Saturday, October 7, 2017

[MANHATTAN] Broadway Barrage, Season 2

It was also October last year when I returned to New York to launch Broadway Barrage. The idea is to stay in Brooklyn for a week and do nothing other than catch a train to Manhattan every night to watch a Broadway show (two on Wednesdays) for five consecutive nights. It was totally a coincidence that a plan for season two this year came into being. From the looks of it, this seems to be the beginning of an annual tradition that I am so willing to keep, depending on finances and time constraints, of course.

I remember being so desperate to watch Miss Saigon that when a Thai theater company decided to adapt it for a local run in Bangkok, I immediately flew to see it. You know a musical is that good when you don’t understand a single word being said or sung but it gets you teary-eyed and choked up nonetheless, or perhaps it’s because I knew most of the songs by heart and already had a clue what was happening? When you finally get to experience such show in a language that you actually understand, it just hits home.

It’s so tricky to stage a theatrical rendition of a well-beloved classic that has been part of our childhood, what more when the story is so heavy on special effects. Will the limitation of theater as a medium serve as an obstacle to come up with something as spectacular? Aladdin the Musical is proof that theater can offer something different but just as worthwhile. Maximizing what the stage is able to offer in terms of production design, this version succeeds in giving you a sensory overload while feeding your 90’s nostalgia at the same time. The seamless convergence between smoke and hologram guarantees a believable entrance for Genie each time, and those rotating trapdoors help further the illusion as well.

The final two performances in the form of rock ensemble songs at the Battle of the Bands do leave you rocking. It’s as though you smoothly transitioned from watching a Broadway musical to enjoying a legit concert. Again, the kids play their respective instruments live and even get their own solos on the spotlight. Overall, we can say that School of Rock starts slow, but it eventually simmers and gives you a touching material full of comedy, teenage angst, and rock.

Honestly, I wasn’t that keen on seeing War Paint. Seriously, it’s a musical about make-up. Who has time for that? But I took a chance because of LuPone. I had no idea who Ebersole was but she was the first to make her grand entrance belting, “I am heeeeeeere!!!” The audience went ballistic. LuPone was met with the same fervor a few minutes later with her heavily-accented one-liner: “It’s good to be back in Manhattan. You know that you are in the midst of two theater legends when the audience just goes wild about virtually anything that they do on that stage. For that alone, I highly recommend this musical.

If you are a big fan of South Park, then The Book of Mormon will leave you rolling on the floor laughing. It has Matt Stone/Trey Parker written all over it, from the plain absurdity of the dialogue to the deadpan reactions that just keep the ludicrous laughter going on for almost two hours straight. It does not end there because the clash of cultures also guarantees a fish out of water narrative that is neither sensitive nor considerate. If basking in dark humor is a sin, then we're all going to hell. We go to hell and we die.

There is that one scene where adult Charlie and Lola are seen together with their younger selves, younger selves who run to their respective dads ending up in an embrace. After all the musical distractions, it all goes back to that central theme of validation and how it means a lot when it comes from the ones who really matter to you. That has to be the emotional highlight of the show. Even if it pales in comparison to the other song and dance numbers in terms of glitter and glamour, it's simply as raw as raw emotion can be. That's what makes Kinky Boots a real treat. It's a fab comedy, with a heart.
[MANHATTAN] Broadway Barrage, Season 2
[NEW YORK] Budget and Itinerary (3)

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