Wednesday, November 8, 2023

[MANHATTAN] Broadway Barrage Season 8

Did we miss Broadway Barrage? Well, does the sun shine every morning? Of course we did, especially considering the fact that the gap has been a bit long this year. Season 7 was in March 2022. Season 8 is finally happening but late this time in the fall in October/November 2023. As always, we have an interesting line up, a full slate of eight shows this season! nine, if you consider the bonus Poor Yella Rednecks inclusion. Are we ready? Here are the eight shows we’ve seen this season!

A marriage of convenience between disco and musical theater, Here Lies Love is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on Broadway before. Instead of plush seats, VIP ticket holders get their own dance floor, within arm’s reach of the actors performing on the revolving platform studded with neon lights. It feels strange dancing to Imelda Marcos’ ascent to power serving as the backdrop, though. The concept feels more appropriate for jukebox musicals like Mamma Mia where the audience can dance the night away without having to divorce the disco vibes from the horrible Martial Law subject matter.

Merrily We Roll Along is an ode to friendship: the kind that might endure; the type that could wither; that which you eventually outgrow. With the plot unfolding backwards, you get to see the deconstruction of that friendship as the trio jumps back a few years each time to give you a glimpse of what once was and how it would all end up. The execution is brilliant because it piques your curiosity. It also comes across as depressing despite all the song and dance. After all, we’ve all experienced dying friendship at least once, and it is never easy.

This Tony award winning musical does not disappoint, thanks mainly to the witty script and heartfelt execution from the cast. While the high school setting signals teenybopper and, indeed, there are plenty of that to go around, what stands out is the totally different outlook of a teenager doomed by her illness to experience old age when everybody else is just beginning to figure out their lives. Kimberly Akimbo is an honest look at mortality, our inevitable ending, through the lens of an impending premature conclusion.

As for the subject matter, I was surprised by the choice of execution by virtue of a therapy session. It is always a wonder when these famous people go through existential crises like this. Like, man, you are filthy rich, you have a big family, and you also enjoy that huge success worldwide. What is the fuss all about, then? If anything, that is what A Beautiful Noise succeeds in doing, humanizing a musical legend and bringing him down to the level of us mere mortals. Surprise, Neil Diamond has insecurities, too.

I just can’t with this show. WHO WROTE THIS?? The puns. The similes. The play on words  is on an entirely different level. Many times my brain was left on loading amidst the barrage of punchlines, before eventually rolling on the floor laughing after wrapping my head around the joke. Silly. Corny, probably. Hilarious, nonetheless. Shucked is not The Book of Mormon where the audience erupts in laughter every other minute, but it sure comes close. It derives much of its comedy on word play and the absurdity resulting from it.

I wasn’t that convinced at first. Set in the 1920’s in the titular English cottage. RP accents coming across as Transatlantic. Tendency for slapstick. When the twists start coming in, though, the narrative begins to pull you in, perhaps due to intrigue as to what surprises are yet to come and how all of this will end. All in all, The Cottage is a decent comedy that leans on the strength of its actors as well as the conspicuous production design that literally takes center stage and just feels like a character in itself.

How many times has Romeo & Juliet been remade? Ad nauseam. However, the core of the story remains the same and just given a different setting or time period each time. & Juliet decides to fully subvert this main plot point. Where most renditions end with her suicide, this one begins with her choice to stay alive and move on sans her beau. It is a bit weird because in essence that is no longer Romeo & Juliet, but then again this musical technically isn’t, now is it? In short, it is one big what-if fanfiction extravaganza reimagining of sorts turned into a jukebox musical.

As for the play’s message, it is simple enough. Marie Kondo even made a livelihood out of it, now didn’t she? Most of the time, the space we occupy is a visual manifestation of our frame of mind, and that environment also affects our mindset. I Need That expands on that even further by delving into the distinction between treasure and trash. In the end, you just turn the title into a question: (Do) I (Really) Need That (?). Oftentimes, you don’t, but as human beings we just have this tendency to hold on to stuff, people, emotions. And that’s the epiphany that this play offers. Philosophical, to some extent.
[MANHATTAN] Broadway Barrage Season 8

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