and lightening for a tad too long in the beginning).  They find each other through the music and dance for the next 95 minutes (this is where they lost me).  Immense talent aside, the two engaged in quite a wide genre of musical numbers - from Sondheim to R.E.M. and The Ragtime Theme to Row, Row, Row your Boat!  Often times clown like and always in the vaudeville style, the two sang their heads off. 

Kudos to director and choreographer Susan Stroman, lighting director Ken Billington, costume designer William Ivey Long, and set designer Beowulf Boritt - an all star assembly of creative talent!

I'm still not quite so clear that anyone would want to see this show for any other reason than to just see Mandy and Taylor perform.  Heck, some people would go see them read the phone book ...But in this case, they don't really need one because they're the last two left!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined

At the helm of this new work, Canadian crooner and successful young actor and artist, Kyle Riabko, takes a bunch of classic tunes from an old master, Mr. Burt Bacharach, and re imagines them fin-a concert-like setting for a new generation of hipsters.

There's not really a show here in the true sense of the word if you want a plot.  Mr. Riabko opens the show like a concert by speaking off-the-cuff to the audience welcoming them and giving them a bit of background on how the show came about.  After he launches into the music, not another word is spoken.  It's pure entertainment for sure.  The mind is put to work with each tune trying in the early notes and words to figure out just what the old version was and then left to admire the face lift that it has been given.
You may not love the redo or you may think it's the best new take on an old tune.  Regardless, the magnificent musicians on stage provide quite a show.

I had the on-stage seating experience.  While there was a lot of butt-watching (they played downstage from us a lot), the one magical thing to be a part of was the sound.  I imagine the audience  heard the fully mixed and amplified sound out in the classic seats.  We, on stage, however, were treated to actual natural, un-amplified vocals and harmonies and sounds directly from the instruments.  It was refreshing to hear and I found it remarkable to learn just how talented these young artists actually are.

NYTW seems to be a veritable petrie dish for new artists and unique shows for the past few years (Once and Peter and the Starcatcher both originated here prior to their Broadway transfers). I just wish the play list was published in the Playbill - I left remembering most of the tunes but would have enjoyed looking back on them and remembering the performance even more days afterward too.

And  poor Hal David.  Nobody gives him as much credit for those lyrics as Mr. Bacharach gets for the music!