Wednesday, June 14, 2006

NYC: Day 1

I promised myself I'd do this, so even though it's after 3 here, I'll give it a go.

The day started at about 4:45, when my alarm went off. I hit the snooze button and rolled over, but then got paranoid that it wouldn't go off again, so I basically just laid there until 5:03, when I got up.

Left the house at 6:03, only ten minutes later than I'd planned, but when I got to the parking lot, the guy kept driving around and picking people up (the nerve!), so I didn't hit the airport until nearly 6:45. Checked in -- the place was packed and it took nearly ten minutes for the poor woman who was manning the self-serve check in area to get to my bag. Finally cleared security sometime after 7, and was on the plane only a few minutes later. A whirlwind morning.

I'd cashed in some miles and was in the first class section, next to one of those women who is helpless without her cell phone and kept making calls about some tickets to some event that had to be confirmed and a trip to China or India (or both; I can't remember). I couldn't have been more fascinated by these calls. She was beaten, however, by the woman who was on the other end of the aisle and continued making cell calls while we were taxiing (long after the announcement to shut down your damn phones had come and gone) and who had to be told three times to shut off her laptop when we were landing. Some people are just too damn pleasant to be around.

The flight itself was pretty smooth and uneventful; some turblulence, but not much. I ate a not-bad omelet, drank a lot of water and juice, and slept a couple of hours. The movie was "The Pink Panther," so it was safe to ignore.

We got in about 15 minutes early, but the hike through the new American terminal at JFK is endless, so it was a push. (Seriously, every time you get around a bend, there's another slidewalk.) I got my bag pretty quickly, and was on the AirTrain by about 4:30, getting the A train about 4:45 and was in the hotel somewhere after 5:30. Called Pidge to let her know I made it, and immediately had to leave for midtown, to hit the TKTS booth to get my ticket for "Sweeney Todd," which has a 7:00 curtain on Tuesdays. I don't know if it's the new location or just the hour, but there was no line at the TKTS booth. I saw "Sweeney" was still on the board and immediately walked up to a window.

Pretty good seat; house left, about 2/3rds back. (Especially good for $59.25.) Pretty good view until the latecomers got seated and Stretch Armstrong seat down in front of me. Top his height with a proclivity to move his head around a lot, and it's a recipe for annoyance.

Some things about the audience tonight. One was the latecomers. They're seated at the first break, 40 minutes in (kudos to John Doyle for directing the show to preclude applause after every number), and among the late people was one woman who was in the middle of the third row. Manoel Felciano, who was playing Tobias, was in the middle of the Pirelli number, and froze solid, not singing, and just followed the woman with his head as she made her way to her seat. Reminded me of Kris Tabori's story about Donald Sinden, who would greet West End latecomers by making sure they had a program and they knew who was who. Felciano got a good laugh and hand and I'll bet that woman is never late to the theatre again. Felciano struck again later in the number, when he played most of the hair tonic stuff to a bald man in the front row.

Lots of kids in the center section -- three rows worth. They were at that indeterminate age: high school kids? College students? and reacted to everything, some of it inappropriate (the sex stuff, of course). Overall, they were really into it (one got the feeling they had done the show themselves) and helped prime the pump for the rest of the audience. The cast seemed genuinely appreciative at the curtain call (for which I had to stand, as usual, to see what was happening; I HATE the manditory standing ovation, but I think Sondheim's point about the audience having spent so much money that they want to prove it to themselves by giving anything a standing O is an excellent one), but that could be their standard call conduct (extra bows, applauding back, etc.).

Also, lots of little kids in the crowd -- like 6 and 7 years old. What kind of parent brings a kid that young (or younger) to a show like this? The smallest one (3? 4?) fussed a little toward the end, but I have to admit they were well-behaved throughout.

The other thing was the weirdness two seats over from me. Late in Act One, the guy started twitching and moving and muttering (or saying quietly) "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck." I don't know if he was having some kind of Tourette's attack, but he didn't have anything close to it again, and his outburst was relatively quiet, if disruptive. I doubt if people three rows away heard him. Weird.

Anyway, as to the show. I admit I was a little dubious going in. Doyle seems like a one-trick pony with his "cast-doubles-as-the-orchestra" schtick, but it worked here, and worked really well (especially Patti LuPone on her tuba). Brilliant concept, and since he was the designer, too, it was all of a piece. He really understood what he wanted and got it. Very intense performances by Michael Cerveris (though not as obsessed as his Booth; but then, it was a Tuesday night) and Alexander Geminagni (which surprised me, cause so many people dissed him). Donna Lynne Champlin was very good as Pirrelli, but I just didn't understand how Felciano got a Tony nod for that performance. Decent work, but there were others in the show far better. LuPone was very good -- probably the best thing I've seen her in (certainly better than her final performance in "Evita," when she channeled Lucille Ball), but her ass is huge in her costume. I don't know if it's all her (one assumes it is), since she doesn shake it at the auidence in "God, That's Good," so she's either padded, or they've made the most of an unfortunate situation.

Overall, maybe not as rococo or impressive as the original Sweeney, but certainly a rethinking and a very good night of theatre.

Afterwards, headed to Ray's for a slice and a Pepsi, then to P.J. Carney's bar for a beer. I was going to get some supper there, but nothing looked appealing except for chicken tenders (the menu looked good; it's just I wasn't in a mood for anything on it) and decided to stop at McDonald's on the way back to the subway and get some of their own (less expensive) chicken. On the way, I stopped at Virgin and bought the "Drowsy Chaperone" CD and looked out for "The Brain" and was vastly disappointed. We've got an Answers promotion where some of the power users are living in a two-story structure on the top of the Hard Rock Cafe marquee at the Paramount Building. It's tough to see at all (I completely missed it this evening) and I feel sorry for those folks, having to sit there all day and do nothing but be on Answers. There's a bunk bed on the lower floor, and they're apparently working in shifts so they can go to their hotel rooms in their off hours (the whole thing is supposed to last 72 hours, I think), so it's not too bad, but one gets the feeling that these folks don't get out a lot, and to torture them by putting them in a hot fishbowl in the middle of Times Square and its attractions is a bit cruel. But they seem to be enjoying it on the Video feed. Of course, le'ts see how they do at 4 am Friday morning. . . Regardless, it's hard to spot (even when looking for it), and doesn't seem especially interactive.
Oh, my room. Nicest one at the Cosmo yet. I even have a window this time, although it's really noisy outside. I've managed to piggyback onto someone else's wireless network (thanks, "dickerson"), which is fortunate, since they've rigged the phones so that I can't unplug the wires and plug them into the laptop. Hopefully, I'll continue to have access.

Tomorrow: "Faith Healer" and "The Lieutenant of Inishmore." It's Irish Day!

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